Tag Archives: Ed Broadbent

Aunt Beth

I had a great aunt named Elizabeth.  The only reason I knew that is that it was on her Christmas stocking.  I always knew her as Aunt Beth.  She was my grandmother’s sister.  Never married, a chain smoker’s chain smoker, and staunch New Democrat.  She adopted our family growing up as hers and so every Christmas she would come down from Regina (she lived in the senior’s complex that looks like a giant suitcase – you know the one I am talking about) to stay in Saskatoon for a couple of weeks.  She also came down for her birthday and all of our birthdays.  Often for part of the summer and almost always for Labour Day weekend although for that I don’t know why.  Probably to see us off for school.

She travelled the world in between those trips so when I say she lived in Regina, that may have been an overstatement.  Since she did live alone, she never really got the family dynamic down.  She used to drive me crazy when on a Friday night and I was getting read to watch Miami Vice, she would come into our living room and and turn to Dallas.  I would just sit there and quietly put my socks back on.

Of course her entire extended family other than myself and my mom were New Democrats.  Strong New Democrats and union organizers.  Being part of a family where debating politics was a passion, having Aunt Beth here was great as there was a true to life New Democrat in our house who was both as obnoxious as my mom and I were as really funny as well.

The best debate was over Christmas and it was never spoken.  Being Progressive Conservatives, we would have a Christmas card from Grant Devine and Brian Mulroney over our mantle.  That wasn’t going to cut it for Aunt Beth.  So after one year of enduring this, the next one there was a card from Ed Broadbent and Al Blakeney on our mantle, placed just in front of the Devine/Mulroney cards.  The best part was that we never saw Aunt Beth put her cards in front of the other ones and she never saw me put the conservative cards back out front.  It would discretely change several times a day over well over 100 times over the holidays.   I never acknowledged by any of us publically other than a little snicker whenever someone was really discrete with it.  This went on from 1987-1991 when she passed away.

It’s funny but as partisan as all of us were back then, I don’t think a single harsh word was ever spoken about each other’s politics (lots of jokes though), we kept the intense arguments for what was important (I remember getting off the phone with her and she was livid and wanted to speak to my mom.  She had just gone to the Roughriders game and it was a blowout and she wanted to yell about it).  That was the only time I remember her getting angry over anything.

I still miss her.  She was a lot of fun to be around but the biggest lesson she taught me was the family and respect was far more important than making a political point to someone.  We had great talks about all sorts of policies and different world views but it was never personal (well the jokes were) but having your Christmas card in front of the other guys was really important.

Brian Topp

Last week I got an invitation from Pat Atkinson to meet NDP leadership candidate Brian Topp at Amigo’s Cantina last night.  I have always been fascinated by NDP leadership races, partly because they make absolutely no sense to me and I never know what is going to happen on the convention floor.  (yeah I just admitted that I watch leadership conventions for a hobby)

Brian ToppSince Topp was speaking to a partisan NDP crowd (I was on the only non-New Democrat there) I won’t go into the details but here are some observations.

  • Topp can give a good speech to a small group of people.  I don’t know if he will be electrifying in a convention hall or if he can do it in the House of Commons but I was impressed by his speech last night.  He was humble while articulated why he wants to become both NDP leader and Prime Minister of Canada.
  • I expected him to know his policy but I was impressed by how quickly and clearly he articulated it.  He was sharp in the Q & A.  I didn’t ask him any questions as I am not a card carrying NDP and the questions I would have asked him would have probably upset some people there and would have put him in an awkward position.  It wasn’t the place or time.
  • Topp classily distances himself from Layton and was open in giving permission to look at other leadership candidates.  He pointed out that he was not Jack’s heir apparent and that Jack wanted others to run for leadership as well. 
  • Topp reminded me a lot of both Ed Broadbent and Roy Romanow.  If you are an NDP leadership candidate, this is a good thing.
  • I know it’s early but there wasn’t any campaign material left by him and I find that his website is quite devoid of content and compelling reasons to vote for him.  While I found him last night to have a compelling story and a pretty good vision of the country, his website doesn’t communicate any of that. 
  • I wonder if he ever wakes up and looks at a selection of orange-ish ties and realizes, “I’ll be wearing a tie with orange in it for the rest of my life.”  For me, that would be enough to discourage me from ever running for NDP leader.
  • In light of this post by Wendy, I will point out that it was not a Sunday, I don’t think Topp is a Baptist, and there was not a single inappropriate joke told which means my grandfather could vote for him.
  • Unlike my previous attempts to chill out with a party leader, this one went really well.  Pat Atkinson had a nice crowd out and it was nice to chat with Nettie Wiebe for a couple of minutes.

In the end he has a really, really tough job ahead of him.  He spoke of forming government but even holding on to the seats the NDP have in Quebec is going to be tough without functioning constituency organizations and has less then 1700 members in Quebec.  While the road ahead is tough in Quebec, the NDP has stalled in it’s traditional heartland of the prairies.  Many blame electoral boundaries but the NDP message does not resonate in rural Saskatchewan, Alberta, or Manitoba like it used to.  Topp will have to change that if he hopes on growing the federal party out west.

Will he become Prime Minister?  Too early to tell and a lot can change over the next three years but more than any other NDP candidate on the horizon, I think he gives them their best shot.  It will be interesting to watch.

End Child Poverty

Ed Broadbent is speaking out on child poverty

Why is it that Finland, Sweden and Denmark have almost wiped out child poverty, and we have not? Why do more than 600,000 Canadian kids wake up hungry and go to school trying to read, write and think on an empty stomach?

First, we should have no illusions about where our poor children are to be found. Most are in families with two adults. Most poor adults work. Most of them have incomes so low that they can’t afford housing and can’t adequately feed or clothe their kids. If kids are members of aboriginal or immigrant Canadian families, the odds are even much greater that they will be poor.

Second, this poverty was not inevitable. Mostly it is the product of governments that have neither shared nor cared. As a Unicef report last Friday pointed out, Canadian politicians have failed our children. During the 1990s, the federal government abandoned a leadership role for Canada’s poor. It unilaterally cancelled the Canada Assistance Plan with the provinces, eliminated all low-cost housing programs, ceased to set the pattern for minimum wages and failed to bring in a national child-care program. Perhaps most serious and unbelievable of all, it exacerbated the inequality that was emerging in the marketplace by changing the income-tax system to the advantage of the richest Canadians.

I have blogged about this before but I am going to keep bringing this up because it’s a big issue.  I don’t know if I see how a tax increase on the rich will help the situation because I don’t see a plan for what the $3.7 billion can and will do.  While poverty is a financial issue, it’s also a bigger social issue and how does $3.7 billion do to change the impact of lives shaped by poverty.

Make Poverty History

I think the solution can be funded by churches, community groups, schools, and governments partnering together to remake neighborhoods, reserves, and communities as part of a long term process to take on the contributing factors of extreme poverty in Canada.  Providing better facilities for those who struggle with mental illness, reinvest in local schools, provide help (which may include incentives) to keep kids in schools longer (there are about 1500 truant kids in Saskatoon right now according to many sources), help those in low income jobs with affordable housing and subsidized rents and help them get ahead.  Poverty is a complex issue that gets oversimplified sometimes in political discussions.

  • One in six Canadian children is poor.
  • Canada’s child poverty rate of 15 percent is three times as high as the rates of Sweden, Norway or Finland.
  • Every month, 770,000 people in Canada use food banks. Forty percent of those relying on food banks are children. These statistics point to a betrayal of Canada’s children. What makes the persistence of child poverty all the more disturbing is that Canada is a rich country, a country that ranked fourth in the world on the 2004 UN Human Development Index.

But in the midst of wealth, almost 5 million Canadians live in poverty. Poverty is increasing for youth, workers, young families and immigrant and visible minority groups.  Why aren’t we getting together to tackle this issue? 

I am not sure Make Poverty History has the answers but sadly since 2005, the issue has disappeared off the radar when it was no longer the issue du jour.  Let’s move it back on the political radar.

Tax on wealthy to fight child poverty

Ed Broadbent is calling on a tax increase to fight child poverty

Broadbent, 73, said increasing their taxes from 29 per cent to 35 per cent would put billions more toward eliminating child poverty, increasing the amount spent by $3.7 billion.

“With just that single move we would double the amount given for the national child benefit supplement and take children out of the devastation of poverty,” he said during a speech at the University of New Brunswick.

He said it makes sense given that in the past decade only the richest in Canada have seen their wages go up beyond the cost of living.

Well first of all I don’t know if a six percent tax increase is the right number and from where I am, I see child poverty as a much more complex problem than doubling the national child benefit supplement but I kind of like Ed’s idea of using a focused tax to fight a specific problem.  Of course it never works that way in the end.  Our gas taxes don’t go to fixing up roads but go into general revenues.  Part of me has often wondered if you could designated a percentage of the GST, let’s say .25% and designate that to fight child poverty in Canada or if you made it broader, fight poverty and homelessness in general.  You could also designate a portion of “sin taxes” to it instead.  I know it won’t happen as we really aren’t that serious in Canada about fighting child poverty (which is the real issue) but not all taxes are bad and fighting child poverty and homelessness at a young age saves an awful lot amount of money down the road, money that could be used for tax cuts in other areas.