activism,  politics

There are so many election issues that matter.

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One of the reasons that an eleven week election period feels like a drag is the that politicians and the media focus too much on the wrong things. They focus on mud slinging, on scandal and on just a small handful of controversial issues, when there are much more interesting issues at play. Eleven weeks might seem like a long time for talking about the Duffy trial or to hear politicians bashing one another, but if a person is trying to get a handle on what the different political parties are actually doing or speaking of doing, 11 weeks doesn’t seem that long.

Let’s talk about housing strategies. Harper has offered his three ideas. One involves helping those who already have RRSPs to buy a house, another that involves giving people who already own houses some tax breaks to do renovations, and the third of which involves blaming foreigners for everything. Michal Rozworski explains why these are bad ideas.

Seth Klein from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives also explains why raising the limit for withdrawing money from RRSPs for purchasing a home is not a solution. People can already withdraw $25k, so raising it to $35k will only help a small subset of the population, that tend already to be older and wealthier. If it does succeed in increasing the number of people who can buy houses, it risks raising the demand and therefore the prices. As Seth Klein explains:

…an effective policy response either has to control prices (for example by means of a speculation tax), cool demand (by more tightly regulating speculative buyers), or increase the supply (by building more affordable housing). But a policy such as the one proposed, aimed at simply encouraging more demand, would only result in the bidding up of prices.

Controlling prices and cooling demand sounds kind of weird at first, but there could be benefits. What would be wrong with controlling speculative house purchases? When you bid on your house, do you want to be bidding against investors who are counting on the prices rising over the next few years? If it does help to reduce long-distance landlords, that would be a good thing too. Mike Baldwin, from the organization Put Food in the Budget, wrote a compelling description of poverty in Northern Ontario and one of the problems he mentions is landlords who live far away and are hard to get a hold of.

Let’s talk about healthcare.  I remember sitting around with a group of women a couple months ago, and the topic of the health care system came up and some people were expressing frustrations and concerns, but there was one man in the conversation and he had just had heart surgery not long before, so what he expressed was gratitude. Gratitude that the doctors and nurses could save his life. I’m thinking about the need for more funding for nurses and doctors, and for the federal government to do its part paying for medical care. I’m thinking about what it might mean if the move towards privatization is continued.

When I tried looking up what the Conservative government have been doing in the cutting of their contributions to health care, I got distracted by reading an interview by Trish Hennessy about how we need to reframe the health care debate into a discussion about health itself. We need to do more to promote health, and “the real differences in health come from income, education, employment, housing, nutrition, social supports, etc.” (That is a quote from a doctor that is quoted in Trish Hennessy’s article.) There are so many ways our federal government could work to promote health. Let’s elect a government that will do a good job on that and take a broad understanding of health.

I’m thinking about health care research, and the lack of funding available for scientists right now. My husband is a scientist, so of course I worry about funding for his research, but also for other researchers. The decrease in funding for research has been hard to watch. We need more money put into research, so that we can expand our knowledge of the universe and so that Canadians can help discover the drugs and procedures that save lives.  Yet just yesterday the CBC reported on the ending of a program that trains people to be both medical doctors and clinical researchers. 

We need money too for environmental research, to develop ways of dealing with the climate change and reducing our impact upon the environment. We need research for so many things, and we need our scientists able to share their findings, even when – or especially when – it goes against government policies. Our governments should be able interesting in looking at the findings, in changing and adapting policies to serve us better, not muzzling scientists to promote their ideologies.

There are so many issues that matter. A union representing flight attendants has put out a survey to the parties on issues that matter to them. How many flight attendants are on your airplane could be effected by the results of the next election, as could the ability of those flight attendants to have adequate daycare for their children and defined benefit pensions. Elections matter. Voting matters.

A group of Canadian Veterans have asked that people vote for Anyone But Conservatives (ABC). In 2006 the Conservatives government switched to giving wounded veterans a lump sum instead of monthly installments. Here’s a quote from an article about that:

According to Beaver, who qualifies for monthly disability payments under the old system, young soldiers who had food and board looked after by the military often had no idea what to do with such huge one-time payments after injury forced them out.

As a result, many young veterans burn through the money in just a few months, as they struggle to deal with the trauma of suddenly leaving the military.

The long drawn out election time is frustrating because it is a misuse of resources as well as a gaming of the election system. Yet throughout this time we need to keep our eyes on what matters: creating and nurturing the Canada we want.

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