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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 year of growing momemtum and substance

Posted on April 14, 2014

P1000222cropIt was exactly one year ago today that Justin Trudeau was elected Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Following a campaign that opened the Party to greater public involvement than ever before, more than 105,000 Canadians cast leadership ballots.  Justin earned an overwhelming 80% of that support, igniting a fresh sense of excitement and rejuvenation in Liberal ranks.

A year later, the positive mood continues.  Membership sales and fund-raising have never been better.  Thousands of new volunteers are being recruited and trained in local constituency associations from coast to coast.  Excellent candidates are contesting nominations.  Platform ideas are being refined, most especially at a vigorous national policy convention in February.  The shape and depth of a potential new government are becoming more evident.

Public polling over the past year shows Liberals have moved from third place to first in popular support.  Most important are the numbers indicating lots of growth potential still to be realized.  In recent by-elections, Liberals have done consistently well — including encouraging outcomes across the West in places like Calgary-Centre, Provencher and Brandon-Souris.

Justin Trudeau has been front-and-centre driving this momentum.  He has devoted an important amount of his time to meeting face-to-face with Canadians in their home communities, outside of Ottawa’s artificial political “bubble”.  Since last April, he has attended nearly 500 events in hundreds of different places, touching every corner of Canada.

Smart and tough, he is showing remarkable stamina and the capacity for hard work.  He’s also durable enough to withstand the worst attack-ads and personal abuse thrown at him incessantly by Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair.  The petty vitriol flowing from both the Conservatives and the NDP is actually a great tribute to Justin’s strength and standing.  He has them spooked.

More than any other contemporary Leader, Justin Trudeau is able to engage and motivate Canadians.  He rallies people to reach beyond the grinding mediocrity of the past eight years — to strive for excellence around an exciting new vision of what this country has the capacity to become.

One branch of that vision is sharply focused on sustained and sustainable economic growth to bolster the well-being of the middle-class and all those who are working so hard just to get there.

Their incomes have been stagnant for far too long.  Three-quarters don’t have access to employer-sponsored pension plans.  Two-thirds of middle-class parents worry that they won’t be able to afford post-secondary education for their children, and their kids may not be able to do as well as they did.  For young Canadians, there are 200,000 fewer jobs today than before the recession, five long years ago.   That’s just not good enough for Canada’s future.

Another branch of Justin’s vision is about a thriving democracy.

That’s why he’s fighting Stephen Harper’s “Unfair” Elections Act — because it will disenfranchise thousands of voters, suppress others, muzzle the ability of Elections Canada to promote democracy, and cripple the investigation and prosecution of electoral fraud.

Strengthening democracy is also the reason why Justin set the template for pro-actively disclosing MP expenses (which other political Parties and even the House of Commons administration have since adopted).  And his non-partisan approach to the Senate actually accomplished more genuine Senate reform in one morning than anyone else has been able to achieve in their entire careers.

And one final point, in dealing with all these issues, Justin is consistently hopeful, positive and optimistic.

Politics shouldn’t be a sour competition among unhappy people about who can make voters angrier.  It should, instead, be about who and what to vote FOR, and the greater country we can build together for our children.

That attitude is Justin Trudeau’s greatest advantage.

Yogi Berra, Albert Einstein & moving grain

Posted on April 8, 2014

As I watched the workings of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture yesterday — going clause-by-clause through the Harper government’s “emergency” legislation on grain transportation — I was reminded of two famous quotations.  One by baseball slugger Yogi Berra.  The other by the brilliant Albert Einstein.

Yogi once observed, “It’s like deja-vu, all over again.”  And Einstein is often quoted as saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.”

Almost exactly a year ago, in belated response to its own Review Panel on Rail Freight Services, the Harper government rammed through Parliament what was then-known as Bill C-52.  It gave anyone who ships anything by rail the right to have a “Service Level Agreement” with their railway.  If they cannot negotiate one, they’re entitled to get one arbitrated.

But that’s where C-52 stopped.  It failed to define what “service levels” the railways would be expected to deliver.  It set out no way to measure actual performance.  And there were no penalties or damages payable to farmers if/when rail services fail.

The government was warned that such vagueness would not solve the problem of deficient rail services.  The railways still have undue market power.  Their customers are still largely captive shippers, with no competitive transportation alternatives and few legal remedies.  And that severe, on-going imbalance played a big role in the massive grain transportation crisis this past winter which is costing prairie farmers something approaching $8-billion.

The government could have headed-off some of that loss by amending C-52 as proposed a year ago.  But instead, every Conservative MP just swallowed the Party line and followed the dictates of the Prime Minister’s Office.  Every idea to strengthen the position of shippers and farmers was voted down.

So fast-forward to yesterday.  Parliament is again considering another Bill — this one called C-30 — to deal with rail transportation deficiencies because the one from last year has completely failed.

Once again, there is no definition in this new law of what “rail service levels” should be.  There is no objective way to measure performance or failure.  No damages payable to farmers.  There’s only a promise to create regulations to deal with some of these things at some future date, maybe; and any such regulations would only be temporary, expiring in just two years.

At the Committee meeting yesterday, Conservative MPs voted unanimously AGAINST:

  • greater clarity about farmers’ grain delivery rights;
  • transparency in how grain companies calculate the deductions they make from farmers’ grain cheques;
  • any safeguards for producer-car shippers and short-line rail operators;
  • a consensus definition of railway service obligations;
  • reciprocal remedies applicable both ways when obligations are not fulfilled; and
  • any further requirement for the railways to move faster in clearing this year’s backlog.

To be clear, these are the things the Conservatives voted down (including everything requested by the Province of Saskatchewan) — just as they did a year ago.

In one small concession, the government gave the Canadian Transportation Agency the optional power to order the railways to pay “expenses” caused by a service failure.  But any such payment is not mandatory or automatic.  It may only be available to shippers (not farmers).  There’s no definition of what a “service failure” is or what “expenses” would be covered.  There’s no timeline for the actual payment of compensation.  And it would obviously take a lengthy and expensive legal proceeding to access it.

Yogi Berra and Albert Einstein might have chuckled through the predictable insanity of yesterday’s Committee meeting.  But farmers won’t likely be laughing.

New elections law smacks of vote rigging

Posted on April 7, 2014

Ballot boxMore and more Canadians are deeply suspicious of Stephen Harper’s so-called “Fair Elections Act”, known as Bill C-23.  On the surface, it sounds like a lot of technical stuff that would only interest political science policy wonks, not the general public.  That’s what Mr.  Harper is counting on.

But look again — this Bill will disenfranchise some voters, suppress others, put a government gag-order on Elections Canada to shut them up about issues like electoral fraud, deprive those who investigate election-related crimes of the modern powers they need, and force them to come under the wing of a government department rather than reporting independently to Parliament.

Some 200 recognized experts in Parliamentary governance and democracy have publicly condemned this corrupting legislation.  They come from virtually every institution of higher learning in the country, and across the entire political spectrum.  The current Chief Electoral Officer, Mark Mayrand, is sharply opposed, as is the Commissioner of Elections, Yves Côté, who is in charge of investigations and enforcement at Elections Canada.  Their predecessors have also joined the criticism, together with provincial election administrators.  And a chorus of editorial writers in all the major media from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

Perhaps the sternest rebuke came last week from former Auditor-General Sheila Fraser.  She called Bill C-23 “an attack on democracy” which further undermines the independence and integrity of public interest watchdogs — like Elections Canada is supposed to be.

As the reaction grows louder and universally negative, there’s not a single soul — outside Mr. Harper’s inner-circle — who will actually stand-up and defend this Bill.  And remember the types who have populated that inner-circle recently … Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin, Irving Gerstein, Bev Oda, Peter Penashue, Dean Del Mastro, Bruce Carson, Arthur Porter, Dimitri Soudas, etc.  There’s not much among them to inspire trust and confidence.

The responsibility, however, rests not with such minions, but entirely with Stephen Harper.  He’s the boss.  Bill C-23 is his concoction.

Before he was first elected, Mr. Harper’s only job in the private sector was running an ultra right-wing lobby group which sought to inject big money into election campaigns, outside all the rules, to pervert the outcomes.  He wanted no limits and no accountability.  Elections Canada stopped him.  He took them to court in a famous case known as “Harper vs. Canada” and he lost.

Ever since, Mr. Harper has seen Elections Canada as an enemy.  He has called them “jackasses” (his term, not mine).  And he incessantly attacks the rules that are intended to ensure an open, level playing-field with fair and honest campaigning and voting.

Just look at his record in office.  After he came to power in 2006, he spent five years trying to dodge an investigation into more than a million dollars in illegal Conservative campaign spending and wrongful rebate claims.  He and his faithful mouthpiece, Pierre Poilievre, denied all wrong-doing.  But after a police raid on Conservative headquarters, charges were laid, the Party pled guilty, a conviction was entered and the biggest penalty possible was imposed.

Since then, there have been robocalls, voter suppression and electoral fraud.  One Conservative operative is already being prosecuted while investigations continue.  In a parallel case heard last year in the Federal Court of Canada, there was an explicit finding that electoral fraud was, in fact, committed in several ridings in the last election, and the most likely source of the data used was the highly-secretive Conservative computer system.

Add to this the electoral violations that forced Mr. Harper’s hand-picked candidate in Labrador (Penashue) to resign in disgrace, and the laying of four charges against the Prime Minister’s former Parliamentary Secretary (Del Mastro), and the admissions of several other Conservative Caucus members of other irregularities.  What emerges is a deeply troubling pattern.  All on Mr. Harper’s watch.  All right under his nose.

If Bill C-23 is forced into law, it will only become easier for Conservative “big money” to pervert future elections, for the poor, the disabled, the elderly, rural people, new citizens and Aboriginals to lose the ability to vote, for electoral fraud to be committed with impunity with no real fear of investigation or prosecution, and for the Conservatives to silence Elections Canada as an advocate for democratic rights.

Surely such manipulation has no place in modern Canadian democracy.

March 31st – not a good day for Canada

Posted on March 31, 2014

So it’s the last day of March.  Temperatures in Saskatchewan reached a brutal 51-below on the day this month began, so we’re all hoping it will […]

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Harper government admits grain crisis is costing $8 billion

Posted on March 27, 2014

In the new grain handling and transportation legislation unveiled yesterday by the Harper government (Bill C-30), there is nothing to provide immediate help to long-suffering prairie […]

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Time to push for more community infrastructure, not less!

Posted on March 23, 2014

Last Friday was the first full day of spring in Regina. A bit of the winter’s Arctic vortex returned. It was snowing with a nasty wind-chill. […]

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Farmers deserve an honest & level playing field

Posted on March 17, 2014

Fifteen hundred rural reeves and councillors from across Saskatchewan held their annual meeting in Regina last week. No topic was hotter than grain handling and transportation. […]

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CP Rail says there’s nothing to complain about!

Posted on March 10, 2014

Over the past several weeks, I’ve frequently called on the Harper government to take emergency action to ease this winter’s massive backlog in grain transportation and […]

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Harper Conservatives feeble in grain crisis

Posted on March 7, 2014

After months of fumbling indifference, the Harper government today tried to concoct the appearance of “concrete” action to alleviate the western grain transportation crisis. But what […]

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Grain transportation and a dsyfunctional Parliament

Posted on March 4, 2014

Some people say “democratic reform” is a pretty obscure topic—all that academic stuff about politics and the rules by which Parliament is supposed to function.  Who […]

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