Monday, February 22, 2010

Hypocracy Never Disappears...

Source: CTV News: Harper, Former Reformers now Entitled to Pensions

I want everyone who reads this blog to think back for a little bit; go back to 1987 and look out here to the West. The winds of change had begun to sow seeds to discontent, and a new political party was formed. I speak of course of the now defunct Reform Party of Canada; a party that stressed their small government, conservative views openly and sought to change the way politics operated (in their opinion) in Canada.

Now, think about some of the things they ranted and railed against as 'problems'. Chief among them was the 'outlandish pensions' awarded to Members of Parliament after their years of service. Numerous Reform Party candidates came out and talked about how they would not opt into this pension plan. Many more also said that they would not be 'career politicians' and only seek a limited number of terms in Ottawa; which served as another out for pensions, as they did not plan to stay long enough to qualify for a government pension.

That was 1987. In 2010, we see where the former Reformers really stand. Our Prime Minister, and numerous other prior Reformers, have now qualified for the pensions they said they would never opt into. 11 former Reformers/Canadian Alliance members are still sitting in the House of Commons as Conservative MPs...Guess that means that entire limited term idea went out the window as well.

I would like to go on the record as saying I'm not against government pensions. Politicians, of every level, commit themselves to a job that is pretty much active 24/7 and can seem like a thankless job at times. As such, they're as entitled to a pension plan as any other worker in our nation.

What I am against, in this case, is a party that preached populism about smaller government and wasteful spending in the guise of government pensions, then turned around and quietly opted into the programs that they were against. For example, according to the CTV article, Stephen Harper will stand to make $150,244 a year off his government pension. And that's a number from the right-wing think tank that is the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, not some crazy leftist like myself.

I think what this shows Canadians, yet again, is that the Harper Government is a government of say one thing, but do another. The Harper Government does not care about Canadians; it does not practice what they preach, and instead seemingly only seeks to gain our support in elections by telling us what we want to hear. A government who tells people only what they want to hear is no government at all, and that is something that Canadians cannot afford to have.

Hopefully, this incident in a long line of them, will help convince Canadians that we cannot support a government as two-faced as this one.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Saskatchewan Job Numbers: Let The Spin Begin

Source: CBC News: Sask. Politicians Put Spin on Job Numbers

Well, a new year and new figures have come out reporting on how provinces are doing in regards to economic recovery. The Saskatchewan Party Government has come out and released their statistics for Saskatchewan and have begun telling residents why it's good news.

According to Rob Norris, our minister for advanced education and employment and labour, Saskatchewan boasted a 4.7% unemployment rate, an increase from the 4.2% rate from January 2009. Furthermore, Norris claimed that Saskatchewan's population was at an all time high and workers in the province were receiving higher wages.

Enter the NDP with a few figures of their own for Mr. Norris. The NDP have stated that Saskatchewan has lost 1,600 jobs compared to 2009. The government countered this by saying that full time jobs have seen an increase of 7,200 people. Let's explore this for a moment.

Now, while the report doesn't say what 1,600 jobs were lost and what 7,200 full time jobs were gained, let's play a little bit of the hypothetical game. Let's assume that those 1,600 people who lost their jobs worked in a specialized area. For the same of the game, let's say accounting or teaching, or any other job that requires a university degree or extra training outside of secondary school.

Now, let's assume that all of those 7,200 jobs are not in specialized fields. Let's assume that these range from sales jobs to working as servers in restaurants. Now, I'm not attacking these types of jobs, before anyone accuses me of doing so. What I am saying is that in our province there is clearly a larger amount of lower paying, non-specialized jobs than there are jobs for specialized workers. These jobs are no less important than specialized jobs, but they limit the workforce and prevent Saskatchewan from obtaining its full potential in creating the jobs of the future and further prevent Saskatchewan from keeping an educated workforce within the province, mainly because there are not enough jobs for University and Technical Degree graduates in province.

So, let's go back to our 1,600 people who lost their jobs. Let's assume that all 1,600 spent four or more years in University or College, and have earned their degree in a chosen field. Now, let's assume that since their jobs were lost, they've been forced to work in non-specialized fields; helping to inflate the 7,200 full time jobs that are being touted by our government.

If this is the case, should we be applauding a government that allowed 1,600 specialized jobs to disappear in order to create 7,200 non-specialized jobs? I don't believe so.

Now, I don't have the numbers for how many of the 1,600 lost jobs were actually specialized or non-specialized; nor how many of the 7,200 jobs created were specialized or non-specialized. But what I do know, is that we as a province cannot maintain specialized jobs within the province we are going to suffer for it in the long run.

Saskatchewan cannot afford to lose specialized jobs for a number of reasons. Primarily, for the sake of young people within the province. Saskatchewan's population will shrink in the coming years if the jobs our young people are training for cannot be found here; which is already happening throughout the province.

Mr. Norris touted how Saskatchewan's population has hit the largest number in history. We've all heard the stories of 'Sask-a-Boom' and how ex-pats Saskatchewanians, and other Canadians, were coming to our province looking for work. How many of us have heard the stories of the people who moved here having to choose between rent and food? Between utilities or prescription medication? Far fewer of us, I'm willing to imagine.

Saskatoon experienced a major housing market boom years ago, the results of which are still felt today. People moved here hoping to find a better life, a good job and a good place to live. Instead, they're finding life hard and a government who is doing nothing but grandstanding and hoping no one scratches below the surface to see the real story behind these numbers.

Mr. Norris also touts that Saskatchewan workers are seeing an overall increase in their wages this year. Again, that increase pales when you look at the growing standard of living. The housing boom fueled an increase in rent and property taxes, without considerable housing building to ensure that we could meet the needs of Saskatchewan citizens. Rents continue to increase, especially in Saskatoon, while the standard of housing continues to drop and citizens are not getting a good trade in housing for their hard earned money. So, I ask, what good is a higher wage increase for workers when housing or food is an option many still have to consider? When someone has to put their health behind the ability to be able to have running water?

The Saskatchewan Party Government has done nothing to address these problems, and likely never will, since their idea of fixing a problem seems to be as Johnny Mercer would say, to accentuate the positive.

Now, I realize that there are going to be people who think that specialized jobs don't matter. That just having a University Degree or Diploma, doesn't entitle the holder to a job. That those people should climb down from their ivory towers and go get a job where they can find it.

But what happens when that isn't an option? I'm one of many university graduates, who cannot find a job in my chosen field. Furthermore, I can't find a job outside of my chosen field. I've gone into places asking for applications or to drop off a resume, only to be told (on numerous occasions) that current staff are going to be scaled back on hours, and that they won't be doing any hiring soon.

For non-specialized jobs, this is quickly becoming the norm; hearing that operations are being scaled back and that hiring is slowing or non-existent. And yet, the Saskatchewan Party never mentions this statistic. They never talk about how people who have studied for years to be trained for a CAREER, are stuck looking for just a JOB and in many cases unable to find it.

On a side note, I would also like to put out a message of well wishing for Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton, who was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. I'm wishing the best to Jack, and hoping for a speedy recovery.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Weighing In On The Afghan Prisoner Issue

Source: CTV News: Tories Fire Back on Afghan Detainees, Anger Opposition

This post has been a long time coming, which is why I think I've taken time to consider what I want to say. As all of you are aware, our Prime Minister prorogued Parliament back in December. He claimed it was necessary to the next stage of the 'Economic Action Plan'; while opposition parties claimed it was to muzzle and shut down the committee responsible for looking into questions over the handling of Afghan detainees.

Now, given the firestorm of debate that erupted over the Afghan detainee issue; the testimony and attempts to discredit Richard Colvin (despite Conservatives being elected after the fall of the Martin Government promising unparalleled protection for whistle blowers), and the refusal of the government to hand over unredacted documents at the request of the opposition...I think it's clear to see which argument carries more weight. After all, before the Afghan detainee problem, we never once heard the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, The Minister of Public Works, Minister of Industry...etc, talk about how the next phase of the Economic Action Plan was a temporary proroguing of Parliament with a new throne speech in the Spring.

So, let's assume that yes, Harper shut down Parliament because of the potential problems that could come from the inquiry over the treatment of Afghan detainees after they were handed over to Afghan authorities by Canadian troops.

With Parliament shut down until March, but opposition parties still being vocal and organized about letting Canadians know the actions of this government, Harper has resorted to his usual tactics: bashing the opposition. And how is he doing this? Is he going to buy time on Canadian Television stations to address the nation and explain his government's actions? Is he going to take out ads on television, print and radio and explain the government's position?

No, by the looks of it, he's going to send out his message with our own tax dollars. Yes, the notorious ten-percenters are back. According to the image at CTV News (see the source link), a black and white mailer with a photo of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff surrounded by quotes of 'questionable nature' are on their way to homes throughout Canada; with the standard poll of which leader/party is right on...question.

And what is the message that our Prime Minister is sending? He is sending the message that Ignatieff, and all the opposition parties, are attacking Canadian Troops. Not that they're attacking the actions of the Afghan Security Forces who have tortured detainees; not that they're attacking the government for refusing to release files under the guise of national security; but no, that opposition parties are attacking the men and women who are on the front lines and risking their lives.

This is a standard tactic we saw back in the days of George 'You're Either With Us or Against Us' W Bush.

Harper and his team are trying to sow the message that anything that questions our mission in Afghanistan, is questioning the troops who are serving there. This is a common argument among Conservatives; that you either support our troops or you don't. You either support what they're doing unquestioningly, or you might as well root for the terrorists.

By trying to create this black and white picture of how the world operates, Harper is hoping to escape criticisms by putting the actions of his government on the backs of our men and women in uniform. Which, is in my opinion, highly unacceptable.

It should come as no surprise that I don't support Canada's role in Afghanistan. But, and listen carefully, that doesn't mean I don't support our troops. Canada has a long history as peacekeepers, a history that I am proud of. So, when Canada joins active combat missions rather than keeping with it's tradition of peacekeeping, looking after civilians, and being involved in reconstruction efforts...I find myself wishing that we would stick to the humanitarian aspect of war.

Not that Canada doesn't have a militaristic history; given events such as Vimy Ridge, but over time we did indeed become a peacekeeping nation. That's why we don't need to spend 1/2 of our revenue on the military, and that's why Canadians don't need to take a combat role in a conflict that we didn't start.

So, with that said, you can see how it is possible to support the troops by wishing them well and safety overseas; but still be opposed to the job that they're performing. The two are mutually exclusive, separate things not one in the same, as Harper and his supporters would have people believe.

With that cleared up, we can get back to the issue at hand. Harper's Government is trying to sell us a message with our own tax dollars, a message which is highly misleading and completely inaccurate. A message, which hopefully, Canadians will be able to see right through.

The fact of the matter is, we need a government that is willing to take the blows that are coming to it. Harper has effectively pulled the schoolyard equivalent of taking his ball and going home because someone kept insisting that he was offside when he scored the last point. Simply walking away from the issue and attempting to discredit the opposition leaders by claiming they are against Canadian Soldiers is not going to work, and is a distasteful tactic. We need, and deserve, a government which will work with the opposition and take a stance on difficult issues instead of walking away and hoping the issue will just go away over time.

Thankfully, given Conservative poll numbers since the proroguing of Parliament, it seems like Harper is going to have to answer to this issue and others when Parliament resumes in March. Hopefully, we'll get some answers, and even more hopefully, the Liberal sound and fury over this issue will not signify nothing by having them back down when the House is back in session.