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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

A poor response to bad job numbers and a weak economy

Posted on September 15, 2014

Principled officials in the federal Finance department will be chagrined to think some people might blame them for the Harper government’s mangled response to the problem of excessively high, job-killing EI payroll taxes.

Announced last week and characterized as a way to reduce the EI cost burden on small businesses, the new policy is a design fiasco that caps job generation, creates an incentive to lay people off and stunts both growth and ambition. So badly structured, it is not possibly the brain-child of Finance officials. It’s a political concoction foisted on them by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Remember the context. Since 2010 – through the four most recent post-recession years – the Canadian economy has exhibited no consistent ability to grow, and job creation has been particularly paltry.

Last month alone, the private sector shed nearly 112,000 jobs while the participation rate in the job market declined yet again. For the entire year just past, the whole Canadian economy produced a meagre 81,000 net new positions, most of them in just one region and 80% part-time. There are some 230,000 more unemployed Canadians today than before the 2008 recession.

Mr. Harper has no specific agenda for economic growth and his record on this score is the worst of any Prime Minister since R.B. Bennett.

Part of the problem is his constantly escalating Employment Insurance payroll taxes. Announced in 2010, these Harper tax hikes raked in an extra $600-million in 2011, plus another $1.2-billion in 2012, then another $1.8-billion in 2013, and another $1.8-billion this year. That’s a grand total of $5.4-billion in higher taxes taken from the pockets of employees and employers in the most job-killing manner possible.

Calculations done by the government’s own Chief Actuary in the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions show the Conservatives are collecting billions of dollars more than necessary to fund employment insurance claims.

With his economic record so poor, the fall sitting of Parliament about to begin and a federal election just around the corner, the purpose of last week’s EI announcement was to show some action. But what a farce!

All employers and employees will still have to pay their full EI premiums at the full rate. That’s money out of their pockets right up front. Then, later on, at tax time – if they’re small enough – they may be able to claim some of those premiums back as a federal tax credit.

This is a complex and convoluted way of trying to confer a benefit on small businesses. There is no linkage to “incremental jobs created”. If you employ more than about 10 employees, you don’t qualify for any tax credit at all. There’s no premium break for employees whatsoever. And what happens if an employer gets to tax-time and finds there are a couple of workers on his/her payroll that put the small business over the threshold for getting the tax credit? Those “extra” jobs are in jeopardy!

Instead of encouraging more jobs, business ambition and economic growth, the way this latest policy is contrived actually puts a cap on job generation in the small business sector and imposes a penalty on those who would strive to do better.

Should there be relief from Mr. Harper’s excessively high payroll taxes? Absolutely! Liberals have been making that argument for at least four years. But the scheme the Conservatives devised last week is deeply flawed and deficient.

Comments to the Banff Forum

Posted on September 12, 2014

Topic: Civility in Canadian Politics – Has it declined in recent years?

Saskatoon, Sk — September 12th, 2014

By Hon Ralph Goodale, PC, MP (Wascana)
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

The short answer is yes, especially in the past nine years. There is less camaraderie. Less good will. Hyper-partisanship seems to trump everything else. Political opponents are seen not just as competitors to be defeated in elections, but moral evil-doers to be destroyed. And the ends will always justify the means.

There are exceptions in Parliament. I think of Michael Chong on this panel. And Peter Stoffer in the NDP. And Bob Rae and Justin Trudeau among my Liberal colleagues and their commitment to what Laurier would call “sunny ways”. But they often get swamped in a scripted sea of abuse. Their good will is repaid with insults and invective.

This damages the dignity and the usefulness of Parliament. That undermines democracy. It consolidates power in the hands of a small autocratic Executive Branch and the zealous, unelected “boys in short pants” who serve in the backrooms of that Executive.

To some extent, the cause of Parliament’s malaise is bad behaviour by individual MPs. But to a larger extent, that bad behaviour is just a symptom of a larger problem. And that larger problem is Parliamentary structure and procedure that is not geared to reflect the best of democracy.

My Leader, Justin Trudeau, has acknowledged that point, and has taken some bold steps to start to change things:

  • regular pro-active disclosure of MP expenses;
  • a more non-partisan, non-patronage and truly independent Senate; and
  • stronger Access-to-Information rules and procedures.

Justin has also refused to respond Attack-Ad for Attack-Ad to the abuse that is thrown his way.

Let me mention six other ideas that merit consideration:

  • a preferential ballot instead of our “first-past-the-post” system;
  • more free votes in the House of Commons;
  • stronger, clearer and real Parliamentary control over government spending;
  • a truly independent Parliamentary Budget Officer;
  • explicit limits on the use of Omnibus Bills and Prorogation;
  • adequate funding, investigative powers and enforcement authority for Elections Canada to root out voter suppression and electoral fraud.

These things could make a tangible difference toward greater civility in politics and better Canadian democracy.

A Weak Economy and a Hapless Government

Posted on September 8, 2014

After last month’s debacle at Statistics Canada over the official job numbers for July, observers might be forgiven for wondering if the most recent figures for August (published last Friday) are accurate. The once-proud agency, long suffering now under a government that doesn’t much believe in data-based decision-making, could ill-afford another hit on its credibility.

But public reaction to the August labour market report quickly moved on to the substance of what it revealed – a struggling economy that simply isn’t generating jobs. Instead of gaining some 10,000 new positions in the past month, as predicted, employment fell by some 11,000.

Despite regular monthly population growth, participation in the labour force continued to decline in August by another 0.1% – meaning that another 21,000 people stopped looking for work. Some of those would have taken normal retirement. Many others just gave up their job search in frustration.

As a result, the August unemployment rate stayed flat at 7.0%, while both the number and percentage of Canadians gainfully at work dropped yet again – more evidence that the economy is not producing jobs at a sufficient pace. Compared to the period in 2008 just before the recession, there are nearly 230,000 more jobless Canadians today.

Some private sector economists call this situation “shocking”. Others say it’s “dismal”. Whatever the descriptor, it’s not good. And the problem seems to be chronic. To paraphrase the Governor of the Bank of Canada, the Canadian job market is a “serial disappointment”.

Looking back a full year, only a meagre 81,000 jobs have been created in this whole country through the past 12 months. More than 80% of them are just part-time, meaning poorer job quality, lower wages and less security.

Most seriously, the largest job losses in August were in the private sector – some 112,000 of them, gone! That’s the worst private sector job-loss record, ever. Public sector employment increased a bit, as did the numbers of people claiming to be self-employed. But good solid private sector jobs went up in smoke.

In the fall of each year, the Government of Canada publishes a mid-term “Fiscal and Economic Update”. It’s due in just a few weeks. Will the Harper government continue to show passive indifference and do nothing – behaving like a hapless spectator, paralyzed by ideology, incapable of influencing the course of events, content to watch jobs deteriorate and disappear? Or will they at least try to be more useful?

If they had the will and gumption, they could roll-back some of their excessive Employment Insurance payroll tax increases which are running up a multi-billion-dollar EI surplus and unnecessarily killing jobs in the process.

They could join the “Team Canada” trade missions, led by provincial Premiers, in a concerted effort to brand and sell more Canadian goods and services abroad.

They could develop a credible environmental framework for resource projects which would earn Canadian energy producers greater access to international markets at better prices.

They could tear down barriers to higher learning and skills, and strengthen homegrown Canadian science and innovation.

They could accelerate, instead of stalling, federal investments in truly transformative public infrastructure to help drive jobs, growth and productivity – as recommended by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Provinces, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge, the Canada West Foundation, the Canadian Council of Chief Executive Officers, the C. D. Howe Institute, and many more.

But don’t hold your breath. This is not a government that lets human need, good advice or hard evidence get in the way of its ideology or partisanship.

Premiers Show Leadership in Void Left by Mr. Harper

Posted on September 1, 2014

I’ve watched a good many Premiers Conferences during my 26 years in Parliament. This year’s get-together in Charlottetown has to rank among the best for both […]

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A Hard Look at Mr. Harper’s Economic Record

Posted on August 25, 2014

When the next federal election rolls around, likely next spring, Stephen Harper says he wants to campaign on his economic record. Well bring it on. That […]

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Solemn Commemoration for Ukrainian-Canadians

Posted on August 22, 2014

The next few days will be filled with extra emotion for the nearly 1.25-million Canadians who trace their family heritage to Ukraine — including about 13% […]

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Was Michael Sona a Solitary Rogue Acting all Alone?

Posted on August 18, 2014

The big political news this past week was the long awaited verdict in the infamous “robocall” trial of Conservative staffer, Michael Sona. He was convicted of […]

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How to make water a consistent prairie asset?

Posted on August 11, 2014

Thunder storms pounded the Regina area this past weekend with more wind and heavy rain. Property damage was significant in places like White City as severe […]

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Harper’s economic policies continue to produce dismal results

Posted on August 8, 2014

In July, a net gain of just 200 jobs – that’s right, two hundred – in this whole country. And all of them part-time. Thank you […]

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Whatever happened to PFRA?

Posted on August 8, 2014

In the aftermath of severe flooding across a big portion of southeastern Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba this summer, a number of prairie people have asked why […]

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