Monday, March 21, 2011

Creating an Unfair Society:

According to a recent CCPA report, the top one per cent of Canadians are “increasing their share of income at a historic pace, with wealth concentrated in a way that hasn’t been seen since the 1920s.” Conservative policies are exacerbating this.

1a) The Conservatives decided to scrap the mandatory long-form census – in spite of its usefulness to economists, social scientists, businesses, municipalities, health researchers, and more. 

1b) One of many civil servants mistreated by the Harper government was Munir Sheikh, who resigned as Canada’s chief statistician after Industry Minister Clement gave the impression that Sheikh supported the census cut. (See Bev Oda above.) “It really cast doubt on the integrity of the agency,” Sheikh later told a House of Commons committee.

1c) It has been estimated that the new, voluntary census to be introduced this year will produce poorer economic data – weakening the government’s ability to make policy and run programs. It will also cost $30 million – more than the thorough one it is replacing.

2) Save the Children and UNICEF recently reported that Canada is falling behind other developed countries when it comes to the well-being of its poorest children. We rank 17th among 24 industrialized countries in terms of material well-being — including family income and housing. 

3) Food Bank usage is up 28 per cent over the past two years.  

4) Canada is the only G8 country without an affordable housing program. Affordable housing is key to fighting child poverty, creating jobs, and tackling homelessness. The number of homeless Canadians dying from tuberculosis is rising.

5a) Despite the fact that Harper always has women sitting around him in the House of Commons, the International Parliamentary Union ranks Canada 51st when it comes to equality in national parliaments. Only 30 percent of Harper’s Senate appointees are women – a drop from 45 percent under Chretien. 

5b) The government drastically cut funding for Status of Women Canada and even took the word “equality” out of its mandate.  He has eroded pay equity, calling it “a rip off.” In spite of the fact that the House of Commons has been calling for a comprehensive national strategy to combat violence against women since 2008, the government has failed to act.

6a) Canada was one of only four countries which voted against the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights when passed by the General Assembly in 2007. (That stance has since been reversed.) 

6b) Another of the Harper government’s first acts was to cancel the Kelowna Accord, designed to help Aboriginal citizens receive higher standards of clean water, housing, education, and more.  Forty per cent of Aboriginals in their early 20s do not have a high school diploma; reserve schools generally get $2,000 less per student than off-reserve schools.

6c) Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has said the Harper government is ignoring his people while unilaterally pushing legislation that will affect them: a bill allowing Ottawa to set regulations to improve the shocking state of on-reserve drinking water (with no added money), and another looking into the payments of reserve chiefs. Atleo said both bills ignore the accountability gap within the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs itself, as revealed by the Auditor General. Nevertheless, the water regulatory bill gives all power to the federal government, overriding existing reserve bylaws.

7) “Cheating Veterans” – That’s how former Veterans’ Ombudsman, Col. Pat Stogran, whose term wasn’t renewed after he spoke out, described the Harper government’s 2006 replacement of life-time pensions for disabled veterans with “lump sum” payouts. This has cost veterans hundreds of thousands in support. 

8) National Defence Ombudsman Pierre Daigle has also spoken out about the unsympathetic treatment of the families of dead soldiers. He said his decision to go public followed a long, frustrating battle to get better treatment for these families.
9a) Since Harper took power the Conservatives have revamped Canada’s immigration system. Said one report: “ … they have deprived newcomers of the family support they need to integrate successfully, off-loaded responsibility for immigration, and given Canada a harsher, more forbidding face.” Family class immigrants have dropped by 10,000; the number of refugees is down by 25 percent, and visas for skilled workers are going to be cut, too. Instead, Canada admitted 180,000 temporary foreign workers last year – a source of low-cost labour for Harper’s corporate friends.
9b) The Conservatives are cutting $53 million from immigrant service agencies across the country. These settlement agencies offer language courses, help new Canadians find jobs, and other integration programs. Many will have to close. Ontario Immigration minister Eric Hoskins noted that: "Their specialties can't be replaced … They are upset at what they called the ‘blunt' and ‘brutal' manner the news was delivered to them, in a letter, two weeks before the holiday. None understands the justification and rationale behind it."


  1. The Census form was scrapped solely for ideological reasons. The Harper government does not want to hear from organizations and researchers that advise him how his policies are further damaging the health and livelihood of Canadians, and how poverty and the increasing gap between the rich and the poor is growing.

  2. According to one observer: “When the Harper government eliminated the compulsory long-form census, the first and ONLY question to go was the one on unpaid work. That means that the government will not be collecting data on how much more unpaid work women do than men -- whether in the home looking after the kids, cooking, cleaning or attending to aging parents or doing volunteer work.” Interesting.

  3. 2b) Jay Bryan, Montreal Gazette, March 28, 2011: “The most interesting thing about the first major campaign announcement of Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party is what it conceals, not what it reveals. This proposal, entitled the Family Tax Cut in the Conservative Party press release, would cost a whopping $2.5 billion a year, and is pitched as a way of lightening the burden on hard-pressed families raising children. But what’s not said is that most such families would receive little or nothing from this costly measure. And that’s on purpose. If you’re a single parent raising a child, you get nothing. The tax break is solely for families with two parents. This even though single-parent families have a much higher poverty rate: about two and a half times as high as the poverty rate for working-age couples with children, notes Katherine Scott, director of research at the Vanier Institute for the Family. If you’re in a family where both parents work and receive similar paycheques, you get little or nothing. The tax break, which allows a higher-income spouse to split income with a lower-income one, is only helpful where there’s a big difference in salaries. So if both parents are working at low-wage jobs, they get little or nothing. If one has a very good job, they get a pretty good tax break. If one has a very good job and the other doesn’t work at all, they get an even better tax break. Is the light beginning to dawn? This isn’t really a tax break for most people; it’s social policy: a tax break for people who fit the right-wing ideal of an upstanding family: dad makes a lot of money and mom stays home with the kids, as any good mother should, instead of relying on daycare ... The Library of Parliament research service studied the impact of a proposal like this in 2007 and found 61 per cent of the tax savings would go to families with incomes of more than $90,000 …”

  4. From The Globe, April 21, 2011:

    "A Conservative candidate has told constituents on the stump that the government has decided not to fund a family planning group – but his party quickly said no such decision had been made and distanced itself from his comments.

    Brad Trost, who is running for re-election in the semi-suburban, semi-rural riding of Saskatoon-Humboldt, made the remarks during a speech to an evening banquet at a Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association convention last Saturday.

    After thanking those who signed petitions to defund the International Planned Parenthood Federation, a group that provides assistance with birth control and maternal health, he told the audience how his office had spearheaded the campaign and how other MPs had helped him.

    “Let me tell you, and I cannot tell you specifically how we used it but those petitions were very, very useful and they were part of what we used to defund Planned Parenthood, because it has been an absolute disgrace that this organization and several others like it have been receiving one penny of Canadian taxpayers’ dollars,” he said in a recording of the speech released to the media by the Liberal Party.

    Planned Parenthood, which also funds abortions and promotes abortion rights, has received government money for decades, most recently an $18-million grant from the Canadian International Development Agency that ran out at the end of 2009. Last fall, the government began talks for new funding for the agency.

    No decision has been announced. But in his speech, Mr. Trost suggested that the government had stopped funding the group.

    “Now, you should know, they’re still trying to get their snout back in the public trough so that they can go do it,” he said. “And so there’s going to be a lot of vigilance and pressure and if you and your groups hear anything, please help us as Members of Parliament because we’re going to be on the lookout as they try to get in there.”

    A spokesman for Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper said the government had not made such a decision about funding Planned Parenthood and that it had no desire to decide who to fund based on abortion issues.

    “We have been crystal clear on this issue – we are not re-opening this debate,” said Dimitri Soudas ..."

  5. All political parties make decisions based on ideology. That is what politics is about. Look back to the history of the Liberals (Trudeau, Chretian) and the Ontarion NDP (Rae) and you will find many policies put forward based on ideology. If all politicians just did what the "professionals" or bureaucrats tell them to do, it would be pointless to have a democracy where we elect our representatives. In the long form census affair, the government made a decision and Stats Canada's job was to implement it. The chief statistician should have been fired for insubordination.