Wednesday, February 27, 2008

2008 Federal Budget

Congratulations to the federal conservative government, the Finance Minister and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They have tabled an excellent budget considering Canada’s current economic situation. The budget also has the support of the liberals and we can thank the conservatives for that as well. They could have put something in the budget that the liberals could not have supported that may have caused an unnecessary election.

I am still going through the details, but it is likely the most fiscally prudent budget we have seen in over a decade. The budget deficit was reduced and Canadians were provided with a means of saving money through the Tax Free Savings Account, TFSA proposal contained in the budget. It is a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but is being talked about more than anything else. It does not cost the government very much in the short term, but is projected to cost $3 billion annually down the road. Regardless, it is welcome news for Canadians who choose to save and an incentive for others to begin saving. Most importantly, it is tax free and comes with no strings attached.

The liberals managed our economy well and it seems the conservatives are out to prove they too are good stewards of our tax dollars. It almost sounds too good to be true. Regardless, the conservatives did well with this budget and there have been very few complaints. Of course Jack and Gilles went up the hill to fetch????

Lynne Yelich, MP Gets Bad Advice

A few days ago I received a political communications piece with the compliments of conservative Member of Parliament for Blackstrap, Lynne Yelich. I live in the federal constituency of Regina Wascana so this communications by Yelich was widely distributed on behalf of her conservative colleagues in anticipation of a federal election that is more likely off than on.

It is a cheap piece at best. It is on an 8.5 x 11 paper with no color. On the one side it shows a very nice picture of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and reads as follows: “With Conservatives you will keep your $1,200 per year child care benefit. Guaranteed.” Opposite that is a very bad picture of Stéphane Dion, which reads as follows: “Dion voted against the $1,200 child care benefit and will take it away.” Below these two photos it asks, what do you think? It then provides a small form to fill in and this is where it really gets crazy as it reads as follows:

I want to:

 Keep my child care benefit.
 Lose my child care benefit.

You then fill in your contact details; name, address, City/Town, Province, Postal Code and Email and mail it postage free at the taxpayers expense to Lynne Yelich, MP. Now which qualifying family would check the box to lose their child care benefit? Who believes they would lose it if they did check that box? Who believes that Stéphane Dion, the leader of the liberal party, does not support families? Who believes that Stéphane Dion would not honour the child care benefit or some other equivalent form of support for Canadian families if he became Prime Minister?

Maybe the next question will be:

 Keep your home
 Lose your home

If politicians ask the voters enough stupid questions the voters may begin to wonder just who is stupid. This communication piece by Lynne Yelich, MP was a waste of taxpayers’ money and an insult to the intelligence of Saskatchewan voters. I know Lynne Yelich is a much better person than this communication piece would suggest. It leaves me wondering who gave her such bad advice.

The Case of Neelam Vir

This is the text of my Letter to the Editor of the Toronto Star

Your coverage of the charges regarding Neelam Vir and the allegations that she threatened a member of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s staff is at a minimum very interesting. I have followed the Star’s editorials on this issue and I am left with the feeling there is something not known and not reported.

As the matter is before the courts I respectfully will not make more of this issue than is known to this point. Regardless, some facts are interesting to point out. Why is the well-educated Neelam Vir not employed in the field of her education? Why would anyone send a reported 200 emails to a Premier in a six-month period? Is it possible that foreign trained professionals are not being treated fairly in Canada? I very much doubt that is the case. Canada has been a land of opportunity for immigrants since confederation. That is who we are.

I was interested in the Star’s staff reporter, Prithi Yelaja’s comments in her editorial dated February 26, 2008. She said, “Vir’s tale starts with the typical immigrant story of struggle and a quest for belonging.” That statement by Prithi Yelaja does nothing to contribute to solutions for immigrants and only makes resident Canadians wonder if something is wrong with the current situation regarding new immigrants to this great land of opportunity.

Finally, I trust that calm minds will prevail regarding this issue. It needs to be settled without needlessly aggravating those who are otherwise reasonably comfortable as they are. My grandparents came to this country about a hundred years ago from England. They too were immigrants by the last name Birkbeck. The Birkbeck families have done very well here in Canada and I wish the same for all immigrants.

Canada is a great country, but it isn’t perfect. As for Neelam Vir, I can only hope that we can all learn from her particular situation.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Canadian Voters

Are the pollsters and the media misleading Canadians? Well, I don’t think they are intentionally misleading Canadians, but the public does focus on the issues the pollsters and media bring to the forefront. The issues are the environment, health care, the war in Afghanistan and the economy and about in that order according to Canadians if we believe the pollsters.

I am not sure it is that simple, but these are about the only issues we hear about coming out of Ottawa. The Stephen Harper government is not fairing very well on any of these issues, which accounts for why his government is sitting at about the same support as they did at the last federal election. The manufacturing sector is hurting in Ontario and increased government spending and a weakening Canadian economy, due in large part to the floundering US economy, does not allow the federal government to bail Ontario out of their failing economy.

The federal conservatives need to win vote rich Ontario if they are to win a majority government, but the pollsters have them trailing the liberals in Ontario. The liberals have wisely refrained from defeating the government on votes of non-confidence, which would trigger an election. Canadian voters are not eager for an election and there is more in their wisdom on this point than the media and pollsters seem to understand.

The clear expression of the hearts and minds of Canadian voters is only heard and understood during and after an election. It is only when millions of Canadian voters express their political feelings at the polls do we ever really understand what they are feeling and thinking on all the issues.

If the Stephen Harper federal conservative government simply gets on with providing sound government and leaves the election call to opposition parties or the four year rule Harper introduced then Canadian voters may just hand them a majority government. The media and pollsters, along with the political parties, may attempt to manipulate the issues they want Canadian voters to focus on, but at a federal election the voters may prove them wrong. In the end, Canadian voters will clearly define the issues at the next federal election.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Harper wants Election

The ongoing foolishness in the House of Commons is only contributing to the reasons why I don’t hold a membership in any political party. Currently, there are three important issues our politicians are attempting to address on behalf of all Canadians. They are the war in Afghanistan, the economy and the crime legislation. Progress on these issues is pitifully slow. More importantly, the way in which the government is handling these issues is unsettling to all Canadians.

The House of Commons is incapable of arriving at solutions that secures the support of the House of Commons regarding these important matters. Rather, the debate rages over whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper can engineer a federal election. Why Harper wants to burden Canadians with an expensive election they don’t want is beyond me.

Harper backed himself in a corner when he laid claim to having elections on four-year cycles. In a minority parliament the opposition historically has brought down a government on the budget, which is considered a vote of non-confidence in the government. Now Stephen Harper is choosing to declare almost anything a non-confidence vote in an attempt to provoke the opposition into defeating his government and forcing an election.

His latest gig is an attempt to provoke an election by demanding the Senate rubber stamp the government’s crime legislation. In so doing he has only added credibility to the Senate by exposing how the Senate is independent from the House of Commons and is there to assure that legislation is given a thorough review before it is passed back to the House of Commons for final approval and passage into law. Stephen Harper continues to ignore and disrespect the process of Parliament and the Senate. He seems to have no respect or concern for any process or anyone who chooses not to agree with him. Canadian voters seem to be aware that Harper is a man to be held in check and giving him a majority government would be hazardous at best.

The conservatives and liberals are fairly close in recent polls and an election is most likely to give us yet another minority government. Even if that is not the case, most Canadians seem quite satisfied with the current balance of power in the House of Commons and are more inclined to support Stephen Harper’s plan of elections every four years. The failure of the conservative government to deliver good government rests on Stephen Harper’s shoulders. We have a minority conservative government that seems more interested in having another election, which will cost Canadian taxpayers millions, than they are in providing good government. Harper can try and blame the opposition parties, but I don’t think Canadians are buying that argument. He is finding that it is a hell of a lot easier in opposition and if he doesn’t get it together he will be back in opposition and we will never hear from him again.

Finally, if I were in opposition I would do everything within the rules of parliament to avoid causing an election over a non-confidence vote. If Stephen Harper wants an election then let him call it at his own peril.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Canadian Wheat Board

Isn’t it interesting how government’s reach so far away from home to find people they feel are best positioned to fill government appointments? Is no one in Canada qualified? The most recent appointment announced by Gerry Ritz, Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), is that of Ian White. Ian White is not out of this world, but from the other side of the world. He is an Australian who has most recently been serving as the Managing Director and Chief Executive of Queensland Sugar which has it’s corporate office operating out of Brisbane, Australia.

You can read Ian White’s bio which is on Queensland Sugar’s website at and decide for yourself what you think of this appointment. At least he should come to this appointment without any bias on the issue of the CWB, but he will soon learn that he will do whatever the Harper conservative government wants him to do or he will be fired. The conservative government fired the former President of the CWB, Adrian Measner and Ian White will suffer the same fate if he doesn’t get it done the way the Harper government wants it done. In other words, he may go down under.

I am not a strong proponent of the status quo regarding the CWB, but it is time the politicians backed away from this issue and let someone make decisions that is in the best interests of Canadian farmers and not the ideology of politicians. Ian White may be the right man for the job if he uses a little sugar and honey to get it done rather than the bulldog style the conservative government has sometimes employed. It may be that Ian White will bring some new ideas to the issue of the CWB and that would be good for farmers. On the other hand, if the sole purpose of his appointment is to execute the Harper government’s agenda regarding the CWB then I expect the CWB controversy will continue as it has in the past.

Congratulations Mr. White and welcome to Canada. In the interests of all farmers I wish you every success.