Sunday, August 31, 2008


There are lots of clues in the air that a federal election will soon be called. First, Stephen Harper himself flies to the Arctic to make an appearance in the far northern community, only to speak to the media about the possibility of sending Canadians to the polls. Further, a television commercial featuring a number of "ordinary Canadians" who speak highly of Stephen Harper and their intent to vote for him in the next election has already been put on the air, despite the fact no writs have actually been dropped.

There were threats of plunging Harper's minority government into an election for the past couple of years, but nothing ever materialized. Harper's Government actually tendered and passed an election bill that would set future election dates, namely the next one, which was supposed to be set for October 2009, and not this year. The only exception to this specific date is if the Government fell to a non-confidence vote. So, why is he going to the polls now?

I am hearing from people who feel that calling the election now would certainly be a breach of Harper's first promise, which was to not call an election himself until October 2009, which in itself was enough to steer some people away from his party and government. Further, Harper indicated that he felt that Parliament was dysfunctional and difficult to govern, given the minority situation, so an election call was valid ... nevertheless, Harper himself admitted we might just put another minority back into Parliament again, given the polls showing Harper's governing party and the opposition Liberals to be neck and neck in popularity.

At the same time, this is a minority Parliament and it appears that all parties have attempted to make minority government work. Thirteen bills have been passed into law, as well as three budgets have been implemented since the election of this government. Henceforth, it is certainly not as dysfunctional as some might suggest. Further, the appetite of Canadian voters appears to lean towards minority governments, which can force parties to work together on proposals, as opposed to ramming their own through despite massive public opposition.

Do I want another federal election? I personally could not care less, although I tend to participate in the public debate around issues in the election, write letters to the paper and attend meetings, if possible, as well as cast my vote as I did since I was old enough in every federal, provincial and municipal election. I might even work on voting day at the polling stations, something my husband and I have done for years.

However, to me, real issues are hardly ever discussed in elections. When the then Right Honourable Kim Campbell was campaigning to return to her job as Prime Minister, she set the standard that an election was not the time to discuss issues. However, to some extent, it is. In the last election, for example, the Conservatives focused heavily on 'accountability' and 'transparency' in government. Unfortunately, this has not translated into action, particularly when the same organizations continue to get the same funding and are mandated to carry on the business of serving people, when these organizations don't seem to have accountability of their own. But then again, who am I?

I observe that elections get sillier and sillier as time goes on. Politicians want you to vote for them not on the basis of their own policies, but on the policies they want you to dislike of other politicians. To me, this doesn't make a lot of sense, as I prefer to vote for a candidate with the best policies from my perspective. I want to know what they want to offer me, and I don't care why they dislike the other guy. This is too much like going into a car dealership, where the man trying to sell you a Toyota spends all his time with you berating GM products and not telling you why you should buy a Toyota.

So, if an election is going to be held, and by the looks of things, it probably will - it is likely the Tories will put out ads depicting Stephane Dion as a bad leader, particularly given Dion's broken English (which again tells me nothing about Dion's policies or his leadership). The Liberals will probably put out ads about how they feel the Tories are a bunch of right-wing zealots that are going to sell us down the river to the United States, if they haven't already. The NDP will try to attack the Liberals, while unknowingly at the same time, boost the Tory votes. The Green Party will simply be taking a swipe at NDP votes, so these two parties can compete for third party status. The Bloc Quebecois will continue to run on the same agenda they always had, that Quebec should be given nation status and get out of Canada, all the while continuing to collect paycheques with the Canadian flag on them.

Cynical as my observations are, people reading this will know this is truthful. Virtually none of the parties will provide a clear message to voters as to why we should vote for them; just why we should not vote for the other guys. To me, all the political parties have positives in their platforms, as well as negatives. I would rather have each political party roll out their platforms, stick only to key promises and provide arguments to back each of them up. Then, let us as voters decide what party and platform we as Canadians like the best.

The Tories haven't really done anything to piss me off, but then they haven't done a whole lot to endear me either. I am sure that like any politician, they are subject to the whim of lobbyists and interest groups and have to respond to situations as they come up during their electoral term and frankly, most political leaders do try their best with these things. In the US, as Hurricane Gustav threatens to outdo Hurricane Katrina from three years ago, almost to the date, presidential candidates from both parties are doing their Sunday best to speak to the nation as leaders, while attempting to sidestep as many political differences they have at this time to allow the nation to deal with this new potential disaster.

I don't know if it is because it is an election year, or because the fallout from Hurricane Katrina gave the current administration such a big whopping when it did, but I notice the emergency response to Hurricane Gustav is much more organized and is ensuring that any citizen that wants to get the heck out of the way of Gustav can and will be safely housed until this storm literally blows over. There are also key steps being put into place to protect the property of citizens from those who decide to stick around to become looters, something not unheard of when disaster strikes.

But in many ways, our own country is going to Hell in a handbasket and Nero continues to fiddle while Rome burns; therefore, I want to know what our political leaders want to do about it. What do they want to do about the environment? What do they want to do about increasing poverty, instability of the labour market and massive layoffs in the manufacturing sector? What will they promise in terms of accountability and transparency, so that taxpayers can be assured that their monies are spent appropriately and in the best interests of all Canadians?

Canadians are getting more cynical about politicians, and not without reason ... particularly when promises are made and not kept, or politicians seems to get involved in scandal after scandal and later, vote themselves double digit increases and gold-plated pension plans the rest of us can only dream of. Politicians really need to understand this cynicism and do something about the root causes of it if they want to increase participation in elections, as well as increase popular support for the right reasons ... as I once asked, what would happen to our government if nobody voted?

Well, if the None of the Above Party gets into power, chaos would ensue. At the same time, government needs decisive direction based on consensus building, that is based on core values held by most Canadians. Unfortunately, we don't get this. We get vague promises never kept, while our country's suffering continues ... this is certainly not a treatise to tell people not to vote, as I do feel strongly that people should vote. However, our responsibility as Canadians does not end there. We must also hold our politicians to account, even after they return or newly get elected to office.

Among those reading this blog, what do you feel most strongly about at the federal level that must be addressed? Your thoughts?

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Everybody wants to save the environment these days. People are going out in droves to purchase "environmentally friendly" products, just because they are labeled "green" or even decorated with pretty green packaging. A marketing ploy, if you ask me ... as at least one environmental research group determined that many of these "environmentally friendly" products are in fact no better than the products they are replacing.

Nevertheless, politicians are picking up from the "green" movement in waves. We even have a Green Party, in addition to all the other Parliamentary noise that some people call political parties. All of them in some sense are now jumping on the environmental bandwagon. In return for the Conservative's repudiation of Kyoto, they want to promise different incentives for people who go "green": tax breaks for people that use the bus, rebates for people who buy a hybrid car, refunds for people that do "green" renovations to their homes, etc.

The Liberals under the leadership of Stephane Dion now want to introduce a carbon tax, copying their right wing cousins in British Columbia who also jumped on a similar bandwagon about a year ago. The NDP has a foggy plan to "make polluters pay"; however that gets implemented, I supposed that will all come out in the wash. However, because Dion seems to be dragging people over to the Liberals' side with his proposed carbon tax, all the other parties decided to oppose it. To me, I am uncertain because there are too many unanswered questions about it ... henceforth, virtually all of these policies have unanswered questions until the party in question gets elected and does even more to screw things up than they already are. I feel the carbon tax might just fit that bill, if there ever was one.

A carbon tax is supposed to tax consumption, as opposed to income. The more one consumes, the more one will have to pay. Henceforth, this is not some vague 'pie in the sky' promise to tax people who are doing the pollution, but a way of making consumers pay MORE to use almost anything, eat most foods, heat their homes, drive their cars, etc. Those crazy people that protest gas price hikes will really be in a frenzy with the proposed carbon tax, as the cost of fuel will be increased even more and as such, any goods that are transported this way.

Hey, Dion, have you ever heard of this term called "energy poverty"? Obviously not, or he would have thought this through before pushing for the same. His only answer to this concern is to provide a deep income tax cut in return for raising the prices on almost anything we use and the food that we eat. The key issue here is that low-income and poor people do not pay a lot of income taxes, so an income tax cut for this group is useless to them as they get hit with higher and higher prices.

Since the provincial Liberals got into power in Ontario, the price of heating fuels and electricity more than doubled for the average consumer, while we all had to listen to endless platitudes about how we can buy "energy efficient" appliances, insulate our home, use less, etc. to cut our costs ... but, of course, Dalton McGuinty and his gang also forgot one thing: low-income people do not have the capital to purchase "energy efficient" appliances, re-insulate their homes or do other "green" changes to their homes to save money -- and this is just for the homeowners. At the same time, nobody gets any assistance in paying their skyrocketing bills either, as energy costs eat up more and more of our meagre incomes.

Many tenants are forced to pay their own utilities, yet they cannot force their landlords to do the above changes and are in turn, stuck paying higher and higher costs just to keep a roof over their heads. If they don't pay their own utilities, the Landlord and Tenant Board will only be too pleased to grant an above guideline increase to landlords stuck with paying higher costs just the same. It has already gotten bad here in Ontario WITHOUT a carbon tax to go with it, so why do we want to pay higher prices for the same thing? Is the government going to give low-income people a substantial increase in wages and social assistance? I doubt it.

For example, my utilities and bills are more than my monthly mortgage and property taxes combined. By the time I finish paying for my mortgage, taxes, utilities and other related housing bills, I am broke. This is the same Premier who promises to help small businesses and to turn around this bad economy. Yeah, right. When I am busy paying more and more for utilities, I have even less left to cover "discretionary" expenses. So, people like me and many thousands more alike, have to apologize to the small business community because we don't have any "discretionary" income left. I suppose that is okay, as this government wants everybody on welfare anyways.

Income taxes don't interest most low-income, poor and even most middle class people ... taxes have been cut and cut and cut over the past couple of decades and all we have seen are cuts to public services in return. In return for the last round of income tax cuts, people have found themselves out of pocket more at the doctor's, at the pharmacy, at the optometrist and even paying for more municipal services that used to be provided for free. The last I checked, our educational system is also paid for through taxes, but due to the 'death by a thousand cuts' over the past decade and a half, parents are expected to pay for more and more for their children's education, including basic items such as textbooks and class supplies. If you can't afford them, you are supposed to go crying poor to the school so some damned charity can look after you ... something that is supposed to be confidential, but we all know how confidential these things are when your children's peers begin to notice things, regardless of how much "help" they get.

So, now the air we breathe is going to be taxed as well? I suppose the low-income families can "cut back" by not turning on their heat in the middle of January or walking across town back and forth each day because they could no longer afford the bus and certainly cannot afford a car! In the summer, the poor and low-income are supposed to swelter in the heat, regardless of how it makes them feel. Only the rich deserve any comfort.

So, will this carbon tax work? Absolutely not! Think of it yourself. If you are presently in a financially comfortable position -- maybe not rich, but at least middle class -- you may grumble about the price of gas, or the increased cost of hydro, but you still pay it, right? You can still pay these bills without having to forgo some other luxury like food, for example. Therefore, you probably do not feel a great need to cut back or get "energy efficient" appliances (unless you can be convinced of finding a deal or getting enough of a rebate to 'pull' you in that direction). You will just keep right on using your dishwasher, your washer and dryer and drive your SUV to the corner store, as long as the costs don't go too high ...

... and that's exactly what will happen. People will pay this carbon tax as the cost of doing business. Wealthy people that have bigger homes, bigger cars and bigger bank accounts wouldn't care less if they had to pay a little more for heating their twelve mansions and their summer cottage by Algonquin Park. Even the middle class will continue to pay ... Some may cut back some, but not in a substantial way as to reduce their overall carbon footprint. For example, they may opt for a "staycation" as opposed to going to the cottage for three weeks in the summer. Low-income people have NOWHERE ELSE TO CUT BACK. More and more of them will have to choose to feed the family or pay their heating bills. Like, when are these well-intentioned politicians going to learn that what they propose does not work for the poor?

My guess is as good as any. First, the poor are rarely consulted about anything. Programs and services are created by people who will never need them. People paid to run these programs and services are well compensated and certainly will not want to see their programs cut for lack of effectiveness, so the incentive here is to "create" results, as opposed to producing them. These same people are the same folks clamouring for more tax cuts, thinking that only if they paid several thousands of dollars less a year in taxes, they can always give more to the food bank, the homeless shelter and soon, the charity hospitals once our health care is privatized enough to satisfy some of these right wingers.

One of my previous posts shows how the charitable sector is not created by and for the poor. Eighty percent of monies allocated to the poor benefit the "middle class" and the crumbs left over hardly help those intended to be served by the same. Those operating charities hardly ever ask those they serve what they need; they just impose ... and assume that what they do is "doing good" when in fact they are just perpetuating the poverty the person is in. I assume more people upon learning about the energy poverty that will be succumbing more and more families as a result of this carbon tax will assume more donations to the food bank will help ...

No, the poor want to be given a hand UP and then be left alone. It is so interesting when one or more of these right wingers ever have to go to the other side of tracks through "no fault of their own", they will finally discover the true effect of their earlier good intentions and why and how they went wrong. Before it is too late, Stephane Dion, talk to a few of us who can see through your sudden interest in the "environment" and challenge you to reduce poverty too ...

I want this issue to be one of the key election issues if there is a federal election held this fall, which it seems there will be because Stephen Harper appears to want to give up the ghost early instead of waiting until next year for the election date he originally promised. Oh well, life goes on.