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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.
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.
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 committing “election fraud” in the Guelph constituency in 2011, and is now awaiting his sentence.
Sona was accused and found guilty of participating in an elaborate scheme to prevent voters in that year’s federal election from casting ballots against the Harper government. This perversion of democracy took place when some 7,000 eligible voters received automated “robocalls” on election day telling them, falsely, that their poll locations had been changed at the last minute.
Those phone messages were lies, and the only thing the 7,000 voters had in common was their intention NOT to vote Conservative. The attempt to suppress their votes — i.e., election fraud — was obvious.
That Michael Sona was convicted was no great surprise. What is surprising — and troubling — is the clear and common view among the trial Judge, the prosecutor and the defence counsel that Sona was not likely a solitary miscreant off on a romp of his own, but must have had some help.
This contradicts the Conservative line that Sona acted alone. Even though he was one of their most faithful soldiers, his Party quickly threw him “under the bus” to take all the blame all by himself. But is that credible? The Defence, the Crown and the Judge all think not.
Furthermore, in a separate court case last year, a Judge of the Federal Court hearing other robocall evidence made the explicit finding that election fraud did, in fact, occur in a number of places in the 2011 campaign, and the most likely source of the information used to identify susceptible voters was the Conservative Party’s massive and highly secretive database.
So who could get access to that database? And how? What was the system for skimming off the names to be misled? Who devised the technology? Was the system hacked? Has any such hacking been reported to police and investigated?
Why did one of Sona’s Conservative colleagues have to get an immunity agreement from the Crown before he testified — immunity from what? Why did another key player in the Conservative campaign refuse even to be interviewed by Elections Canada, and then suddenly moved to Kuwait?
Troubling questions call for answers, but they won’t be forthcoming from the Party brass who maintain that Sona was just a devious one-man show run amock. So the burden of getting to the bottom of this affair and protecting the integrity of our democracy falls to Elections Canada.
But wait, the Harper Conservatives have just changed the Elections Act. The power to investigate election fraud is no longer vested in Elections Canada (an agency that reports to Parliament). Instead, it now comes under the wing of the Department of Justice (an integral part of the government). Those who carry the investigative responsibility have a steep hill to climb to demonstrate their independence and their unfettered determination to protect the public interest.
And furthermore, the investigators still don’t have the power, requested by Elections Canada but withheld by the government, to compel reluctant witnesses to disclose what they know about bad behaviour. That power could make a difference in dealing with someone seeking an immunity deal or considering a quick trip to Kuwait.
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