Posts tagged ‘Liberal’

Please Mr. Trudeau, I want some more

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Let me get this straight!?!

The Trudeau government commits $8.4 billion in the federal budget towards indigenous communities, infrastructure and social programs.

They’ve restored the full Kelowna Accord fiscal commitment of $5 billion plus over $3 billion dollars more!!  The Kelowna Accord was brokered by First Nations leadership themselves.

That’s somewhere north of 21 times of any commitment made by the previous Harper government.

Is Kelowna your benchmark?  Or is Stephen Harper your benchmark?  Take your pick.

Even if you factor in the criticism that much of these commitments will be pushed out beyond the next election, that’s still way more funding ever allocated in the federal budget in the history of Canada.

Yet, for some of our leaders, it’s still not enough.  Some have even criticized Justin Trudeau over it.

Dependant anyone???

Surely, there must be some way that First Nations leaders can work with this puny morsel of funding?  Maybe we can’t all give Prime Minister Trudeau a headdress, but maybe, just maybe, he earned one this week.

How about a pat on the back? A handshake of thanks?  Any semblance of appreciation for going above and beyond any other Prime Minister has ever gone towards helping and working with our communities?

No way.  That’s not our style.

“Please, Sir.  I want some more.”

Finally, a reason for First Nations people to vote.

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Isaac Jacobs casts his ballot in 1962. First Nations were only given the right to vote in Canada in 1960.

Now is our time, Canada. Now is our time, Anishinaabeg!

Today, Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada announced a stunning and game-changing set of reforms to Canada’s election and parliamentary processes. The aim is to restore confidence in federal political processes, fairness in how governments are formed and transparency in how Canada’s affairs are governed.

If the Liberals win the election this fall, Justin Trudeau stated that this would be the last federal election to be held under the “first-past-the-post” electoral system.

This broken system makes it possible for a party to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons with less than 40 per cent of the national vote.

Finally, there seems to be a real commitment to reforming the election process and exploring proportional representation. This will effectively put an end to the first-past-the-post system and make every vote count when it comes to electing Members of Parliament (MPs) and forming representative governments.

I’ve been a long-time advocate for election reform and proportional representation… but not for the reasons that most people have.

First Nations people have long felt unrepresented by Canada’s mainstream election process. Our vote, although key in some swing ridings across the country, often don’t amount to any type of representation of our voice, perspective and issues. Some First Nations communities reject federal and provincial elections completely as a means of asserting their sovereignty. Many of our people have completely given up and have become disillusioned with these processes.

As a result, the vast majority of voting-age First Nations men and women simply do not exercise their right to vote.

Under a proportional representation system, First Nations people may finally have a reason to vote. It may give us all a new rationale to explore when it comes to participating in the federal election.

Over the years, First Nations have tried on several occasions to create an indigenous political party to represent our unique interests. Under the first-past-the-post system, a vote for a First Nation party amounted to a wasted vote – a protest vote of a fringe party and fringe candidates. We’re not the same as a Libertarian, Rhinoceros, Communist or Marijuana Party.

The idea of a First Nation party in Canada is incredibly important to us. Having a leader, candidates and elected members with our voice, that understand and share our perspective is important to us.

We are a founding nation within Canada. It’s time for our voice to be heard in Parliament.

Under proportional representation, a First Nations party, with a full slate of candidates, with even one per cent of the vote, could theoretically obtain a seat in Parliament.

That’s right! Our own seat in the House of Commons. Not a set-aside seat (although that is important too) but someone who we actually elect during a general election, to sit in office as our Member of Parliament.

Grass roots indigenous people, with the support of the Chiefs, Aboriginal organizations and organizations such as Fair Vote Canada, need to stand up and press for true and fair representation for First Nations people in Canada. We need to be represented in the House of Commons with our own members, our own voice, by our own people.

Justin Trudeau has committed to appointing an all-party committee to study proportional representation and bringing viable options to the House of Commons. The time for action and raising awareness is now. The opportunity for proportional representation may finally be within reach.

Don’t get be wrong, I’m a true, red Liberal. That’s been the case because the Liberal Party of Canada has been a voice for me through the Aboriginal People’s Commission, the Aboriginal Caucus, and our great history of Aboriginal MPs and candidates.

However, if presented with an option for a system that will lead to true representation of First Nations people, that’s something I can support. That’s something that a lot of my Liberal colleagues can support too.

Indigenous policy ideas, committee representation and a voice in the House of Commons – it only makes sense that all First Nations people consider what proportional representation may mean to the future of indigenous people within Confederation.

Liberal Fundraising: You’ve Got Mail

mailDear Christina, Graeme, Chrystia and Justin:

I’ve been getting your e-mail requests all day, and over the past few days.  Usually, I am game to donate to these types of coordinated fundraising drives.  We all want to do everything we can to remove Stephen Harper.

But the decision to remove Christine Innes from the Trinity-Spadina “open” nomination process has led to a few reservations and a few questions?  Will my donation support other heavy-handed, top-down interventions in other local ridings?  Will you remove my chosen candidate in my riding too if they don’t play by your rules?  Are other nominations contests in other riding just as “open” to your interventions?

Unfortunately, just like other e-mail and links we see on the web, I need to be able to trust the link that I’m clicking.

By the way, thanks for the sticker offer.

Bob Goulais

P.S.  I am a regular donor.  You will still get my monthly donation to the LPC and my local riding.  Just try not to piss us off.


Subject:  Your sticker, t-shirt or hoodie await
Christina Topp [info@email.liberal.ca]
Sent: Monday, March 31, 2014 8:03 PM
To:

Liberal

Robert,

We’re getting close to hitting our goal of $250,000 – only $34,776 left to go – and your donation could bring us across the finish line!

If you’ve been waiting until the very last minute to give, now is the time:

https://www.liberal.ca/join-our-grassroots-marketing-campaign/

Your sticker, t-shirt or hoodie is waiting!

Cheers,
Christina Topp
Senior Director, Fundraising, Liberal Party of Canada

PS. Graeme tells me: if you prefer to donate by phone, you can still give his team a call at 1-888-542-3725, until midnight ET tonight (he also asked me to remind you that if you have trouble getting through, please keep trying!)

Local First Nations support Liberals, endorse Rota

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Anthony Rota, his wife Chantal, daughter Samantha and their dog – Ruby.

As the next federal election looms in 2015, local Liberals are preparing to put their best candidate forward to take back the riding of Nipissing-Timiskaming.  First Nations in the area are working to play a pivotal role in the riding to ensure their priorities are reflected in the upcoming election campaign and in shaping the next government.

First Nation Liberal organizer, Bob Goulais, who has played an advisory role within the Nipissing-Timiscaming Liberal Riding Association, has announced that he has endorsed previous Member of Parliament and past Liberal National Caucus Chair Anthony Rota in his bid for the Liberal nomination.

“We desperately need experienced and effective representation in Ottawa.  Eight years of Stephen Harper’s bullying and a single term of Jay Aspen’s muted and ineffective representation is enough,” said Goulais, a member of Nipissing First Nation.  “Anthony is the best candidate to win back the trust and hearts of the people in this riding.”

Goulais has pledged to deliver the support of his home community of Nipissing First Nation and many other First Nations voters.  Goulais and a strong team of Anishinaabe supporters and volunteers has consistantly delivered overwhelmingly one-sided polls to Mr. Rota in previous elections in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011.

“We are starting to see more and more First Nations people taking an interest in mainstream politics and wanting to make a difference.  For our community, that means supporting Anthony and voting Liberal.  That trend will continue with a lot of hard work and determination of our team,” said a confident Goulais.

Bob has been a longtime advocate of increasing First Nations participation in the electoral process.

“It is essential that our people step up and lead the change we want to see in Canada.  We can do that by voting, communicating our perspectives and priorities and playing a role within the system,” said Goulais who led the development of the ‘First Peoples Vote’ campaign.

“Personally, I want to see more First Nations MPs, candidates, riding association executives, political staffers and volunteers from all indigenous walks of life.”

Goulais has shared his priorities with Mr. Rota including immediate action on the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, working with First Nations to improving education and health determinants and strengthening critical environmental policies weakened under the Conservative government.

“Harper’s approach to working with First Nations is so paternalistic that our people are frustrated and have become disillusioned with Ottawa.  The ‘Non-sense Revolution’ needs to come to an end,” concludes Goulais.

Goulais was an advisor during the Kelowna Accord, negotiated between First Nations, the Provinces and former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin.  The Accord, it’s objectives, funding and the tremendous goodwill associated with it were scrapped when the Conservatives came to power in 2006.  Goulais has also participated in the Liberal Aboriginal Peoples Commission (APC).

Day 36: Why I’m Voting Liberal

We have, more or less, four choices this election:

You have the status quo, a Conservative party.  I need to continue to stress that for First Nations, a Conservative government is really a non-starter.  They don’t have OUR best interests in mind.  In fact, a Conservative majority could spell an end to our nation-to-nation relationship as our Aboriginal and Treaty rights would be cast aside in favour of ignorant, anti-native policies.

You have the NDP.  They may seem like a good choice, especially for First Nations.  But the reality is that they support every social cause in Canada!!  Take it from me, in my experience the NDP have never said no to me or anyone.  Many also forget the fact that the NDP supported the Conservatives in killing the largest single government investment in First Nations history.  Layton also supported the Conservatives in killing a massive investment in an indigenous languages strategy.  You may also consider that voting NDP may split the centre-left vote and result in a Harper majority.  A vote for Jack Layton, may very well mean a vote for Stephen Harper.  Also, the NDP economic policies are not realistic.  For example, Jack Layton says he will “hire” 1,200 doctors and 6,000 nurses for $25 million per year.  The reality is this amounts to an annual salary of $3,472 per year!!  Ridiculous.  The NDP have absolutely no experience in fiscal policy or in government.  The NDP is amateur-hour, folks.

You have the Green Party. Once  again, they are supportive of issues near and dear to our hearts as First Nations.  But once again, they further split the centre-left vote.  Thankfully, a vote for the Green Party is a vote for no-one.  They have absolutely no chance of electing a single MP, much less a caucus in Ottawa.  The Greens are a no-go.

Finally, you have the Liberal party.  Their Aboriginal platform was developed for, and by First Nations people.  Their Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission consist of people like you and me.  We have more Aboriginal candidates running than any other party.  The Liberals are really the only feasible alternative to the Conservative government, as it would be practically impossible for the NDP to increase their results by 100 seats.  The Liberal platform focusses on Aboriginal education, which is First Nation’s top priority.  The Liberal platform focusses on families – another top priority.  The Liberal platform focusses on the environment, and in particular the protection of water – a top priority for Anishinaabe kwewag.  Finally, the Liberal economic platform is solid and is based on experience.  The Liberal party has experience in government and are in the best position to lead Canada away from the Conservative nightmare.

My choice is easy.  That’s why I’m voting Liberal on May 2.

Day 28: Hey, NDPers… Rethink Your Vote

I received a little note from a friend yesterday, with a very frank and important message.  It will be my thought of the day…

There are a lot of Anishinaabeg who are supporters of the NDP.  Jack Layton is a pretty cool guy and genuinely supportive of First Nations.  But the reality is a vote for the NDP will translate into for a vote for Stephen Harper.  The math is that simple.  The only feasible alternative to a Harper government, this time, is a Liberal government.  The reality is even more startling.  If the NDP split the centre-left vote any further, the result will be a disasterous Conservative majority.  A well-respected Anishinaabe leader has told me that a majority Conservative government WILL target post-secondary education and non-insured health benefits as a part of their promised cuts.  We all need to rally around the Liberal party, Michael Ignatieff, (Liberal, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) and our fantastic platform for First Nations people.  All you NDP supporters, take a look at the Liberal aboriginal platform again, and consider carefully, that you might actually be enabling a Harper majority which could spell an end to much of our rights.

Day 13: A First Nation Vision of Canada

Karen Mock (Liberal, Thornhill), Jack Heath, Deputy Mayor of Markham and Bob Goulais at the opening of the "Taking Back Thornhill" campaign office.

Those of you who know me well, know I have a great affinity for world religions.  I am a tremendous supporter of Israel and am fascinated with Judaism especially.

During my election campaign work, I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside some of Canada’s finest Jewish citizens – all dedicated to the cause of anti-racism, combating discrimination and antisemitism.  Those same people are also dedicated to ending racism and discrimination against First Nations people as well and will fight tooth-and-nail alongside our people.

This week, I had the pleasure of doing a welcome song for the opening of Karen Mock’s (Liberal, Thornhill) election campaign.  I’ve had the same pleasure for Anthony Rota (Liberal, Nipissing-Timiscaming) and The Right Hon. Paul Martin in 2004.

Karen respectfully and discretely presented me with a tobacco tie, as is our Anishinaabe custom.  I was happy to speak in support of Karen, the Liberal aboriginal platform and provide a song for the group of about 150 people.

The day also featured a number of multi-cultural blessings.  Shortly after the opening song, my new friend Rabbi Meir Gitlin, placed the mezzuzah on the doorpost of the campaign office.  This little scroll is a reminder of God’s presence as well as keeping God in our minds and in our hearts.

The day also welcomed a blessing from the Muslim faith and a blessing song from a supportive, local Hindu leader.

Rabbi Gitlin placing the mezzuzah.

Really, that’s my vision of Canada.  A tolerant, supportive multicultural community with equal opportunity and hope for all people.

Now why on earth would I have a “vision of Canada”?  After all… I’m NOT Canadian.

First and foremost, I am Anishinaabe.  Not necessarily “Canadian” – but a citizen of another nation within Canada.  When our ancestors signed the treaties, they did indeed state we would be a part of Canada and remain loyal to the Crown.  As recent as the Constitutional talks of the 1980s, our Anishinabek leaders affirmed that “we wish to remain within Canada, but within a revised constitutional framework.”

I choose to respect my ancestors and be loyal to the Crown.  As such, I choose to be a part of a multicultural Canada and I choose to fight for my vision of Canada.  That’s why I’m involved in the election campaign and why I volunteer each and every time.

Still many First Nations take the position that they are not a part of Canada.  Some feel we should vote or participate in another nation’s election.

We must remember that many of our ancestors and relatives fought long and hard for our right to become citizens of Canada and for our right to vote.  We shouldn’t besmirch their good work by staying home and not getting involved.

I’ll give you one more reason to vote on May 2.  We all know the consequences of a Harper majority on First Nations rights.

Day 12: First Nations would benefit from Electoral Reform

There are a lot of First Nation voters that are tempted to support the New Democratic Party or Green Party this election.  After all, these parties have very progressive agendas when it comes to First Nations issues.  Some voters are just so angry at Conservatives and the Liberals for the current state of Parliament and our fourth election since 2004.

But it’s easy to be progressive and responsive from fourth party status and no-party status.

As the Conservatives say in their latest TV ad:  “A vote for the Liberals is a vote for Ignatieff.”  (Brilliant, eh?  Who writes this stuff for them?)  That’s certainly true.  Truth is, this time around, a vote for NDP or the Greens is a vote for HARPER.

I’ve been swayed by the charms of Jack Layton too.  Last election, the NDP promised to restore the Kelowna Accord.  But we can’t forget the fact that Kelowna was conceived of and led by a historic partnership between the Liberals, the provinces and First Nations. Sadly, it was the NDP supporting the Harper Conservatives who brought down the Martin government and thusly, obliterated the most significant piece of Aboriginal policy…  EVER!

Promise what they want, the reality is that the NDP have absolutely no hope whatsoever of forming the opposition, much less a government. For Layton, it’s easy to support every single social cause you bring to them.  In my political experience, the NDP have never said “no” to First Nations.

Another fact is, the Greens have absolutely no hope whatsoever of winning a single seat, much less form a caucus in Parliament. I offer my kodos to Elizabeth May for stepping up and demanding to be heard through a debate.  But truth be told, she’s unelectable herself.

Monday night, I was contacted by devasmicota on Twitter who suggested that we ought to support a First Nations party.  “How about a First Nations Party for whom we don’t have to sell our souls to”. I agree wholeheartedly.  To me, that is the best way to ensure our voice is heard in Parliament.  But electing an MP on a First Nations Party ticket is just not going to happen anytime soon.

However, there is hope.

Every once in a while, there is a call to examine and change the way we elect parliament.  The call for proportional representation will get even louder if the government fails to make a minority parliament work after the third time.

Proportional representation is a type of election system that moves away from the first-past-the-post election of MPs, to allocating seats based on representative need.  During the 2007 Ontario election, there was a referendum asking voters that very question. Unfortunately, it failed miserably.

We can certainly argue that Canada needs a seat, or a number of seats allocated in the House of Commons for First Nations.  We can also use proportional representation to ensure every party has an elected MP based on popular vote.  If that were the case, in 2008 the Greens would have elected 20 MPs. That’s great news for the environment, but bad news for Elizabeth May’s day job.

First Nations would truly benefit from electoral reform.  Not only would we get one or two seats in Parliament by means of a set-aside.  A First Nations party could manage to get two or three more based on the popular vote.  Five seats in a proportional representative parliament is a mighty caucus.  In a minority parliament, those five votes might just hold the balance of power.

That being said, I wish all the luck to Will Morin, leader of the First Nations National Party in his candidacy in the Sudbury riding.  Folks like Will and Jerry Fontaine, both Anishinaabe, will be instrumental under a proportional representation system when the time comes.

If Parliament continues as it has in the past five years, the time for proportional representation won’t come soon enough.

Day 9: An Election Platform That First Nations Can Be Proud Of

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I had to pull of the road to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.  I had to make sure what I was reading was real.  The Liberal platform outperformed every expectation I had.

Ask yourself:  what are First Nation’s priorities this election?  Addressing poverty would be number one. Followed by housing.  Addressing the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women would be high on that list.  But most of all, investing in First Nations education and addressing education funding shortfalls are essential parts of building the First Nations economy and improving social conditions.

Well guess what?  Every single one of these priorities is in the Liberal platform!!

I attribute this directly to the creation of the Liberal Party’s Aboriginal Peoples Commission (APC).  Not many people know that we have First Nations, Métis and Inuit people represented within the party through a grass-roots commission. They make policy recommendations, address priorities within the party and have every opportunity to set election campaign policy.  Of course they may not have the final say in what goes in the platform document, but this time around, it seems that those recommendations are being heard.  Thanks to Tanya Kappo and the executive of the APC for their leadership and amazing work.

For First Nations people, the Liberal platform delivers.  I would go once step further and say that the Liberal platform is something that First Nations can be proud of.

Now, the only way we can see these things happen is to elect a Liberal government.  For all my friends in the Twitter universe, on Facebook and who are reading my Blog – this should be incredible motivation to get involved.  We have a party who cares for you.  We have an amazing family-oriented plan.  We need you to vote Liberal.  We also need you to find out who your Liberal candidate, put on your jacket, visit their office and volunteer.  Encourage all your friends to pass this message along.

Opportunities like this don’t happen every day.  Let’s make this happen.  Today, I’m so proud to be Liberal.

 


 

From the Liberal Platform

Here are a few excerpts that may be of interest to First Nations people.  This is in addition to the previous announcements of a Canada Learning Passport and the Liberal Family Care Plan.

ABORIGINAL LEARNING

na Accord broke new ground in building relationships among federal, provincial and Aboriginal leadership based on respect and shared commitment to fairness and results. Much has changed since 2005, but much can be gained by retaining the lessons and spirit of the Kelowna process.

Aboriginal people are taking action with hope and ambition for the future. The federal government must stand with them as partners to accelerate progress in several major areas. Education is the most fundamental, and should be the top priority. A Liberal government will commit to working with Aboriginal leaders toward the goal of ensuring Aboriginal people have the same quality of opportunities to learn as other Canadians.

With a population that’s growing at six times the national average, and a median age of only 27, the success of Canada’s Aboriginal people is critical to our country’s economic well being. For them, as for most Canadians, learning is the key to success.

Yet, the dropout rate among Aboriginal students is twice the national average. And those who do reach post-secondary education face long odds against finishing.

One of the drivers of these tragic statistics is the underfunding of aboriginal education in Canada. Most on-reserve schools, funded by the federal government, receive significantly less per pupil than schools in the provincial systems. And while federal funding for Aboriginal post-secondary education has been capped at 2 percent per year, tuition is rising at twice that rate.

A Liberal Government will invest an additional $200 million in its first two years to lift the cap on post-secondary education funding. Consistent with the approach of the Learning Passport, we will explore with Aboriginal leaders ways to deliver resources more directly to students and their families. A key objective will be to increase the retention of Aboriginal students in Canada’s post secondary institutions.

Addressing the challenges in K-12 education is even more fundamental. A Liberal government will work with Aboriginal leadership to address inadequate funding over the medium term, starting with $300 million in new investment in its second year. We will support efforts to improve administration.

First Nations University in Saskatchewan, an important institution, will be re-financed under a Liberal government. We will create a Canada Métis Scholarship program, with a $5 million annual investment in Métis students.

A Liberal government will also create an Office of the First Nations Auditor General to monitor progress, identify best practices, and ensure accountability for public funds.

DEALING WITH MISSING AND MURDERED ABORIGINAL WOMEN

Violence against women persists in all Canadian communities. Aboriginal women are particularly affected. The Native Women’s Association of Canada estimates the number of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada is more than 580. These cases amount to nearly ten per cent of female homicides in Canada, even though only three per cent of the female population is Aboriginal. There has been little action from the federal government to address this tragedy.

A Liberal government will mandate a national task force to examine the systemic causes of this problem, with an emphasis on preventing its continuation in the future. It will build on the work of provinces and Aboriginal women, and report to the Minister of Justice with an analysis and recommendations.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), one-quarter of households face affordability problems, meaning that more than 30 percent of their income is spent on housing. Thirteen percent of homes are in need of major repairs, or are unsuitable for the number of people living in them. The figures are even worse for seniors and new Canadians and, of course, they don’t even address the homeless. At the same time, the shortage of affordable housing in large cities presents a growing barrier to young families of modest incomes looking for their first home.

While modest public investments are resulting in new affordable housing coming on the market, other affordable units have been disappearing at double the rate, due to gentrification, low interest rates and growing demand. The federal government has been an unreliable presence in affordable housing in recent years. A long-term commitment to partnership with other levels of government is needed.A Liberal government will work with provincial, territorial and municipal partners to put in place a renewed Affordable Housing Framework (AHF). The previous Framework was established a decade ago, and several programs are temporarily extended, but under review by the Harper government. The main objectives of the new Framework will be to:

  • Reduce homelessness;
  • Maintain and renew existing affordable housing stock; and
  • Stimulate new construction of affordable housing.

The new Framework will feature a long-term commitment by the federal government, replacing the collection of temporary programs that currently exist. The magnitude of that long-term commitment will necessarily depend on consultations with municipalities and the government’s overall financial situation in the coming years. However, in its first two years, a Liberal government will increase federal investment in affordable housing by $550 million.

Housing challenges and opportunities vary from one region to another. Therefore, the new Affordable Housing Framework will emphasize flexibility and openness to innovative approaches such as tax incentives and loan guarantees. It will offer a platform for more effective collaboration among all levels of government, the private and non-profit sectors. The new Framework will promote progress on the particular needs of people with disabilities, as well as Northern and Aboriginal communities. It will also recognize that affordable housing is one major piece of the larger puzzle for reducing poverty.

FIGHTING POVERTY

More than 3.5 million Canadians live in poverty, including more than one in ten children. Canada ranks near the bottom of the list of major developed countries for poverty rates.

Leaders at all levels must come to grips with rising inequality. The persistence of poverty across the country remains an unmet challenge, robbing individuals of fair and equal opportunity, sapping productivity from the economy, and even undermining confidence in our democracy. Canada cannot afford not to fight poverty. It will require the engagement of all Canadians, including businesses, individuals, experts and civil society.

Most provincial governments have demonstrated leadership by launching poverty reduction strategies. Building on those efforts, a Liberal government will work with partners at all levels to develop a Poverty Reduction Plan for Canada. It will set goals, indentify practical measures for achieving them and set out who can do what among all the partners. The outlook will be long-term.

Several major commitments of this platform will be the foundation of a Poverty Reduction Plan for Canada: the Canadian Learning Strategy, particularly Early Childhood Learning and Care, the Learning Passport for post-secondary education access, and Aboriginal learning; Family Care; a renewed focus on volunteerism through the Canada Service Corps; the National Food Policy’s nutrition measures; and a new Affordable Housing Framework. These practical measures to support Canadian families, worth more than $5 billion over two years, will help reduce poverty and inequality, especially as part of a whole-of-Canada effort to strengthen our communities. They will also contribute to a stronger economy over the long-term.

MORE SUPPORT FOR CANADA’S ARTISTS

The Canada Council for the Arts is a major force in supporting working artists. A Liberal government will significantly increase support for Canadian artists and creators by doubling the annual budget of the Canada Council for the Arts, from $180 million to $360 million over the next four years.

COURT CHALLENGES

Canadians take pride in their Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and see it as both an expression of our values, and a tool for building a more equal society. Access to justice is essential for a meaningful commitment to equality in our democracy, but the high costs of litigation can sometimes silence those whose rights are already most vulnerable. The Court Challenges Program provided financial assistance for pursuing language and equality rights under Canada’s Constitution, but the Harper government cancelled the program. A Liberal government will reinstate the Court Challenges Program in order to maintain effective access to justice, and to prevent financial barriers from blocking the pursuit of equality for all Canadians.

Sincerity vs. Disingenuousness

I’ve worked with quite a number of politicians over the years. During that time, I’ve met hundreds of them. I’m convinced, perhaps rather naively, that they all mean well. However, aside from the need for your vote and your money, they are all quite different. Some are brilliant while others are merely able. There are a few that seem so overwhelmed with their responsibility or their own ego, they are downright dim-witted.

For me, I can break down any politician into two categories. Category one: caring and sincere. Category two: disingenuous.

It’s those in category one that keep me motivated and willing to put in the hours throughout the campaign and election day. It’s those individuals in category two that fuels scepticism, even in me.

George Smitherman is a brash man. He’ll offer you a firm handshake and a smile but you’d better get down to business. That doesn’t mean he’s not a kind man either. The last time I seen him, he went out of his way to initiate a quick pleasant conversation with me on Bay Street.

Phil Fontaine is one of the most misunderstood people in politics. Honestly, he is one of the kindest, most sincere, giving person I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I think I still owe him $20 bucks. But Phil’s detractors unfairly paint him as some sort of villain. That’s the furthest from the truth.

Both Phil Fontaine and George Smitherman have two completely different styles and personalities, but are still in category one: they are both caring and sincere.

John Beaucage, my former boss – is untouchable in this category. Kind, caring and sincere and means it.

I’ve recently moved into the riding of Thornhill, which is going to be an intense battleground when a federal election is called later this year. This is a perfect example of sincerity vs. disingenuousness.

Dr. Karen Mock, Liberal candidate for Thornhill

Dr. Karen Mock, Liberal candidate for Thornhill

KAREN MOCK

– is among the most sincere, visionary people I’ve come to know. Her smile, handshake and words mean a lot. She’ll take as much time as she can, just to get to know you and your issues. She polished but personable. I don’t expect these qualities to change in the near future.

Karen is a tireless advocate for anti-racism, human rights and diversity. She was Executive Director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation as well as the National Director of League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada. She knows her stuff.

When asked about aboriginal issues, she knows them like the back of her hand. She knows about the growing socio-economic void. She knows, first hand, about racism faced by aboriginal people.

She is the personification of category one: kind, sincere and caring. To see her at work is to be inspired.

PETER KENT – is the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas. He is the former anchor, reporter and correspondent for Global TV News in Toronto. He is polished and, I have to admit, a natural politician. However, having met him on more than a few occasions – he seems rehearsed – but not in an impressive way. It’s like his personality comes from years of TV practice.

A few months back, Jasmine, who just turned twelve, asked him about aboriginal issues at annual Thornhill Village Festival. He barely gave her the time of day and his response was not adequate, even for her. He was obviously not prepared to answer questions on aboriginal issues without a formal briefing from staff complete with prepared questions and answers.

Peter Kent is the personification of category two. On the surface he seems completely disingenuous – with a wink, smile and quick handshake to boot. Just enough to get the donation out of you and send you on your way.

But you can’t expect too much sincerity from the Harper Conservatives. We’ve all heard the words that folks like Harper use when the cameras aren’t on. To borrow a line from Michael Ignatieff, “there have always been two Harpers. The real Harper comes out when he thinks he can’t be heard.”

At least they are not the same kind of words used by Mike Harris, the king of the Conservative disingenuous. “those Fucking Indians…” If John Beaucage is at one end of the sincerity spectrum – Mike Harris is at the absolute other end.

However, not all conservatives are in category two. Tony Clement, the Minister of Industry is one of the hardest working, most genuine politicians I know. I’m happy to call him a friend. He always considers the public good in a positive, productive way.

I truly look forward to the next federal election and working with Dr. Karen Mock in Thornhill. I’ll also do my best to support Anthony Rota back home in Nipissing. Both are excellent examples of caring politicians who are most definitely cabinet material when the Liberals eventually take office. They are the reasons I continue to support the Liberal party and have hope for souls of politicians everywhere.