Tag Archives: Conservative Party

A Defence of Regularized Public Policy Referendum

I think Governments should consult with the people. The amount of public involvement with our federal democracy is essentially voting in a general election once every four years. We call our political system “free and democratic”, a rule by and for the people. For me, electing over three hundred people who are being sent to Ottawa to agree with one of three policy sets is not nearly enough consultation. If we are sincerely interested in a democratic government, then we must believe on some level, that as a whole Canadians can adequately govern themselves. I believe that rather than simply voting for a representative who will be our proxy in policy votes (but will amount to little more than a face in a caucus) Canadians ought to take a more active role in major policy decisions our Government intends to pass. In short, I believe in comparatively frequent (perhaps yearly) referendum, lending increased accuracy (and therefore legitimacy) to our national system of Government.

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We only have referendum when Canada enters crisis mode. Why? | Stolen from the CBC

There are valid objections standing in the way of such an ambitious plan. Fiscal concerns, “how much would this cost the tax payers” are perhaps the weakest. We ought to have the best representation possible, if our government is to be an adequate democracy. With every Member of Parliament comes costs in the form of their salaries, pensions, expenses, their staffs and offices (both in Ottawa and in their own constituencies). I will take freedom and liberty over increased costs if the choice needs to be made.

A stronger argument is one that calls the majority unfit to claim more power over itself.  An objector can claim that masses get carried away with popular passions, disposing of prudence and sober reason due to demagoguery or  the influence of money in politics or some other reason. I do not find such an argument convincing. To such objectors, I argue that If as Canadians we trust ourselves enough to give up natural rights and select our government while still believing in the legitimacy of our government, why not trust ourselves to go one step further and decide the fate of our own major policies?

A third argument I can see raised against increased referendum is that rather than believing the public can adequately rule over itself without “enlightened” representatives,  Canadians would not care enough to actually vote in such resolutions—referendum results would be wildly unrepresentative. First, even if this is true, then the same arguments van apply to our elected governing bodies. Why even hold general elections? Second, most Canadians simply believe our political system is unrepresentative, and could be spurred to democratic action if they felt voting could amount to something substantial. Rather than shouting at the apathetic that every election is important and every vote counts (which are tired lines at this point and do little to help the problem) we can get them directly involved with our nation’s policy making and major decision-making.

Aside from the obvious benefit of making our policies more representative, there are spinoff benefits. MPs might be more inclined to advocate policies on conscience rather than with party if their vote will be in the general election with thirty million others rather than in a body of three hundred. Important policy will be highlighted in the media as voters prepare to decide whether or not to kill the legislation. Citizens will become better informed of the happenings of their government. Citizens will start scrutinizing, deliberating, philosophizing, talking and debating amongst each other. The country will become more democratic which is always a step in the right direction.

I believe in the wisdom of the people. Call me a hopeless optimist, but more often than not, the inherent goodness of people outweighs utilitarian or greedy potential gains. The will of the people is not perfect and can be confused; however, more often than not, the public demonstrates its good judgement. We can and should trust ourselves. It is our Government after all, we ought to start acting like it.

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Free Riders and Dire Needers

Breaking news: bad jobs exist.

In a classic case of Conservatives boiling down an issue to a wide-sweeping preposterous claim, Jim Flaherty claimed that “there is no bad job”. Yikes

Flaherty is proposing reforms to the Employment Insurance program, making it harder for Canadians to remain on the program for long periods. The Canadian Government has committed to redefining what should be considered “appropriate work” when unemployed citizens claiming EI are mulling a new career, which, in all likelihood, means finding skilled workers lower paying work.

I believe the reform motivation stems from an attempt to curb the amount of Canadians who would rather collect government payouts than work an honest forty hour work week. The NDP finance critic Peggy Nash, has countered that workers will be squandering their skills in entry-level work, envisioning journalists and teachers working at Tim Hortons if they found themselves in need of employment insurance.

As sympathetic as Nash’s arguments make me feel, Michael Den Tandt does a great job of dispelling them and as a bonus, explains why EI reform is so direly needed, specifically for seasonal workers who make a tidy salary for half the year, then collect employment insurance when such jobs reach their annual conclusion, providing a supplementary income for effectively waiting for their work to begin again. I feel that this is taking advantage of a well-meaning system. It is, I argue, an abuse of the system

I believe that employment insurance ought to be treated like healthcare: there for Canadians, but only when they actually need it. It is unfair to ask hardworking honest Canadians to pay into a system that is being abused by those who could be working, but would rather wait for their seasonal work to return, or for a job they consider to be “suitable”.

Life, as it happens, is not perfect. People get laid off, recessions occur, debt can force someone who cannot find work to ask Canadians for temporary help.. Not everyone has been gifted with parental or personal connections, or happenstance that gets them a good job. This is where EI comes in. I have met hard workers, and even they acknowledge that everyone needs a hand when unavoidable realities of life occur. The difference, is when you get knocked down, will you ask someone to help pick you up, or will you stay down and demand a piggy back ride for the next few months. It’s the difference between the unfortunate and the free riders, and while they are not mutually exclusive, at some point, after riding EI coattails for months or years, an unfortunate person is simply abusing a system created for those that need it.

I also think its important to note that one will ever be forced to work. The idea that engineers will somehow be forced to work at a fast-food drive-thru is an exaggeration. Legally, no one can be forced to work anywhere. The idea is that if someone is going to claim employment insurance, they ought to be actively trying to contribute to society. Those that feel as though they are “above” a certain job, perhaps should think about being “above” a government stipend as well.

There is a deeper philosophical question underlying EI reform that ought to be considered: what do we as a collective body politic owe members of our society who have not had the personal connections or luck to find work that meets their specifications? Some kind of help, certainly, it helps the economy to have skilled workers work in skilled occupations,so long as their absence from work is not prolonged; however governments should not baby their citizens, providing an allowance for an indefinite period until they find a job they like. It is a difficult question to give a succinct answer to, but it is a question well worth pondering as the debates over employment insurance begin to pick up steam.


Mulcair’s Center Squeeze

Most New Democrats – probably all New Democrats – genuinely dislike Steven Harper. With good reason, he’s muzzled scientists, bullied unions, abandoned the impoverished, given tax breaks to the largest corporations, all things that stir up democratic socialists. Yet, their newly minted leader was not only represented the Quebec Liberal Party in the Quebec National Assembly, but he widely reported to have been courted by those same federal Conservatives that many NDP members despise.

Mulcair Rolls Up His Sleeves| Image Stolen From http://www.theglobeandmail.com

I say this because I want to prove that Thomas Mulcair represents an entirely novel brand of politics to the New Democratic Party. To me, Mr. Mulcair’s leadership has already proved to be three things: prudent, calculated and aggressive.

During the NDP Leadership campaign, Mr. Mulcair was quick to reference the lack of successful campaigns between Winnipeg to Vancouver. If the Party continued to do the same things, Mr. Mulcair reasoned, there would be no change. When he said that New Democrats have to bring the center to themselves, what he meant was “we have to shuffle to the right”, otherwise they will retain their altruistic values Ed Brodbent held, and find themselves where Ed always was: on the periphery of Canadian politics.

In the two weeks since his election, Thomas Mulcair has tried to swing the Liberals to the periphery, denied any cooperative merger, left non-NDP opposition members 20 minutes (out of a possible fifteen hours) to abhor the budget on the Commons floor, and called Liberal Leader Bob Rae anxious over recent polling showing an NDP surge in Canada.

Mr. Mulcair has demonstrated his calculative, prudent approach to politics, something Steven Harper has exemplified during his tenure. The current Leader of the Official Opposition understands the only chance of an NDP government is with a marginalized Liberal Party, one polling in the mid-teens, as their own party used to. The prescription is to make Liberals irrelevant, and eliminate any other diversions that stand between himself and the Prime Minister.

Additionally, Mr. Mulcair has selected a flat personality as his Deputy Leader. Not only does this decision hide the spotlight from a potential future challenger, it also makes Mr. Mulcair look like an even stronger leader in contrast, while smoothing over possible tensions from the election by picking an “establishment” MP. It’s smart and calculated.

I believe Mr. Mulcair has the leadership capable of winning a government because it matches Mr. Harper’s brand of leadership, and I sincerely mean that as a compliment. Both men seem to know what it takes to win: hard work, willingness to get dirty, and a “eat-or-be-eaten” disposition. If Thomas Mulcair can successfully chart a course to the political center while keeping the grassroots happy, he will have literally mirrored Mr. Harper’s accomplishment, and this is worthy of respect. What he needs to do is go from an alternative to the alternative, and that, in my opinion can only happen by suffocating the other leftist party between themselves and the government so that there is no unique message they can make.

With the right kind of messaging and debate performances, Tomas Mulcair might be able to prove to Canadians that he can be Prime Minister. I have two questions: First, will the eventual Liberal leader be able to stand up from a political threat greater than Stephen Harper? Second, can the Prime Minister label the NDP Leader the same way he labeled Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff?

Dion, Ignatieff, Rae | Image Stolen From http://www.hilltimes.com


Fergueson Names, Doesn’t Blame

I asserted in my post yesterday that Auditor General Michael Fergueson had stopped short of publicly shaming those responsible for the stupidity behind the F-35 controversy. While this is technically true, what I did not know is that Mr. Fergueson had named senior bureaucrats and ministers involved with the ill-fated pursuit of the fighter jets.

Bureaucrats involved include:

  • Dan Ross, assistant deputy minister of materiel at the Department of National Defense
  • Michael Slack, F-35 project manager and director of continental materiel co-operation at the Department of National Defense
  • Lt.-Gen. Andre Deschamps, commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force
  • Col. Dave Burt, director of the Next Generation Fighter Capability Office, Department of National Defense
  • Tom Ring, assistant deputy minister of acquisitions, Public Works and Government Services Canada

Responsible ministers include:

  • Defense Minister Peter MacKay
  • Associate Defense Minister Julian Fantino
  • Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose

For in depth information on these officials and their relation to the F-35s, you can read the Vancouver Sun article on the subject by Lee Berthiaume.


Harper Eats Cake, Has Cake

After Stephen Harper’s majority victory on May 2nd fear-mongering over his presumed extreme right-wing agenda which was only restrained by a minority government ran high. With a majority government and a full mandate, the true ambitions of the Prime Minister would presumably become unleashed on the Canadian public.

So far, we’ve seen glimpses of the right-wing extremism Michael Ignatieff had spent weeks warning against. The long-gun registry issue, the omnibus crime bill with its overwhelming super-prison promotion, Bill C-30, the Enbridge pipeline, the list goes on. While I certainly think the country is headed in the wrong direction, I hardly think Mr. Harper has been a “dystopian” ruler as he has been made out to be. Same-sex marriage, abortion and wearing hijabs are all still legal (not without pressure mind you, but I digress), while the death penalty and nuclear weapons are not on the table.

I think Andrew Coyne is correct in asserting this first Conservative majority budget was a great opportunity for the true (small-c) conservatives to make their presence on Parliament Hill known. The budget was, with some select exceptions, universally classified as a moderate one, something Liberals might even consider backing had someone named John Turner proposed it. I think Michael den Tandt goes too far when he suggests that the budget is something a social Liberal like Jean Chretien might have passed, but he too observes the non-conservative nature of the Conservative budget. With a majority mandate and no real opposition to his desires, why is it that the Conservatives persist with record-high levels of spending, the prolonged isolation of social conservative issues, and the play-nice policies of someone who is acting less like a Reform party member, and more like a 1980’s  “business-Liberal”?

I believe it is because the Prime Minister wants to stay in power, and he wisely holds his position more dearly than his values. He has managed to make centrist Canadians (also known as your average Canadian voter) think he can handle the economy better than anyone else, and that he is trustworthy to keep our social programs in good conditions. Meanwhile, he has convinced his base that he is the best person to move Canada right, that taxpayer waste will not be acceptable under his watch. If you look purely at his record, six years as Prime Minister, three electoral wins and the destruction of three consecutive Liberal leaderships (each by a larger margin than the last), it is hard to debate Mr. Harper’s incredible cunning and skill. If you want any real indication of how politically prudent Stephen Harper is, consider his successes have been in spite of any charisma, humor, or personality. Yes, he is that good.

I have told anyone willing to listen that the Conservatives are in line for another majority in three years time. There are four possibilities I see as potentially disrupting his success. First, Stephen Harper could take off the camouflaged mask to reveal his right-wing extremism and scare average, centrist voters away. Second,  if social and fiscal conservatives, the base of Harper’s support, discover that Mr. Harper has no mask on at all, a portion of the party may either force him further right or (more a more damaging alternative) launch a Wildrose-esque rebellion against him. Third, the progressive parties could form a cooperative pact. These three are incredibly unlikely. The fourth possibility is that there is a scandal so large (one involving electoral fraud, for example), that the Conservatives lose the trust of the Canadian voters. Mr. Harper is already on this, however, and I believe will do whatever it takes to prevent this burden from falling on him in three years time.

I suppose there is a fifth option. Justin Trudeau could settle political differences in the boxing ring. Judging by Saturday night’s result, at least this way the Liberals would have a fighting chance. I don’t know if Trudeau’s back is broad enough to carry progressives back to 24 Sussex, but that smile he wore after he beat down Brazeau just might be.