Dear editors,

The following is the letter that I submitted in response to an editorial that appeared in my university’s campus newspaper, the Queen’s Journal.

Dear editors,

I am writing in response to the editorial titled “Stronach a contender, barely” (Feb 6, 2004). As the first paragraph unfolded in your editorial it became apparent where your bias may lie concerning Belinda Stronach. An editorial is an opinion, of course, but it does not excuse being misinformed.

Your editorial labels Stronach as weak on policy initiatives. This assertion couldn’t be further from the truth. As a new face in Canadian politics, her opinions and stances on policies have been questioned (and answered) the moment that she announced. Where Stronach takes an unambiguous stance on an issue (more funding and equipment for Canada’s military), Paul Martin says that he’s “reviewing” it. Concerning the military, Paul Martin need not look further than a study by Queen’s own Douglas Bland to understand that at current levels of Liberal funding “The air force will likely disappear through (the) 2008-2013 time frame and either the army or navy will disappear in the same time frame.” The report goes on to state that under the Liberal government’s lack of funding, “Canada cannot help but become the first modern and major power to disarm itself.” Further, Stronach has also made her stance known on issues such as gay marriage and marijuana, two of Jean Chrétien’s policy initiatives that Paul Martin has recently put on the back-burner. Stronach also seeks to rectify the inequity between federal and provincial healthcare spending. The federal/provincial levels of funding used to be 50-50. Yet, Paul Martin, as finance minister reduced the federal input to healthcare to a mere 16 cents on the dollar.

Under guise, you point out that Stronach detractors dismiss her as “daddy’s little girl”. Consider that Paul Martin’s father gave him the connections at Power Corp which eventually netted him co-ownership of CSL. Paul Martin’s father was also a long-time senior member of the Liberal Party. Even Jack Layton cannot escape being a product of his father’s political connections and pampered upbringing; Mr. Layton’s father was a Conservative cabinet minister in Brian Mulroney’s government.

Belinda Stronach provides a viable alternative to professional politicians who breed apathy in the Canadian voter. She has also fostered initiatives in getting youth/students involved in politics. We should all judge Belinda Stronach based on her policies (which are all listed on her website, Belinda.ca) and consider her as a strong contender for leadership. Indeed, one only has to consult the latest polls to confirm this.

Stephen Taylor, Arts ’03

Rex, ask your editors

rex.jpgIn a recent column concerning the Conservative Party of Canada leadership race, Rex Murphy mused perplexedly over the paucity of confabulatory prose by this nation’s columnists and news writers on the topic of the race.

Rex, the leadership race is not dead. Your editors have merely found another story and they’re running with it. I’m talking, of course, about the American Democratic Party Leadership Race. Why is our nation’s news media so focused on a topic that they usually abhor? Indeed, our national news peddlers tend to give American news less attention than its worth. Yet, why does our opposition’s leadership race get so much less coverage than the American’s opposition leadership race receives? The American Democrats and the Canadian Conservatives are trying to do the same thing, in effect: change the government. However, Peter Mansbridge has spoken more about John Kerry than Belinda Stronach, and we’ve heard more about Lieberman’s Joementum (or lack thereof) than we have heard about Tony Clement.

Our leadership race is news. Rex, you should ask your editors why they’re choosing to ignore the story. Without media coverage, our leadership contenders can only be heard as far as they can shout. Mr. Murphy has declared that Belinda Stronach, Tony Clement and Stephen Harper have all climbed inside a “Trojan horse”, ready to attack the Liberal party’s stranglehold on power. It’s not that the three intend to stay within the horse, rather, it’s that nobody has told the city of Troy that the horse is waiting outside its gates.

With one eyebrow raised

lapierre.jpgI can’t believe the news today.

In a move sure to astound, Paul Martin recruited Bloc Québecois co-founder Jean Lapierre to run as a Liberal in Quebec in the next federal election.

Does this indicate that despite one’s political inclinations or political past, as long as one is a Martinite, all is forgiven? It is good to see a seperatist become a fan of Canada again. It will also serve to take some Bloc votes from that party which makes it appear as though the Bloc is on its way out. Good strategy on behalf of Paul Martin, but what leaves me unsettled is that this man was the co-founder of the ‘federal’ party which helped the Parti Québecois bring this country to within less than one percentage point of a national crisis. Mending fences is always a difficult process and I guess that this is a perfect example of that difficulty.

If the Liberals can forgive such a former sovereigntist then perhaps Paul Martin and Alan Rock can give Brian Mulroney a call to share some laughs over a few pints. “Sorry ’bout our witch-hunt, Brian. We just didn’t realize at the time that we’d come to love those things called NAFTA and GST.”

From the Dept. of Irony

Jack LaytonI believe that my political views are enriched by discussions with other Conservatives. I find that when we talk policy, we can argue the best approach that we should take concerning the issues of the day. However, I also engage in discussions with others who identify themselves as Liberal or as a supporters of the NDP. One of my best friends is, in fact, a staunch supporter of Mr. Jack Layton and the Orange Squad. I find that through discussion with him, I can at least understand, while rarely support, his point of view and that of other lefty Canadians.

My friend recently shared a letter that he had received from Mr. Layton and wanted to point out something he found quite ironic and baffling at the same time. I’ve scanned in the letter and you can access it below.

jackletter.jpg
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Jack Layton, in his letter, greases the wheels for his wide-eyed supporters:

“There are new political financing rules as of January 1. There’s a 75% rebate of your first $400! That’s right. You can now give $400 to our exciting and energetic New Democratic Party and get $300 back in a tax credit. So your donation of $400 only costs you $100. The other $300 is a loan! I’m hoping you’ll stretch to that limit right now, if you can. Because we need your help as never before to tackle the corporate drift of Paul Martin’s Liberals.”

You may be wondering… “Did I just read that right? Did Jack Layton actually bribe his members with a tax cut”. Don’t worry… Jack says it’s just “a loan!”

Let’s follow some Layton logic shall we?
1) Jack Layton is promising his members a tax cut
2) so he can take out ‘a loan’ from his members and then, ultimately, from the rest of us.
3) so that he can form the next government
4) to raise all of our taxes!

It’s difficult to understand Jack Layton’s logic, yet it’s entertaining to read his letter. From his fatherly pride over his passionate spunky team of die-hard workers “Tommy would be proud of our little team here”, to his Xeroxed ‘handwritten’ underlining of all the important parts of his letter, to the leftist rhetoric peppered throughout his piece of creative writing.

Throne speech delivered

Martin prior to throne speechSo, now that the throne speech has been delivered, let’s take a closer look. The key item, it seems, in the speech was the “new deal” for cities. The NDP says that it doesn’t go far enough and the Conservatives say that it treads on the constitutional balance between the federal/provincial/municipal governments. I’m also very skeptical of Paul Martin’s “one time” two billion dollar into the health care system. Paul claims “it’s broke”, so he’ll put a two billion dollar band-aid on it and hope it holds until he’s ready to retire. Why is it broken Paul?

I keep getting a strange feeling every time that I hear the liberal spin about how this new Liberal government is going to be different from Jean Chrétien’s government, and how spending focus and policy is somehow going to shift. By the will of the Liberal party membership (including the loyal Liberals in BC), we have a new Liberal Prime Minister and he’s the “new deal” for Canadians. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Prime Minister Paul Martin was a key player in the Jean Chrétien government when he was Finance Minister Paul Martin. The allocation of government spending has been long determined and considered by Paul Martin long before he was Prime Minister. It’s not as if Paul Martin has just recently seen the books for the first time and has had an epiphany. Rather, this speech from the throne is merely the pre-election platform of empty promises by the same old government. Indeed, this government has had years to consider a better deal with cities and has had years to find a solution for their failed management of healthcare. I believe that Peter MacKay said it best yesterday, after the speech, when he said that Paul Martin is like an arsonist returning to the fire and then claiming he is a firefighter. It seems as if government turnover in this country has been reduced to the Liberal party coronation of a new leader and calling him “the new deal”.

Throne speech

Today Adrienne Clarkson reads the speech from the throne. It’ll be interesting to see if Paul Martin will have much substance written in his speech as he promised more input in the speech from his MPs than Jean Chrétien allowed during his term.

Grant Hills says that Martin’s speech will be nothing more than “an election gaggle of promises that will be run on in the campaign a very short time later”. Moreover, Martin’s critics say that the speech amounts to “a $34-billion vote-buying scheme.”

Shubenacadie Sam did not see his shadow this morning indicating an end to winter soon. Let’s hope that things go the same way for Prime Minister Paul today.

Developing…

Senate Reform

senate.jpgI’d just like to let everyone in on another reason why I am a conservative. I am a strong believer in senate reform. This upper house of Canadian government has power over the lower House of Commons to reject and modify its legislation. This might seem like a reasonable additional level of scrutiny for the laws of the land yet it is wholly unreasonable because this upper house is entirely unelected. Furthermore, a lot of legislation isn’t rejected; the senate is most often merely a big rubber stamp. It is the prime minister’s duty to appoint senators and thus senators are effectively the puppets of the prime minister and his predecessors. Worse, we’ve had one party in power for about 75 of the last 100 years: the Liberal party. So, the Liberal prime minister gets to appoint his Liberal friends to keep the elected house of Commons/Commoners in check. Thus the big red rubber stamp (a stamp without credibility) approves the laws determined by elected official of the House of Commons.

Over the years, there have also been scandals regarding the attendance of these non-elected legislative members of senate. However, the government of Canada reassures us that senators get penalized $250 per absent day that the senate was sitting. In the year 2000, the senators sat for 61 days. So, if a senator had decided to take the year off his pay would have been docked $15,250. This figure may be large to some but consider that senators get paid $114,200. This leaves our senator with a cool $98,950 (assuming he didn’t attend a single sitting).

munson.jpgThe latest senator was appointed by Jean Chrétien on the day before he handed over control to Paul Martin. The new senator is Jim Munson, a former CTV reporter who worked for Jean Chrétien for a mere 16 months before getting the $114,200/year job guarenteen for the next 18 years. Roger Smith should be so lucky.

We need senate reform. We should elect our senators so that they are accountable to the people. Election would lend credibility to these parliamentarians and it would allow a true check on government. Each province should elect an equal number of senators. In our confederacy, each region is equally important. Western alienation has been a key complaint against the Liberal government and thus equal representation of each province would do wonders to eliminate this neglect of the West. Currently, Paul Martin gets input from the provinces in a non-binding annual meeting of premiers… at football games, no less. Here the premiers can complain to Paul Martin and he has the choice of listening or ignoring these leaders. Forget this meeting of Canada’s premiers over beer, wings and football. Send elected senators to Ottawa to give each province equal influence. Finally, the senate should be effective. The senate will attain this effectiveness if it is not merely the PM’s rubber stamp on legislation.

Val Meredith joins up

meredith.jpgAdd another MP to the growing list of public endorsements of Belinda Stronach. Today Val Meredith, a founding member of the Reform Party of Canada, threw her support behind Belinda. She explained,

“I have known and worked with Stephen Harper for over 15 years, and he is a key reason why we are here today. I am friends with Tony Clement and appreciate his track record as an Ontario cabinet minister. However, Belinda not only offers proven leadership skills from her term as President and CEO of one of the largest corporations in Canada, she has demonstrated that she can capture the imagination of Canadians.”

Belinda Stronach reassured Meredith that MPs will be able to vote based upon the wishes of their constituents and not necessarily that of the leader. Belinda supports free votes for MPs: a fundamental principle of the former Canadian Alliance party.

Bill Casey endorses Belinda Stronach

casey.jpgToday, Bill Casey made it official. He is the first Tory MP to publicly endorse Belinda Stronach. Casey says that Stronach’s plan for economic growth and job creation were particularly influencing factors in his decision to support her.

Congrats Belinda.

Oh and why does Stronach’s name always have to be tagged with “millionaire former CEO”? Do we keep hearing about how rich Paul Martin is?

Belinda speech in Ottawa

I travelled to Ottawa from Kingston today to attend the Belinda Stronach speech at Chateau Laurier, one block east of parliament hill. I met conservatives of every type at the function; supporters of Stephen Harper, supporters of Tony Clement and of course mostly Belinda Stronach supporters.

I also met two guys with whom I went to Queen’s. Both are hill staffers and were out to see what all of this “Belindamania” talk is about.

Belinda Stronach’s speech was a great improvement from her launch speech that I saw just one week ago. She started out with an anecdote about her son’s advice before her launch that day. “Don’t trip” and she expressed proudly that she didn’t trip acknowledging that while she didn’t fall flat in her political debut, it wasn’t without its obstacles. Indeed, she acknowledged to the crowd of supporters tonight that “I’m not a professional prolecision…” to which the crowd cheered. Somewhat humbled she corrected herself, “I’m not a professional politician” to which the crowd cheered again. Belinda Stronach also declared her position on senate reform. Stronach believes that senators should be elected and that as prime minister she will discuss, with the premiers and the provinces/territories, what would consist of a fair balanced upper house. She reiterated her stance against the federal gun registry, which has cost this country over $1 Billion. This likely pleased Tory MP Bill Casey who started the website gunregistry.ca. The website is a critical look at the wasteful federal programme. As always, Stronach also restated her stance on creating a more competitive Canada through economic reform.

After Belinda Stronach’s speech she worked the room and was surrounded by a hoard of cameras and well-wishers. The mass of people seemed to have a life of it’s own as Stronach led it through the ballroom shaking hands with as many supporters as possible. I instead wandered around the less congested perimeter of the room and met some other students. We discussed our common enthusiasm about the Stronach campaign. Belinda then exited the room with her senior team.

After a speech comes a press conference so I spotted the open room where the cameras were setting up. I set myself up behind the bank of cameras, just behind the reporters and I stood with the boom-mic operators who were recording the reporters’ questions. Interesting, I found myself in the media scrum behind the stage. I actually could have asked a question myself!

CTV’s Roger Smith asked Belinda whether or not she was buying up all of the organizers in Quebec to which she answered that all of the campaigns have paid and unpaid volunteers and that the salary figure that Smith quoted was grossly exaggerated. Later on, Smith asked Stronach a somewhat cynical question “Have you ever heard any of Paul Martin’s speeches?” When Stronach ignored the question, Smith yelled back “Obviously not!” Bizarre… I thought that reporters were supposed to report the news instead of chide the candidates. Later on CTV Newsnet, I read the headline “Stronach takes hits over Quebec campaign”. It seems that while Belinda answered Smith’s question adequately, what is newsworthy to CTV is that Smith asked her the question and thought that he did some damage.

After the press conference, after most of the supporters and press had cleared out, I hung around and met some more of the campaign staff, most of whom are either slightly younger or slightly younger than me. The youth team on Belinda Stronach’s campaign is likely a key factor helping her take a fresh approach to the leadership race. I was chatting with Belinda’s press secretary when she asked, “Do you want to meet her?”.

So, I got to meet Belinda Stronach and we chatted for a little while and I got my photo-op. I thanked her for what she’s doing for youth involvement in federal politics. I also told her that we’re going to rally Queen’s around her campaign.

She also told me something very exciting and encouraging about Kingston and the Islands. But that will have to wait for another day…

Belinda Stronach
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