Last week former defence minister Jason Kenney said if re-elected the Conservatives would significantly expand Canada's special forces. Why? What do these "special forces" do? Who decides when and where to deploy them? For what purpose? These are all questions left unanswered (and not even asked in the mainstream media).
I am a reluctant activist. I don't like rocking the boat. But when our federal election was called in August, it occurred to me that the entries in my blog might be worth sharing. So I'm posting 78 of them to a Facebook page, 78 Days, 78 Reasons. It's my hope they'll help reasonable Canadians, particularly young people and small c-conservatives, see that we deserve better.
In response to the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, our current Canadian government has reluctantly offered some support. We shall, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accept 10,000 refugees over the next three years. As medical students committed to global health, we call into question this lukewarm commitment to such a pressing crisis and call for stronger commitments in line with Canada's values.
Each of the leaders would present a different face of Canada to the world. Mulcair clearly demonstrated a new NDP approach to the realm of foreign affairs for Canada. Trudeau worked hard to dig into his opponents, but didn't present himself as a possible world leader. Stephen Harper managed to stay out of any major trouble and reinforced his image as a "tough on terror" PM.
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.
My relationship with several key people in the Harper government was -- "interesting." But when I took the job as Canada's first parliamentary budget officer, I never envisioned the PBO as being involved in an "us versus them" dynamic. We were in our office to serve parliamentarians who had reasonable requests for costing or other fiscal information. But the relationship that had developed between our office and the ruling Conservative party was, to put it mildly, somewhat strained.
Data from UNHCR shows that only about one per cent of the world's displaced population resides in Canada. In fact, Canada has yet to meet its own targets for refugee acceptance when it comes to the current crisis, which originates primarily out of Syria and Iraq. Canadians, especially Muslim Canadians, interested in changing this status quo now have a lot more incentive to show up on October 19 to vote and do their part in the political process.
In an odd twist of fate, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi decided to have a change of heart and "pardon" three Al Jazeera journalists including Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy. Whether Sisi was feeling charitable on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid-Ul-Adha or wanted to improve his faltering global reputation before his visit to the United Nations is unknown.
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.
The federal government will not help Ontario in any way in implementing the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP). "Take a hike," was the federal government's basic message. We will not help you improve pensions unless you do it our way. And our way is simple: Canadians should do it themselves. Just figure it out. There is no retirement crisis, says the Harper government. Never mind that our mutual fund industry has among the highest fees in the world, while our best public pension funds have among the lowest costs despite excellent performance. Never mind that the capital markets are increasingly tilted against the interests of ordinary people. Never mind that employers have been abandoning defined-benefit plans for decades. Never mind that some of the most credible researchers in the country have called for a significant enhancement to the Canada Pension Plan.
Since 1993 there were five elections, none of which were determined by Quebec's participation. None. The Quebecois vote has been meaningless federally for a long time. In 2011 Harper had only five members elected in Quebec, having had 10 in each of the previous two elections, and he still obtained a strong majority.
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.
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.
In the 25 years I have called Canada home, I have seen a steady rise of Muslim women being strangled in the pernicious black tent that is passed off to naïve and guilt-ridden white, mainstream Canadians as an essential Islamic practice. The niqab and burka have nothing to do with Islam. They're the political flags of the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, the Taliban, al-Qaida and Saudi Arabia. Now I learn I have not only to fight the medieval, theocratic adherents of my faith for a safe space for myself, I have to battle the Federal Court of Canada as well.
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.