Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Anyway, after 40 minutes or so of scrambling to find a large enough room, things got underway with an introduction by Garth Turner. He spoke of income-splitting as an idea whose time has come; he introduced the various MPs who were in attendance at the meeting at that point and also highlighted that both Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Senate leader Marjory Lebreton had staffed the meeting.
Sara Landriault gave a brief introduction, then Beverley Smith spoke, about her long-time fight for recognition of unpaid labour. She pointed out how in the past families and households comprised true partnerships in which all roles were valued, but with the introduction of a money-based economy there has been a progressive devaluation of the roles of caregiver, parent, etc. - roles traditionally filled by women. Much of the work that women perform therefore goes unpaid, unvalued and unrecognized. Income-splitting would for the first time place a value on this work. She also pointed out that the equivalent-to-spouse tax credit, which was perhaps intended to address this, has fallen from around 1/3 of an average income to 1/7. In addition, of course, this credit still treats women as 'dependents' rather than according them the respect they deserve.
The Financial Panel followed, with presentations by Dr. David Murell of UNB, John Williamson of the CTF and Dr. Philip Merrigan of UQAM. David Murell highlighted the inequity built into the current tax system and how income-splitting would restore equity. He also pointed out the severe decline in population that Canada can expect to experience as couples put off having children later and later - or in many cases decide against altogether. This is particularly a problem in rural Canada. Against the argument that income-splitting is a regressive tax measure, he showed how an alternative scheme could be implemented that would cap the income-splitting benefit for the top tier of earners, and redistribute the money saved to the lower income brackets. This would enable the measure to be implemented while retaining a progressive tax system.
Philip Merrigan gave a highly informative presentation on the French model of family taxation, after which I think most of us would have moved to France at the drop of a hat. There, a family splits income according to the quotient familiale. A couple count as one part each. The first two children count as 1/2 part each and the third child as another full part. Income is split for tax purposes among the parts; therefore a family with three children splits their income four ways before tax. The idea (and result) is that families enjoy a similar standard of living regardless of whether they have children or not - and France is the only country in the western world with a birthrate sufficient to maintain its population. He also introduced me to the terms 'vertical' and 'horizontal' in relation to taxation equity. Vertical equity relates to the progressive model - those who earn more pay a greater proportion of taxes. This is where Canada's tax policy is focused. Horizontal equity refers to the idea of like earners paying like taxes - and this has been neglected in Canada in favour of a blind pursuit of vertical equity.
As examples, he showed how much benefit various families in Quebec derive from government transfers. A family earning $15,000 a year receives government benefits worth approximately $23,000. A family earning $100,000 a year receives $3,000 while paying $40,000 in taxes. The progressive model has the one family completely subsidising the life of the other.
The next panel was the caregivers panel, which opened my eyes to the various other scenarios in which income splitting would support families. Frank Toft spoke of the needs of parents caring for disabled adult children; Caroline Tapp-McDougall spoke of the needs of those caring for elders or sick family members. In all these scenarios, when someone has to give up work and give up income to care for someone in their family, income-splitting would support and above all, value, that caregiving work.
In the Political Panel, Elizabeth May spoke of the Green Party's interest in income-splitting as a tool to support the family, which they see as a fundamental pillar of society. It is government's role to create conditions that support families - income-splitting is one measure that can relieve the stress that families face today. Law school teacher Rebecca Bromwich described how divorce law has finally recognized the value of unpaid caregiving work - it's time for the rest of the legal system to catch up
The day was very enjoyable and informative. For me, it opened my eyes to so many benefits of income-splitting that take the debate way beyond the 'mommy-wars' that it's been hyped as. Income-splitting is about equal treatment for equal households. It's about valuing caregiving and other unpaid labour. It's about respecting and valuing women. It's about supporting all caregiving choices for children, the elderly, the sick and the disabled.
Income-splitting: It's about time.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
In particular, what I've really noticed in the last two weeks is an upping of the ante in the war between the liberal media and the government. In the beginning, the media used to spin their stories, but a lot of the facts still came through. These days, the media seems to be anticipating where the government is going and moving creatively to head them off before they even get there.
Examples: The income-splitting initiative has had a lot of media recently, thanks to Sara and others. The portrayal in the media has been pretty much unanimous; this is a tax cut for 'the wealthy' and is designed to pit 'barefoot and pregnant' social conservatives against the daycare lobby. The Ottawa Citizen carried a major article on this on Saturday; the headlines making the points just listed, and a box showing likely tax savings highlighting those earning over $100,000 as saving the most - without pointing out that this would simply mean families with like income paying like taxes.
Then CTV announces that the Conservative Government is running the 'attack' ads - clearly implying that taxpayers money is paying for them.
These are just examples. What they have in common is that the bias is creeping higher up the story; it's not just media spin on the story, it's media framing the whole story in spin before they even begin to tell it. Many people only read the headline, or the box of figures - the media's making sure those people are getting the anti-Conservative message now, without having to read the whole story.
That's why, although I like the ads, I think they're going after the wrong enemy. We are more and more seeing the CBC, CanWest and CTV setting themselves up as the official opposition. It's going to be a tough fight next election, with four Liberal parties out there instead of just one.
Note: To any councillors who may be reading, this is not a suggestion that you raise our taxes in order to compensate! :)
Friday, January 26, 2007
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
From a reader:
Ontario residents currently pay a debt retirement charge, "a charge per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed that is added to electricity bills to help pay down the stranded debt of the former Ontario Hydro". This $0.0070 per kilowatt-hour surcharge is added to every customer's monthly utility bill.
In his annual report delivered on December 5, 2006, Ontario A auditor General Jim McCarter announced that among a number of questionable expenditures was $127 million worth of goods and services using corporate charge cards, but with few slips or receipts to justify the charges.
A petition has been created requesting that the Ontario Ministry of Energy make a $127 million adjustment to compensate consumers for this unapproved use of taxpayer money, either by directly removing it from the current outstanding residual stranded debt or by a reduction of the monthly debt retirement charge.
To sign this petition go to http://www.petitiononline.com/ohdrc/petition.html.
TDPC encourages Ontario Hydro customers to get vocal about this misuse of their money.
However, the real point is that as I posted here, Canadian tax policy is currently an instrument of social engineering that pushes people into the paid labour force, often against their will. Current policy fails to recognise the family (or the household, if 'family' is too last-century for you) as the basic unit of society. In real life, people live as families, and make decisions and arrangements as families - including their childcare arrangements. Equitable taxation that treated the family equally, regardless of their choices, is clearly fairer than the present system that forces many parents into low-paying jobs outside the home because they can't afford to stay home.
So, please support this conference even if you can't attend.
Here's the details:
What does Ottawa think of Caregiving?
Join us to discuss how to recognize it throughIncome Splitting
(Open to Public/Free admission)
Conference Room, West Block, Parliament Hill Ottawa
Tuesday, Jan 30 2007 10am to 2pm
online petition http://www.petitiononline.com/share/petition.html
Contacts:Beverly Smith 403-283-2400
Garth Turner 613-996-7046
Sara Landriault 613-720-6609 email@example.com
Sunday, January 21, 2007
When we moved to Montague, we inherited a heating oil supply arrangement with Ultramar HomEnergy, along with an old oil furnace, an even older tank and a rented water heater. So far, so good.
Things weren't too bad at first; we ran out of oil occasionally in the first three years or so. Ultramar didn't really start to get interesting until about two years ago. Firstly, in accordance with the new fuel handling codes in Ontario, they red-tagged our old, rusty oil tank. No more deliveries until it was replaced. That was fine; we ordered the new tank. Would it be delivered before we ran out of oil? Sure, they said. No problem. Every couple of weeks we'd call for an update. Still no tank after about 8 weeks. Sure enough, the new tank didn't arrive until we ran out of oil - it was minus 25, early January, and we were in a situation where it was illegal for them to supply us with oil. My daughter was six months old at the time. We'll gloss over how we got over that situation.
Finally New Tank Day dawned. They brought the tank. They installed it. They couldn't get the old one out of the basement. They left. The next day, they came back with a circular saw and sawed the old tank in half. They left again. The old tank stayed (in two halves) in the basement, for around another four weeks. Any idea what a severed oil tank smells like? Yummy. It would have stayed there for ever but for some more insistent phoning on our part.
Last season, there were no red tags; they just managed to let us run out of oil at least twice, maybe three times.
This August, the furnace was red-tagged. We ordered a new furnace and for good measure a new water heater. We paid in cash before the units were even delivered. Installation was smooth this time around. For a while everything was rosy. Then the hot water started coming out of the faucet at 170 degrees Fahrenheit. They came and replaced the aquastat on the brand new water heater.
After all the effort of delivering a new furnace, it seemed Ultramar were exhausted, and couldn't manage to deliver oil as well. November 28, we ran out of oil again. This time, the call centre operator promised to put us on a 28 day delivery schedule. Guess when our last delivery was? That's right. In the Ultramar calendar, late January is only 28 days after 28 November. The oil tank is again reading empty tonight, meaning that there's a high chance we'll run out before the next delivery. We called; they don't do oil delivery on the weekend. Only if you actually have no heat. Ultramar would rather you ran out of oil and froze for a while before they want to actually bring fuel.
And also tonight, the hot water is again at 170 degrees. Ultramar doesn't do that on weekends either. "Just dilute it," is the advice, or "Power it off". Yep, cos in a house with two young children, scalding hot water in the faucets is just what you want. To say nothing of what it does to appliances, pipes, etc.
So..... we need a reliable, friendly, helpful oil supplier in the Lanark county area. We need a company that actually does what they say. We need a company that will assume the warranty on the new appliances, since Ultramar cunningly voids their warranties if you change suppliers. And we need a company that won't mind collecting the best part of $4,000 each year. We spent nearly $12,000 with Ultramar in the last 12 months and it's given us nothing but headaches.
All offers, tips or help will be gratefully received.
Friday, January 19, 2007
A spokesman says that when people see a police car, they instantly begin driving "like Saint Christopher." We at TDPC assume this is not intended to imply that motorists jump out of their cars, throw on a loin-cloth and walk barefoot across a stream with Jesus on their shoulder. Nevertheless, it does raise the question of what 'ride' the various Saints might choose. Would Saint Peter be a better driver than Saint Jude?
Submit your Match The Saint To The Car suggestions in the comments.....
In that spirit, I am writing to suggest some improvements that I think could be made to the program. In particular, as someone whose parent is addicted to fine wines, I think that the City should seriously consider the introduction of a Riedel Stemware distribution program to help those in the community who find themselves trapped in the grip of unscrupulous vintners.
While on the subject, I also think that we should remember that people like my parent often over indulge in red wines the night before and therefore need help and support the following morning. To that end, I propose a Starbucks Card distribution program, supported by free Starbucks go-cups.
These strategies would go a long way to easing the burden of pain and suffering that I suffer daily.
With thanks for all that you do for this great City, I remain,
Angie The Corgi
Deputy Leader, The Doggerel Party of Canada
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Still, unlike the House of Commons, nobody's actually gone to sleep in Council yet.
TDPC encourages all residents to download and read the full document. It's a very thorough and well-written report and it offers a great insight into the inner workings of a fire department. For reasons of space, I'm not going to go into the body of the document here, but focus instead on the conclusions and recommendations.
First off, the primary conclusion of the report is this:
This review clearly indicates that the Township of Montague is delivering fire protection services in accordance with its needs and circumstances as required by the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997.
There is much else positive written about the department and its performance. In the currently charged climate, let's all keep that in mind. As the report says, any review will identify areas for improvement and this is how organizations do improve and grow. Therefore, looking at the recommendations for changes is not an indication of any major shortcoming, but rather a search for ways to do things even better. However, the report makes no less than 31 recommendations, some of which I think bear discussion.
There are several recommendations in the area of the legislative framework for the department; apparently the bylaws and regulations we have are outdated and refer to outdated Ontario statutes. Bringing them up to date would seem to be a fairly common sense idea. In the process of revisiting the bylaws, though, Council will be faced with issues such as defining the list of services to be provided by the department. If and when this comes up for discussion I think it's worthy of public consultation.
The report recommends the appointment of a Deputy Fire Chief and suggests that an appropriate selection and promotion process be created for this first, and subsequent, appointment. Again, this makes perfect sense to me. There should always be someone available to deputize for the Chief, and there should be a clear succession plan if possible.
The major issues of concern to me are the recommendations around management of the department. It's clear from the report that although the VFD is doing all the right things, in many cases they are doing them informally, with record-keeping being of mixed quality. The Chief's office is maintained in his home rather than on township property. Some records are kept there, others at the fire station. Not all policies and procedures are available to the members of the department. Post-incident reporting is not formalized. The report recommends a number of changes to tighten things up, formalize procedures and bring the administrative side of the department in line with provincial norms. I actually found it difficult to believe that such an important office as the Fire Chief's could be allowed to be maintained off township property, and this certainly gives me pause for thought as to what the previous Council was up to.
So, while it's clear that operationally the department is offering us the protection we all appreciate and sleep easier for, there is room for improvement in management and administration. I personally would like to see Council take a firm grip of this situation and add this final polish to the department as soon as possible. In the end we have a VFD to be proud of, and we can be prouder still when it becomes the absolute best it can be.
Again, I encourage everyone to download and read the report. It's your Fire Department and your Council. Stay informed.
Apparently the Liberal party is so inclusive there's a job for every MP in the new Team Dion. Reminds me of Tom Lehrer's observation that the U.S. Army was a model organization, in that not only did it prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, creed or colour, but also on the grounds of ability.
That said, even with the new expanded 'Team Harper' across the aisle, it seems that it still takes nearly two Liberals to 'shadow' one Conservative, with Team Dion having 50 members, according to Pravda North Radio. Are we really still that scary?
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Just as interesting as the question of what Randy Hillier does next, what kind of personality will the OLA pick to lead them now? Where will the OLA go without Mr. Hillier's heavyweight media presence?
Monday, January 15, 2007
And now, lo and behold, another group of native 'protestors' are taking similar actions in Desoronto, Ontario. Coincidentally, this is another situation in which a land claim has suddenly become significant when there is the prospect of the land in question being developed and there is money to be made. I'm not a betting man, which means I will likely not ever attend the Caledonia Casino when Ken Hill gets it built, but if I was, I would wager that this Deseronto situation would not even arise if the McGuinty government had mounted a half adequate response in Caledonia. As it is, they're going to roll over and play dead in Deseronto as well.
Watch this particular snowball begin its journey down the hill, gathering weight and momentum all the way....
For those that might wonder, my daughter would still eat all the chocolate in the world, given a chance. Sadly for her, her parents are not as weak or easily swayed as an Ontario Liberal.
Tip o' the headgear to Sara.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Canadian parents.whether they live in large or small urban communities, or in rural or remote communities all want early learning and child care programs for their children. [emphasis added]
Hmmm, I love being told what I want by a partisan, ultra-left-wing, parasite of a lobby group. So, how long did it take you to call and ask every Canadian parent if that's what they want? I must have been out when you called me to check, Ms. Lysack, otherwise you'd know that you're lying. But somehow, I think you, the CCAC and CUPE and all the others do know that already.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
From today's Ottawa Citizen (page A4):
There now follows today's natural history lesson:
Martin-Chretien feud lives on in aides' lawsuits: Chretien
loyalist's lawyer says taxpayers paying legal cost of ex-Martin adviser
Taxpayers are footing the legal bill for one of former prime minister Paul Martin's closest aides in a $350,000 libel action launched by another Liberal backroomer after the internecine wars between Mr. Martin and Jean Chretien, says a lawyer involved in the battle.
Former Martin aide Scott Reid has apologized to onetime Chretien aide Warren Kinsella for calling him a liar over comments Mr. Kinsella made about Finance Department contracts under Mr. Martin.
A rarer, though not endangered creature, Hirudinea Liberalis is a unique leech that can continue sucking from its host even after death. While most leeches can be removed with salt, Hirudinea Liberalis is best removed with a strong spotlight and the threat of public exposure.
- The Fire Department : First, I happened upon the scene of the recent serious accident on Roger Stevens Drive on my way home the other night. I arrived shortly after the accident and before any emergency vehicles were on site. I don't know how long it was after the 911 call that our Volunteer Fire Department arrived. The fire truck arrived after one ambulance but before a second; the OPP were some minutes behind the other services. Our firemen went straight to work to free the trapped driver; they looked highly organized, efficient, calm and professional. Everything happened as quickly and smoothly as possible and in the right order of priority. Much has been said and written, but as this is my first eye-witness experience I would like to say I was very impressed.
- Firearms Safety : This issue came up at council and various options were being discussed in terms of the bylaw governing discharge of firearms near residences. What do you think? Where should the balance between safety concerns and traditional rural lifestyle be struck? Are there areas that should be off-limits for firearms?
- Volunteer Boards & Committees : Lots of you had a lot to say here in November - who's interested in serving the township now? Council has been short of applicants for several committees. Check the township website for more on this.
- Transit for Lanark? : Check out http://www.communitytransitsolutions.ca/ for a group looking to develop transit solutions for Lanark County, and between the County and Ottawa.
If you Montague readers haven't drifted away, then ignite the comment thread :)
Friday, January 05, 2007
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Driving home tonight I listened to an interview with Beatrice Olivastri of Friends of the Earth Canada. I'll use this as an example, because it's typical. She grudgingly acknowledged that the appointment of John Baird to Environment (which I privately predicted about three weeks ago; how I wish I'd put that on the blog!) shows the government is placing greater importance on the file. However, the greater part of her remarks was made up of accusations agains the government:
- They are not working with anyone on the environment; FOE and other groups are being ignored.
- The government needs to meet the international commitment of Kyoto.
- The government needs to meet the international commitment of Kyoto.
- The 'Dirty Air Act'
- The government needs to meet the international commitment of Kyoto.
- Did we mention Kyoto?
- That's it, except for Kyoto.
This is complete rubbish. If (when) Canada misses the Kyoto target it will be down to the Liberal's 13 years of inaction. From where the Liberals left us there is no way to meet the goal. It simply isn't possible. It's like having an income of $100 a month and a goal of saving $10,000 over 10 years. If you spend all the money in the first 9 years, you can save everything you can in the last year and you'll still only have $1,200. The Liberals spent our entire environmental opportunity and then some.
Unless and until the environmental groups start acknowledging Liberal failings instead of only berating the Conservative government, their arguments have no substance. With John Baird at Environment, this hypocrisy will hopefully be exposed, and the cosy partisan duo of national media and environmentalists will get blown open.
Can the government do more than the Clean Air Act? No doubt, and they should do so. But it's time for some honesty about this file. John Baird might just be the man to bring that honesty to bear.
Someone else on the list asked if the dog could have eaten any macadamia nuts - and indeed he had. Turns out that macadamias can cause temporary paralysis in dogs. So, readers with canines, take care of the macadamias.
Our corgis have never had the chance to try macadamias, but they do enjoy Neo's excellent blog Halls of Macadamia.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
She's the chair of the Ottawa Committee of the World March of Women, an organizer of local Code Pink anti-war demonstrations in Ottawa, and a speaker at various events related to 'activism'. For example, this excerpt comes from a 9/11 Conspiracy Theory site:
Civil Liberties & Legal Strategies for Protest: ... To work out how to continue to mount effective public protest, occupying and expanding the public space and finding ways of confronting, exposing, and undermining corporate and state control, while continuing to build viable alternatives. Solidarity & support strategies with communities and individuals under immediate risk; but also to make the best use of the freedoms and privileges we still enjoy. Concrete discussion of the real dangers as well as the real opportunities & strategies. With... Beth Greenhorn & Vallie Stearns (Ottawa Women's March Committee); ......
By their friends shall ye know them.
It bears pointing out that Ms. Greenhorn doesn't mind taking a paycheck from that oppressive state-controlling government; in her spare time, she's a Project Manager with Library and Archives Canada.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
I've commented on these publicity hounds before, here and here. In a nutshell, they found a stray dog, took it to the Society where it failed temperament testing and was euthanized. They had apparently wanted to adopt the dog and were so angered by the euthanasia decision that they set up an anti-OHS campaign.
Local media loves this kind of story and doesn't let facts get too much in the way, so naturally there were lots of heart-string pulling stories, and the OHS was forced to initiate a review of the temperament testing policy. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. However for two people who have never owned a dog in their lives to set themselves up as some kind of experts on aggressive behaviour, is a little rich. Although they have managed to get the media walking obediently on leash behind them...
The media repeatedly talks about dogs 'being poked with sticks while eating' - which is rubbish. The temperament test is designed to look for food aggression, by placing a simulated hand in a food bowl while the dog is eating. Nobody pokes the dogs with a stick. The Reform the OHS campaign is certainly a master of misinformation.
Having thus devoted their time to promoting damaging and false media stories running down the OHS, they then try to join the OHS, and they're acting surprised that they weren't successful. For me the question is why would they even want to join? They clearly don't like the OHS, but more importantly, the review of temperament testing and euthanasia policies that was their avowed goal is already happening. What other agenda did they hope to take with them into the organization?
Or is it possible that the underwhelming response to the Reform the OHS campaign meant that they needed another excuse to get back under the spotlight?
For the record, I have no connection whatsoever to the Ottawa Humane Society. I just love dogs, and I want to see responsible dog ownership. Sometimes the responsible thing to do isn't nice, warm, cuddly and fluffy; sometimes the responsible thing to do is to let dogs go. It's sad and very hard to do, but it's right.
I should end this post with another Marx quote: "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
CBC Ottawa, to which I listen most mornings, had Kathleen Petty and Hill Times / Maclean's hackette Kady O'Malley chatting away this morning, about the 'poor job' done by the Harper government and how much M. Dion has to gain from an early election... although Kathleen grudgingly admitted the election 'might not be as early as we thought' - read 'hoped'. This is but one example, but the media is wall-to-wall early election speculation - that is, the parts that aren't cabinet shuffle speculation.
As the fever overtakes all the journalists on the Hill we can expect to see more of the same. It seems that they all have forgotten three important things:
- The Prime Minister and/or the Opposition will decide the timing of the next election, not the media.
- The electorate will decide the outcome of that election, not the media.
- The Liberals might be the natural governing party of Canada but the Conservative Party is the actual governing party of Canada. The CBC and 'Senator' Jane Taber are neither.
Only rarely do we get a real glimpse into the minds of the political hacks; in the current climate of wild speculation and wishful Liberal thinking by the press, this piece from Larry Zolf should be re-read by as many folks as possible. This is the attitude that's really at work again right now; the Press Gallery wants their revenge on Harper and we can expect them to work as hard and as deviously as possible to create the election timing and outcome that they want to see.