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July

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    MPlib
    By independent expert analysis, the Liberal Plan for #fairness would lift more than 300,000 children our of poverty - far more effective than either NDP or Conservative proposals.
    Jul 10, 2015 8:46 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    A DISMAL ECONOMY On Stephen Harper's watch as Prime Minister, the performance of the Canadian economy has been mostly pretty dismal. He has the worst record on economic growth of any Prime Minister since the 1930's. Job creation is slow and sluggish. Job quality is at its lowest ebb in 25 years. Incomes are stagnant. Canada has posted more than 50 monthly trade deficits. Household debt is near a record high. And the public debt carried by the federal government has ballooned by $157-billion. June ended with the sorry news that our economy shrank again in April - that makes four months in a row, two-thirds of the way back into recession. All the major private sector economic forecasters have slashed their growth projections for Canada, by as much as 25% or more. And the downward spiral continues. Last week, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch said Canada has already slid into recession. On Monday, the TD Bank agreed that was likely the case. And Statistics Canada reported the first decline in capital investments in this country since 2009. On Tuesday, the latest trade figures were released, showing yet another huge monthly trade deficit in May (the 5th month in a row) for a cumulative total of $13.6 billion in the hole so far this year. On Wednesday, Statistics Canada published figures showing that after-tax incomes are basically stagnant, and inequality has widened. The Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank issued statements calling for the Bank of Canada to cut interest rates again to bolster the faltering economy. And today, the International Monetary Fund issued another downgrade for Canada, joining the OECD in projecting meagre 1.5% growth for all of this year - down by nearly one-third from what the IMF was predicting just three months ago. Meanwhile, the Harper government remains officially oblivious. They have no strategy to drive greater growth and more jobs. Their only clear policy is more discriminatory tax breaks for high-wealth households - adding to inequality and making real growth more difficult. Canada clearly needs a new and better economic plan.
    Jul 09, 2015 4:26 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Congratulations + best wishes to Peter Stoicheff, the new President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan. I also want to say thank you + well done to Gordon Barnhart who served so ably in this role during a challenging period.
    Jul 09, 2015 9:42 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Poor Joe Oliver looks foolish trying to maintain the economic fictions he's being fed by "kids in short-pants" in PM's office http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/slow-canadian-economy-could-be-spurred-by-u-s-joe-oliver-says-1.3141461
    Jul 07, 2015 3:15 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Jean-Pierre Taschereau + Canadian Red Cross volunteers doing an excellent job dealing with 13,000 evacuees from Sask's wildfire disaster
    Jul 07, 2015 9:39 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    The evidence is overwhelming - Stephen Harper's economic plan is failing miserably. Canada needs a new plan + real change http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-07/canada-trade-deficit-unexpectedly-widens-as-exports-slide
    Jul 07, 2015 7:00 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Former Prime Minister Paul Martin in fine form on the economy, education and global affairs before a receptive crowd in Regina. Much respected.
    Jul 06, 2015 12:13 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Full house at Conexus Arts Centre to welcome former PM Paul Martin to Regina - looking forward to his talk on Canadian economy.
    Jul 06, 2015 11:30 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Lots of challenges handling needs of 13,000 dislocated people, but Canadian Red Cross is widely acclaimed as doing great job (2/2)
    Jul 06, 2015 10:26 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    After good conversation with U of R President Timmons, Paul Martin, Louis Browne and I spent some time with forest fire evacuees on campus (1/2)
    Jul 06, 2015 10:26 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Thinking of all those in Northern Saskatchewan who have been affected by the wildfires. The Canadian Armed Forces and Red Cross have been called in to assist with the situation. CBC news is reporting 13,000 have had to be evacuated from their homes, and is the largest evacuation Saskatchewan has ever experienced. Ralph Goodale and the Rt. Hon Paul Martin have met with First Nations and locals about the situation. Please consider donating to the Canadian Red Cross to assist those in need. If you are in Saskatchewan, the local Salvation Army is taking donated goods as well. Together, we as Canadians can help make a difference even from afar. Every little bit helps. http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=b71b47a81da6e7d67dc2f2074&id=36452497bc&e=64ca3b0e90 #Saskatchewan #skfires
    Jul 06, 2015 9:26 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Right Honourable Paul Martin now meeting with University of Regina President Dr Vianne Timmons - about education, especially Aboriginal education.
    Jul 06, 2015 9:01 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Right Honourable Paul Martin speaking to a breakfast group in Regina this am - talking about the critical challenges of Aboriginal education.
    Jul 06, 2015 7:50 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    My thanks to former FSIN Chief Lawrence Joseph for making it possible for Paul Martin and me to meet with PAGC Emergency Committee.
    Jul 06, 2015 6:56 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    WILL FISCAL FANTASIES WORK A SECOND TIME? Through the summer of 2008, as the world slid into an economic recession brought on by US housing market and banking failures, the Harper government in Canada kept spinning a yarn that all was well. After all, they were planning an election for that fall. Since taking office in February of 2006, they had surfed along quite comfortably on the economic and fiscal momentum they inherited from their Liberal predecessors. The last thing Stephen Harper wanted was to dampen the public mood with honest talk about a recession and how he was squandering the nation's capacity to cope with one. During his first two-and-a-half years, Mr. Harper overspent by nearly three times the rate of inflation. He mangled the federal tax base. He eliminated all the contingency reserves and prudence factors from federal budget-making. And he put Canada back on the cusp of a deficit once again - all before any recession actually arrived. When it hit, the global downturn made Canada's situation worse, but it was Mr. Harper all on his own who made us vulnerable. As trouble approached, the Conservative strategy was "deny, deny, deny". They dismissed the likelihood of a recession. We'll all just have "good buying opportunities", Mr. Harper claimed, and there was absolutely no possibility of a federal deficit, or so he said. That was his line in 2008 and he was sticking to it - until the election had come and gone, and then hard reality settled in. The Canadian economy was indeed in recession, and five falsely projected balanced budgets became seven consecutive deficits. Had the Harper government lied to Canadians? Or were they just breathtakingly incompetent? It doesn't much matter. Either way, it's unacceptable. And it shouldn't be allowed to happen again. Fast-forward to the summer of 2015. Another election is looming in the fall, just as economic storm clouds are gathering. The Canadian economy recorded "negative growth" -- i.e., it shrank -- in each of the first four months of this calendar year. Every credible private sector forecaster has revised their growth expectations downward. They're having a morbid debate about whether another recession has already arrived, or is Canada just suffering a prolonged period of dismal results with little or no growth. It's a telling point that the latter is their best-case scenario. And what do we hear AGAIN from the Harper government? Don't worry, be happy. The plummeting figures coming from all the private forecasters one-by-one aren't real until we actually hold a meeting and hear from them all together. And in any event, it's all somebody else's fault. Canada is just a hapless victim. There's nothing we can do to help ourselves to better results. How pathetic! The very least Mr. Harper could do is stop contradicting and undermining the Bank of Canada. In January, Governor Poloz said the Canadian economy was "atrocious". To try to drive some growth, he used the only tool at his disposal and cut the Bank's prime interest rate. That has contributed to ballooning levels of consumer debt. But he downplays that problem as a mere "side effect" of the "emergency surgery" he had to perform. The Governor is using strong language to highlight the pressing need for greater sustained and sustainable economic growth. He has pushed this theme from his first days in office, as did his predecessor Mark Carney. And how has the Harper government responded? By going in exactly the opposite, restrictive and wrong direction. The Conservative obsession with concocting the appearance of a balanced budget - all so they can give a couple of expensive tax breaks to high-wealth households - has reduced aggregate demand and increased inequality (which in turn undermines growth). Most seriously, the Harper government has refused to work in tandem with the central Bank on a sensible pro-growth plan - one that's built around investments in public infrastructure, access to higher learning, the advancement of science and innovation, and an astute understanding of the undeniable link between environmental integrity and successful economic growth. Mr. Harper's economic plan is tedious and threadbare, and it has failed. It's time for real change - to get Canada growing again.
    Jul 06, 2015 6:00 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    THE INDEFATIGABLE PAUL MARTIN! I look forward to welcoming former Prime Minister Paul Martin back to Regina tomorrow (Monday). He's been in Saskatoon today, and yesterday the two of us were in Prince Albert getting a better sense of the impact of the wildfires raging across the north. We met with Grand Chief Ron Michel and the Emergency Measures Committee of the Prince Albert Grand Council - including many Chiefs, Vice-Chiefs, Councillors and staff - and we visited the evacuation centres which are helping those who have been displaced. Over 100 fires continue to burn. More than 51 communities have been affected. Over 13,000 people have been evacuated. This is a huge disaster which demands national attention. Canadians will want to respond with concern and generosity. The Chiefs had made a request for the involvement and support of Canadian Forces personnel. It's good to see they will be made available. The skill and strength of our military could be utilized both in battling the blazes and in managing the complex logistics of taking care of evacuees. Communications is a critical imperative in dealing with any emergency. Federal and provincial authorities need to stay in close contact with affected communities and Aboriginal leaders to ensure the most effective and empathetic reponses are provided in this crisis. The Red Cross has been on the scene from day-one. Trained volunteers have arrived from across the country. They are doing an amazing job of caring for the evacuees. But the task is huge and it's not clear when/where it will end. In the longer term, northern Saskatchewan will require a concerted federal/provincial/Aboriginal action plan to resettle those who have been displaced and to help them rebuild their lives and livelihoods. The northern economy has taken a huge hit. Full recovery will not be quick nor easy. And looking to the future, we need a full impartial assessment of federal, provincial and Aboriginal capacities to cope with disasters of all kind, and the protocols and resources that can be accessed on an emergency basis. Mr. Martin was well-received in the north. There is obviously a large reservoir of respect for the man, especially because of his passionate work as Prime Minister on the Kelowna Accord for Aboriginal peoples, and because he has continued to work tirelessly on such priorities as Aboriginal education - long after he left public life. These topics will no doubt come up again tomorrow in Regina, as will the sad state of the Canadian economy -- now two-thirds of the way back into another recession. It will be useful to hear Mr. Martin's perspective as probably the most effective Finance Minister in Canadian history. ###
    Jul 05, 2015 8:53 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    A message from Justin Trudeau about the wild fire crisis in northern Saskatchewan. Bit.ly/1TeCf1Q
    Jul 05, 2015 8:35 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Recovery from fires in N.Sk will be expensive+will take a long time. Lots of public support+close consultation w/ FNs needed(2/2)
    Jul 04, 2015 5:34 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    With former PM Paul Martin + PA Grand Council - fires in N.Sk getting more dangerous, LaRonge now being totally evacuated(1/2)
    Jul 04, 2015 5:34 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Just finished meeting with Prince Albert Grand Council Chiefs - very impressed by their passionate concern for people facing fire disasters.
    Jul 04, 2015 4:58 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Travelling with the Right Hon Paul Martin today to Prince Albert to talk with First Nations leaders about key issues in Northern Saskatchewan -- including fires
    Jul 04, 2015 1:33 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    My colleague Ralph Goodale has news for the Finance Minister, who seems to have his head stuck in the sand: In the last five weeks, RBC dropped its 2015 economic growth forecast for Canada to 1.8%. Scotiabank and TD are saying 1.6%. BMO and the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) say 1.5%. CIBC is projecting 1.4%.
    Jul 04, 2015 9:50 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Big shout-out to Regina Treaty / Status Indian Services (RT/SIS) for organizing annual Tamra Keepness BBQ.
    Jul 03, 2015 11:35 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Lots of Regina Police Service volunteers helping out today with community BBQ remembering Tamra Keepness.
    Jul 03, 2015 11:16 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    People gathering in Regina's Core Park for annual BBQ to remember Tamra Keepness - missing now for 11 yrs.
    Jul 03, 2015 11:14 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    HARPER, OLIVER CLING TO BOGUS GROWTH ASSUMPTIONS According to Stephen Harper's Finance Minister, the Canadian economy will still achieve growth this calendar year of at least 2%. Believe it or not, that's what Joe Oliver apparently told Bloomberg News this week. Despite the fact that our GDP shrank not only through the entire First Quarter of this year, but also unexpectedly in April too, Mr. Oliver is sticking to his April 21st budget projection of 2% growth overall for 2015. In a bizarre twist of reasoning, he says that was the consensus figure obtained from a survey of private sector economists in March, and somehow it just doesn't matter that they've all since revised their projections significantly downward. "We haven't met again with the private sector forecasters as a group," says Mr. Oliver, "so that number (i.e. 2%) has not been adjusted." Talk about sticking your head in the sand - if you don't want to hear what those private forecasters will tell you, then just refuse to call them together for an updated projection. It's embarrassing to have the country's Finance Minister look so foolish! Just in the last five weeks, RBC dropped its 2015 economic growth forecast for Canada to 1.8%. Scotiabank and TD are saying 1.6%. BMO and the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) say 1.5%. And CIBC is projecting 1.4%. Do the math. Compared to the 2% projection laid out in the budget, the consensus among these private forecasters is now down by more than one-fifth. That's a big decline. And it won't be overcome by wishful thinking or willful blindness. The consequences are real. Among other things, a growth rate that's more than 20% lower than what was assumed in the budget, means federal revenues will be lower than expected too. Lower revenues present the probability of a federal deficit once again. Given that Mr. Oliver was projecting only a razor-thin surplus of just $1.4-billion in any event, it's quite likely that slower growth means Canada is once again back into red ink. When will we know for sure? Not until the federal books for this year are formally audited. When will that get done? Not until the fall of 2016. Well after the federal election - isn't that convenient? The likelihood of a deficit this year is also enlarged by all the jiggery-pokery that went into the concoction of that $1.4-billion "surplus" in the first place. It wasn't just economic growth assumptions that were too rosy. To contrive their "surplus", the Conservatives also mistreated veterans and lapsed more than a billion dollars in federal funding that Parliament had previously approved. They underfunded the military, the RCMP and other public safety agencies. They carved a gaping $5-billion hole in federal funding for public infrastructure. They sold off federal assets ranging from the government's shares in General Motors and certain foreign embassies to local community pastures and an historic tree nursery in Saskatchewan. And they hoisted taxes, most especially Employment Insurance payroll taxes which have been frozen at excessively high levels until 2017. So what's wrong with the government running this deficit? Three things: First, they are pretending not to, and that's dishonest. Secondly, it totally destroys the stated rationale for their large, discriminatory tax breaks for wealthier Canadians which were supposed to be conditional upon balanced budgets. And third, the Conservatives still have no coherent plan to drive sustained and sustainable economic growth and to achieve greater fairness - especially for the middle class and all those working so hard just to get there. #####
    Jul 03, 2015 4:41 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    A big Canadian Flag - now 50 yrs old - and lots of kids on the parade square at RCMP Depot Division for Canada Day Sunset Ceremony
    Jul 01, 2015 6:31 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Over at Government House, the Lieut-Gov's Garden Party is featuring Rory Allen + Orchestra on Canada Day.
    Jul 01, 2015 1:38 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    Legion Colour Party signals the beginning of Canada Day events in Wascana Park in Regina.
    Jul 01, 2015 11:59 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Lots of great local produce at today's Canada Day Farmers Market in Regina.
    Jul 01, 2015 9:47 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    CANADA DAY Happy Canada Day on this smokey July 1st across Saskatchewan. Thinking of the thousands dislocated by brush and forest fires and now in shelters in Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and North Battleford. Great work being done by emergency workers everywhere - special shout-out to the Red Cross providing support to the evacuees.
    Jul 01, 2015 7:12 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    I want to wish everyone a Happy Canada Day! Bonne Fête Canada! https://youtu.be/f0TPoiLbeW4
    Jul 01, 2015 7:00 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana

June

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    MPlib
    MR. HARPER'S BUDGET RATIONALE HAS EVAPORATED The Harper government failed to produce a budget through the entire 2014-15 fiscal year. Do you remember why? They claimed they were uncertain about unstable energy markets and had to delay their budget long enough to get reliable data. So how has that worked out? Finally tabled on April 21st, the 2015 federal budget assumed overall economic growth for Canada this year at 2%. That much growth, the Conservatives said, would generate sufficient revenue for the federal books to be balanced and for Mr. Harper to proceed with the two expensive tax breaks that he had promised for high-wealth households. Those discriminatory tax breaks have now been legislated. But the economic growth assumptions used to justify them have gone up in smoke. The Canadian economy will NOT grow by 2% this year. In fact, in the first quarter of 2015, our economy not only stalled, it actually shrank in each of January, February and March. For the second quarter, we'll get the official figures in a few weeks, but more bad news is expected. The economy may not be shrinking any more, but it's not growing much either. The last half of 2015 may be better, but according to all the major bank economists and the Organization of Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD), Canada will be lucky to eke out an annual growth rate of about 1.5%. That mediocre performance is well below what the Conservatives were claiming at Budget time, barely two months ago. It's well below what they need to balance the federal books. And it's therefore well below what's needed to justify Mr. Harper's tax breaks. Paltry economic growth is not just this year's problem. It has been a defining feature of Stephen Harper's government. Since he came to power in 2006, Mr. Harper has the worst economic growth record of any Prime Minister since R.B. Bennett in the 1930's. But don't blame me, he will say, it's all the fault of that nasty 2008 recession. But that recession was shallower than expected. It lasted less than a year. And it ended six long years ago. So why is Canada still languishing? Well, Mr. Harper says, put things in context - aren't we doing better than every other country in the G-7? The short answer is no, we're not. Canada hasn't been on top of the G-7 in jobs and growth for several years now. Among the 34 leading countries tracked by the OECD, it's projected that 24 will grow faster this year than will Canada. And in the larger group of IMF countries, more than 130 are likely to do better. It's time to stop the excuses. Mr. Harper has been in charge for nearly 10 years. No one else is to blame. His economic plan has failed. Instead of an obsession with tax breaks for the wealthy, the Government of Canada needs to be riveted on the drivers of sustained and sustainable economic growth. That's what will lift our living standards and bolster a more prosperous middle class. That's what will help boost all those who are working so hard just to get to the middle class. And that's what will enable the federal books to be balanced on a sound and sustainable foundation. For all these reasons, Justin Trudeau is proposing a new economic plan for Canada. It's rooted in fiscal responsibility with two prime goals -- greater growth and fairness. It includes a more generous, non-taxable and fully indexed Canada Child Benefit. A 7% middle class tax cut. A major boost for public infrastructure. Better access to higher learning and skills. Investments in science and innovation. More effective trade and marketing. And the restoration of Canada's environmental credibility. Mr. Trudeau's plan represents real change. Stay tuned. There's more to come.
    Jun 29, 2015 7:38 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Long-serving school bd trustee + now South Okanagan Liberal candidate Connie Denesiuk speaking tonight in Penticton.
    Jun 27, 2015 7:20 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Working w/Karley Scott - Metis originally from LaRonge, Sk - terrific Lib candidate in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola
    Jun 27, 2015 6:16 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    In Kelowna-Lake Country, proud to campaign with Liberal Steve Fuhr - an excellent candidate - big crowd for rally + fundraiser
    Jun 27, 2015 1:39 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Started today w/Lib Candidate Cindy Derkaz in Vernon, great meeting with Vernon Chamber of Commerce about a new economic plan for Canada.
    Jun 27, 2015 11:59 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Just arrived in Kamloops. Talked to my old friend Len Marchand. Now getting ready to visit TRU w/ 2015 Lib candidate Steve Powrie.
    Jun 26, 2015 4:09 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    10 distinguished graduates this year from Regina's Huda School - congratulations! Very glad to be here once again.
    Jun 25, 2015 2:11 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    REAL CHANGE A few days ago, when Justin Trudeau released his 32 proposals for a Parliament and government that are more transparent and fair in serving the needs of Canadians, he noted that after 10 years of Stephen Harper things in Ottawa are pretty badly broken. Major repairs are urgently required. The Conservatives in response denied all problems. Everything is just fine, they said. Today, in a Peterborough court room, the Prime Minister's former Parliamentary Secretary and chief spokesman for ethical matters (Dean Del Mastro) was sentenced to jail for violating Canada's election laws. And he wasn't the first or the only one of the Prime Minister's trusted appointees to face such a fate. Canada does indeeed need REAL CHANGE. The election this fall can open the door. Look up the details of what Justin Trudeau has proposed at: realchange.ca ###
    Jun 25, 2015 9:35 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Saskatchewan Express performs a tribute to Sk's own Connie Kaldor - Sky's are bigger than anywhere else!
    Jun 24, 2015 5:39 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Glad to drop into the AGM of the Regina Immigrant Women's Centre - a vital community service and asset!
    Jun 23, 2015 6:14 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Part of the performing company at tonight's Saskatchewan Express Gala in Regina - congrats again to Carole Gay Bell!
    Jun 23, 2015 6:04 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Lots of cooks, lots of people at community breakfast opening 2015 Urban Treaty Days at RT/SIS Gathering Place this morning
    Jun 23, 2015 8:06 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Justin Trudeau speaking at Canada 2020 says Stephen Harper's hyper-partisanship has compromised his ability to deal with President Obama. A Canadian Prime Minister must be able to deal with US Presidents from both Parties - every PM before Mr Harper understood this. To have presence + exercise influence in US, we need to know what their interests actually are, not just what we wish they were.
    Jun 22, 2015 10:28 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Justin Trudeau takes the stage before a full house at Canada 2020 to talk about the Canada-US relationship
    Jun 22, 2015 10:13 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    AFTER 10 YEARS OF MR. HARPER, MUCH IS BROKEN IN OTTAWA - INCLUDING THE CRA Stephen Harper is well into his 10th year in office, and Canadians are tallying the carnage of that scorched decade. A prime economic example reaches back to the 2011 election. Mr. Harper promised big tax breaks, worth billions of dollars annually, to high-wealth Canadians - despite the clear reality that the economy was weak, the proposed cuts were expensive and unfair, and middle and lower income people had larger and more pressing needs. As a sop to fiscal responsibility, Mr. Harper made his tax breaks "contingent" on his government first balancing its budget. That signalled a major assault on federal programs and services. He pledged that "front line" service delivery would not be reduced - only redundant public servants in the government's "back offices" would be affected, he said. That sounded like nonsense at the time, and it was. Services and service delivery standards have been severely compromised. Just ask WW2 veterans, or younger soldiers returning from recent wars and suffering PTSD. Ask someone trying to reach a human-being to talk to about Employment Insurance, or a pension problem, or an immigration application that's two years over due. Or ask about the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Taxpayers have been treated to a litany of service failures in this key department over the past several months. First it was the letters CRA was sending to taxpayers. They were incoherent computer-generated gibberish that no normal person could possibly understand. Even departmental officials were at a loss to make sense of their own correspondence. Then it was the quality of the tax information being handed out by CRA, especially to small businesses. It was wrong 25% of the time. Taxpayers with a complaint were told to go to the CRA Ombudsman, but that position has been vacant for a year. CRA has closed all of its "service to the public" offices. Its budget for "service" has been chopped by more than 25%. Staffing is down by 20%. The department is directing Canadians to its telephone call centre to pick up the slack. And even that is proving to be a debacle. Data obtained from CRA this past week shows an appalling level of bad performance. Last year, some 12-million Canadians tried to call the tax department for information, help or advice. Collectively, they made more than 60-million phone calls. Two-thirds of those calls were never answered. They got a busy signal and hung up. For those taxpayers who persisted in trying to get through by making call-after-call over a full week's time, still 20% never made it. The figures so far this year show even worse service -- 78% of the calls incoming to CRA are not getting answered. For all these reasons, Justin Trudeau has promised a major overhaul of the tax department. To start with, new performance standards for CRA services will be established to raise the bar, measure results and report publicly. This must apply urgently to the quality of correspondence and the accessibility of the call centre. Our aim will be the achievement of operating practices that treat taxpayers as "clients". For example, where the department notices that someone is entitled to a benefit or deduction which they are not actually receiving, they should pro-actively contact that taxpayer to let them know. CRA could also offer to file routine tax returns for lower income Canadians and those on fixed incomes when their financial situations remain largely unchanged from previous years. There could be more support for Canadians who want to file their returns on-line with no paper forms. Greater efforts should be made to go after international tax evasion. The CRA should halt its partisan harassment of charities. And the government should clarify the rules on charities to reaffirm the important role that non-governmental organizations can and should play in the development of public policies. The trouble at CRA is just one aspect of the brokenness that Stephen Harper has inflicted upon Canada. For a more comprehensive look at Justin Trudeau's plan for fair and open government, go to: www.RealChange.ca
    Jun 22, 2015 6:31 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    UMOJA Drummers from Jack Mackenzie School, led by Marlene Hinz, great opening to JazzFest Multicultural Day!
    Jun 21, 2015 12:57 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    ReginaJazzSociety finishes its 2015 JazzFest today with their annual Multicultural Day featuring Joyce Moreno - at the Ramada
    Jun 21, 2015 11:54 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Thanks to Merv Armstrong and his "Swervin" team for a great "mini-indy" go-cart racing event this weekend in Regina's City Square - raising funds to fight leukemia and lymphoma.
    Jun 21, 2015 10:53 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana

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Ralph Goodale

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