Let me say something here about this current election. It is a fight or a clash of values of Canadians. The rhetoric and personal agendas has never been so intense in prior elections, even the one in 2008.
I consider myself a follower of politics, at all levels of government, from local, to regional, provincial to federal. I also vote pragmatically, not ideologically. I base my positions on issues only on peer reviewed research and broader based objectives that have something to do with the greater interest of the Canadian public, as opposed to what is great for me. If I voted on the latter, actually no party would speak to my issues, so I probably wouldn't be voting or I'd spoil my ballot. But because I vote for what I see as the greatest interest for the Canadian public, that means I will reject policies that will only benefit high income earners, people of particular ethnic or religious agendas (such as the religious right), or people who believe in "my party right or wrong" (and remaining uncritical no matter how many scandals that party has been involved in or is accused of engineering).
I consider myself intelligent and well-educated and I do approach this election with substantial critical analysis. I live in a region that has a 12.5% post-secondary education rate, below the norm of 27% average across Ontario. Being one of the 12.5%is uncomfortable to say the least, even more uncomfortable having an IQ that is at least well above the average. With it comes a critical thinking capacity often lacking, even in some of the politicians. I also know that some polling research has been done to show that those that are better educated (at a university level), female and urban dwellers tend to vote against Conservative parties. Those with higher incomes also tend to vote Conservative, but this was strangely not universal.
My whole problem with the Conservative Party of Canada is that it is not actually a Conservative Party. The federal Progressive Conservative Party founded under the auspices of John A. McDonald has no ties to the new Conservative Party whatsoever. As a Toronto-based colleague advised me, the new Conservative Party is no more than "Republican wannabes" that desire to move our nation so far to the right that it loses complete touch with the people. They desire to become American. The current Conservative Party started from a western rump of dissatisfied PCs known as the Reform Party, and to some extent, the Western Separatist Party. This Party formed about the same time the Bloc Quebecois formed and for the same reasons, but philosophies were regionally biased.
The Progressive Conservatives under Brian Mulroney ended up to be so unpopular with the Canadian people, not because of any right wing politics (as he wasn't really that far to the right), but because of its accent on federalism (as per Bloc Quebecois, aka Lucien Bouchard's departure from the federal party to lead the new Quebec-based party). As well, people hated Mulroney because he was the father of the GST, which he used his majority to cram through the Senate and use a special clause of the Constitution to add eight more Senators to force this agenda. Others found him unpopular as well, due to his blatant abuse of Parliament and excessive patronage appointments. (Does this all sound familiar, Harper watchers?) After he resigned as leader, Kim Campbell succeeded him as Leader and the subsequent election she called found the PCs with only two seats to its name.
With the growth of the Western rump known as the Reform Party, initially under Preston Manning, and then later under Stockwell Day, and the frustration among moderate Conservatives in Canada seeing a "split vote" among the so-called right, a demand to "unite the right" took place. The Progressive Conservatives were right of centre, but did largely govern from the centre. The Reform Party wanted bold new policies, including many that challenge Canadian values outright, such as the right to universal health care, maintaining an equalization formula between Ottawa and its poorer provinces, and maintaining national standards. Canada was also valued as a peacekeeping nation, as opposed to an instigator of war.
Stephen Harper was never a member of the Progressive Conservative party, or at least had any influence. He did however become a policy advisor to the Reform Party. As policy advisor to the Reform Party, he was critical of the Canada Health Act, as it smacked of "socialism". He would make presentations to various audiences about how Canada had to do away with the Canada Health Act and experiment with privatization. These remarks were not made in an intellectually competent manner, such as those coming from some health economists like Robert Evans might in trying to raise issues in how health care delivery may need to change over time to accommodate an ageing population, to focus on the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, to keep drug costs down, etc. Harper's proposal was to scrap universality, invite private health care, and allow people to carry private health insurance for the basics, despite the fact that private insurance will reject almost anybody with pre-existing health conditions (unless you are part of a very large group, such as a large employer like General Motors or the school board). He also attacked the vast majority of Canadians in a famous 1997 speech.
When Stockwell Day became leader of the Reform Party and was forced to express his allegiance to the Canada Health Act (or this would have gone to millions of voters on national television if he didn't), Harper scurried out of there to his new job as Vice President of the anti-medicare and secretive organization, National Citizens Coalition. The National Citizens Coalition, founded by Colin Brown, a very wealthy insurance executive, in 1967, was set up specifically with the goals of preventing the passage of medicare in 1967. While it continues to push for private health care, the NCC has taken up a number of other causes as well. One such cause was the case of Stephen Harper versus Canada, which was an attempt on Harper's part on behalf of the National Citizens Coalition to fight spending limits by third parties in election campaigns. Fortunately, the Supreme Court of Canada put a kibosh to that idea, but this is certainly an idea that Harper will likely take with him to a majority government.
Do Canadians feel it is okay to have large corporations fill the election coffers of candidates and political parties and "buy" off politicians to do their bidding for them? If this decision were to be reversed, say by a new law that Harper might try to pass under a majority, how fast do you think private insurance companies will be paying millions, if not billions of dollars, into a campaign to scrap medicare? Don't think it can't be done. In the U.S., where such spending limits do not exist, the insurance industry, pharmaceutical industry and other related industries have fought and successfully prevented Obama from reforming health care to enable all Americans to access at least basic care.
So, when the opportunity presented itself, Harper left the NCC to join the Alliance, which was then supposed to be more of an amalgmation of the Reform and some PC politicians. As the head of the Alliance, Harper asked why Canada could not join the Americans in the Iraq war. Remember that war that was sparked as a result of a belief they will find "weapons of mass destruction", and even when it was proven there were no such weapons, U.S. President G. W. Bush started the war anyways. It was the Canadian Liberal government at that time that said no to the Iraq war, and thus, possibly another economic sinkhole not unlike Vietnam in the late 1960's-early 1970's. Unfortunately, the Progressive Conservative Party under the then leadership of Peter McKay dissolved into the Alliance in the awkward merger of the "right". Harper's desire for war appears to current with his government's push to pay up to $30 billion on jet fighters, despite his concern about a deficit on the other side of his mouth.
The effect of this is that most of the politicians of the PC era literally disappeared or were forcibly swallowed by the merger. To add to it, the leadership style of Stephen Harper did not include any of the "big tent" style often valued by its former Progressive Conservative Party. As the head of the Alliance, he pushed a law and order agenda, and when the Liberals put forth the gun registry bill, Stephen Harper allowed a free vote on this, and he himself voted in favour of the registry, not once, but twice, before finally changing his vote for the third and final reading, to opposition of this bill. (Yet in 2010 and 2011, he called other MPs a "flip flop" for changing their minds on the gun registry - as hypocritical as he is).
Eventually the Canadian Alliance voted to change its name to more closely reflect its politics. In coming together on this, the new party's founders wanted to recognize the different members of the founding "coalition of the right". It started as the Conservative Reform Alliance Party, or C-R-A-P, for short, which was shortly thereafter caught on time, until the name "Conservative Party of Canada" was accepted. However, like Joe Clark and others, people should not be fooled by the name of the new party; it is just the Reform Party in new clothes.
The new coalition of the right made it difficult for the Liberals to win a subsequent majority under Paul Martin. However, Paul Martin did win in 2004, and it was then that Stephen Harper got together with Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Deceppe, and new NDP Leader Jack Layton, to form some type of "alternative" to Paul Martin's then minority government. This was in an agreement with Stephen Harper's name on it, and he certainly would not have signed such a document had it meant that he would not become the new Prime Minister. Harper will continue to this day to say he was not planning to take over as Prime Minister, although the other two players who were at these meetings, recall this was exactly Harper's plan. For him to be hypercritical of so-called coalitions today when he himself attempted one in 2004, is more like the kettle calling itself black. I am also certain that if Ignatieff won a minority Liberal government, Harper would attempt something similar. Don't kid yourself. Harper's obsession with coalition has nothing to do with this - he wants to keep voters' minds off health care and other important issues.
The Liberals were unable to play down the Adscam and Sponsorgate scandals, which led to Harper's first term in Parliament. He won a minority government in 2006. During his first term, he ran a relatively centrist government as he was cautious, not wanting to see the opposition vote him out on a motion of non-confidence. However, as time went on, the partisan games grew. Into the second term of a minority government, Harper wanted to present more of his true colours and play to his base, especially those in Alberta. In the fall of 2008, the global economy sank, at least in part due to laissez-faire banking regulations in the US and extensive bank bailouts all over the world. Canada still got hit, as did almost all of the western world.
In the fall, Finance Minister James Flaherty, the then see-no-evil, hear-no-evil and speak-no-evil (especially the "r" word), and Harper wanting to throw a "trial balloon" as a first step to his eventual goal of allowing wealthy contributors unlimited access to the electoral process (by first removing the per vote subsidy given to all political parties garnering more than 2% of political support), wanted to table an economic statement. There was no mention of job losses or even a dip in the economy in this Economic Statement. When Stephen Harper went on tour to Welland right after John Deere closed its doors to over 800 workers, Harper told the news media his priority for the area was to intoduce a ban on candy flavoured cigarettes.
In return for his denial of these job losses, Harper was then faced with the potential of a Liberal led coalition government propped up by the NDP and supported in confidence votes only by the Bloc Quebecois. Instead of facing the crucial vote that would have likely resulted in that coalition government, Harper ran away from this conflict and prorogued Parliament instead. During the prorogue, Harper had no choice but to listen to the opposition parties and his government put out the economic stimulus budget of 2009. While there was some benefit to infrastructure investments across Canada with the economic stimulus budget, it was too short lived to create jobs of long-term, permanent nature. Manufacturers were still bleeding jobs across Canada, espcially in Ontario and Quebec.
Some conservative supporters want us to believe that all the jobs that were lost have since returned, but that is not what most of us on the ground are seeing. Our unemployment has not dropped that much, and for those returning to any job, usually took a substantial pay cut - from $30/hour to $10 an hour. Many more people have to take two or more jobs to survive. I know this, a dear friend of mine who worked three minimum wage jobs to support three children on her own recently took a heart attack, and is now unable to return to any of her jobs, and will now likely lose her house that she "won" in her divorce settlement. I know several others who have worked for a long period of time, such as twenty years or more, for Niagara's major manufacturers and since their layoff, have either been unemployed, or working at low wage staffing agency jobs ... most of them have lost their homes, their marriages, and in some cases, their health. I met one of them a couple weeks ago begging for loose change on King Street. I could hardly recognize him, as he looked like he never shaved for a month, and he told me he lived at Salvation Army. Four years ago, he was married and working at a local factory.
The Conservatives are coming back to us to tell us to vote for them to keep the economy stable and strong. Because Harper would only allow staunch supporters into his visits, he would hear nothing from the people I see everyday and those who I see bundled up with several bags of their possessions at Tim Horton's, who used to work and pay lots of taxes. All they want now is a break. He refused to take more than five questions a day from reporters, and this includes the full campaign day, not at each campaign stop. If he is asked about health care, Harper tries to avoid the question. He does not want to vow allegiance to the Canada Health Act, particularly has he has not once enforced the act during his five years of governance, even when clear breaches were taking place in Quebec, BC and in Alberta, with the development of private clinics that attracted medical personnel from the public system to offer quick services to those with money to pay for them, while leaving those without funds to wait even longer with even less doctors and resources to turn to. Harper's position on health care alone should concern Canadians about his true intentions under a majority.
I ask Conservatives online to tell me ONE example of when Harper's government has attempted to enforce or even warn offending provinces of their breaches of the law. These people, because they cannot name even one time, nor can they prove that Harper will not scrap medicare, try to divert the topic to how I am spreading conspiracy theories, or even worse. Well, if I am, then they might as well include the dean of business at McGill University, about half of Canada's economists, most provincial governments, as well as even some former Conservatives that I know who have talked to me about this topic. We are all spreading conspiracy theories. All I can say is once they get their coveted majority, if they manage to brainwash or scare enough Canadians into voting their way, I will then be in a position to say, "I told you so". I am so certain about this, that I am writing about it here. I have never been wrong about these types of things in the past.
They key is how health care will go. Will he openly scrap medicare, or will he just let it starve a painful death? Murray Dobbin, who sits on the board of Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, does not think it would be politically correct of Harper to try to kill medicare. He believes he will just let it die, and let others kill it, after they get less and less money to pay for it. Transferring tax points instead of transfer payments is one way to nullify the Canada Health Act. This way, there would be no way for Ottawa to financially punish provinces that allow blatant violations of the health act. Under McGuinty, we have seen cuts to health care, as a direct result of decreasing transfer payments from Ottawa. Health care used to be delivered to the provinces in 50 cent dollars. Now Ontario only gets about 24 cent dollars from Ottawa, which of course forces health care to comprise more and more of the provincial budget (even though the amount of health care isn't actually increasing one iota). We have seen de-listing of many treatments, including foot care, physiotherapy, chiropractic, optometry, etc. Many drugs as well as being de-listed, or only being offered in their generic varieties.
Canadians who are well off do not notice this at all. They often have gold-plated private health plans that pay for most drugs, physiotherapy, chiropractic, foot care, private rooms, dental, etc. Well off Canadians, although not likely the very rich, are those that complain the loudest about their taxes. These are the Canadians apart from the most wealthy that can afford to pay more in taxes. Most of these people have their homes paid for, own two or three cars, have live-in housekeeping help, go on real vacations at least once or twice a year, and can afford to pay their children's college or university tuitions. Yet they complain about paying another penny in income taxes. They are part of the "me" generation. In my view, they are so concerned about themselves, people like me don't have to be concerned about them.
The Conservative platform was analyzed by analysts of various political persuasions and not a single one stated that their "tax cuts" will favour families that have a total income of less than $80,000 a year (esp with only earner), or individuals with less than $90,000 a year. The average Ontario HOUSEHOLD income is about $80,000 a year, but this $80,000is comprised by more than one income, usually two or three incomes. The type of household with a single income earner earning $90,000 or more with an at home spouse, comprises less than 5% of households. Those earning $90,000 on their own are in the top 5% income bracket. The tax break reads that the higher earner can put up to $50,000 of their own income onto the income of non-earning or lower earning spouse. Well, the average and median incomes of Ontario individuals are much lower than $50,000 - period. Most people do not even earn $50,000 without having that much to "give away" to a lower paying or non-earning spouse. Most have an earning spouse, most of which don't make much less than they do anyways, or perhaps is not making too little to benefit this way.
I did a straw poll of people downtown one day. I just talked to people in Tim Horton's, at the bus stop, by the farmer's market, and various others who were downtown on business for whatever reason. Only one person I met admitted to earning more than $50,000 a year (e.g. a lawyer friend of mine, partner in his firm). Virtually all of those who were married had a spouse that was also working. When I read out the exact proposal for this income splitting from the Conservative platform book, only one person felt they "might" benefit from it (even though on closer examination, he wasn't sure when I showed him the chart supplied by TD Economics). He thought that because both his and his wife's income approached $80,000, it might work ... but he realized that he wouldn't benefit much because he makes only $45,000 and his wife earns $32,000, which is pretty close to the national income averages.
I also reviewed the tax free savings account proposal, where people can double the amount of exempt income to keep in them. I asked how many of the people I spoke to even heard of a tax free savings account. About half of them did. Only three that I spoke to used one, or had such an account in the past year. They were nowhere near the maximum allowable even at the current rates. I ask why, and they say they are only able to save so much money. A report by TD Economics recently said more than one third of Canadians are unable to even pay for basics. This does not include the broader segment of our population that is unable to save, or put aside enough money for retirement. This is a substantial group of people that can't even pay the bills they have, and many of them are deeply in debt. This is now, in 2011 ... for those reading this that don't believe this, you are spoiled rotten, and probably part of the "me" generation - only believing you pay too many taxes, that you want to pay for a Lexus instead of a Toyota, or a cottage, instead of just a vacation. Those in the "me" generation know no hardship, and consider these above choices the hardest they've had to make. There were not a lot of people I met like this before the latest recession, but now there are many.
After 2008, I noticed a lot of anger erupting from various corners of society. At one time, Canadians valued a "we" system of politics, a system that benefited all of us, and at the very least offered equality of opportunity and freedom from discriminatory acts. People would answer in political polls their support for universal health care and a progressive system of taxes; those that earn more, should pay more, with the exception that if a business actually does create high paying jobs, perhaps some assistance should be given to help the company keep the jobs in Canada. But after 2008, those of us that were still doing very well, and I know many of these people - they are *not* getting the income from the private sector, but are often teachers, firefighters, engineers working at Ontario Power Authority, road workers, etc. - most of their money is coming from taxes. Yet these same people complain the loudest about the amount of taxes they pay. Even autoworkers who have been bailed out by the billions also complain about the taxes they pay. When I ask them how much they earn, the lowest income among those that stated an answer was $70,000 a year (e.g. a police officer). But if I ask them if we make cuts, should we make cuts to the departments they work for? Oh no, don't do that!
They want cuts to health care, because people "abuse" health care by going to the emergency wards with sniffles. That's not my experience when I speak to health care workers, but their proposal that people pay a fee to go to the emergency ward will only keep people away that have real emergencies. So, I tell them about "so why don't we cut our taxes by stripping your gold plated health benefits coverage, and have you just live by OHIP like the rest of us?" No, no! Yet they are willing to cut OHIP coverage for those of us that don't have a choice. This has all come down to a politics of "me". They do not want to see any cuts in any programs that affect their employment, or any other programs they benefit from, but have no problems cutting the funds available to those that don't have the money or access to gold-plated public service jobs or benefits like they do.
Not all public service workers are like this. I know many teachers, nurses, doctors, and even police officers that worry like hell what will happen if the safety net is cut even further. These people are educated enough that some people will find ways of getting their needs met by crime, and feel that our public services have already been cut to the bone (which I agree to). I have known people who have been unable to buy both food and rent with their social assistance cheques, and it is only getting worse, that they live on the streets, and use their basic needs pay for eating out once a day. One of these guys is in a wheelchair. I don't even want to know what he does at night, or where he sleeps. I have had clients that live in their cars, after they have lost their homes, following job loss, despite 20 - 30 years with a single employer. Governments say they listen to the people, but I don't think they do. We walk on different sides of the tracks, obviously.
Governments are trying to resolve both ends of their problems, by reducing taxes for those that are graduating into the "me" politic, and cutting services to those that need the "we" programs, which is most of us really. Since the politics of "me" started, I have known more people to go to the streets to obtain the drugs they need to deal with what they feel is ailing them. To pay for that, they become small time dealers themselves. I have seen a rapid increase in prostitution among both young males and females, usually starting under the age of 18. I have a few of them come into my office, unable to recall their histories, because the street drugs have wiped out much of the "me" in them. They can't even begin to understand the "we".
The government knows that maintaining poverty in its current state is going to cost them a lot more over time than it will even if they spent billions to make sure nobody lives in need. They know the added costs to the health care system that is caused by poverty. They know that all, other than a very few people, in prison were living in poverty before they got there. Governments know they are throwing good money after bad, by keeping the resources away from those who need them the most. By enabling charities, poverty becomes entrenched and only allows the "me" population of givers to assuage their guilt for failing to ever walk in their shoes or even begin to understand recipients of these programs actually need. Yet, those in know among the "me" generation know darn well that those that receive charity actually do get nothing, not even the hope that things will ever get better - while the "me" giver becomes a hero, and can save a little on their taxes.
Those following the growing group of "me" thinkers just think if we denied health care to those that can't pay will save us all money when they die of their illness anyways. Do not believe this thought has never crossed the mind of our own so-called democratic governments. Just because they cannot take the weak, the frail, the elderly and the disabled behind the woodshed to shoot them dead, or send them to work camps, does not mean they can do the very same thing by attrition. Even if we adopt that attitude about health care, which the U.S. already has, we will be seen as spending way more money per capita, as health care usage per capita is only at its highest when people are at death's door.
Frankly, if it was all about tax dollars, it would be much cheaper just to provide the care, and try to alleviate the causes, including tackling poverty and malnutrition. I live in a country where conditions like scurvy, rickets and TB are not just issues of the past, but they are here today, alive and well in Niagara Region (as well as other places). These are conditions usually found in the very poor, homeless and malnourished. If people had money for food, and safe housing, instead of just $10 left after they pay their housing, they might not be as sick as they are.
Personally, I don't care about the people who live in the "me" politic, simply because they care a whole lot about themselves and just themselves, so they don't really need anybody else to worry about them. If I were in politics, I would be enforcing laws against tax evasion, and making it public who the tax cheats are. I would be encouraging boycotts of companies that pay little to no income tax. If those of the "me" politics want private health care, I will tell them to make a choice: private only or public. If they choose private, they will barred from ever using public health care, even in emergencies. They should have private coverage for that, and if they don't or get turned down because they are already sick, don't turn to the public and suddenly want it both ways. The same would go for health care providers. If they choose to work in a private clinic, they will be barred from receiving any payment from public health insurance. They, too, can't have it both ways. It is only then will these "me" people will realize how much these things really cost on their own, and why these issues matter to other Canadians.
There are lawsuits brought by organizations that issue tax receipts to those that donate to them. That means somebody else (including many of us that disagree sharply with the objectives of these organizations) pays the taxes the people that donate to these organizations don't pay. These organizations are unabashedly partisan and primarily ideological. They include the Fraser Institute, the Canadian Constitutional Foundation, and various think tanks like the Montreal Enterprise Institute, that believe in no government, just control by the wealthiest among us. Most espouse the removal of minimum wage, health and safety laws, and other protections for those not wealthy enough to not be concerned about these things. These organizations are paid for and run by the "me" generation of people who don't have a clue about how other Canadians live. The best I would do as a government is to remove their tax exempt status.
Fore example, the Canadian Constitutional Foundation has filed lawsuits against Ontario to force it to allow private clinics for those that can pay, meaning leave the rest of us with less resources. They stem from situations that otherwise have merit, but should instead lead to a lawsuit simply to make OHIP pay for the services that these people were forced to pay for elsewhere. However, that is not good enough - they want to take away YOUR access to health care, so these people can pay out of pocket to get instant service, while you and I will likely have to wait longer for less doctors to serve us. I have not seen any clear evidence from any peer reviewed resource that states that having a parallel private and public health system would reduce wait times for the rest of us, only for the wealthy that will get help right away. I ask people that support private health care for even ONE study, they come up empty. They don`t even answe me when I ask them if they can afford private health care. They just don`t imagine THEIR Conservative government doing that to us, but take it from those of us that are cynical. I would be frankly shocked if the Conservatives entered into a majority government and throughout their five year term, did not dismantle some aspects of public health care.
Now, for those of you who have not voted yet ... please read this to understand what our life might be like under a Stephen Harper majority. We will not have any poverty help at all, because as one of his candidates said, "Canada has eliminated poverty" (e.g. Chris Alexander in Ajax). When he did say this, he was severely heckled by many people in the crowd. Even if jobs are being created as we speak, they are more likely to be the minimum wage jobs that do not support families, than the type of jobs people held in the past that allowed us to have a middle class. In the meantime, if those who are making good money in the public sector, and you ALL know who your are, it might be a good idea to stop dissing taxes, as it is those very taxes that the rest of us are paying to keep you in your high paying jobs.
For thinking voters that still belong to the "we" generation, do what you can to prevent us from getting a Harper majority, or any majority as far as I am concerned.