Ted Talks: Supporting Families

Ted Falk recently stood up in the House of Commons to speak about the ways that the Conservative Government are supporting families. It’s a noble goal, and one that every party strives for. But one of the reasons that I’m proud to be a Green Party member and candidate is because we tend to look a little deeper, beyond easy solutions to the root of the issue.

Here is Ted’s speech:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today in support of the hard working Canadian families that form the corner stone of our society. As the basic unit of any successful nation, families drive our economy, build our communities and provide our children with moral, social and financial stability.

I firmly believe that when the family unit is healthy, when families prosper, all Canadians prosper. That is why I stand here today in support of our Government’s commitment to helping Canadian families.

In our most recent budget we introduced a number of initiatives that will help millions of Canadian families, including those who live in Southeastern Manitoba.

Since forming government, we have cut taxes over 160 times. This will result in a typical two-earner Canadian family receiving tax relief and increased benefits of up to $6,600 in 2015.

Some examples of these tax cuts include the Family Tax Cut, Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB), Children’s Fitness Credit and the Adoption Expense Tax Credit.

I have received many supportive comments for our Government’s low-tax initiative from families all across my riding of Provencher. They have encouraged us to work hard and continue to deliver results for families.”

I’m not going to pick apart his speech, but the obvious point here is that the Conservatives support families by giving them more money. We all love having more money, myself included. But something that I could use a lot more of, even more than money, is time to spend with my family.

Here’s a section from Vision Green, pages 89-90:

Increasingly, national and international studies document significant stress on Canadian children and their parents. While it is true that an unacceptably large number of Canadian families live in poverty, many more are suffering from ‘time poverty.’ Statistics Canada tracks time stress of Canadians and reports a steady increase in Canadians who report not having enough time in their lives to accomplish all required tasks. Longer commutes rob Canadians of time at home. Longer working hours rob community members of time for volunteer activities. Poorly planned transit and the lack of convenient workplace child care spaces rob parents of time with their kids.

There is a real cost to society as citizens have less and less time to contribute to community and school activities. Not surprisingly, Statistics Canada also reports a steady decline in volunteer hours donated by Canadians. Lack of time to contribute to community also leads to feelings of loss and alienation. On the other hand, time spent in effort to better our society leads to positive feelings of affiliation (belonging) and of empowerment (knowing one’s actions make a difference). Greens will address this multi- layered problem in many policies: fiscal, labour, and social programs.

The tax policy pursued by Green Party MPs will increase the opportunity for Canadians to spend more time with family. More and more adults with full-time employment outside the home are stressed and stretched to care for elderly parents, children, partners or spouses with debilitating illness, and any family members with disabilities.

Greens are committed to nurturing families and communities through integrated policies that focus on the welfare of the child, starting with prenatal nutrition all the way to affordable housing and accessible post-secondary education. We believe we must stop designing our communities around the car and start designing them around families and children. There are no easy solutions. We have to address the multi-layered problems facing families through new, innovative fiscal, labour, and social policies.

Green Party MPs will:

  • Urge reforms to our tax and labour policies in ways that will increase the opportunity for Canadians to spend more time with family;
  • Promote an integrated program of supports, tax cuts, and awareness-raising emphasizing that time spent with children and/or in the community is essential for the continuation of our society.

Don’t get me wrong, the UCCB comes in handy when I’m paying bills; but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to how valuable my time is to my son Sam. $6,600 (the maximum benefit of the programs Ted is talking about; most will not receive all of it) may be enough for some families to avoid needing an extra job, but it won’t help change the underlying issue.

We have a cultural problem. We work more than most people in the world, and we’re relatively quite wealthy compared to the rest of the world – but we’re wealthy in measurements of money and things. When it comes to relationships, community, and perhaps especially families, we’re relatively poor. In Ted’s speech, the first thing he mentioned about the value of families is their economic value. But our economy values things more than people, and work outside the home (“official” or paid work) more than work inside the home (like caring for our children, preparing food, etc.), which leads to us trying to maximize our time “at work” to make money to pay other people to do these basic things for us. Our culture becomes oriented around work and money, rather than family and community. This culture comes from the structure of our economy, and the structure of our economy is supported by this culture. Changing a culture is difficult, and there are no easy answers, but if we can change the way our economy values unpaid work and the time it takes to do it we will be in a position to address the cultural problems that undermine our health, families, and communities. Which is something a government handout alone can’t do.

This Fall, vote for policies that go beneath the surface of the issues and offer integrated solutions that go beyond handouts. Vote Green!

Your candidate,

Jeff Wheeldon

Jeff Wheeldon

Ted Talks: Fishing for Hunters and Anglers

In a recent blog post, Provencher MP Ted Falk talks about all of the things that the Conservative Hunting and Angling Caucus have done to stand up for hunters and anglers. I find it more than a little puzzling. From his blog:

This caucus helps to advance the issues surrounding conservation, habitat and enhancement of fish and game while engaging the millions of Canadians who enjoy the great outdoors.

This is the first ever group of its kind in Ottawa. The caucus meets with interested parties from across the country and the input received is brought back to Ottawa to help influence our policy development. Protecting Canada’s strong hunting and angling heritage is paramount to ensuring that we will continue to protect this Canadian tradition and pass it on to our children and grandchildren.

I very much appreciate that there’s a group devoted to preserving and promoting a traditional way of life, and I especially appreciate that this involves “conservation, habitat and enhancement of fish and game.” What I’m puzzled about is how this group can make any claim to protecting habitat when they report to the government that has done more to cut environmental protection than any government in Canadian history, single-handedly destroying protections over two terms that took a century to build up.

The Conservative omnibus budget bill of 2012 amended or repealed 70 other pieces of legislation, many of which were directly related to conservation of habitat. Elizabeth May wrote about it in May 2012, and noted some of the key environmental protections that were gutted by the supposed budget bill. This government has pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, abandoning our already modest goals for greenhouse gas reductions in favour of embarrassingly lax new goals, which we have since failed to meet. This government cut the Coast Guard station in Kitsilano to save money, which led to an embarrassing slow response to the recent oil spill in English Bay this year. This government continues to promote pipelines to facilitate the expansion of the Alberta oil sands, even though those pipelines would run through important habitat areas carrying diluted bitumen (dilbit), which is far more difficult to clean up than conventional oil; the proposed Energy East pipeline would run dilbit through Provencher, so this would directly affect us, including the land that Provencher hunters and anglers use.

I could go on about how the Conservative government has undermined the protection of species and habitat in Canada, but I think the point is clear. So what is the Conservative Hunting and Angling Caucus actually doing? Ted gives us a list of things that the Conservative government has done to protect hunters and anglers and their way of life, and you can find another list on the Hunting and Angling Caucus’ website. From Ted’s blog:

– Scrapping the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry, a +$1 billion Liberal government boondoggle that criminalized Canada’s hunters and anglers.
– Reversing the decision made by RCMP bureaucrats to phase out their use of muskrat fur hats for an inferior alternative.
– Tabling the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, keeping our promise to make firearms regulations safe and sensible. The Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act will reduce red tape while ensuring that Canada’s communities are safe.
– Establishing the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program to support projects aimed at improving the conservation of recreational fisheries habitat. The Program brings partners together and pools their resources to support the common goal of conserving and protecting Canada’s recreational fisheries.

Most of these things have to do with the long gun registry and streamlining the process of getting a gun license. The only thing related to fishing on this list is the last point, which is only even necessary because this government has already decimated the protections that Canada had in place to protect the habitat of fish.

It seems, then, that this caucus is a political tool to promote the issue of gun licensing and fix the problems caused by their previous legislation. Hunters and anglers care about the environment in ways that most people who spend less time in the wilderness cannot understand, so a government that destroys the environment needs to reach out to them in a special way in order to keep their votes, and getting their backs up about gun control is a good way to do it. There are few political issues that are as polarized as gun control: Green MP Bruce Hyer was elected as an NDP MP, but when the NDP required that he vote to keep the long gun registry in spite of the desires of his Thunder Bay constituents, he quit the party and sat as an independent before becoming Green (because the Green Party never tells its MPs to vote against their constituents). The language used in Ted’s blog post and the Hunting and Angling Caucus website is polarizing and misleading (e.g., suggesting that the Long Gun Registry “criminalized Canada’s hunters and anglers”), and designed to shore up support for the party with those groups.

So while I appreciate that the Conservatives have a group specifically for the purpose of protecting habitat and a way of life, I try to always remember that you can know a tree by its fruit. This government talks about protecting habitat, and then systematically undercuts existing programs that were already doing just that.

The Green Party of Canada has a thorough platform, but nowhere is our platform more thorough than in regard to the conservation and sustainable development of our environment. Our policies on fisheries, forests, ecotourism (which would include hunting and fishing), air and water quality, parks, species at risk, toxic chemicals, support for environmental science, waste management, Arctic strategy, Aboriginal policy, and more, are together the best protection for the Canadian way of life enjoyed by hunters and anglers. You can read about them in Vision Green.

The Green Party would also take seriously the responsibility of gun ownership, but work hard to ensure that lawful gun owners are not unnecessarily hassled or penalized. Gun registration, like vehicle registration, exists to help us maintain the security of our own guns, and in so doing protect our neighbours should a gun be lost or stolen; it doesn’t need to be a burden, and it certainly doesn’t need to be unfair, but it can be a great help to law enforcement agencies. From Vision Green’s statement on gun control and ownership rights:

[Green MPs would] work hard to create a registration system that is fair, free, and easy to use. Streamline the gun registry in consultation with First Nations, and with gun sports and hunter organizations. We support the elimination of registration fees for hunting rifles and will ensure law-abiding citizens do not have their firearms confiscated.

If I were your MP, I wouldn’t be a member of the Conservative Hunting and Angling Caucus (I’m not a Conservative!). Instead, I would continue to work to protect the habitat of animals and fish in consultation with First Nations, hunters, and anglers, and fight for the rights of my constituents without membership in any special group. That’s simply the job of an MP, and I’d love to work for you. What I won’t do is create a special group to pay lip service to a special interest group while at the same time voting for partisan legislation that undermines our environment and the way of life of Canadians who love the outdoors. Ted Falk is a good guy, and wasn’t even around when those bills went through, but sadly those things don’t matter: as a Conservative MP, he has to vote the way his party leader tells him. This year, vote for someone who can actually represent your interests.

Your candidate,

Jeff Wheeldon

Jeff Wheeldon

Ted Talks: Seniors

In his latest column, Provencher MP Ted Falk talks about the increased support the Conservative government has given to seniors. I applaud this, and am quite pleased about it. I don’t have much to add except what is in the Green Party platform, Vision Green, about seniors:

4.4 Seniors

 

Canada is an aging society. Baby boomers are now swelling the ranks of the senior population that is growing in both number and as a proportion of Canada’s total population. Canada’s seniors are also a diverse population, with varying levels of activity and health, living in urban, rural, and First Nations communities. The majority of these older Canadians are women.

Although it is frequently asserted that the aging population is responsible for rising health care costs, this is not the case. Still it is true that seniors will be demanding more health care. Life expectancy is increasing and chronic diseases increase with age. Within 25 years, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia could reach 1.3 million and will have the highest economic, social, and health costs of all diseases in Canada. Although many anticipate that this will precipitate a crisis for health care and social services, the Green challenge and opportunity is to provide our seniors with independence, well-being, and dignity.

Seniors have a wealth of experience and have contributed immeasurably to the development of the nation we currently celebrate. Seniors are a resource who can contribute to the economic and social life of their communities and country.

Older Canadians are also a vital and vibrant population, embracing healthy life-style choices and an active retirement. Many social policies impact the ability of aging boomers to stay active. Access to preventative and complementary medicine (see Health care section); access to convenient mass transit as driving may be limited (see climate policy); safe communities (see restorative justice); secure pensions and fairer taxes are all significant Green party policies with real benefits for older Canadians.

Recent debates about pension reform have pitted the Harper Administration, with its refusal to enhance the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP), against many premiers and Opposition parties. Pension reforms must be built upon the system that will best create decent pensions that will keep the elderly out of poverty, require minimum additional contributions, and have low administrative and investment costs.

The only system that is capable of meeting these goals is the CPP – a proven system that is the envy of many countries. Its systems can be modified to offer enhanced benefits. Everyone is familiar with the CPP, which is in sound financial health with the latest actuarial report noting that it is sound for at least the next 70 years.

Greens are concerned that the pension funds of the CPP have been, since 1997, under management of the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB). In 2007, Stephen Harper legislated a far more aggressive approach to the management of those funds. The assets of the CPPIB were over $200 billion at the end of 2013, placing it in the top ten of pension plans anywhere in the world. These dollars in the CPP are now being played in the global casino of mergers and acquisitions, wheeling and dealing in take-overs and other higher risk behaviours. Failures in the market could undermine the security of CPP. Greens believe that CPP funds must not be gambled in the market.

Approximately 35% of older citizens are still dependent upon Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) to keep them out of poverty. This is partly because the current CPP objective of just replacing 25% of the average industrial wage is too low. A 50% income replacement ratio would dramatically reduce the reliance on GIS to keep the elderly out of poverty and reduce the cost of GIS to the federal government by billions annually.

The Year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE) should be raised to at least $90,000 and consideration given to raising it to the full Income Tax Act limit for Registered Pension Plans (RPP) ($122,222 in 2009) pending an evaluation/review in a decade. Subject to an actuarial evaluation, it is expected that these benefits could be achieved with a phased-in increase of CPP contribution rates, although not through increased contributions by employers or deductions from employee wages. Some of the increase could be covered by redirected reductions in workplace pensions for those with workplace pensions. Redirected GIS savings could be used to offset some of the required contribution increase.

An honest evaluation of the effectiveness of current tax policy will illustrate how inefficient it is for most retirement savings. Net federal RPP’s tax expenditures (concessions) were worth $17.6 and $11.3 billion in 2007 and 2009. RRSP’s cost $12.1 and $8.5 billion in the same years. The loss of provincial revenues adds another 35-40%.

Defined Benefit (DB) plans are much more efficient than Defined Contribution (DC) plans in that they produce significantly higher pensions for the same contributions, yet DC plans get the same tax support.

RRSP’s are terribly tax inefficient in that for the $8.5 – $12.1 billion in annual net tax expenditures (around 30% of total contributions), the median value of RRSP assets by Canadians under age 65 is a woeful $40,000 and those over 65 have less than $55,000 – not enough to rely on to supplement to one’s pension, especially at today’s annuity rates. Only 25% of working Canadians contribute to RRSP’s, only 6% with incomes under $20,000. Prorating tax expenditures to the value of projected pension would bring fairness and equity back into the system.

Phasing in doubling the target income replacement rate to 50% and doubling the YMPE over the next 47 years is the most efficient way to ensure that future retirees will be able to retire with dignity without intergenerational subsidies.

Green Party policies will create age-friendly communities, where active living and well- being are promoted, where seniors have financial security, and where housing and transportation needs are met. In accordance with a Canadian Senate report in April 2009, the Green Party recognizes the need for improved support for mental health, and palliative care, and the need to combat ageism, abuse, and neglect.

Long-term care should not be the only housing and care choice. In a Balance of Care model, more care can be provided in a cost-effective manner by home and community support services.

We believe that the government must take the lead in educating the public about end of life issues, including the limits to artificial life support systems, surgical operations, and chemical therapies to extend life and postpone the inevitable transition from life.

Green Party MPs will:

  • Review workplace policies to end mandatory retirement and provide for flexible retirement benefits for those seniors who want to continue working;
  • Review federal and provincial laws regulating the administration of pension plans, laws which now allow failure of pension trusts, and the loss of pension benefits which workers have earned, with the view to enacting legislation to protect the pension benefits and recommend that the provincial governments prohibit any business from taking possession of a pension trust fund which it administers, or the earnings thereof;
  • Explore risk-sharing for pension plans, including the CPP, to ensure sustainability;
  • Resist the shift to voluntary defined contribution plans with inefficient and expensive

    fees for a myriad of market driven plans;

  • Develop, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, a set of national home care objectives in a National Home Care Policy, that incorporates and improves upon existing policies affecting eldercare, including but not restricted to ensuring couples needing support and care can continue to live together, economic allowances (such as tax rebates), living choices, transportation, and respite care;
  • Require that all corporate pension plans be audited to ensure that they are adequately funded and properly managed and set a policy directive to take corrective action when they are not;
  • Work to enhance CPP by phasing in the doubling of the target income replacement rate from 25% to 50% of income received during working years;
  • Ensure all seniors who qualify are made aware of available federal income supplements and instructed on how to apply for them;
  • Review, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, the current social and legal policies to ensure that citizens and law enforcement officials recognize elder abuse, prevent it where possible, and proceed with appropriate charges and consequences when elder abuse has occurred;
  • Help develop national guidelines for care of the frail elderly who have special needs and require care by geriatric specialists;
  • Establish and fund a special program to provide grants to non-profit societies setting up palliative care hospices;
  • Guarantee the right to draw up a ‘living will’ that gives the power to limit or refuse medical intervention and treatment so the person has the choice of dying with dignity.

You can find Vision Green here.