February 09, 2012

The NDP and OAS: A "Rocking-Chair" Revolution?

Nycole Turmel speaking during Question Period in the House of Commons
I couldn't resist commenting on the recent "developments" in the House of Commons over the last two weeks. After returning from the international conference in Switzerland, Prime Minister Harper was hounded by the Opposition for bringing up potential changes to Old Age Security (OAS) in this country.

Numbers were floated by Mr. Harper at the Davos conference, although I don't think there was a lot of thought and research on those numbers by our Prime Minister. It just seemed to him like changing the eligibility from 65 to 67 years of age would make sense, thus it was the numbers he floated in front of other major world leaders.

But, naturally, the Official Opposition led by the New Democratic Party of Canada jumped on the chance to have yet another point on which to grill the Harper Conservatives in the House of Commons. Despite the fact that the entire Conservative cabinet have stated again and again that changes (if there will be any) to OAS won't take affect for many years, if not a decade or more, the NDP has made it look like the Prime Minister would like to enact these changes tomorrow, affecting "poor seniors" today as they try to make ends meet.

A really interesting article by Hugh MacIntyre in the National Post highlights the steps being taken by the NDP to extend their appeal to those who are currently 65+ using the controversy about OAS.

Basically, the NDP are taking the OAS controversy on the road to many communities throughout Canada in an attempt to become more appealing to the older generation, a generation that largely ignored the NDP during the election this past Spring.

The problem lies in the fact that what they're preaching just simply isn't the truth. The Harper Conservatives have told the Opposition over and over again that any changes wouldn't be made for quite a long period of time. AND that is even if major changes are even made! Yet, the NDP is mobilizing quite substantial resources to take this to the population they believe will be affected: those who're 65+.

Unfortunately for them, the Conservatives have hammered home that seniors today and even those who will become seniors in the next 10 years or more will not see any changes to the current system. The NDP are essentially campaigning for voters to change their minds based upon a ficitious panic; a panic the party themselves are attempting to induce.

I certainly hope that this backfires on the NDP before the time of the next election. In a vain attempt to gain more favour in the eyes of older voters, they're lieing to Canadians.

The facts do lie with the knowledge that the cost to maintain OAS will increase at least three times over in the next 30 years. Now, there has been ongoing debate surrounding the potential outcome that OAS won't actually cost all that much more in 30 years when it is considered that the economy is expected to grow and thus federal government coffers will grow. But assuming that this doesn't happen to the same degree as what is expected (take the past four years as an example), then the reality becomes that something must be done to ensure OAS remains sustainable for future generations.

What exactly those changes will be are unclear at the current time, and isn't something that any political party should be commenting on in 2012.

Thus, if I were the NDP, and I wanted to gain any kind of significant ground on the governing Conservatives, I would drop the OAS debate and focus on issues that will affect Canadians in the short term!

But, of course, the nature of the beast is that the NDP are not in a compromising position anymore. The Conservatives won the past election with a majority mandate. Thus, another election is guaranteed not to happen until 2015. Basically, this means that the NDP can blather on and on about insigificant issues because they have no fear of having to back them up with a campaign platform anytime soon.

Its been quite a while since Canada has had a majority government in Ottawa. It seems we have gotten used to the minority situation, where all parties always had to watch what they said and how far they took any "important" issue.

Personally, I think the NDP should be concentrating their focus on the Province of Quebec, where they got 59 of their 102 seats. Popular opinion in support of the party has been falling steadily since the death of Jack Layton, their former leader. They should focus on battling to remain a major factor in Quebec so that they have a remote chance of maintaining or gaining seats in the next election.

We will see.


Remember, I appreciate all opinions and points-of-view! Please comment below!

February 08, 2012

The Canadian Armed Forces: An Under-appreciated Political Tool?

Emblem of the Canadian Forces
To tell you all the truth, I've been wanting to write about this for quite some time. But, I have been waiting for an appropriate news article to surface addressing the same issue to back up my opinions. The good news: I found one!

According to Matt Gurney's February 7th article in the National Post, the Canadian Armed Forces have been what amounts to a political tool since the Harper Conservatives took power for the first time in 2006. Although this may sound ridiculous, even ludicrous to some, take a moment to look at how this could actually be the case. AND above all, look at how we as a country, may be one of the few in world able to pull it off.

First off, as Mr. Gurney mentions in his article, Canada's per capita spending on the military is significantly lower than even Australia, a nation that has both a smaller population and a smaller GDP. In order for us to match the per capita spending of Australia, we would have to bring our annual armed forces spending from ~$22 billion to around $35-40 billion. This is something that won't likely happen in the near future, if ever. Now...let me tell you why.

You see, Canada is a very unique country in the sense that we don't really require a military capable of the same deployment as many other nations throughout the world. The reason: our neighbour to the south, the United States. It has, all throughout modern times, been necessary for the USA to ensure the safety and security of the entire North American continent. This need has allowed post-WWII Canada to languish in the size of its military and the federal government's monetary commitment to the same. Further, let's be totally honest with each other here: we're not about to break off friendly relations with the United States, so we need not worry!

Or do we...?

No...no I will not resort to fear mongering and conspiracy theories about the eventual military takeover the United States will embark upon here in our great nation!

More realistically, I personally believe that we need to be at least self-sufficient when it comes to defending our borders. In order to be secure in that task, spending will have to be greatly increased on the part of the federal government. But, do I think it will happen in the near future? NO!

My reasoning isn't all that complicated, but it does reaffirm Matt Gurney's statement that military spending is not more than a political tool. You see, despite the fact that the Harper Conservatives have taken the pro-military stance in comparison to the other federal parties, our Prime Minister is in quite a unique situation when it comes to being able to fund that very institution.

In the aftermath of the "Great Recession" the Harper government has committed to austerity measures that will bring the deficit back in line and bring the federal government from the red back into the black. Increasing military spending by any great deal while cutting other services and departments would be the closest thing to political suicide Mr. Harper could do thus far in his time in office. Just take the F-35 fighter jet controversy as a clear example!

We, as a nation, have not recently had to defend ourselves in any serious manner. Thus, we have developed what seems to be a culture of entitlement. Why should we have to increase funding to our military when the United States is there in case the sh** hits the fan?

The reality is, folks, that we will eventually be called upon to defend ourselves once again. It may not be soon, and it may not even be on the same scale as the two World Wars, but it certainly will happen again.

And so long as the military is being used as a political, vote-getting tool up on Parliament Hill, these changes won't happen.

But, as with everything else, the whole situation is a complicated slurry of contradictions and consequences...

Let's just hope that the economy gets back on track so that we can start allocating funds where they need to go once again.

The military should certainly make the short-list for any future funding. Let's face it, without our men and women in uniform, we're naught but sitting ducks. In the post-Afghanistan domestic landscape, let's make sure our military is not forgotten and left to rust out from the inside.