Canada is Broken

The middle class is falling further and further behind. The well-to-do are doing better than ever. And lets not even contemplate the fate of those in poverty. Their lot has gone from bad to worse.  Just how has all this happened? How did we get here?

We got here because of several decisions made by our federal government. Decisions that see the tax base shift from corporations onto the middle class, whole-sale chopping of federal support for affordable housing, slashing health care, welfare and post secondary education, and major changes in Employment Insurance.

Liberal PM Jean Chrétien
The changes started primarily under the Jean Chretien government (also a 39% majority govt). First his government slashed transfer payments to the provinces. The Federal government had for years undertaken to meet this commitment to protect our social safety net.  The changes came as a significant shock to provincial finance ministers. Many provincial governments slashed budgets as a result.

Next the Liberal government ended funding for affordable housing. Many provinces could not continue without help from the federal government. The cuts would stay like that
Liberal PM Paul Martin
until the 2005 Paul Martin minority government, facing certain defeat by the NDP on its budget, agreed to put money back into affordable housing.

Remember when it use to be called Unemployment Insurance? The plan was originally the result of a gentlemen's deal between CCF Leader JS Woodsworth and Liberal Prime Minister MacKenzie King. Over the years the benefits improved. That is until Jean Chretien was elected Prime Minister in 1993. First the Liberals transferred money from the UI fund to balance the budget.  Then they raised the amount of money deducted from your paycheque to pay for UI.

The programs name was changed to Employment Insurance. Benefits were cut. Benefits like weekly maximum, qualification for benefits restricted, and grounds for appeal removed.

The next piece to seriously affect middle class was the reductions in Corporate Taxes. These cuts started under Jean Chretien and accelerated under Paul Martin. These cuts removed much needed revenue from the federal budget necessitating cuts to programs and further reliance on taxes paid by the middle class.

With the election of Stephen Harper, we saw the government rapidly slash federal funding, continue to move
Conservative PM Stephen Harper 
tax burden from corporations as per projections put in place by Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, to middle class Canadians.

Harper moved to raise rates for EI, and has cut benefits every year since being elected. Today less than 37% of Canadians qualify for EI. This action has passed the cost of unemployment onto workers and provincial governments. Those provincial governments are cutting their own programs, leaving many without support.

There is much more. This is just a primer, about the inequality of income, the Liberals and the Conservatives have given us.

This is what people like Linda McQuaig and the NDP are trying to change.


Honest Scarecrow

Very clever Chipotle Mexican grill.  By now many of you have seen the scarecrow ad produced by Chipotle. It kinda makes you feel good right?  You can eat at Chipotle and feel good about yourself.  Think again.  Here is the Scarecrow ad ...

And here is a parody of the ad

Honest Scarecrow - watch more funny videos

Be aware of ads. Sometimes they don't tell you the whole story...

Huronia Survivors shocked by Premier Wynne

Earlier today I posted on Premier Wynne's failure to respond to what was essentially an easy question by the NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo, someone not known for giving the Ontario Liberals a break. DiNovo asked the Premier to commit to making the apology to the Huronia Regional Centre Survivors. Some of the Huronia Survivors were in the Gallery.

Premier Wynne took this easy question and did what we have come to expect of all politicians. She side stepped, then her Attorney General added insult to injury, suggesting the case was resolved quickly. The problems are well documented and the Government of Ontario has been aware of them since 1945.

I'm simply shocked.

Below is a media release from the law firm that brought the class action suit against the Ontario Government.
TORONTOOct. 7, 2013 /CNW/ - Huronia Regional Centre (HRC) survivors reacted with "surprise and disappointment" to statements made by Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Attorney General today in the Ontario Legislature. In particular, lawyers representing the plaintiffs were astonished that both the Premier and Attorney General John Gerretsen made such error-filled statements about the recently settled Huronia Regional Centre class action lawsuit. 
During today's Question Period, the Premier and the Attorney General were flat-out wrong when they made the following statements:
  Premier Wynne: "The court is still determining, as I understand it—and I know that the Attorney General is going to want to comment on that—the nature of an appropriate apology."
  Attorney General Gerretsen:  "This may be no comfort to the residents at all, but the class action was settled in a very fast manner of less than three years, which is unusual for a class action."
Kirk Baert, lead counsel in the successful action, said: "The Premier got it wrong. She said the courts are still considering the terms of the apology. In fact, the courts have absolutely nothing to do with the apology." Baert continued: "The AG also got it wrong. I was stunned when Minister Gerretsen stood up in the Legislature and said the case had been settled quickly. I can tell you that the case took half a decade, and relates to wrongdoing going back to 1945. By any standard that is hardly 'fast'."
Koskie Minsky lawyers fought to ensure HRC survivors would receive justice in this case, and will continue to do so. "The victims of Huronia have suffered long enough," said plaintiffs' lawyer Celeste Poltak. "They need closure, not political games." 
The class action alleges residents of the HRC suffered inhumane treatment from 1945 until its closure in 2009, and that the province of Ontario failed to properly care for, and protect, those under its care.
Koskie Minsky LLP is representing the former HRC residents involved in the $2-billion class action lawsuit against the province of Ontario, as well as two other class action lawsuits currently underway: Southwestern Regional Centre and Rideau Regional Centre. These class actions are virtually identical to the one brought against the government by the Huronia survivors.

Another sad day handed to Huronia Survivors by Premier Wynne

You know, we all want governments to do what's right. Yet often we find them passing the buck, looking for cover.  This is not leadership.  Leadership is sometimes doing the unpopular, or doing what is right.  Not many people in Ontario would disagree with the the statement, "The Ontario Government has failed the kids that have been sent to the Huronia Regional Centre and should apologize." See my blog and links on the tragic Huronia story here.

Premier Kathleen Wynne
Today, the Premier for Ontario, Kathleen Wynne was asked in the Legislature if she would commit to this apology. The people behind the struggle were sitting in the public gallery. They were watching, they were hoping that just once in the struggle for recognition of the harms done them and thousands of others, someone would do the right thing. 

Cheri DiNovo 
Today Cheri DiNova, the most tenacious fighter for the underdog in Queen's Park, lobbed an easy question to Premier Wynne.  "Will the Premier commit to apologizing to the Huronia Survivors on behalf of the government instead of handing it off to the Attorney General to apologize?"  The Premier stood to say it was all a matter of negotiations and it's before a Judge. 

It seems to me, the Premier could have easily said yes. I will apologize on behalf of the people of Ontario for the way these people at Huronia were treated. The case is settled. They are only talking details. When the Judge has finished his work on the agreed settlement, I will most certainly stand in the Legislature and issue an apology.

She didn't.

Question and Premier's answer in the House today.


No Group Hug from Premier Wynne for Huronia Survivors

UPDATE Sept 17/13:  I called it right yesterday. The delay in the court case was because the government came to their senses and a deal was struck.  Kudos to Premier Wynne for finally stepping up to the plate.  It's just too bad she had to be forced to do so.

The Government has settled the suit offering $35 million to a fund for the survivors and will issue an apology.  

CBC: Huronia Regional Centre lawsuit ends in $35M settlement

The court case for the Huronia Regional Centre victims has been delayed until tomorrow. 

Kirk Baert, a lawyer bringing the class action case to court said today on the adjournment; "The parties have agreed to adjourn the start of the trial for one day. Because this matter is before the court it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."
This case has received sporadic coverage as its worked its way to court.  Fortunately in the last few days the issue has gained much more attention and that may be why the case was delayed in court today.  Let's hope so.  

This delay could be for any number of reasons. Yet this case has been headed to court for sometime, the legal teams should be ready.  It would take something unusual for delay to be granted.  Further its unlikely the delay was because those bring the case forward wanted it, its more likely it was the Government's lawyers that made the request.

Now I am a former political staffer in a past government, from another province. I know what I would have been thinking if a case like the Huronia kids case were happening on my watch.  I would want to know how it got this far? Why have 'we' not found a way to settle this? What could we do to resolve the situation? Does this have to be a court case now? What's the right thing to do?

Kathleen Wynne, during the Ontario leadership race, met with some of those involved in this case, some ten or so months ago. According to reports she listened and was empathetic.  For the first time in years these folks felt someone in government was listening.  They dared believe a settlement could be had, especially now that Wynne was now Premier Wynne. 

As Premier, Wynne has been giving out group hugs to anyone within reach, and she has a great reach. Sadly some of the people most in need of the Premier's attention are being forced into what could be a lengthy and costly legal battle.  Many of the people involved in this case are in their 80's, many have died waiting for someone in government to acknowledge what they went through, to say we're sorry.

Let's hope today's delay is the result of someone in government coming to their senses.

some links

Toronto Star: Ontario allowed decades of child abuse: Goar

Toronto Star: Huronia Regional Centre: Class-action lawsuit set to begin over alleged abuse

Institutional Survivors - Background

The Orillia Packet HRC lawsuit to begin Monday


Little Angels and Tiny Toddlers... Ontario's shame, our collective shame

The dormitory and hallways stank of excrement, children went to the toilet and showered in the open, exposed to everyone, once showered they were given clothes by a staff person from a locked room.  These children had nothing, not the clothes on their backs nor underwear they wore each day.

It was the Huronia Regional Centre in the 1970's. Originally named the Orillia Asylum for Idiots. Thousands of children were sent here, conditions so unsanitary, any child who was admitted would be exposed to Hepatitis, parasites and other infectious diseases, and the Ontario government knew this.

The Ontario Government is forcing these people to court to settle their claims against the institution and the government. There is little dispute the harm was done, little dispute people were beaten, abused, humiliated and confined in conditions considered inhumane. Sexually abused, forced to beat up other children.  

The case goes to court September 16th.  Carol Goar of the Toronto Star has called the trial “a day of reckoning”.

You can find out more below, follow the links. I'm hopefull all three Ontario political parties can agree to an apology and settlement. Or must these people relive the horrors in court. Challenged all the way by the Government of Ontario, Our Government. 

Closed after 133 years in 2009, developmentally handicapped children were housed over the years in what some former residents allege were horrific, Dickensian prison-like conditions. 
Thousands are suing the Ontario government in a massive class action suit that alleges they were systematically sexually, physically and emotionally abused while the Ontario government was exclusively in charge from 1945 to 2004. - 

In 2011 CBC covered the story;
The lawyerKirk Baert: 'How far do you think the government would have gotten in the '50s, '60s and '70s if they had held people convicted of murder by the ankles and dunked them into bathwater full of ice cubes or forced them to scrub floors with toothbrushes or kicked them or punched them.
'If you think about the hierarchy, about where these people stood on the totem pole, they were below convicted felons.'
See also 
CBC Radio One documentary “The Gristle in the Stew”Listen now! Read about the documentary here and some of the incredible comments at the bottom of the article. - See more at: http://www.institutionalsurvivors.com/#sthash.nGPZMvR4.dpuf


Canadian Senators - Retirement you can count on

It seems that when you suggest changing anything about the Senate in Canada, other than tinkering around the edges you are a simply "a group of ideologues that haven’t a clue about the constitutional or political reality of this country." Dale Smith - protector of the senate

Dale and I don't agree.

The NDP and before them, the CCF have advocated for abolishing the Senate. It remains a key part of democratic reform required in this country.  We have listened to Conservatives and Liberals at various times call the Senate useless, loaded with party hacks, then promise to reform the body.  It never happens. 

The Senate was created to protect the moneyed people of Canada, from the potential damage members of parliament could inflict on the gentry, if left to their own devices. 

Liberal and Conservative Prime Ministers load the body up with Liberals and Conservatives. Most often these people were party bagmen, fundraisers, corporate donors, or former MP's.  

The Senate costs us somewhere north of 90 million dollars every year. That for  about 100 people. They get paid $132,000 per year, staff, travel and even something called hospitality.  They receive 64 return trips to Ottawa each year, they can use to fly anywhere in Canada. 

The 64 trips can be to for any purpose. They can use them to fly from Ottawa to Calgary to host a Liberal or Conservative fundraiser.  Hospitality money can entertain Liberal or Conservative party activists, potential corporate funders, or the Senators buddies. 

More tomorrow on the money side and scandal. More in days ahead about abolishing the Senate.


He Committed Fraud - Senator Nancy Ruth

Contrast these comments on Senate scandal...

Senator Nancy Greene Raine - It's okay to have the same people review Senator Duffy's expenses and its okay to do it behind closed doors.

Senator Nancy Ruth - "In my opinion (Senator Duffy) committed fraud."

Senator Lillian Dyck - Senators are abusing the system, while people are hungry, living on the streets.

See raw video on CBC here.

Bill C-377 has Alberta Senator Seething!

Last December (2012) the Harper Conservative government passed Bill C-377.  The bill is nothing more than an attempt by non-union contractors to harass and create added costs on unions in their lifetime pursuit to eliminate unions.

From Rabble.ca
Well, there we have it. The Conservative government has just rammed Bill C-377, legislation which will saddle unions with ridiculously detailed, costly financial reporting requirements, through the House of Commons. The bill was successfully voted in by MPs on Wednesday evening, by a margin of 147 to 135. - Conservative government rams through anti-union Bill C-377 December 13, 2012

The bill had little debate and was rushed through the House of Commons. The Senate has been dealing with Bill C-377. In second reading Senator Elaine McCoy (last Progressive Conservative Senator left in the Senate) had to say ...

Bill C-377 is so audacious, so mendacious, so outrageous, that I can really only think of one twosentence review, and in this I am paraphrasing Dorothy Parker, whom many honourable senators will know. She once said in her two-line book review: “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”
This comment of hers is attributed to a book written by Mussolini called The Cardinal's Mistress. Let me paraphrase Dorothy Parker: This is not a bill to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. - Senator Elaine McCoy, May 2, 2013, Excerpt of Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

You can get more information here on the Bill, the votes and debate at Open Parliament

For Heaven's Sake!

Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto continues the game of playing at being Mayor of a big city. Faced with numerous scandals over his term and a video that may show him smoking crack, The Mayor fires his chief of staff today.

You have to wonder what could come next.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford fires chief of staff

CBC.ca-26 minutes agoShare
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has fired his chief of staff, the latest development in a tumultuous week at city hall where the pressure is growing for ...

Even the usual supporters are after Ford to say something about the alleged video of him smoking crack. See Toronto Sun story here.


Logical Fallacies and Weak Arguments: The Case of Scott Reid, MP

I was visiting our 'farm' property in the Lanark Highlands this past month.  The area is represented by Ontario's first elected Reform Party MP and now is a Conservative MP. One of the chores is to check the mail box, usually it contains some severely politically slanted mailing from Mr. Reid.  I almost never find myself agreeing with him. I would like to answer some of his surveys, yet that is darn near impossible.

Below is a recent copy of a mailer from MP Reid.  Rather than rant, I asked my buddy, a Professor in Media Studies, to read the mailer and this is what I got back...

This is what passes as public discourse these days.

A List Of Fallacious Arguments
BILL S-214 Senate Bill


BC Liberals and Right Wing Nasty Campaign

Big Oil is funding the BC Liberals. Earlier this years Christy Clark, BC Premier flew into Calgary and met with Oil Executives and held a fundraiser for her political party. Clark is travelling a well laid road, former Premier Gordon Campbell built the road.

What seems unusual is the urgency attached to these appeals.  Big Oil is eager to attend.  Now there can be only one real good thing these folks care about BC this time out.  Pipeline.

The BC New Democrats are way out front in the polls.  It will take a major miracle for the Liberals to win or a lot more money. Already we are seeing that money in action.  Several attack sites have been set up, many of them created on government time by OIC appointments in the Premier's Office.  Then there are the BC Govt ads on TV.  To date in the two years she has been Premier, Christie Clark has spent 64 million dollars on govt ads.

Then there is the former logging CEO, Jim Shepard  who has raised over half a million dollars with the goal to raising over a million for an extremely nasty series of attack ads on the BC NDP under the guise of a grassroots campaign called Concerned Citizens For BC.  The group can spend as much as they want prior to the beginning of the election period.  They can get money from whomever they wish. No disclosure required.  The Koch brothers could make a donation and we wouldn't know it. You can likely count on Enbridge to donate, especially since they need not be worried about people finding out.

The Liberals manage to out spend the NDP almost two to one every election. This time out they will likely smash their record spending of the 2009 campaign.

We still have to see who else will jump into the fray. Expect independent contractors, forest companies, Insurance companies & resellers, car dealers and Chamber of Commerce.

Look to the nastiest BC campaign ever, if you think your province has nasty campaigns you haven't seen the effort produced by BC's right wing free enterprisers.  Expect the BCTF, BC FED and other NDP friendly groups attempt to match the Liberals gang.

Financial Post: Alberta powerbrokers throw lifeline to B.C. premier as threat of tougher pipeline fight from NDP looms

The Tyee: Right-wing Group Plans 'Blanket Coverage' Ad Blitz against BC NDP