kingston & the islands' NDP Blog

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

Jack Layton sends New Year's Greetings to us all.

What's Greener than the Greens? The NDP

rabble.ca has an interesting article on the Green Party by Murray Dobbin. "In fact, all these [voters] make the assumption that the Green Party is at least, well, Green. They should take the time to be sure. In the last election I wrote, based on the policy platform on its website, the party was right wing on social and fiscal policy and also pointed out that both the Sierra Club and Greenpeace rated them below the NDP (and in most categories, below the Bloc) on environmental policies. Unfortunately, little has changed. Some things are actually worse." Update (Jan. 1st): A lot the article I linked to above is based on the Greens' not having a 2006 platform available. The Greens now have their 2006 platform up on their federal website.

Friday, December 30, 2005

RCMP investigates the income trust leak

The RCMP have opened an investigation regarding possible insider trading surrounding the Liberal Finance Minister's Nov. 23 announcement on income trusts. The investigation was prompted by a request from NDP Finance Critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis, but it's important to realize that the RCMP don't investigate every case that they're requested to investigate. They review the facts and look for corroborating complaints or trends before opening an investigation. And, after a thorough month-long look at the facts, the RCMP decided to open an investigation in this case. Paul Martin claims that the RCMP aren't investigating Ralph Goodale and says flat-out that Mr. Goodale will not step down. But Paul Martin can't credibly say that Mr Goodale isn't under investigation. The RCMP's investigation isn't focused exclusively on Goodale or his ministry, but doesn't rule them out, either. RCMP Chief Superintendant Denis Constant explained: "We’ll look at wherever the investigation sends us. We’ll be looking into this, anything that’s been suspicious." (Global News, 6:30pm, December 29, 2005) In a nutshell, anyone who had the information could come within the scope of the investigation. What's more, Paul Martin said today that he, and others in the Prime Minister's Office, had advance knowledge of Goodale's annoucement. This is no surprise in itself, but it means that if there was a leak, it could conceivably have come from someone in the Prime Minister's Office -- so the PMO itself may find itself under investigation.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Conservative candidate's showing his true colors... in lawn signs

You may have noticed Conservative lawn signs popping up all over town in public places. Today's Whig has an article about these signs. Briefly, the Liberal, NDP and Green candidates for this area all committed not to put up signs in public places. The Conservatives didn't sign on to this agreement. Yet a few days ago, they issued a press release criticizing the Green candidate for "violating" an agreement the Conservatives hadn't even signed on to. The Green candidate's "violation"? He held a press conference outdoors, using a portable sign as a backdrop, then took the sign down when he was done. Lou Grimshaw's conservative campaign seized on this to claim the Green candidate was "putting up signs in public places". Lou Grimshaw's Conservative campaign has been really quick to play "gotcha" on minor technicalities. The Liberals forgot to put "Authorized by the Official Candidate" on their website; the Conservatives pounced and filed a complaint that they were in violation of elections law. (Full disclosure: We'd forgotten, too, but made the change as soon as we saw the story.) Does anyone but Lou Grimshaw really think that holding a press conference with a portable sign as backdrop is the same thing as putting up lawn signs in public places? And does anyone but Lou Grimshaw really think that this mean-spirited game of "gotcha" makes him look like the kind of man Kingstonians want to send to Ottawa?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Local Debates scheduled

The schedule for the Kingston & the Islands All Candidate Debates has been set! Rob will be participating in all the debates. The first debate is on January 10th at 5 pm, in Wallace Hall at Queen's University. It's sponsored by Queen's AMS. There will be 5 debates in all. The full debate schedule is on Rob's campaign events page.

Monday, December 26, 2005

One year ago today...

...a massive tsunami devastated Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and many other regions. The estimated death toll was a staggering 275,000. The international community, including Canada, rushed to pledge aid to the devastated regions. As we pause to remember the victims of this tragedy today, it's also a vivid reminder of why international aid is so important. Canadians are a generous people. Paul Martin initially pledged $40 million in tsunami aid; after massive public outcry, this figure was eventually raised to $425 million. I'm proud that my country was able to respond so generously, and proud also that the NDP has made generous foreign aid part of its campaign.

Happy Hanukkah... Happy Kwanzaa!

Christmas is over, but Kwanzaa and Hanukkah are just beginning. Happy holidays to all!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Kingston! Jack Layton's holiday message is here: Thu 22 Dec 2005 As you gather with family and friends to celebrate this wonderful holiday season, many thoughts will turn to loved ones who are far away, and also to those in our communities who are without the comforts most of us enjoy during this festive time. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. May the season’s hope of peace on earth and goodwill to all be fulfilled. Olivia and I wish you and your family every joy this holiday season, and our best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year. -Jack Layton

Friday, December 23, 2005

New look

We're updating the riding website! It's got new colors -- the official NDP orange and green -- and more up-to-date images of Rob. Rob's campaign schedule is really starting to come together, and that'll soon be on the website too. Check it out at http://www.ndpkingston.org.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Happy Winter Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice! Jack Layton celebrated the solstice in Yellowknife today. What a great place to celebrate the solstice. The farther North you are, the better news it is that the days are getting longer from here on out. Jack also took the opportunity to talk about Canada-US relations and Canadian sovereignty, which is particularly important in the North with the US and Denmark already eyeing the still-frozen Northwest Passage. He's spot on when he says we'll need a federal government ready to stand up for Canadian interests in the North. The US and Denmark don't recognize Canada's claim to sovereignty on our Arctic waters, and that's likely to become a major bone of contention as global warming makes it a viable shipping route. No one's sure when the Northwest Passage will come up as an international issue -- probably not in the next five years, but it's possible. It's a great example of an issue that's relatively obscure right now, but potentially a huge problem for our country in the future. A strong national leader has to keep his eye on literally hundreds of such considerations. And there are thousands more issues that make a big difference to some Canadians but that most haven't even heard of. Jack's decision to touch on the Northern sovereignty issue in the campaign is typical of him as a candidate. And it shows that he's got what it takes to be a strong leader. Paul Martin's the candidate who's actually been a Prime Minister, but Jack's the candidate who brings issues like these up. Time and again, Jack has shown a mastery of the thousands of different issues Canada faces and a real ability to balance all the considerations -- including fiscal -- to come up with sound policies and a balanced budget.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Whig's stats are out of date

The Whig's website today features a "special report" by James Wallace on the NDP's decline in Ontario polls. Wallace quotes Nik Nanos, President of SES Research, as saying, "The big story is the NDP sliding in Ontario." (CPAC and SES Research do nightly opinion polls on the election.) Sounds pretty bad, right? The only problem is that the polls Wallace quotes Nanos on are out of date. The "big slide" refers to a few days' dip in NDP support in Ontario. From Dec 10 to Dec 14, NDP support slid from 20% to 12% in the CPAC-SES polls. And then it bounced back. The latest numbers show NDP support in Ontario at 19%. That's a "big slide" of... one point. At 19%, NDP numbers in Ontario are solid and doing fine.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Letter from Rob

Rob has posted a letter on the Kingston NDP web site. Dear Friends, I am seeking your support to be your MP in Kingston and the Islands on January 23. In the 2004 election, I raised issues that are important to Kingston and the Islands:
  • Strong public health care - not privatization;
  • Reducing the heavy debt load for students;
  • Improved community and environmental investment;
  • Responsible spending of your hard earned tax dollars;
  • And development of an independent Canadian foreign policy.
The cost of not addressing these issues has already been felt in many communities, including ours. As a long-time resident of Kingston, I care deeply about our community. I have been actively involved for many years in municipal issues - defending the need to invest in education, health care and the environment to ensure our quality of life and economic growth. Most recently, I was the spokesperson for the Save Our Memorial Centre Site. Jack Layton and the NDP have made a remarkable difference for Canadians in a minority government. With a greater voice we can create a stronger democracy and a government that works much better for the majority of Canadians. Please join me in making a difference in Kingston and the Islands and in creating a better vision for Canada. Rob Hutchison
To join the campaign, or make a donation, please phone us at the riding office, 549-2444. Or drop by the office, which is at 277 Montreal St. You can also email info@ndpkingston.org. Do you have questions or comments on Rob's letter? Leave a comment in the comments section below.

Everybody loves Jack

Jack Layton came across wonderfully in last night's debate. Journalists and pundits across the nation have been praising his strong performance. There's a rundown of the best quotes on the national NDP site. My favorite: "And as for Jack Layton, I thought he gave a pretty strong performance and he gave Canadians a reason why the NDP should hold a balance of power." – Bob Fife, CTV Newsnet, Friday, December 16, 2005. The quotes page above also mentions my favorite moment from the debate:
  • Jack on the PM: "He's been breaking promises for so long that he doesn't know when he's doing it any more." Jack followed this with a list of a few of the Liberals' broken promises on the environment, child care and international aid.
If you missed the debate, the CBC has the whole two hours in Real Audio format here.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

After the first debate...

Ce soir, on a eu le premier débat des chefs de la campagne électorale, en français. Jack Layton, Stephen Harper, Gilles Duceppe and Paul Martin debated in French for two hours. The new debate format kept things civil: the leaders responded, one at a time, to questions from average Canadians. (The questions had been chosen by the CBC staff from over 10,000 questions submitted by Canadians.) Some of the questions seemed to have been written to play right to NDP strengths. Pierre Plourde of Surrey, B.C. wanted to know what the government could do to help his family afford francophone child care at $35/day. Layton pointed out that the Liberals have been promising to move on national child care for 12 years and only got going on this priority when forced to work with the NDP. If you missed it, Layton announced the NDP's child care plan just two days ago. Another question addressed homelessness & social housing, and another asked about aboriginal standards of living -- two of the main planks in the NDP platform. A question from Laurent Lacoquelle of Montréal asked Harper specifically what he would do if his kids were gay. Harper looked pretty uncomfortable with this question. Of course, the question and its followup allowed Layton, whose support for the queer community has been unswerving, to shine. If you missed the debate, cbc.ca's blow-by-blow commentary is here et, chez Radio-Canada, ici.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Maybe when we have more troops...

A couple of days ago, I talked about the NDP's clear stand on foreign policy. Rob told me about Canadians' role in offensive operations in Afghanistan and the NDP's stand that Canadian forces must be used for peacekeeping, under UN auspices. The issue's been in the news these last two days, as the Iraqi election begins. The Liberals are giving the Conservatives grief about Harper's flip-flop on Iraq. In 2003, Harper criticized Chretien's refusal to send Canadian troops to join the so-called "coalition of the willing" in Iraq. Yesterday, Harper reversed himself, promising not to send Canadians to Iraq if elected. But as ndp.ca points out, the Liberals' position on Iraq is far from clear. Martin hasn't sent troops yet, but also won't say that he wouldn't send troops to Iraq in the future. To quote the article on ndp.ca, it boils down to "Maybe when we have more troops." One thing's for sure: Jack Layton wouldn't send Canadian troops to Iraq. And Rob wouldn't vote to send them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The results are in

and Ontarians don't want private health care. An article in yesterday's Whig reported on a new poll showing that 2/3 of Ontario voters believe that all of us should have the same access to health care regardless of our ability to pay. The Liberals and Conservatives like to talk about their support for public health care, but the fact remains that the NDP is the only party that has actually proposed changes that would protect our public health system from US-style privatization. Only the NDP have actually shown they will take action to protect our health care system. And Paul Martin's liberals flat out rejected that proposal. If you want to be sure that your vote is a vote for public health care, then there's only one choice: vote for Rob.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Rob & the NDP on mental health

Over the weekend, Rob stopped by the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario's local chapter here in Kingston. The Schizophrenia Society is a great resource both for people with schizophrenia and for their families. They're also strong advocates at Queen's Park and contribute generously to schizophrenia research. The issues surrounding mental illness are quite close to Rob's heart. In his role as Manager of Kingston Co-Operative Homes, he's helped out a number of tenants who are living with mental illness. Folks at the Schizophrenia Society were quite concerned about the inadequate funding for mental health, including the lack of treatment for mentally ill inmates. Kingstonians are well aware of this issue. A recent article in the Whig-Standard quoted Correctional Investigator of Canada Howard Sapers as saying, "Canadian prisons have become warehouses for the mentally ill, who are often left to languish in solitary confinement instead of receiving treatment. He also notes that the number of federal inmates with mental health problems has more than doubled in the last decade but that care has deteriorated woefully during this period." This affects not only the inmates, but also both the guards in our community who are working with prisoners struggling with mental health problems, and the families of the inmates. The NDP's stand on this and other health care funding issues is crystal clear. Restore the transfer payments to the provinces, with mechanisms to make sure that health care stays public. The Liberals, on the other hand, took $25 billion out of health and social transfers, and flat out refused to adopt NDP proposals to keep US-style privatization out of Canada.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

What the NDP has to say about foreign policy

Barbara McDougall's editorial in the Saturday Whig-Standard complains that none of the three major parties has much to say about foreign policy and defense. I don't know about the Liberals and Conservatives, but when it comes to the NDP, she couldn't be more wrong. Here's all Barbara McDougall has to say about the NDP's foreign policy platform: "The NDP's website gives the nod to peace, with a passing reference to support for the United Nations and other forms of multilateralism. Not much to make a meal of..." I asked Rob about the NDP's policy platform, and he set me straight. The NDP platform doesn't just "give the nod to peace," it supports peacekeeping, and specifically, peacekeeping under the auspices of the UN. This is an important distinction. Under the Liberals, Canada's peacekeeping involvement is largely not on UN missions but on NATO-led missions -- giving the US a much larger say in Canadian peacekeeping missions. The NDP also doesn't support sending more Canadians to Afghanistan (another NATO-led mission). Jack Layton laid this out in this statement on Thursday. "We appear to be drifting from our original mission there – which was to provide security in the capital region – and into a combat role side-by-side with American troops," says Jack. Indeed, Rob told me about the Canadian forces' role in offensive operations, not just peacekeeping, in Afghanistan. The JTF2 is Canada's equivalent of the Rangers or the SAS, and they were part of commando operations in Afghanistan as part of a joint operation with the US, the UK and four other nations. They took part in offensive operations that included killing at least 115 Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders. I'm not saying it was wrong to depose the Taliban, but this is a far cry from the kind of peacekeeping activities that most Canadians think our troops are carrying out in Afghanistan. Remember, Canada is not officially at war with Afghanistan. "If Paul Martin wants to involve Canada directly in a war in Afghanistan, then he must spell out what our goals are, what our commitments will be, and when and how we will get out. We then require a real national debate, and a clear democratic decision taken by Parliament," says Jack. And a committment to UN-led peacekeeping isn't the only plank in the NDP's policy platform. Foreign aid is just as important. In a speech to Parliament this Feburary, Jack Layton explained, "We welcome the investment in peacekeeping, but foreign aid prevents conflicts that peacekeeping is then later required to solve. They go hand in hand." Foreign aid is a major plank in the NDP's platform. Under Liberal governance, our committment to foreign aid has declined disgracefully. In 1992, Canada committed to boost our foreign aid to .7% of GDP. After 11 solid years of Liberal majority governments, our foreign aid had fallen instead of rising -- from .44% of GDP (1993) to .26% (2004). That's about half the 1993 level. And Paul Martin still won't commit to boost aid to the level promised, even though Parliament passed an NDP motion this year directing him to do so. So, it's just plain wrong to say that the NDP doesn't have much to say about foreign policy and defense. We have a lot to say -- and it makes sense.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Kingston & the Islands NDP Blog is in the house!

The Kingston & the Islands riding association is launching this blog to track the progress of Rob Hutchison's campaign. Rob Hutchison is our candidate for the 2005 election; he also ran in the 2004 election, and won 16.5% of the vote. Check back here for more campaign news and events as the campaign unfolds!