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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.
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 substance and tone.
On healthcare, services and facilities for the elderly, and retirement incomes for middle-class Canadians, the Premiers were right on-target with the insecurities that preoccupy a big portion of Canada’s population all across the country. Provincial leaders were also in synch with decent Canadian values in their support for a Public Inquiry (or some reasonable facsimile) to get definitive answers and action with respect to 1,100 missing or murdered Aboriginal women.
On public infrastructure to help drive jobs, growth and productivity, on energy options to make Canada a clean and sustainable energy super-power, and on a coherent pan-Canadian marketing effort to overcome chronic trade deficits, the Premiers were touching on several elements of a sensible economic growth agenda for the country.
On all these topics, they sounded informed, reasonable and pro-active, but what they lack is a willing federal partner to work with.
In nearly nine years as Prime Minister, Mr. Harper has had only two brief meetings with all the Premiers in the same room at the same time. And on the issues raised in Charlottetown – healthcare, elder-care, pensions, the missing and murdered women, infrastructure, sustainable energy, and a “Team Canada” approach to trade and marketing – Mr. Harper has largely abandoned the field.
There is a void at the top. He shows no interest in cooperative federalism. His solitary, even belligerent style is not conducive to working with others. And clearly, Mr. Harper doesn’t share many of the Premiers’ values or priorities – even though they reflect the views of a big majority of ordinary Canadians.
Before the Premiers even had time to get home from PEI, Mr. Harper had his tightly-scripted Finance Minister deliver a federal “no” on virtually every issue. There will be no federal partnership and certainly no new financial commitment.
Mr. Harper has only one priority, and that is eviscerating the Government of Canada in every way he can. He simply doesn’t believe any government is capable of anything good or valuable. So, he says, it’s best to chop them to bits. His views are likely coloured by the failings of his own inept and ethically-discredited regime which has so bruised and limited Canada over the past nine years.
But our governance doesn’t need to be that bad. The Premiers gave Canadians a glimpse of some greater potential last week in Charlottetown. Weary of ideological agendas, mediocre outcomes and the wedge politics of abuse and division, people are ready for big changes in how Ottawa works and who it works for.
Imagine a federal government ready and willing to be a constructive team player on healthcare, the elderly and pensions.
Imagine a federal government that really wants to understand and tackle the societal issues that contribute to the loss of 1,100 Aboriginal women.
Imagine a federal government determined to make infrastructure investments of a truly transformative magnitude, converting the temporary value of low interest rates into long-term capital assets.
Imagine a federal government ready to work with provinces on that crucial intersection between energy and the environment, thereby helping to win greater global access for undervalued Canadian resources.
Imagine a federal government that marshals the private sector and all levels of government in globally effective “Team Canada” branding and marketing, reversing Canada’s chronic trade deficit and stimulating more jobs and better wages at home.
Only Stephen Harper stands in the way.
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 record is highlighted by some spectacular failures.
Military procurement is one of them — specifically the proposed acquisition of F-35 stealth fighter jets to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s. The botched process started in 2006 and is still nowhere near completion. The plane isn’t even operational and costs have ballooned from $9-billion to close to $50-billion. The Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General have depicted the management of this file as both incompetent and deceitful.
The Temporary Foreign Workers Program is another big Harper government screw-up. That program operated with decent success for more than 30 years until the Conservatives messed it up with glaring instances of sloppy administration, lax enforcement, depressed wages, displaced Canadian workers and mistreated foreigners. The government’s proposed corrections have infuriated both employers and employees, both domestic and foreign.
Another example of the Harper regime failing to get big economic things right is pipelines. A fundamental role of the Government of Canada is to open up markets abroad for Canadian resources and help create responsible and sustainable ways to get those resources to those markets. In the case of western Canadian energy products, we’re suffering multi-billion dollar price penalties every year because Mr. Harper has failed to move the yardsticks a single inch forward on any major pipeline project since he first took power nearly nine years ago.
He also failed on western grain handling and transportation. The grain system Mr. Harper imposed didn’t have enough capacity, nor any surge capability, nor any provision for adverse circumstances (like bad weather). There was no coordination, no transparency, no accountability, no competition, and no realistic legal recourse for captive shippers. Millions of tonnes of grain got stranded. Frustrated global customers just walked away. Mr. Harper’s system cost farmers something over $5-billion last year.
On trade policy more generally, the Conservatives boast about the number of trade deals they’re working on. But only six are fully concluded and implemented, and together they represent just 2% of global GDP. The bigger ones are the better part of a decade away from fruition. And there remains a big difference between just signing deals and actually increasing the trade that gets done. For most of Mr. Harper’s term, Canada has suffered large trade deficits, a situation the Bank of Canada has described as a “serial disappointment”.
On fiscal management, in 2006 Mr. Harper inherited a decade of balanced budgets with annual surpluses of some $13-billion and financial flexibility over the ensuing five years projected at close to $100-billion. But in less than three years, he blew this country’s fiscal security. He overspent by three times the rate of inflation and eliminated all the contingency reserves and prudence factors that had protected Canada against unforeseen trouble. Thus, Mr. Harper put us back into the red again BEFORE, not because of, the recession that arrived in late 2008.
That reckless mismanagement caused the burden of the recession to be much greater than it needed to be. More that $160-billion in new federal debt — Harper debt — was created. That’s close to $20,000 in new Harper debt for every Canadian family.
At the bottom line, close to 240,000 more Canadians are out of a job and looking for work today than before the recession. Five years on, Canada’s economy remains weak and uncertain. Stephen Harper has produced the poorest economic growth results of any Prime Minister since R.B. Bennett in the 1930′s.
Yes, bring it on. It would be a pleasure to campaign on Mr. Harper’s economic record.
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% of Saskatchewan’s population.
At 11:00 o’clock local time this morning, August 22nd, at more than a hundred locations across Canada (including St. Basil’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Regina) historical plaques will be unveiled marking a very sad dimension of Canada’s participation in World War One — that is the arbitrary internment in Canada of thousands of Ukrainian and other eastern European immigrants out of ill-founded fear about their loyalties during that global conflict.
Authorized by an Act of Parliament, the internment was a deeply regrettable abrogation of human rights and civil liberties. Without specific cause, due process or natural justice, people of certain ethnicities were forced into 24 heavy labour camps for the duration of the War, and even two years longer. Once branded “enemy aliens”, their lives, livelihoods and reputations were severely compromised.
Now a hundred years later, the installing of these plaques is an effort to acknowledge, commemorate and educate Canadians about what actually took place in those dark days of fear, suspicion and xenophobia between 1914 and 1918. We like to think such things just don’t happen in Canada, but they did — long before the Charter of Canadian Rights and Freedoms would render them unconstitutional after 1982.
And this internment wasn’t a solitary incident. Ukrainians and other minorities faced another period of irrational victimization in the 1920′s and 30′s when, in the name of patriotism, the Ku Klux Klan got a foothold on the Prairies and actually helped to elect a short-lived government in Saskatchewan. Then there were more internments in World War Two. And let’s never forget the devastating legacy of Indian Residential Schools.
As Mary Haskett reminded us so powerfully, it is vital that such sorry chapters in our history are not glossed over, but remain properly documented and remembered down through the years, so their painful but valuable lessons can be learned and future mistakes avoided.
I am pleased that Sir Wilfrid Laurier, in Opposition during WWI, broke from the wartime “union” government over this issue back in 1917. Fast-forward nearly 90 years, I am also pleased that Prime Minister Paul Martin entered into an Agreement-in-Principle with several Ukrainian-Canadian organizations in 2005 which launched an “acknowledgement, commemoration and education” process to help get Canada to the point we’re at today.
That national agreement was actually signed right here in Regina in the UNF hall. And the initial funding was in my 2005 budget. It was former House of Commons Speaker, Peter Milliken, in 1991 who was the first MP to call for the righting of this historic wrong. And it was former Dauphin MP Inky Mark who presented a Private Member’s Bill to move it forward.
But most of all, it was the dedication, persistence and hard work of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Shevchenko Foundation and other groups and individuals who carried the flame unfailingly to the unveilings taking place today. Thank you and congratulations to all.
Adding to the emotions on this weekend — beyond the internment plaques — will be a host of activities marking the events of 1991 that brought on Ukraine’s Independence. And we are all painfully aware of the tortured course of events since, from the euphoria of the Orange Revolution in 2004 to the despair, violence and loss of life brought on by the unconscionable aggression of Vladimir Putin.
Even as we try to learn from historic errors made in Canada a hundred years ago, we need to be unshakeable in standing with and for the freedom-loving people of Ukraine today. While supporting the country ‘s security requirements, Canada also needs to invest in the institutions and traditions of democratic development and an effective market economy in Ukraine because that is the fertile soil in which enduring freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law can take root and flourish.
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