Skip to main content

Ralph Goodale, MP

Search ralphgoodale.ca

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

Probably the worst vets minister ever

Posted on November 24, 2014

Poppies on the granite war monumentEvery 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 people who saw action just recently in places like Afghanistan or 90-year-olds who survived the WW2 or veterans of all the other campaigns in between, they provoke spontaneous respect and admiration. They are, after all, genuine heroes. The crowds break into loud and sustained applause.

Within our free society, we can and do have vigorous disputes about the foreign and defence policy issues that resulted in all these valiant Canadians being sent into harm’s way in various theatres of war down through the years. Such debate is what a democracy is all about – that’s what our Canadian Forces go to fight for.

But all such arguments aside, once our troops are in the heat of battle, all Canadians pray for their safety, marvel at their skill and courage, mourn their losses and anxiously await their return. We all know we have a sacred covenant to honour in the aftermath of war.

On this latter point, among the public, there is no disagreement whatsoever. Our returning military personnel and veterans have stood ready to give their all, and when they come home, their country must “stand ready” for them – to meet their social, economic, physical and psychological needs. All Canadians expect their government to respond with gratitude and generosity.

That’s why it’s so difficult to fathom the bizarre on-going misbehaviour of Stephen Harper’s Veterans Affairs Minister, Julian Fantino. His antics, including several personally insulting encounters with veterans and their families, are a major drag on the government’s credibility.

Most recently, Mr. Fantino couldn’t justify his department’s failure to utilize more than $1.1-billion which Parliament had expressly approved for programs and services for veterans. For all the government’s loud budget promises, the money never got out the door.

In Finance department language, that $1.1-billion “lapsed”. The hapless Mr. Fantino seems to think he still has access to it, but he doesn’t. Lapsed funds from all departments go back into the central treasury and are largely applied at year-end against the government’s deficit. In other words – by accident, design or incompetence – the money was used to help balance the books.

Think what might have been accomplished for returning soldiers and veterans if these funds had been utilized as Parliament intended. The nine offices providing specialized services to veterans across the country might not have closed. Financial assistance for dignified funerals might have been provided to the families of thousands of deceased Vets who were denied such help.

Veterans’ health insurance premiums perhaps didn’t need to double. Pensions could have been improved. The Veterans Independence Program might have been enhanced. Some returning soldiers might not have been discharged just before they could qualify for benefits. A vigorous effort to detect and deal pro-actively with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder could have been launched years ago.

Instead, yesterday, just before the Auditor General is due to publish a critique of his performance, Mr. Fantino announced a small mental health initiative representing only a fraction of his lapsed funding. It’s obviously a last-minute manoeuvre to deflect the flak he is getting.

One leading advocate for veterans, Michael Blais, called the initiative “damage control” in the “toxic” relationship Mr. Fantino has created. Former Veterans Ombudsman Pat Stogran dismissed it as more “rhetoric” and “empty promises”, not really worth listening to.

Mr. Harper and his Minister have a big credibility problem.

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 in point.

Mr. Harper trotted it out as a hypothetical campaign promise during the 2011 election, to be honoured at some future date after the federal books had been balanced. Whether Mr. Flaherty disliked the idea from the beginning is hard to tell, but in his latter days in the Finance department he didn’t mince words.

He openly challenged Income Splitting as too costly and distinctly unfair because it would benefit “some parts of the Canadian population a lot and other parts of the Canadian population not at all.” Mr. Flaherty pushed back.

It is crucial for Finance Ministers to be able to do that. They are among the few who can speak truth to all-too-powerful Prime Ministers. Their authority in Finance can only be used sparingly, but when it’s needed it should be exercised.

In his final telling criticisms of Income Splitting, Mr. Flaherty opened the door to principled reconsideration. But as soon as he was gone, Stephen Harper slammed that door – right in Joe Oliver’s face. And without a peep of protest from the new Minister. He is there, apparently, just to do Mr. Harper’s bidding.

Income Splitting will cost the federal treasury about $2-billion every year. That’s a lot of money. The economy remains shaky. Revenues are uncertain, as tumbling oil prices amply demonstrate. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says a “tax expenditure” of this magnitude risks re-creating deficits. That’s no doubt one of the things Jim Flaherty worried about.

He would also know only too well that to make room for that $2-billion per year, he imposed hard budget cuts in such areas as services to returning soldiers and veterans, maritime search and rescue, forensic labs, immigration offices, trade offices, emergency preparedness, National Parks, the Census, employment insurance, social benefit appeals, environmental protection, Aboriginal education, public infrastructure … and more. Mr. Flaherty would not want his “savings” to be squandered on a bad idea.

Income Splitting will help fewer than 15% of Canadian households – more than 85% get left out. Single moms and dads, parents with similar incomes within the same tax bracket, those on low incomes, those without children or whose kids are at the expensive post-secondary level – get nothing from Income Splitting. And among those few who will benefit, the biggest winners are the most wealthy. That’s what Jim Flaherty warned against, and it hasn’t been fixed.

Perhaps worst of all, Income Splitting misses the target entirely on Canada’s most pressing economic problem and that’s the lack of substantial, sustained economic growth. By the Conservatives’ own figures, after the implementation of this misguided scheme, the Canadian economy will slow down. They are projecting a shrinking economic growth rate in each of the next five years.

Surely it would be more effective and more prudent to invest now in the drivers of greater growth – like transformative public infrastructure, higher learning and skills, science and innovation – which would boost the economic prospects of all Canadians, while also reinforcing the fiscal integrity of all levels of government.

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 who are serving right now) in dangerous places around the world on behalf of Canada and the freedom, democracy, respect for human rights, diversity and pluralism, and the rule of law for which this country stands.

We salute the skill and valour of all the Canadian Forces – women and men, past and present. We commend their triumphs. And we mourn those who died. We stand in awe of their sacrifice.

2014 marks a hundred years from the fateful beginnings of World War One. And 70 years from the defiant Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy. We remember Korea, the Cold War, Suez and 50 years of peacekeeping. We remember the Balkans, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Libya and now Iraq.

Most recently, here at home on our own soil, the tragic deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo are freshly seared into our memory.

Whether it’s the losses from a century ago or just a few days ago – we WILL remember them. And we must do more.

Beyond the powerful emotions of November 11th, to truly honour those who fought and those who died, we must fulfill the solemn covenant that a country makes with its fighting forces when they are sent into 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, to meet their needs – socially, economically, physically and psychologically. Our sense of gratitude and generosity must not fail. We have much work yet to do to honour Canada’s obligations to its Veterans.

And we must keep the faith! Whether it’s the Nazis in the 1940’s or terrorists in 2014, our foes have always had a common grim objective. They seek to undermine the way we live. They want to embed fear in our hearts and minds. They want us to be intimidated – to think differently about our surroundings and our fellow citizens, to forget who we are and what Canada stands for.

We must never succumb to that fear. Yes, we can draw some big lessons from recent tragedies. We’ll learn, and make effective adjustments. But we must not turn Parliament into a bunker or Canada into a police state. If we erode our rights and freedoms … if we betray our values … if we compromise on the way we want to live in this peaceful and welcoming democracy, then the bad guys win.

We won’t let that happen. We must not and we will not give way on those very qualities of heart, mind and soul that make us different from our foes. Echoing from Flanders a century ago to the National War Memorial in Ottawa just this past October come the immortal words of John McCrae:

“…if ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.”

Rest easy, dear soldier.

We shall keep Canadians safe. And we shall keep Canada, Canada!

Lest we forget.

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 […]

Read more

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 […]

Read more

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 […]

Read more

Mr. Harper’s economic view is too narrow

Posted on October 20, 2014

Last week, as world petroleum prices tumbled, triggering a slump in stock markets, a lower Canadian dollar and renewed warnings about government revenues, there was a […]

Read more

About that “catastrophe” in the House of Commons…

Posted on October 14, 2014

Media reports last week revealed serious structural defects in the ornate stonework and stained glass windows that crown the House of Commons chamber like a cathedral […]

Read more

Parliament should pass Senate bill on bus driver safety

Posted on October 10, 2014

With the support of transit employees, their unions, municipalities and other transit operators, police officers, the Canadian Urban Transit Association and others, I have spent the […]

Read more

Parliamentary budget office trashes Conservative EI scheme

Posted on October 9, 2014

The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) released a report today that makes a sad joke of the way the Harper government is handling Employment Insurance (EI) payroll […]

Read more

Subscribe to Goodale Commentaries

For a weekly commentary on important public issues, order "Ralph Goodale's Report," sent to you directly by email

Contact Us

REGINA
310 University Park Drive
Regina, SK S4V 0Y8
(306) 585-2202
goodale@sasktel.net

MEDIA
(613) 295-1761
scott.bardsley@parl.gc.ca