Is Conservative Gov’t abandoning most vulnerable veterans?

Click for CTV item.

Click for CTV item.

It appears that the Conservative Government of Stephen Harper, deliberately or inadvertently, has abandoned some of the men and women who, while risking their lives for this country, have been badly wounded mentally or physically or both.

How?

Well, a few months after the Conservative Party was elected in January, 2006, following up on a campaign promise, they passed the new Canadian Veterans Charter or Bill of Rights into federal law on April 4th of that year.

In fairness to the previous Liberal Government, however, consultations had been ongoing for a number of years. As well, as I recall, there was much fanfare at the time of the implementation because all three main political parties voted in favour saying changes had been long overdue.

So, if no excuses, how can we account for the fact that a political party that was pro-military and a government that has increased military spending over the last seven years by at least $5 billion dollars (even after reductions), is now short-changing our veterans? I mean, how much of that increase is actually going towards veterans programs and services – or is it all going to the Department of Defence?

Regardless of where the money is going, the Veteran’s Charter appears to be a disaster for the most vulnerable. Check out the Ombudsman Report (H/T CTV), particularly the summary on pages 8-10:

  1. There are inadequate supports for veterans trying to transition to a civilian career;
  2. There are insufficient financial supports for veterans once they reach 65; and
  3. There are insufficient lifetime financial allowances because pensions been replaced with lump sum payments.

For example, regarding # 2 and 3, Dan Scott (H/T JNW) was injured by an anti-personnel land mine in Afghanistan in 2010. He lost two organs and injured another. So, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize he is going to require health care services and financial assistance for the rest of his life.

Of course, Scott had thought he could count on a veteran’s lifetime pension because that is the way it has been for the last hundred years. I mean, my grandmother told me she received a veteran’s survivor’s pension after my grandfather was killed in 1917 – a very modest pension she collected until her death in 1960.

Yet, for Scott’s dedication and commitment to his country, his country sent him a cheque in the mail for $42,000.

Now, think about that for a moment. Imagine, instead of being injured serving his country, Scott had received his injuries in a car accident at home. What do you suppose his pay out would be from his insurance company? Certainly not what he got. More likely one or two million.

There are, unfortunately, many more such examples. Which means, the verb abandoning is right on the money.

The crux of the matter is, then, that since citizens who vote conservative tend to respect their military, it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that this issue could lose the current government their majority in 2015.

We honoured our veterans yesterday. Let’s also honour them tomorrow with a Bill of Rights they can rely on.

[...]

Update: Wednesday, November 13th: Here is a National Post column by Shaun Francis about doing more for our military than wearing a poppy on Remembrance Day. It touches on many of the issues raised here. If things are not as they seem, the PMO should get out front of this matter and make sure the problems are corrected now.

Political scandals in Canada made worse by media & partisan nastiness

What do NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, PM Harper, Senator Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright have in common? They are human beings and, as a result of that mutual humanity, they make mistakes.

As do we all!

So, how does the media, the general public and the blogosphere respond when Mulcair, Harper, Duffy and Wright try to correct mistakes or misunderstandings?

Well, if comments on media websites, partisan blogs and Twitter are an example, it is with judgmental sanctimonious nastiness.  And, in my opinion, it is the extent of that nastiness that is turning Canadians away from political blogs and electoral politics in droves.

For example, take the discussion section following media opinion columns.  Some commenters go on and on about “PM Harper this” or “PM Harper that,” as though he was responsible for everything that goes on in the Canadian government. He is the head of the governing party and, as such, the head of the Executive Branch. He does not administer the huge federal public service, contrary to what those with “Anti-Harper Government” derangement syndrome may think — any more than Jean Chretien or Paul Martin did.

However, it is not only progressive and liberal partisanship that is to blame. Conservative government supporters are now being nasty as well, particularly with what I will call an “anti-politician” or “holier than thou” attitude. In fact, the arrogance and entitlement are beginning to resemble the hubris that nearly destroyed the federal Liberal party (e.g.,  this post at Maggies Bear). In fact, given such nastiness, it really makes you wonder why anyone would decide to run for political office in this day and age given what a thankless job it has become.

Which brings me to Mulcair’s current so-called scandal caused when he tells the truth as he sees it.  How bizarre that he is being blamed for the continuing corruption in Quebec because he didn’t report the bribe he received those many years ago. How was he to know the extent of the corruption? Should he have disrupted his political and family life on the basis of his single experience? What if he had been wrong?

So, now Mulcair tells the truth and he is being called hypocritical and at fault for what someone else did. I don’t think so. It is those who are being sanctimonious who are the hypocrites. Because, yes, hindsight is 20/20.

Now, to the Senator Mike Duffy case.  Contrary to what a couple of CTV journalists claim, Duffy admitted he made mistakes when submitting his residence expenses. Even Deloitte and Touche said the Senate rules were hard to understand.  So, Duffy apologizes for his mistakes and pays back the $90,000 he was overpaid.

Are his apology and repayment acknowledged? Oh yes, by continuing to harass him. Then, it is found out that a friend in the PMO, Nigel Wright, gifted or loaned him the money out of his own private reserves.

Yet, oddly, Wright is hounded and harassed to such an extent, he is forced to resign from the PMO. In fact, some comments I read on media even accused Wright of somehow benefitting from giving Duffy the $90,000.

Thankfully, there was one media columnist who appreciated Wright’s public service. Yet, read the comments below Michael Taube’s column. Which brings to mind the saying: No good deed goes unpunished. (H/T newswatchcanada.ca)

In any event, since everyone makes mistakes, the crux of the matter is that if the media and partisan Canadians want politicians to try to correct their mistakes (including always telling the truth), when they do (no matter which political party they belong to) they should not be harassed and punished for doing so.

[...]

Post updated May 23rd, 2013.

Who knew Health Canada investigates “garage” sales for consumer safety?

Credit National Post files.

There is a saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Well, who would have believed, when the Conservative government of Stephen Harper unveiled new consumer safety legislation a few years ago, that such a road would be built on the taxpayers’ dime?

Of course, the PM and his Cabinet would not have anticipated such a road, but it was built just the same,  all thanks to career bureaucrats who sit in the their little cubicles thinking of ways to take away our freedoms.

In fact, the new legislation seemed like such a good idea at the time, I even listed it as Item # 13 on my Harper Government Accomplishment List.

Now, however, Marni Soupcoff of the National Post is reporting  (H/T JNW) that Health Canada is taking those regulations so seriously, they have staff who actually check out re-sale classified ads and what is being sold at garage sales. And, if you are found to be non-compliant, you can be sued.

For what you ask? Well, check out this Post article by Tristin Hopper who writes:

“According to the Health Canada website, a garage sale is effectively breaking the law if it includes lawn darts, corded blinds, broken toys, toys with powerful magnets, hockey helmets, tiki torches or any product that has been the subject of a recall. Regulations also call for garage sale electronics to be bundled with “instructions for safe use.”

The regulations are particularly strict when it comes to children’s products. Sellers are barred from dealing in children’s costume jewelry containing lead or cadmium, as well as cribs, cradles and bassinets that do not meet “stringent regulatory requirements.” Any car seat sold more than five months ago may also be subject to scrutiny.” [My highlighting.]

Now, the regulations may have a point about trying to re-sell broken toys or costume jewellery containing lead or cadmium. Although, it is conceivable that a parent could buy all the parts to an otherwise expensive toy and fix it.

Plus, I am not sure how anyone would know, just from looking at a piece of jewellery, whether or not it contained dangerous heavy metals. I mean, as far as I know (and my hobby is jewellery design and beading), the only metals identified are gold, sterling silver, nickel, stainless steel or an alloy of all of the above.   Of course, we know that products manufactured in certain countries overseas may be suspect.

Anyway, I agree with Soupcoff’s suggestion, that with all the public service cuts, perhaps now would be a good time to cut the entire Health Canada garage sale and classified ad department. 

Or, perhaps that department could concentrate on not allowing products from suspect countries into Canada. Wouldn’t that be a better use of taxpayers dollars?

In the meantime, I would recommend making a list of what you plan to sell and check out every single product online, starting at this Health Canada site

Nanny statism indeed!

Conservative budget 2012 “just right” as Troy Media analysis shows

From Troy Media article.

While the Conservative Government’s federal budget may be old news  by now (having been tabled on Thursday, March 29th, 2012), I thought it was worth repeating what I have heard and read from the TV and print pundits, as well as bloggers of all political persuasions.

On the one hand, there were either not enough cuts or there were too many. On the other hand, the budget should be balanced sooner rather than later. Here, for example, is a Google page showing both reactions. Meaning, that the Harper government likely got it just right — by being pragmatic.

So, although the opposition will scream and yell about the deficit, we have to keep in mind that Canada, like the entire Western world, is only gradually recovering from the 2008 recession. Plus, there is also the reality that the multi-billion dollar stimulus was forced upon a minority Conservative Government when the Liberals, NDP and Bloc threatened a coalition coup in December of that year. 

So, when the opposition complain about the current deficit, they are not only being hypocrites, they are talking out of both sides of their mouths.

Anyway, speaking of being pragmatic,  check out this excellent Troy Media link. It not only provides an analysis of the budget but all the key elements of the budget “at a glance.”

Quebec’s univ students protesting tuition hikes get failing grade

Student Protest March 13,2012. Click image. Courtesy CBC.

Updated March 13th, 2012. It is unbelievable that Quebec university students are not only continuing to protest, but they say they will strike until the Quebec Liberals relent and not raise their tuitions. Is that their idea of democracy – when they get their way? Windows were also broken in office buildings, although according to the CBC the protest ended peacefully. Clearly the notion that some maturing is needed comes to mind, as does the phrase “spoiled brats.” Harsh? Perhaps. But, all of us need to learn that government can’t do everything we want.

[...]

Original post starts here: Read this column by the Calgary Herald’s Licia Corbella.  It is quite an eye opener, even for someone like me who spent half my teaching career at the university level. What Corbella proves, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is that Quebec’s post-secondary tuition structure is subsidized by all the have-provinces — which are currently Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and BC, albeit primarily Alberta. Yet, Quebec students continue to protest over a $325.00 hike

Now, while it may be their democratic right to protest, are the Quebecers who are protesting so self-absorbed they have no idea that: (1) they already have one of the lowest tuition fee structures in Canada; and (2) it is tax revenue from other provinces, through the equalization program, that is making it possible for them to maintain such low rates?

Then, there is the unfair fact that Quebec charges out-of-province students a higher rate than Quebec residents. Check out this McGill Student Accounts page, for example, and it shows “Residency Status” — Quebecer, Non-Quebec Canadian & International. Odd, because as this York University link shows (scroll half way down the page to “Domestic Tuition Fees Category”), it is not apparently the same in reverse. To attend York, you need only be a Canadian citizen or a child of one.  

However, as Corbella writes, if an Albertan were to attend McGill University in September 2012, probably the most prestigious university in Canada, he or she would have to pay the out-of-province total tuition of $7417 a year compared to a Quebec resident who would only have to pay $3727.00 — just over half. 

Clearly, there is something wrong with this picture. Sure, all non-Quebecers have known that Quebec is treated differently. However, I had no idea Quebec universities had discriminatory tuition fees.  Meaning, perhaps that it is the university students studying in Quebec but considered “Non-Quebec” who should be out there protesting — for equal treatment for all Canadians. 

The crux of the matter is, therefore, that Quebec’s protesting university students get an “F” for their unrealistic and discriminatory demands.

[...]

Endnote:  If you do a Google search on the topic of equalization, you will find some who complain that Alberta does not give transfer payments to other provinces. While that is technically true, the result is the same. What happens is that, as Corbella explained happened in 2009, Alberta sent $35.990 billion gross taxes to the federal government. They received $19.997 back in transfer payments. So, no matter how you do the numbers, the rest of Canada got to keep $15.993 billion of Alberta tax dollars. And, of that amount, Quebec got $13.641 billion in equalization payments. Which means, that no matter how you spin it, Alberta makes it possible for Quebec university students to get a break on their tuitions that no other Canadians get.

Reasons PM Harper should delay parliament’s return

This post is for all those who have never been elected as a Member of Parliament, provincial, territorial or federal, or worked for one.  Believe me, there is no magic wand to go from election night to a functioning MP. Simply put, it can’t be done in less than two months (unless you already live in Ottawa or a provincial capital) and it would be wrong of Prime Minister Harper to expect newly elected MPs, whether NDP or Conservative, to do so quicker than that.  Sorry for the length, but it is a personal story.

On June 8th, 1995, election night in Ontario, I was involved in counting the votes as they came in from the scrutineers. It became obvious very quickly that the Ontario PCs, under its leader Mike Harris, were winning. And, just as obvious was the fact that my candidate — Tom Froese – would win the St. Catharines-Brock provincial seat for the PCs. The Brock part is Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Anyway, later that night at the celebration party, I offered to volunteer to help Froese out for a couple of weeks. Since I had been the campaign communications chair, he already knew me, so he said he would think about it.

Well, I didn’t hear anything from him for a few days but when he called, all he said was: “HELP.”  It was quite funny at the time and I remember laughing. But, it turned out to be no laughing matter. His phone at his old campaign office was ringing off the hook. All he could do was take down messages and tell his new constituents he would get back to them.

  • Meaning, Froese had no infrastructure in place at all, as is the case with all newly elected members of parliament – unlike those who are re-elected. Yet, the general public and media did not seem to realize that fact.

The problem was, the NDP MPP who was defeated still had access to her constituency office for two whole weeks — to shred every piece of paper in the place. Then, and only then, could Froese even visit that office to see if that is where he wanted to set up his Constituency Office.  

So, for those two weeks I worked as a volunteer and answered his phone. I also paid a visit to the Constituency office of long-time St. Catharines MPP, Jim Bradley. A Liberal, I have to tell you, he was one heck of a nice guy. No partisanship at all. He invited me to spend an entire day with his staff learning the ropes, a courtesy I have never forgotten.

At that point Froese had asked me to work for him. It was not something I had experience doing, nor something I had planned to do. But, I decided to reduce my university teaching load to part-time and became his Executive Assistant — a nearly four-year experience I treasure to this day.  I say nearly four years because I was Froese’s EA for three years and a contract communications consultant for part of the final year.  Burn out is a real problem in political jobs as anyone who has done it will agree.   

Anyway, if readers are keeping track, at that point it was already about three weeks past election day. Froese and I then had to leave the phone on voice mail (which ticked people off) and go hunting for a Constituency Office that would be right in the middle of the riding.

  • The former NDP MPP’s office had been broken in and all the locks broken so he didn’t even consider using that one. After about a week, he settled on one. However, it was an empty shell and leasehold improvements had to be made — which, as it turned out, meant waiting almost two months before we could move in.  A nice touch was when Froese invited me to help him decide on paint and rug colours and how the rooms would be divided. I mention that because, as I said at the outset, there is no magic wand to make it all happen.

Now, while all that was going on in the riding, Froese did not go near Queen’s Park because he did not yet have a legislative office. Remember, the NDP had been the government. So, they had to be moved out of the area where PC government members would be located. Even with the Conservative government in Ottawa, to go from 144 members to 168, it is going to be a huge logistics headache.

Pity the federal Liberals for example ( or not pity if that is the case), they are going to have dozens of former MPs shredding documents for this next two weeks and then having to vacate those 40+ offices to make room for new members. One thing you will never find, however, is NDP or Liberal MPs mixed in with Conservatives. Each will have their own area, with the governing party MPs closest to the action in the House of Commons.  

  • In the Ontario legislature, and this is fascinating, a single moving date is chosen by the public servants in charge of “member services,” usually several weeks after the election date. And, on that date, beginning very early in the morning, every single office is shifted. It is pandemonium but organized pandemonium and it gets done. Of course, in Ontario, there were only 130 at that time, compared to 308 in Ottawa.  

Then, several weeks after the election, Froese drove me to Toronto. We walked into his Queen’s Park office, which was on the third floor of the west wing, and what did we see. An empty desk in the middle of each of the three rooms. Apart from a telephone on each desk, that was it. Not so much as a paper clip. I had to sit down and order all the supplies that would be needed once Toronto staff were hired.

Now, we are at around week six. Of course, dozens of resumes had come in, some for Queen’s Park and some for the Constituency. I spent a week interviewing and answering the phones in between. Finally, after six weeks, the MPP did the final interviewing and two additional permanent staff were hired for the Constituency Office, as well as two for Queen’s Park. I circulated between the two offices and got very used to the GO Train.

In any event, hiring staff was a huge relief!  We worked in the temporary campaign office until the new office was ready – which we moved into in the middle of August. The Toronto staffers started around the same time.

In other words, it took slightly more than two months to have everything set up and ready to go.

  • So, please go easy on the NDP and all those new Conservative MPs. They really do need a couple of months to get organized. They have to find Constituency Offices, order furniture and accessories from government services (e.g., all furniture, down to end tables, credenzas and lamps, are stored somewhere) for both the Constituency and Legislative offices, as well as order office supplies for both.

They also have to interview and hire constituency and legislative staff and find personal accommodations for themselves in Ottawa, not an easy thing to do when your primary residence is in B.C. or Quebec.   And, of course, new Members of Parliament (for all parties) have to go to “member” school to learn how the House of Commons operates — no easy feat for anyone!

[...]

Endnote:  For those who check out the Tom Froese Wikipedia link, a little explanation about the June 1999 Ontario campaign. As many know, Mike Harris implemented the Fewer Policians Act in 1996, meaning that Froese’s riding of St. Catharines-Brock would disappear at the time of the next election.

So, when the 1999 writ was dropped, he had to run against his local colleague Jim Bradley, in the St. Catharines riding. It was during that election that the Ontario public sector unions asked people to vote “strategically.” As a result, the NDP vote totally collapsed.

As I had in 1995, I kept track on election night 1999 where the votes were going. So, I know, that without a doubt, had the NDP vote not gone to Bradley, Froese would actually have been re-elected. But, that was not to be and truth to tell, Bradley has done and continues to do an excellent job.

However, what I learned from that experience, is what it is like to lose an election with dignity, something federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff did not do. Froese did not simply telephone Bradley when it was clear he had lost. He actually went over to his campaign office and shook his hand and congratulated him in person on a well fought, clean campaign. They had been friends during their time in government, regardless of being on opposite sides of the legislature, and would continue to be.

Then, Froese moved on to the next chapter in his life — as did I and all the other staffers.

Canada is as bilingual as it is going to get

Fact: In almost fifty years and with billions of dollars spent on French in all provinces and territories outside of Quebec, Canada’s bilingualism rate has only increased by 3%, from 7% in 1967 to 10% of the population now.

Yet, Canada’s official languages commissioner Graham Fraser recommends the Harper government spend even more money in order to “do more for bilingualism.” As the National Post editorial writer asks: Why?

Why indeed? Instead, why not propose some equity in this country and allow unilingual English speakers to work in the public service in areas of the country where only English is spoken or unilingual French speakers to work in the public service in communities where French is the primary language?

Look, people will only become fully bilingual when they have to. Without practice and opportunity to speak both official languages,  bilingualism just can’t happen.  For example, although I was born in Toronto, my family moved to Quebec when I was 10 years old and later to Ottawa (which is as officially bilingual as you can get in this country).

In Quebec, we lived in a bedroom community just off Montreal Island in Laval on a small, wonderful island called “Ile Bigras.” I went to Lake of Two Mountains High School in Saint-Eustache, an all-English school from the early grades right through to high school graduation. However, while the school was officially English, most of my classes were in French.

And, of course on Ile Bigras, my new friends were either French speaking or already bilingual. I was on the local baseball and swimming teams, for instance, where no English was spoken or heard.

So, out of necessity and opportunity, I learned to understand and speak French in less than a year. Reading in French, however, was always a challenge. Nevertheless, as a result of that “opportunity,” I became fluently bilingual.

However, trying to speak French today would be another story. And, therein lies the opportunity problem. I moved away from Ottawa in my thirties and have hardly spoken a word of French since. Oh sure, if I was plunked down in Quebec for a few weeks, it would likely come back.

But, my point is that this country will never be fully bilingual when English speakers do not have the opportunity to converse in French and vice versa, when French speakers in Quebec don’t have to speak English. T’is just human nature and the essence of learning — practice, practice, practice.

As the saying goes, use it or lose it! And, since most Canadians don’t have the opportunity to use a second official language, Canada is as bilingual as it is going to get. So, I agree with the NP’s conclusion, let’s disband Mr. Fraser’s office and let Canadians find their natural level for speaking French and/or English on their own.