Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Three Musketeers...Or Rather, the Three Must-We-Here?

After the depressing nature of the last post, considering the federal budget, I've decided we'll take a look provincially and maybe see some greener pastures. While things aren't great here either, considering the ideology of the party in power, there has at least been the illusion of some give and take between the government and the people it represents. (Nuclear power discussion panels in their first term, as an example.)

But perhaps being emboldened by a second term and a weakened opposition, the Wall Government has given up the illusion of give and take with the citizenry and has set their sights solely on rushing ahead with their own ideological ideas. This is perhaps exemplified by the government's decision to increase the numbers of MLAs in our province by 3, adding between $650,000 - $700,000 in additional expenses from our government.

There has been some objection to the idea of having 3 new MLAs, starting with when the idea came forward, but now there's more concrete proof of the objection people in the province have with the idea. A poll done by Insightrix Research has found that 65.5% of people in a poll opposed or strongly opposed the government's plan to introduce three new MLAs.

Now, while occasionally it is necessary to increase the size of our representation (as population increases), we find ourselves asking the question as to whether or not three new MLAs are necessary.

Some facts and figures have come out, namely revolving around the citizen to politician ratio. According to these research numbers, Saskatchewan currently has about 20,000 people to every politician. Our nearest neighbour, Manitoba, has about 21,000 to every politician, and they already have ONE LESS politician than we already have.

And a place like Ontario has a staggering 124,981 people to a politician. So, these figures raise the question over whether or not we truly need another 3 politicians in the legislature.

As mentioned, there are times when population growth demands that we increase the members of representatives that we have in our province, but as it stands now we have not reached that point. There is a possibility that in a number of years we might, but we should wait to ensure that if we're adding MLAs they are being added to the areas that are experiencing population growth.

For example, let's say that the government adds the 3 MLAs between Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw. But Moose Jaw's rate of growth was lower than, say, Prince Albert. Since we do know exactly where the population growth is going to occur (We could be wrong on the major cities, and instead see an influx in smaller communities on the outskirts of these major centres), it is irresponsible to assign additional MLAs to an area we're not sure is going to experience population growth.

And that brings us to the most boneheaded move in the entire operation.

A good indicator of population growth is the amount of young people in a given area; as it suggests young families who are more likely to stay in a given area. As such, the consideration of people under the age of 18 would be a good indicator to determine which cities and towns in our province are experiencing the benefit of a population increase.

But rather than consider this, the government is deciding that people under the age of 18 are not going to be considered when looking at who MLAs represent in the legislature. As mentioned above, this is a useful means of determining population growth and future projections for the population of a given area. Furthermore, it can actually increase the number of people that a MLA represents.

There is an idea that a lot of young people don't care about politics; and sadly, there is some truth to this idea. However, there are also young people who are engaged and active and care about politics. I was one of those teenagers; in fact, the first time I met with (and questioned/challenged) my sitting MP was when I was 16 years old.

And we have seen that young people are getting more involved as things begin to affect their lives. The student protests in Quebec, for example, or the core of the Occupy Movement are all driven by younger people.

As such, there are youths under the age of 18 who are going to get in touch with their MLAs and MPs. But now these people are not being considered when looking at how MLAs represent their constituencies thanks to the government's decision.

This enhances the chances of young people being disenfranchised in the future when it comes to their representation in their home constituency.

That brings us to the cost. Our government has constantly stated that our province is in a boom, yet at the same time our government has brought forward an austerity budget and moved towards decreasing expenditures in the province (as seen in the slashing of civil service jobs). So, how can they justify adding almost $1 million dollars by adding 3 new politicians to the provincial budget?

Quite frankly, the cost and the method being undertaken by the government to increase the number of politicians in the legislature is not worth pursuing at this time. There may come a time when we will need to add more politicians in our legislature, but we need to wait until we know the best way to proportion these new constituencies and ensure that an area does not become over-represented while another becomes under-represented.

When the time comes to add new politicians, the demand should come from the people who need representation with sound demographic data to prove that the demand exists, rather than from a government who seems to only want to increase their own caucus for no clear reason.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Out of the Darkness, into...Well, More Darkness

The blog has been dark for awhile, mostly due to time constraints here on my end. Now that time has freed up a little, let’s hope the period of an absence of posting has come to pass.

So much to talk about, from omnibus bills to leadership woes to yet another Conservative Scandal of the Week. Since the omnibus bill is the most important, I think we’ll save it for now and come back to it to cap off the post. So, let’s focus first on the major point of news making the rounds this morning: Contrary to popular belief, Bob Rae will not be seeking the permanent leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.

I have to say, this was quite the shocker, as it seemed almost inevitable that Rae would make a go for the position. Since accepting the interim leadership position, there have been rumours that Rae would do his part to strong-arm party leadership into allowing him to run for leader. In fact, many news agencies are already reporting that numerous insiders were under the impression that Rae was going to run.

So, this about face is quite staggering. Rae announced that he made the decision for ‘political’ reasons, as opposed to personal ones, though he wasn’t over specific about what those political reasons were; of course, it is easy to speculate. The Harper Conservatives have been after Rae since he became interim leader of the Liberals, even going after him more than the ACTUAL Leader of the Opposition; who could forget the opportunity to use the Toronto-Danforth by-election as a chance to run an attack ad against Rae.

Undoubtedly, the Conservatives have a plethora of ammunition to use against Bob Rae. From ‘Rae Days’ to his turn in the Liberal Party under Ignatieff, there’s no shortage of things the Conservatives could use to destroy Rae’s reputation during an election campaign. After all, this is a party that has gotten attack ads against Liberal Leaders down to a science.

So, is Rae’s political reason mostly based around the fact that he knows he’ll meet the same fates as Dion and Ignatieff? It likely played a major factor, but would hardly be the only reason.

Another reason to consider is that Rae is a divisive figure in the Liberal Party. Despite the decent job he’s done as interim leader and keeping the Liberal Party in the headlines as a third place party, Rae’s history drives some people up the wall. When the Liberal Party is in third place, and doesn’t seem poised to recover anytime soon, it becomes pretty clear that the next leader has to be a uniting figure in the party…And that means Rae isn’t the best choice.

It is possible then, that Rae knows a Liberal Party under his leadership could end up staying in third place or sinking even lower. And despite his own personal ambitions, he was actually willing to fall on his sword for the party. You do have to admire that at least a little, and wish that other party leaders would recognize more clearly when their time to move along has come. (Looking at you, Mr. Harper.)

Whatever the true reasons for Mr. Rae’s decision, the question now becomes one of whether the Liberals have anyone in the party who can truly be the uniting voice. The party has gone the route of the long-time Liberal (Dion) and the outsider (Ignatieff) and neither seemed to work out to well for them. As such, one has to wonder whether an insider or an outsider can be found that could actually unify the party behind them. It’s a tall order, and despite my best efforts, I don’t see anyone who could make such a claim right now in the Liberal tent or caucus.

That’ll bring us to the newest Conservative scandal of the week. Actually, there’s a few things to talk about here…but we’ll focus on just a few for the sake of timing. We’ll start with the ongoing F-35 Fiasco, as it continues to making headlines. When the Auditor General gave the government a rapping on their knuckles for their pricing, the government responded by saying that it would provide a new set of numbers in sixty (60) days. Well, the deadline has come and gone and no new numbers have come forward.

In fact, Defence Minister Peter MacKay has more or less admitted that he’s no longer in charge as he deferred a question about the numbers as being under Rona Ambrose’s purview. Effectively, the Department of Defence is out of the loop, as their numbers now need to be verified by an independent assessor. The media is reporting that Canadians can expect to see these numbers by the fall at the earliest, and who knows how much if later.

But let’s move on to the newest bit of news: Conservative Pitbull Dean Del Mastro is under fire for potentially spending more than the legal limit in the 2008 election. What it boils down to is a personal cheque from Del Mastro paid to a market research company to the tune of $21,000. Del Mastro refutes the charges, saying that he did contract out the company but that he was invoiced incorrectly and no spending irregularities occurred.

But, as pointed out by others, this doesn’t answer the question as to the PERSONAL CHEQUE payment from Del Mastro. The explanation provided by Del Mastro makes sense if the cheque came directly from the campaign, but not from his own account. And so far, evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of the cheque being from his personal account.

The reason why this is worth talking about, is because it further demonstrates the lack of respect the Conservatives have for the Canadian Electorate and our Election Laws. This is a party that has constantly been accused of overspending their election limit cap, see the 2006 In-and-Out Case and allegations that the party did it again in the 2011 election, so the idea that Del Mastro overspent his election cap isn’t really that far out of left (or I guess right) field.

This is a party that has continually undermined our democratic institutions and seems to place victory and winning over ethics and accountability. Del Mastro saying that nothing happened is about as legitimate as Joffery Baratheon.

We have seen that this party will do anything to win, and their preferred method seems to be outspending the competition. Let’s remember, Julian Fantino is also being looked at for overspending and keeping a ‘secret’ bank account (as alleged by some Conservative riding executive members). This isn’t the first time a Conservative has been accused to overspending to an illegal degree, and it certainly won’t be the last with this current group.

That brings us to the omnibus budget, Bill C-38. There’s already been a wide discussion about this massive bill, and why it deserves to be split into smaller pieces. In my 24, soon to be 25, years on this planet I cannot recall such a massive budget bill containing non-budgetary matters ever being brought before our Parliament.

Add to that the almost guaranteed defeat of all the proposed amendments (despite valiant efforts from all of the opposition parties), and the restriction of ‘time allocation’ on the debate, and it seems that we have little chance to actually stopping this bill. Some groups are calling for a group of 13 Conservative Backbenchers to stand up and do the right thing; though, we’d have better odds of mastering cold fusion before that happens.

After all, look what happened when a single Conservative expressed concern about the budget bill during a meeting with his constituents. He back peddled so quickly, that I’m surprised he didn’t get a case of whiplash. Not to mention how hard the PMO and the Party itself came down on him for stepping out of line.

While there are a number of Conservative MPs I can think of (who in five years will likely not seek re-election, or be named to cabinet or anything of importance before that happens), all of them have drank such heavy amounts of the Harper Kool-Aid that they’ll swallow anything the PMO puts in front of them. Basically, I’m saying if we’re counting on Conservatives to save us from Conservatives (even if they have nothing to lose) we’re betting on the wrong horse, and that horse is about to drag us for a few good miles over rough terrain.

And now for the hard part.

Many of us hold out hope that come 2015, Harper and his team will be pushed from government and we’ll get either a minority or majority NDP government to right the ship. That the Harper Majority will basically be undone by the government that follows it, and all will be right with Canada again.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to take the pessimistic view. Harper’s agenda has been two-fold: Destroy institutions and establishments that Conservatives have always rallied against, and tie the hands of the next government.

Since 2006, Harper and his team have been eviscerating budgets and closing down small tribunals and commissions. And with tax cuts and enhanced spending, putting Canada into its largest deficit, the Harper Conservatives are basically salting the earth after they burnt what was there.

Let me strip away the metaphor and put that more simply. By decreasing the size of government, decreasing government revenue through tax cuts, slowly bleeding more authority to the provinces on issues that used to require cooperation, and leaving an incredible amount of government debt, the Harper Government is laying the ground to ensure that the government that follows it is hobbled out of the gate.

This is the blind ideological rhetoric and drive that has always moved the Harper Conservatives forward. Most of us figured that a single Harper majority would be the only one his party would see with him at the helm, and I think the Conservatives knew that too. So, rig the results in advance, and this time not from an electoral standpoint. Leave the country in disrepair and the next government unable to reverse controversial decisions that will no doubt make up part of their platform during the next election. We are seeing the groundwork to leave behind a hell of a mess that Harper-Cons are expecting Canadians to blame completely on the newest government.

That is the real cost of Bill C-38 passing. While we will lose OAS payments for a younger generation, fewer environmental regulations, and very questionable EI reforms; the true cost is that the Harper Government is tying the hands of the next government that will follow them.

Now, this entire subject is making me more than just slightly depressed considering the end game they seem to be gunning towards. So, I think I’ll leave it there for now.

On a more random side note, and provincially speaking, I think we’ll make the next post provincially focused. So, let’s look forward to that.