It's hard not to forgive grit in cumbent MP Maria Minna for going a little over the top in listing her accomplishments in a press release last week. She is, after all, in the fight of her political life against NDPer Peter Tabuns . But to say that she "has accomplished more than any previous MP in the riding" is a bit rich - especially when the feds hung film industry workers, many of whom live in the riding, out to dry during last summer's SARS-related dip in production by cutting Telefilm Canada's funding. No mention of that in Minna's release.
Health care hocus pocus
New Conservative party leader Stephen Harper is doing backflips trying to convince Canadians he's for universal health care. We'll forget the fact that what he really wants to do is turn over responsibility for health care holus-bolus to the provinces so he can free up more federal tax-cut cash for his buddies. But we digress. The drug plan he released Friday, June 4, includes a $5,000 deductible, which means that any costs incurred above that for drugs in the event of a catastrophic illness would be covered by the feds. Only problem is, the deductible is across-the-board, so the poorest Canadians, those on welfare living on $15,000 a year, would have to spend a third of their income on drugs before the Conservatives would kick in a penny. As Harper says, "The new Conservative party believes that every Canadian should have timely access to quality health care."
Trinity-spadina ndp candidate Olivia Chow really got under the Grits' skin when she suggested Martin and crew were blowing smoke again with their promise - yet again - of a national childcare program. "The Liberals have been promising Canadian families a national childcare program for 11 years," Chow said. "It was in the 93 Red Book. They've had 11 budgets and three terms to deliver. I'm amazed they can promise this again with a straight face."
Grits were quick to claim that the "NDP prima donna" was playing "fast and loose with the facts," and pointed out that some $1.7 billion has flowed to the provinces under the Early Childhood Development Agreement.
Lost in all the sniping is the fact that the newest $5 billion for childcare promised by the feds excludes single-income parents, since another condition of the funding is that tax deductions must be taken off the income of the lower-earning spouse. Maybe not playing fast and loose, but certainly playing favourites with our kids.
PM passing wind
Paul Martin's Canada Steamship Lines doesn't exactly boast the best environmental record in the industry. In fact, as Greenpeace has documented, CSL takes advantage of lax health, environmental and safety standards. Martin's TV ads now tout wind power as the wave of the future, no doubt in search of that elusive platform plank that will lure some NDP and Green votes to his sinking Good Ship Grit.
Critics will remember that Martin was the Liberals' environment critic in opposition yet did little to advance the cause of the environment after the Grits were elected and he was named finance minister. What a difference an election can make.
Is it time to adopt a fair voting system based on proportional representation, like most other major democracies? It's a questions that's asked every election, but Fair Vote Canada 's most recent report on the state of our political system, Dubious Democracy, is particularly scathing. It looks at elections from 1980 to 2000 and finds that Canadian results are among the most distorted of established democracies (35th of 37 countries), in that the percentage of votes for a party doesn't jibe with the number of its seats. On average, 6 million Canadians cast wasted votes in federal elections. In 2000, 25 per cent of eligible voters voted for the winning party; 39 per cent didn't vote at all.
Perhaps the only positive finding is Fair Vote's suggestion that the Tory party was treated more unfairly by the voting system than any other party. Must have been all those Alliance votes screwing them.
Eggs and BS
Former Toronto Mayor and grit MP Art Eggleton sent his final thank- you newsletter to his York Centre constituents last week, telling them what a pleasure it's been to serve them the last 10 years. "This was a difficult decision, and I thought about it for a long time," Eggleton writes. Truth is, it wasn't Eggs's decision to make. The Martin crew couldn't get rid of him fast enough after he pulled some questionable strings to land an ex-girlfriend a lucrative government contract - and got dumped from cabinet for his troubles.
The high-flying former defence minister also had little time for his constituents, who are still waiting for the first trees to be planted in that urban park promised at CFB Downsview several years ago.
Now the Grits have had to recruit their biggest star, Ken Dryden , to run in what is supposed to be the safest of Grit seats. Yep, Eggs has been a mess.