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Ralph Goodale, MP

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Dear friends,

Thank you for visiting my website. I hope this offers you useful information on the work I am doing as Wascana’s Member of Parliament and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Opposition in the House of Commons.

If you have any questions or comments about any federal program or service, or need help dealing with any department or agency of the Government of Canada, please don’t hesitate to contact my Constituency Office. It is an honour to serve our community.

Ralph

Canadians look for some hope & ambition

Posted on December 15, 2014

Canadian and Provinces FlagsSince his campaign promise in 2011 to benefit primarily wealthier Canadians through an Income Splitting scheme “just as soon as the federal budget is balanced”, Stephen Harper has focused all of his economic attention in that one direction.

The push for Income Splitting has trumped every other policy possibility. For example, important services for veterans have been sacrificed, including the timely treatment of mental health issues. Public safety is another field that’s been shortchanged – in rail, marine and air safety, search-and-rescue, emergency preparedness, environmental protection and food inspection. The list goes on.

$10-billion in community infrastructure investments got postponed. Defence department procurements have been delayed. Federal assets like community pastures across the prairies and the historic tree farm at Indian Head, Sk., have been unceremoniously dumped. Forensic labs, immigration offices, trade services, National Parks – they’ve all been hit. And employment insurance payroll taxes were inflated and are now frozen at artificially high levels.

What was all this for? To position Mr. Harper to claim a surplus so he could impose Income Splitting. As the late Jim Flaherty warned, it’s a costly scheme at $2-billion every year, and it’s unfair because 85% of Canadian households won’t gain a cent. And it does absolutely nothing to stimulate more growth or better employment.

That is Canada’s biggest economic challenge – a growth rate that is far too mediocre, compounded by a federal government that is far too complacent and unambitious.

In a thoughtful essay published just yesterday, Canada’s first Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, noted our economy is just “muddling along” and he made a number of crucial observations:

  • “…the Canadian economy is not firing on all cylinders and we are failing to address major long-term issues…”
  • “…median after-tax incomes for all families (or real GDP per capita) has been virtually flat since 2007…”
  • “…Why are we taking resources out of federal labour market training at a time of weak employment…”
  • “…faster growth is going to require higher investment rates and sustainable public finances…”
  • “…The austerity approach set out in the 2012 federal budget will succeed in generating a balanced budget, but at a cost: slower growth and degraded public services like support for veterans…”

Our country can and should aim so much higher than Mr. Harper’s mediocrity. He holds us back.

Instead of Income Splitting, Canadians would be further ahead with a vigorous plan for investments in community infrastructure and housing; post-secondary learning and skills; research and innovation; smart, clean sustainable energy and resource development; a diversified, more value-added economy; and aggressive global branding and marketing to rebuild a consistent trade surplus for Canada.

These are some of the elements of a better growth agenda – with hope, ambition and hard work, we can regain our economic momentum and rebuild that legitimate expectation of progress among Canadians, from one generation to the next.

Shameful mistreatment of Canada’s veterans

Posted on December 8, 2014

PoppyYes, Julian Fantino’s shambolic performance as Minister of Veterans Affairs has earned condemnation from coast to coast, and he should resign. But he is not the ultimate source of the problem for Canada’s veterans. That shameful distinction rests with Stephen Harper.

Mr. Harper’s government is a one-man show. Mr. Fantino has no influence, no independence of thought or action. He just does what he’s told. That spinelessness – his failure to stand-up to Mr. Harper – is Mr. Fantino’s greatest offence.

Mr. Harper loudly proclaims his affection for the military. He gets his picture taken with lots of people in uniform. He attends many ceremonies, gives speeches and promises monuments and museums. But his actual record on things that matter is a huge contradiction.

As Sir Robert Borden declared a hundred years ago, when he sent young Canadians off to battle in World War One, it is Canada’s sacred obligation to fulfill the covenant it makes with its fighting forces when they are put in harm’s way to defend our values and our way of life.

They have stood ready to give their all. And when they come home, their country must “stand ready” for them. With gratitude and generosity, Canada has a duty to meet their social, economic, physical and psychological needs.

Mr. Harper has fallen way short. Instead of honouring veterans, he has focused exclusively on claiming a balanced budget for 2015 – all to allow him to implement his long-promised Income Splitting scheme. He has sacrificed a great many things on that one alter.

The late Jim Flaherty had the courage to challenge Mr. Harper on Income Splitting. He openly criticized the scheme as too expensive and unfair. It will cost $2-billion every year, and benefit only a small fraction of families, the more wealthy in particular. But 85% of households gain nothing at all. So Mr. Flaherty blew the whistle.

Sadly, Julian Fantino is no Jim Flaherty.

The Vets Minister meekly does Mr. Harper’s bidding with a “bonus” system to reward senior managers in his department, not for better treatment, but for slashing services and staff. Nearly a thousand employees have been fired. That’s about a quarter of those previously providing support to veterans. Nine specialized service centres have been closed.

Over a billion dollars in funding for veterans, as promised by the government and approved by Parliament, was never delivered. The families of thousands of deceased veterans were denied support for dignified funerals. Veterans’ health insurance premiums were doubled.

Over the past decade, more Canadian military personnel have died by suicide (160) than were lost in Afghanistan. Many more have lingering mental health issues, and wait for months or even years to get the psychological help they need. And the Harper government’s response is a pitiful trickle of funding dribbled over the next half century.

To duck a critical Auditor General’s report about his manifold failures, Mr. Fantino went AWOL for a week. Then he failed to show up to explain his department’s spending plans for the coming year. When veterans came to Parliament Hill to protest their mistreatment, he deliberately insulted them. When the spouse of a PTSD sufferer asked for some help, he ran away.

This government dragged vets through the courts for six years trying to claw back their pensions. Now they’re in court again arguing that they don’t owe any special duty to any veteran and that Borden’s solemn pledge was just political hot air.

Altogether, it’s an appalling saga. It’s Stephen Harper who dictated it, and it’s Stephen Harper who must be held accountable.

Disturbing news in the grains industry

Posted on December 5, 2014

agricultureThere have been several unsettling news reports in the past few days about issues affecting the western Canadian grains industry.

In the wake of last year’s multi-billion-dollar fiasco in grain handling and transportation, the Harper government’s “order” to the railways to move certain minimum volumes of grain per week expired last month. It was replaced with a new order, involving less ambitious volumes, lasting until next spring.

Given this year’s more modest crop, there will be a somewhat smaller volume to move this winter and that will take a bit of pressure off the system. But due to widely varying weather conditions through the fall, crop quality is also widely variable – meaning the logistics of assembling grain cars and trains across the prairies will likely be more complex. So we’re not out of the woods yet.

The most recent expert calculations indicate costs and losses from last year’s mess totalled more than $5-billion. Farmers simply cannot afford a repeat of that sorry performance – especially since the fines the government promised for failures to meet the weekly targets seem to be largely rhetorical and unenforceable.

The new order does not reflect the quality variability issue. It does not attempt to achieve any equity among shipping corridors west, east, north and south. The government mentions, but does nothing tangible about the needs of producer-car shippers or short-line rail operators. There is nothing to ensure decent service to domestic grain users.

At the bottom-line, the grain handling and transportation system remains inadequate with little ability to cope with volume surges or adverse weather. Shippers remain captive with no competitive commercial alternatives and no legal recourse when the system fails. And threatened fines, to be paid to the government, have no real impact and are no substitute for liquidated damages payable directly to affected shippers.

In a recent survey by RBC Capital Markets, more than three-quarters of shippers label the rail service they have received recently as just fair or poor. That level of dissatisfaction is way up from less than one-third of shippers who were complaining a year ago. The lingering consequence of transportation failures is the damage done to Canada’s reputation as a reliable global supplier. Some excellent traditional customers for Canadian grain, like Japan, just walked away last winter.

And there are growing signs of another troubling dimension to Canadian unreliability. Customer concerns are rising about defective grain quality issues. High quality and consistency used to be well recognized Canadian strengths. But following drastic cuts and other changes at the Canadian Grain Commission, weaker inspection systems are allowing serious mistakes on protein levels, weights and gluten. Canada’s reputation is taking another hit.

Finally, there’s the news about the government’s secret machinations to dispose of the vandalized remains of the Canadian Wheat Board. Among farmers, views about the CWB differ profoundly. But whether you loved it or hated it, surely the process of changing from the single-desk selling system should be intelligently managed.

Instead, blinded by ideological rage, the Harper government has made no effort to maximize the return to farmers and taxpayers from the Board’s demise.

By eliminating the CWB’s single-desk, the Conservatives acceded to what has been the US government’s Number One demand in its trading relationship with Canada. The Americans disliked the Board because it was their toughest competition. Getting rid of it gives the US a big leg up in global markets.

So what did Canada get in return for this huge trade concession? Absolutely nothing. Mr. Harper totally squandered what could have been a major bargaining chip. Canada gained nothing on guaranteed access to US markets, nothing on insidious “country-of-origin” labelling, nothing on approval of the KeystoneXL pipeline, nothing at all on anything. And that’s just dumb.

Compounding this blundering is the way in which the government is privatizing the CWB.

The process is totally opaque. There’s no transparency or accountability – even though the Board’s assets are derived entirely from its past marketing success on behalf of farmers, back-stopped by a federal financial guarantee. There’s no proper Annual Report or even audited financial statements.

Barring some last minute change, the Harper government seems determined to gift the CWB, free-of-charge, to a US multinational grain corporation. Again, farmers and taxpayers will get nothing in return. And the premium “Canada Brand” in world grain markets will be dead.

Costs of income splitting already adding up

Posted on December 1, 2014

Stephen Harper’s former Finance Minister, the late Jim Flaherty, laid out a devastating critique of Mr. Harper’s ill-conceived Income Splitting scheme. He panned it as too […]

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Probably the worst vets minister ever

Posted on November 24, 2014

Every Remembrance Day at memorial services across the country, the most emotional moment is when the “Veterans Company” marches past the cenotaph. Whether they are younger […]

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Mr. Oliver should have fought for something better

Posted on November 17, 2014

One of the late Jim Flaherty’s best features as Finance Minister was his willingness to push-back against Stephen Harper’s excessive partisanship. Income Splitting was a case […]

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Remembrance Day

Posted on November 10, 2014

I consider November 11th to be one of the most important days of the year. It’s a day to remember all those who have served (and […]

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A reality check on Mr. Harper’s boasts about tax cuts

Posted on November 3, 2014

Stephen Harper likes to portray himself as a great tax cutter. But before Canadians swallow that line, it’s instructive to check the record. As a brand […]

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A “cap” doesn’t hide the unfairness

Posted on October 30, 2014

Within hours of the federal budget last spring, then-Finance Minister, the late Jim Flaherty, caused a flap in his own Conservative Caucus by openly criticizing Stephen […]

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The assailants must not win!

Posted on October 27, 2014

The horror that gripped Canadians last week was pretty much without precedent. In two apparently unconnected incidents – the first on Monday in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu (not […]

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