Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Social Spending in Canada

One person's opinion

Canada is an enormously wealthy country. There are many problems this country faces but poverty in a country with the wealth that we have should not be one of them.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Unbound: Harper's first year as majority PM

Harper unbound: An analysis of his first year as majority PM - The Globe and Mail

WARNING: This is a relatively long read for an article.  It is worth it as an analysis of Harper's first year with a majority.  I don't disagree with much in it and it seems to be well rounded in terms of what is addressed. It points out very graphically how Harper HAS changed Canada even though the outward evidence does not show yet (it will; of that there can be no doubt).

Personally, I abhor what Harper has done, not only to our democracy but to our country as well.  Parliamentary democracy has traditionally enjoyed a reputation of honour and integrity. Harper ignores all semblance of respect for tradition, the House and personal honour.  He has prorogued Parliament, been raked over the coals for lying to Parliament, has been castigated for not providing Parliament with information to which they are entitled and he has subsequently been found in contempt.  He has also allowed Ministers to stay in posts when any honourable government would have put them under the bus immediately.  He and his party have attempted to manipulate money to allow them to spend more than they are entitled to during elections and been caught.  They are now undergoing what one hopes is a critical investigation into voter manipulation with robocalls.  (I admit that they have not been charged with anything yet but every report that comes out increasingly is leading to their back door.)

He has polarized Canada to such a degree that it will take a very long time to bring it back to any form of unity.  He has not only abandoned the social legacy that has been built up since the days of George Diefenbaker, he is systematically taking it apart.  His social conscience is further sullied by attempting to eliminate all criticism of his government concerning his economic program.  His attempts to silence the environmentally conscious have not even attempted to be masked.  He has virtually eliminated all funding for any scientific and research development, has tasked CRA to clamp down on charities that have a political viewpoint (and charities being what they are, show me one that doesn't) and changed environmental assessment so that no matter what happens, he has the final say in what the eventual outcome is.  His disdain for Quebec is also apparent.  He seems to have ignored the province that did not buy into his charade from the outset.  Most of his policies are not designed to intentionally isolate Quebec but isolate them, they are doing.  This is ultimately leading to further polarization.  I don’t know if Harper’s goal is  to isolate them to the point that separation again becomes an issue or is he is just ignoring them because they don’t have any representation that matters in his caucus.  Regardless, he is not helping the unity of Canada by completely ignoring one of the founding nations.

The Prime Minister’s disdain for Canadians has been revealed by the Budget and the Omnibus bills which he has brought to Parliament in the first year of operation.He reasons that he has a strong mandate from Canadians and will legislate accordingly.  He conveniently ignores the fact that he has a little over ⅓ of the voting age support of Canadians and the more that he shows his colours, the fewer that are supporting him.  He is going against the majority of Canadian opinion with his crime bill.  Not only is he going against the majority of Canadians, he is defying logic by ignoring lessons that have already been taught in other jurisdictions concerning incarceration.  His attempt to silence the Internet brought such disdain that it seems that that legislation has been moved so far down the order paper that it may not see the light of day.  The fact that it was presented though is an indication of the arrogance that he has and the will to eliminate all criticism of his government.  At his insistence, this is the first government in the memory of anyone still alive that has not been known as the Canadian government; this one is the Harper government!  It shows too; his ministers seem to be given talking points that he wants to make and that is all that they are allowed to say.  The few scientific communities left in the government cannot speak in public without first clearing it through the PMO.  His trade missions have all been undertaken without any input from Parliament and it looks like he will bring them to fruition without bothering to consult Parliament.  He seems to basically want to govern as the King of Canada pre-Magna Carta days and if that is not stepping back, I do not know what is.

In spite of the fact that Question Period is supposed to be a time for the Opposition and Canadians to get answers on the day-to-day operations of the Government, Harper has had a very real problem with letting his ministers and their minions answer simple Yes and No questions.  Rather than do that, they will create or reiterate a talking point, avoiding the question altogether.   Further, some of their non-answers are flat out lies!  The Prime Minister himself has recently allowed Godwin’s Law to come into the proceedings and mentioned Hitler in the House.  Hitler’s name itself is not taboo but mentioning it in context with anything to do with House business is sort of an unwritten taboo.  This is not the first time that the CPC has fallen victim to Godwin either.  It is a poor debater who relies on stooping so low and the current government seems to have mastered the art.

All in all, Harper has done what he said that he would do.  He is changing Canada from a socially responsible, globally aware nation into a mini-United States as they would be under a Republican government as that poor excuse for a party is today.  He is building up the economic sector to the point that the social aspects of Canada will have to rely on corporations to stay alive.  We all know how that turns out and it is not good.  I guess if Canadians are happy with that form of society, they deserve Harper.  It is certainly not the Canada that I grew up in and ultimately, we will need all of the sections of the Crime bill because it will become a dog-eat-dog society eventually.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Robocalls and Election Fraud

I am concerned with the topic which is consuming Parliament right now, election fraud. This issue concerns much more than Mr. Harper and the malaise which seems to have infused the Canadian Progressive Conservative Party. This is a matter which is at the heart of our democracy, the right to vote for the candidate of our choosing.

Mr. Harper's government has delivered on many things but openness and transparency are not even on the radar. The other parties have had their list of abuses but none have transgressed into the realm this scandal encompasses. We have moved beyond “dirty tricks” into the realm of fraud. A direct, illegal attack on the foundation of our democracy cannot go without a full investigation to restore the integrity of the electoral process.

For these reasons, I believe that the only course of action that can be taken by the government is to launch a full and open public inquiry. That would be the only means by which all Canadians could be sure that all of those, regardless of rank, who are responsible for the misleading calls would be brought to justice. If the present governing party is found to be responsible, I believe that justice could only be fully served by calling a general election. It is not a matter of one or two seats, it is a matter of preserving our democratic principles. If an election tactic that is blatantly illegal has been used in even one riding, that is cause for the entire election to be called into question. It is not enough for Mr. Harper to play the deny, deny, deny game this time. He must understand that the buck stops at his desk, call an inquiry and if his party is found responsible, resign his position and ask the Governor General to call a new election.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Harper Government and the National Interest

As anyone who has read anything that I have posted here, there and everywhere, you know that I am greatly disturbed by the Harper government. Even the concept that the Government of Canada should be misnamed the Harper government is an indication of the egoism that this government has assumed. Since taking office, Prime Minister Stephen Harper (King Stephen) has proclaimed that he was given a mandate. He has extrapolated the plurality of the vote that he received to be an indication that the entire population of Canada has given him free reign to do anything that he pleases.

Other than the apologists for the party, there is not a great deal of support for Bill C-10 (Omnibus Crime Bill or The Safe Streets and Communities Act). In spite of opinion and reports from numerous jurisdictions that indicate this will be a complete disaster, the government has seen fit to force the bill through the House of Commons with no amendments even considered (not even by their own party). In the Canadian Bar Association's (CBA) "Submission on Bill C-10 Safe Streets and Communities Act" they say,
The CBA Section is of the view that bundling several critical and entirely distinct criminal justice initiatives into one omnibus Bill is inappropriate, and not in the spirit of Canada’s democratic process.
As was pointed out in "10 Reasons to Oppose Bill C-10" issued by the CBA on November 17, 2011,
Bill C-10 is titled The Safe Streets and Communities Act — an ironic name, considering that Canada already has some of the safest streets and communities in the world and a declining crime rate. This bill will do nothing to improve that state of affairs but, through its overreach and overreaction to imaginary problems, Bill C-10 could easily make it worse. It could eventually create the very problems it’s supposed to solve.
The opinion goes on to list and justify 10 valid reasons why the legislation is just short of idiocy. A number of provinces have also voiced their protest concerning incarcerating people that will ultimately be made victims of this bill. Not only have they voiced their protest, they have said outright that they will not build additional prisons for what will ultimately be a major increase in imprisoned individuals. Texas and California are two states that have attempted just part of what King Stephen is attempting. They met with such abject failure that they backed up and rethought what they were doing. Apparently, Canada (or at least Canada as represented by our current government) is too stupid to learn from others' mistakes.

Canada has insisted on following the rest of the world into the fiasco of cutting spending at a time when many economists insist that the opposite should be the course to take in order to create some form of economic recovery. With so many governments making this same mistake over and over and not learning anything over the course of three years, perhaps we can say that being sheep or lemmings is the correct course to take. I am not going to apologize for the government spending us into a deficit if it were properly directed at the economy. Unfortunately, they, like the US have spent far too little on getting the economy moving. I will grant that Canada is not in the dire straights that the US finds itself but the claims that King Stephen is making about our economy are inflated just a bit. Our quality of life is declining and our middle class is disappearing and that cannot be indicative of a healthy economy nor healthy federal fiscal policy. Slashing social oriented budgets and cutting off funding for groups who monitor our quality of health through measuring water and air quality are not solutions to anything. What this government is doing is setting up for a massive restructuring that will be necessary when they are inevitably turfed for creating a shambles of our society. Since they have been in power, they squandered an inherited surplus for which they have nothing to show.  Being forced further into deficit by the economy is not their fault but rather than insisting on cutting, cutting, cutting they should have spent more and solidified not only the economy but also our crumbling infrastructure. As it is, they are going to leave the next government with major problems attempting to clean up the resultant mess of this 'mandate'-driven oligarchy headed by King Stephen.

It is obvious that the Harper government is being driven the same way that too many corporations are being driven. They are looking for quick, short-sighted solutions to real as well as perceived problems. That is bad policy for corporations but destructive policy for government. The government is charged with looking after the long-term health of the country. If they are operating with the concept that they are akin to a business and must increase their profit or productivity every quarter rather than looking to the long-term health of their jurisdiction, they are jeopardizing the country's future.. The tar sands and how to get that oil to market is the current issue that tracks along those lines.  The Harper government seems intent on adhering to the notion that Canadians are nothing more than hewers of wood and drawers of water (which, in this case happens to be oil).  If this government does not understand that the jobs, profits and benefits to society are drawn from the fabrication of raw resources, I believe that it is time for them to go back to school.  King Stephen tells us that building a pipeline to our border so that we can transport the raw material for someone else to fabricate is the be all and end all.  It would seem to me that building a refinery would add at least as many construction jobs as building a pipeline.  There would also likely be considerably more after-construction jobs with that scenario.  It would also allow for the building of an internal pipeline for the pipeline enthusiasts.  That pipeline could transport finished product to Eastern Canada which now relies on imported oil.  Other than blinkered thinking, there is no reason why tar sands oil should not replace those imports.  Is building a processing facility close to the source such an onerous burden that we must rely on others to process it?

The Dogwood Initiative (a British Columbia non-profit dedicated to bringing decision-making back to residents) has issued a couple of blogs dealing with this issue.  They have addressed 5 Reasons Shipping Oil To Asia Is Not In The National Interest.  They are very cogent and to the point reasons why we should not behave in the manner of Bill C-10.  In fact, one of the reasons is "What's the Hurry".  After all, one of Canada’s top investors, the 85-year-old Stephen Jarislowsky, has said: “Long term, I think oil in the ground is a good asset.”  A follow-up to that blog addresses How Increasing Oil Exports Would Hurt Manufacturing Sector.  One of the arguments is that increased exports of oil would make the dollar worth more.  That would obviously hurt any company involved with export.  Should an oil spill occur either on land or in the straits which the tankers would use could devastate valuable ecosystems.

All in all, from the policies that have come out of the Harper government, it would seem that they are intent on abrogating their responsibility to the Canadian people.  They are very interested in helping the business lobby get their short-term goals met.  They are also intent on pushing their agenda from the Canadian Alliance days in spite of the fact that much of their policy position then was outdated and is even more outdated now.  The National Interest is definitely secondary in the positions that they have adopted and I fear that they are attempting to drive Canada away from the liberal society which has existed up to this point.  If a Republican candidate is elected President of the United States in this year's election, I fear for North America for the next 3 years with two such right of centre governments in power.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kyoto withdrawal: There must be a political price to be paid | Green Party of Canada

Kyoto withdrawal: There must be a political price to be paid | Green Party of Canada

Whether you agree with the Green Party platform or not, I believe that Ms. May is absolutely correct in her assessment of the government and their behaviour. It is increasingly disturbing that the government seems to have no care for the future of the planet. I am all for the economy but not at the cost of long term survival of the planet. As a nation, we should be encouraging growth in our green sector. Invest in research in photo-voltaic technology, invest in research to make wind turbines quieter and most importantly, invest in industry that is willing to advance our position as a progressive nation. The Harper government seems intent on embarrassing us on the international stage and have succeeded at that task admirably. Next they are going to embarrass us by not being open to true discussions concerning our native people and well be content to leave them living as third world occupants until the UN takes them to task. I am not certain what the point of this blog is but I do hope that Harper and his followers start making some bona fide decisions rather than just carrying on with delivering what is obviously their preconceived vision of what Canada should look like when they are done with us.

Oh, one thing that I do want to point out is the phrase 'Harper government'. With any government of the past, I would have used 'Government of Canada'. King Stephen has made it a point that he wants his name associated with the current government and that is likely the one thing that I can agree with him on. He and his cronies are not acting as the Government of Canada but more like the Bullies on the Hill. They do not have a majority of the vote regardless how you count votes (or potential votes) but they have closed their ears to anything the majority of the people represented by other parties have to say. They are espousing positions that do not represent the view of the Canadian people up to this point and I do not believe that the majority of Canadians feel as they do in their right sliding of the country. Harper government is very apropos and until such time as they start acting like the Government of Canada, I will certainly not taint them with that nomenclature.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Canada hopeful about climate treaty but others wary | CTV News

Canada hopeful about climate treaty but others wary | CTV News

Isn't it a sad thing when governments can take pride in some face saving in the midst of a crisis. While the industrialized world thinks that there is room for another four years of dithering, a couple of nations may sink under the rising ocean levels. When that happens, it will be "Oh, we had no idea it was that desperate!" I wonder if Tuvalu is going to seek redress from the United Nations over losing their entire country. I wonder how much faster the negotiations would have gone had some of the big countries faced losing enormous stretches of land.

At any rate, to everyone except perhaps the governments of the world and some idiots like the International Climate Science Coalition, there is a more immediate need for action. We know in Canada that the 'Harper government' has no time for building a green society and perhaps even developing green industry to supply the rest of the world. The government is apparently blinded by their self-imposed imperative that the tar sands be developed and we keep oil on stream for as long as possible. Weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels would not sit well with King Stephen's home turf of Alberta and his buddies in big business and industry. Because of that we will fudge along thinking that binding agreements are too onerous for us to bear rather than forgetting about 'binding' in terms of legal and get busy binding our nation to progress in getting our carbon footprint reduced and being a leader again in not only showing how to do it but providing the technology to make it happen faster.

I try very hard to be optimistic in all things to do with my life but it is difficult to remain optimistic when we are led by moronic governments who refuse to face reality and deal with it head on. Here is to Europe and their efforts; they are at least trying. North America is a complete embarrassment though.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thoughts on Omnibus Crime Bill C-10

I am writing as a concerned citizen who had grown use to living in a much warmer country than it feels now.  Our government is behaving like a bunch of children who get to say "I told you so".  They insist on behaving with omnipotent authority with no concern for what our society actually wants them to do.  When they won the mandate to govern, I do not believe that gave them the mandate to issue into law within 100 days everything their little hearts desire.  Previous to now, I do not believe that it has ever been assumed that you get to ram everything you want down the throat of Parliament just because "you can".

The latest is their lumping of nine bills into one omnibus crime bill that is going to cost us a lot of money in the long run and will likely have our prisons run by private enterprise.  The massive penal colonies that have sprung up here and there in the United States have been proven less than effective.  The owners, having run out of options in the south are lobbying in the Northern State to build an empire here.  There can be no mistake about the fact that costs will soar and the governments will have no interest in funding the required prisons.  Ultimately and amazingly enough, private enterprise will be there to do it more cheaply than the government could ever hope to do it so we will sell all of the prisons to corporations to run for a profit.  Now that is all pure speculation but it does somehow sound familiar, does it not?  The Canadian Bar Association has said that the bill "would move Canada along a road that has failed in other countries, at great expense".  The Bar is more concerned with justice and rehabilitation it seems than with penalizing; somewhat like I think most Canadians that I know feel.

Prime Minister Harper claims that Canadians support tough on crime laws.  Well, he is referring to the 40% who voted for him I would suppose because I have not seen any independent polls to indicate that.  Mr. McGuinty has told Mr. Harper that Ontario has no intent to budget more money for prisoners that the Federal government wants to create.  Quebec has also refused to pay for a strategy that has been tried, and failed.

Indications of the hopelessness of the Omnibus Crime Bill have been proven failures in many of the United States.  Conservative Texans are warning us not to follow a failed fill-the-prisons approach to justice.  If the Texans, who house the highest proportion of its citizens in prisons are advising against it, we really should be paying attention.

Part of the bill has to do with mandatory sentencing provisions.  It has been proven over the world that mandatory sentences backfire.  The end result is that they take precious resources from crime prevention programs and rehabilitation, and turn minor offenders into hardened criminals.  Prosecuting and sentencing the increased number of mandatory issues that should not result in prison time will clog the justice system and fill prisons.  This will force the provinces, who pay for most of our justice system, to raise taxes, increase debt, or cut spending on essential programs like health and education.  That sounds like a pretty classic lose-lose situation.

It is well known that there is over-representation of definable segments of our population that occupy prisons.  The crime bill will make the inequality that those segments represent even worse.  It's not tough on crime, it’s tough on Canadians suffering from mental illness, addictions, and poverty.  It targets youth for harsher punishments when it is a given in every other civilized area of the world that you rehabilitate and encourage youth if you want positive results.  It will also put more Aboriginal people in prison.  Whatever the reason is that these people are in prison, there are tasks to tackle to bring that representation of their population in prisons down.  Sending them to prison will just be the start of a vicious cycle of recidivism.

We need to make Canada safer, not meaner.  Our crime rate has been dropping and it doesn't seem the time to fix what ain't broke by taking our justice and penal system back decades.  If we are to continue to reduce crime, we should focus on what's already working - prevention and rehabilitation.  There are sufficient numbers of studies that indicate prevalence toward criminal activity.  I am certain that if Mr. Harper chose to, he could commission one for himself.  If we address the major causes of crime, it would make sense that the crime rate would drop even further.  Reducing inequality and supporting people who need help would go a long way toward bringing the existing prison population down.  Mr. Harper's bill would ultimately cut the resources that are attempting to move toward that goal.  It does not take a rocket scientist to guess that we may see increased crime because of that.