Sunday, June 13, 2004

2004 Federal Election Preview

The Federal Election

Part 1: My Pet Issues and General Thoughts

I'll get into the specifics of the Conservative and NDP party platforms in two other posts.

Why won't I write about the Liberal platform? That's my first pet issue. The sponsership scandel. Estimates seem to vary, but the Conservative homepage puts the figure at $100 million stolen by the Liberal government. I consider this to be pretty much unforgivable. It's time for the Liberals to go.

Also connected to the Liberals is a need for parlimentary term limits. Individual MPs should not be allowed to think of their office as a gravy train, and no doubt many Liberal MPs feel this way (I'm looking at you, Sue Barnes! ) Any term limit I suggest here would be rather arbitrary, but 2 terms - 8 years - is surely enough for anyone.

When it comes to other domestic policies, I really believe that a simple left/right split is just another one of those false dichotomies that seem to be so popular with people. Example, when dealing with the poor. It's not a choice between a "hand out" or a "hand up". There needs to be a combination of the two.

Mike Harris' Conservative government in Ontario showed how to do it exactly wrong: they simply cut assistence. Everyone on assistence - able bodied single men to struggling single mothers - found themselves with drastically reduced income. The number of people on assistence did drop, but many others found themselves without a safety net and plunged into poverty.

People with conservative bents tend to use words like "lazy" an awful lot when discussing welfare; they create policies like Harris' that leave many without basic necessities - how exactly does a battered woman and her children leaving behind an abuser get by in a Conservative province? They don't, apparently.

Cutting assistence across the board was a truly disgusting thing for Harris to do. A better plan: discreet food and clothing stamps.

There's a huge amount of stigma attached to foodstamps. I can imagine the humiliation that even someone who genuinely requires assistence must feel when using a foodstamp. So change their look. Grocery and clothing stores have discreet gift certificates - so give food stamps that look like gift certificates. And it will cut out abuse of the system: no more buying beer and cigarettes. The clothing "certificates"

That's the "hand out" part of it. The other is providing free child care for single parents and income-based subsidies for other families so both parents can work. We also need to make the same kind of investment into education: interest free long term longs along with grants. Money should never be a barrier to an education.

Money shouldn't be a barrier, but intellect should be. High school grades should affect government loans and grants, as well as the kind of school a person is applying to. Depending on a person's aptitude, one could recieve better financial support to enter trade school, for example.

The homeless are also all too often ignored. It's easy to say "they want to be there". Heck, I even heard one person the other day talk about a story he heard; a journalist took a sleeping bag, spent a week on the street, made about $300 panhandling, then wrote about how the homeless don't have it so bad.

What a steaming pile of shit.

If this jackass journalist wanted to experience a real homeless person's life, they need to go back to their parents and asked to be physical and sexually abused a couple of times. To really get the effect, he needs to hold his head under water for about five minutes; the brain damage should mimic the mental difficulties many homeless have. Then the journalist could escape, and end up on the street with huge gaping emotional wounds. He could eat out of a dumpster for a while, and maybe earn $100 as a prostitute. Then he can go back to his cushy typewriter and write about how the homeless "choose their lives."

So what to do about them? I don't really know. I'm mostly trying to establish a principle here - that the dichotomy between left and right is a false one. We need to work together, find a way to harmonize the priorities valued by both.

Foreign policy is another important matter. Roles are changing in the world; the UN, the EU, NATO and the US are all on shifting ground these days. The biggest question for Canada seems to be the use of our military. How involved should we be?

I'd rather not see us ride the coat tails of the US. The US has a habit of placing a fine moral sheen on their wars, but I do think most people see right through that. Why would we want Canadian troops to follow the US into yet another quagmire-cum-crusade? Not to mention the dismal state our Armed Forces are in.

Canada doesn't need to provide security at Kabul's airport. Sorry, we just aren't needed there. Time to bring our troops home; reorganize the budget so they have proper living space and training equipment. Canada doesn't need to participate in anymore wars. All we need is a small force like JTF-2 to handle any of the small scale threats that might come our way.

The last thing we need is to pump cash into an army that will just act as offhand support for US troops in a fight that we won't profit much from.

Another foreign policy issue I'm concerned about is the apparent Conservative Party support for the Star Wars program. More weapons is the last thing humanity needs, and weapons in space is about the most obscene idea I've ever heard. No party or government that even suggests such a thing will ever have my support. That's a deal breaker for me, like abortion and gay marriage are for others.

I know that's all pretty scattershot, so I'll summarize it here. We need to stop worrying about what's conservative and what's liberal, and find what works to build a country we all want to live in. Some people need to drop their counter-productive, self-righteous ideas of "tough love" and others need to drop their bleeding heart hand outs.

Next post, I'll look at the Conservative website, and the post after that will be the NDP site. Then if it strikes me, I'll post my thoughts on the debate ----- which is tommorow night! Watch it! This means you!

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