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December

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    MPlib
    Another dismal day in Parliament for Veterans Minister Fantino -- he was warned 2 years ago by the Auditor General that government projections about vets' needs were too low. He also had warnings from two Veterans Ombudsmen + from retired General Hillier + then again from the Auditor General. And still he failed.
    Dec 11, 2014 12:08 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Here's a statement I made today in Parliament about the election of Saskatchewan's Perry Bellegarde as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations http://youtu.be/zvv6IW8Kxds
    Dec 11, 2014 11:22 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Congratulations to Sask's Perry Bellegarde elected today as National Chief, Assembly of First Nations. A tough but crucial job!
    Dec 10, 2014 1:04 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Under pressure for his manifold failures, Veterans Minister Fantino won't answer questions. Here's his hapless Parliamentary Secretary subbing: http://youtu.be/NW0VPD5F6IE
    Dec 10, 2014 11:50 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    In Question Period, Fantino hiding again. Leaves his Parliamentary Secretary to drone through meaningless trivia trying to defend the indefensible. HarperCons cannot explain why service to Vets have been reduced while partisan political staff and government advertising go up. After firing nearly a thousand frontline service providers in Veteran Affairs, Cons now say they may rehire - admission of failure.
    Dec 10, 2014 11:41 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Roomful of Liberal candidates from across Canada join the National Liberal Caucus this morning in Ottawa. Campaign training well advanced!
    Dec 10, 2014 7:55 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    So sorry for the loss of Saskatoon's Cliff Wright - a great Mayor, wonderful citizen, made us all proud. Sincere condolences.
    Dec 10, 2014 6:02 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    On the day we say good-bye, here's a treasured souvenir of the great Mr Beliveau. RIP.
    Dec 10, 2014 4:00 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Canada has a duty to meet their social, economic, physical and psychological needs. - Ralph Goodale
    Dec 08, 2014 7:54 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    SHAMEFUL MISTREATMENT OF CANADA'S VETERANS Yes, Julian Fantino's shambolic performance as Minister of Veterans Affairs has earned condemnation from coast to coast, and he should resign. But he is not the ultimate source of the problem for Canada's veterans. That shameful distinction rests with Stephen Harper. Mr. Harper's government is a one-man show. Mr. Fantino has no influence, no independence of thought or action. He just does what he's told. That spinelessness - his failure to stand-up to Mr. Harper - is Mr. Fantino's greatest offence. Mr. Harper loudly proclaims his affection for the military. He gets his picture taken with lots of people in uniform. He attends many ceremonies, gives speeches and promises monuments and museums. But his actual record on things that matter is a huge contradiction. As Sir Robert Borden declared a hundred years ago, when he sent young Canadians off to battle in World War One, it is Canada's sacred obligation to fulfill the covenant it makes with its fighting forces when they are put in harm's way to defend our values and our way of life. They have stood ready to give their all. And when they come home, their country must "stand ready" for them. With gratitude and generosity, Canada has a duty to meet their social, economic, physical and psychological needs. Mr. Harper has fallen way short. Instead of honouring veterans, he has focused exclusively on claiming a balanced budget for 2015 - all to allow him to implement his long-promised Income Splitting scheme. He has sacrificed a great many things on that one alter. The late Jim Flaherty had the courage to challenge Mr. Harper on Income Splitting. He openly criticized the scheme as too expensive and unfair. It will cost $2-billion every year, and benefit only a small fraction of families, the more wealthy in particular. But 85% of households gain nothing at all. So Mr. Flaherty blew the whistle. Sadly, Julian Fantino is no Jim Flaherty. The Vets Minister meekly does Mr. Harper's bidding with a "bonus" system to reward senior managers in his department, not for better treatment, but for slashing services and staff. Nearly a thousand employees have been fired. That's about a quarter of those previously providing support to veterans. Nine specialized service centres have been closed. Over a billion dollars in funding for veterans, as promised by the government and approved by Parliament, was never delivered. The families of thousands of deceased veterans were denied support for dignified funerals. Veterans' health insurance premiums were doubled. Over the past decade, more Canadian military personnel have died by suicide (160) than were lost in Afghanistan. Many more have lingering mental health issues, and wait for months or even years to get the psychological help they need. And the Harper government's response is a pitiful trickle of funding dribbled over the next half century. To duck a critical Auditor General's report about his manifold failures, Mr. Fantino went AWOL for a week. Then he failed to show up to explain his department's spending plans for the coming year. When veterans came to Parliament Hill to protest their mistreatment, he deliberately insulted them. When the spouse of a PTSD sufferer asked for some help, he ran away. This government dragged vets through the courts for six years trying to claw back their pensions. Now they're in court again arguing that they don't owe any special duty to any veteran and that Borden's solemn pledge was just political hot air. Altogether, it's an appalling saga. It's Stephen Harper who dictated it, and it's Stephen Harper who must be held accountable.
    Dec 08, 2014 5:33 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Enjoying the "Friendly Folk" orchestra at Whitmore UC Winter Supper in Regina.
    Dec 06, 2014 5:08 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Nice to see a big busy crowd at St Matthew's Christmas tea+sale. This is a great+historic church community in Regina
    Dec 06, 2014 12:56 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Thousands of perogies on sale at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Regina today. Going fast!
    Dec 06, 2014 10:48 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    DISTURBING NEWS IN THE GRAINS INDUSTRY There have been several unsettling news reports in the past few days about issues affecting the western Canadian grains industry. In the wake of last year's multi-billion-dollar fiasco in grain handling and transportation, the Harper government's "order" to the railways to move certain minimum volumes of grain per week expired last month. It was replaced with a new order, involving less ambitious volumes, lasting until next spring. Given this year's more modest crop, there will be a somewhat smaller volume to move this winter and that will take a bit of pressure off the system. But due to widely varying weather conditions through the fall, crop quality is also widely variable - meaning the logistics of assembling grain cars and trains across the prairies will likely be more complex. So we're not out of the woods yet. The most recent expert calculations indicate costs and losses from last year's mess totalled more than $5-billion. Farmers simply cannot afford a repeat of that sorry performance - especially since the fines the government promised for failures to meet the weekly targets seem to be largely rhetorical and unenforceable. The new order does not reflect the quality variability issue. It does not attempt to achieve any equity among shipping corridors west, east, north and south. The government mentions, but does nothing tangible about the needs of producer-car shippers or short-line rail operators. There is nothing to ensure decent service to domestic grain users. At the bottom-line, the grain handling and transportation system remains inadequate with little ability to cope with volume surges or adverse weather. Shippers remain captive with no competitive commercial alternatives and no legal recourse when the system fails. And threatened fines, to be paid to the government, have no real impact and are no substitute for liquidated damages payable directly to affected shippers. In a recent survey by RBC Capital Markets, more than three-quarters of shippers label the rail service they have received recently as just fair or poor. That level of dissatisfaction is way up from less than one-third of shippers who were complaining a year ago. The lingering consequence of transportation failures is the damage done to Canada's reputation as a reliable global supplier. Some excellent traditional customers for Canadian grain, like Japan, just walked away last winter. And there are growing signs of another troubling dimension to Canadian unreliability. Customer concerns are rising about defective grain quality issues. High quality and consistency used to be well recognized Canadian strengths. But following drastic cuts and other changes at the Canadian Grain Commission, weaker inspection systems are allowing serious mistakes on protein levels, weights and gluten. Canada's reputation is taking another hit. Finally, there's the news about the government's secret machinations to dispose of the vandalized remains of the Canadian Wheat Board. Among farmers, views about the CWB differ profoundly. But whether you loved it or hated it, surely the process of changing from the single-desk selling system should be intelligently managed. Instead, blinded by ideological rage, the Harper government has made no effort to maximize the return to farmers and taxpayers from the Board's demise. By eliminating the CWB's single-desk, the Conservatives acceded to what has been the US government's Number One demand in its trading relationship with Canada. The Americans disliked the Board because it was their toughest competition. Getting rid of it gives the US a big leg up in global markets. So what did Canada get in return for this huge trade concession? Absolutely nothing. Mr. Harper totally squandered what could have been a major bargaining chip. Canada gained nothing on guaranteed access to US markets, nothing on insidious "country-of-origin" labelling, nothing on approval of the KeystoneXL pipeline, nothing at all on anything. And that's just dumb. Compounding this blundering is the way in which the government is privatizing the CWB. The process is totally opaque. There's no transparency or accountability - even though the Board's assets are derived entirely from its past marketing success on behalf of farmers, back-stopped by a federal financial guarantee. There's no proper Annual Report or even audited financial statements. Barring some last minute change, the Harper government seems determined to gift the CWB, free-of-charge, to a US multinational grain corporation. Again, farmers and taxpayers will get nothing in return. And the premium "Canada Brand" in world grain markets will be dead.
    Dec 05, 2014 6:26 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Harper Government has no answer for why all their trade giveaways to the US have netted absolutely nothing in return for Canada. The elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board got no market access guarantee, no end to Country-of-Origin Labelling, no approval for Keystone XL -nothing. Now the vandalized remnants of CWB are being gifted to a US multinational - FREE - with no return to farmers or taxpayers.
    Dec 04, 2014 12:13 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Fantino/Harper continue their insulting Court attack against Veterans - read this: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/disabled-war-vet-calls-class-action-against-gov-t-the-biggest-battle-of-his-life-1.2131341
    Dec 04, 2014 5:44 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    In Question Period, Stephen Harper defends Minister Fantino right down the line - says Canadian Veterans have nothing to complain about. Why then do Vets organize public protests against this govt's negligence? Why are Vets forming "Anything But Conservative" campaigns?
    Dec 03, 2014 11:40 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Trouble around Julian Fantino and Veterans just keeps getting worse with evidence now that a quarter of his department's staff has been shed. He and his department are in court right now asserting that the Government of Canada has NO special duty or sacred obligation to Veterans. Minister Fantino is a hapless, pathetic figure who is doing what he's told to do by the Prime Minister. Mr Harper is calling all these shots.
    Dec 03, 2014 8:35 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Mourning the loss of Jean Beliveau, a truly great "Canadien" in every way!
    Dec 03, 2014 4:08 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Here's my tribute in Parliament to Brent Butt and the entire team from Corner Gas: The Movie http://youtu.be/XfsU1_y81KQ
    Dec 02, 2014 11:31 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    On the last day of filming CornerGas: The Movie this past summer on the main street of Dog River (Rouleau, Sk), Brent Butt and Fred and others from the cast and crew were given a hero's welcome by more than a thousand fans. ((Just 5.5 miles from our family farm to Ruby's Diner.)) A great show resonated across the country and beyond. Well done. Thank you. And break-a-leg with the Movie!
    Dec 01, 2014 7:33 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Great to meet the cast and crew of Corner Gas: The Movie in the Rotunda of the Parliament Building, just before tonight's Premiere!
    Dec 01, 2014 1:16 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    In this exchange from Question Period in the House of Commons today, see how Veterans Affairs Minister Julien Fantino evades all responsibility for his manifold failures to deliver programs and services to Veterans and his overriding failure to treat Veterans with decency and respect: http://youtu.be/wKlxFcZ-IaU
    Dec 01, 2014 12:06 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    In Question Period, Julian Fantino's tragedy turns to farce. He drones through scripted answers, failing to show a shred of compassion for Vets. A tiny mental health program for Veterans is spread over 50 years. More than $1 billion clawed back. Service centres closed. Minister AWOL. How could a government that claims to be a friend of the military fail so miserably to honour the nation's sacred obligations to Veterans?
    Dec 01, 2014 11:46 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    COSTS OF INCOME SPLITTING ALREADY ADDING UP Stephen Harper's former Finance Minister, the late Jim Flaherty, laid out a devastating critique of Mr. Harper's ill-conceived Income Splitting scheme. He panned it as too expensive and unfair. The unfairness comes from the undisputed fact that Income Splitting benefits only a small fraction of Canadians - fewer than 15%. More than 85% of households gain nothing at all. It's a telling point that Conservatives no longer talk directly and specifically about "Income Splitting". It's been their sole defining policy since Mr. Harper first committed to it during the 2011 election. But now, those two words rarely cross their lips. Knowing that Mr. Flaherty's criticisms were right, Conservatives now drown Income Splitting in an alphabet-soup of other policy pronouncements. The camouflage strongly suggests they're embarrassed to defend it on its own. The scheme will cost at least $2.4-billion in its first year - that is, this year. Since the Conservatives remain in deficit this year, every penny of that $2.4-billion will be borrowed money, adding to the federal debt. The future annual cost of Income Splitting is projected at about $2-billion per year. But many other real costs have already been incurred. They're in the federal programs and services that have been sacrificed to pre-condition the government's books for Income Splitting to be imposed. Here's a small sampling: Services to Veterans top the list. Remember the $1.1-billion of approved funding that disgraced Minister Fantino has failed to deliver to veterans over the past several years. Remember the nine offices providing specialized veterans services that this government closed. Remember the recent Auditor General's report that chronicled Conservative neglect of mental health needs. Public health and safety are next on the list. The Transportation Safety Board has just reported on the government’s serious failings in rail, marine and air safety. Deficiencies in food inspections have put lives at risk. Environmental protections have been slashed. Marine search and rescue, forensic labs, emergency preparedness, even supervision of Canada's spy agency have all been victims of Conservative cuts. Then there's Community Infrastructure. The Conservatives have specifically carved a huge hole in their Building Canada Fund this year. It's down by 87%. They say it will be replenished at a later date. But even at best, three-quarters of this funding has been postponed until after 2019. Cuts to Veterans. Public health and safety. And Community Infrastructure. These are some of the tangible losses imposed on Canadians to position Mr. Harper to implement Income Splitting. Is it worth it? Is it fair?
    Dec 01, 2014 8:41 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana

November

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    MPlib
    Probably -35 windchill this afternoon in Regina, but warm Advent Service at Luther College, University of Regina - great music!
    Nov 30, 2014 1:52 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Snowy morning in North Vancouver, but lots of sun! Very impressed with Liberal candidates + campaign organizers in these ridings!
    Nov 29, 2014 9:55 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Glad to be with a roomful of hopeful, hard-working Canadians who are ready to elect Liberals in North Vancouver + Burnaby North-Seymour
    Nov 29, 2014 6:03 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Chaos in Vets Affairs so appalling the Harper government can't even get a $200M announcement straight - over 6 years or 50 years? Huge difference! This deception over numbers flows from Mr Harper telling the Veteran Affairs department to fix mental health issues without significant new funding. Why is Mr Harper shortchanging Vets? So he can use that $$$ to impose Income Splitting costing $2B for just 15% of households.
    Nov 28, 2014 6:42 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Having a great day in BC Lower Mainland, meeting Sikh + Chinese leaders, plus Chambers of Commerce in Tri-Cities + North Vancouver
    Nov 28, 2014 2:47 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    The Transportation Safety Board has blown the whistle on rail, air and marine safety systems that are too weak and ineffectual. In transport safety, food safety, environmental safety Mr Harper relies on private sector self regulation - so budgets can be cut. This cutting is part of Harper plan to declare surplus...so he can impose Income Splitting at cost of $2 billion/year for just 15% of Canadians. http://www.canadianbusiness.com/business-news/transportation-safety-board-says-feds-not-doing-enough-to-enforce-safe-transport/
    Nov 27, 2014 4:55 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Harper Trade Minister Ed Fast boasted in Parliament today that signing trade agreements is the sole indicator of success in world markets. But low-and-behold that's not true, Fast says, in the case of Canada's relationship with the world's biggest market in China. What he's really saying is the Harper govt has a long-bungled relationship with China and others like Australia+New Zealand are beating Canada. http://www.ipolitics.ca/2014/11/27/free-trade-agreement-with-china-unnecessary-ed-fast/
    Nov 27, 2014 4:10 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    In Question Period, Liberals remain sharply focused on the Harper government's multiple failures to treat Veterans with respect + generosity. Canada's Auditor-General has verified the persistent complaints of Royal Canadian Legion, Veterans Ombudsman and other Veteran advocates. With Mr. Fantino again absent, the Defence Minister tries to claim Harper government always treats Veterans very well. But just saying it doesn't make it true.
    Nov 27, 2014 11:42 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    More slime-ball tactics by the Conservative Party in Airdrie - deliberate deception: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/pressure-on-tories-to-apologize-after-sun-retracts-story-on-liberal-candidate-1.2850130 Add this Airdrie scam to the Conservative riding president in Ontario who got caught trying to vote twice in last election: http://www.nationalnewswatch.com/2014/11/21/former-ontario-pc-riding-association-president-admits-to-trying-to-vote-twice-in-last-federal-election/#.VHXjwfldW4K And don't forget the "In-and-Out" Cons election financing conviction + the disgraced Penashue, Sona, Del Mastro, Duffy + on it goes.
    Nov 26, 2014 6:31 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    On the day that the Auditor-General publishes a critical report on the failures of Veterans Minister Fantino, he's gone AWOL - say Vets Advocates
    Nov 25, 2014 7:22 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Fantino surely has to go + Harper must apologize for misleading Commons - even Stockwell Day refuses to defend government on Vets!
    Nov 25, 2014 3:45 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    In Question Period, Mr. Harper squirms around the Auditor General's criticisms of the government's failures to properly deal with Veterans' mental health needs. Mr. Harper can't explain his budget cuts+lapsed funding which deprived Veterans of millions of dollars Parliament had approved.
    Nov 25, 2014 11:41 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Auditor-General reveals more failures of Vets Minister Fantino - will he have the courage to face Canadians in HofC Question Period today?
    Nov 25, 2014 7:17 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Given HarperCons have lapsed $1-billion in funding for veterans, Liberals ask how much of the $200-million anncounced yesterday will also lapse?
    Nov 24, 2014 11:34 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    PROBABLY THE WORST VETS MINISTER EVER Every Remembrance Day at memorial services across the country, the most emotional moment is when the "Veterans Company" marches past the cenotaph. Whether they are younger people who saw action just recently in places like Afghanistan or 90-year-olds who survived the WW2 or veterans of all the other campaigns in between, they provoke spontaneous respect and admiration. They are, after all, genuine heroes. The crowds break into loud and sustained applause. Within our free society, we can and do have vigorous disputes about the foreign and defence policy issues that resulted in all these valiant Canadians being sent into harm's way in various theatres of war down through the years. Such debate is what a democracy is all about - that's what our Canadian Forces go to fight for. But all such arguments aside, once our troops are in the heat of battle, all Canadians pray for their safety, marvel at their skill and courage, mourn their losses and anxiously await their return. We all know we have a sacred covenant to honour in the aftermath of war. On this latter point, among the public, there is no disagreement whatsoever. Our returning military personnel and veterans have stood ready to give their all, and when they come home, their country must "stand ready" for them - to meet their social, economic, physical and psychological needs. All Canadians expect their government to respond with gratitude and generosity. That's why it's so difficult to fathom the bizarre on-going misbehaviour of Stephen Harper's Veterans Affairs Minister, Julian Fantino. His antics, including several personally insulting encounters with veterans and their families, are a major drag on the government's credibility. Most recently, Mr. Fantino couldn't justify his department's failure to utilize more than $1.1-billion which Parliament had expressly approved for programs and services for veterans. For all the government's loud budget promises, the money never got out the door. In Finance department language, that $1.1-billion "lapsed". The hapless Mr. Fantino seems to think he still has access to it, but he doesn't. Lapsed funds from all departments go back into the central treasury and are largely applied at year-end against the government's deficit. In other words - by accident, design or incompetence - the money was used to help balance the books. Think what might have been accomplished for returning soldiers and veterans if these funds had been utilized as Parliament intended. The nine offices providing specialized services to veterans across the country might not have closed. Financial assistance for dignified funerals might have been provided to the families of thousands of deceased Vets who were denied such help. Veterans' health insurance premiums perhaps didn't need to double. Pensions could have been improved. The Veterans Independence Program might have been enhanced. Some returning soldiers might not have been discharged just before they could qualify for benefits. A vigorous effort to detect and deal pro-actively with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder could have been launched years ago. Instead, yesterday, just before the Auditor General is due to publish a critique of his performance, Mr. Fantino announced a small mental health initiative representing only a fraction of his lapsed funding. It's obviously a last-minute manoeuvre to deflect the flak he is getting. One leading advocate for veterans, Michael Blais, called the initiative "damage control" in the "toxic" relationship Mr. Fantino has created. Former Veterans Ombudsman Pat Stogran dismissed it as more "rhetoric" and "empty promises", not really worth listening to. Mr. Harper and his Minister have a big credibility problem.
    Nov 24, 2014 7:32 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    2014 Mosaic "Festival of Trees" launches holiday season in Regina. Congrats to Canadian Progress Club + Regina Palliative Care
    Nov 22, 2014 4:59 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Holodomor candles now lit in Regina - remembering all those millions lost in Stalin's famine/genocide in Ukraine 1932/33
    Nov 22, 2014 12:46 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    1932-33 Holodomor Famine in Ukraine, contrived by Stalin, deliberate genocide, killed some 7.5-million innocent people
    Nov 22, 2014 12:24 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    A candle ready to be lit at the Ukrainian National Federation Hall in Regina ... on Holodomor Memorial Day
    Nov 22, 2014 12:20 pm | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Canada's mayors and municipalities strongly favour infrastructure investments to boost growth. My speech to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities yesterday: Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for your welcome, and for inviting me to say a few words today. It's good to be at another meeting of the FCM. Greetings and good wishes from the Parliament of Canada, and especially our Liberal Caucus and Leader Justin Trudeau. As you know, Justin has benefited from numerous opportunities to meet with your organization, which he highly values … both at your national gatherings (including your executive board this morning), but even better, in the cities and towns and rural communities you represent all across Canada. On Justin's behalf, let me thank the FCM and all your members for your engagement, your hospitality and the wealth of ideas you share about the future of this country. As you probably know from my days as Finance Minister, I have long believed that "local governments" are absolutely crucial to Canada's economic success and to a high quality of Canadian life. You shape the lens through which most people see their country and through which people around the world see and judge Canada. Your order of government is direct, up-front, personal, inescapable and a big determinant of how we all live. In 2004 and 2005, it was my pleasure to begin the implementation of Paul Martin's "New Deal for Communities", including the full GST rebate to municipalities, the Gas Tax Transfer, the Green Municipal Funds, the Communities of Tomorrow Innovation Centre and additional federal funding for specific municipal infrastructure projects. It was a good start. It set the frame for a decade of useful activity. Also important to the New Deal was – and is – the fundamental notion that the quality of municipal governance has become so vital to the nation's well-being that municipalities must have "a place at the table" in national decision-making. We all, of course, respect the specifics of of our Constitution. But municipal needs and municipal advice must be heard and heeded by the Government of Canada. That's why Justin, as Prime Minister, would make it a point to meet at least annually with Canada's municipal leadership. To listen, to understand, to consult and collaborate -- to work together to build the strongest and most successful communities. That's in your local interests and it's in Canada's national interests. It would also help to make more Canadians into effective “Home Town Champions”. And congratulations on that initiative. Canada's most compelling economic and fiscal priority today must be the achievement of greater growth. Sustained and sustainable economic growth has been decidedly missing from most of Canada since the 2008 recession. Growth is the ingredient we need more than any other to lift the fortunes of the middle-class and all those who are working so hard just to join the middle-class. And growth will be indispensable in truly balancing the federal government's books on a secure foundation and keeping them balanced for any length of time. The Bank of Canada, the International Monetary Fund, private sector economists and think tanks – they all make this same point. But growth is NOT Canada's current reality. At about 1.6% per year on average since 2006, Canada is struggling with the weakest rate of economic growth since the 1930's. And looking forward, the prognosis remains mediocre at best. The IMF says 139 other countries will grow faster this coming year than will Canada, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia ... even Ireland and Greece and many others. So we're not "on top", as the federal government often claims. We're actually in the bottom half of the G20. In the latest Fiscal Update from the Government of Canada itself just last week, Canada's growth rate is actually projected to drop every year, year-after-year, between 2015 and 2020. So we need to do better. And let me repeat the two key reasons why: One is fiscal integrity. Short-term devices like selling-off federal assets, delaying military procurements, postponing infrastructure, and collecting an extra $5-billion from excessive EI premiums do not constitute a sound basis upon which to balance the books. All that is only temporary. The key to lasting fiscal success is sustained and sustainable growth. And secondly, such growth is imperative to lift the middle class. Median after tax family incomes in Canada have increased over the past 30 years by a meagre 15%. Meanwhile, household debt has ballooned to 164% of disposable incomes. Three-quarters of those working in the private sector don't have a company pension. Your average 35-year old today is saving only about half of what their parents did. Two-thirds of middle-class parents worry about affording post-secondary education for their kids. More than 200,000 young Canadians are jobless or underemployed. In more than 40% of empty-nester households, their adult children have moved back home because they haven't been able to get started on their own. And for the first time ever, a majority of Canadians believe the younger generation will not do as well as their parents did. The expectation of progress ... of upward mobility from one generation to the next is not a "given" anymore. And what is the root cause of all that? We simply don't have enough economic growth to drive greater prosperity. It's not coming sufficiently from exports, because for the most part Canada has been running trade deficits. It's not coming from domestic business investment, because Canadian firms don't have sufficient confidence in the economy's strength and direction – so they just sit on their cash reserves. Growth cannot come much more from consumer spending, because of those stagnant incomes and that high household debt. And growth is not being supported by the government sector, because the feds have pursued a narrow austerity plan to reduce programs and services wherever they think possible. With the greatest of respect, you cannot hack-and-slash your way to economic growth. You need strong and prudent management, yes, but you also need smart investments in the key drivers of greater growth. That includes higher education, learning and skills. It includes science and innovation. It includes aggressive global marketing and branding. And it most certainly includes public and community infrastructure. I am old enough to remember when Mayors and Municipalities were just about the only ones in this country singing the virtues of infrastructure ... when most everyone else was not quite sure what it was. But you're certainly not alone anymore: Read the communique from the G20 leaders last weekend in Australia ... for a global endorsement. And the World Economic Outlook in October from International Monetary Fund. Listen to the Governor of the Bank of Canada, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and all the Premiers. Look at the work of independent think-tanks – the Mowat Centre, Canada 2020, 3D policy group, the C.D. Howe Institute, the Conference Board of Canada and the Canada-West Foundation. Listen to the voices of industry – the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Council of Chief Executive Officers, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Construction Association, three different groups of Professional Engineers, the Urban Transit Association and the Insurance Bureau of Canada. And let me mention just three more: * The federal department of Finance ... which has reported publicly and repeatedly that investment in public infrastructure is the single most cost-effective way for the Government of Canada to help jobs and growth -- far more effective than tax cuts. * Statistics Canada ... which reported that those periods of greatest investment in public infrastructure just happen to correspond with Canada's biggest improvements in productivity. * And the distinguished former Governor of Bank of Canada, David Dodge, who has concluded -- given historically low interest rates -- that infrastructure investments now are particularly prudent because of the unique opportunity to convert that short-term cost advantage into long-term capital assets. So surely, the policy discussion is conclusive. So why has the federal government punched a big hole in the middle of its infrastructure funding. Yes, they announced a 10-year plan, but the New Building Canada Fund within that plan has been slashed -- from what used to be $1.7-billion per year, down to just $210-million this year. That’s a cut of 87%. It may be slowly replenished after 2016 – we’ll see – but it won't be restored to last year's level until after 2019. So, nearly 75% of New Building Canada investments are effectively postponed beyond 5 years from now. Plus, the application process has been slow and convoluted. The criteria put municipalities in direct competition with other government entities like universities. And you have no clear assurance of what pool of dollars are available to you. Or when. So why all this delay and obfuscation? Simply put, the government wanted a large announcement about infrastructure without an early outlay of cash. Why? So it could claim a surplus in 2015 and proceed with its promised tax cuts. Municipal infrastructure got trumped by Income Splitting and an Employment Insurance Tax Credit. People may differ on the wisdom of these choices from a political point of view, but there can be no doubt they are bad economics. These boutique tax breaks will cost billions of dollars, but do nothing to stimulate more employment or make the economy stronger. The Employment Insurance Tax Credit is available only to those who agree NOT to grow above a certain size. It offers a bigger incentive to fire people than to hire them. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says only a meagre 800 jobs may be created, at the astronomical cost of $700,000 per job, while 10,000 other jobs are likely to be killed. That's some policy! And in designing the government's Income Splitting scheme -- right off the bat 86% of Canadian households cannot qualify, and among those who do, the biggest gains flow to the most wealthy, at a cost of $2-billion every year. Nothing for jobs. Nothing for growth. That's why the late Jim Flaherty warned against it. Too expensive. Unfair. Anti-growth. And it hasn't been fixed. Canada would be far further ahead economically by refocussing available resources on a far more substantive and immediate infrastructure plan -- one that is truly transformative, predictable and sustainable. Local governments need to have some certainty about what their share of the funding will be. And the amount must meet the need. How will all the imperatives be taken into account -- affordable housing, digital connectivity, water and wastewater systems, new environmental regulations, major transportation facilities for trade and commerce, urban transit, cultural and recreational needs, infrastructure designed and built to withstand increasingly destructive weather patterns and climate change? How can we make the most appropriate use of P-3's and how do we design the right process for analysis and decision-making that doesn't force the P-3 model on municipalities who may not believe it's the right choice for them? It cannot be a unilateral federal decision. The life insurance and pension fund people were in to see me the other day. They are looking for long-term (like 30 and 40 and 50-year) lending instruments. How do we get their capital into the infrastructure business in a helpful, incremental manner? There is so much to consider, and get right. That's why your place in national decision-making is essential. But imagine the pay-back! Every dollar going into affordable housing will grow the economy by $1.40. Every dollar into Roads, Water or Transit brings growth of $1.20. A billion dollars in infrastructure investment stimulates 16,000 person-years of employment. Urban congestion currently costs the economy $15-billion every year - how much of that can we save? How much can we boost our competitiveness and productivity? And affordability, sustainability ... and live-ability? It's all about nation-building. It means making choices that are smart and fair. Do we choose Income Splitting that provides $2-billion to just 15% of households -- leaving 85% of Canadians with nothing at all, and nothing for growth? Or do we invest in infrastructure ... economic growth, jobs and productivity to help every Canadian succeed? Infrastructure. And nation-building. That's the better priority.
    Nov 21, 2014 5:59 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    In Question Period, HarperCons defend tax gimmicks over investments in Infrastructure - directly contradicting Municipalities. Investments in Infrastructure make the economy grow - tax gimmicks do not - municipalities applaud the former, not the latter.
    Nov 20, 2014 11:36 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
  • retweet
    MPlib
    My thanks to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for the wonderful welcome. Look forward to our work together to strengthen all sizes of communities.
    Nov 20, 2014 11:34 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
  • retweet
    MPlib
    My thanks to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for the wonderful welcome. Look forward to our work together to strengthen all sizes of communities.
    Nov 20, 2014 11:23 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
  • retweet
    MPlib
    Hard to feel sorry for Sona, but Canadians still need to know who his accomplices were + who authorized such corruption. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/michael-sona-sentenced-to-9-months-in-jail-for-callous-robocalls-1.2839410
    Nov 20, 2014 8:25 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana
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    MPlib
    Lisez mon article sur le Canada, le G20 et la nécessité d’une croissance économique dans Le Huffington Post Québec http://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/ralph-goodale/g20-plan-croissance-canada_b_6181576.html
    Nov 20, 2014 7:31 am | Saskatchewan, Wascana

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Ralph Goodale

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