kingston & the islands' NDP Blog

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Election day party

Come join Rob and the rest of the campaign team on election night. We'll be at the Queen's Inn, 125 Brock St., starting at 8:30 PM, this Monday night. You're invited!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Canadians ask Harper some tough questions

Right now, Stephen Harper is on The National with Peter Mansbridge, answering questions sent in and brought to the studio by ordinary Canadians. There've been some tough questions with telling answers, and I'll post updates at the end of the program. Tune in if you can! Update (11:30 pm): My favorite exchange: A young father in the audience asked how Harper's $100/month per child would help with child care, when daycare costs at least $600/month per child. Before he could answer, Harper first had to clarify that the $100/month was only for children under six, and will actually be taxed. (So, it's not even $100/month and won't help with after-school care.) Then, he pointed out that the Liberals (and NDP, though he didn't mention us) had a child care plan that could provide daycare for every child who needed it, and yet cost less than the CPC's $100/month. Um -- yes, and that's a point for the Conservative plan? Other good questions -- (Note: quotes are not verbatim.)
  • You've talked a lot about creating a "strong and growing Canada," but you've proposed devolving a lot of power to the provinces. How is this going to create a strong Canada?
  • For the last 16 years, both Liberal and Conservative governments have acknowledged that climate change is a problem.... How would you deal with Canada's committments to the new plan negotiated in Montreal? Would you actually create incentives to ensure Canadians comply, and encourage alternative energy? You've been quoted as saying you'd scrap Kyoto.
I was astounded by Harper's answer on Kyoto. He flat-out said that "We are not able to achieve Kyoto targets in Canada. That's just a fact, and I'm sorry we lost a decade finding it out." He talked about cutting emissions and trying for a different accord after he throws out Kyoto. But there is an international scientific consensus that the Kyoto targets are not too stringent -- quite the opposite, they are not low enough to forestall global warming. If Mr. Harper's convinced that Canada can't even make the Kyoto targets, then any "new accord" or "provincial targets" will be even more inadequate than Kyoto's levels were. Kyoto was always seen as "a step in the right direction." Mr Harper wants to take that step back. It's unbelievable that Stephen Harper's given up on Kyoto when Canada's record of even trying to cut emissions is so dismal. We have made no real efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Our biggest domestic efficiency program is focused on getting homeowners to see if their attics need more insulation. There's been no attempt to set higher fuel efficiency standards; no gasohol program; no significant investment in alternative energy; no incentives for utilities to explore renewables. What's "just a fact" is that Canada is "not able to achieve Kyoto targets" with zero effort -- and that's how much effort Harper has just shown he's willing to put in.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Media watch

Jack Layton was just on CBC's The National with Peter Mansbridge, answering questions from members of the public. As usual, he did a good job of presenting the NDP as the viable third alternative. As Jack says in this letter to Canadians, "There is a better choice in this election. It’s the NDP." Unfortunately, the NDP's existence seems to have been lost on the Globe and Mail, which wrote the most hesitant possible endorsement of the Conservatives on the following grounds: (1) It's time for a change. (2) The Liberals are too comfy with corruption. (3) Did we mention it's time for a change? and Harper isn't as scary in 2006 as he was in 2004. That's literally the best argument the Globe can come up with for supporting Harper. Even then they don't seem to certain about it. They finish by consoling themseves with the thought that surely, a governing party could never go against the wishes of the people: "Political parties are in the business of currying public favour; a governing party, even an unnatural one, will not stray too far, too frequently, from the social consensus. The dynamic of democratic change keeps competitors for power within reasonable bounds. So it will be for Mr. Harper and his Conservatives." Uh -- no. Apparently the Globe hasn't taken a look at America lately. The neoconservatives there have implemented policies, under cover of secrecy and lies, that are pretty far from the democratic consensus. And no, I'm not saying that Harper is Bush or that he's going to invade other countries, torture children and spy on our citizens. But to look at the US is to realize that just because a party is main-stream is no guarantee that its policies will be mainstream. The Globe is fooling itself here. It's a real shame that the Globe hasn't heard of the NDP. The Globe wants change, but they "worry about [Harper's] seeming indifference to the need for a strong central government in a country so replete with runaway centrifugal forces." Want to elect someone who believes in a strong central government? That's what the NDP's all about. The Globe "worr[ies] about [Harper] teaming up with the Bloc Québécois to weaken the federal government's tax-raising capacity and its advocacy of national programs." Guess what -- the NDP are fiercely nationalist and have no intention of cutting taxes for the wealthy to skint social programs. They "worry that [Harper] might have to strike retrograde compromises with social conservatives in the party's midst." Meaning, they're worried about the strong support for anti-abortion and anti-gay laws in the former Alliance party. Again, not a concern with the NDP. And finally, they "worry that he may prove heavy-handed in wielding the considerable powers of a prime minister." The Globe and Mail is worried Harper will turn into an autocrat. And yet they still endorse him? What a shame, what a terrible shame that they haven't heard of the NDP and Jack Layton. It is time for change, and thank the electoral stars that there is another option besides Harper and the CPC. There's Jack Layton, Rob Hutchison, and the values that we in the NDP stand for. As an aside, even the Conservatives are telling people that if they do get a majority, it will still be okay because there will be lots of Liberals around to moderate them. What does it say about a prospective government when it needs to reassure voters that it won't be the only ones governing? (Thanks to Sinister Thoughts for the link.)

Liberals "expose" the Conservative capital gains tax cut

More on the Conservatives' proposed capital gains tax cut I posted about on Saturday. The Liberals have put a huge graphic on their front page about how they're "exposing" the Conservative capital gains cut. According to their article on the tax cut, the Conservatives have grossly misstated the cost of the cut. Quote: They said it would cost the federal government $150 million a year, which is only 7 per cent of the federal government’s revenue from the capital gains tax on individuals. The true cost would likely be about $1.7 billion a year to the federal treasury. To quote Revenue Minister John McCallum: "I cannot think of a tax cut that is more skewed to the rich than this one.... Any competent financial planner can find half a dozen ways to ensure you never pay. This promise comes close to a de facto elimination of the capital gains tax for individuals.” The Liberals' analysis of this cut also predicts that the bulk of the lost revenue from this tax cut "will go to the 140,000 Canadians who earn more than $100,000 a year and report capital gains... That is only 0.6 of one percent of the 23 million people who file taxes in this country.” Harper would also roll back the recent tax cuts for low- and middle-income Canadians.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Conservatives on health care: No New Funding

Health care still hasn't recovered from Paul Martin's 1995 cuts. The NDP's platform outlines the damage that's been done to our national health care system under the Liberals:
  • Between 1998 and 2002, out-of-pocket spending on basic health care by Canadians increased by almost 28%.
  • Individual Canadians spent an estimated $17 billion out-of-pocket on their health care needs in 2002 alone.
  • In addition, in the same year, private insurers paid another $17.5 billion to cover insured health care costs.
  • The public share (70%) of Canada’s overall health care spending ranks us below countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany and France.
The Conservatives say they're against privatization and will act to protect our health care system, but will they put our money where their mouth is? The short answer, from their platform, is No:
  • Maintain the currently projected growth rates for transfers to persons such as elderly benefits and Employment Insurance, and transfers to other levels of government for health, social programs, equalization, and municipal infrastructure.
In other words: No new federal money for health care. That means that elsewhere in the platform, when the Conservatives say things like:
  • We will work with the provinces and territories to increase the numbers of, and expand educational programs for doctors, nurses, and other health professionals.
Whatever "work with the provinces" means, it doesn't mean "provide additional funding." The Conservatives have promised to reduce wait times and to increase the number of doctors and nurses without spending an additional dime. The reality? Provinces will have to cut other programs, or other health services, in order to increase the number of health professionals and reduce wait times -- or we simply won't get more doctors and nurses, or shorter waiting lists.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Tax cuts for the wealthy, promises Harper

The Conservatives released their platform yesterday, and at $75B it's the most expensive platform put out by any party but the Greens. And what's that money going to be spent on? An amazing $45B is going to tax cuts over the next five years. And who will benefit from this tax relief? Well, here's one of Harper's proposed tax cuts:
  • "Eliminate the capital gains tax for individuals on the sale of assets when the proceeds are reinvested within six months."
The Conservatives are spinning this as a way to provide tax relief for people selling their family businesses. But the capital gains tax also applies to, and is much more commonly used for, stock market profits. Under Harper's plan, investors who have the funds and know-how to put their savings in the stock market wouldn't have to pay taxes on the profits from the stock market until they took the money out. It would be like giving stock investors access to an unlimited-size RRSP where their money could accumulate interest-free, that they could cash in any time without penalty. Not only that, but capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than other income. So when investors did cash in their retirement portfolios, they'd pay less tax than folks with a traditional RRSP. Who would benefit from this tax cut? It's a no-brainer. Upper-income Canadians are disproportionately likely to invest in the stock market and to see substantial capital gains. That's who'd get what amounts to an unlimited, cash-out-any-time RRSP. If you'd rather see your money go to health care or child care than to preferential retirement programs for the investor class -- don't vote Conservative. Update (Jan. 15) -- An anonymous commenter pointed out that the analogy to RRSPs isn't perfect. Specifically, you make RRSP contributions with pre-tax dollars, but any stock market investments you make outside your RRSP are made with post-tax dollars. This proposed tax cut is still a great deal for investors, though. Even though your initial "contributions" to your stock-market nest egg aren't tax-deductible, the majority of the money in a typical mature retirement portfolio has come from compounding gains over the years. That's what makes this proposed capital gains cut let stocks act like an RRSP -- just as the money in your RRSP can compound interest without a tax bite being taken out of the interest every year, your investments in the stock market could, with this tax cut, grow without your paying taxes on the growth every time you reinvest it.

Friday, January 13, 2006

NDP: Balanced budgets, and honesty about spending

On Wednesday, the 10 o'clock news on CBC carried a story about the NDP budget. The CBC is usually straight-up, so I was surprised to hear the newscaster do his best to make it sound like the NDP budget was imbalanced. The segment was overflowing with rhetoric like "How can the NDP afford $71B in spending?" Only at the end of the short segment did the newscaster reveal the NDP's answer: the NDP budget, unlike previous years' Liberal budgets, doesn't include an unallocated chunk of money. The Liberals have effectively been ignoring their own revenue projections, bringing in budgets that deliberately don't account for all the revenue the government is projected to earn. The unallocated money is designated as "surplus," and it's the root of the outcry you may remember before the election was called. Since the Liberals didn't include a big chunk of revenue in their past budgets, that chunk was free for them to spend on any area they like -- without revealing their intentions for that money at budget time, when they release their budget for the year. In the past, they've applied it to the debt, which is fine. But just before the election was called, the Liberals were mulling splitting 2005's unallocated chunk of money between debt, tax credit and maybe some social program. Who knew how they would've used it? They didn't declare their intentions for that chunk of money at budget time, so they were free to use it for whatever was politically expedient, whenever they needed a political boost. This isn't a good trend. Imagine that the government sets aside more and more money like this, every year. That's a greater and greater proportion of our country's budget which is not declared at budget time, which is not part of the main budget that is voted on in Parliament, which is open to being used like a political poker chip whenever the government needs a shot in the arm. The Liberals' reasoning has been that they do this so that they won't have to go into deficit if revenues aren't as high as forecasted. Sounds good, until you realize that there's another option: if revenues aren't as high as forecasted, cut spending. That's the NDP plan. The NDP budget spells out exactly where all of the federal budget is going to go. And the NDP guarantees a balanced budget for five straight years, with a promise to delay new programs in the event that finances don't reach projections. That's the honest way to do a budget. That's the NDP way.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

NDP Platform Released!

The NDP released their platform yesterday! The full platform is available online here. Quote: On January 23rd, we have the opportunity to make a real change in Canadian politics – a change where the interests of working families are put ahead of well-connected insiders. The way to get that change, the way to make Parliament work for people, is to vote New Democrat. Voting NDP gets more New Democrat MPs in Parliament. More New Democratic MPs means more results for working families and ordinary Canadians. This platform outlines the NDP priorities for the next Parliament. It’s the NDP action plan to put working families first. Take a look, and if you like what you see, vote NDP.

More debates

The local debate schedule is really packed. There were two all-candidate debates today, one in the morning at KCVI, and one at 7:00 on Cogeco Ch. 13. If you missed these debates, you won't have to wait long -- the next one is tomorrow at 6:30 pm. It's at All Candidate Debate at Chernoff Hall, Queen's University, and is sponsored by Queen's Biology. There will be a couple more debates after that one, and if you missed the televised debate, there will be another televised debate at 7 pm on Jan. 15th, again on Cogeco Ch. 13.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

1st All-Candidate Debate

At 4:45 yesterday, all the candidates for the riding of Kingston and the Islands met at Queens' University for the first of seven debates. A big topic was whether the Liberal incumbent, Milliken, could do a good job representing Kingston and be the Speaker at the same time. There's been a lot of concern about this lately, with an editorial published in the Whig and some of the candidates using their Whig profile as a platform to question Milliken's record as a voice for Kingston. There's no question that he is a very good Speaker. But as Speaker, he can't introduce bills or even appear partisan, and one editorial in the Whig reported that all the concerns he raised with Peter were passed off to other MPs (who don't represent Kingston, and didn't do anything about the concerns). If we re-elect Milliken as our MP, he does intend to run for Speaker again (and, if House opinion is any guide, will probably get it). So for anyone doubting Milliken's effectiveness as our representative -- that problem is not going away.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A letter on discrimination

C. Smith, a Kingston graphic designer, illustrator and journalist, recently wrote a letter to the Whig about institutionalized discrimination he faced at a local employer. It's a particularly timely reminder, given the recent apparent racial profiling by the Kingston police, that discrimination is still an issue in our society. We're lucky to live in the most tolerant society this continent has ever seen. But tolerance takes work. And there's still work to do. Dear Editor,       Recently, I was reminded of discrimination I thought had died several decades ago when I visited the [...] job fair. I had hopes of finding a new part-time job while I finish my final year at St. Lawrence College.       Upon entering, I was greeted warmly and invited to watch a recruitment video, which would be followed by an application and interview.       I realized, as I watched the seven minute film, that the company had mandatory drug tests, which I had no problem with and thought was a smart move for the company, but they also openly admitted to not hiring persons with visible tattoos.       As the video finished, I came to the conclusion the no visible tattoos rule was a problem for a person such as myself because I have both my arms sleeved [Ed -- covered in tattooos].       I was approached to fill out the application form and proceeded to inform the employee that I have tattoos covering both my arms, but that the tattoos are spiritual and family-related. I also showed him the tattoos, which have all been done professionally and in full colour.       (Included on my arms are a traditional Japanese Coi fish, several flowers in water, a family coat of arms, lobster trap, a Nova Scotian crest with my family's home town, a Poppy with a Remembrance Day motto, a heart made out of water, and a sunset, amongst others.)       At that point, I was no longer a welcome applicant. I was furious, but kept my thoughts to myself as I left the building with my resume firmly in hand. The question that comes to my mind is -- didn't 'negroes need not apply' and 'long-haired hippies need not apply' signs get eradicated? In the year 2006, is it still all right to openly discriminate against a person for their appearance?       This is a prime example of discrimination. Maybe if I were covered in offensive signs, such as Nazi swastikas and other disturbing imagery, or poorly executed tattoos it would be understandable. But I have experience working in several other corporate stores in similar roles, and those stores have hired me without question. I always end up being a valued employee and treat customers with mutual respect.       Why, then, should this store be any different from any other potential employers, and do they have any other prejudices when hiring? What if I'm too old, overweight, black, female, native, etc? This culture needs to wake up and start actually being the open-minded society it claims to be.       Artistic, creative and spiritual people will continue to get tattooed in a traditional fashion, and society needs to catch up to the times. A clean-cut, well-dressed and shaven individual, despite tattoos, is still a clean-cut, well-dressed and shaven individual. Sincerely, C. Smith Kingston Update (1/11/06): This post drew a comment from someone who thought I meant to imply that being turned down from a job is the same thing as being arrested for one's race. As I replied in the comments section, I didn't mean to suggest that being turned down for a job is the same thing as being arrested for one's race. That wasn't my intention at all, and I apologize if you read it that way. I do think that some folks who aren't people of color feel "Oh, discrimination only happens to other people." And I think this letter's a good reminder that whether it's for your background, your tattoos, your religion, your gender, your education, your socio-economic status, etc, discrimination in some form can touch almost anyone's life. If empathy and a sense of justice aren't enough to get everyone stirred up about discrimination, then perhaps a reminder of its universality is.

debate tonight

The 2nd English-language debate is on tonight at 8:00 pm on CBC (CKWS). Afraid the pols will bore you to tears? ndp.ca has a fun solution: Bingo cards! Every time Paul Martin repeats one of his favorite catchphrases, mark it off on the bingo card. First player to get 5 in a line wins.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Rob records a radio spot

Rob was in the studio Thursday recording a campaign radio ad. It'll be on the airwaves soon, and you can also listen to it here. Got feedback on the spot? Leave us a comment!

Merry Christmas!

Today is Christmas Day for Eastern Orthodox Christians, Ukrainian Catholics, and all other Christians whose faiths follow the Julian calendar. Merry Christmas! Or as we say in Ukrainian -- Kristos Razhdast'sya!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

On the Boxing Day tragedy

The country was rocked by the tragedy in Toronto over Boxing Day, when gunmen "sprayed shots" into a crowd of shoppers downtown, killing a 15-year-old girl and wounding six others. Toronto has seen escalating gun violence over the past year, with an unprecedented 52 gun deaths. I often think that when we hear about such violent tragedies, it's a bit like looking in a mirror. People who already believe that gun violence can be controlled by restricting access to legal guns look at reports of the tragedy, and see a need for stricter gun control. People who already believe that we're "too soft on crime" look at the same reports, and see a need for longer sentences and less parole. Thus, the Liberal and Conservative knee-jerk reactions to Toronto's recent wave of gun violence. This article from the Toronto Star (republished on rabble.ca) reminds us that there's another cause of crime and death that the Liberals and Conservatives aren't talking about. Quote: "Ten years ago, Mike Harris slashed Ontario's welfare rates by 22 per cent, thereby cutting by almost one-quarter the incomes of Ontario's most vulnerable families. The young kids in those vulnerable families are now teenagers. Recently, there's been an upsurge in violent crime by gangs of teenagers. Is it far-fetched to think there might be a connection?" The NDP is the party that's talking about creating educational and work opportunities. The NDP is the party that's talking about putting money toward social programs instead of corporate tax cuts. The Boxing Day tragedy, and the dozens of tragic, violent deaths that preceded it this year, underlines just how vital these issues are. These aren't just planks in a dusty ol' platform. They are literally issues of life and death.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Layton launches 2nd half of the campaign

Jack Layton launched the second half of the campaign today in Ottawa. You can read his speech here. Quote: "In three weeks’ time, people are going to vote to change politics. The kind of change Canadians want and need. Together, we’re going to change politics. Change it for good." It's a really strong speech, & I'd encourage everyone to give it a read. If you have questions or comments on his speech, follow up to this post & we'll discuss. In other election news, CTV.ca has a non-NDP related article that many Kingstonians may find interesting: Prisoners eligible to vote in election. It's only the second time that federal prisoners have been allowed to vote. People who're incarcerated in Kingston won't necessarily be voting in Kingston: "They may vote in the riding where they lived before going to prison, in the riding where a relative lives or where they were convicted." Inmates will vote by special ballot on Jan. 13th.