Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Issues Series Vol. 2 - Child Care

This seems to be another issue that has come to the forefront early in the campaign. Different plans have cropped up as to how best take care of our children under 6. Here's the brief synopsis thus far.

Conservative Party
Stephen Harper really started pushing the discussion on child care this week with his announcement of the $1200 annual benefit ($100 monthly) paid directly to families for each child under the age of 6. This would be to offset the cost of childcare in the best way the parent sees fit. The program, estimated at $10.9 billion over 5 years, would also create 125,000 new daycare spaces through tax credits to companies and community groups.

Liberal Party
Paul Martin and the Liberals announced several months ago their creation of a Childcare and Early Learning program, allocating $5 billion over 5 years (through 2009) to subsidize spaces in daycare programs. Today (Dec. 6) he annouced that they would be extending the program, making it $11 billion over 10 years.

Layton and the NDP have taken a stance on childcare that is slightly different. Basically, the NDP aren't campaigning to win the election, they are campaigning to have some of their ideas be represented as the "power brokers" of the next parliament. So based on that, they have set a list of conditions for child care, as "having a network of accessible, quality child care providers with regulated standards, and preventing public dollars from paying for private, big-box-style child care." (From http://www.ndp.ca/).

The Green Party
The Green Party's stance on childcare focuses on several things. They've stated that they wish to both develop a national childcare system, as well as provide incentives to businesses to increase programs such as flextime and on-site day care services.

The BQ
The Bloc has the fairly standard response in something that falls under the general provincial purview. Pretty much they signed their deal with the liberals for $1.125 billion to run their provincial childcare system, and that's as much input as they want from Ottawa.

Again, everyone, feel free to comment.

The Voting Youth

Here is an issue that seems to crop up every election, and then largely be left dormant between elections. Youth and voting. To some, a big deal, to others, not so much. Reports of the last election's turnout in the youth demographic were quite low, but now a new story crops up saying that 88% of people aged 18-24 intend to vote? And 70% of them affiliate with a party? (Check out the story)

I'm sorry, but I find that hard to believe, for a few reasons. As a member of said demographic, while I intend to vote, whenever I attempt to have a conversation regarding political issues with my friends and peers, I frequently find they don't have any idea what the issues are. And as such, many of them have said that they don't want to vote as they don't know enough about what is going on. Is that wholly their fault? I don't think so (and its also partly the reason I started writing this blog).

I think much of the problem stems from the fact that young people don't feel that they have a say, or true representation in Parliament. Many people look at the government and see a bunch of older men and women, more representative of their parents and grandparents generation than their own. Is that 100% accurate? Not necessarily, but even for some of the younger MPs, younger voters don't necessarily relate to them either, due to ideology, attitude, or how they act in the House of Commons.

So what needs to be done? Sure, people my age could work to take a larger interest in public affairs and politics. And the parties could meet us halfway, and start focusing on some of the issues that appeal more to younger voters, and delivering their messages in channels that younger voters connect with.

These are some of my thoughts on the issue, if anyone wants to suggest anything, please comment, this is definitely a subject I'd like to hear some discussion on.

Debates on Debates?

This is an interesting issue for the current Canadian Election. When scheduling the leaders debates for the 2006 Canadian Election, the media panel which organizes them has chosen who gets to speak.

For those of you not following too closely, the panel, which consists of CBC, CTV, Radio-Canada, TVA, and Canwest-Global have decided that in the 4 televised debates (2 English 2 French) the leaders speaking will be Paul Martin of the Liberals, Stephen Harper of the Tories, Jack Layton of the NDP, and Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois.

Now, where is the issue, some ask? Well, there is a party called the Green Party, who might have something to say about that. While small, they did garner 4% of the popular vote in 2004, and are running candidates in all ridings. Now, the same can't be said of the Bloc. While they did gain a larger portion of the popular vote nationally (12.4% according to Elections Canada results available at http://www.elections.ca/scripts/OVR2004/default.html), they do only run candidates in Quebec. So, for the voter in the other 9 provinces and 3 territories, what is the relevance to having the Bloc in the debate?

Frankly, I personally care more what the Green Party has to say than the Bloc purely because I can't do anything to affect the results of the Bloc. Sure, include them in the debate, as there are many voters in Quebec who do want to hear what they have to say, but for the rest of the country, its more of a preview into the election elsewhere than something they can directly take action on. For the remainder of the country, I personally think that it would be good to have the Green Party included in the debate. And if another new party develops, and starts to gain the publicity, include them too. The debates should be about giving Canadians the chance to hear what each of the major parties in their ridings have to say on the issues, and until they are willing to include parties like the Green Party and other future parties, no significant change will happen. Then we're just hearing the same stories from the same players.

So what do I say? Give them a chance, see what they have to say, and let us hear all the options.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Issues Series Vol. 1 - Health Care

The hot-button issue of late, Health Care is something that is sure to be a big deal this campaign. With differing philosophies regarding public and private care, wait times, and spending, the parties definitely have their work cut out for them in selling their respective packages, to the Canadian Voter. So, in no particular order, here are some of the key points on Health Care:

Liberal Party of Canada
The Liberals point out the money allocated towards health in the last budget, at just over $41 billion spent over 10 years. This includes working towards shorter waiting times, increased medical staff, and a national pharmaceutical strategy to be implemented by mid-2006. They also state goals towards improving access to health care for groups such as aboriginals, those requiring homecare, and to improve community and family care.

In the public versus private debate, the Liberals haven't really weighed in as of yet, more just stating a committment to the Canada Health Act.

Conservative Party of Canada
The Conservatives have mentioned their healthcare plans early in the campaign. Thus far it has been based on following the National Health Accord, designing a system to guarantee a minimum acceptable standard for wait times, and strengthening the public healthcare system so as to remove the additional need for an alternative.

Jack Layton and the NDP have thus far stated that they will fight any push towards a private system and will increase Health Care funding to the provinces.

Bloc Quebecois
The Bloc pushes for a more hands off approach from the federal government, while wanting increased federal funding.

The Green Party
The Green Party has a platform based around several things, including supporting universal health care, increasing promotion for a healthy living, activity, and healthy eating, and increasing research into and usage of alternative healing methods. They also take a fairly progressive stance on some of the more sensitive areas of medical research.

Thus ends volume one, for the moment at least. Should you have any comments, or notice any inaccuracies, please let me know, and I'll work to correct them.

The Issues Series - More to follow . . .

As I've been speaking to a few friends and coworkers, some have said that they may not vote because they just don't know what's going on. Well, based on that, I thought I might take the time to try to put together a brief summary of where the parties stand based on the info available online. So I'll be posting here periodically, and trying to keep things up to date. If anyone would like to comment on things I've missed or what you'd like me to cover next, feel free.

Local vs. National

I think this is something that is starting to become more of a debate, both internally and externally. Now, it isn’t something that everyone will have to face, but there are those of us who may have to make the choice between choosing a local candidate that we feel is most competent in representing the riding, and voting based on the party we want to make the government.

I know, in my riding, I am currently facing this proposition. Do I vote for a candidate I really can’t stand, for a party that I may want to make the new government (I’m still undecided about that, as there’re 7 more weeks of campaigns to see first), or do I vote for the candidate I actually think would be a good representative, and support a party that I may not actually want to rule.

In my opinion, this is one of the problems that needs to be addressed in the Canadian electoral system. The role of an MP is not merely to determine the party making the government, but to represent their riding. However, with the current electoral system, our voting doesn’t always reflect this.

So what needs to be done to fix this? Well, one solution as I see it, is to begin allocating a number of seats based on popular vote percentages. Now, I’m not advocating a 100% proportional system, as then we can lose some of the local representation that our MPs purportedly provide. Perhaps a second vote on each ballot to a party that may or may not be the same as the candidate voted for to select these.

So where would these seats go? Well, there are a few options that could be touched on in a few posts of their own. Maybe through an expansion of Parliament, or through changing the Senate to a proportionally elected body. There are other options as well.

Frankly, I think that this is one of the things that will need to be changed to really have an effect on the Canadian political landscape. It would allow for new voices to be heard in government, and for people to have a say both in how their riding is represented and their country governed, as opposed to possibly being forced to compromise between the two.

Time for Change?

As the most recent election campaign spins up here in Canada, I can’t help but sit here and wonder what is going on in our political landscape, and where things are going. We are in an environment that seems ripe for change, yet will it actually happen?

Canadians seem now to have choices to make about where they want things to go, but there are many things to consider. Who do we want to lead the country? Should we be voting for our local candidate, or the party we feel we should? Should we be voting for the party that says they’ll do the things we want, or the party we think will do the things they say?

These are all issues, and things I’d like to touch on throughout this blog over the coming weeks and beyond. Should anyone have any comments, please feel free! Open discussion is something we could always use more of.