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Friday, June 27, 2014

Let’s get rid of low-skilled temporary foreign workers program altogether

I’ve never been one to promote laissez-faire economics believing, as I do, in a mixed economy based on economic liberalism with limited, prudent state intervention and regulation—i.e., a largely free-market economy based on a free price system, free trade and private property.

I have to say, though, that I find our current government’s schizophrenic approach to our free-market economy maddening in its inconsistency.

Propping up a national broadcaster—the CBC, of course—to the tune of a $1-billion a year subsidy so it can compete against private companies that receive little or no government support is a case in point. Forcing consumers to pay outlandish prices for milk, cheese, poultry, eggs and related products—through supply management—is another egregious assault on our free-markets.

The most recent case to cause controversy is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which the federal government overhauled a week or so ago, concentrating on the low-skilled workers stream.

Time will tell how successful Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s revised program will be, but I’m one who believes the market—not the government—should decide whether a business needs to increase wages to attract workers.

Moreover, I am not heartened by a C.D. Howe Institute’s report published earlier this year. The non-partisan think-tank says the program actually increased unemployment rates in B.C. and Alberta, and claimed that a goal of the program is to keep wages from “rising precipitously” in response to a shortage of workers.

How often does this government act to prevent prices from “rising precipitously?” So why are they being so accommodating to businesses by keeping wages from rising?

Prices at the gas pumps rose at an alarming rate without governments acting to tamp them down. Furthermore, we pay substantially above world prices for dairy products and, in that case, with the collusion of the government.

But, heaven forbid, that we should stand back and watch businesses pay $20+ an hour to hamburger flippers at fast-food restaurants.

To his credit, Minister Kenney has announced that employers located in regions where the unemployment rate is above six per cent will be barred from hiring temporary foreign workers. Also, he has placed a 10 per cent cap on the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers an employer can hire per work site.  That cap will be phased in, starting at 30 per cent, then 20 per cent on July 1, 2015, and 10 per cent a year later.

Justin Trudeau has condemned the phasing out of this anti-Canadian, low-wage program, describing it as “one of the most anti-Alberta federal policies we’ve seen in decades.” A policy more fitting of this description is, of course, his dad’s national energy program, a federal policy that sought to distribute Alberta’s oil wealth to poorer parts of the country, pretty much wiping out Liberal support throughout the province.

Now this lesser Trudeau seeks to curry favour with Fort McMurray employers who have to deal with low unemployment and a booming economy. Well, capitalism “cuts” both ways: employers get to set prices as high as the competition and consumers will bear and employees get to benefit from low unemployment. And this situation almost always plays out better when governments do not interfere.

If there is a genuine need for these workers, why not obtain them through permanent immigration channels? We allow in hundreds of thousands of permanent immigrants each year? Can we not change immigration strategies to accommodate regions with low unemployment and a booming economy? After all, in most of the situations I’ve read about, there seems to be more of a long-term aspect to the employment market than the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is intended to serve.

We fully expect that in 2016, after the phase-out period is complete, a Conservative government will decide to eliminate the low-skilled stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program altogether. I believe Canada is the only developed country that allows low-skilled temporary foreign workers, and it is not to our credit that we do. The government has no business subsidizing employers in this manner.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Peter MacKay’s comments: self-inflicted wounds, but over-the-top reaction by the media

The current justice minister, Peter MacKay, has been taking a public flogging for recent comments about female judges and for his Mother’s/Father’s Day messages. Although the criticism does seem to me to be over the top, MacKay has not done himself any favours by publicly expressing views that might have been more relevant in the 1950s.

It must be said that I am not a fan of Peter MacKay. My dislike, nay distrust, of the man goes back to the 2003 Progressive Conservative leadership convention when he made the “Orchard deal” to gain support for his leadership bid, then ignored it to merge the PCs with the Canadian Alliance.

The two right-wing parties had to merge, but MacKay didn’t have to make the secret deal with David Orchard. It was a crass political move on MacKay’s part and it cast doubt on how honourable a man he is.

The kindest thing I can say about Peter MacKay’s comments about female judges is that he could have given a more thoughtful answer, when the question was raised, according to the Toronto Star, at a private meeting with members of the Ontario Bar Association. If he couldn’t think of one or hadn’t the wit to know one was needed, he is yesterday’s man and has no place at Canada’s cabinet table.

And then there are MacKay’s Mother's Day and Father’s Day emails, which were reported on by The Canadian Press. Taken individually, I don’t find much to complain about—they each seem inoffensive enough. Read side by side, though, there seems to be a clear message that smells of patriarchy. They certainly beg questions about the minister’s view of the roles each gender plays in modern society.

Here’s what his office sent out on Mother’s Day:

By the time many of you have arrived at the office in the morning, you’ve already changed diapers, packed lunches, run after school buses, dropped kids off at the daycare, taken care of an aging loved one and maybe even thought about dinner.”

Now contrast that with his Father’s Day equivalent that opined that  men were “shaping the minds and futures of the next generation of leaders.”

I’ll let readers decide how they interpret the messages, but I find the contrast mildly offensive and would, frankly, have expected better from a senior cabinet minister.

The above being said, I find the media attention shown to MacKay’s comments to be excessive. Just as punishments are meant to fit crimes, media “ink” should be justified by the seriousness of the subject matter. For days now, MacKay has been the subject of a full-court press from newspapers, political TV shows and Internet media sites.

I find the coverage excessive, but there again, I find myself also writing about it, so I guess I’m as bad as the rest.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Canada: time for the paper tiger to carry a big stick

The famous words of American president Theodore Roosevelt—“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far”—suits Canadian foreign policy perfectly, except in the reverse of their meaning.

Stephen Harper’s government’s version of our Canadian foreign policy seems to favour talking tough with nothing much to back up the words—i.e., Canada has become a paper tiger.

Under the Conservatives, attitudes towards our military have been inconsistent. Conservatives talk a lot about the being for the men and women of our armed forces, but, at times, act as though they hold our veterans in disdain. I say this regarding both our active forces and with our veterans.

Too often, veterans of Canada’s wars seem not to be treated with respect and dignity and seem not to be given the benefit of doubt when dealing with government agencies. This is especially so under Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, notwithstanding his much appreciated recent announcement of new funding for visitations to veterans in long-term care facilities.

Fantino’s announcement will not, however, dull the memories of the many veterans who complain that Veterans Affairs is spending an additional $4 million on advertising this year, while ignoring the unfortunate families who care for injured soldiers.

Also, many veterans are still angry that Jenifer Migneault—a sick veteran’s wife—had to chase after Fantino as she tried, unsuccessfully, to speak to him in the House of Commons. And, of course, the scene of Fantino’s rudeness to veterans earlier this year—he arrived late to a meeting and reportedly “left quickly rather than face the irate vets”—is still fresh in the minds of many.

One measure of a country’s worthiness must surely be how well it treats those who survived its wars. Canada, as a nation that expects its citizens to go to war when called upon, should know this better than most.

Many Canadians seem not to understand the important role our armed services have played in building our nation. Some cling to the myth that we were until recently a nation of honest brokers, implying we were neutral or unaligned. We hear this articulated in debates over our role in the Middle East and vis-à-vis Israel.

It’s a false notion, of course. We have never been an unaligned, or neutral country. It is revisionist history. We may love peace, but we have waged war—and waged it well—when we felt it was necessary.

For thousands of years there were inter-tribal conflicts between our Aboriginal peoples, then European settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries fought several colonial wars spanning some seventy years. Furthermore, Canada, under the British, rebuffed American invasions in 1775 and 1812.

After Canadian Confederation in 1867, Canadian forces fought along with the British in the Second Boer War and the First and Second World Wars. At the end of the Second World War, Canada had the third-largest navy in the world (over 400 ships, including three aircraft carriers and two cruisers), the fourth largest air force and an army variously reported at five or six divisions, establishing Canada as a major force in world affairs.

From 1945 onwards, Canada has been continuously aligned militarily with the United States and Great Britain. In 1949, Canada became a founding member of NATO, stationing troops in Germany and Norway. During the 1950s, Canada was one of the largest military spenders in the alliance. Over 5,000 Canadian service personnel, at any given time, were stationed in Germany until 1993.

As part of our commitment to the UN and our alliance with the U.S.,  Canada again fought in a series of wars: the Korean War, the Gulf War, the Kosovo War, and the NATO-led Afghan war.

Since the mid-1950s, Canada also played an important role in international peacekeeping missions, committing more troops than any other country over that time. This is, perhaps, the source of the myth that Canada was a nation of peacekeepers and favoured neutrality until the Harper years.

Besides, Canada has been an ally of Israel since—as one of 33 countries on the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine—it voted in favour of the 1947 UN partition resolution, leading to the establishment of the State of Israel. And Canada did so in the face of heavy pressure to abstain from the U.K. Moreover, Canada granted de facto recognition to Israel in 1948 and official recognition in 1949.

That brings me back to Canada’s current foreign policy, and its lack of a “big stick.”

Rather than speaking softly and carrying a big stick, PM Harper seems to prefer to use tough talk without a military to back him up. Under successive governments of both Liberals and Conservatives, Canada’s “big stick,” its armed forces, has been allowed to atrophy to the point we’ve become less than a shadow of our former selves.

Our annual military spending is the lowest it’s been in this century and is about half of the 2 per cent of GDP we’re committed to spend as a member of NATO. Besides, Canada’s contribution to the defence of North America is far less than the U.S. should expect from a partner that is a member of the G-7.

Moreover, Canada’s military is woefully incapable of defending its resource-rich artic region. Russia, a military Goliath, is one of Canada’s rivals in that region, and recent events prove it only respects military might when dealing with its neighbours.

Russia has a GDP that is only about 11 per cent larger than Canada’s (or about the same as Italy’s GDP), yet Russia spends more than four times more than Canada does on its armed forces. Because of its giant-sized armed forces—and only because of it—Russia is a major actor on the world stage.

On the one hand, Russia—in most international crises—is able to stride boldly onto centre stage and make things happen. Canada, on the other hand, must stand in the wings and hope someone notices.

Sometimes Canada hits above its weight internationally and receives well deserved recognition for its efforts—as was done in Afghanistan and on various peacekeeping/policing operations—but only when it finds a way to flex its moderate military muscles.

Should, however, Canada want to play a consistent role like we’d expect from a G-7 nation, we’d better step up and modernize our forces with new ships and planes and increase our manpower.

Australia is a similar democracy with similar standard of living and two-thirds our population. But Australia has a navy and air force more capable and more powerful than ours.

Canada is not likely to be a major power in the foreseeable future, but it could move up to being a solid second-tier player.

Time to stop being a tough-talking paper tiger.

Monday, June 16, 2014

We get the government voters choose, let’s make the most of it

This is the first full week under the new Kathleen Wynne Liberal majority and the sun is still coming up on a pretty regular schedule. You’ve got to be thankful for that.

The Liberals won and won big. There really isn’t anything I can point to to ease the pain of the Tory defeat or stem the flush of Grit victory.

Except, perhaps, for this.

The Tories cannot deny that, with over 68 percent of voters repudiating their message, theirs was a thorough drubbing at the polls. At the same time, though, with over 61 per cent of voters rejecting the Liberals, they should not assume too much about voter support and the mandate they received. Popular support for the Liberals increased by a modest 1.1 per cent (from 37.6% to 38.7%) from 2011, hardly a resounding show of support for their record.

There’s no doubt, however, that the Grit campaign team made the best of their 1.1 per cent increase in popular support, converting it into six additional seats in the Legislature (59 seats vs. the 53 they won in 2011). In all, the Grits picked up 11 more seats than the 48 they held at the start of the provincial campaign last month.

It’s impressive really that the Liberals were able to win such a strong majority with just 38.7 per cent of the vote—this was an extraordinarily efficient result.

Here in the Burlington riding, Jane McKenna, the PC candidate got about 250 more votes than in 2011, yet lost by a significant margin to the Liberal candidate Eleanor McMahon. Another testament to the Liberal get-out-the-vote efforts. So no joy on the home front either for us Tories.

Personally, I wish Premier Kathleen Wynne’s caucus the best of luck. The better they run the province, they better off we’ll all be.

New MPP Eleanor McMahon will be hard-pressed, though, to fill the shoes of Jane McKenna. Contrary to some of the criticism of McKenna I’ve seen on social media lately, she was a hard worker for the residents of Burlington and can leave office with her head held high.

McMahon has a decent résumé, but did not sparkle during her campaign—she seemed too easily flustered. I hope that I’m wrong for it’ll be a very long four years at Queen’s Park for her if I’m right.

I was also unimpressed with McMahon’s campaign tactic of pretending to earn the endorsement of our local newspaper, Burlington Post, by buying a fake front page of the newspaper to trick voters into believing the Liberals were getting positive local press.

In the end, though, McMahon won handily. Voters chose her and voters are always right. I mean that. So McMahon deserves the chance to prove herself. It does me no good whatsoever if she turns out to be a dud. I wish her well.

Once again, negative ads by union-backed third-parties took their toll on Tim Hudak’s campaign. According to one source, his campaign was outspent 5 to 1 on ads by a combination of Liberals, NDP and the above mentioned third parties. Unions are not going to spend millions on attacks against Hudak if they don’t think the attack ads work—obviously they do.

The PCs, though, hurt themselves by handing their adversaries targets at which to shoot.

The million jobs plan was a failure because most voters were never convinced the math worked.

As to the 100,000 cuts in the broader public service? A reasonable policy poorly presented and sold to voters. The campaign message should have stressed the benefits of the reduced government size and should have had a ready explanation of how small at 1% the cuts were when 5% left the public service each year through attrition alone. Also, most would have retired with handsome pensions or had jobs with outsourcing services and not ended up on welfare like some Grits claimed. Put the benefits in the foreground and deemphasize or explain away the costs.

But all that’s just so much water under the bridge. We’ve got to move on now and chose another leader so we can try again in 2019.

Just a brief word about leadership before we close.

There is this thing called, “authenticity,” whereby a politician seems to say what he believes and believes what he says. In some cases it’s accompanied by a warmth a politician shows towards others. In other cases you see it when a politician speaks from the heart and not from notes. Or when he speaks as he would in a conversation and not in an overly rehearsed way.

Whatever authenticity is, Hudak did not seem to have it. He was much improved over the 2011 campaign, but still seemed to be trying to be someone he wasn’t.

Hudak clung to his million job message like it was a life-raft in shark-infested waters. The answer to every question does not have to end with a repeat of the same message. Why? Because it doesn’t sound authentic. Watch Question Period in Ottawa to see just how phoney this tactic comes across.

On the night of his defeat Hudak stood on the stage with his wife and they laughed and chatted to each other like they had not a care in the world. How phoney was that? It was perhaps the biggest setback of his life and he was smiling as though he had won a great victory. Why pretend? Why not be authentic at that moment and show some of how he was feeling? Good grief!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Time is running out for 2014 Ontario election

Time has all but run out in the 2014 Ontario general election. By about 10:00 p.m. tomorrow night a winner will be known—I can hardly wait.

I cannot remember a more acrimonious campaign run by the Ontario Grits. They haven’t quite said they’d be boots in the street if the PCs win, but they have implied Tim Hudak has our kids in his sights and means them harm.

Nasty stuff, but it’s a style we’ve seen used by federal Liberals against Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. It failed then; let’s hope it fails tomorrow.

On a more positive note.

On the past weekend, I told you that the Liberal candidate for the Burlington riding, Eleanor McMahon, bought a fake front page of the Burlington Post to trick voters into believing the Liberals were getting positive press in the local paper. Well, the newspaper has, apparently, had second thoughts about the ad and published an online “Clarification” here.

The clarification reads, in part, “some of our readers believe they were grossly misled and for that we sincerely apologize.”

Good for them, it was the right thing to do.

If only Liberal candidate Eleanor McMahon would do the same, but that’s not likely to happen. Hers is not exactly what one would call a classy campaign.

She has used a quote attributed to Progressive Conservative MPP Frank Klees in her campaign literature, implying Klees was endorsing her candidature. But the MPP’s comment was made in 2009, years before McMahon became the Liberal candidate for the Burlington riding. Subsequently, Klees made it very clear that he is not supporting her.

The entire Liberal campaign swirls with negativity and controversy.

For instance, there’s Kathleen Wynne’s unremitting attack on Tim Hudak. Most recently, Wynne told early-childhood education students, “Tim Hudak will deny you your future.” And, later, she called his plan  “dangerous for children.”

And the Liberal attack is broad-based.

The union representing the OPP has launched a personal attack on Tim Hudak. In this case, though, there’s been blowback so the ad might have done as much damage to Wynne’s campaign as it has helped.

Not a very pleasant thought to think that OPP officers are biased against PCs. These people carry guns.

Then there’s this: Unifor Local 87-M (aka Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild) is telling members—journalists—not to vote for Tim Hudak’s PCs. This union represents about 35 media workplaces in the province. So, I guess, we can expect to see an up-tick in anti-Hudak news reports.

Another unpleasant thought: journalists, the group our society counts on to hold governments to account, are actually campaigning in favour of the status quo. It’s the union leadership, I know, but those journalists vote for those leaders.

Well, I’m sticking to my guns: the Wynne-McGuinty record is horrible and Ontario needs a change in government. Accordingly, I have cast my ballot for Jane McKenna, Burlington’s current MPP and Progressive Conservative Critic for Economic Development, Trade and Employment. McKenna also serves as Co-Chair of the Greater Toronto Area Policy Advisory Council.

As to the overall campaign?

It’s been a long one and, according to most of the media outlets I’ve been following, it’s too close to call. The polls seem to have the Grits tied with the PCs or leading, so logic suggests a minority government—probably a Liberal minority.

Following my intuition, though, I’m picking the PCs with a strong minority or small majority. This is, I know, a minority view, but I reached it based on two main factors.

Firstly, the time-for-a-change numbers in the polls are too high to be ignored. And I do not believe Ontarians really will vote for more of the same.

Secondly, the level of desperation evidenced by the nasty nature of Liberal attacks on their opposition leads me to hope the Grits don’t like what internal polling is telling them. I can’t help but think of the 2006 federal election when Paul Martin’s campaign team went so negative it was bizarre.

So that’s it for me on this election.

Get out and vote, everyone. Vote early and vote against the Liberals.

Monday, June 9, 2014

What does it take to rid ourselves of an inept, corrupt Liberal government?

I just don’t get it: the bad behaviour of the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals has attracted an on-going criminal investigation by the OPP; allegations of corruption at Ornge air ambulance service in a report from a legislative committee and, just today, news of a lawsuit seeking $653-million under NAFTA, alleging the Grits’ manipulated Green Energy Act rules to benefit Liberal-connected firms.

Should the Liberal government lose this lawsuit, damages and costs awarded could well lead to a $1-billion hit to the province’s already over-burdened finances. And, readers will remember, last Thursday, the Toronto Star reported what looks a lot like another Liberal scandal about to break wide open.

That, of course, is the Star’s report as follows:

Ontario’s auditor general is investigating provincial government loans to MaRS, but says the probe was planned before the $317 million bailout erupted into an election issue last week.”

According to one media report, the Grits face an additional $160-million for renovations and “operating shortfalls” related to this MaRS deal. By the time this shakes out, taxpayers will have shelled out $500-million or more.

Kathleen Wynne says, once her party is re-elected, she’ll table her May 1st socialist-style budget—Wynne herself calls it “the most progressive budget in decades.” This is quite a claim considering the spending spree the Grits have been on for the last decade.

Credit rating services like Moody’s, of course, don’t like the May 1st budget and have said as much in published warnings. And, considering a downgrade in credit rating could cost the province billions of dollars and severely handicap Ontario’s ability to deliver priority services, Wynne will be under pressure to make serious changes.

Could she really be that far out of touch with how the economy works? I suppose she could, and Charles Sousa’s no finance manager—he’s strictly a marketing guy—so it’s really a case of the economically blind leading the economically blind.

The proposed budget may have been meant as an election platform only—how many election promises do you remember the Grits keeping. In the 2011 general election campaign, the Grits promised a 10 per cent subsidy to lower runaway electricity bills? Well, they kept that promise, but only for a couple of years—they plan to end the subsidy if re-elected.

Examples of Liberal broken promises, mismanagement and corruption are too numerous to mention here, but for those interested, here is a link that details 50 of them.

Yet, the best the rascals offer is what we’ll call, the Mulcair Defence. That is: I may be guilty of bad behaviour, but that’s OK for others are guilty too. An odd moral defence, some might say, but  one, nevertheless, that Thomas Mulcair and progressives in general seem to favour.

Still, though, the Ontario Grits lead or are tied in most polls. Like an unwanted piece of discarded chewing gum, these politicians stick to our proverbial heels and stubbornly resist all efforts to scrape them off.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Burlington Liberals are a sly lot, planting fake news in local newspaper

Unable to earn the endorsement of a Burlington, Ontario newspaper, Burlington Post, the Liberal candidate for the riding, apparently, bought a fake front page of the newspaper to trick voters—what other reason could they have—into believing the Liberals were getting positive press in the local paper.

I think it’s was a cheap trick with the finger prints of the old Paul Martin 2006 campaign team—you know, the team that helped engineer Martin’s loss to Stephen Harper.

The fake front page has the regular Burlington Post masthead and below that the date, number of pages, price per copy, etc. It really does look like a true front page.

Only the small capital letters spelling out “ADVERTORIAL” below the masthead alerts the reader to this crafty form of misdirection.

Two faux articles occupy the page, both with large bold headlines and a lot of hyperbole and campaign nonsense, complete with a picture, apparently, taken at a Kathleen Wynne photo op with the local candidate. Also, in large bold type is the direction to, “Turn the page for more information.” When you turn the page, you’re faced with a full-page ad for the candidate in the traditional format.

Imagine how desperate these Grits are that they have to purchase fake campaign news from the local paper. The lead article starts with these breathless words, “Burlington residents are flocking to support Liberate candidate….” I won’t bore you with the rest, it’s just campaign fluff.

This kind of silliness may not be illegal, but it must be unethical, and I think the Burlington Post and Metroland Media Group’s editorial integrity is diminished by selling and placing this advertorial in such a prominent and deceptive manner.

And the really pathetic part of this pitiful political ploy?

On June 3, the Burlington Post, in a real editorial endorsed the “Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak and, by extension, the incumbents representing Burlington’s two provincial ridings.

And Tim didn’t pay a cent for it.

Eventually, even Bob Rae’s NDP had to fight the greedy unions

Tim Hudak says he’ll reduce the million-plus broader public sector by 100,000 jobs using attrition over 4 years and outsourcing—though, I suppose, they’ll inevitably be some layoffs. This, Kathleen Wynne says, will will drive Ontario back into recession.

But why? Tens of thousands of public sector workers retire each year. Some of these retirees will not be replaced, but much of their spending/consumption will continue to benefit the economy because they’ll be receiving some pretty hefty pensions.

Furthermore, some of those jobs lost through outsourcing will be replaced in the private sector, and so too will their spending/consumption. And remember, this jobs reduction program will only roll the public sector back to 2009 employment levels.

Let’s face it, public sector jobs need to be cut.

Even Ontario Public Service Employees Union president Warren (Smokey) Thomas has complained that 60,000 management jobs in the public sector could be eliminated. Now that’s just management jobs. What’s the chance that only management jobs are redundant?

Moreover, there’s the simple fact that we need to eliminate the deficit, before the credit agencies downgrade the province’s bonds. Such a downgrade will add hundreds of millions to the $11-billion or so we’re already paying to service our debt.

Remember that Moody’s Investors Service issued a warning in May that we had better get our act in gear before our credit rating faces downgrading pressure. Moody’s noted Ontario’s net debt as a percentage of revenue is 237.7 in the 2014-15 fiscal year, the highest in Canada. (Note: Ontario’s credit rating was downgraded in 2012 by Moody’s Investors Service.)

Our deficit-debt situation may not be a crisis, but it looks certain to become very much more expensive if we do not address it soon. Debt servicing charges (interest) are already the third largest item in the Ontario budget.

A spineless Liberal government and greedy public sector unions are the ones more likely to drive Ontario back into recession.

Furthermore, Wynne is such a hypocrite on the subject of the deficit, for her own budget shows this year’s $3-billion spending increase will be followed by the deepest freeze in two decades. Taking population growth into consideration, a 2017 Liberal government would be cutting spending on a per-person basis by Mike Harris-like levels.

Mike Harris had to address the province’s record high deficits after a disastrous term of NDP government and the cuts in transfer payments from the Chrétien-Martin government in Ottawa. This time around it’s the Liberals who have inflicted the damage on Ontario’s fiscal health.

Some unions have recognized the Liberal government’s dilemma. They fear the Grits will eventually come after them.

Linda Haslam-Stroud, president of the 60,000-member Nurses’ union, reportedly said in May, “The government that’s going to be in play is going to have to take a long hard look at how much they believe they can continue to squeeze out of the hospitals.” Haslam-Stroud also noted, “The nurses of Ontario already took a two-year wage freeze, I believe we have done our duty.”

James Ryan, head of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, has also made noises that sound a lot like, we won’t accept a freeze.

I won’t bet on any goodwill from the unions. Think back to how they savaged their own political party during Bob Rae’s term. It took years for the former NDP premier’s political career to get back on track—in a different party. Kathleen Wynne’s nuts if she thinks she’ll fare any better, unless, of course, she continues to knuckle under to the unions.

So what will she cut? Have we no right to know?

When does parliamentary abuse rise to the level of criminal activity?

The CBC reports that “The [federal] NDP is expected to face a blistering new report from House of Commons administration on Monday into its use of satellite offices outside of Ottawa.”

The report goes on to say, “Sources tell CBC that Commons administration officials will present an independent analysis of NDP satellite office expenses and billings to the secretive all-party Board of Internal Economy.”

And this, “The House Administration will also decide if parliamentary funds were improperly used for party work. One source said the report will be damaging to the NDP.” [My italics.]

So what will happen if the report is “damaging to the NDP?” Will the Board of Internal Economy act on its own to decide what the consequences should be? Or will this internal parliamentary group pass the evidence on to the RCMP so a professional policing agency can investigate if laws have been broken?

If allegations in the media are close to being correct, a breach of the public trust could have occurred at the highest level of the Official Opposition and perhaps by the NDP’s leader.

If there is even a hint of criminal activity, I hope the all-party Board of Internal Economy will ask legal authorities to investigate the findings and clear the air.

I worry about this for, when Liberal MPs were found to have made incorrect claims for housing allowances, they were allowed to quietly pay the money back. The RCMP probably should have been called in then.

Let’s hope we don’t see a similar whitewash.

When irregularities regarding senators’ expenses first came to light, the NDP themselves called for an RCMP investigation. But, perhaps, members of the House see themselves as being above the law.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Gaffe prone NDP MP says Tories and Grits ganging up on NDP in Ontario election

The House of Commons will recess for the summer in a couple of weeks, so I guess members are in a sort of silly season.

This might help explain the bizarre accusation made by New Democratic MP Pat Martin regarding allegations that the NDP used taxpayer money for their party’s mailings to voters, and they staffed an NDP office in Montreal with aides who were on the Commons payroll in Ottawa, both of which broke Commons rules. (See earlier post.)

Martin (Winnipeg Centre) reportedly said that the federal Conservatives and the Liberals are “ganging up on the NDP,” implying they are doing so to influence the Ontario general election.

Yes, the Conservatives and Liberals, bitter political enemies for decades, have conspired to “hurt our [Ontario NDP] support.” Does bizarre even begin to describe this nonsense?

Martin, of course, is better known for his defamation lawsuit over the 2011 robocalls case and for his use of obscenities on social media.

Pat Martin had to apologize to CEO Matt Meier and his Edmonton telemarketing company, RackNine Inc., for “wrongfully accusing them of being part of a conspiracy to commit electoral fraud.” The cost of fighting the defamation suit they brought against him along with the payment of whatever the settlement was were high enough that Martin launched a trust fund to try and raise money to pay the legal bills.

Nice guy, eh? He makes the gaffe, but others pay the cost. Reminds me of Michael Wright paying $90,000 of Senator Mike Duffy’s disputed expenses. Martin’s costs, though, were likely much higher than that.

Then there was Martin’s anti-Tory outburst on Twitter in late 2012 when he called the federal Tories “rat faced whores” and, in an apparent fit of pique, attacked former Public Safety Minister Vic Toews personally for Martin not being invited to an announcement in his riding of an infrastructure project.

Martin, reportedly, also wrote “fuck you” to a Conservative supporter who challenged him over Twitter. Moreover, about a year earlier the MP told a citizen“fuck you” after the citizen sent him a (not profane) Tweet.

So this is the sort of fellow that the Dippers send out to defend them after they’ve been caught with both hands in the pork barrel?

Bozo-eruption, anyone?

Apart from Pat Martin’s fanciful allegations of a Conservative-Liberal conspiracy, the NDP’s main defence seems to be: We’re only doing what other parties do. An ethics-based defence NDP-style no doubt.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Should we enrich school curriculums or continue enriching teachers and their wealthy unions?

Today I received an election handbill in my mailbox. The card carries an authorization by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, and is titled on the front: “Tim Hudak’s Plan: Cuts first. Kids last.”

This handbill is disingenuous, an alarming piece of hyperbole and misinformation that I find unworthy of a group that is charged with the education of our younger children.

One might think truth would be an important element in anything used by teachers to further their economic ends. Apparently not, for this card strays far into the realm of fiction—coming, too close for comfort, to outright political propaganda.

Let’s start with the title: “Tim Hudak’s Plan: Cuts first. Kids last.” Now let’s compare it with the Progressive Conservative—Tim Hudak—election platform. Here is a direct quote from the PC website:

PROTECT CORE EDUCATION

We will protect the core services that our children rely on by reducing some non-core areas of spending. In Ontario, we spend $8.5 billion more on education than we did 10 years ago, to teach 250,000 fewer students. In education, like all areas of government, choices have to be made about what approaches offer the best results.

HELP THOSE WHO NEED IT MOST

We will invest in schools and individual students who need the extra help. Too many students are struggling to meet the provincial standards.”

The PC platform is clear, core services will be protected and PCs plan to “help those who need it most,” i.e., students.

Are the teachers so obtuse they cannot understand the PC platform, or are they so self-absorbed and selfish they put their narrow economic interests ahead of the greater public good.

Moreover, the information on the card fairly reeks of intellectual  dishonesty, masking the selfish concerns of teachers with mock concern for our children. For example, the card warns of “overcrowded classes.”

The PC platform says classroom sizes will increase by 2-3 students. And the PCs say they’ll increase the ratio for full-day kindergarten to one teacher for every 20 students, from the current ratio of two teachers per 26 students.

What this public sector union really fears is the PCs’ promise to “Cut 9,700 non-teaching positions in schools.” Cut almost 10,000 non-teaching positions and their unions lose all those dues they use to send out anti-conservative, biased and misleading election literature like the card I received today.

From reading the election campaign literature on the PC website, and from media reports on websites such as www.CBC.ca, I’ve reached the conclusion that the PC platform represents a reasonable level of rollback of recently reduced class sizes and increased staffing.  This certainly does not seem excessive in a jurisdiction—Province of Ontario—where public debt is so high as to prompt the former Liberal finance minister Dwight Duncan to declare a month or so ago, “Ontario is faced with a staggering debt.

Do you really believe this will lead to “less learning” as claimed by the elementary teachers? I don’t. But, then, I’m more interested in enriching curriculums than I am in enriching teachers and their already wealthy unions.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ontario Provincial Police Association exchanges anti-Hudak ads for fat pay increases

The Ontario Liberal Party ought to be very pleased to see that the Ontario Provincial Police Association has delivered on its expected quid pro quo.

The police union yesterday launched two attack ads targeting Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak. This from representatives of a police force that receives an 8.5% pay raise this year, complements of the ruling Grits.

OPP officers got a 5% increase in 2011, and the new 8.5%increase is a catch-up for the two years Dalton McGuinty froze their wages. Furthermore, the Grits have guaranteed that the OPP will be the highest paid police service in Ontario in 2014.

One might reasonably question the largesse of a government that’s so deep in debt. Why, for example, are increases so high when the cost of living averaged less that 2% a year?

The most likely answer is that the Grits have been “paying it forward.” That is to say, give big pay increases and get big union support during election in return—the classic quid pro quo.

This isn’t surprising, though. This is the same cosy “deal” the Liberals have with teachers’ unions across the province. No official, written deal, of course, but an understanding of sorts: We Liberals keep the province’s vaults open to you; you teachers’ unions spend millions on anti-PC advertising when elections are called.

Moreover, firefighters and other public sector unions have climbed onto Wynne’s gravy train so now the unions have a headlock on the agenda of two out of three political parties in the province’s legislature.

This latest initiative by the OPP’s union my not even be legal. According to the Toronto Sun, Paul Copeland, a Toronto lawyer who was awarded the Order of Canada for human rights and social justice work, “points out that the Public Service Act prohibits civil servants from commenting on politics.” (The OPP are not governed by the Police Services Act.) A civil servant, apparently:

cannot comment publicly outside the scope of his or her duties as a public servant on matters that are directly related to those duties and that are addressed in the policies of a federal or provincial party or in the policies of a candidate in a federal or provincial election.”

One law for the police, one law for the rest of us. Not a good precedent. Surely even Kathleen Wynne must see the danger posed by an actively partisan provincial police force.

It’s an insane way to manage the province, of course, for everyone knows this unholy alliance between the Liberal party and the public sector unions can’t last forever. Sooner or later the credit rating agencies will downgrade again the credit rating on our provincial bonds. Interest on the debt will soar, sucking up valuable resources that could be better spent on health care and transportation.

That day is nigh.

Or voters can say, no, to the Liberals and wrest the government from the greedy arms of the public sector unions and bring back sanity and prudence to our fiscal policies.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Wynne hides the truth and distracts with negative tactics

As the June 12 election inches ever closer, the Liberal campaign seems to have gotten so negative as to be considered, downright nasty. Could it be that this reflects the level of desperation among those at Grit party headquarters?

Much of what I read in the mainstream media these days seems written by Kathleen Wynne surrogates, whose objective seems to be to whitewash her record and drive a wedge between her and the Dalton McGuinty version of her party.

Spin as they try, though, they should not be allowed to succeed. Far from being a backbencher or caucus maverick, Wynne was a senior member of McGuinty’s cabinet and co-chair of the Liberal party’s 2011 general election campaign.

She was with McGuinty right from the start in 2003 when he pledged not to raise taxes and did do in spades. Furthermore, she remained with him through what has been described in the Huffington Post as “greed, corruption, scandal, mismanagement,” and “cronyism.”

Kathleen Wynne sat at McGuinty’s cabinet table day after day through times that saw her Liberal government waste an estimated $1-billion on eHealth, billions more on a much discredited flop of a green energy program, and callously made election promises—remember she was co-chair—that will cost hydro ratepayers and taxpayers another $1.1-billion.

Furthermore, her own cabinet is set to close a nearly $500-million deal to buy a glitzy office tower in Toronto to rescue an organization she seems to have picked for special treatment. Moreover, and perhaps most egregiously, there is the Ornge air ambulance scandal and mismanagement, which has actually cost the lives of Ontarians.

In Wynne’s own education portfolio in which she took so much pride, she opened up government vaults and offered teachers to take as much as they could carry before her boss, McGuinty, realized the province could afford no more of her largesse. At least McGuinty then tried to rein in teachers’ costs. But, once Wynne had won her party’s leadership, the vault doors swung wide again.

Earlier this month, former finance minister Dwight Duncan said, “Ontario is faced with a staggering debt.” He then called for the Government to “fundamentally re-evaluate its role.” Duncan was calling out the very government of which Wynne was and is a senior member—and he’s a Liberal.

And, as mentioned in a earlier article, the influential Moody’s Investors Service has warned that Ontario’s net debt in the 2014-15 fiscal year is 237.7 per cent of revenue, the highest in the country and above even Quebec, which is at only 189.5 per cent.

Furthermore, debt service charges (interest) is the province’s third-largest annual expense and one of its fastest growing expenditures.

Know that the same government of which Wynne was an integral part has left us near to economic ruin with staggering debt servicing charges that will explode if Moody’s does indeed lower our debt rating as it has warned might happen, or if the Bank of Canada raises interest rates, which is inevitable and just a matter of when.

And Wynne has no answers, no viable plans for the future. No economist in the land believes she’ll balance the budget as promised without serious austerity measures—spending cuts that’ll go deep or tax increases that will cripple economic recovery. Add to this the fact that Wynne has saddled herself with the least capable finance minister I’ve seen in Ontario, and that’s saying something for we’ve had a couple of duds.

Yes, the Wynne campaign has taken on a nasty edge. But we shouldn’t be surprised since, according to Liberal-insider Warren Kinsella of the QMI Agency, Wynne is advised “by the same inept gang who cooked up Paul Martin’s ‘soldiers in our streets’ [election] ads in 2006.”

That 2006 Liberal campaign was as mean-spirited a campaign as I can ever remember. Paul Martin was saddled with Jean Chrétien’s sponsorship scandal and so had no Liberal record on which he could run. With his Grits trailing in polls, Martin resorted to a storm of negative ads, attempting to depict Harper as an extreme right-wing politician.

Sound familiar? It should.

Same Liberal team, same intellectually flawed tactics.

Toronto Star makes disgusting reference to PC policy

The Toronto Star seldom misses an opportunity to disparage the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, but yesterday’s editorial columnist Haroon Siddiqui goes well beyond the pale by comparing the PC jobs plan with the Vietnam War’s My Lai Massacre.

This is—even for the Star—a shameful analogy and not worthy of this newspaper or a writer who is a member of the Order of Canada. If this person has a shred of decency, he’ll offer a quick apology for this twisted comparison.

The My Lai Massacre occurred during the Vietnam War when between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians were murdered. It was one of the most a dreadful, shameful events in United States Military history. “Victims included men, women, children, and infants. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated.” [Wikipedia]

What a strange, warped mind this writer must have to juxtapose that mass-murder with the PC plan to reduce the larger civil service by 100,000 jobs through normal attrition, outsourcing and lay-offs.

Of course, in his poison-pen like diatribe, Siddiqui uses language like, “Kill 100,000 jobs in the public sector to create 1 million new jobs [Italics mine].”

PC leader Tim Hudak has not promised to “kill” anything or anyone, at least, not that I’ve heard.

The rest of Siddiqui’s editorial is a hodgepodge of half-truth hatchet jobs on the opposition and shameful whitewashing of Kathleen Wynne’s roll and responsibility vis-à-vis the Liberal record of mismanagement and behaviour that is currently under police investigation.

The man has no shame. He even raises Wynne’s homosexuality in an oblique, gratuitous fashion, to what end, the reader is left to ponder.

Worst piece of political writing I’ve seen in years—it has the fetid odour of intellectual dishonesty and should have been printed on yellow paper.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Desmond Tutu slags off Alberta oilsands

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu called Alberta’s oilsands “filth” while speaking at a conference in Fort McMurray, Alta. on Saturday.

The Archbishop, according to media reports, also called for a boycott of fossil fuel companies, and said he stands in solidarity with communities that are opposed to oilsands pipeline projects, such as Keystone XL, Northern Gateway and Energy East.

Contrary to what one might expect, Tutu did not arrive in Canada by sailing ship. Nor did he travel to Alberta by wagon train. Moreover, once he had arrived at Fort McMurray, he was not shepherded around by horse and buggy.

In fact, Tutu arrived by jet from Africa and, apparently, toured the oil sands by helicopter, both of which are fuelled by carbon-based products. Shame on him.

As correctly pointed out by Davis Sheremata, a spokesperson for TransCanada, in an email to The Canadian Press:

Without oil, we wouldn’t have fertilizers to grow our food, plastics for surgical tape and heart valves, and gasoline to start the more than 250 million cars in North America every morning.”

Perhaps the South African believes there is something especially evil about Canadian carbon products. The oil products he and his countrymen consume are, apparently, OK. It’s just ours to which he objects.

In 2011, Alberta oil sands green house gas emissions amounted to less than 0.15 per cent of global emissions, yet Tutu found the time—and too much gall for my liking—to lecture Canadians about the “negligence and greed” of our bitumen production.

Pretty cheeky stuff, eh?

Why shouldn’t Wynne be held to account for Ornge crash?

The Ontario Liberal Party has used the Walkerton (tainted water) Tragedy to demonize former premier Mike Harris and, by extension, current PC leader Tim Hudak.

A good case in point is when Kathleen Wynne recently implied that Tim Hudak would cut the public sector workforce so deeply he would cause deaths in rural Ontario à la the 2000 Walkerton tragedy.

Now Wynne has her own tragedy for which she must account.

On May 31, 2013, two Ornge air ambulance pilots and two paramedics were killed in a helicopter crash near an airport in Moosonee. A court document obtained a day or two ago by CBC News alleges that several breaches of the Canada Labour Code contributed to the tragedy.

According to CBC News, Ornge allegedly permitted the pilots to fly the helicopter “without adequate training in the operation of that specific aircraft,” and failed to provide the pilots with “a means to enable them to maintain visual reference while operating at night.” The document also alleges that Donald Filliter, the 54-year-old captain of the helicopter’s crew, had “insufficient experience in night operations.”

Moreover, CBC News reports that officials at Ornge had been warned “by a safety officer at the base in Moosonee that the combination of inexperienced pilots and nighttime [sic] operations would likely result in a fatal accident.”

Damning stuff indeed.

So how much responsibility should Liberal Health Minister Deb Matthews bear for the helicopter crash? The Ontario Progressive Conservatives say, “some responsibility.” But what say the mainstream media?

Not much on their own. Oh, they do report what the PCs have said on the subject and the facts of the case, but they seem to have left the blaming of politicians to others. No holding of political toes to the fire here, that’s reserved for conservative politicians, or so it seems.

In contrast, when the Walkerton story broke, the accountability line was quickly drawn by all and sundry in the mainstream media directly to the then premier Mike Harris’s office.

The fault for Walkerton was clearly that of local operators—two received jail terms—but Mike Harris was roundly condemned “for not regulating water quality and not enforcing the guidelines that had been in place.” [Wikipedia]

So why haven’t Health Minister Deb Matthews and Premier Wynne been harassed and harangued about their responsibility for this avoidable tragedy that cost four people their lives?

A double standard? You bet!

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