On Monday night in Toronto three major party leaders showed their wares and clashed swords in front of a well-dressed crowd at the Roy Thomson Hall. While the leaders debated foreign policy, the viewers, in essence, looked to gauge who looked best to represent Canada on the world stage.
With the confirmation of the Canadian recession by Stats Canada earlier this month and the government's subsequent announcement of a $1.9 billion surplus, spending has become a particular point of interest in our upcoming election. Small business owners, who make up 98 per cent of employer businesses in Canada, will be looking to see which party's proposed spend will have a tangible effect on their bottom lines.
I was quite taken aback by Justin Trudeau's performance at the Globe and Mail debate. We have all seen how Stephen Harper's Conservatives fail to tell the truth and mislead the public, so it's hard to believe that anyone could do worse. My issue with Trudeau has nothing to do with his performance or speaking skill. It has everything to do with the substance and content of his speech, and this speaks to his integrity.
Demand for peace operations has never been greater, and the UN has never been busier, with more than 128,000 civilian and uniformed personnel serving in 39 missions across four continents. Canada has been absent from peace operations for many years. We currently have a risible total of 28 military personnel and 88 police officers on UN missions. Once we were number one in this field; now we are number 68 -- right behind Paraguay. Canada, and all our international partners, must provide the UN with the expertise and capabilities it needs to respond to this unprecedented challenge.
In Canada, arts and culture are at a crossroads. They can either move forward or backward, depending on the choices we make. For them to move forward, it will be more than ever necessary for the federal government to play a leading role. The Liberals, under Justin Trudeau's leadership, are determined to make Canada, more than ever, a place where cultural expression is created and enjoyed whatever its roots, foreign or domestic.
Thomas Mulcair, head of the NDP, has not been able to use any of the leaders' debates to stop his party's loss of momentum, making him the loser of this first meeting in French. Stephen Harper and Gilles Duceppe performed well, whereas Justin Trudeau stumbled on several occasions and had his worst debate performance since the beginning of the election campaign. The wearing of the niqab and the constitutional question sharply divided the federal party leaders and created some lively exchanges.
Both Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau are committed to ending our outmoded first-past-the-post (FPP) voting system. However, it's still unclear what they'd replace it with. The problem as I see it is that Canadians haven't been offered a good substitute for our outmoded FPP system. We should have a whole smorgasbord of truly Canadian electoral options.
A large percentage each of NDP and Liberal supporters (over 30 per cent) is prepared to vote for the other if it is seen as the better option to defeat the Conservatives. However, the current deadlock has not revealed who that is and any gains made by either are small -- The tipping point, if it in fact occurs, may come down to Canadians making a judgement similar to that expressed in folklore and widely known as the Judgement of Solomon.
With a low debt-ratio to start with and interest rates at rock bottom levels, this is the time to invest and grow. That will help lift the economy and create jobs. And that's what Canada needs now more than ever. The Harper/Mulcair fixation on a short-term balanced budget -- at the expense of growth and everything else -- is the wrong priority.
Not all political dynasties are created equal -- one key difference lies in the calibre of their descendants. Last year, the Liberal Party elected as its leader Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Warren Bennis, a noted scholar on leadership, said, "The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born -- that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That's nonsense."
We are in the midst of the most closely contested (and lengthy) political campaign our country has seen in decades. The question every voter asks about any politician is: "Are they for real?" Many judge solely on each communication style and how they appear physically versus their beliefs on complex issues or even track record.
There has been some controversy about Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne warring with Stephen Harper in the battle for federal votes in Ontario -- The other parties' partisans have argued that it is unseemly for a premier to partake this way in a federal election. They doth protest too much, methinks.
By ensuring funding for the next election and limiting the campaign abilities of the other parties, the Conservatives will surely win Election 43. Donation limits only refresh annually, not per election, so if another snap election is triggered in 2015, parties would be scrambling to find new donors who had not already contributed the maximum to the current election.
With a strong plan to invest in jobs and economic growth, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has boldly distinguished himself from both Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair. Mr. Harper's growth record is the worst of any prime minister in eight decades. There are 160,000 more jobless Canadians today than before he took office. And Mr. Mulcair has strangely sided with the Harper austerity agenda, meaning billions of dollars in program cuts and/or broken promises to concoct the appearance of a balanced budget next year. The Mulcair plan and the Harper plan are formulae for going nowhere. Justin Trudeau is offering the only agenda for real change.
Unions are being challenged to reimagine themselves beyond their immediate membership -- to include all working people, the unemployed, the precariously employed, the retired and the many diverse communities who are being marginalized within today's economy.
One of the most important steps the Canadian government can take to kickstart the economy is a large-scale program directed at renewing our national infrastructure. It will help drive job creation while generating about $1.60 of GDP for every $1 spent. And it will transform the present value of low interest rates into long-term capital assets underpinning greater Canadian productivity.