Waitlist for disabled veterans benefits balloons to almost 40,000 under Trudeau
Almost 40,000 veterans were waiting at the end of November to find out whether their application for financial assistance would go through, according to Veterans Affairs Canada.
That represents an increase of roughly 11,000 when compared to last year, and a new wait time more than 16 weeks.
In the recent elections, Trudeau’s Liberals and Scheer’s Conservatives aggressively clashed in an effort to win over Canadian voters.
They got about a third of the popular vote each, with the Liberals forming a minority government. Conservatives went into an uproar, some calling for the removal of Scheer as party leader and others calling for the separation of western Canada into its own sovereignty.
Despite this perceived clash of parties who apparently represent two sides of a political spectrum, when you look at the actual politics of the two parties, there is much more in common than there is difference.
The difference is in rhetoric, not in substance.
Under the hood, the Liberals and the Conservatives are fundamentally the same. Where they differ is in the values they performatively signal to voters–Liberals portray themselves as social justice progressives while Conservatives prefer to espouse more traditional values.
Unfortunately for voters and for our democracy, these differences are merely surface level. When Canadians vote, they are mostly voting against something rather than for something. They tend not to vote for policies but rather against Trudeau or against Scheer. In this way, politics gets reduced to a spectacle worthy only of reality television, not of civil discourse.
On actual important political issues, the two parties are essentially the same–they both serve the rich and the corporate class while throwing bones to the rest of us.
Let’s take a look at the policies. I’ll start with what is perceived to be one of the big differences between the two parties–the carbon tax. Both parties agree that climate change is an issue, but the Liberals are in favour of a carbon tax while the Conservatives are not.
But what do the Conservatives want instead? Their recent platform promises investments in companies pursuing green technologies and it calls for new environmental standards, with fines for businesses that don’t meet them.
So, essentially, Conservatives want to use public money to subsidize private industries that they deem “green” and they want to fine businesses that are not “green.” This subsidization of government-approved businesses opens the door to corruption and backroom deals, while the fines only serve to hurt small businesses who can’t afford them rather than going after heavy polluters, who will be more than happy to pay the paltry fines.
The Conservatives have criticized the Liberals for their corporate welfare, but their “green” subsidization plans call for more of the same.
And this is not to defend the Liberal’s carbon tax, which is also a poor policy. The carbon tax will mostly affect poorer folks and small businesses who can’t afford additional expenses. The big businesses that do most of the polluting can easily afford to pay the tax and benefit from their smaller competitors going out of business.
Both parties’ policies strengthen big business while hurting small businesses and doing little for the average Canadian. While Conservatives want to repeal the carbon tax, their environmental fines would work in much the same way.
Staying on the topic of climate, both parties have committed to the Paris Climate Agreement and both acknowledge that climate change is a reality. They both want to use public money to subsidize private industries pursuing clean energy. And, most strikingly of all, they are both champions of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, although the Conservatives wave their flag a little higher. On environmental issues, the choice between the Liberals and the Conservatives can be decided with a coin flip.
When it comes to the deficit, the Liberals have shifted their goal to balance the budget from 2019 to 2040. The Conservatives vowed to erase the deficit by cutting $1.5 billion in “corporate welfare” and by selling federally owned buildings. However, judging by their pledge to give handouts to clean energy companies, it is unclear if the cuts to corporate welfare would be actual cuts or more of a redirection to other private industries. It is also important to note that, historically, the Conservatives have contributed to debt rather than alleviating it.
As for the Conservative’s plan to sell federally owned buildings to private owners, this is a potentially disastrous act of privatization that seeks a short-term gain in exchange for long-term prosperity. Real estate is a great asset to have and selling it off for what are likely to be garage sale prices to private hands could prove extremely costly in the long run. Not to mention the huge risk of corruption involved in privatization.
And sure, Trudeau’s deficit spending has gotten out of control, but redirecting corporate handouts, cutting public services, and selling federally owned real estate to private companies is not the answer. And judging by the Conservative’s history of debt accumulation, it is hard to believe that they would reverse the trend on the deficit.
On other issues like childcare, education, Indigenous rights, and housing, neither party really distinguishes itself from the other. Both parties are severely lacking on Indigenous issues, both support the Canada Child Benefit–which does little to alleviate the soaring costs of childcare in big cities, neither party offers any solutions to student debt, and both parties offer meagre home buyer benefits while doing nothing to help renters.
On healthcare, Liberals plan to take “next steps” towards pharmacare while effectively doing nothing to pursue those next steps. The Conservatives are a little more honest and dismiss pharmacare entirely. Both parties want to increase spending on mental health through health transfer payments, a meagre solution for a growing problem. Again, more of the same from the allegedly vastly different parties.
With regards to immigration, both parties want to increase the number of immigrants to 350,000 by 2021, with most of those being economic immigrants, and both want to crack down on “asylum shopping” and illegal border crossings. If immigration is your issue, Scheer and Trudeau are interchangeable.
Another big issue for a lot of Conservative voters is taxes. Both parties promise to lower taxes for the middle class, but they do this within Trojan horse policies that overwhelmingly benefit the rich. The Liberals are reducing taxes through an extension of the Basic Personal Amount (BPA) exemption while the Conservatives propose a universal tax cut. Let’s look at the numbers:
For those of us making less than six figures annually, the Liberal plan provides a slight advantage in savings. But for those lucky few making more, both parties plan to fill your pockets, with the Conservatives being a little more generous towards the rich. It’s no wonder that wealthy donors often choose to max out donations to both parties.
Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau lead parties that serve the interests of the rich and of Canada’s corporate oligarchy. While they paint themselves as different–Trudeau, in the past, opting to literally paint himself–they are depressingly similar. Both are dishonest in their messaging and try to win over average Canadians while pushing policies that overwhelmingly benefit the rich and powerful. But since Trudeau is actually running the country, he deserves more criticism.
Trudeau is a perfect con artist, depicting himself as a progressive champion of the people in speeches and then turning around and going back on his word behind closed doors. This was never more perfectly displayed than in the climate march where Trudeau took to the streets to march against the actions of his own government.
Trudeau has turned his back on our Indigenous population, he turned his back on electoral reform, and he expanded the oil and gas sector after running on a promise to transition to clean energy. From 2015-19, he could’ve easily upheld his promises with a majority government and NDP support for his progressive proposals. He chose not to.
Instead, he did mass infrastructure privatization, he weakened Canada’s access-to-information system and muzzled journalists and scientists in the process, he sold arms to Saudi Arabia who then used them to commit genocide in Yemen, and he signed the CETA, giving foreign companies the right to sue our government for introducing laws that might cut into their future profits.
Trudeau positions himself as the “woke” candidate, but the fact of the matter is if you’re running the government for the benefit of the rich, Canadians could care less if you have a diverse cabinet. When it comes to corruption, it doesn’t matter if it’s being done by an ethnically diverse and gender-balanced cabinet or a cabinet full of white men–the results are the same.
However, as I’ve laid out here, Scheer and the Conservatives are no better for the average Canadian. When political campaigns are run on empty rhetoric, performative wokeness, divisive attacks, and fear-mongering, voters don’t get to engage with actual policy proposals and the end up voting emotionally rather than logically.
When we vote against a character like Trudeau or Scheer instead of voting for popular policy proposals being pushed by other parties, we end up going back and forth between two parties who both serve the interests of the elite and the ruling class.
It’s time to dump our two-party system, which is, in reality, a one-party oligarchy.
Justice Russel Zinn has just released his written ruling on the Lawton and True North v. Canada case. The case was started when Rebel Media and the True North Centre for Public Policy began a legal action to obtain permission to cover the official English and French federal election debates. The two media organizations claimed they would face “irreparable harm” if they were denied access to the two debates.
The two media groups found that their accreditation to cover the debates was denied on the morning of Friday, Oct. 4, just three days before the debate. The two outlets then quickly filed urgent motions to the federal court on Monday, just hours before the debate for an interlocutory injunction against the commission’s denial. Their motion was heard at 3 p.m. and a decision was made shortly after at 4:30 p.m., just two-and-a-half hours before the debate started.
The two news outlets were particularly interested in going to the two debates run by the Leaders’ Debates Commission as they were the only debates in which Justin Trudeau attended. Most important to the two media organizations were the media scrums that took place after each debate, which gave time for accredited journalists to question the Prime Minister for up to ten minutes.
After the debates, Trudeau’s government decided to appeal the court’s decision to allow the group coverage of the debate. Their reasoning that Lawton, a journalist for True North didn’t meet their accreditation standards–despite other journalists being allowed to attend the event not meeting them.
The written decision released Thursday details why the honorable Justice Zinn decided to force the Canadian government to compensate True North for the legal costs they incurred.
The decision mentions in section 15, “The Executive Director of the Commission attests that ultimately all applications for accreditation were accepted except the two before the Court”
The decision to deny the media groups accreditation was an attempt by the Commission, created by the Trudeau government. Both True North and The Rebel are highly critical of the Trudeau government.
Justice Zinn’s decision also criticizes the vague qualifications that the Commission laid out and the unfair nature in which the accreditations were given out
“For these reasons, I find that the Applicants are likely to succeed at the hearing of the merits in successfully challenging the accreditation decisions as both unreasonable and procedurally unfair.”
The decision also criticized the stance of the Commission that the groups would not be negatively impacted by not being allowed physical access to the debate. Justice Zinn retorted in section 53 and 54 that the Commission was ignoring the real reason in which a media group would be interested in attending the debate would be for the scrum
“This submission ignores the reality that accredited persons have access to more than the two-hour period when the leaders are involved on stage in debating. As noted above, no accredited press have direct access to the leaders during that period. If all one gets from accreditation is the ‘privilege’ of sitting in a room with some 258 other journalists watching the televised broadcast of the six leaders debating, then one must wonder why anyone would apply to be accredited rather than watching from the comfort of one’s office or home.
In section 54 Justice Zinn states, “The Commission’s Executive Director in his affidavit provides the answer. The benefit of accreditation, and perhaps the sole benefit, is access to the media scrum.”
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says “we are going to see more of the same from this Prime Minister” after his discussion with Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, after Conservative leader Andrew Scheer also met with the PM.
Both men expressed “disappointment” in their individual conversations with Trudeau.
“Today I did not hear a commitment to moving forward with those items” of importance to the people of Saskatchewan,” Moe told reporters afterwards, namely to “put the carbon tax on pause to see if the province can achieve those kind of results, and replicate them if other provinces so choose.”
Scheer went into his meeting declaring that the country “Is more divided than it’s ever been”, then coming out noted “a little disappointed” that he’ll have to wait more than three weeks to face-off against Trudeau in the Commons.
Parliament will reconvene on Dec. 5 for selection of Speaker of the House to be followed by a Throne speech given by the Governor General, in which Trudeau will present his plan for the country that will hold the Commons’ confidence, or not.
After MPs are sworn in, the first order of business is electing a speaker which is open to any member who is not part of cabinet or a party leader.
The last time a speaker was chosen and Throne speech given the same day was in 1988 – the Canada-US free-trade election – after Brian Mulroney and the Progressive Conservatives lost 34 seats in the contest, but held their majority government.
John Turner managed to double Liberals’ Opposition standing but it was not even close after they cratered to 39 seats in #elxn33 (1984), the federal party’s second worst defeat when Mulroney posted the largest ever majority.
Trudeau’s ability in 2015 to do what Turner could not, and his political staying power not unlike Mulroney’s, is something to behold, amidst a string of scandals that would have toppled his antecedents on either side of the aisle.
Following the Oct. 2019 general election, Trudeau’s Liberal Party came up 13 seats shy of a majority with 157, and could be propped up by either the New Democrats’ (24 seats) support, or the Bloc Quebecois (32 seats). Scheer and the Conservatives occupy 121 seats, an overall gain from the previous parliament.
But before a Speaker is elected, Canadians will have a fortnight and a day to ruminate over Trudeau’s cabinet choices for this 43rd Parliament.
With Liberal stalwart Ralph Goodale and Amerjeet Sohi among party casualties in #elxn43, there are important Public Safety and Industry portfolios to fill for Trudeau’s Nov. 20 announcement next Wednesday.
During his brief remarks made after greeting Scheer this morning, Trudeau promised “affordability for Canadians, growth for the middle class and the fight against climate change.” – or as Moe described it, “more of the same”.
Trudeau’s words came off glib compared to Moe’s straightforward ask that Trudeau put “policy in place to get our goods to market…beyond the Trans Mountain pipeline”.
“That is how we create wealth in our province and that is how we ultimately share it with the rest of the nation,” Moe told reporters.
Scheer also said he wants Trudeau to revisit a “national energy corridor” and “demonstrate a roadmap for Trans Mountain to be completed to show western Canadians that there’s going to be progress on that.”
On Nov. 8, Trudeau had individual meetings with Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King.
*Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated the last time a House Speaker and Throne Speech were given on the first sitting day of Parliament occurred in 1984. This was incorrect and has been amended in the story. From 1930 up to 1988, the election of the Speaker occurred on the same day as the Speech from the Throne (the Opening of Parliament).
Disclosure: Garnett Genuis is the Conservative MP representing Sherwood Park–Fort Saskatchewan in Alberta.
One of the most important and formative experiences for me on the road to getting into politics was competitive debate—in both high school and university. I would strongly recommend this activity as optimal preparation for anyone considering the same path.
Competitive debaters compete to defend a point of view. They very often will defend a point of view that is not their own.
Every competitive debater is taught early that an essential characteristic of good debate is something called “clash”. Clash is when arguments are made to directly counter the arguments made by the other side—to show that, even on their own terms, the other side’s arguments fail. The alternative to a good debate characterized by clash is a bad debate which resembles two ships passing in the night—essentially, debaters doing their own monologue without much reference to what others are saying.
Debate in the Canadian Parliament has come to be characterized by the near complete absence of meaningful clash. MPs deliver prepared speeches one after the other that cast arguments on their own terms and play to their own social media following. It is extremely rare that an MP would use his or her speech to deconstruct the arguments of a previous speaker.
Clash is essential in good political conversations, though, because a neutral listener has a hard time weighing out who is right and who is wrong if meaningful refutation and deconstruction of arguments does not take place. If we are to be what Edmund Burke thought Parliament should be—the “deliberative assembly of one nation”, then we must talk to one another and about one another’s arguments.
In the same speech, Burke told voters in 1774: “Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.”
It is very important for all members of the newly constituted 43rd parliament to reflect on the importance of clash and on Burke’s advice. If we are going to work together, then we must first be able to talk together, and disagree substantively, while seeking to persuade each other to change our perspectives. People who cannot argue together well will generally struggle to work together well. We must also denominate our conversations in terms of the common good, not the narrow particular interests of one group over another.
There are a few reasons why this will be particularly difficult in the 43rd parliament. The third largest political party exists explicitly to advance the interests of one region of the country over the interests of the rest of the country. The Bloc cannot be expected to seek to advance the national interest of a nation that they seek to break apart. Though less explicitly, the governing party has and will likely continue to pursue a strategy of ignoring the development needs of western Canada. When parties run regional instead of national campaigns, they are talking past some parts of the country they think they can ignore, and only talking to parts of the country that they think they need.
It has always been interesting to me that Justin Trudeau briefly did competitive debating as a student as well. However, he stopped competing early on, noting: “I discovered I had a serious limitation for either a debater or a lawyer. I wasn’t able to argue for something I didn’t passionately believe in.” Unfortunately, an inability to dig into, understand and defend views that are not yours is not just a limitation for a debater or a lawyer—it is also a limitation for a parliamentarian and for a leader. In the privacy of one’s own mind or as an intellectual exercise, one should be able to defend things that one does not believe in order to understand and argue against those same things later. A nation as diverse as Canada particularly needs leaders who are capable of understanding and responding to different modes of thought than their own.
I hope that we will be able to raise the quality of clash in upcoming parliamentary debates, but I worry that there are a variety of cultural factors, as well as institutional ones, that are working against us. We live in an age of social media filtering, where people easily get only the information that confirms their pre-existing biases. But more broadly, our culture has for a long time lacked a common understanding of what constitutes the common good—and so we generally treat political opinions as if they were expressions of individual emotive preferences as opposed to substantive deductions about facts. There are no short-term solutions to these problems but treating opinions as opinions instead of as feelings would be a good start.
For Conservatives, we can take some pride in the fact that our support grew across the country, and that we tried to speak in terms of national ideals and projects. Inevitably those ideals and projects were more popular in some places than in others. In this new Parliament, Conservatives must maintain a truly national orientation. I will defend the interests of my own riding, but I will seek to do so in terms that are persuasive to people in other regions and in other parties. Pursuing an idea of separatism in the west, which will never come to fruition, is not a good way to be persuasive to people in other regions. It is especially dangerous in an environment where our primary complaint is the land-locking of our resources.
I am not particularly optimistic about the amount of meaningful clash that will be on display in the next Parliament, but I hope to be pleasantly surprised.