Thursday, April 12, 2012

Something Stinks at the Lincoln County Humane Society

On Friday, April 13th, 2012, workers at the Lincoln County Humane Society (LCHS) will have been on strike for fifty (50) days.  They are fighting to prevent a two-tier system where new employees will be paid less and have no benefits, and to protect benefits and full-time employment for existing employees.

Financial records from the LCHS, despite what they've told the press, show that the LCHS consistently runs surplus budgets.  Funding sources for the LCHS include the municipalities of St. Catharines and Thorold, as well as private donations.  In the past year, private donations have been funnelled from general operations into the construction of a spay/neuter clinic which sits unused.  Workers are essentially being asked to pay for the construction out of their salaries and benefits.

Meanwhile the LCHS, which insists it's running deficits, has found the money since the strike began to install a keycard entry security system, as well as a network of video surveillance cameras.  When an agency asking its workers to take pay and benefit cuts can spontaneously come up with the money to install high-tech security, it belies any claims of financial hardship.  It also demonstrates irresponsible use of public money and private donations.

What really stinks at the LCHS, though, is their management.  Until the Mayor of St. Catharines intervened recently, Executive Director Kevin Strooband was piling the carcasses of dead, diseased skunks in close proximity to the picketing workers.

Anyone who would behave so despicably has absolutely no business being in a position of authority.

The Board of Directors of the LCHS has been negligent in allowing such behaviour from their Executive Director.  They need to be seriously reconsidering his employment by the LCHS.  His actions damage the reputation of LCHS, as well as the reputation of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), which the LCHS is affiliated with.  Of course, the OSPCA isn't helping its own reputation by providing the LCHS with scab workers.  Lack of integrity clearly isn't limited to Kevin Strooband.

The Board of Directors also needs to seriously consider that someone who would stack skunk carcasses beside his employees is quite likely to be the source of much of the labour unrest which LCHS is currently experiencing.  Firing a recalcitrant manager who has publicly demonstrated his animosity towards workers could quite likely lead to a quick wrap-up of the labour dispute.

What can you do to support these striking workers?

Begin by filling out the online petition here.

Follow that up by sending e-mails to the Board of Directors.

Show up at the picket to support the workers.  Pickets are going on 7 days a week from 8:30am-4pm at the LCHS located at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Louth Street in St. Catharines.

Finally, you can financially support the workers.  Cheques can be made payable to the "CUPE Local 1287 Strike Fund" and mailed to 133 Front Street North, Thorold, Ontario, L2V 0A3.

Updates: Apparently I'm not the only one that thinks Strooband should resign (if not the entire Board).

The Niagara Regional Labour Council is hosting a Solidarity Fundraiser for the CUPE 1287 LCHS workers on June 8th, 7:30pm, at the CAW Hall at 124 Bunting Rd.

Friday, March 30, 2012

65 is old enough!

Stephen Harper's Conservative government has decreed, without public consultation (indeed, against the public outcry when he floated his trial balloon in Davos), that the age of eligibility for Old Age Security (and Guaranteed Income Supplement) will be raised from 65 to 67.

Independent sources outside the Conservative party, including the Parliamentary Budget Officer, agree that Old Age Security is a sustainable program with an eligibility age of 65.

If you oppose raising retirement age to 67, change your Facebook profile image to the "65" image.  Let it be a symbol that tells Stephen Harper that in the next election, you'll be voting for the party that promises to restore your retirement security.

If you're less than 54 years old today, why should you have to work 2 years longer than the older generation?

If you're not one of the privileged, the gap in Canada between the haves and have-nots just grew by 2 years of retirement freedom.

If you don't have a workplace pension (like most Canadians), if you're struggling to get by as it is, then Old Age Security is not a luxury.  It is one of the pillars of retirement security that Canadians rely upon.

For most Canadians, Old Age Security isn't a bonus cash cushion that kicks in ten years after they've retired.  It's the cash cushion that allows them to retire.  For many older Canadians that have had to retire earlier due to health problems, Old Age Security and its accompanying Guaranteed Income Supplement for those with low incomes is what lifts many seniors (barely) out of poverty.

Ignore the seniors who complain about OAS "clawback".  That's a red herring.  OAS repayment only begins when a retiree has a net income in excess of $66,000.  I'll probably never have an income that high in my working life, let alone my retirement!  OAS is not meant for these people.  It's meant for the average Canadian that's simply struggling to get by.  And that, of course, goes to the heart of why the Conservatives are seeking to raise the age of eligibility.  They don't believe in helping those who have the least.  They believe in consolidating wealth at the top.

In contrast, other parties advocate raising OAS and GIS benefits to help those most in need, and to gradually double Canada Pension Plan benefits.

If you don't want to work another two years, if you don't want your children and grand-children to have to work another two years, then support the "65" program.  Above all, make sure you VOTE for retirement security.  Young people have a historically low voter turnout, which is likely why the Conservatives think they can get away with taking away two years of our retirement!

If you don't vote, your voice carries no weight with politicians!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Harper Conservatives living in imaginary dystopia...

I finally have some insight into the Harper government.  Apparently, they're living in a post-apocalyptic dystopia of their own imagining.  Take this quote from Justice Minister Rob Nicholson recently:

"Why is it so difficult for the Liberals to figure out who the real victims are?" he said.
"If somebody is coming onto your property, [setting] fire to your car, breaking into your house, or attacking your family, Mr. Speaker, those are the bad guys."
Statistics Canada reports:
"The police-reported crime rate, which measures the overall volume of crime, continued its long-term downward trend in 2010, declining 5% from 2009. At the same time, the Crime Severity Index, which measures the severity of crime, fell 6%."
 Of course, there are statistics for everything, but they all pretty much agree that crime rates are low in Canada, and have been declining for decades.  If you want a warm fuzzy feeling, just compare Canada's crime rates to those in the United States.

Given that Canada has low crime rates, a federal deficit, and deficits in most provinces, why is the Harper government pushing through tough-on-(nonexistent)-crime legislation that's going to cost us billions of dollars?  We especially can't afford this, since Harper has given $13 billion per year in tax cuts to corporations.

Legislation should not be based on ideology.  It should not be based on knee-jerk reactions to rare tragic events.  It should not be based on irrational fears, nor cater to or inflame those irrational fears.  Just laws must be based on logic and facts.

Unless, of course, you believe you're living in a Mad Max post-apocalyptic future.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Responsible Voting vs. Strategic Voting

You do have a choice. "Strategic" voting has done nothing but backfire. In 104 ridings in the previous election, the NDP came in second place (and they won an additional 37). Strategic voting does not necessarily mean voting Liberal.

Remember back in Chretien's day? The right wing was divided into the Progressive Conservatives and the Reform Party, which morphed into the Canadian Alliance, and finally the two parties joined to form the Conservatives. While they were split, they were decimated in the polls.

The same thing has happened to the left. The Green Party has siphoned a lot of crucial votes away from the NDP. A comparison of the parties reveals that the NDP is at least as "green" as the Green Party, and in addition it has a great deal of depth in other areas as well. The Bloc Quebecois of course throws off the balance of power between the parties, but thankfully they're pretty progressive. Unfortunately, no one wants to formally ally with the Bloc due to their avowed mission of breaking up Canada.

With the left split, a vote for the Green Party rather than the NDP is essentially a vote for Stephen Harper.

All that being said, I've always despised the idea of strategic voting. In Canada, why should I have to vote for a party I don't believe in? The solution is not strategic voting, it's electoral reform to introduce some form of proportional representation into Canadian politics. It's horrifying that Stephen Harper has been able to form governments when 62% of voters voted against him!

Nonetheless, I've always said that the only responsible vote is an informed vote. Voters need to actually read the election platforms of the various parties so they can understand what each of them actually stands for. Armed with that knowledge, voters can then vote for the party that best reflects their values.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ontario's Children's Activity Tax Credit Lacks Vision

Ontario has recently proposed a Children's Activity Tax Credit. Like the Harper Conservatives before them, the McGuinty Liberals lack vision. Instead of looking at a physical activity tax credit as a way to reduce health care costs for the entire population, they're approaching it from a "family values" perspective and offering the credit only to children.

Especially in tough economic times, providing all Ontarians a tax break to help them afford physical activity would be wise. Exercise relieves stress and wards off depression... these ailments are widespread during a recession, and they reduce productivity, contribute to days off work, and increase demand on health care.

What should be on the table is an Ontario Activity Tax Credit, available to everyone. The reasoning is simple... lifelong physical activity prevents illness and infirmity, which in turn will reduce demands placed by citizens on the health care system. The payoff in health care savings would dwarf the cost of the credit. Making an activity credit available to everyone makes good sense.

What can you do? Send Dalton McGuinty a message. Then send your MPP a message too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Repeal Ontario's Tax on Reading!

With the HST tax grab that came into effect on July 1st, one thing that was to remain unchanged was that books would remain free from provincial sales tax (the federal government has been taxing reading for years with the GST).

That hasn't happened. While paper books remain tax-exempt, e-books, which are the future of reading and the publishing industry, are now taxed 13% HST instead of only 5% GST.

There is a detailed HST Info Sheet on the taxing of books here; in the fine print it specifies that:

"For purposes of the rebate, the term 'printed book' has its ordinary meaning. Therefore, electronic and digital books will not qualify as printed books for purposes of the rebate."

Amazon recently announced that it sells more e-books than hardcovers.

What the Ontario government has done is to sneakily break their promise not to tax books, and they've done it by taxing the future of reading. They figure that by the time book-buyers clue into the paper vs. e-book tax discrepancy, that they'll have forgotten that this is a new tax, and one which McGuinty promised us we wouldn't have to pay.

In fact, current Ontario government HST propaganda specifies that:

"Other products will be eligible for a point-of-sale rebate for the provincial part of the HST. This means you will only pay the 5 per cent federal portion of the HST. These include print newspapers, books (including audio books),".

That seems pretty clear, doesn't it? But apparently an e-book isn't a book. McGuinty has made a big deal about how the HST is good for business, but with this new tax on books, he's struck a blow to the publishing industry. He's made the fastest growing segment in publishing 8% more expensive. Is that good for business? Is it good for Ontario? I don't think so.

Putting a tax on reading is poor public policy. It raises the cost of education for students of all ages. Books are the primary form by which we transmit knowledge in our society, and the foundation on which our knowledge-based economy is built. For all the good reasons we didn't tax reading before July 1st, we shouldn't begin to tax it afterward. Making a distinction between books and e-books is disingenuous at best, intentionally deceptive at worst.

What can you do? Write a message to Premier Dalton McGuinty, and then write one to your local MPP, too. (If you're really ambitious, ask Prime Minister Stephen Harper to drop the GST tax on reading, too!)

You can also join the Repeal Ontario's Tax on Reading Facebook group, and visit If you really want to make a difference, vote NDP in the next election...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Canada holds anti-dictatorship (aka anti-prorogation) rallies nation-wide.

I never in my life expected we'd have protests against a dictatorship here in Canada, yet yesterday there were protests against Stephen Harper held across the country.  (Here's the poster; put it everywhere!)

Stephen Harper, Canada's Prime Minister, has twice now closed (prorogued) Parliament to avoid his government being held accountable for its actions.  While Parliament is closed, Harper is able to rule by fiat, issuing decrees from the Prime Minister's office with no accountability to our Parliament.  By proroguing, he strips our democracy of the checks and balances which are built into it to prevent dictators like Harper from arising.

So there I was yesterday, with a large group of people in front of St. Catharines MP Rick Dykstra's office.  Dykstra of course didn't show his face (understandable, since his government's actions are indefensible), but I walked by his office less than two hours later and noticed that all of the signs we had taped to the windows had been taken down already.  In typical Conservative government fashion, Dykstra's supporters had quickly whitewashed the issue.

It doesn't matter what political party Harper belongs to, his actions have proven he has no respect for the democratic system he's supposed to be part of.  In our next election (which hopefully will be very soon), every Canadian needs to cast a vote against dictatorship by casting a vote against Stephen Harper and his cronies.  Harper's style of politics has no place in Canada's democracy.

External:  Niagara at Large also covered the rally.