Opinion: Politicians should listen to their constituents

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Politicians should ask themselves - is it worth to have environmental risks where their constituents live?

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Min­is­ter Bains’ lack­lus­ter clus­ters

Last week, fed­eral In­no­va­tion Min­is­ter Navdeep Bains an­nounced new de­tails about the fed­eral govern­ment’s plan to grow Canada’s econ­omy: hand out nearly a bil­lion dol­lars in tax­payer money to a few busi­nesses who are will­ing to ask for it. To the min­is­ter’s credit, he had the good sense not to ex­press it in such can­did terms. In the rich tra­di­tion of rhetor­i­cal poli-bab­ble, he chose far more ex­cit­ing phrases such as “jump­start­ing in­no­va­tion” “mean­ing­ful eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity” and “su­per­clus­ters”. But try as he might to ap­ply lip­stick to this pig, it’s still the same old swine un­der­neath. Gov­ern­ments hand­ing out tax­payer money to favoured busi­nesses is the old­est trick in the in­dus­trial-strat­egy play­book. The min­is­ter him­self ad­mit­ted as much when pressed, sug­gest­ing his govern­ment was sim­ply copying the ap­proaches of other gov­ern­ments around the world. Ap­par­ently the min­is­ter didn’t look hard enough. From biotech­nol­ogy in Italy to a pur­pose-built Rus­sian tech park, to bil­lions wasted from Ger­many to Singapore, the num­ber of failed at­tempts by gov­ern­ments to cre­ate in­dus­try clus­ters is long – and ex­pen­sive. No mat­ter how hard they try, gov­ern­ments are not very good at pre­dict­ing the next big eco­nomic trend. But maybe Canada can learn from their mis­takes? Don’t bet on it: the Trudeau govern­ment hasn’t even learned from the mis­takes of pre­vi­ous fed­eral gov­ern­ments in Canada, which spent at least $12 bil­lion over the last half-cen­tury on cor­po­rate wel­fare with zero ev­i­dence of job cre­ation. Mean­while, the In­sti­tute of Fis­cal Stud­ies and Democ­racy at the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa es­ti­mates the fed­eral govern­ment al­ready has 147 dif­fer­ent pro­grams and tax mea­sures aimed at in­no­va­tion and skills de­vel­op­ment. Con­sider too that the cur­rent govern­ment has made such du­bi­ous “in­vest­ments” as hand­ing over $372 mil­lion to Bom­bardier (af­ter the com­pany laid off 2,000 Cana­dian work­ers), as well as a $100 mil­lion tax­payer gift to highly-prof­itable Ford (which then an­nounced it would be re­duc­ing up to 600 jobs). Which part of this long, repet­i­tive track record of failed govern­ment in­ter­ven­tions should give us any con­fi­dence they’ll get things right this time? In a sad co­in­ci­dence, on the same day Bains un­veiled his new bil­lion-dol­lar hand­out ini­tia­tive, Proc­tor & Gam­ble an­nounced it would close its plant pro­duc­ing clean­ing prod­ucts in Brockville, On­tario by 2021, throw­ing 480 peo­ple out of work. Af­ter show­er­ing Bom­bardier and Ford with tax­payer money, it’s fair to ask why Proc­tor & Gam­ble didn’t get a sim­i­lar hand­out. And it’s hard to con­clude that the an­swer has any­thing to do with eco­nom­ics, and ev­ery­thing to do with pres­tige. In the eyes of politi­cians, planes and cars mean so­phis­ti­cated tech­nol­ogy. But mops and fab­ric soft­ener sheets? Sorry guys, we can’t help you. The hand­outs are for the sexy in­dus­tries only. This is the in­evitable con­se­quence of a failed ap­proach to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment that has gov­ern­ments pick­ing win­ners and losers, in­stead of en­sur­ing a busi­ness-friendly en­vi­ron­ment for all. Rather than let the mar­ket de­ter­mine whether Bom­bardier, Ford or Proc­tor & Gam­ble should suc­ceed or fail, the govern­ment ends up de­cid­ing. The re­sult is that busi­nesses that don’t tick enough boxes on an ar­bi­trary check­list pay the price. Min­is­ter Bains may have the best of in­ten­tions with his su­per­clus­ter in­no­va­tion plan. But if his­tory is any guide, the clus­ter it will cre­ate will be far from the “su­per” kind he has in mind. Ed­i­tor: With the “wind down” of The Saskatchewan Trans­porta­tion Com­pany the govern­ment is show­ing to­tal dis­re­gard for the wel­fare and safety of the most vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens in our prov­ince. Did The Hon­ourable Joe Har­grave, Min­is­ter of Crown In­vest­ments Cor­po­ra­tion (CIC), Saskatchewan Govern­ment In­sur­ance (SGI), Saskatchewan Trans­porta­tion Com­pany (STC), do any cost com­par­isons for STC, Grey­hound, Puro­la­tor, Fedex, and other com­pa­nies which trans­port peo­ple and/or freight? Did The Hon­ourable Joe Har­grave do any re­search into the dis­as­trous costs to the Man­i­toba govern­ment when they shut down a sim­i­lar bus­ing sys­tem? “Ex­pect­ing” pri­vate car­ri­ers to take over the STC routes only means the loss of an ex­tremely high-qual­ity trans­porta­tion sys­tem which the ma­jor­ity of Saskatchewan vot­ers have al­ways sup­ported. We do not need to have limou­sine pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles on mat­ters of pub­lic in­ter­est for pub­li­ca­tion over the writer’s name. All let­ters must be ac­com­pa­nied by the au­thor’s name, ad­dress and tele­phone num­ber so that they can be ver­i­fied. Let­ters are sub­ject to edit­ing and lim­ited to 300 words. Copy­right in let­ters and other ma­te­ri­als sub­mit­ted to the Pub­lisher and ac­cepted for pub­li­ca­tion re­mains with the au­thor, but the Pub­lisher and its li­censees may freely re­pro­duce them in print, The Booster, its Pub­lisher or Pub­lish­ers and Al­berta News­pa­per Group, LP do not nec­es­sar­ily en­dorse the views ex­pressed therein. driven by peo­ple with un­known driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence driv­ing on poorly main­tained, dis­in­te­grat­ing high­ways dur­ing ex­treme win­ter weather con­di­tions in Saskatchewan. Did any­one in the Saskatchewan govern­ment con­sider the con­se­quences of this dis­as­trous de­ci­sion? Could it be that some­one in a bud­get cau­cus meet­ing just waved their hand in the air and shouted “Let’s use this deficit as an ex­cuse to get rid of STC!!”? The peo­ple who des­per­ately need STC trans­porta­tion are truly be­ing “thrown un­der the bus”! Diane Ca­wood - North Bat­tle­ford CFIB pe­ti­tion op­poses Car­bon Tax in Sask. The Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Busi­ness (CFIB) has col­lected more than 1,000 pe­ti­tions from small busi­ness own­ers across Saskatchewan op­posed to the in­tro­duc­tion of a na­tional car­bon tax. CFIB’S pe­ti­tion en­ti­tled: Tim­ing couldn’t be worse for in­tro­duc­tion of a car­bon tax, thanks the pro­vin­cial govern­ment for stand­ing up for Saskatchewan by op­pos­ing a na­tional car­bon tax. CFIB mem­bers also ask the pro­vin­cial govern­ment to con­tinue lob­by­ing the fed­eral govern­ment to re­con­sider its plan to im­pose a na­tional car­bon tax in Saskatchewan and rec­og­nize the prov­ince’s cur­rent ac­tions to re­duce car­bon emis­sions (e.g. use of car­bon cap­ture tech­nol­ogy, agri­cul­tural lands are sig­nif­i­cant car­bon sinks). “With a tech­ni­cal pa­per ex­pected soon out­lin­ing Ot­tawa’s pro­posal, the pro­vin­cial govern­ment needs to know that en­trepreneurs share its se­ri­ous con­cerns with a na­tional car­bon tax,” noted Mar­i­lyn Braun-pol­lon, CFIB Vice-pres­i­dent, Prairie & Agribusi­ness. “In fact, 76 per cent of Saskatchewan busi­ness own­ers are op­posed to the in­tro­duc­tion of a car­bon tax, com­pared to just eight per cent who sup­port it.”

Let Par­lia­ment start de­bate on doc­tor-as­sisted dy­ing

Ear­lier this month, the Supreme Court of Canada is­sued a unan­i­mous judg­ment strik­ing down the ban on physi­cian-as­sisted dy­ing. Death, and the ways in which it touches our lives, is not eas­ily dis­cussed. In the few short weeks that have passed, I’ve had many dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions with those who ap­plaud — and those who con­demn — the court’s de­ci­sion. The rul­ing ap­plies only to com­pe­tent adults with en­dur­ing, in­tol­er­a­ble suf­fer­ing, who clearly give con­sent to a physi­cian-as­sisted death, but even within that scope, Cana­di­ans have dif­fer­ent — and strongly held — opin­ions and be­liefs. Mine is informed by the ex­pe­ri­ence of car­ing for my fa­ther in his fi­nal days. It is my per­sonal be­lief that we need our laws to up­hold the Supreme Court’s rul­ing be­cause it is the right thing to do. We need to hear from oth­ers. Whether they are informed by re­li­gious con­vic­tion, per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence or pro­fes­sional ex­per­tise, Cana­di­ans’ voices de­serve to be heard. More­over, if we are to have a re­spect­ful, re­spon­si­ble dis­cus­sion on this im­por­tant is­sue, we need suf­fi­cient time to hear from Cana­di­ans — from the pa­tients who will be af­fected by the leg­is­la­tion, from their fam­i­lies, from med­i­cal and le­gal ex­perts. Un­der­stand­ing the na­ture of that process, the Supreme Court wisely pro­vided a dead­line of one year to draft leg­is­la­tion. With the sum­mer re­cess and a fall elec­tion, par­lia­men­tar­i­ans will have barely more than 12 sit­ting weeks to deal with this is­sue. That gives us enough time to do this, but no time to waste. For that rea­son, this week, our party put for­ward a mo­tion call­ing on the House of Com­mons to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion. We asked that a spe­cial com­mit­tee be ap­pointed to con­sider the rul­ing of the Supreme Court, and that it con­sult with ex­perts and with Cana­di­ans. This com­mit­tee would make rec­om­men­da­tions for a leg­isla­tive frame­work that would re­spect the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms and Cana­di­ans’ pri­or­i­ties. The gov­ern­ment, how­ever, did not ac­cept our pro­posal. As Con­ser­va­tive MP Steven Fletcher noted, the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion has “given us a clear path” to “move for­ward quickly but thought­fully.” There is no ad­van­tage to de­lay­ing de­bate. In­deed, given the time­line of­fered by the Supreme Court, if Par­lia­ment has any in­ten­tion of ad­dress­ing this is­sue be­fore the next elec- tion, these con­sul­ta­tions must be­gin im­me­di­ately. We need to have a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion on dy­ing with dig­nity, which in­cludes how we care with em­pa­thy and re­spect for those who are suf­fer­ing at the end of their lives. We must have a frank dis­cus­sion about the qual­ity of care al­ready avail­able, and whether there is eq­ui­table ac­cess to qual­ity pal­lia­tive care. Que­bec’s ex­pe­ri­ence shows us that re­spect­ful and re­spon­si­ble de­lib­er­a­tion is pos­si­ble. It re­minds us that when po­lit­i­cal par­ties set aside their dif­fer­ences in ser­vice of the pub­lic good, co-op­er­a­tion can fol­low. Con­sen­sus can be found — even on an is­sue as com­plex and sen­si­tive as end-oflife care. The Supreme Court of Canada’s de­ci­sion on physi­cian-as­sisted death was not only unan­i­mous — it was un­am­bigu­ous. It now falls upon us, as leg­is­la­tors, to act. Cana­di­ans ex­pect lead­er­ship from their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Given that the gov­ern­ment did not sup­port our pro­posal, the prime min­is­ter now has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to share his plan with the coun­try. A re­spect­ful, re­spon­si­ble dis­cus­sion on dy­ing with dig­nity re­quires time to hear from Cana­di­ans, in­clud­ing pa­tients and med­i­cal and le­gal ex­perts

Trudeau launches ad cam­paign

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s Lib­er­als, strug­gling dur­ing a po­lar­iz­ing de­bate be­tween the Con­ser­va­tives and NDP on war and na­tional se­cu­rity, are launch­ing a pre-elec­tion ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign Wed­nes­day aimed at get­ting Cana­di­ans to think about the econ­omy. The four ra­dio ads, pro­vided in ad­vance Tues­day to The Van­cou­ver Sun, are tar­get­ing key vo­terich ar­eas in­clud­ing B.C.’s Lower Main­land. The ra­dio cam­paign fea­tures Trudeau’s voice-over blast­ing Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment pol­icy on pen­sions and promis­ing a Lib­eral gov­ern­ment will cancel the $2-bil­lion-a-year in­come­s­plit­ting pro­gram, which econ­o­mists say favours the rich, and use that money to help the mid­dle class. The ra­dio ads — three are 30 sec­onds, one is a minute — are the first by the Lib­er­als to fo­cus on spe­cific pol­icy po­si­tions. They are be­ing un­veiled at a time when the na­tional de­bate has fo­cused on the mil­i­tary cam­paign against the deadly Is­lamic State group and Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper’s pro­posed na­tional se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion. Both the gov­ern­ment and the New Demo­cratic Party have clear po­si­tions in favour and op­posed, while Trudeau has sought a nu­anced po­si­tion on both poli­cies that has drawn some crit­i­cism. The ads fo­cus on a Lib­eral prom­ise to re­verse Harper’s de­ci­sion to grad­u­ally in­crease the el­i­gi­bil­ity age for Old Age Se­cu­rity and Guar­an­teed In­come Sup­ple­ment cheques from 65 to 67. Trudeau also prom­ises to work with pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments to re­form and en­rich the Canada Pen­sion Plan. He also goes af­ter the Harper gov­ern­ment’s in­come-split­ting pro­gram, which al­lows a high­ere­arn­ing tax­payer with at least one child un­der 18 to trans­fer part of their in­come to a spouse in a lower tax bracket. “I’ll cancel that tax break for the rich and use that money to help our mid­dle class and those work­ing hard to join it,” Trudeau says. “You know — the peo­ple who ac­tu­ally need the help.” The cam­paign tim­ing is good, ac­cord­ing to Uni­ver­sity of Vic­to­ria po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Kim­berly Speers, and not just be­cause the Con­ser­va­tives are un­veil­ing a bud­get in April. “It’s tax sea­son and Cana­di­ans are pay­ing ex­tra at­ten­tion to their own fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion and likely wish they were in a bet­ter sit­u­a­tion.” Speers, who lis­tened to the four ads, said they should be ef­fec­tive in reach­ing the Lib­eral tar­gets — older Cana­di­ans ap­proach­ing re­tire­ment, who tend to vote in larger num­bers than youth, and the so-called “mid­dle class.” The mes­sage could res­onate with Cana­di­ans but only if Trudeau, who has been crit­i­cized for lack­ing solid poli­cies, comes up with a com­pre­hen­sive plat­form for “wa­ver­ing Cana­di­ans” to back up the rhetoric, she said.

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