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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Premier McGuinty’s Weak Debate Showing Allows Rookies to Easily Win

Today's Ontario leaders’ debate between incumbent Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, Progressive Conservative (PC) Tim Hudak, and New Democrat (NDP) Andrea Horwath offered helpful information on what the three main parties would offer the province if they form the next government.  While there was no clear winner, there was a clear loser: Premier McGuinty.

All Ontarians were welcomed to submit questions to the news agencies covering the debates – TVO, CBC, CTV, and SUN – and the top six questions were posed to the leaders.  The questions focused on jobs, the economy, Ontario’s debt and deficit, seniors, post-secondary education, and “big ideas” to fix Ontario.

The debate began with a question on student employment in Ontario, and how an increasing number of students are unable to find work in their field after completing their degree.

Premier McGuinty was immediately put on the defensive when Hudak claimed that thousands of students are leaving Ontario for higher paying jobs in Western Canada. The Tory leader alleged students were fleeing the province instead of settling forthe “part-time, low wage jobs Mr. McGuinty has given Ontario.”  Though McGuinty tried to argue that within an uncertain global economy Ontario is faring well,  Hudak countered that in July 2011 alone Ontario lost more jobs than all the other provinces combined. Horwath also raised concerns about McGuinty’s broken job plan, noting that students get a university degree but cannot find a job, so they get a college diploma and still cannot find a job, so they settle into working part-time, minimum wage jobs, often in the hospitality industry, paying down their “mountainous” student debt.

McGuinty was also lambasted for his expensive plan to expand jobs in the green sector.

McGuinty claimed his green jobs plan could lead Ontario’s economic growth, arguing he wanted to be “the first in North America” to heavily invest in green technology.  Hudak countered by saying that every green energy job cost $1-2 million to create, and that creating one green energy job cost Ontario four or five jobs elsewhere.  Horwath clarified that McGuinty’s green energy plan was not actually giving Ontarians jobs, since McGuinty repeatedly outsourced contracts to companies in other provinces or countries, such as Samsung.

The debate also focused on unnecessary burdens being faced by seniors and hydro users.  One question came from one Ontario resident who said that, after being retired for several years, her husband had to go back to work just to pay their heating and hydro bill.  Hudak’s response was that their situation was simply wrong. If he were premier, he explained, he would help by unplugging McGuinty’s smart meters, which charge prime rates for electricity use between 7:00am and 7:00pm.  He also said he would stop forcing Ontarians to pay the debt retirement charge – a monthly fee added to hydro users’ bills to pay down the debt incurred by the former Ontario Hydro - since the debt incurred was actually paid off years ago.  Pathetically, the best McGuinty could do was promise the resident a seniors’ tax credit, designed to allow them to upgrade their home to make it more accessible and “friendly.”  But what good is a tax credit to renovate your home if you lose your home because you fail to pay the bills?

Also on the agenda were taxes.  McGuinty complained that he wished Hudak and Horwath would stop saying he had raised taxes, arguing he has not.  Yet, Dalton himself has acknowledged this just isn’t true. In his own CTV interview in 2007, when the Premier acknowledged “[in 2003] I told Ontarians I would not raise taxes, and I broke that promise, and I did raise their taxes.”  Hudak’s campaign ads have even called McGuinty “The Tax Man” for bringing in the HST, adding the health tax, adding the eco-tax, compelling smart meter taxes, and adding HST to hydro bills.

McGuinty even signed onto The Taxpayer Protection Act when he took office in 2003.  The law, enacted under PC Premier Mike Harris, says he will not raise taxes and not introduce new taxes without the express consent of Ontarians.  McGuinty raised several taxes anyway, and in 2007 McGuinty appeared in a Liberal campaign ad and again said “I won’t raise your taxes.

Now, for the third time, McGuinty’s Liberals claim they won’t raise taxes.  Hudak summarized Ontarians scepticism with the sound bite of the night; “With all due respect, sir, no one believes you any more.”

McGuinty was the clear loser in this debate. With an incument’s advantage and experience, the premier should have presented himself as a statesman, competent and comfortable with running Ontario’s government.  However, he appeared unprepared, repeatedly referred to his cue cards and unable to answer even the simplest questions. Hudak and Horwath, both considered rookies in the debate, were the obvious winners.  Both presented themselves as viable alternatives to McGuinty’s government, and both leaders highlighted Liberal failures which went unanswered or uncontested.

Regardless of your view on who won or lost the debate, it is important to cast your vote, either on October 6 or at an advance poll before September 30.  See http://wemakevotingeasy.ca/en/home.aspx for information on voting. 

If you have not yet reviewed the parties’ platforms, they are available at:

Progressive Conservative Party: http://www.ontariopc.com/changebook/

Monday, September 19, 2011

Interviews with Ottawa South's Candidates

It is important that we hear not only from the provincial leaders, but from their local representatives as well.  Local candidates need to be proficient in applying their platform to their riding, and also in connecting how their party will do things differently than the others.

All candidates were asked to respond to the follow questions, designed to measure their effectiveness and likeliness to win the election, as well as their application of their party’s platforms to Ottawa South.  These responses have not been edited or cut in any way.

1.      How does your party’s platform specifically meet the needs of Ottawa South residents?
Jason MacDonald: When the MPP for Ottawa South first took office as the Premier, Ontario was the economic engine that had always driven the Canadian economy and way of life. We had good jobs and a high standard of living in Ontario. Now we've got more than 500,000 unemployed, an unemployment rate that has lagged the national average for more than 55 months and people working harder and harder and not getting any further ahead. A lot of people don’t have the same opportunities any more.  An Ontario PC Government would deliver change that leaves more money in peoples' pockets; that guarantees the services people need, especially healthcare and education; and change that would clean up government.

Dalton McGuinty: failed to respond

Wali Farah: failed to respond
James Mihaychuk: Ottawa South is, if anything, a diverse community of families. Our families have growing concerns over jobs, health care, and sustainability of our economic and ecological environment. Our Green Party of Ontario platform is the only party platform that offers a clear plan to set Ottawa South and Ontario moving forward into the new millennium, eliminating the provincial deficit in just three years, keeping the Ottawa River free of sewage, joining Japan and Germany on a path to eventually and responsibly move away from nuclear power, giving tax incentives to small farms and businesses, and helping citizens to fight epidemics of obesity and diabetes.

In the years to come the Ottawa region needs clear leadership to emerge as a smart city, a cultural hub, a hot bed for active living, and a major innovation engine in Canada and the world. The keys to this sustainable, knowledge-based progress include energy productivity and sustainable fiscal management. Recently, management consultants McKinsey and Company devoted an entire issue of their McKinsey Quarterly magazine and blog to the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Long before we exhaust our resources, they argue, stakeholders including customers, employees, and shareholders will lose faith in firms that do not show strong efforts to be good corporate citizens. Likewise, business leaders including the CEO of Toshiba seek to grow their firms to greater international stature by addressing world-wide energy challenges. How sad, then, that what seems obvious to the better corporate leaders and the general public appears not to have been appreciated by the political leaders of the traditional major parties.

Jean-Serge Brisson: failed to respond
2.      What motivated you to run in this election?
Jason MacDonald: I don’t think anything qualifies a person for politics more than being a parent. My wife Lara and I have twin seven-year old girls.  Like a lot of people in Ottawa, we’re at a stage in life where we think more about important government-delivered services like education and health care; not just for our kids but also for our parents. 

I saw too many examples of the McGuinty Government acting without accountability. I saw the eHealth $1billion scandal go unpunished. I saw Dalton McGuinty’s hydro prices put a burden on the family budget and drive jobs out of Ontario. This is wrong. We need change and that is why I chose to run in this election. Ontario can and will do better again.

Dalton McGuinty: failed to respond
Wali Farah: failed to respond
James Mihaychuk: My decision to run in this election is, to me, an extension of my role as a parent. I invest a lot of time in working with youth in soccer and hockey because I know that there are benefits in terms of the physical and mental health of families. However, as a scientist, I consider it my civic duty to apply my knowledge to address issues affect our health and our families over the long term: pollution, rising health care costs, our heavy reliance on nuclear power, human-caused climate change, and our legacy of debt and waste in government.
Jean-Serge Brisson: failed to respond
3.      What will you do differently than the current MPP, Dalton McGuinty (Mr. McGuinty was asked what he would do differently than the other candidates)
Jason MacDonald: I will not support measures that keep heaping new charges and more costs on to the back of Ontario families. Back in the Spring I heard from a widow who was nearing retirement and had cancelled her newspaper subscription, amongst other things, so she could keep paying her ever rising hydro bill. I spoke to a man who, after living in Ottawa for more than 30 years had decided that now that he was retired and on a fixed income he could no longer afford to live in Ottawa and was moving back to Cape Breton to live with his brother.  There are a lot of people in Ottawa South who can no longer afford Dalton McGuinty's Ontario. As the MPP for Ottawa South I would work to ensure that the hard working families across this province get the respect and relief they deserve from their government.

Dalton McGuinty: failed to respond

Wali Farah: failed to respond
James Mihaychuk: My experience in science and in high-technology business will bring a pragmatic and prioritized perspective to Ontario politics. Greens set aside wedge politics and attacks and offer solutions instead. We speak to our priorities: jobs in the new energy economy, managing our energy future through conservation and renewables, taking a proactive stand on health promotion rather than throwing money at a broken system, strong support for family farms and secure local food, and reforming our democracy. Only the Green Party of Ontario is challenging the three traditional parties to move to eliminate large corporate and union donations to political parties in Ontario, to bring regulations for election financing in line with the current rules for federal elections in Canada
Jean-Serge Brisson: failed to respond

4.      What experience in your background, outside of politics, would make you a good MPP?
Jason MacDonald: I’ve been blessed to hold positions of trust and responsibility in both the private and public sectors. So, I relate to the people of Ottawa South when I meet them on their doorsteps. They want government to provide the services it should and stop driving up unaffordable hydro costs and introducing all of the other taxes that make it tough to raise a family. I understand that public institutions, like government, are also public trusts and they need to be accountable, that they need to provide real value to the people paying the bills. I also understand just how hard people across this province work to make Ontario the best possible place to live, work and raise a family, and I want to make sure that they get the respect and relief they deserve.

Dalton McGuinty: failed to respond

Wali Farah: failed to respond
James Mihaychuk: As a scientist and product manager working in high tech industry, my role has been to bring clarity to complex issues, to manage change, and to understand the life cycle of technologies in a commercial context.  As Ontario moves forward into an era of accelerated technological change and a transition in the way society generates and consumes energy, we need more science and technology thought leaders in government.
Jean-Serge Brisson: failed to respond
5.      How many doors have you knocked on to date?
Jason MacDonald: We’ve knocked on about 30,000 doors. I’m fortunate. I’ve had a dedicated group of volunteers that have been knocking on Ottawa South doors with me since I became the nominated candidate last February. I’m out there several times a day, going door to door, meeting the people of Ottawa South. So far I’ve lost two pant sizes! We can always use more help so come out and join us as we work to bring change to Ottawa South.

Dalton McGuinty: failed to respond

Wali Farah: failed to respond
James Mihaychuk: Over 1,000 and growing, excluding literature drops by volunteers.
Jean-Serge Brisson: failed to respond

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why Fringe Parties Will Remain Fringe Parties

If the current Ontario election has taught me anything, it’s that fringe parties like to whine that they’re not receiving coverage, but then fail to articulate why they should be elected as a Member of Ontario’s Parliament.

In the rhetoric leading to the May 2011 federal election, we heard complaints from the Green Party that they were being excluded from the leaders’ debates.  Elizabeth May wanted to be included too, they said, and the response was simple: get someone elected carrying your banner, and then you’ll be publicized.

It seems simple and straightforward: media time is pricey and there is only so much political capital to go around.  Elizabeth May met her challenge and the Green Party focused a vast majority of their efforts in getting her elected in Sanich-Gulf Islands.  Now that she’s a Member of Parliament, it follows that her party will be rewarded by allowing her to attend the next leaders’ debate for the next election.

Now we’re hearing the same complaints from the Ontario Green Party, complaining that their leader is being excluded.

Although the Green Party would probably object, they currently sit as a fringe party in Ontario.  They sit as just one of 21 currently registered political parties in Ontario, next to the “People’s Political Party” and the “Paramount Canadians Party.”

Breaking onto the political scene with a new party is a bold and difficult move. And it should be. You are, after all, running a party that seeks to form the government, or at least influence its policies while sitting in Opposition.

Fringe parties will remain fringe parties not because they’re being ignored, but because they’re underfunded, disorganized, and cannot offer a viable alternative to the current three parties.

Let’s take a look at a few in Ontario, and there’s no shortage of them.

The People’s Political Party is based out of Toronto and is currently running four candidates, all in the Toronto area.  They also have another two candidates “awaiting confirmation” even though the Elections Ontario deadline has passed.  Here’s their leader, clearly a professional politician seeking change in Ontario:

(September 18, 2011 from http://www.peoplespoliticalparty.com/)

Leader Kevin Clarke, pictured middle, is the author of several intelligent, thought-provoking discussions such as “talking about dog shit” and “fighting abuse, just for laughs,” which are featured on the party’s website.  He’s also a self-described ex-convict and former drug dealer.

What is their platform, you ask?  Why, it’s simple, apparently.  But not really.  Their broken sentences make vague promises such as “burdens will be reduced” and “law and justice for all.”  With facts like these, it’s no wonder why the People’s Political Party isn’t forming government right now.

Next let’s turn to the Paramount Canadians Party.  This party appears to be based out of someone’s personal residence.  And while they don’t have a full platform, they promise to “reduce auto insurance” and cap future insurance prices, “ensure seniors lead happy [sic] life,” “appropriate environment to youth [sic]”, and “make immigration responsible to provincial [sic].”  If you could read through that horrible spelling and grammar, you’d realize their real promises are to interfere in the market, raise taxes, and steal responsibilities from the federal government.

And, just for a few more laughs, let’s consider the Vegan Environmental Party, headquartered at the President’s apartment in Toronto.  There’s no website let alone a platform, so we have no idea what they stand for or what they would hope to accomplish.  But judging by their name alone, they’re another fanatical left wing group bent on giving trees rights and curbing human’s consumption of anything that isn’t green and growing in dirt.

Their leader, Paul Figueiras, is a well known fanatical left-winger, as he reported an officer during the G20 for sarcastically telling him that he wasn’t in Canada.  If you want a political party that will challenge authority and troll police officers keeping international dignitaries safe, the VEP is for you!

Five of the 21 registered parties don’t even have a website, which goes to say they’re too disorganized or too afraid to publicly post their platform or candidates.

Seriously.  These are the parties complaining that they don’t receive the same attention as the Progressive Conservatives, Liberals, or NDP, and yet they’re based out of members’ personal homes, have no clear platform (if they have a platform if at all), and their leaders are self-described former drug dealers.  Is it any wonder why they’re not taken seriously?

Ontario voters have a clear choice on October 6: left, centre, or right.  These joke parties with no platform and no plan simply do not compete with stable parties with ample funding, solid leaders, and good plans for Ontarians.

These fringe parties will remain fringe parties for as long as they continue to operate this way.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

20 Reasons TO Vote for Tim Hudak and the PC's

These are just a few reasons why, on October 6, Ontarians need to vote for change.  There are numerous additional reasons beyond this list - the PC's led Ontario for a majority of the 20th century, they have a strong record of keeping taxes low and good governance, and the Liberal corruption under Dalton McGuinty has just become unbearable.  But really, you could only need one reason to vote for change.

(Originally from http://crux-of-the-matter.com/2011/09/04/twenty-reasons-to-vote-for-tim-hudak-his-pcs/)

Elections matter. Voting for the devil you know versus the one you don’t know will not bring jobs and prosperity back to Ontario. So, this blog post is for all those who are undecided because they don’t know what Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak and his PC team stand for or why they should vote “FOR” the PCs.

While there are, no doubt, many more reasons to vote in favour of a PC government, I have chosen TWENTY points from the PC election platform, “Changebook,” that suggest a PC government, with a Premier Hudak at the helm, would gradually return Ontario to “have” status and once again be a leader within Confederation.  

(1) Income splitting: A PC government would give middle class families earning a combined income of $70,000 the opportunity to split their income up to $50,000, providing an annual tax savings of approximately $1400 a year (page 10).

(2) Fewer eco taxes:  A PC government would cancel the eco taxes on all household items (page 11).

(3) Removing HST from hydro bills: A PC government would remove the HST from home hydro bills (page 12).

(4) Removing HST from home heating bills: A PC government would remove the HST from home heating bills (page 12).

(5) Removing Hydro Debt Retirement Charge: A PC government would remove the “Debt Retirement Charge” on hydro bills, which should have been removed in 2010 once the debt was paid. But, by keeping it on household hydro bills, the McGuinty Liberals have simply placed a huge unnecessary energy burden on regular families and seniors (page 12).

(6) Reducing income taxes: A PC government would reduce income taxes by 5% on the first $75,000 of taxable income putting $258.00 more dollars in the pockets of a taxpayer earning $70,000 (page 10). When combined with income splitting, the removal of the eco taxes on household items, the HST on hydro and home heating bills and the Hydro Debt Retirement Charge,  there will be significant family savings.

(7) Cancelling Smart Meter program: A PC government will unplug the mandatory Smart Meters, reverting one assumes to regular meters. Meaning, that Ontarians will be allowed to do their washing when it suits their schedule, not that of the government (page 13).

(8) Shutting down the OPA: A PC government would shut down the “Ontario Power Authority,” a temporary energy bureaucracy that now has 253 employees. Moreover, 91 of those employees now earn over $100,000 and the CEO more than $570,000 (page 13).

(9) Reducing Red Tape: A Premier Tim Hudak would appoint a Minister responsible for reducing up to 30% of the “red-tape” and the regulatory burden currently experienced by business, manufacturing and agriculture (page 16).

(10) Reducing hydro costs for farmers: A PC government would provide farmers with a ”Business Risk Management” program that will stop excessive and skyrocketing hydro bills.

(11) Providing marketing opportunities for Ontario VQA wines:  A PC government would introducing a “Buy Ontario” policy that will increase market access to Ontario VQA wines -- which at the moment get very little shelf space at Ontario Liquor Control Boards (page 18).

(12) Paying down the deficit: The plan is that a PC government would balance the budget gradually over the long-term by the second year of a second mandate in 2017-18 (page 20). While some will say the PC numbers don’t add up, I believe they do. I worked for a PC MPP in the first Harris government and their deficit repayment plan between 1995 and 1999 and into 2000/01 was very similar at which time the Bob Rae NDP deficit was completely eliminated — because tax revenues gradually increased as a result of more people working.

(13) Investing in patient care and classrooms: A PC government plans to invest in direct patient care and classroom education (as opposed to hospital administrator and teacher salaries) (page 20).

(14) Increasing the Caregiver tax credit: A PC government will double the Caregiver tax credit (page 11).

(15) Getting rid of LHIN’s: A PC government will eliminating the 14 Local Health Integrated Networks which spend a huge amount of taxpayers money and don’t listen to the concerns of the communities they serve (page 22).

(16) Increasing LTD beds as the population ages: A PC government will add 40,000 more long term care (LTC) beds — 5,000 new and 35,000 renovated — which will help with the huge increase of “baby boom” seniors coming on stream over the next ten years (page 27).

(17) Adding more post-secondary spaces: A PC government would create up to 60,000 post secondary spaces (page 30).

(18) Ending foreign scholarship program:  A PC government would put an end to the McGuinty foreign student scholarships (of up to $40,000 a year) which put the needs of foreign students ahead of Ontario students (page 30).

(19) Investing in K-12 education: A PC government would increase investments in education by $2 billion by the end of the 1st term in 2015 (page 28).

(20) Rooting out school board waste: A PC government would root out board of education waste. For example, since 2004, the Toronto District School Board’s trustee expenses have soared by 55% and the number of administrators and teachers who earn more than $100,000 has increased by 181% over the same period (page 28). Like hospital administrators, school boards officials and trustees just keep finding ways to spend taxpayers hard earned money.

For those who want to know why Ontarians should NOT vote for the McGuinty Liberals, check out the links on this post.

Updates: Here also are YouTube videos of Tim Hudak’s press conferences — beginning with his visit to Brampton on September 6th.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The National Demise of the Liberal Party

The National Demise of the Liberal Party
The Liberal Party is in trouble across Canada.  We’ve already seen the decimation of the party at the national level, entirely due to an unpopular leader, unpopular policies, and generally failing to connect with constituents.  But with Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, The Northwest Territories, and Nunavut all heading to the polls before the year is out, could the Liberal Party’s defeat be indicative of a larger movement?  I think so.

Nationally, the provincial governments are held as such (yellow is used for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut as they’re currently non-partisan):

 

The Liberal Party is already on thin ice.  Holding just three of 14 governments, the once “natural governing party” holds only one government more than the NDP.  By comparison, Conservatives hold seven, including the federal government.

How did this party fall from its self-prescribed historic status?  Canadians are largely shifting to the right or left, and abandoning the middle ground once jealously guarded by the Liberals.  Knowing this, how could the upcoming elections push the Liberal Party into oblivion?

Starting with the recent Canadian election, the federal Liberal Party is the poster child of how NOT to run a campaign.  Michael Ignatieff led the Liberal Party to a monumental defeat.  Previously the Official Opposition with 77 seats, Ignatieff caused a freefall loss of 34 seats and seven percent of their vote.  He was even defeated in his own riding by a Conservative running for the first time.  The Liberal platform was simply out of touch with what Canadians needed and wanted from their federal government.  While the Conservatives campaigned on their impeccable record of leading Canada through the worst recession since the depression (among other accomplishments and promises), and the NDP stuck to their usual campaign of “Canadians deserve better,” the Liberals faltered on every message possible.  First, they thought Canadians would care that the Opposition declared that the government was “in contempt.” (They didn’t.)

Then, they tried to jump on the Conservatives for kicking a partisan out from one of their rallies, but the issue never materialized as the Prime Minister apologized and everyone else moved on.  They stuck on this message for a while though, as if it was Conservative policy to oppress people and crowd out dissent at their rallies.  That prompted Ignatieff to demand that Canadians “rise up,” a phrase that could easily be construed as inciting treason or violence.  It also encouraged Ignatieff to partake in unscripted messages where he just rambled about their policies and how horrible Harper was.

Finally, there was the platform.  Ignatieff famously branded his platform as the alternative to the Conservatives’ “jets, jails, and corporate tax cuts,” but that too failed to resonate with Canadians.  The Liberal priorities of a “learning passport” and allowing families to take time off work to care for sick loved ones, while sounding caring, were not the priorities Canadians felt the federal government should be pursuing.  We know what happened on May 2, and we’re still waiting to see when and if the party can rebuild itself.

Ontario has also launched its campaign, with the incumbent Liberal government already on the ropes for raising several taxes on Ontarians, despite Premier Dalton McGuinty promising in their campaign platform and in writing that he would not do so.  Both the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives have labelled Dalton McGuinty’s government a failure for failing to keep their promises or act on important issues.

McGuinty is also having troubles getting sitting MPP’s to run again under his Liberal Party, with 13 MPP’s refusing to run in this election – an issue that the Toronto Star’s Robert Benzie called “an exodus of experience.”

Further, leaked platform discussions reveal that not even senior Liberals are truly behind their platform (http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20110904/mcguinty-campaign-promises-110904/).  The issues for this government are monumental, and we’ve barely begun the campaign.

And, to top it off, the CBC’s Kady O’Malley said that the Liberal’s platform promise to give $10,000 to businesses that hire immigrants “could become the religious schools of this election.” (In 2007, the PC’s were widely believed to take office until they released a controversial platform promise to fund religious schools in the same way that Catholic schools are funded.)

We should also remember that the Conservatives were the natural governing party of Ontario for a vast majority of the 20th century.  They led a dynasty totalling 69 years, including a continuous 44 years in office.

Unsurprisingly, strategic political site Three Hundred Eight predicts a narrow Tory minority, based on the NDP and Green Party losing ground and the Liberals basically stagnating while the Tories take office (http://www.threehundredeight.blogspot.com/).

Judging by just two of the seven governments set to hold elections this year, centrist policies are just not what Canadians want to see anymore.  And, compounded by ineffective leadership and poor planning, they’re certainly not going to get any more popular.

Opponents usually decry Canada for becoming “more like the U.S.,” where there are only two major parties.  In this case, how would that be a bad thing?

The future of the Liberal Party, if there is one, has to be based on a strong policy that goes one way or the other.  The Liberals need to make a vital decision: will they rebuild by shifting right, or will they rebuild by shifting left?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Education is a Privilege

Article Published in The Charlatan

The article titled “Ontario Tuition Fees on the Rise: StatsCan” by Peter McCartney in issue seven of the Charlatan represents the continued inept and irresponsible management of Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) and the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) here at Carleton University.

It has become so easy for many students to complain and whine about their education being too expensive.

Students are indoctrinated with this concept from the moment they arrive on campus: CFS often pairs its insignia with “Drop Fees” and CUSA follows suit like sheep.

The “Education is a right” campaign is the latest example of ill judgment and flat-out incompetence.

Start out with young, impressionable students, add a natural anger that school is expensive, and compound this anger with a few annoying students with bullhorns. You’re quickly left with thousands of misinformed students who rally behind a false cause.

Education is not a right. Plain and simple.

Thousands of people succeed in their fields without any education past high school.

Education is a privilege we hold here as relatively wealthy, privileged Canadians.  Education is an option to those who wish to pursue higher education: a higher level of thinking, a higher level of performance, and a different outcome of employment when their degree is complete.

This does not make education a right: I have yet to see even the United Nations declare post-secondary schooling a right.

It is a very serious issue for CUSA to be throwing around the term “right“ on something like post-secondary education. If post-secondary education became a right in our society, it would mean the society has an obligation to give a student a post-secondary education, no matter whether they actually work for it or not.

Let’s not forget that Canadians maintain relatively cheap tuition compared to our southern neighbour. In the U.S., a 2008-2009 College Board study shows the average tuition to be $6,585 – almost $1,400 more than the Canadian average.

In an article, “Not making the grade”, published by Metro News on Sept. 26, Deanne Fisher, director of student life at University of Toronto, said, “The primary barrier to success for first-year students is not financial, it’s their own academic performance.”  Is this any surprise?

Dina Skvirsky, CUSA vice-president (student issues) says she wants the federal government to take responsibility for education costs.  She forgets that a) the article is targeting Ontario as having its tuition fees on the rise; and b) that education is a provincial responsibility, not federal.

Rather than rallying behind false causes, why not attack some real issues?

Why doesn’t our student government rally against the U-Pass, which added a mandatory $290 to students’ tuition even though many students drive, walk, or seldom use the bus?

Why doesn’t our student government ask why, even though OC Transpo now has increased revenues from every student buying a bus pass, they have not increased service to and from campus?

Why doesn’t our student government lobby for more effective services on campus? Rather than targeting tuition fees as being the root of all evil, why don’t we target OSAP policies which require a students’ parental income information to be included in their assessment, even if the parent is not helping the student with university costs?

Let’s get behind some real issues, and actually make our student government effective.

Carleton Unions Have No Right to Strike

Article published in the online edition of The Charlatan: http://www.charlatan.ca/content/unions-have-no-right-strike

Last Monday on my way to school I was rudely stopped and held at the university’s entrance for an undetermined period of time without any reason.  No, this was not WWII Germany detaining people for inspection; this was Carleton’s campus being illegally blocked off by an “information picket.”  Even though the university specified that it would only allow this picket if it did not block traffic, the rogue union members continually crossed the street, chanting and holding signs while attacking vehicles with propaganda.

Even though this was an “information picket,” I feel considerably uninformed about why a few dissatisfied people were allowed to block off a public road, “backing up traffic for up to 500 metres down Bronson Avenue,” as reported by 24 Hour News on Nov. 16. They harassed people as they were simply trying to enter campus to work or attend classes.  This picket even disturbed people who were simply passing by campus or had no interest or business related to Carleton.  If I blocked traffic on a public road I would be fined at best and arrested and charged at worst.

I’ll bet that many students are feeling just as oblivious and uninformed as I.  This information picket did nothing to inform students of what was going on, or any of the real issues pertaining to the strike that almost happened.

The role of Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) in this entire process is disturbing.  “Our” student union – the union that supposedly represents us, the students – supported the near-striking unions. They urged students to look past the disruption in our academic year and stand with the staff to “defend quality education.”

Why did the union who represents us – the average student who just wants to come to university to learn – support the shutdown of our campus? Why would they not support the university in continuing classes, or reaching a settlement without the possibility of a strike? Or further, why not support the university by condemning the fact that many of the workers involved already make a great deal of money.

The entire “us versus management” dynamic is disgusting.  The university wanted classes to continue so that they would continue to bring in students’ money.  The teaching assistants and professors obviously want to continue teaching and researching their respective topics, and continue making their salaries. And yet the interference of the unions only serves to disrupt the natural desires of both parties. Students were trapped in the middle as the unions demanded “respect.” Neither side wanted a strike, so why was one even on the table?

Fact of the matter is that a strike should have never even been an option in any of these deals. Gone are the days where unions serve any useful or legitimate purpose in protecting workers’ conditions.  None of these unions were protecting their workers from death or undue harm; they weren’t arguing over handling toxic wastes or working 18 hour days. Rather, we were arguing about “respecting” the workers. To the majority of students – those of us whose lives were almost disrupted and possibly irreparably harmed – $41 an hour for only working 10 hours a week sounds like a respectable wage to me.  Sure beats $10.25 an hour at Tim Hortons.

Likewise, Statistics Canada notes that in the 2009/2010 year, the average full time professor at Carleton University made about $150,000, or $48,000 as a contract lecturer.  These salaries are beat only by three other universities in Canada.  Obviously, both TAs and professors are far above the average Canadian’s salary of $31,000.

So perhaps I can put it in the most eloquent way possible when addressing this reprehensible whining for more money: shut up and get back to work.  You have no right to even think of walking out on thousands of students when you already make so much more than the rest of us.  Feel privileged and honoured to be some of the most affluent members of society, and never again consider stopping work to demand more.

Fare Hikes? For what?

Published in the Ottawa Sun on January 31, 2011

This morning I, like thousands of other Ottawa residents, went outside to wait for bus transportation to my place of employment. It was not a bad day: Not too cold, very little snow on the roads, and hardly any wind. And yet my bus showed up 25 minutes late.

In those 25 minutes I had a lot of time to consider and reconsider “we’re paying them more money, and yet they still cannot function an effective service?” In my five years of restaurant management, not doing your job properly meant punishments, not rewards.

Increasing fares by yet another 2.5% is unacceptable. This runs monthly passes to almost $100, and regular fare would be $3.33 (and who carries that specific change with them?)

There are clearly a number of things that need to change in this system. These not only include OC Transpo’s responsibilities, but riders’ responsibilities as well.

1. Riders need to have their pass, money, transfer, or tickets out and ready before the driver arrives. All too often have I seen people get on the bus, then hold up the entire bus because they can’t find their pass.

2. Create incentives for drivers to run their routes on time. These could include better shifts, higher pay, or a quarterly or yearly bonus.

3. Likewise, create punishments for drivers who run their routes late without any extenuating explanations. These could include less shifts, lower pay, and less (or no) bonus.

4. Supervisors need to enforce proper timings. A bus even one minute early or late is not acceptable, especially to those who run behind the bus as it continues to speed away.

5. Start enforcing smoking and bus bylaws. There are always people smoking on and within 10 metres of bus stops. A fine of $5,000 each could bring in some major cash for Ottawa.

Ottawa’s citizens need to get behind these changes and push for them to happen. Only if we hold them to account will they bother making any changes.

Before Voting in CUSA Elections this Week…

(Originally published for Carleton's newspaper, The Charlatan, but the end result was a highly censored article which mentioned few of the points noted below.)

As someone who has studied politics for three years and been politically involved for five years, I understand the importance of voting.  In city, provincial, and federal elections, your vote helps elected your representative to the respective government assembly.

However, the same can certainly not be said for CUSA elections.  These elections are elitist, corrupt, and usually fail to represent students’ interests.

Now, before you jump all over me, helplessly trying to defend this organization even though I have no idea why, listen to the facts.  This is an unbiased view simply based on facts.

I am mostly doing this for the newer students at Carleton.  Anyone who has paid attention to CUSA for more than a year would know everything I’m saying is true.  But if I can help even one person stay away from legitimizing this illegitimate organization, this article will have done its job.

On Elitism

  1. CUSA is supposed to be an organization of students representing students.  As undergraduate students, we’re generally between 17 and 23 and we come from all walks of life.  And yet Meera Chander, a 26 year-old, has purposely stayed in power by taking the minimal amount of courses and prolonging her university life as long as possible.
  2. Many executives of CUSA have been flown across Canada to push the radical agenda of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).  Meera Chander and Dina Skvirsky were flown to Guelph in November 2010 to support the CFS during a membership referendum.  Other executives have been sent to British Columbia to agitate the students and governments of that province.  By the way, they were still making their $30,000 annual CUSA salary while working on their pro-CFS agenda.
  3. For their support, when students vote out these executives for their elitist servitude to the CFS, former CUSA executives usually land comfy CFS jobs, where they can continue to claim to represent students well into their 30’s.

On Corruption
  1. In 2008/2009, the rightful President-elect of CUSA, Bruce Kyereh-Addo, was disqualified.  Even after the votes were counted and his victory was proclaimed, someone came forward to say he had punched a hole in a hall.  The person was anonymous and the hole was nowhere to be found.  And yet his disqualification stood.  It is no surprise that Bruce was openly Conservative, whose values would have certainly clashed with an organization bent on taking down corporations.
  2. In 2009/2010, Nick Bergamini was disqualified after a fake website was set up endorsing Bergamini.  Even though Bergamini had no knowledge of the website and did not order the website be set up, he was disqualified.  The Electoral Officer stated: “Even if you did not personally post the article or purchase the domain name, you are responsible for ensuring your election campaign is done in a fair and respectful manner.  Under the CUSA Electoral Code, as a candidate, you are responsible for your workers’ actions concerning your campaign.”
Now an identical situation has arisen, where the entire “A Voice for Students” slate had a website set up in their name and represented the members falsely.  My fellow law students will know the Bergamini ruling has set a precedent, so surely the entire Voice for Students campaign has to be disqualified, right?
Bergamini, like Kyereh-Addo, is also openly Conservative.  Coincidence?

On Failure to Represent
  1. Who can forget the internationally famous “ShineGate,” where CUSA voted unanimously minus one to drop cystic fibrosis funding, since it only affected white males.  This false research, ironically done by a Science student, created a disgraceful name for Carleton, and was heard across the world for months.  Did the students ask them to drop Shinerama?
  2. In 2009/2010, over 2,300 students – that’s us – signed a referendum petition on whether Carleton should remain a member of the Canadian Federation of Students.  This petition was hand-delivered by a Bailiff, and yet the CFS says they never got it.  CUSA, rather than representing its students, supported the CFS.
  3. In November 2010, CUSA pulled funding from Carleton Lifeline, a pro-life group here on campus.  CUSA noted that they are a pro-choice group (funny, unless all students are pro-choice, how can our student union declare their position?), and as such, Lifeline did not meet the requirements for funding.  In an enormous paradox, Carleton students who are members of Lifeline are now paying their student fees to NOT be represented by CUSA.
  4. Presently, Dina Skvirsky, running for President, is arguing for a permanent UPass.  On what basis?  Last year, Carleton students voted on a one year pilot project to have $290 added to their tuition fees.  Unfortunately, to the dismay of thousands of students, the project passed, and thousands of students who had no or little use for public transit were forced to pay $290 a year so the other students could take the bus.  Were you asked if you wanted a UPass for the 2011/2012 year?  I must have missed that referendum.
On this topic, however, there is light.  Obed Okyere, also running for President, would like to keep the UPass but allow for an opt-out option.  This is exactly what students need.  If you want a bus pass, great, you can get a discounted one through your tuition fees.  But if not – if you drive, walk, bike, skate, etc. – you can easily save your $290.

These are only a few of the issues CUSA has created in the past few years.  There is a labyrinth of others out there just waiting for your research and subsequent disgust.

CUSA is broken.  These are not minute cracks in an otherwise perfect system; these are gulfs of corruption and incompetence with only a few good people.  We cannot heal this organization with another election and hope to get new, better people.

Rather than voting this Wednesday and Thursday, write a letter to the President of Carleton University and the appropriate CUSA authorities demanding that they resign and close this unaccountable corporation.  This organization needs to be dismantled, and perhaps then we – the students – can create a new organization and enforce our representation from the beginning.

We Have Change; What’s Next?

Change is here!  Change can happen!  Students at Carleton for the 2011/2012 year have the outstanding benefit of working with a great President who was finally democratically elected by the students!

But let’s hope we’re out of the woods.  In the past, strange things have happened to Presidents-elect even though they were democratically elected by our students.  Let’s hope no mysterious holes appear in walls or no accusations by anonymous people arise before this President can take his rightful place.

The drop in Presidential votes is a clear sign that something is broken at CUSA, and it needs to be fixed.  The 2009/2010 Presidents’ race saw 4,485 people cast their votes; this year, only 3,779 people voted.  Not only is the drop in votes concerning, but this means only about 18% of students are even bothering to vote in CUSA elections!

Could you imagine if the population of Toronto (about 18% of Canada’s population) was the only population that was voting?  And further, that this population was able to make decisions for all of Canada?  There would be outrage!

Clearly, something is broken with the current system.

Although the President was elected as a member of the Students First slate, he is surrounded by opposition members.  Even if this President wants change, such as creating an opt-out option for the UPass and really supporting students, it is possible and likely that the opposition will work to ignore and sabotage anything he tries to pass.  In fact, the President of CUSA has relatively little power over the organization, basically acting as a ring leader or tiebreaker between the other executives and councillors.

Many councillors also campaigned on change.  Although they could not take formally take sides, it was clear that many of the councillors, not yet corrupted by external pressures or influences, knew CUSA needed change.

Let’s see if they can bring that change now that they’ve been elected.

So what’s next?

Let’s hope the executive can get past their partisan ways and actually run this organization like the neutral, responsible organization it can be.  In fact, although they may not have campaigned on all of the issues, there are clearly many changes that need to be passed to allow CUSA to attain accountability and responsibility:

  1. The UPass needs to have an opt-out option.  I have been one voice among many saying it is unfair to force students who have no need or use for a UPass to be paying an extra $290 so that the students who do need a UPass can benefit.  Do some students benefit? Yes.  But for those who don’t benefit, it makes so sense that they should have to pay.
  1. Restore and grant funding to legitimate groups, regardless of their political viewpoints. Earlier in the year we saw Carleton Lifeline lose their funding because their views on abortion conflicted with CUSA’s.  Ironically, this meant pro-life students were paying for a pro-choice agenda to be pushed by CUSA!  CUSA needs to grant funding based on whether the group is a legitimate organization of Carleton students, not whether or not CUSA likes that group’s message.
  1. The Chief Electoral Officer needs to be found, hired, and trained entirely independent from CUSA’s control or influence.  Gone are the days where this essential position can be hand-picked by the reigning CUSA executive, only to have the new executive mysteriously represent the old executive’s interests.  Perhaps Carleton’s administration could select and appoint a CEO for us.
  1. Drastic change needs to happen to allow for online campaigning.  Using the internet is essential to current and future politics.  Federal, provincial, and municipal elections all allow for online campaigning; why not CUSA?
  1. Oliver’s Pub and Haven Books have proven to be wasteful money pits.  They are, like any other business, there to make money.  And yet in the 2008/2009 year Oliver’s lost $199,000!  If your business is not making money, you need to seriously change the business model so that you are making money.  This may mean cutting salaries, charging a higher cover fee, or removing unnecessary expenses.
  1. Put the budget online!  How did I get those numbers for Oliver’s and Haven?  Someone sent me a copy they had personally downloaded before it was mysteriously taken offline after too many students started asking questions about where the money from the budget was going.  How can this organization be accountable and transparent when you need to personally ask people for their internal copies of the budget?
  1. Furthermore regarding the budget, it clearly requires more transparency.  Oliver’s spent almost $10,000 on “miscellaneous expenses.”  What are these various expenses?  Why could they not be categorized under something else?  Likewise, to spend $3,900 on “projects” is not good enough.  Which projects?  What did they do?  Where are they now?
  1. But don’t worry, the budget is now online for everyone to read and question: https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AtMyQAACOldxdHhrWnFtYnFRN3RJUEVpWHNIMnNSZlE&hl=en#gid=0.  What are your student fees paying for?  In 2008 Haven Books spent $4,800 on phone bills!  In fact, although CUSA profits almost $2 Million a year, they barely make $50,000 after all the losses.  This needs to change.
  1. Did you know your tuition fees are being used to give CUSA staff a ride home after work?[1] Why are students paying for this?  Isn’t getting to and from work the person’s responsibility as an employee?
Although not all of these issues were campaigned on during the election, they are clearly issues that need to be addressed.  I am hopeful this President can pull council and the executive together to enact real change to fix these issues.  I am also prepared to see no sort of progress, regardless of how hard the President tries.

Senate Reform is Needed for Canada

My first article published for the Prince Arthur Herald student conservative newspaper!
In his January 23, 2011 speech to supporters in Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to make the Senate elected.

But why is reform needed in the first place? Is the Senate not fine as it is?

No, it is not.

The composition of the Senate was established 144 years ago at confederation when Canada had a population of just over 3.4 million and was comprised of four provinces. Canada’s population has since skyrocketed to over 34 million in 10 provinces and three territories.

And yet the same 105 Senators sit, representing the same four “regions” of Canada.

Dividing Canada into “regions” and not provinces spells disaster for the largest provinces – Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta – and serves to the benefit the smaller provinces. The western region – comprised of four provinces – gets the same number of Senators (24) as Ontario does. Far from making the provinces “equal,” this makes the provinces weak and ineffective.

The lack of provincial divisions also means every day Canadians are grossly under or over represented by their Senator. Each of the six British Columbia Senators represents almost 700,000 people. Yet when we head east we see that each of the 10 Nova Scotian Senators represents roughly 92,000 people. The problem is worse in Prince Edward Island, where one Senator only represents about 33,000 people. In fact, the grossest over representation of Senators occurs in the Maritimes.  And we wonder why the west felt alienated?

The current Senate is also rife with regular reports of Senators lashing out, making irrational claims, using profanities, and regularly failing to sit for days, weeks, or months on end. But why shouldn’t they?  They’re not elected; they’re appointed for life.

This needs to change.

Firstly, the Prime Minister is absolutely right in introducing limits that will regulate the  duration of a Senators’ term to eight years (Bill S-7). With Senators currently being appointed for life, or until age 75, they can serve up to 45 years. As a result, they have almost half a century to filibuster anything while their party is not in office and approve everything proposed when it is.

Secondly, elect the Senate. Members of Parliament regularly have to answer to their constituents and defend what they have done (or not done) on the hill. If the constituents don’t agree, they’re gone at the next election.  Senators should have to fight on the same level; defending their choices while in office and making promises on important issues in that province.

Thirdly, get rid of the current regional division and replace it with a province based division where the number of seats are based on the population of the province. As noted above, the current Senate has enormous discrepancies between provinces, so some Canadians are highly represented in the Senate while others have no voice whatsoever.  This was originally done out of the Maritimes’ concerns that they would simply be ignored and trumped by the larger provinces. Nowadays, we recognize the Maritimes’ vital importance to the Canadian economy and they receive fair representation in the House, so over representation in the Senate is no longer needed.

What would this look like?  Ontario would have 39 seats as opposed to its current 24; Quebec would lose one seat and drop to 23; British Columbia would have 14; Alberta: 11; Saskatchewan: 4; New Brunswick: 2; Newfoundland: 1; Nova Scotia: 3; Prince Edward Island: 1; and the territories would remain at one each.
None of these reforms would come easy. These reforms would require a constitutional amendment, agreed upon and ratified in at least seven of the provinces with 50% of the Canadian population.  Neither the NDP nor the Bloc Quebecois are represented there, so it is no surprise that they support its abolishment rather than reform. To them, it’s just another club they can’t get into because of their inability to form government. It is much easier to whine about why the Senate is bad and not needed, than to accept this fact.

It will certainly take a strong political will (and probably a majority government) to take the steps needed to reform the Senate, but the payoffs will be more than worth it. Canadians will be equally represented across the country and will be able to hold their Senators to account.

The Importance of Voting

We’re now into the fourth election in seven years, and already I have heard many people ask “why should I vote? What’s the point? What does it matter?” With only 59% of Canadians voting in the last election, we see that people are increasingly becoming apathetic and disconnected from politics.

Boy, do these people sadden me in the worst way.

The vote is on Monday, May 2, 2011. Advance polls are available on April 22, 23, and 25.

People died so you could vote. Thousands of Canadian soldiers have laid down their lives in the fight throughout history so you could live here freely in Canada.

You need not look far to affirm this: Egyptians and Libyans are laying down their lives because they are fed up murderous, autocratic regimes governing them without ever having a say in how their government is run. They want democracy at any cost, and they’re paying the ultimate price to ensure future generations are allowed such freedom. Past Canadians did the same for us.

This freedom is seen every day: we can drive down the streets without fear of being shot at, we don’t have to worry about land mines being planted in our front yards, and we know our government will always act in our best interests or else they won’t be voted into office again.

However with freedoms come responsibilities. It is your civic responsibility to maintain the Canadian state by voting. Your vote ensures Canada remains democratic. Your vote gives the winning candidate in your riding the mandate to go to Parliament Hill and fight on your behalf. If this person is not the person you voted for, then fine: rally your MP accordingly with letters and requests that they act on the issues you see fit to require addressing.

Is it your right to not vote? Sure, there is currently no legislation that requires you to vote (although I wish that would change). It’s also your right to not help a person bleeding to death on the side of the street, but your civic responsibility and commitment to your fellow Canadian should tell you otherwise.

Many people have also stated they don’t vote because they don’t know the issues. Find them. Part of your responsibility is to actively educate yourself to ensure you are voting for who, in your opinion, is the best choice in your riding. Don’t know where to look? Here, I’ll help you:

• Which parties are out there: http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=pol&dir=par&document=index&lang=e. This is every registered political party in Canada. Not all of them run in every riding, so check out each party’s website and see if you can vote for them in your riding.

• Vote Compass: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/votecompass/ – CBC has created this vote compass. Fill out the answers and it’ll show you which party is addressing the issues in accordance with your answers.

• Your Candidates: http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=vot&lang=e – Elections Canada has a plethora of information available, with everything from finding your riding to reading the identification requirements to register and vote.

• Watch the leadership debates: the leaders of the parties are key to running and organizing that party. Tune into the debates between the four (maybe five?) Canadians and see which one is best arguing for your position.

• Attend your local candidate debates: this is grassroots at its finest. While the party leaders are touring the country your local candidates are going door to door, house to house, and occasionally debating each other at the local level. Attend one of these for the same reason as above – to see which candidate resonates with you, and ask them any questions if you have them.

So, setting aside any personal partisanship, it is essential that you vote for someone. Although figuring out which political party is the best and which one would do the best for Canada is somewhat onerous, it is required and your responsibility as a Canadian citizen.

Don’t want to vote? Fine. Don’t. But I expect in exchange for not voting you spend the entire election day personally speaking to Libyans and Egyptians and telling them how useless their plight to obtain democracy is.

70 Reasons TO Vote Conservative

There’s a lot of garbage going around the web for Canada’s current federal election, with inflammatory titles like “100 reasons to not vote Conservative.” They’re usually poorly cited and say nothing but the fact that the Conservative government did something that wasn’t satisfactory to our Socialists or Separatists.

In response I think it’s important that we see the 70 reasons TO vote Conservative.  Unlike the inflammatory rhetoric seen at those websites mentioning reasons to not vote Conservative, this list is based off substantive, effective, successful policies that have been implemented under our Conservative government.  This list is not based off the empty statements of “well Mr. So and So said this, so therefore he hates everyone!”

(Taken from http://cruxofthematterinfo.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/the-accomplishments/ See this link for the link to the original legislation)
  1. Accountability/Lobbying Act — Passed July 2, 2008 (Link)
  2. Age of Consent Legislation – Raised from 14 to 16 effective May 1, 2008 (Link)
  3. Agent Orange Compensation Package of $96 Million –$20,000 to all veterans and civilians who lived within 5 kilometers of CFB Gagetown in N.B.when Agent Orange was sprayed over a seven day period in 1966 and 1967 (Link)
  4. Air India Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry – PM Harper apologies to the friends and relatives of all those who died in that disaster (Link)
  5. Apology to Native People – By the Government of Canada on June 11, 2008 for residential school abuses (Link)
  6. Arctic Sovereignty a Priority – One of the Harper gov’t’s highest priority is the protection of Canada’s Arctic sovereignty (Link)
  7. Auto Theft and Property Crime Bill – Legislation passed that would crack down on auto theft and trafficking in property that is obtained by crime (Link)
  8. Child Pornography Reporting by Persons who Provide an Internet Service Act (C-22) – by toughening laws that protect children from adult sexual predators by making it mandatory for Internet service suppliers to report such online actions (Link)
  9. Child Tax Credit – $2000 for every child under eighteen (Link to all the family tax credits)
  10. Chinese Head Tax Apology– By the government on June 22, 2006 (Link) (Link)
  11. Chinese Immigrant Provision — Of $20,000 to every individual and/or surviving spouses who paid the head tax plus $24 million towards an “historical recognition program”(Link)
  12. Columbia Free Trade Agreement – Signed at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting in Lima, November 21, 2008 (Link)
  13. Consumer Product Safety Legislation – To strengthen Canada’s product safety laws and better protect Canadian consumers and their families (Link)
  14. Corporate taxes lowered to stimulate economy – 22.2% in 2007, 16.5% in 2011 and will be 15% in 2012 (not just for large corporations but any incorporated business, including small business (Link)
  15. Corrupt Regimes Act (C-61) – allows Canada to act upon the request of a foreign state to freeze the assets that their former leaders and members of their entourage, including family members, senior officials and associates, may have placed in Canadian financial institutions (Link)
  16. Criminals’ Old Age Security eliminated through legislation – (Link)
  17. Disability Savings Plan – Part of the 2007 budget, it was fully implemented in December, 2008 (Link)
  18. Economic Recovery in Canada due to Conservative policies – OECD says that in first quarter of 2010, Canada’s economy grew by 6.2% compared to 1.9% for other G7 countries (Link) (Link)
  19. European Free Trade Association – Canada Agreement – Signed on July 2, 2009 — between Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland (Link)
  20. Fairness at the Pumps Act (C-14) – protects Canadian consumers from inaccurate measurements when purchasing gasoline (Link)
  21. Food Labelling Initiative – to clarify and modernize labelling on food products, including “Product of Canada” and “Made in Canada” claims (Link) (Link)
  22. Gender Equity in Indian Registration – Legislation that addresses a court ruling on gender discrimination in the Indian Act (Link)
  23. GIS — Guaranteed Income Supplement Improvements – For seniors, changed to allow for higher earned income – (Link)
  24. GST — Goods & Services Tax Cut – From 7% to 6% and then to 5% (Link)
  25. Haitian Earthquake Response – very quick (Link)
  26. Haiti’s Debt to Canada Cancelled – On June 25, 2010, at the G8 meeting in Huntsville, PM Harper announced that Haiti’s debt to Canada was eliminated (Link)
  27. Harper Government the longest serving minority – since Lester Pearson (Link)
  28. Hep C compensation Redressed – For latest court rulings that clear the way for national $1 billion package (Link), as well as how to apply for compensation (Link)
  29. Identity Theft Legislation– (Bill S-4) — Received Royal Assent on October 27, 2009 — for obtaining and possessing identity information, trafficking in that information or unlawfully possessing or trafficking in gov’t documents (Link)
  30. Immigration and Refugee Protection Act Amendment (C-35) – to crack down on crooked immigration consultants who exploit prospective immigrants and undermine the integrity of Canada’s immigration system (Link)
  31. Income Splitting for Canadian Seniors – A change to the Income Tax Act for pensioners (Link)
  32. India-Canada Nuclear Co-Operation Agreement– PM Harper and Indian PM Manmohan Singh sign a memoranda of understanding that lays foundation for future bilateral trade negotiations (Link)
  33. Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement — Signed (Link)
  34. Internet Spam Protection – Signed December 15, 2010 to protect consumers and business from the most harmful and misleading forms of online threats (Link)
  35. Jean-Lesage International Airport expansion – federal support provided to Quebecers for an expansion program that will both strengthen the local economy, as well as make Quebec City an international destination (Link)
  36. Jordan Free Trade Agreement – Signed by Canadian and Jordanian government officials and reported on June 28, 2009 (Link)
  37. Kid’s sport tax credit – up to $500 per child (Link)
  38. Kuwait Foreign Investment Promotion & Protection Agreement (FIPA) — Completed in April 2009 (Link)
  39. Land Claim Agreements – Over 800 claims concluded since the gov’t came into power (See progress chart at this Link and comparison to previous governments)
  40. Libya No Fly Zone – Canada joins NATO coalition to protect Libyans to remove Muammar Gaddafi from power (Link)
  41. Manley Report – Approved (Report) (Link)
  42. Mental Health Commission of Canada – Established and incorporated as a non-profit corporation in March of 2007 (Link)
  43. Northern Regional Development Economic Agency – Announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 in Iqaluit, Nunavut (Link)
  44. Nunavik Inuit Land Claims – Agreement (Link)
  45. Ombudsman for Victims of Crime – Established (Link)
  46. Open Access to Gov’t – the expansion of an initiative to provide all Canadians with more data, information and opportunities to dialogue (Link)
  47. Organized Crime Measures added to Criminal Code (Bill C-14 ) — Measures against organized crime, with 25 years for murder without eligibility for parole — passed on June 23rd, 2009, coming into effect October 2, 2009 (Link)
  48. Panama-Canada Free Trade Agreement – Signed in Panama on Tuesday, August 11th, 2009 & ratified on May 15, 2010 (Link)
  49. Peru – Canada Free Trade Agreement – Adopted by Parliament June 18, 2009 (Link)
  50. Poland — Youth Mobility Agreement – Signed on July 14, 2008 that allows youth from either country to work and travel for up to one year (Link)
  51. Protecting Victims from Sexual Offenders – Signed on December 15, 2010 to protect children against sexual predators (Link)
  52. Public transit tax credits (Link)
  53. Quebecois as a nation – A motion to confirm Quebec within a united Canada (Link)
  54. Red Tape Reduction Commission – Announced on January 13, 2011 to greatly reduce bureaucratic administration for small and medium sized businesses that have a clear and detrimental effect on growth, competitiveness and innovation (Link)
  55. Savings Account that is tax free (Link)
  56. Self-employ Fairness Act – (Bill C-56) — Provides special benefits to the self employed on a volunteer basis (Link)
  57. Sentencing Discounts Eliminated With Multiple Murders Act (C-48) and Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act (S-6) – by allowing judges to impose consecutive parole ineligibility periods on individuals convicted of multiple murders, as well as puts a stop to early parole for murderers, which addresses the additional anguish suffered by victims’ families as a result of attending repeated parole hearings; (Link)
  58. Softwood Lumber Agreement (Bill C-24) (Link)
  59. Street racing crack down (Link)
  60. Students exempted from taxation for scholarships, bursaries and fellowships (Link)
  61. Tackling Violent Crime Act (Link) (Link)
  62. Taxpayers Bill of Rights (Link)
  63. Taxpayers Ombudsman (Link)
  64. Tax Treaties with Columbia, Greece and Turkey – A law was finalized to recognize these tax treaties on December 15, 2010 (Link)
  65. Truth in Sentencing Act – Bill C25 received Royal Assent on October 23, 2009 — ending the two for one credit for time served in pre-trial custody (Link)
  66. Ukraine-Canada Youth Agreement – Signed that would allow youth in both countries to experience freer movement (Link)
  67. Ukrainian & Eastern European immigrants – $10 million to educate Canadians about the internment in Canadian work camps during WWI (Link)
  68. UN Global Fund contribution for mothers, newborns and young children – $540 million pledged by PM Harper at the UN on September 21st, 2010 – when added to the $1.5 billion already promised at the G8 summit in Muskoka and G20 in Toronto, it is the largest contribution ever made by Canada to an international health institution (Link)
  69. Universal Child Care Benefit – $1,200.00 per year for every child under age six (Link)
  70. White Collar Crime Act — Standing up for Victims (C-21) – will combat white-collar crime, toughening sentences and imposing mandatory minimum penalties (Link)

The Importance of Voting

Friends,

Advance polls open today at 12:00pm. Although it is selfish and unfortunate that the opposition parties forced this election on us, now having to vote on a weekend where we should be able to relax with our families, we are now stuck with the reality that we must vote!

Thousands of people died for our right to vote. People continue to die in Egypt and Libya, pursuing the right to be able to elect their representatives. Whichever party you’re leaning towards, get out there and vote! Advance polls are today, tomorrow (Saturday), and Monday, and then Election Day is May 2.

I hope this article will inspire you: http://danieldickin.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/the-importance-of-voting/

The Collapse of the Liberals (and the eventual rise of Justin Trudeau)

(Published May 4, 2011)

The Canadian election that consumed us over the past five weeks is finally over. $300 Million later, it turns out the so-called election that would change nothing has in fact changed much about Canada’s House of Commons.

Sick of bickering minority governments constantly under threat of being defeated, on May 2 Canadians chose a stable government that will work tirelessly to represent Canadians.

I am proud to have worked full-time on a campaign during this election. The experience was refreshing: I was there, constantly hearing from constituents in my riding about how much they did not want to see a Liberal-led coalition take office. They also recognized the importance of maintaining the incumbent government to complete Canada’s economic recovery, even though the Liberals cost Canadians $300 Million. In fact, in the hundreds of doors I knocked on and the hundreds of constituents I interacted with, seldom did I ever hear of anyone flat-out upset with the Conservative government.

The absolute decimation of the Liberal Party will have analysts pondering for years. Only perhaps in 1993, when the Progressive Conservative Party went from the governing Conservative majority government down to only two seats, has Canada ever seen such an enormous demise.

When it comes to Michael Ignatieff, I cannot help but resort to the typical “I told you so.”

Canadians constantly perceived Ignatieff as coming back only to become Prime Minister. Ignatieff never truly connected to Canadians. Talking down to Canadians did not win him any support either: party leaders need to send positive messages on how they will lead the country, not criticisms questioning why Canadians don’t do this or that.

And once we undoubtedly see Ignatieff return to the United States, his “Just Visiting” title will be proven as true.

The question before us now is what this party do to recover. Once Canada’s “natural governing party,” (a self-absorbed, arrogant title I’ve never agreed with) they have been reduced to only 10% of the seats, a percentage ensuring the incumbent government will not be harassed by this have-not party.

How about a merger? Ever since the Liberals shifted from the centre to the left they’ve been battling the NDP. We all know how that turned out. Just as we saw with the “unite the right” campaign, perhaps what’s needed is a “unite the left” campaign.

We should also ponder the Liberal leadership race now that this party has all but collapsed.

Ralph Goodale is a Liberal MP who has a habit of cleaning up after deplorable leadership failures. He was there to clean up the mess and hold the fort down when Stephane Dion was booted, and he is now doing the same while Ignatieff cleans out his desk. He very well could be in the next leadership race.

Bob Rae is well known as the previous NDP Premier of Ontario. Rae ran in 2006 for Liberal leadership and finished third. However, we need not look far to know Rae’s rampant left-wing legacy. Ontario seats are essential in any federal or provincial election, and Ontarians should not forget Rae’s massive experiments which eventually failed.

David McGuinty is also a well known MP, mostly for being the brother of Ontario’s Premier (until October 2011), Dalton McGuinty. The McGuinty namesake seems to be a family brand, considering their involvement at the federal, provincial, and municipal government levels. He is favoured in his riding, even if he’s never around between elections.

But my prediction is that no leader in the mean time will matter. The person chosen to be the Liberal leader for this election and perhaps even the next will only be fodder until their Messiah, Justin Trudeau, is old enough to lead the party, clearly in the hardworking and inspirational footsteps of his father. Whether or not he will make a good leader is yet to be seen, but he will certainly be groomed and shaped to attempt to lead the party out of the rut they’re currently in.

Until that time comes Canadians should be poised to see four years of an exceptional government at work.