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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Good NDP intentions leading to unintended consequences?

The New Democrats have developed a sort of split personality that has them beating the drums for Quebec nationalists while in Quebec, but acting as staunch federalists elsewhere in the country. This came through loud and clear, as NDP leader Jack Layton and Deputy Leader Thomas Mulcair addressed members of their Quebec caucus at an NDP convention in Montreal on Saturday, May 28, 2011.

Desperate to consolidate May 2 gains by providing hard- and soft-separatists a permanent home for their political and cultural aspirations, Jack Layton will do whatever he must to woo their votes, and, if expedient, he’d dump Anglophones and their dwindling hopes for equality in Quebec without hesitation. In short, the NDP is becoming the new Bloc Québécois.

Useful idiots: a term used for those who are seen to unwittingly support a malignant cause through their “naive” attempts to be a force for good.

It’s crass politics, of course, and it stinks of hypocrisy, but a real danger exists that, in their zeal to whore for votes in Quebec, the New Democrats will become useful idiots to be exploited by hard-line nationalists for whom nothing but full sovereignty for Quebec will do.

Layton said the NDP will start by championing the cause of Quebec holding the same proportion of seats in the House of Commons that it currently does. This, of course, because Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is planning to increase the number of MPs in other provinces where the population has grown to the point that they are under-represented in the House—a move that would reduce the percentage of seats Quebec currently holds (Quebec currently has 75 of the 308 Commons seats or 24 per cent).

Under the Layton proposal, Quebec would be guaranteed 25 per cent of the seats in the House even if the population of that province sank to a much lower proportion of the Canadian population. In other words, kiss goodbye to representation by population, a fundamental principle of Canadian democracy.

Layton also repeated his commitment to accepting the results of a referendum on sovereignty, even if it was only 50 per cent plus one in favour of separation. So much for the rights of minorities in Quebec. Apparently, the NDP’s traditional support for minority rights stops at the Quebec border.

NDP Deputy Leader Thomas Mulcair took a stronger line than Layton as he outlined the NDP’s commitments for the province, promising to introduce policies that would protect the French language, saying:

“People who choose Quebec, because an immigrant is not forced to come to Quebec, needs to understand that they will need to learn French and so must their families, first and foremost.”

Even though he spoke only in French and described the NDP as federalists, Mulcair touted the NDP proposal to amend the Canadian labour code so workers in federal institutions such as banks and the telecommunication industry can work in French as much as provincial workers. The Bloc Québécois pressed for the same ends, but it proposed achieving them by amending the Official Languages Act to allow federal departments and federally regulated workplaces in Quebec to be unilingual.

Quebec nationalists have spoken: they’ve spurned the likes of Lucien Bouchard and Gilles Duceppe and have adopted Jack Layton and Thomas Mulcair, useful idiots both.

 

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011.
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why is Canada’s National Arts Centre hosting an Iranian “cultural day”?

Why is Canada’s National Arts Centre in Ottawa renting space to “Iran Culture,” an agency of the Iranian embassy, for a “cultural day”? According to Macleans.ca, that’s precisely what’s planned, and I don’t understand why an organization, with over 55 per cent of its funding coming from Parliament, is associating itself, in any way, with the Iranian embassy.

Iran Culture plans what its website describes as “a cultural event” entitled Iran, Land of Glory, Cultural Day to take place on June 4 at Ottawa in the National Arts Centre’s Panorama Room.

I find this offensive. According to the Government of Canada’s website:

“Canadian political and economic relations with Iran have been governed by the Controlled Engagement Policy.”

Consequently, Canada’s current policy is to place limits on its contact with Iran, preventing, for example, the establishment of direct air links between the two countries and the opening of Iranian consulates and cultural centres in Canada, except in our capital. And, while our two countries agreed in 1996 to exchange Ambassadors, representation in each other’s capital has been reduced to the Chargé level for the past several years.

Moreover, each year Canada leads a resolution at the UN General Assembly on the “Situation of Human Rights in Iran,” the annual adoption of which tells Iran that the international community remains deeply concerned by deteriorating human rights in its country. And in 2005, Canada tightened its “Controlled Engagement Policy,” limiting official contacts between our two countries to four subjects:

  1. the human rights situation in Iran;
  2. Iran’s nuclear program and its lack of respect for its non-proliferation obligations;
  3. the case of Mrs. Zahra Kazemi who was killed in an Iranian prison by regime officials in 2003; and
  4. Iran’s role in the region.

It seems clear to me that the Government of Canada intends contact between Canada and Iran to be severely limited, and with good and valid reasons. Therefore, Canada’s National Arts Centre—which is primarily funded by the Parliament of Canada and describes itself as “Canada’s foremost showcase for the performing arts”—should not be associating itself, in any way, with Iran or its agencies.

I believe those in charge at the National Arts Centre should know better than to poke Canada’s government, its main benefactor, in the eye. Shame on them.

 

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011.
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Time for the Tories to put “free” back into free speech in Canada

Is there any appetite in Ottawa to do something about the state of human rights legislation vis-à-vis freedom of expression and, in particular, Section 13 (1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA)? It doesn’t seem like there is. And this despite delegates of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) voting unanimously at the 2008 policy convention at Winnipeg to scrap Section 13 (1).

Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act empowers the Commission to deal with complaints regarding the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet:

13. (1) It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

If memory serves, the federal minister of justice at the time and currently, Rob Nicholson, Member of Parliament for Niagara Falls voted in favour of the 2008 CPC motion that dealt with Section 13 (1). That motion read:

“The Conservative Party supports legislation to remove authority from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal to regulate, receive, investigate or adjudicate complaints related to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.”

So what’s happened since then? Not much. A private member’s bill or two that might have helped was left to languish without a vote and that’s about it. So I believe it’s fair to ask whether action on this file is contemplated by the majority government of Stephen Harper.

Human rights are one of the sacred cows in Canada, and so they should be. But when quasi-judicial bodies overreach in their zeal to enforce legislation to the point of actually doing harm to freedom of expression—perhaps the most fundamental human right of all—it is time for any conservative-minded government to step in.

Even with a majority government, legislators dare not make changes too far outside the comfort zone of the average Canadian, so I don’t expect human rights tribunals and related commissions to be scrapped altogether. Nor do I expect the Tories will even scrap Section 13 (1), though I believe they should. But I do hope they will make changes to minimize the excesses we have observed in the past several years, many details of which you can read about at http://www.ezralevant.com/ and http://www.marksteyn.com/.

It’ll be a tricky proposition. The very mention of reining in the CHRC and its tribunal or modifying hate speech-related legislation will bring howls of protest from various religious and minority groups, and from mainly left-leaning Canadians from coast to coast to coast. But surely, with the abundant talent in the Conservative caucus, a case can be made that change is necessary and will be beneficial to Canadians at large, including Muslims, Jews and those from the Gay and Lesbian communities.

Hope springs eternal, but I can’t wait an eternity for common justice. Can you?

 

© Russell G. Campbell, 2011.
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New democrats cast their shadow

Jack Layton’s New Democrats announced their shadow cabinet this morning in Ottawa, keeping many veterans in their old roles and giving 20 new MPs a spot under the limelight.

Deputy leader, Tom Mulcair, was named House Leader, shuffling former House Leader, Libby Davies, over to health critic. That then forced Megan Leslie to environment. Joe Comartin keeps his justice portfolio, while Jack Harris and Paul Dewar remain as defence and foreign affairs critics respectively. Layton’s wife Olivia Chow gets the transport and infrastructure file, handing over Immigration to Don Davies. Peggy Nash returns to the NDP caucus as finance critic, and Pat Martin gets the Canadian Wheat Board.

Some newcomers who received appointments as critics are: Tyrone Benskin, as heritage critic; Alexandre Boulerice, Treasury Board; British Columbia’s Jasbir Sandhu, Public Safety; Robert Chisholm, international trade critic; and Nicole Turmel, public works.

You can see the full list here.

I’m disappointed to see Libby Davies remain as deputy leader and in such a high-profile roll as health critic. Readers may remember her many gaffs including her appalling suggestion that Israel has been occupied territory since 1948. Canadians deserve better than a Libby Davies—much better—especially now that Jack Layton has 102 MPs from which to choose.

Pat Martin’s role as critic for the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) is about the best we could hope for—that is, it’s not much of a job. That organization is not likely to fare well under a Conservative government: many believe PM Stephen Harper’s government will end the monopoly the CWB has on Prairie wheat and barley—though, one can never tell since the current Tories seem to tolerate the existence of marketing boards surprisingly well, forcing Canadian consumers to pay exorbitantly inflated prices for dairy products, for example.

All told, not a bad lineup for the Dippers.

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Parliamentary secretaries: ministers-in-waiting or consolation prize

Typically, an appointment as a parliamentary secretary can be considered notice that you are a minister-in-waiting or, a consolation prize (and a $15,800 pay boost) for those who are unlikely ever to make it into cabinet. The 28 parliamentary secretaries Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just appointed contains a mix of both.

Two appointees who definitely qualify as ministers-in-waiting are Ajax-Pickering MP Chris Alexander and MP Kellie Leitch, Simcoe-Grey. Chris Alexander, who served as Canada’s first ambassador in Afghanistan, was named in as parliamentary secretary to Defence Minister Peter MacKay. And Kellie Leitch, the pediatrician who defeated former cabinet minister Helena Guergis, becomes parliamentary secretary for both Human Resources and Labour.

Several parliamentary secretaries stay where they were in the previous government, including Deepak Obhrai at Foreign Affairs, Shelly Glover at Minister of Finance, Colin Carrie at Health, Rick Dykstra at Citizenship and Immigration, Randy Kamp at Fisheries and Oceans, Tom Lukiwski in the House Leader’s Office, Mike Lake in Industry, and Pierre Lemieux at Agriculture.

Jacques Gourde, the only Quebec Conservative MP not named to cabinet, is Parliamentary Secretary for Public Works and for Quebec’s economic development agency. While Laurie Hawn has—as the prime minister phrased it—“an important new role as a member of the Treasury Board sub-committee on the Strategic and Operating Review.”

Pierre Poilievre, who served for several years as the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary, moves to Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.

In notably promotions, Dean Del Mastro becomes the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary. And public advocate for scrapping the gun registry, Candice Hoeppner, MP for Portage–Lisgar (Manitoba), becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety.

The full list of appointments can be found here.

Half of the appointees represent ridings in Ontario, an indication the Conservative party has solid support in central Canada, and no longer must depend as heavily on the West for its talent pool. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has chosen well, and for those left out, there are still parliamentary committee chairmanships to come.

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Do skunks ever change their stripes

The Winnipeg Centre NDP MP Pat Martin, a self-admitted “loudmouth,” claims he now chooses civility. That’s like a fox telling us he’s decided to be nice to chickens. Martin has held his Manitoba seat since 1997 and has accomplished little in Ottawa other than becoming somewhat of a media darling who can be counted on for a sound bite now and then.

Martin’s the fellow who once referred to asbestos producers as “corporate serial killers.”

On another occasion, he compared the governor of North Dakota to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, because of ND’s disagreement with Manitoba over the Devils Lake outlet. He also quoted a 1980s Alberta bumper sticker, saying we should let “the bastards [Americans] freeze in the dark.”

Martin is also remembered as the MP who attacked a Christian organization saying, “they [Opus Dei] give me the creeps.” And he stated his opposition to funding an $11 million youth center in Winnipeg being built by the social-service organization, Youth For Christ, saying they were “evangelical fundamentalists” who were “preying on vulnerable kids.”

Rancour among opposition MPs in Ottawa towards the government and Conservatives in general is palpable, and nowhere is this malicious resentfulness more noticeable than in Pat Martin. Earlier this year, he called MP Kelly Block (Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar) a “hapless dupe for a bunch of rednecks.”

The fellow is a sanctimonious blowhard and bully who uses his membership on Parliamentary committees to browbeat government representatives in a rude and disparaging manner. During his 2011 verbal assault while questioning International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, Martin suggested Ms. Oda was a “lousy minister,” the “minister of weasel words” and that she was either a “very poor minister or equally poor liar.” This from an MP who was not even a voting member of the committee that was considering whether Ms. Oda should be found in contempt of Parliament—he had been brought in by the NDP to be their non-voting “hit man” to entertain the media and to humiliate the beleaguered minister to the full extent of his rather limited vocabulary.

As I’ve said before in this space, the man’s an odious fellow and a bit of a clown who needs to find ways to seem relevant to his constituents. He’s one of those career politicians who’s in the House of Commons because it is the best paying form of employment he’s ever likely to get—that is, for personal gain. It rankles political hacks like Martin that they will never achieve real power and influence in Ottawa and sometimes their envy and personal animosity towards those who hold power gets the best of them.

In acknowledging he doesn’t expect to be asked to show the ropes to any of the 68 new NDP MPs, Pat Martin said:

“I’m probably the wrong guy to be mentoring young MPs. It would probably be limiting to their careers to follow my footsteps.”

And all Canadians can be thankful for that.

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Will Bob Rae save the Liberal Party?

Bob Rae has finally moved out from behind the shadow of, first, Stéphane Dion and, more recently, Michael Ignatieff to lead the Liberal Party of Canada on an interim basis for the next year and a half to two years. Behind closed doors today, thirty-four Liberal MPs and 45 Liberal senators chose Mr. Rae to lead them in Parliament and in their efforts to rebuild the party’s base and tackle its fundraising.

“After the worst election defeat in our [Liberal Party] history, it is vital that we come together as a party, and engage directly with Canadians about what matters to them. … We cannot afford to get caught up in internal wrangling.”

– Bob Rae
May 19, 2011

There’s little doubt Mr. Rae will be, as Liberal MP John McCallum puts it, “a strong performer in the House, someone who can speak in sound-bites to the media, has good political instincts [and] who can compete with NDP leader Jack Layton and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.”

How effective Mr. Rae will be in rebuilding the Liberal brand, however, is in doubt. The very existence of the federal Liberals is far from guaranteed as they have sunk to 19 per cent of the vote, and many do not believe they have bottomed out.

When the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada was nearly wiped out in 1993, it never recovered, and ten years later it became merely a footnote in the history of the Reform/Canadian Alliance/Conservative Party. At the time of its merger with the Canadian Alliance in 2003, the federal PC Party held only 15 of 301 seats in the Canadian House of Commons, never having held more than 20 seats between 1993 and 2003. A similar fate might be awaiting the Grits.

The Liberal Party of Canada now finds itself with 34 seats. Relegated to third-party status in the House for the first time in its history, the party is confronted with myriad questions about its purpose and future. Fundraising, always a major issue for the Grits, has been made more challenging with the Conservative Party’s decision to end the $2 per vote taxpayer subsidy. The way forward for the Grits is shrouded in uncertainty.

When he announced he would run for interim leader, Mr. Rae agreed to forfeit the permanent leadership, if the Liberal executive decides the interim leader can not run in the next leadership convention. The Liberal Party’s national board unanimously agreed to postpone the vote for a permanent leader to sometime between November 1, 2012 and February 28, 2013, and party delegates will be asked to vote on that time frame at a special convention in June.

Interesting times have overtaken the Grits.

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Nanos poll: Ontario Tories slip; NDP on the rise

The latest Nanos Research poll on Ontario voter preferences shows the Tories still in the lead with 41 per cent support, down 3 per cent from a month ago. Dalton McGuinty’s Grits are second with 34 per cent, down one per cent, and the NDP trails with 19 per cent, up a full three percentage points.

Thirty per cent of the 503 respondents said PC leader Tim Hudak would make the best premier, while only 25.3 per cent approved of Premier Dalton McGuinty. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath gained ground to 15.7 per cent approval from 9.7 per cent in March.

The news here is the apparent New Democrats’ momentum—the Dippers’ support is trending up with a three-point gain in the past month and a six-point increase since February 2011. And their leader, Andrea Horwath, is also on the rise in personal popularity, begging the question as to whether Ontario voters are considering giving the Dippers another chance to run the province. With a little over four months to go and after the NDP surge in the federal election, anything seems possible.

I’d feel more comfortable regarding Tory prospects if PC leader Tim Hudak had more business-friendly policies leading up to the election campaign, and if there wasn’t so much talk about cancelling energy contracts and opposing HST. This coming election will hinge more on economic policy—read jobs, jobs, jobs—than on any other factor, except perhaps for health care.

The PCs have slipped three percentage points since the last poll, despite Mr. Hudak’s hammering of the government on bureaucratic mismanagement and exorbitant-and-still-soaring energy bills. Perhaps he’ll begin to reverse the worrisome slippage in support with his pre-election promise on Tuesday, when he said he’d add another $6.1-billion to health care funding over a four-year term using savings from the “bloated” Ontario bureaucracy.

[Source: Nanos Research, which queried Canadians between May 14 and 15 in a random telephone survey of 503 Ontarians. For 438 decided voters, the poll is accurate plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.]

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Is Hudak telling the rank and file to butt out?

The provincial Liberals nominated their candidate for the electoral district of Burlington on May 16 at Burlington’s Seniors’ Centre. His name is Karmel Sakran, a Burlington lawyer and Chair of the city’s 2010-11 United Way campaign. Apparently Mr. Sakran was acclaimed without opposition for the nomination, in what might be a trend here in Burlington.

A couple of days before, news broke that René Papin, one of the two Progressive Conservative (PC) nomination candidates, withdrew from the race for the PC nomination for the Burlington riding. Mr. Papin is quoted as saying:

“I have been advised that my candidacy, at this time, does not fit the strategic direction of the party, and that it would be in the best interests of the party if I were to withdraw.”

What does this even mean? Mr. Papin has served as president of the PC riding association, so how does he “not fit the strategic direction of the party” and why is it “in the best interests of the party” if he withdraws? Who would give such advice? I wrote to Mr. Papin to try to get clarification, but have had no response.

This is the second candidate to withdraw: Brad Reaume withdrew from the race in early April. He too did not respond to my effort to get a more substantial explanation.

Are ordinary PC party members being sent a message here? Are we being told to butt out of the nomination process in favour of candidates “anointed” by party headquarters? Is this Tim Hudak’s leadership style? If so, be it known we can just as easily butt out of the election process altogether and stay home on October 6.

There was a time when the nomination process was used by rank and file members to select a candidate who’d represent them in the next election. During what—if effectively organized and vigorously contested—can be a robust process, the rank and file gets the chance to evaluate candidates and determine their suitability. Sounds like a healthy, democratic process to me.

I’m hearing from elsewhere in the province that others are questioning the trend to centrally control the nomination process, though Tory MPP Christine Elliott, who is the deputy leader of the party, denied preferential treatment for some candidates, saying:.

“We do not appoint candidates in the Progressive Conservative Party … everyone has the right to run. We do not have ability to throw people aside. If people want to run they have the ability to run.”

That hollow sound you hear are from her words that do not seem to square with the facts, as several potential nomination candidates like Mr. Papin might attest (see list here).

For goodness sake, if a recent president of the riding association—the local face of the PC party—does “not fit the strategic direction of the party,” who the heck would? Mr. Papin was a serious candidate, at least, that was the definite impression I got after I accepted his invitation a few weeks ago to have a chat over a cup of coffee. Now he’s out of the race?

Apparently, there is only one official candidate left. Wow, a choice of one—how democratic!

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Little glory in being leader of a third party

T here is little glory in being leader of a third party, and that’s a sad fact of Canadian party politics. When a party slips to third-party status, it loses its appeal among high-profile potential leaders. Nothing so mutes the interest of those used to playing in the big arena of life as does a decade in opposition with little prospect of becoming prime minister—or perhaps even leader of the official opposition—in the short- or mid-term.

Most readers are familiar with the sense of entitlement which is so pervasive within the Liberal Party of Canada. For too many Liberals, theirs is the natural governing party, and we all recognize for the arrogance it implies, every Liberal leader’s assumption he’ll, sooner or later, become prime minister.

The grim reality is quite different now.

Such are the harsh lessons of political life: in 2006, eight hopefuls contested the party leadership, and another four had withdrawn in the months leading up to the Montreal leadership convention. In 2011, four or five names are being bandied about, the most prominent of which, Bob Rae and Justin Trudeau, are showing an uncharacteristic reluctance to let their names stand, leaving a rather dreary assortment of lesser-lights and wannabes: Scott Brison, David McGuinty, Gerard Kennedy. Dominic LeBlanc, who has been organizing to become leader for two years, is the one bright light among this rather dull array.

There is, though, an interest in the interim leader position—perhaps for an 18- to 24-month term.

Bob Rae told supporters on Thursday that he wants to be the interim leader and would abide by rules set out by the party’s executive banning him from a run for the permanent leadership. Critics in the Liberal party, though, have expressed concern this may be a cynical ruse, and, once he has been made interim leader, Rae may mount a campaign for the party’s permanent leadership despite saying he has no plans to do so. And Rae has one declared challenger for the job: Montreal Liberal MP and former astronaut Marc Garneau.

The Liberal party caucus is expected to meet next Wednesday and vote for their interim leader, a selection that will have to be made official by the national board by the end of the month.

Stay tuned.

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hudak rolls back the clock on McGuinty’s onerous energy plan

ElectricityRex460 

The cost of energy in Canada—and Ontario in particular—is shooting through the roof. This despite Canada being a “have” country when it comes to energy sources. Canada has rivers in Quebec and Labrador producing enough surplus hydro-energy to export to the United States. Canada is ranked tenth in the world in total proven coal reserves. Canada is the world’s largest producer of natural uranium and the owner of huge surpluses beyond national needs of both natural gas and oil. Canada is the largest supplier of energy exports to the world’s biggest economy, the United States.

Yet our governments have mostly stood on the sidelines and allowed our province and country to slip from a situation whereby energy supply and cost gave us a competitive advantage on the world stage to being also-rans as we follow along paying so-called world prices.

We are told we must pay the world price for domestic consumption of domestic fossil fuels, but I ask: why so? Well, we are told, it’s the “market” price, and every good conservative knows, a “market” economy is the way to go. But what does a price set by some foreign cartel—made up primarily of petty Arab, African and South American kingdoms and dictatorships—have to do with a free (supply and demand) market? Why not, therefore, set our own prices for oil and, by extension, other energy we produce and consume here in Canada?

The entire concept of a “world price” is a sham, because it’s set, for the main part, by a cartel and then boosted by speculators and profiteers—real supply and demand is merely an afterthought. We must, therefore, find creative ways to uncouple ourselves from this mechanism that serves mainly to enrich a privileged few companies and their shareholders at the expense of the many. And, while I’m at it, too often those same privileged few seem frequently to be the beneficiaries of corporate welfare—we should cut them off immediately.

We have become slaves to the needs of everyone but ordinary Canadians. We seem prepared to beggar ourselves so that some can feel good about fruitless battles against the world’s natural inclination to become warmer. When, in reality, Canada will almost certainly be a net beneficiary of a warmer planet. Go figure.

At some point, ordinary Canadians have got to receive some direct financial benefits from living in an energy rich country in an energy hungry world. Governments need to recognize this and cut/eliminate the taxes they collect from energy consumption. They need also to eliminate subsidies and other forms of incentives to profitable energy companies, especially those who produce even more expensive energy products than we already have, as many producers of “green” energy do.

Here in Ontario, hydro rates have increased by a total of 84 per cent generally, and an unconscionable 150 per cent for households unfortunate enough to have activated smart meters. As if this isn’t bad enough, Premier Dalton McGuinty admitted in last year’s Fall Economic Update that hydro bills will rise by an additional 46 per cent by 2015.

But, readers, there is a silver lining of sorts. Come October 6, we will get the opportunity to stop some of the bleeding: we can rid ourselves of the Dalton McGuinty government with its expensive energy experiments and its Alice-in-Wonderland Green Energy Act.

In the news today, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak announced that, if elected, his PC government would remove consumption taxes (HST) from home hydro and heating bills, and eliminate the so-called debt retirement charge from home hydro bills—the McGuinty government shamelessly extended the debt charge to 2018, even though the full amount was collected as of 2010.

Hudak’s promise may not be a complete solution, but at least it’s a move in the right direction.

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beware the Arab you don’t know

Apparently, NATO is stepping up pressure on the Libyan government’s strongholds with aerial attacks and psychological warfare operations, dropping leaflets and broadcasting messages to troops loyal to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi asking them “to return to their barracks and homes.” And Col. Gadhafi now stands accused of “crimes against humanity,” after the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked judges on Monday to issue indictments.

Canada, whose warplanes along with those of other NATO allies are bombing targets in Libya, welcomed the call for arrest warrants against Col. Gadhafi. “Canada continues to support the ICC in its efforts to ensure that justice is served,” the Harper government said in a Foreign Affairs statement.

The question, therefore, must be asked: how far should NATO and Canada go in order to oust Col. Gadhafi? As a member of NATO and the UN, Canada perhaps has an obligation to stand with its allies and support the rebels. Should we, though, support what appears to be an escalation in the NATO mission without fully understanding the nature of the rebels?

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Sunday Canadian Forces are focused on protecting civilians as part of the UN Security Council resolution guiding the Libyan mission. And, apparently, Canada has no intention of sending more planes or expanding its role in Libya, despite calls from Britain’s top military official, Gen. Sir David Richards, for an increase in military action to end the conflict—Gen. Richards told Britain’s Sunday Telegraph that NATO needs to broaden its targets to include Libyan infrastructure to force Gadhafi from power.

As I see it, Canada has very little in the way of vital national interest in Libya. There is, however, the principle of promoting democracy that could be said to justify our actions there. And, of course, the UN resolution lends legitimacy to us inserting our military in Libya’s civil war. But when we look back at past involvements in civil wars by outsiders, there is much cause for caution.

For one thing, just who is it that we are helping, and what do we expect will be the resolution to the conflict? So what if we force Col. Gadhafi from power, who will replace him? Will it be the rebel leaders who we believe have been oppressed and victimized by Col. Gadhafi’s regime? What evidence do we have that they’ll be any less oppressive to their opposition once we pave the way for them to take power? Who’s to say we will not be opening the door to the same sort of human rights violations we have seen before? And as important, are we setting the stage for a situation whereby we must commit to several years of military involvement in Libya to guarantee the rebels hold on power?

Other NATO members, like Britain and France, are frightened of the repercussions of unrest in Libya, and they see justification in sending their sons and daughters to a foreign country to protect their oil interests. They seem to believe that if they help the rebels to win, oil from Libya will flow to them.

But how justified is this belief? Civil wars are tricky propositions at the best of times—their outcomes uncertain. Readers may recall that when Western nations sent troops to Kosovo to protect people from the genocidal Serbs, they discovered that victory only paved the way for corrupt leaders to make that country a hub for the international drug trade. Once the conflict there was over, the very people the West protected committed atrocities similar to that of their former oppressors.

Moreover, I have growing concerns about the commitment to the Libyan campaign of other Arab countries, which have not taken much of a part in military strikes against Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. Although Arab leaders back the operation publicly, most have yet to commit their extensive military assets, many appearing more concerned with suppressing unrest in their own countries—in some cases acting much as Col. Gadhafi has. Without their active engagement in the campaign, it looks like yet another attack by the West on an Arab nation.

Even if we get a satisfactory military outcome from the Libyan campaign, will we lose the public relations war and have one more perceived wrong to be exploited by militant Islamists here at home? Without the appearance of active involvement by Arab states, I see this as an unfortunate, even if unintended, consequence of the conflict.

I do hope our leaders know where to draw the line regarding our commitment, and that they have the courage to do so, regardless of pressure from our European allies, who at times seemed hard-pressed to help us in Afghanistan.

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Fraser Institute report questions Canada’s immigrant selection process

The Fraser Institute—a Canadian public policy think-tank—has released a new report that finds “Canada’s immigrant selection process needs to be revamped to focus on admitting people with Canadian job offers and skills needed by employers,” because current policies “impose a huge fiscal burden on Canadian taxpayers.”

The authors of the report, Immigration and the Canadian Welfare State 2011, are Herbert Grubel, a Senior Fellow at The Fraser Institute, and Patrick Grady, an economic consultant with Global Economics Ltd. The basic finding of the report is that immigrants paid (2005/06 fiscal year) less in taxes on average than the average of all Canadians. The net difference per immigrant was $6,051, “representing a total cost to Canadian taxpayers of $16.3 billion to $23.6 billion annually.” While, at the same time, immigrants absorbed nearly the same value of government services and transfers as other Canadians—immigrants received only $110 less in benefits than all Canadians.

The imbalance, according to the authors, stems from a combination of “immigrants’ low average incomes (72 per cent of other Canadians’ incomes) and the operation of the welfare state with its progressive income taxes and universal social benefits.”

The report refutes claims of social and economic benefits immigrants are said by some to bring to Canada, but are not included in the estimate of fiscal imbalance discussed above. For example:

  • Recent immigrants and their offspring are unlikely to repay the fiscal transfers they receive, except where they eventually earn significantly more than average incomes for long enough to repay the earlier costs incurred by them. (Statistics suggest this is not happening with the average recent immigrant.) And most offspring of immigrants are not likely to generate fiscal surpluses, for, as they integrate into Canadian society, they will become average Canadians and will generate about as much in taxes as they consume in benefits, with little or nothing left to cover their parents’ fiscal burden.
  • The report argues, as well, that the population increase needed to solve the problem of unfunded future liabilities of social programs would be more effective coming from an increase in Canadians’ fertility rate to the level of 2.1 children per woman, which is required for long-term stability of the population. Mass immigration may actually lower birth rates since it drives up the cost of housing, an important factor for consideration when families decide how many children they can afford to have.
  • On the issue that immigrants are need for jobs Canadians won’t do, or for which sufficient Canadians are not qualified, the reports makes some excellent points. In short, supply and demand of the market place for labour, goods and services together with Canadians’ ability to adapt would pretty much bring things into equilibrium, with some permanent targeted immigration and fluctuating numbers of temporary workers to accommodate business cycles.

    Interestingly, the report notes that family-class immigrants made up 22.1 per cent of all immigrants in 2009, while those selected on the basis of their job skills and other characteristics contributing to their economic success accounted for only 16.2 per cent. So, obviously, filling jobs Canadians won’t do is very much a secondary (or less) purpose of our current immigration policy.

  • The report questions the wisdom of immigration to increase economic growth. Essentially, the authors ask whether Canadians are better off in a country with high per-capita income and high living standards (Canada today) or should we focus on maximizing aggregate national income through ever larger population growth fueled by mass immigration. China, for example, has the second highest aggregate national income, but enjoys a living standard about a tenth of Canada’s, and few Canadians would prefer to live in China. The report notes that no conclusive evidence exists that a larger Canadian population would be better and would benefit existing Canadians.

Grubel and Grady conclude that, in order to alleviate the fiscal strain on taxpayers, Canada’s immigration selection process should be reformed to include the following recommendations:

  • Temporary work visas for applicants with a real job offer, paying at least the prevailing median wage;
  • Work visas, valid for two years and renewable for two years upon the presentation of evidence of continued employment;
  • Spouses and dependents of the holders of work visas may enter Canada under a program allowing them to accept employment;
  • Holders of work visas who lose their jobs must find new employment within three months or leave Canada, unless their spouse is employed under a family-work-visa provision;
  • After four years in Canada and continued employment, the holders of work visas can obtain permanent immigrant visas. Landed immigrants will be eligible to apply for citizenship two years later; and
  • Immigrants may have their parents and grandparents join them as landed immigrants in Canada after posting a bond to cover payments for health care and other social benefits.

Having read the 62-page paper, I find myself pretty much in agreement with its findings and conclusions. I am an immigrant and am basically in favour of an relatively open immigration policy, but only so long as that policy continues to provide a net benefit to Canadians already here. And, frankly, I’m unimpressed with the creep of multiculturalism—how many more ethnic restaurants and festivals do we need?

If a more focused process can improve the system, and our quality of life, then I’m all for trying it. Regardless of your stand on our immigration policies, this report is worth reading.

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Time to go back to having political parties stand on own feet

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The Conservative Party of Canada plans to eliminate the $2 per vote tax subsidy in their coming term, and I welcome that move, not because of the $27-million or so taxpayers would save, but because its the sensible thing to do in a healthy democracy. No longer will regional political parties be collecting subsidies funded by taxpayers who can’t even vote for that party. And single-issue parties will have to look to their base for direct donations towards operating expenses.

Eliminating the $2 per vote subsidy, however, will only reduce the taxpayer subsidy of political parties by about one third. Political parties collect the remaining two-thirds of the subsidy through two streams: election expense rebates and tax credits on political donations.

Sixty per cent of the election expenses of candidates are reimbursed by the federal government after an election, as are 50 per cent of election expenses of political parties. The 2006 election expense rebates to parties amounted to $27.2-million, and the candidate rebates were close to $25 million.

Then there’s the generous tax credit available to taxpayers who make donations directly to their parties—for every $100 donated, supporters were eligible for a $75 tax credit. (Note that a similar size donation to a registered charity would yield a noticeably lower $25 credit.)

So far, I’ve heard nothing from Prime Minister Stephen Harper about whether these streams will be modified in any way. My suggestion, if ever asked, would be to keep the tax credit on donations to parties and the expense reimbursement to candidates. But I’d also make some adjustment to rules.

First, I’d make the tax credit on donations to parties the same as for charitable donations, that is, $25 for a $100 donation. And I’d only reimburse 50 per cent of candidates’ expenses if they received 15 per cent of the vote in their riding (current rules are 60 per cent reimbursement and 10 per cent of the vote), and eliminate totally the rebate for party expenses.

Our government should do nothing that might promote political parties insulating themselves from their supporters. If generous taxpayer subsidies continue, parties won’t need to compete for donations and will not have to adopt multi-issue positions and policies that attract followers in sufficient numbers that parties can finance themselves. Continuing the rebate for candidates’ expenses will help worthy candidates of limited financial means compete more fully in elections.

We risk ending up with a state-funded system in which citizens’ only involvement would be to show up every four years and vote—and only then if they are not too busy. Surely civic responsibility and political involvement should go further than occasional trips to the polls.

For now, though, we’ll have to settle for the elimination of the per-vote subsidy.

I’ve said this before, but believe it’s worth repeating. All federal parties depend on their government subsidies, but should they? Think about it. The parties would only need about a $7.50 donation each year from each of their voters to make up the shortfall if all the party subsidies were stopped. That’s about the same as giving up two or three cups of coffee or tea each year—hardly a burdensome financial commitment.

If a party’s policies, election platform and overall contribution to Canadian society is not worth a donation of $7.50 a year from its supporters, does that party even deserve to exist?

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Elizabeth May: one seat does not a party make

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The May 2 election once again has demonstrated that, if a political party has something to say that resonates with the Canadian people, voters will listen and react in its favour. This is something the one-issue Green Party doesn’t get as it continues to bang on about what they are now calling “carbon pollution,” its euphemism for global warming.

Under our electoral system, the New Democrats have managed to win 102 seats with 30.6 per cent of the popular vote, less than 20 years after they won only nine seats with 6.9 per cent of the vote. At their low-point in 1993, the NDP were three seats short of official party status in the House of Commons. The Reform Party was formed in 1987 and first entered Parliament in 1989 when Deborah Grey won a by-election in an Edmonton-area riding. Now the successor to the Reform Party, the Conservative Party of Canada, rules the country with a solid majority of seats in the House of Commons.

Contrast those worthy achievements with the record of futility that has dogged the Greens since that party ran 60 candidates in the 1984 election, their first federal election.

In ten years more time than it took the NDP to go from 9 seats to 102 seats—and 15 years more than it took the Reform-Conservatives to go from one seat to 167 seats—the Greens have gone from zero seats to one seat and 4 per cent of the popular vote. Yes, one seat, and that only after—as Rex Murphy wrote recently—“ransacking the country for the most winnable seat, and making the winning of that seat the party’s absolutely highest priority for the entire election.”

Green Party’s leader, Elizabeth May, finally won on her third try at winning a riding, and hers was but one seat of 308 up for grabs. Doesn’t this lack of accomplishment tell us something about the Green Party, its leader and its message? Doesn’t ineffectual say it all?

Since Elizabeth May was elected the party’s ninth leader in August 2006, Canadians have been told by the media at large how wonderful she is. Yet she’ll be sitting alone somewhere at the back of the House as an independent, a leader of a party which, after nearly thirty years of trying, has never achieved official party status in the House of Commons.

According to a Green Party Web page, “Canadians have disengaged from their own democracy because election after election we have been offered negative politicking in place of a real vision for our country.”

Apparently, Canadians were so “disengaged” on May 2 only 3.9 percent of them bought what the Greens were selling, and we can all be thankful for that.

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Tim Hudak: Bye bye FIT and secret sweetheart Samsung deal

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On Tuesday, at the Ontario Power Summit in Toronto, Tim Hudak, Ontario Progressive Conservative leader promised an Ontario Progressive Conservative government will end the “sweetheart Samsung deal.” He said also that he will end the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program. The Tory leader said the FIT program is unsustainable and is unnecessarily driving up the cost of energy for families and businesses in Ontario.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Cancelling the Samsung deal should go some way towards relieving the ever-upward pressure on Ontario residents’ hydro bills—welcome relief for families who are hard-pressed to pay their bills now, and will give small businesses some relief as well, leaving money in their hands to hire and invest more in our province.

Unfortunately, we cannot believe a thing Dalton McGuinty’s provincial government says on this file. For example, the Liberals claim 800 Green jobs were created in Sarnia, while only eight people work at the solar farm there, and one is a security guard, while another cuts the grass. In fact, the entire Liberal estimate for the thousands of new jogs their Green Energy plan will create is bogus as it ignores/underestimates, intentionally, the jobs that will be lost in the legacy industries.

McGuinty’s Green Energy plan has been pretty much a mess since its inception: signing some deals that are 20 times the going rate for power, offering farmers contracts with no capacity to hook them up to the grid and cancelling offshore wind projects to protect Liberal Cabinet ministers from the ire of their constituents.

Here, in his words, are some of the concerns that prompted Tim Hudak’s decision:

“The Samsung deal is the largest deal signed by far during McGuinty’s eight years in office. There was no competitive bidding process. There were no lobbyists registered. There was no transparency or opportunity for Ontario companies to come to the table. And to make matters even worse, we still don’t know the details of the deal and the government refuses to tell you or Ontario families just what they have committed us to.”

Moreover, Liberal Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli, MPP (Ottawa West--Nepean) said his government doesn’t know how much it would cost to get out of the Samsung deal. If you believe this, then you must also believe Dalton McGuinty’s government has been grossly incompetent for signing a $20-billion deal without an exit clause. Or perhaps this is Chiarelli way of signaling there isn’t even a signed contract.

Most Ontarians will agree with Mr. Hudak that renewable energy should be a part of Ontario’s supply mix, but a fundamentally different approach needs to be taken to integrate these new programs into our system. Surely we can develop an approach that ensures competitive procurement, contract-transparency and affordability for those who pay the bills.

And, since even Dalton McGuinty says the largest contributing factor to rising hydro prices over the next several years will be his FIT and Samsung projects, let’s get rid of them as soon as we can.

Should the Tories win the October 6 provincial election and carry through with Mr. Hudak’s promise, Ontario will be playing catch-up with a number of countries cutting back on solar subsidies throughout Europe—mainly due to their high costs to consumers and technical problems integrating these sources into existing infrastructures. Spain, Germany, Holland, Denmark and Italy have already cut back on such subsidies.

Time for similar action in Ontario

 

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Respect for Life Day: National March for Life on Parliament Hill

Photo Credits: DARREN BROWN/Ottawa Sun

The mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson, has signed a proclamation recognizing a Respect for Life Day that coincides with the National March for Life, an anti-abortion march, which is expecting some 10,000 people on Parliament Hill today. The proclamation for Respect for Life Day calls on the community to get involved in protecting “the rights of people in Canada, including the unborn.”

Many who are for unlimited, unrestricted, publicly funded abortion on demand see this as the thin edge of the wedge that will inevitably lead to an anti-abortion private member’s bill in the House of Commons and ultimately the unveiling of the Tories’ much-to-be-feared secret agenda. And to that I say, balderdash!

Most European countries have legal restrictions on abortions, despite being as democratic and freedom-loving as we are. Here are some examples: Britain 24 weeks, France 12 weeks, Germany 12 weeks, Belgium 12 weeks, Denmark 12 weeks, Sweden 18 weeks, Norway 18 weeks and Italy 13 weeks. Not one of these countries have a reputation of being repressive or for being particularly conservative in nature.

Surely there is some room for legislation in Canada where no law at all exists regarding the willful termination of a pregnancy at any time and for any reason. Our government places restrictions on every other personal right. As far as I can see, the right to abort seems the only absolute right granted any Canadian citizen.

This is curious, is it not, when public opinion polls continue to show only a minority of Canadians agree with the status quo of no legal protection until a child is born. And a recent poll1 by Abacus Data confirms once again that the majority of Canadians believe there should be some restrictions on abortion, with only 22 per cent agreeing with the status quo. According to Abacus, 27 per cent of Canadians said that human life should be protected from conception onwards, 21 per cent said there should be protection after three months of pregnancy and 11 per cent wanted protection after six months.

Moreover, the poll shows that 63 per cent of women believe in restricting abortion either before or at the sixth month compared to 56 per cent of men.

So, if 59 per cent of Canadians—63 per cent of women—believe there should be some restrictions on abortion as pregnancy proceeds, and I belong to this group, why should our legislation not reflect this?

Over to you, Conservative Party of Canada and the many other non-Conservative MPs who we know do not believe in unrestricted abortion, but lack the courage to say so.

1From April 28 to April 29,2011, Abacus Data Inc. conducted an online survey among 1,007 randomly selected Canadian adults from an online panel of over 400,000 Canadians. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is comparable to +/- 3.2%, 19 times out of 20.]

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hidden NDP agenda: replace capitalism with socialism

NDP

The New Democrats are receiving more than usual scrutiny now they are the Official Opposition. Consequently, that party finds itself a subject of interest of journalists and bloggers across the country. For many in Canada, this past week or so has seen their first serious look at Canada’s main socialist party.

The first thing I learned is that there’s a lot about the NDP that is not transparent and not in the public domain. The second thing I learned is how much the NDP would like to shake off the label “socialists.”

Many focus groups have told NDP leaders that the word “socialists” does not have positive vibes among most Canadians, and that’s enough for the Dippers to purge the use of the term they once distributed liberally throughout their party literature. Oh, they’re still socialists—and they still belong to international socialist movements and causes—but they now prefer the terms “democrats,” “progressives” and “social democrats.” It’s a public relations makeover you see, not a real conversion.

It’s difficult, though, to get a handle on what the New Democrats really (officially) believe. One used to be able to refer to their party’s constitution, but as others have discovered, the main party—the federal NDP—seems to have purged the Internet of all versions of that previously easy-to-obtain document. The Liberals, Conservatives and Greens are far more transparent and make their values, goals and objectives open to public scrutiny, as one would expect from any democratic political party. Not so the NDP.

I did, however, find a copy of The Constitution of the New Democratic Party of British Columbia, a branch of the national (federal) Dippers, incorporating amendments adopted at their 2009 convention. Readers should be aware that all NDP parties in Canada belong to the overall national party. Individuals joining a provincial party automatically join the federal party and vice versa. The constitution of a provincial New Democratic Party, therefore, is a sub-set of the federal one. Here’s the preamble:

“The New Democratic Party believes that social, economic and political progress in Canada can only be assured by the application of democratic socialist principles to government and the administration of public affairs.

“The principles of democratic socialism can be defined briefly as follows: a) the production and distribution of goods and services shall be directed to meeting the social and individual needs of people and not for profit, b) the modification and control of the operations of monopolistic productive and distributive organizations through economic and social planning, towards these ends, and c) where necessary, the extension of the principle of social ownership.

“The New Democratic Party holds firm to the belief that the dignity, freedom and equality of the individual is a basic right that must be maintained and extended.

“The New Democratic Party is proud to be associated with the democratic socialist parties of the world and to share in the struggle for peace, international co-operation and the abolition of poverty.”

Frankly, this preamble, which sets out the NDP’s guiding principles and values, is terrifying for it clearly advocates—as a fundamental principle—hard-left socialism of the sort in which the state owns and controls the production and distribution of goods. Since this preamble is much the same as the one written about elsewhere as being the preamble to the federal party’s constitution—see here and here—I’ll consider it official and representative of the entire NDP organization.

And if that doesn’t scare you, see here for the Manifesto for a Socialist Canada, the founding document of the NDP’s Socialist Caucus. The first paragraph states:

“SOCIALISTS AROUND THE WORLD believe in the establishment of a society where the exploitation of one class by another will no longer exist. Our aim and ongoing struggle as New Democrats must be to establish a Socialist Canada. We believe that the achievement of this goal requires a socialist party that, together with the self-organized mass struggles of working people, can win government for the purpose of transforming Canada into a socialist society. Our objective as members of the New Democratic Party (NDP) is to make our party into one that fights for government, and when in government, actually implements socialist policies.”

And the second paragraph dispels any doubt a reader may have about who the Dippers are and their plans for Canada, should they ever gain power in Ottawa.

“Replacement of Capitalism with Socialism

The global capitalist system is today in the throes of a massive economic, political, environmental and social crisis. If the capitalist system continues to exist, growing poverty, violence, war and repression and environmental degradation will be the fate of working people across Canada and around the world. The Socialist Caucus of the NDP does not believe that it is possible for working people anywhere to achieve significant and permanent social and political progress without transcending the limits of capitalism. A prerequisite is the establishment of Socialist governments all across the country, federally and provincially.”

The NDP’s plan is in place—replace capitalism with socialism—but is not advertised. I’d call that a hidden agenda.

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.
 
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.

NDP duplicity: Jack’s brats and other musings

It has been interesting watching the New Democrats as they struggle to cope with their much expanded caucus and to spin their various policies and promises into a coherent message. To understand their message, one must realize that, for the Dippers, something need not be morally correct so long as they say it is—and, of course, so long as it’s legal.FileJack Layton-cr bl

So, in the whacky socialist world of the NDP, being a political candidate in a riding never visited before, during or after an election campaign is said to be a good thing, as is taking a vacation during a campaign, living outside the riding, or running in a riding in which one does not speak the language spoken by 98 per cent of the residents.

We’re all meant to feel really great about having under-21s in our House of Commons, and, of course, it’s quite acceptable to publish false education qualifications of Members—when your fraud is discovered, just blame the “error” on a staffer.

Candidates’ ages are an issue as far as their limited life experience is concerned, and, although a few 19- or 20-year-olds as Members of the House are not a problem, I’m not sure I’d want to see any of them in cabinet. And I confess I’m disturbed by the fact they’ll earn more than $630,000 over the next four years, in a job that’s guaranteed, then collect a generous severance if not re-elected.

The NDP’s support for unilingualism in Quebec and bilingualism for the rest of us is meant to be consistent messaging. Their perverse use of this logic leads the Dippers to oppose the nomination to the Supreme Court of Canada of anyone who is not fluently bilingual.

What about the NDP campaigning against HST in British Columbia and for it in Quebec—or, at least, for that province receiving compensation for having implemented it?

Supporting provincial rights in Quebec, but championing strong central government for the rest of us is just another consistent message, or so the Dippers would have us believe. In 2006, the New Democrats held a convention in Quebec City where it adopted as official policy the so-called Déclaration de Sherbrooke. The NDP accepted special status for Quebec, a so called “asymmetrical federalism,” whereby Quebec would exercise powers not available to other provinces:

“The NDP believes that asymmetrical federalism is the best way to consolidate the Canadian federal state with the reality of Quebec’s national character. That means that Quebec has to have specific powers and room for maneuvering.”

How’s this playing in the rest of Canada—Meech Lake accord anyone?

Giving labour leaders a weighted vote and their ordinary-Canadian members a lesser say is the democratic way the Dippers govern themselves. And their socialist roots run deep, make no mistake about that—a hidden agenda?

Does the NDP even believe in one of the pillars of our democracy: representation by population? I doubt they do since Jack Layton proposed, in a letter to Gilles Duceppe, a motion that would see Quebec’s share of seats in the House of Commons remain at a minimum of 25 per cent, regardless of that province’s population.

With an NDP government, what sort of Canada would we have? I shudder to even think about it.

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What can Dalton McGuinty be thinking?

With a provincial general election coming this fall, we get news that Premier Dalton McGuinty has cut a secret deal with the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union (OPSEU) giving 38,000 employees an additional one percent wage increase, which some are describing as a “secret” top up to OPSEU’s already scheduled wage increase of two per cent for 2012.

Apparently, the deal is detailed in letters from the Ministry of Government Services to OPSEU. In a letter dated Dec. 23, 2008, a government official says the one-per-cent increase will not be part of the collective agreement.

When the documents were entered at a hearing before the Ontario Labour Relations Board, revealing the “secret deal” with OPSEU, government lawyers argued to retain the secrecy around the unusual accord, telling Diane Gee, chairwoman of the hearing, that there would be “significant detrimental impact” on labour relations if confidential agreements were disclosed. Fortunately for those of us who believe in transparency in government actions, Ms. Gee disagreed, asserting that open proceedings are a cornerstone of Canada’s justice system.

The generosity of the deal—which is well above the annual inflation rate—flies in the face of the McGuinty government’s pronouncements favouring a voluntary two-year wage freeze for public sector workers who bargain collectively.

For how many more secret backroom deals like this are the Ontario taxpayers on the hook? According to the Globe and Mail,

“David Musyj, chief executive officer of Windsor Regional Hospital, wondered whether other settlements negotiated by the government also contain ‘side deals.’ He said the deal makes it difficult for him to continue preaching restraint at his hospital, where non-unionized workers’ pay has been frozen for five years.”

This is just one more of many examples of the McGuinty government telling voters one thing and secretly doing something quite different. We, I suppose, can expect this trend to accelerate in the run up to the Oct. 6 election.

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Conservative Party majority: will we now get conservative rule?

The evening of the election went about as well as I could have expected: Tories won a solid majority—vindicating Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s leadership—and elected candidates in every region of the country; the New Democrats crushed the Bloc, but their surge was blunted in Ontario; and several of the most irritating Liberals lost their seats and won’t be back in Ottawa.

The Conservative Party of Canada is the choice of a respectable 40 per cent of Canadian voters. It’s the party of choice in the far north, Labrador and in every region east to west, including ridings in urban Toronto. It is truly a national party, and given the vagaries of our first past the post electoral system, has a solid 166 seats with which to control Parliament.

PM Harper’s leadership and political strategy has been vindicated. He cleverly maneuvered the opposition into them forcing an election on him that destroyed the Bloc Québécois and its leader, humiliated PM Harper’s arch rival Michael Ignatieff and crippled and mauled the Liberal brand, perhaps critically. PM Harper has successfully occupied the right-of-centre position in political politics, hugging so tight to that centre line he’s left no room for neophyte political leader and strategist Michael Ignatieff, forcing the latter well to the left of centre and into direct conflict with the NDP, splitting the left-wing vote.

When Ignatieff’s leadership faltered in 2009, he fired his first back-room team and allowed himself to accept a new team headed by chief of staff Peter Donolo, best known as a communications guy during the relatively easy divided-right days of Canadian politics, i.e., a veteran, but not a battle-hardened one.

His battle-hardened veteran was Senator David Smith, his campaign co-chairman. But Smith, a federal cabinet minister in Prime Minister Trudeau’s government, is a yesterday’s man, not up to the task of head-to-head combat with the well-financed brain trust at Conservative party headquarters.

Result: no compelling message for a man that couldn’t/wouldn’t stay on message anyway. Liberal strategists had hoped to squeeze the NDP so far left they’d be irrelevant, but, instead, made themselves irrelevant when the NDP started to surge in Quebec.

So now we have a Conservative majority, which begs the question: so what?

Will we begin to address the enormous government (federal and provincial) debt this country has accumulated, or will we continue to squander more billions on debt interest? Is deficit spending at this point of our economic recovery prudent? Will we target human rights legislation—vis-à-vis Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act? And what about that damn gun registry?

According to a new report from the Fraser Institute, the average Canadian family spends about 41 per cent of its income on taxes. This is far too heavy a burden. Government spending is out of control as are civil service wages and benefits.

The rate of public sector growth is unsustainable. What will we do about that?

I’ve reconciled myself to same-gender marriage and abortion on demand—though I’d like to see restrictions in law covering late-term abortions. I don’t favour capital punishment because our legal system makes too many mistakes. And a larger and stronger military would be nice… but you get my point.

Will we finally get a conservative government?

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Ignatieff still doesn’t get it, eh

Update: Michael Ignatieff announced Tuesday he will resign as leader of the Liberal Party and will meet with party officials to select the best time for his departure. “I go out of politics with my head held high,” he said.

The speech Michael Ignatieff made last night after conceding the loss of his Toronto seat, and what he said was the “historic defeat” of his party contained something quite telling about the man’s instincts as a political leader—or perhaps his lack of such.

Lead imageMr. Ignatieff referred to the Liberal party as being a party of the centre and claimed Canada really needed such a party. “We have seen an emergence of polarization in Canadian politics and risk that it will move the country to the right,” he said. “We will have an Official Opposition that will possibly move the country to the left.”

On what measurement scale could the Liberal party under Michael Ignatieff be considered at the centre? Based on his five-year record, Prime Minister Stephen Harper can more legitimately make that claim, leaving the Grits on the left of centre.

But this sort of thing seems to be typical of Mr. Ignatieff’s style: he’ll redefine a long-held belief/principle to suit himself, then praise/demonize it on that basis. So a Liberal party with an election platform almost indistinguishable from the socialists’ platform can be described as a party of the centre.

To explain Mr. Ignatieff’s ineffectiveness as leader of the Liberal party, many point to the success of Tory attack ads that characterized him as an elitist academic returning from the United States to grab power. The ads almost certainly had an effect, otherwise, the Conservatives would not have repeated them so often. The real crux of this matter, however, is that, because the ads were based on irrefutable fact, Mr. Ignatieff and his handlers could find no logical argument or counterpoint to refute them. Mr. Ignatieff, therefore, redefined “being Canadian” as meaning someone who’s spent most of their life abroad, and tried to sell that to voters—they weren’t buying.

Politics is not one of Mr. Ignatieff’s natural strengths. He’s such a brilliant academic, though, many thought he’d catch on quickly. But there was too much for him to learn in too short a period of time. He impressed only the central core of his party’s followers—less committed voters weren’t buying. And, in the end, he couldn’t convince even his own riding to vote for him.

But I agree with Liberal pundit, Warren Kinsella, who writes, “Ignatieff’s departure alone won’t solve the Liberal Party’s many problems. It is unfair to blame Ignatieff for everything that went wrong. The Liberal caucus needs new blood. In many cases, Grit MPs have represented their ridings (well) for decades. But we need new blood. We need new ideas, new passions, new people.”

The Liberals stuck too long with Jean Chrétien, giving him too much credit for  political wizardry, when the combination of Paul Martin’s conservative fiscal deficit-slaying policies and vote-splitting on the right earned Chrétien two of his three election majorities. The party allowed itself to grow old under Chrétien. Then Paul Martin underwhelmed us all—he was as big a disappointment as his replacement, compromise leadership candidate Stéphane Dion.

In the post-Chrétien era, the Grits were always so busy trying to fulfill their destiny as the natural governing party of Canada, they did not notice the rot had set in—the party leadership seemed gripped in a sort of political Myopia. They never really rebuilt after Paul Martin’s loss at the polls; they just convinced themselves that they had.

One good example: Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government made fundamental changes to federal political party fundraising, yet the Liberals themselves—unlike the Tories and the New Democrats—did little to learn how to cope under the new regulations.

In time, Liberals lost contact with the country as a whole, concentrating on the media centres of Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, and began depending far too much on tight friendships they had cultivated within the mainstream media to get their message out to the rest of the country.

But that was then.

Now is time for change… real change, not just a quick wallpapering over the tired cracked plaster of a party stuck in the 1970s.

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Bloc falls: election 41 stands political scene on its ear

Jack Layton and his “Orange Crush” knocked the Bloc Québécois to the ground and stole Gilles Duceppe’s seat. Stunning is one word for the total collapse of the separatist Bloc; incredibly grateful is the reaction of the Canadian public. Layton gave the federalist cause in Quebec a place to park its vote, and Gilles Duceppe’s ineffective campaign had no response.

Not all counts are final, but we are looking at an NDP with about 60 caucus members from Quebec. These alone are more MPs than the New Democrats have ever had. Add a few seats from the Atlantic provinces, a few in Ontario and British Columbia and more than 100 Dippers go marching off to Ottawa as the official opposition, leaving a ruined Bloc Québécois and a crippled Liberal Party—both without elected leaders—in their wake.

It is indeed curious that in choosing a federalist option, Quebec voters chose the weakest champion of provincial rights of the three. The Dippers will now have to twist themselves pretzel-like into advocates of provincial rights for Quebecers, and, at the same time, staunch defenders of a strong over-arching federal government in the rest of Canada. A neat trick, if you can get away with it.

Not to rain too hard on the Dippers’ parade, but there’s too much being made about their sweep of the country. Sure they had a great night, but the real story was the collapse and near annihilation of the Bloc. Without the Bloc’s Quebec seats, the Dippers would be fighting it out head to head with the Liberals at less than 50 seats each. So the Orange Crush is pretty much a Quebec phenomenon with some, but not a lot, of carry over effect.

The Bloc will take four or so members to Ottawa—not enough to qualify for official party status and the funding and perks that represents. Once Prime Minister Stephen Harper puts an end to the $2 per vote taxpayer subsidy, this may well have been the Bloc’s last election.

Some worry about the quality of the new NDP caucus, and wonder whether they’ll be able to even locate some of their winners to give them the good news, and I worry too. I am, however, reminded, that a political hero of mine, Brain Mulroney, took a bunch of separatists from Quebec to Ottawa, and that gave birth to the Bloc Québécois. A few pylons in opposition MP seats will never compare to that.

 

© 2011 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Vote on May 2

Regardless of your political affiliation, vote May 2 for someone, anyone, BUT VOTE!

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