Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Conservatives Finally Admit The Truth

DAY FIVE: Trying To Keep Up

With five parties vying for Canadians votes -- the Bloc of course restricted to the province of Quebec where they will likely to retain or at least be in contention for approximately one sixth of the seats available in Canada -- there are a lot of narratives to pay attention to.

Starting with Michael Ignatieff who today will offer more money for middle-class families as he announces the third major plank in a platform he is funding with the $6-billion he says will be saved by reversing corporate tax cuts. This announcement, at a pharmacy in Vancouver, follows his $1-billion pledge Tuesday for the so-called “Learning Passport.” He is also expected to make two more significant announcements this week which will form the five major planks of his platform, all involving help for middle class families.

He also announced on Wednesday morning a new program that would allow Canadians to top up their retirement savings through the Canada Pension Plan. The Liberal Leader is calling it the “Secure Retirement Option” and it would, according to a Liberal background document, allow Canadians to save an extra 5 to 10 per cent of their pay in a retirement fund “backed by the CPP.” Since 75 % of Canadians in the private sector do not have pension plans this... would serve as a new, tax deductible public savings option and would be in addition to what they already put in CPP. The program would be portable and individual will be able to put money into the Secure Retirement Option with the limits the same as what is now allowable for RRSP contributions.



In addition the Liberals would increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement by $700-million which is aimed at helping low-income seniors; especially women and those with disabilities. And the Liberals said they would enhance and improve basic CPP benefits.

The Liberals were clearly ready for this election and are in the midst of rolling out what is clearly an ambitious and so far, impressive platform. Good for them!

The NDP are busily rolling out their platform as well and Jack Layton said while visiting Oshawa that he wouldn't reward companies that ship jobs to the States or overseas but instead target investment to create jobs at home and reward the job creators. Further, he announced that he intended to cut the small business tax rate to 9 per cent from 11 per cent. To pay for tis he said he'd boost the corporate tax rate to the 2008 level of 19.5 per cent from its current 16.5 per cent.

There was some surprising news for the NDP in southwestern Ontario where Ryan Dolby, who was running for the NDP in Elgin-Middlesex-London, announced his decision Wednesday morning to drop out of the race and support the Liberals saying a vote for Michael Ignatieff’s party was the best way to prevent the Conservatives and Stephen Harper from winning a majority. Layton was nonplussed by it all saying they would have a candidate to replace Mr. Dolby in 48 hours.
 
The Green Party has what it calls a Smart Economy plan that calls for... a sustainable and resilient economic model based on conservation and renewable resources, a model that advances the common good and ensures quality of life for all Canadians. Sadly, Ms. May has so far been excluded from the debate but she does have the support of Jack Layton who says he wishes he knew what the criteria for participation are as the decision is made behind closed doors and the rules, so far as he can discern, are arbitrary. If you want to support her right to participate, go sign the petition.
 

 
Harper continues to have a rough time as yet another questionable campaign worker has sent Harper scrambling to distance himself from a tainted political organizer who found a home in a local candidate’s campaign. It was announced the Guilio Maturi was no longer a volunteer on the campaign, Mr. Harper said during a campaign stop in Brampton, Ont. Then Conservative officials announced Mr. Harper would no longer take questions on local campaigns. Can't you feel the democratic process at work when the Tories speak?

Harper was sticking to the rock-bottom price estimate for the F-35 Stealth Fighters that the GAO says are vastly under-priced. Perhaps Harper is hoping endless repetition of the low-balled price will convince Canadians to ignore what Canada's parliamentary budget watchdog, Kevin Page, has said was a far more accurate estimate of the price. Some $29.3-billion over 30 years to reflect what he considers the full life cycle of the new planes.

As for the Bloc, so far Mr. Duceppe has spent the first five days of the campaign hanging in and around ridings in Montreal behaving like he has hardly a care in the world. It’s not entirely clear the Bloc was ready for the election call. The buses weren’t rolling until Monday, and much of Tuesday was spent shooting ads. Maybe they don't feel as urgent a need as some others. It's hard to know whether to describe this as confidence or arrogance. We'll soon know.

DAY FOUR: Things Get Interesting Early

I have had my heart set on going to the polls since last year when Harper, our Evangelical Christian PM, reverted to form once again and started cramming his beliefs into Canadian policy. For me it began when he and his party decided to deny  funding for maternal health care to organizations that included abortion services in their health care options. This program was for women in the developing world who are often the victims of war, rape, extreme poverty and incest. This is a reversal of what has been Canada's position on maternal health in poor countries for almost three decades. But no matter, his highness had spoken: if we couldn't all agree on something then we shouldn't do it. No fair counting how many people support it you liberal elites with your fancy numbers.

Sadly that was essentially Mr. Harper's response to the revelation the price of the F-35 Stealth Jet Fighters was underestimated by some 70%. That's some crazy tax-bracket you live in where you can be off be 70% on a $16 Billion dollar deal with Canadian taxpayers money and there are no consequences? So the price for these jets that don't really suit our national needs but are more for first strike capacities and turns out they actually are going to cost us $30 billion? And still no money to fix health care and you want our trust? You are desirous of a majority? It's majority or bust? I'm not a religious man but I'll be on my knees praying for bust.

Bust for lying about Statistics Canada being on board with changes to the long form census and then undermining  its' effectiveness as an organization. Bust for lying and being autocratic about it... industry minister, Tony Clement, has acknowledged the census decision was made by cabinet without broad public consultation. Because who cares what the people think when it's not in keeping with what you want to do? And bust for those lies being the reason Munir Sheik felt he had no choice but to resign

 No matter that other spoken falsehoods about the long census form complaints which he claimed... when he was industry minister in 2006, when the last survey was taken, his office received about 1,000 email complaints a day. Surprise surprise! Turns out the truth is very different as Stephen Harper's so-called Conservative government made the decision to scrap the long-form census on the basis of fewer than 100 complaints from Canadians. And for this they rendered ineffective an important and valuable Canadian institution? Considered the gold standard worldwide. And it's not just me who thinks so -- at last count there were more than 400 groups, including municipalities, experts and individuals, opposed to the Harper government’s decision to replace the mandatory form with a voluntary long-form census, arguing that the information won’t be have any credibility.

They must be proud of their alchemy turning useful data into useless data -- soon they'll use this as an excuse to scrap the whole institution altogether! Stephen Chase of the Globe and Mail couldn't help notice that with this bit of policy change there was some real pandering taking place... the concerns the Tories seek to mollify are similar to the sentiments that drove the right-wing Tea Party movement in the United States to call for a boycott of the 2010 U.S. census. Tea Party North folks!

In the end the decision was as Liberal Marc Garneau described it, “a triumph of ignorance over common sense."

Then there was last year's American style omnibus budget bill where you couldn't vote against certain provisions without voting non-confidence and triggering an election that was truly not wanted. The Tories dared the Liberals to defeat stuffing all manner of long-wished-for Conservative goodies into the package. And while they didn't bite I was champing at the bit.

But I have to confess that up until the campaign got under way that I wasn't feeling terribly optimistic about the possibilities of the opposition parties to collectively unseat the Tories. That has changed in a few short days. It begins with Ignatieff's choice to bring down the government over the issue of parliamentary contempt instead of over Jim Flaherty's election budget. This frames the issues and the election neatly for Canadians who have been disengaged from politics since the last election and haven't been paying close attention to what the Conservatives have been up to since the last election.

So as this thing starts to chug along and every time the election is mentioned there's will likely be a reminder that the election is being fought over contempt of parliament and when people ask what the contempt was there's a long laundry list for the opposition leaders to choose from. And I didn't even mention imprisoning more Canadians by instituting mandatory minimums like the kind seen south of the border that have been the cause for so many to find themselves trapped in the US penal system. And then hiding the costs of the prisons that need to be built to accommodate more prisoners at a time when crime rates have been in decline in Canada by the by. This is hard core ideology at play here. There's no pragmatism or genuine forethought... and with only 33% of the national vote in the last election they didn't really have Canadian's say so but they went ahead anyhow.

Then there's shutting down Parliament twice and the Afghan detainee issue and Omar Khadr and now that it's contempt and not a budget so lets hope Canadians decide to have a closer look at their record...

Harper's desperate campaigning for a majority government is off-putting says Nick Nanos and his hypocrisy over the so-called threat of a coalition was so obvious that even a compliant media couldn't just gloss over the issue. The already repetitive television attack ads are not resonating in any real way and what does it mean when the say in ominous tones that "Michael Ignatieff has been out of the country!" This is supposed to be a concern? Teaching at Harvard is bad? Help me here. I want to be frightened by this but I'm finding it difficult.

Meanwhile, Michael Ignatieff is already busy launching his own platform which he says is less expensive than the Tory plan and it will be rolled out as this weeks unfolds and it started today with money for education.

Happily I can say I've never seen Jack Layton look better and more on message and their party rolled out ads talking about our broken health care system and Harper's unwillingness to do anything about it. It's right on point -- go see for yourself.



Here's Jack on the campaign trail hammering away at Conservative corruption:



Elizabeth May's Green Party has a great idea for high speed trains in four seperate corridor. From their website: The Green Party is proposing a national project to establish separate high-speed rail lines on the Windsor-Quebec and Calgary-Edmonton corridors, as well on the Halifax-Sydney and Regina-Saskatoon routes. These lines will as much as halve the travel time between major centres. With downtown-to-downtown service and no airport security delays, it will make taking the train faster and easier than flying. And let's hope they change their minds somehow and manage to include her in the debates this year. Her ideas would be a refreshing addition to the discussion.

The leader of the Bloc, Gilles Duceppe, has the best gig in Canadian politics this month: he has a very comfortable perch from which he can take well aimed shots at Mr. Harper and not really have to worry about what Harper says in response. All in all not a good beginning for the incumbent with the opposition in possession of all the momentum.

Just to emphasize the point, yesterday for Stephen, it was more of the same dull attacks and demagoguery.