Sunday, December 25, 2011

Harper's Christmas "Gifts" To Canadians... Jails Instead of Better Healthcare

Ralph Goodale has a good write-up and some startling facts about the Harper government's spending priorities:


This year is ending with some odd contradictions.

The Harper government says it doesn’t want to risk European-like debt problems, so it will curtail future federal funding for healthcare, and Canadians will just have to settle for a patchwork of provincial differences and deficiencies across the country.

But strangely, Mr. Harper has more than enough money to spend billions on bigger jails. He has more than enough money to spend additional billions on over-priced, uncompetitive fighter-jets.

He has more than enough money for expensive government advertising, unlimited political consultants, the most costly Cabinet in history (including his high-flying, high-living Defense Minister), and 30 more MPs to be added to the House of Commons (costing $100 million more per Parliament).

But healthcare is less important and must be cut back? Really?

The Harper government is also contradictory on job creation. They claim jobs are their Number One priority. Yet, this coming Sunday, the Conservatives will increase job-killing EI payroll taxes by $600 million, hitting every employee and employer in the country – small businesses especially.

Now is the wrong time to hike payroll taxes. Canada’s unemployment rate is rising. The quality of available jobs is falling. Even here in buoyant Saskatchewan, we lost 4,200 jobs last month and the unemployment rate jumped by a full percentage point.

A third contradiction – a truly mean-spirited one – is the way the Harper government designs its “tax credits”.

In this year’s budget, the Conservatives boasted about “tax credits” for volunteer fire-fighters, homecare givers and families enrolling their children in arts programs. But there’s a catch. You have to earn a minimum level of income before you qualify. Below that level, you get nothing.

So why does this government deliberately discriminate against lower-income fire-fighters, homecare givers and families?

In the eyes of Conservatives, why are less wealthy Canadians less worthy of help?

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Canada's Shame: The Abandonment of Our First Nations

Canada's First Nations have been abandoned by the Harper "Government". When one considers the blatantly anti-First Nations approach this government has taken from day one... it is difficult to pretend that Canada is somehow that much better than nations we see in the news with chronic mistreatment of First Populations. In reality we are not any better. Recent UN reports put Canada in a "club" of rather nefarious nations when it comes to how we treat the ancestral owners of our lands.

Growing up on the Prairies, I know the vehement anti-First Nations sentiment that abounds. The NORM is to bash these minorities. Whether it is job discrimination, or blatant public racism, the campaign against Canada's First Nations has it's home in Reform's heartland. We know that many of these Reform-Conservative MPs were sent to Ottawa for a handful of issues which pissed off many ultra-Conservative Prairie residents:

1) End the Gun Registry

2) Get out of Kyoto

3) Kill the Wheat Board

4) Keep incessantly, irritatingly whining about the 40yr-old NEP

5) Get rid of Quebec (no, seriously, that's how many of these extremists feel)

6) Take away the imagined "special rights" of minorities, including First Nations.

Anyone that can argue these heart-felt driving motives of many a Prairie NeoCon, is either ignorant, mislead, or blatantly lying. Of course the Harper Government won't just jump out and say what they're doing... it will be "incremental" - just like Harper has preached for years in his "incremental Conservatism" arguments he's handed out to his anti-choice and anti-gay supporters. To just state what they want to do wouldn't be wise - even for them. So, we'll continue to see an axe fall here... another one there... All under the guise of budget cuts (while Cabinet Ministers galavant around the country on "emergency" inspections, or squirrel away spending in their own ridings), and "austerity" - while the rest of their spending ways continue.

This ideologically extreme government will cut whatever they hate (and hate is the right word to use) under the guise of "deficit reduction", but will continue to carry a structural deficit, record spending (including idiotic tax cuts - which are just another form of gov't spending, building prisons, and buying "Star Wars" toys), while they carry out their ideological mantra.

In the end, Canada will be diminished as a nation. Our poor will be poorer. The gap between rich and poor will grow. Minorities will be more marginalized. The pre-60's Canada of the Diefenbaker Era will be back.

The nation will take serious re-building, as we attempt to pick up the scraps, and raise our standard of living to what it was. More seriously, we'll have to repair our reputation in the World, and rescue 100000s of Canadians who will have lost hope, jobs, rights, or all three.

Ralph Goodale had a great post the other day, on what this government has done to our First Nations...


When Parliament adjourned last week, there were several hot topics on the agenda – like the demolition of the Wheat Board, the government’s personal attack on Irwin Cotler (one of the finest MPs ever elected), the wild expenses of Defence Minister Peter MacKay … and on it goes.

But the deepest trouble flowed from the appalling housing crisis in the Aboriginal community of Attawapiskat.

When people there cried out for help, the first to respond was the Red Cross.

You might expect that to be the case, if this crisis were occurring in Haiti or some other third-world location. But in this country, the fiduciary responsibility for Aboriginal people rests with the Government of Canada.

That government’s response has been slow and indifferent. They heaped all the blame on the community itself, claiming the government had no idea there was any problem whatsoever, until just a couple of weeks ago.

But the Auditor-General has reported at least three times about housing and other painful issues afflicting Aboriginal people. Such problems are notorious, and there’s more than enough blame to go around, all governments included.

The one bright spot in this sad history was the 2005 “Kelowna Accord” – a ground-breaking effort to come to grips with housing, water, education, health, economic development and governance issues among Aboriginal Canadians.

That Accord was rooted in 20 months of careful negotiations, led by then-Prime Minister Paul Martin. He pulled together more than 30 federal departments, 10 provinces, three territories and five national Aboriginal organizations. They agreed on priorities, work-plans and funding – to start making a real difference.

But just days after the Accord was finalized, the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc forced a snap election. Mr. Harper came to power. He quickly cancelled Kelowna and nothing has been achieved since.

Tragically, six years have been lost. And so we have Attawapiskat.

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Monday, December 05, 2011

The Coming Pension Crisis Will Be a Conservative-Generated One

A great write-up today, by Ralph Goodale, on the harm the Conservative Party is doing to Canada's pension system. In a needless hand-out to private interests, the structure of our public pension system is beginning to be slowly dismantled. Good thing we'll be throwing these clowns out in about 3yrs...

Here's Ralph:

According to a major international banking firm, “two-thirds of all the people in the world who have ever turned 65 years old are still alive today”!
This year here in Canada, the first of our post-War “Baby-Boomers” are beginning to turn 65, on their way to becoming the biggest generation of senior citizens in history. Are their retirement incomes adequate and secure?
Three-quarters of Canadians working in the private sector don’t have any employer-sponsored pension plan. Neither do they have enough private savings to maintain their living standards.
So they will have to rely on our public pension system – Old Age Security (OAS), the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for those on the lowest incomes, and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) if they’re eligible.
Our publicly-sponsored plans compare favourably to those in other countries. Plus, for those who can afford it, there are tax-incentives to save privately through RRSPs or TFSAs. But only a fraction of Canadians actually do so.
So, many seniors face big pension deficiencies.
To fill the gap, the Harper government is promoting just one, single idea – something they call “pooled registered pension plans” (PRPPs). This, they say, is all that’s needed to solve the problem.
Experience elsewhere would suggest otherwise.
A PRPP is not much more than a Group-RRSP. They’ve been tried in countries like Australia. They’re not easy to administer. The banks and insurance companies running them charge large service fees. And their investment record is weak.
In fact, in Australia, pensioners would have been better off buying a simple government bond.
A better alternative in Canada would be a Voluntary Supplementary CPP, avoiding fees and margins that private sector operators necessarily have to charge, taking advantage of the CPP’s superlative investment record, and relying on the fact that the CPP is actuarially sound and secure for at least 75 years.

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