A Canadian's perspective on domestic and international issues. Independent coverage of Canadian federal, provincial and municipal elections and anything of interest in Canada.

Friday, February 23, 2007

BC Budget, Save the Rich, Starve the Poor

The British Columbia Government legislates a ten percent tax cut, gives welfare moms and single employables and extra $50 a month for food, and $50 for their landlords. Meanwhile they ignore the need for social housing, setting up instead, new emergency shelters to hide the homeless during the Olympics. People earning over $70,000 annually get back about $40 a month. Persons on disability get $50 to give to their landlords, childcare is cut and all the while the province enjoys a billion dollar plus surplus.

If you’re earning $70,000 a year the new BC tax cut gives you about $40 a month.
What’s that, a light dinner out with and a movie with your best bud once a month. A good bottle of Scotch goes for about that these days, doesn’t it?
Tell me something, could anyone out there provide daily lunches for their nine year old on $40 a month?
I guess that’s why the Campbell Liberals gave the welfare mom’s an extra $50. Come to think of it, could anyone out there provide daily lunches to their nine year old for $50 a month?
Anyone out there looked at the rental ads in the papers lately?
Cheapest bachelor, or one bedroom pad you can find is about $450 a month, most are in the $500 to $800 range. The shelter allowance for a single person provides only $375 a month. A couple with one child now get about $750. Two bedrooms don’t start below $600, its worse in the big city, and are most often over $800.
Know what a guy earning $10 an hour with a wife and kid makes, about $400 a week before taxes. By time he pays the rent and the bills, over half his monthly income is gone.
Know how much he gets back in the tax cut? Nada, zero!
You know what happens when you give welfare recipeints a raise in their shelter allowance?
The rent goes up!
Know where that shelter allowance raise goes?
To a slum landlord!
You know what happens when you give welfare recipients and extra $50 a month for support and food?
Most often it goes to pay the part of the rent their shelter allowance doesn’t cover. If they are lucky enough to have a rent within the allowance, that extra money goes to food.
How many dinners does $50 buy you?
Know why there’s not enough houses?
Because if there were enough houses people wouldn’t be willing to pay so much for a house!
Know who that would hurt?
It would hurt developers and real estate markets.
Know how much money people in real estate and development make a year? Know how much their tax cut is?
Its a lot more than $40 a month!
How many nine year olds could you feed on a lot more than $40 a month?
Know who has to pay when housing markets are high?
The guy who’s currently getting a $10 to $40 a month tax break! That’s you buddy.
Know what would happen if the government were to build houses and turn abandoned buildings in apartments?
People would have homes!
Know how much they’d pay for those homes?
Less than now!
You know who building homes would help?
Well, the homeless for starters. The carpenters, masons, electricians, plumbers, drywallers, truck drivers, building supply companies, young couples starting out, retirement people looking for a smaller home. Most people, except maybe the folks who already live in great big houses they paid too much for, and of course, the developers and speculators, who would have to work a whole lot harder.
So, what are you going to do with your extra $40 a month?
I’ll tell you right now, you’re going to drop it on some government service that used to be free!
Too bad, it could have fed and housed a nine year old for a night!

I would like to challenge every politician in BC who claims to be concerned about the plight of the poor and homeless in this province, every social service worker, every mental health worker, every medical professional, every media employee, every school teacher, and anyone else earning a decent wage in the province of BC, who has ever expressed concern about homelessness and poverty, to send back their ten percent tax cut to the government and demand that it be used to build and provide social housing and decent income assistance rates for the down and out in this province.
I would also like to challenge every landlord in the province who is about to levy a rental increase on his tenants because of the new shelter allowance to give his or her share of the tax cut back to those tenants living on social assistance.
It is time to do more than just talk about the poor. We need to take action, and make it clear to the Campbell government that it is obscene to cut taxes whilst so many people are homeless, hungry or living in dire straits.
Yes, British Columbia may well be the most beautiful place on earth, physically, but lets also make it the most beautiful place on earth by showing our compassion for those who have not. And lets demonstrate to the provincial government that it is time to put our actions where all our rhetoric is. If the working people of this province make it clear they are prepared to anti up, to resolve the pressing social issues we face, then maybe the government will finally act.
Let’s do what our government is apparently afraid to do, let’s step beyond the rhetoric and take matters into our own hands. Let’s show the country that BC is not only beautiful, but its people are as well.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Why I harp on Harper and get so political

I get asked two questions fairly frequently.
One of those questions is: Will, why are you so damned political?
The other is: Will, why do you harp on Harper so much?
To answer the first. Politics is the science of how people govern themselves. Because people seem unable to govern themselves individually, we need a system where by we govern each other. That is, the society is trusted with the chore of making sure that all the members of the society behave in a manner that makes the society safe for everyone.
Personally, I would love it if we could all govern ourselves. I could live in such a society, a society where it would be imcumbent on each of us to do the right thing, to be considerate of our fellows and to put the good of the all over personal gratification. Such a system could rightfully be called Anarchy. In such a system there would be no need for a central government, courts, or police. The trouble is, there are a lot of people in our current society who apparently have no regard for their fellows, and even those who do, sometimes have no idea how their actions affect others. As a result, if Anarchy were to occur, it would most likely be “every person for himself, and to hell with everyone else.” We’d all be looking out for number one, because if we didn’t, the other guy looking out for number one would run riot on us. Until we develop as humans to a place where we can govern our own actions, and treat everyone else in the society with the respect and consideration we desire for ourselves, then Anarchy won’t work.
We are left, therefore, with the chore of developing a system that enforces the notion that we are all equal, and insures that each and every member of our society is afforded the respect and consideration they deserve. We need a means of developing consensus as to what is acceptable and what isn’t. In Canada, that system is our federal and provincial parliaments. Their job is to agree what rules are appropriate and make them into laws, or to legislate. It then becomes the job of the Executive branch of the parliament to implement those rules. We also require a system of enforcing what the majority agree is acceptable. That is our courts, or the judiciary. In order to make all that work the parliament, the courts, and the legislature must appoint or hire individuals or groups to carry out the business of making sure every citizen is provided with full protection and opportunity according to the will of the society.
So far, in all of human history, no society has been able to develop a fool proof political system. We’ve tried a lot of different methods; monarchies, dictatoriships, serfdoms, communism, socialism. In recent history the ideal of democracy has become most acceptable and sought after. The idea of democracy is that each and every person in a society should have a voice in the society, they should get to choose who governs, how they govern, and for how long. In a democracy the majority rules, but the minority also has a say. Theoretically anyway, this prevents the majority from running riot on the minority.
In a democracy there are three pillars on which governance is built; The legislative, which divines a consensus and introduces legislation based on the will of the many; the Exectutive, which implements the will of the many; and the judicial which interprets the will of the many. In order for democracy to work properly, it is imperative that these three pillars remain separate, to keep one pillar from overpowering the others, and to keep things balanced. Its a system of checks and balances.
At best it is imperfect, but as long as each and every voice, or voter, has a say, or a vote, then there is a chance that each and every person has an opportunity to live a good and productive life within the society, and that the society will be good and productive.
So, the short answer to the first question is: I’m so political because politics is the mechanism by which I am able to live a good a productive life in our modern world.
Now to the second question; Why do I harp on Harper?
The short answer is: because I believe he is anti-democratic, and lets his personal interests and ideals supercede the best interests of the society as a whole! Yes folks, I believe he has the portent, and the desire, to interfere with me and others living a good and productive life.
The long answer goes something like this: Stephen Harper is a member of a minority. For the most part this minority is economically upper class, adhere to a rigid view of the society wherein the wealthy have more rights and opportunities, the poor are somehow morally deficient, and everyone is expected to look and act a certain way. He believes that people should abide by rules without questioning them, that leaders should govern, not serve, and that we should all abide by a strict moral code, or fundamentalism, based on latter day interpretations of psuedo-Christian ethics.
Furthermore, while Harper gives lip service to the ideals of democracy, he does not practice democracy. If fact, he seems to have little understanding of the principles of democracy and individual freedom. This is best exemplified by his absolute control over his cabinet, right down to answering their mail, and by his control over who chairs parliamentary committees. In recent weeks Harper has made attempts to merge the executive and the judicial, by seeking greater sway over who does and does not join the judiciary. Such a move would strengthen the executive, while somewhat disabling both the judiciary, by aligning them closer to the executive, and the legislative, by controlling the judiciary’s interpretation towards closer alignment to the will of the executive.
If I may use a metaphor here: Canadian democracy is like a house built on three stilts. As it was intended, the stilts are set apart, which allows the house to be built evenly atop them. Harpers plan to bring the judiciary and the executive more in line with one another, has the portent to make the house lopsided, with more weight going to the executive and less to the legislative. The end result will be a house that teeters atop three uneven pillars, rather that resting atop three evenly distributed foundations. It is at best a dangerous notion, and at worst a recipe for calamity. We would not build our own homes on an uneven foundation, why should we aquiese to building a government on uneven footing?
The second part of my reason for harping on Harper is his apparent hypocracy. When he was in opposition Harper consistently attacked his political foes for being power mad, opportunists, flip floppers, with a penchant for political patronage, double speak and constant electioneering. He often accused the Liberals of using the Canadian taxpayers time and money for their own political purposes, and was constantly damning them for pre-election spending sprees designed, not to implement legislation Canadians wanted, but to buy their votes. Now that he’s in power, and with another election looming, he is doing exactly the same thing he so adamantly accused his predecessors of engaging in.
Heck, one of his first acts as PM was to appoint one of his campaign chairs to the senate, an act of patronage equal to any the former government was guilty of. At the same time he managed to persuade a member of his opposition to cross the floor and join his cabinet! Yet, a few months earlier when one of his own party, Belinda Stronach, made a similar move, he decried it as a woeful sin against the parliamentary system.
If that weren’t enough, he next introduced an environment bill, the Clean Air Act, that promised to do absolutely nothing to fix the problem for 50 years. Weeks later, when he realized the environment was going to be a hot button election issue, he did a complete flip flop, and introduced an environment bill that went the opposite direction completely. His new bill, with some minor name changes and a little tweaking, was basically the same bill his predecessors had introduced, and which his party, while in opposition, had whole heartedly condemned.
In the midst of all this politickin’ Harper went ahead and committed major troops to Afghanistan, despite the Canadian militaries unpreparedness for such a mission. Then, when a good fifty percent of the population demanded an explanation and a debate on the subject, Harper retreated to a positon of patriotism, arguing that a debate on the role of Canada’s armed forces in Afghanistan would be a detriment to our armed forces personnel. It was Mark Twain, I believe, who said the last refuge of a coward is patriotism. All the while, sending our armed forces into a situation as dangerous as Afghanistan, without allowing the Canadian people an opportunity to ask questions and get answers, was the ultimate disrespect to those people. To accuse those of us who opposed the mission of not caring for our armed forces personnel was, to me and many others, the ultimate in hypocracy. Our concerns were based wholly in caring about our armed forces, not the opposite.
There are other issues and actions; Harper’s daycare plan to give every family 100 a month per child for daycare, while wiping out daycare subsidies; giving Quebec $350 million to meet its Kyoto targets while telling the rest of Canada that meeting the Kyoto targets would bankrupt the economy; dragging out the Maher Arar affair by refusing to apologize up front and blaming it all on the former government; trying to protect the RCMP when it was clear they’d been at fault in the Arar matter; selling the farm on the softwood lumber deal; runnning negative election ads when there is no official election campaign underway; sending out election-style pamphlets that referred to the current government as “Canada’s New Government” at taxpayers expense; and on and on.
The short answer why I harp on Harper so much is that he has no concept of what a democracy is all about, he can’t be trusted, and like his predecessors, his only motivation is not to serve the majority but to get re-elected. In short, he’s a total hypocrite!
I will agree with Harper on one thing. Canada does need leadership. However, I do not believe he is that leader, unless of course we want another flip flopping, self serving, patronizing, anti-democratic, fear mongering, do anything to get re-elected Prime Minister!
In short, to answer both questions, I get so political because politics is the system by which we humans govern ourselves, and I harp on Harper because he’s a hyporite and the most worst prime minister in Canadian history.

Family Reunification A Misguided Policy

RE: Widespread News Reports of a Foster Child Committing Suicide.

I for one am not at all surprised to hear a 14 year old girl hung herself after being repeatedly returned to her family home by child welfare authorities.
While I sort of understand why child welfare might want to return children, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to their family homes, I think the notion is entirely misguided. Children need stability and consistency more than they need to be reunited with their parents.
I know because I was one of those kids. From the time I was three until I turned fourteen I was moved from one home to another. In most cases I went from my family home to a foster home and then back again. The end result was that I attended 21 different public schools, never learned how to make long term friends, was subjected to numerous abuses, both at the hands of my biological parents and my foster parents, and have experienced serious life long issues as a result of this notion that kids belong with their biological parents.
News Flash: Just because a person can plant a sperm or push a baby from between their thighs does not qualify them to be a parent!
As a survivor of this misguided policy, of returning children to their natural parents wherever and whenever possible, I think it is imperative that this policy be discarded.
In my opinion parents should get but one chance. If children are apprehended once for child abuse, returned, then apprehended again, they should never be returned! I'm not saying they should not see or know their parents, but they should not have to live with them.
At age nine I was given an option by the Childrens Aid Society in Brantford Ontario. It was at the end of my fourth or fifth apprehension. We’d gone into care, my five siblings and I, after my Dad, in a violent rage, had whipped me 21 times with an electrical extension chord. The option I was given was to either return to my family or stay in the custody of the Children’s Aid.
Before making my decision I asked the Childrens Aid: Are my brothers and sisters going home?
I was told that my brothers and sisters were going home to my parents. As the oldest, I felt it was my responsibility to go home too, because someone would have to be there to protect them, and they were, after all, my family. It was an awful burden to place on a nine year old!
Three months later we were back in care. My Dad, in a drunken rage, had once again taken an extension chord to me!
It is all very fine to have alturistic ideals about how children should be returned to their biological families, and to their original cultural environment, but at some point reality has to set in. Kids can be returned to their cultural origins without being sent to their biological parents. But more importantly, kids need to go to safe homes where they will be cared for, loved, and supported, whether its with their biological parents and original culture or not. Better to be loved and cared for than to be stuck with people who hurt and abuse.
As I see it, part of the problem is that child welfare agencies are full of people who mean well, but have absolutely no clue what it is like to be constantly moved around, or stuck with people who hurt you. There are simply not enough system survivors working with child welfare. The reason for this is: Survivors of the child welfare system, as it now stands, do not grow up to be healthy enough to take jobs in the child welfare system. Most often, they become grown-up clients of the welfare system, and this happens because the child welfare system is more concerned with family reunification than the best interests of the child.
The notion that family reunification is in the best interests of the child is pure nonsense, and the child welfare agencies in this country need to get that, before more children meet unnecessarily tragic ends, like this 14 year old girl.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Stephen Hitl__, I mean Harper!

Stephen Harper lost any hope of ever getting my vote way back when he was opposition leader. The issue that sank him was his position on Iraq. He wanted Canada to join George Bush in the invasion. As far as I’m concerned, that should have been enough to send him to the Canadian political toilet for good.
Since then I have had to accept that many Canadians do not agree with me. So be it, but nowadays I’m seeing more and more evidence that I’m correct. In fact, I’m not only seeing more reasons he should be sent to the outhouse, but a multitude of reasons why the Canadian voter should hit the flush button once he gets there.
There was his “Clean Air” act, which promised to do nothing for 50 years. Then there was his “convenient” switch to environmental consciousness following the release of polls that showed most Canadians view the environment as a major issue.
Last week there was his Evironment Minister’s fear mongering speech, in which John Baird claimed keeping the Kyoto commitment would bankrupt the country.
This week there was his attempt to buy Quebec votes by giving that province $350 million to help that province keep its Kyoto projections. (I guess Quebec can keep its Kyoto targets without breaking the country but the rest of the provinces can’t!).
Far more troubling to me though, is Harper’s apparent disregard for democracy and democratic processes.
It all began with his insistance that all correspondence to federal cabinet ministers and ministries be first channeled through the Prime Minister’s Office. Apparently he does not trust his own cabinet members, whom he appointed, to handle their own mail. What does that say about his confidence in them to handle the affairs of state?
Then there was the situation wherein the PM withdrew the right of parliamentary committees to choose their own chairpersons. He apparently does not trust the democratically elected members of parliament to democratically elect their own chairpersons, and insists on choosing the chairpersons himself!
All this was leading me to believe that Stephen Harper is not a man who believes in democracy or democratic process, but his actions this week have proven to me, beyond a doubt, that Stephen Harper not only does not believe in the principles of democracy, but abhores them.
What makes this accusation absolutely true is his plan this week to change how federal judges are appointed by changing the make up of the committee that nominates federal court judges.
Mr. Harper does not belive that a committee made up of parliamentarians, legal societies, the provinces and senior judges have either the wisdom or the experience or the knowledge to choose good judges. He now wants the police to have a say, and he wants to prevent any judges currently sitting on the bench from having a voice.
As I understand it, the police are hired to protect and serve. It is not their job to dictate public policy, but to enforce it. Police are not elected, they are hired. And they are not hired to set policy, but to enforce it. Why a police officer would be called on to help choose judges is beyond me. Its bad enough that police in this country are called upon to investigate themselves, let alone to call upon them to determine who should judge them. If the police are going to have a say in who becomes a judge, then perhaps we should extend the same to the criminals, that is, if we want our courts to be fair and impartial.
What’s more, if senior judges are to have no say in who becomes a judge, then perhaps no one should have a say at all, except the PM.
Judges know what it takes to be a judge. They know what sort of people are needed on the court. They know the cases and the case law. Who could possibly be better equipped to know what characteristics a judge should possess?
Clearly, Mr. Harper is trying to set up a situation where he can appoint judges who share his views and ideals. This means he wants people on the bench who are against harm reduction in the drug laws, support the incarceration of presumed terrorists without due process, mandatory sentencing, are anti-abortion, pro-life, and pro-police!
Mr. Harper, who is apparently a fairly smart man, realizes he can’t push his ideals through the democratically elected parliament, so he’s trying to get his way by creating a judiciary that supports his agenda.
While democratic governments around the world acknowledge the need to keep the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government separate, Canada has a Prime Minister who is actively attempting to bypass the legislative, and totally align the executive and the judiciary. There’s a name for that type of government, a few names, one of them is “facist”, another is “dictatorship!”
But this isn’t the worst of it. Harper is also trying to force his ideals in another sector. That sector is the scientific community. He recently began making appointments to the committee that decides what scientists may or may not research in the area of stem cell technology.
Yes folks, Harper not only wants to dictate the judicial but he also wants the right to determine which areas of science may be studied. From what I understand, Mr. Harper is a lawyer, not a scientist. That said, tell me please, what qualifies him to decide which scientific research is valid and which is not?
All this is scaring the hell out of me, and it should be scaring the hell out of you too, because it appears Canada has a leader who not only does not believe in democracy, but thinks he should also have the right to determine for Canadians what they can and can’t learn about.
There’s a word for that, “tyranny.”
I’ve been scouring the history books for another world leader who adhered to these principles of executive control over the judiciary and science at the same time. I have not had to look to far for a good example.
There are similarities. Like Mr. Harper this world leader was also first elected with a miniority government, assumed complete control over his own cabinet ministers (right down to controlling their mail), appointed his own judges and even directed the sceintific community in what they could and could not research.
His name was Adolph Hitler. Look him up!


Saturday, February 10, 2007

PM dogs the wag to dizzying dismay

When to United States decided to give Canada the shaft on softwood lumber our current Prime Minister knuckled under and sold the farm, settling for far less than we were entitled to.
When the United States refused to take Maher Arar’s name off the terrorism watchlist, our current Prime Minister made only a feeble and polite request that the US reconsider.
When US ambassador David Wilkins publically slandered Mr. Arar, our current Prime Minister said nothing.
When a Chinese official cautioned Canada’s trade relationship with China could be threatened by the Canadian government’s tough stance on human rights, our current PM started talking even tough.

'When a Canadian citizen is ill-treated and when the rights of a Canadian citizen need to be defended, I think it's always the obligation of the government of Canada to vocally and publicly stand up for that Canadian citizen.'—Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Does anyone else see the hypocracy here?
The US stance on softwood lumber violated the rights of Canadians employed in the lumber industry, and Canadian lumber companies, for a fair price for their product. Mr. Harper’s response was to let the US have its way. He cited the fact the US is one of our largest trading partners, and because of this, we should not be too harsh on them.
The US decision to leave Maher Arar’s name on the terrorism watchlist, and to refuse to allow him to travel to the US, violated Mr. Arar’s rights to travel freely. Mr. Harper’s response was basically to aquiese that the US had a right to do so. He simply is unwilling to press the matter too far, fearing it may affect trade with the US.
I hate to repeat myself, but does anyone else see the hyprocracy here?
From his comments one must assume that our current Prime Minister is willing to risk billions of dollars in trade with China because of its human rights record, but is totally unwilling to risk similar trade dollars with the US over its human rights record.
Speaking of human rights.
How many people does the US have imprisoned, without due process, all over the world?
How many Canadians are being held without charge in Guantanamo?
How many American citizens are currently being held in American jails without benefit of adequate legal representation?
How many wrongfully convicted people have been put to death, or held on death rows, in American jails?
How many innocent women and children have been killed by US munitions in Iraq?
If our current PM is such a human rights advocate, then why is he so willing to ignore the injustices currently perpetrated by the US, in the name of trade, but unwilling to extend the same blind eye to the Chinese?
The simple answer is that our current Prime Minister is not really concerned about human rights at all. His larger concern is image. He knows he’s taking a beating in the polls, and appearing to be tough on the Chinese, he believes, makes him look strong, and deflects some of the attention away from his inept handling of many domestic portfolios, including the environment, healthcare, education, childcare, and the RCMP.
Why is Stephen Harper willing to risk billions of dollars in trade with the Chinese?
The short answer is he is not. The Chinese are no more likely to break off trade relations with Canada than the Americans are. Both the Chinese and the Americans need what Canada has, oil, water, wood, minerals.
Fact is: our current PM is simply wagging the dog. No, he’s picking the dog up by the tail and doing a whirly gig! Its a desperate measure.
Have we had enough yet?
I’m getting dizzy! Then again, maybe that's the plan!


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Harper attack ads on Colbert Report

Did anyone else out there notice the Conservative Party of Canada attack ads during the commercial break on the US political satire program, The Colbert Report, on Thursday Feb. 1?
Can you say “DESPERATE”?
Do the Tories actually believe Stehpen Colbert is the right wing ideologue he makes himself out to be?
Its bad enough the Conservatives are running attack ads when there is no official election in progress. Its worse they are choosing an American sports program, the Super Bowl, as a vehicle for their negativity. But to buy ad time on a US program with a mostly center-left demographic!
This latest move is akin to running a Marxist-Leninst ad between segments of Coach’s Corner or asking Amenesty International to support eliminating the term “habeous corpus” from legal reference dictionaries.
What on earth are Harper and his spin doctors thinking?
Obviously the Tories are trying to reach out beyond their own constuency, but to dive into a hard core, university educated, 18 to 25 year old, center-left demographic with negative advertising! What the blazes is going on?
Methinks there must be counter revolutionaries working at Tory HQ!
If the Harper Tories think they are going to find soft liberal support in the Colbert audience then there is proof positive that eating Canadian beef definitely leads to brain damage.
At the best of times, running pro-right ads during the Colbert Report could be considered a waste of dollars, but in this case, its like Hilary Clinton asking George W. Bush to nominate her at the Democratic Convention.
Stephen Harper check your face, because I think you may have just bit your own nose off!
Then again, its all par for the course.
Remember, this is the same Stephen Harper who wants Canadians to believe his recent conversion to environmental concern has nothing to do with the polls, that a military solution can be successful in Afghanistan, that George Bush was right to invade Iraq, and that giving parents $120 a year per child is going to resolve their daycare issues.
NEWS FLASH FOR STEPHEN HARPER: Stephen Colbert is a political satarist who is only feigning his support of George W. Bush. His audience is overwhelmingly in the 18 to 25 year old age bracket, university educated, socially progressive, and as likely to vote for a right wing government as Saddam Hussein is to win a seat in the US Congress. The Colbert Report is not a post game sports program, but a comedy satire that makes fun of guys like you!

All I can say Stephen is that you’d better hope Stephen Colbert does not get wind of the fact you and your Tories have purchased ad time on his time slot, because if he does he’s likely going to make you look like the silliest politician since Pat Paulson.
Oh, too late. I already told him about it!