20 posts categorized "education"

October 03, 2008

The Great Canadian Wish List: What We Say We Want

This list is my attempt to begin to spell out the disconnect behind what Canadians say they want and how they vote. In this post, I create my version of a Great Canadian Wish List -- what Canadians talk about when they describe what's great about their country. In my next post, I'll measure this wish list against what voters are being offered by the Conservative Party of Canada -- the party that called this election seeking a mandate in the form of a majority government.

The Great Canadian Wish List

What do we Canadians talk about when we express our values and talk about what we want for our country?

  • We talk about how we want to feel safe and secure -- to have a government that makes sound economic decisions that take the needs of the ordinary citizen into account -- and that won't cause us to lose our bank account savings or our homes.
  • We talk about how important it is to us to stop destroying the planet so that our beautiful country will be able to provide the land and water that our children and grandchildren will need to grown and thrive.
  • We talk about how industries that are doing the damage to the planet should be the ones to pay to clean it up.
  • We talk about how much our health care system matters to us -- and how important it is to us that every Canadian be able to have access to a family doctor and how chronically underserviced communities and provinces need to have their long-standing shortages in certain health specialties (for example children's mental health services; mental health services in general)?
  • We talk about how we want a government that protects the health and safety of Canadians.
  • We talk about the importance of protecting our rural heritage while creating safe and healthy urban environments -- cities in which people can walk or bike to work instead of driving their cars.
  • We talk about how we want a government that looks out for the needs of farmers and that provide Canadians with accurate and reliable information about genetically modified foods, agri-business, and other issues that affect the food that shows up on their dinner table.
  • We talk about how much we value freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and government transparency, and government accountability -- and how much we want politicians who are accessible, genuine, and trustworthy.
  • We talk about how much we regret the treatment that aboriginal people in this country have received -- and how we want to move forward in ways that take serious action to right those wrongs.
  • We talk about how much we value being part of a society in which everyone has equal opportunity to succeed -- including new Canadians -- and in which no one is discriminated against.
  • We talk about how proud we are of the Canadian Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- and a justice system that assumes innocence until a person is proven guilty.
  • We talk about the importance of giving young people the best possible start in life -- how the early years are the most important years: a critical time when we must invest in our children because they are our country's future.
  • We talk about how much we value our children and our families, including our seniors.
  • We talk about how proud we are about being Canadian and having a uniquely Canadian identity.
  • We talk about how fortunately we are to live in a country like Canada that is one of the safest countries in the world.
  • We talk about how proud we feel when we travel abroad and people from other countries speak glowingly about Canada and its peacekeeping and environmental stewardship record abroad.

Ad Running in Peterborough Examiner in Support of Betsy McGregor

The following advertisement is running in The Peterborough Examiner in support of Betsy McGregor.


October 01, 2008

Thinking About Voting for Dean Del Mastro?

Before you vote for Dean Del Mastro in Peterborough Riding

Make sure you have all the facts first.


If you're thinking about voting for Dean Del Mastro because you think you have to vote for Dean in order to bring the train to Peterborough, you need to know that the Conservative, Green Liberal, and NDP candidates in our riding ALL strongly support bringing the train to Peterborough. You don't have to vote for Dean Del Mastro to vote for the train.

You also need to know that the train is still a work-in-progress: that it still has to make its way through a process of approvals before it can be considered a done deal. Unfortunately, statements like this one from Dean Del Mastro's campaign literature make it difficult for people to understand that the train is not a done deal yet: "In Budget 2008, Dean celebrated the announcement of funding for the re-establishment of the Peterborough-Toronto Commuter Rail Link, claiming it to be, "The single biggest federal infrastructure investment in Peterborough since John A. MacDonald announced the completion of the Trent Severn Waterway." Dean may have celebrated the funding announcement, but he certainly hasn't been able to celebrate the approval of a train because that hasn't happened yet.

"[Dean Del Mastro's] promise to return Toronto-to-Peterborough passenger rail service is looking more likely to come true, but is open to questions about whether it would be an economic drain. Last week's surprise proposal for a massive hotel-entertainment complex on Parks Canada property on Little Lake is exciting, but a long way from reality."
- Editorial, Peterborough Examiner, September 9, 2008


If you're voting for Dean Del Mastro because you think a Conservative government under Stephen Harper will make for a stronger economy, you may want to look at the government's track record in this area. The Harper Government -- with Dean Del Mastro serving as a member of the Standing Committee on Finance -- spent its way through Canadians' $20 million rainy day fund over the past three years -- and now that we're facing a rainy day, the government has nothing left to invest in our economy. Many economists said at the time that a GST cut was the wrong way to go because it didn't stimulate the economy in the same way that a tax cut would have stimulated the economy. (Incidentally, this is why income tax benefits are built into the Liberal government's Green Shift plan -- a program that has been misunderstood by many Canadians.)

Here's something else to consider. As columnist Lawrence Martin reports in today's Globe and Mail, the Federal Conservatives are doing everything they can to distance themselves from the economically disastrous policies of the neo-Conservative Bush administration south of the border -- a case it gets it gets more difficult to make after the politically disastrous speech plagiarism incident.

The Harper government also reversed its position on the income trust issue -- a betrayal of the trust of many ordinary Canadians who paid heavily for this broken promise. Dean Del Mastro repeatedly reversed his position on this issue to support the party line. Where was he when his constituents needed him to speak out on this issue?


If you're voting for Dean Del Mastro because you believe that Canada under Stephen Harper will be a safer place, you might be interested in knowing that the Conservative Party of Canada approach to governance emphasizes cost-savings that can sometimes be at the expense of public health. “According to the government’s own spending estimates, released before the listeriosis outbreak started in summer 2008, there would be less money for food inspection over the following three years.” (CBC.ca, September 24, 2008)

And when public health objectives come into conflict with business objectives, Dean Del Mastro follows the party line by siding with big business. During the last session of Parliament, Dean Del Mastro voted against bills that would have provided more information to consumers about genetically modified foods and that would have provided more details warning labels on alcohol. If he wasn't voting in support of public safety and the public good, in whose interest was he voting?


If you're thinking about voting for Dean Del Mastro because you believe that a revamped justice system under Stephen Harper will mean less crime, you might want to know that overall crime rates are on the decline and that the approach to dealing with youth crime that Stephen Harper and justice minister Rob Nicholson has been heavily criticized by the judge appointed to recommend changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Oddly enough, Stephen Harper had been claiming throughout the campaign that the judge had endorsed the Conservative Party crime platform.

The judge isn't the only leading authority on law, justice, and crime that the Harper government ignored when putting together its tough-on-crime platform. It's US-style approach to justice has been proven ineffective, expensive (we'll need 22 new jails!), and counterproductive. Crime rates actually rise. *

Closer to home, Dean Del Mastro came under heavy fire from constituents back in July as a result of his youth crime mailout. The mailout was described as being fear-mongering, anti-youth, and an unwise use of taxpayers' resources. (See link to Peterborough Examiner in post.)


If you're thinking about voting for Dean Del Mastro because you would like to see some sort of development occur on Little Lake, you might want to consider what you're getting for your vote. For starters, the parcel of land on Little Lake is under the control of Parks Canada. Parks Canada is mandated to protect that land for the protection of future generations. And, as our Member of Parliament, Dean Del Mastro is mandated to pursue the interests of all constituents. To ensure that the interests of all citizens of Peterborough are taken into account, consultations on a public asset as important as this one need to be conducted in an open and accountable manner. Anyone can put together a proposal and circulate it behind closed doors. It takes a true leader to ensure that the proper protocols are observed every step of the way and that even the perception of conflict of interest or impropriety is avoided. A true leader leads by example.


If you're thinking about voting for Dean Del Mastro because you see him as being committed to the arts (his election brochure states that he has made numerous funding announcements with a focus on the Arts and Heritage community -- but his brochure neglects to mention that some of these groups are at risk of losing their funding as a result of his government's far-reaching cuts to the arts and cultural sector -- cuts he was privy to as a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and the Standing Committee on Finance. Artists, arts volunteers, and arts patrons in our community recently met to discuss those cuts. Get the local response story here. Note: Dean Del Mastro has also been repeating the "we haven't been cutting funding" double-speak that tripped up Stephen Harper with the national media. Oops.


If you're voting for Dean Del Mastro because you believe that the Harper government's apology signaled a commitment to aboriginal issues, you might want to consider how he fared during the aboriginal debates at Curve Lake. Some of his comments attracted national attention -- but not in a way that reflected well on our riding: "The Kelowna Accord -- There is no such thing," Dean Del Mastro told the crowd assembled at Curve Lake. That sounds just like a Rona Ambrose quote. (Be patient. She's coming up in a moment.)


If you're voting for Dean Del Mastro because you think he is serious about environmental change, you might want to consider that he served on the original Harper environment committee (the one headed up by Rona Ambrose; a committee that was so out of synch with what Canadians were demanding that there was a national outcry at the time). Unfortunately, all that really came of that outcry was a new committee chair: John Baird.

During the Harper years, Canada stopped being known as an international advocate for environmental change and stated to be known as a country that lets the oil and gas industry and other business interests call the shots. Peterborough Examiner nature columnist Drew Monkman recently wrote a heartfelt Letter to the Editor on this issue. It's definitely worth reading.


Dean Del Mastro

* What is it about the mindset of this government that insists on disregarding the best-evidence from experts in their respective fields, whether we're talking law and justice, the environment, or another critically important issue? Is it because leadership is largely vested in one man who takes advice from very few people and who hates to share power -- and who finds it next to impossible to apologize or admit mistakes; and who surrounds himself with "yes men" who refuse to let him know when he's on the wrong track (for sake of their own political careers?)

September 30, 2008

Strategic Voting in Peterborough Riding

Whatever your reason may be for seeking political change -- a desire for change at the Federal level or here in Peterborough Riding -- according to election analysts (see links below), there is only one candidate who has the potential to defeat our Conservative Member of Parliament Dean Del Mastro on election night. That candidate is Betsy McGregor, the federal Liberal Candidate for Peterborough Riding.

Before we go any further, let me state that I think that any of the three progressive candidates running in Peterborough county would make an excellent Member of Parliament: Emily Berrigan (Green Party of Canada), Betsy McGregor (Liberal), or Steve Sharpe (NDP). The problem is that if we split the approximately 65% of the vote that will likely go to the three progressive parties in our riding, Dean Del Mastro will win because he will receive approximately 35% of the vote. It's a dilemma that Canadians across our country are grappling with at the riding level: how to prevent the very non-mainstream minority from holding on to control of our country and carrying out an agenda that is anti-progressive and (many of us would argue) anti-Canadian as well. (Read my reasons for launching this blog in December 2006 and you'll see that I've been deeply concerned about this government, our MP, and Canada for a very long time.) This is where strategic voting comes into play.

Making the decision to vote strategically may be something entirely new to you, particularly if you have a long association with or a passionate commitment to a particular party. (You may want to read tonight's Peterborough Examiner to find out why peace activist and much-loved former physician Joyce Barrett -- a long-time NDP supporter -- has chosen to vote strategically in this election and rally behind Betsy McGregor. "I wept when Dean (Del Mastro) was elected in 2006," she told The Examiner.")

The idea of strategic voting is certainly something alien for me, too. Or it was until I started listening in on the thoughtful discussions of everyday Canadians like you and me and hearing how passionate they were about preventing a Conservative majority government -- and of allowing themselves to dream of a time when we might actually have a progressive government in power in Canada again.

Uniting the left is the only way to begin the process of unseating the Harper government. By going after the Conservatives in those ridings where they are most vulnerable -- in ridings like Peterborough where the race is going to be close -- we have a chance to end up with one more progressive voice on Parliament Hill. That person will not be a voice for any one party. That person will be a voice for all people in our riding who hope for a more progressive future for this riding.

As Liberal Party MP Michael Ignatieff stated earlier this week:

"What separates us from the Conservatives is that we believe you can’t have an efficient economy without a just society.

"A just society — where every citizen is equal; where we succeed together, because we look after each other; where no Canadian goes to the wall when times are tough; where no Canadian has to walk the lonely road of poverty or ill health alone.

"A market economy demands a just and equal society.  You can’t have an efficient economy, without a just and equal society. This is the key idea behind Canadian liberalism [and progressive Canadians in general, I would argue.]

"That’s not Harper’s Canada."

And speaking of inspiring politicians, here's what Elizabeth May had to say on the subject of strategic voting a few days ago:

The Green, Liberal and New Democratic parties should prevent vote-splitting that would favour Conservatives, and carve up electoral ridings according to who has the best chance of winning, May said. "We sit down and say, `Who has the best chance of winning in all these ridings?' What I've been calling for is proportional representation by other means."

Here are some resources you may wish to consult as you begin to consider whether voting strategically is the right move for you. I will continue to add to this list during the days ahead. You may also wish to use the voting tool in the upper-right hand corner of this blog. It tells you which candidate is considered Peterborough Riding's best bet for electing a progressive candidate.

Note: The tool is updated on a continuous basis as polling data changes.

Strategic voting resources and tools:




DemocraticSPACE: Strategic Voting Guide

Backgrounder 7: Strategic Voting

Some Much Overdue Political Levity

A roundup of fun political links.

Here's an early-afternoon addition to the justice story, by way of Far and Wide: pay attention to what's on your website -- particularly when the gavels start flying.

September 26, 2008

Democratic Slippage During the Harper Years

This quote from my sidebar keeps dancing around in my head. It won't leave me alone. I think it wants me to showcase it where you can see it, ponder it, and possibly share it with others. So here goes....

Nighttime "Some historian in the future will look at this period of Canadian democratic governance and in sombre tones describe how Canadian society,
somehow, inexplicably, began to deliberately diminish itself.
It did this not, the historian will say,
because it needed to....
It decided, bit by bit, to become less."

- Murray Dobbin, author and journalist writing about
the democratic slippage of the Harper years,
"Deciding to Become Less", TheTyee.ca

September 21, 2008

Dean Del Mastro, Peterborough Politicians Get Lesson in Transparency 101, Courtesy of Letter Writer to Peterborough Examiner

Wrongway_2 Peterborough municipal politicians and business leaders -- and, of course, Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro -- were given a crash course in Ethics 101, courtesy of this letter in yesterday's Peterborough Examiner:

"We do not pay our MP to be the front man for an unnamed, private developer in a municipal matter. Our public land policies are developed in open forums with all the information on the table. This is called transparency.

"We also engage local citizens, not a cabal of special interest groups behind closed doors. It is disappointing to see our local council members and business leaders climbing on board. Seems there is a ship of fools adrift on Little Lake."

This may leave you wondering why so few people in power in Peterborough seem to understand concepts like conflict of interest, transparency, public perception, and due process.

For years, I've been defending Peterborough against all those "Peterpatch" backwater jokes.

While politicians continue to behave like this, those jokes will continue. And why shouldn't they?

Unfortunately, the joke is on us, Peterborough, because these are the people we choose to elect.

September 18, 2008

Lights, Camera, Mounties, Munchkins! Stephen Harper Enlists Mounties to Keep Oz Safe for the Conservative Munchkins

"I have a seven-month-old baby and I'm out of work as of Friday when my job goes to Mexico. We're here to let Harper know there's more going on in this country than tax cuts, and no one is going to tell me I can't."
- 40-year-old Dave Leitch, who was asked by the Mounties to steer clear of the media cameras so he wouldn't interfere with the Prime Minister's carefully choreographed sound byte of the day.

Journalist Greg Weston of the Canadian Press describes this unprecedented use of the Mounties as the Prime Minister's PR flunkies:

"All of the federal leaders have RCMP bodyguards for the election, but none we have ever seen has been forced to do political dirty work like the squad assigned to Harper.

The best bodyguards in the business - and always nice to me -- they are now being forced to use their authority to protect Conservative photo ops.

(Don't blame the officers -they're just following orders, and my bet is most are embarrassed all to hell at having to dirty their hands in political swill.)

By the time the PM was at the microphone for yesterday's announcement, he was surrounded by a cheering crowd of party faithful, every one there by invitation only and required to pass an ID check by a Conservative organizer under the watchful eye of yet another RCMP.

The man getting his Mounties can't be good."

Okokok Of course, this kind of media manipulation (and out-and-out fakery) is business as usual for Stephen Harper. What's unusual is his willingness to be so blatant about his desire to control the media and the message. That begs the question: Is it arrogance or a sense of political imperviousness that has led him to pull back the curtain that once hid the team controlling his so-called wizardly ways.

Now the wizard is out front, barking out orders to the team of Mounties, not caring that the pretense of a magical spell has been broken, that everyone can see that it's all a carefully staged charade: The public has been vanquished from Oz and repopulated with Happy Conservative Munchkins who are ready to applaud whatever their wizard is offering up today. It's a surreal, technicolour dream.

Never mind the black-and-white realities: that the wizard is a control freak who is drunk on the elixir of power. He manipulates the media, recruits the Mounties to run interference between message and members of the public, and keeps the critics out of range. You don't have to travel far from Oz before you arrive in Stepford, don't you know?

* One of the perks of being the guy who happen to know that an election is looming -- and one of the reasons the Conservatives introduced legislation dealing Fixed Date Elections.

September 10, 2008

YWCA Canada Asks "Who's Afraid of Elizabeth May?"

Womanmanarrows I thoroughly support YWCA Canada's call for a woman's voice in the election debate. (See press release below.) They have issued a press release strongly objecting to the exclusion of Elizabeth May from the televised federal election debates and have called upon other social justice organizations to do the same.

I felt compelled to start this blog in late 2006 after the Harper government chopped funding to Status of Women Canada by a stunning 40 percent. And I have repeatedly expressed my dismay over the bullying and strong-arm tactics used by this government: whether they are trying to manipulate the media, damage the reputation of the Leader of the Official Opposition, silence their critics via lawsuits, call elections at will, chop funding to artists (who are always the loudest and most passionate critics in a free and democratic society), or -- in this case -- make it more difficult for newer political parties -- and fresh voices -- to be heard by ordinary Canadians.

This is not acceptable.

This is not Canadian.

* * * * *

"Who's Afraid of Elizabeth May?" YWCA Canada calls for a woman's voice in election debate

TORONTO, September 9, 2008 - YWCA Canada, the country's oldest and largest women's multi-service organization, is calling for the inclusion of Green Party leader Elizabeth May in the televised federal election debate and encouraging other social justice organizations to do the same.

"Our daughters need to see what equality looks like," says Paulette Senior, YWCA Canada CEO, "and equality isn't four men debating the future of Canada while freezing out the one woman who leads a national party. It's time for inclusion." 

The media consortium decision to bar Ms. May from the debate is shocking, particularly in a year of major firsts for women in national politics in the U.S., as Hillary Clinton became the first woman to make a credible run for a presidential nomination and the Republicans named Sarah Palin as the first woman ever on their presidential ticket. YWCA Canada calls on the media consortium to re-issue the invitation to the leaders of all five national parties, and hold a debate with whoever accepts.

"If you hold it, they will come," says Senior, admonishing those federal party leaders who said they won't show up. "Threatening not to participate if Elizabeth May is in the debate smacks of bullying. It sets a poor example to the girls we work to empower every day in our programs and services. And the message it delivers to boys is deplorable."

Elizabeth May is the fourth woman to lead a national party in Canada. The NDP was the first party to elect a woman as leader, selecting Audrey McLaughlin in 1989 and is the only party to be successively led by women. Progressive Conservative Kim Campbell is the only woman to have served as Prime Minister of Canada and did so for less than half a year. For more than 130 years, or well over 99% of Canadian history, men have served as Prime Minister of Canada.

At the present time, all first ministers across the country are male. In fact, Canada's international ranking on the Inter-Parliamentary Union, "List of Women in National Parliaments,"  is 48th in the world.  Despite our relative economic prosperity and political stability, Canada now has fewer women in parliament than most of Europe and many so-called less developed countries including Uganda, Rwanda, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Fairness and equality are important values that all Canadians share.  It's time for the parties to live up to the standards they claim to cherish and include Ms. May in the electoral debate.

July 19, 2008

Feisty Squirrel

This post ("Ghost Stories") would have been as at home right here as it is in my blog at ParentCentral.ca (The Toronto Star), but because it focuses so much on kids and education, I posted it over there.

If you click through, you'll find a photo of the "Why" necklace I made one day, when I was feeling particularly frustrated with the status quo. I wear it on days when I'm feeling particularly feisty and ready to speak my mind about anything and everything. It's a warning sign to family members that they might not want to ask my opinion unless they really want to hear it.

Hope everyone is having a fabulous summer. I'm in squirrel-mode right now -- gathering nuggets of information and storing them away for the months to come.