Sunday, June 24, 2012

We Should Reduce Tuition Costs for Students.

As Canadians we pay taxes… some people complain about this… I don’t.

The taxes we pay come back to us in many ways.  We receive services and benefits from these taxes every day but we don’t even notice it.

Our taxes pay to have the light bulb replaced on a street light.  They pay for the sidewalk that passes that street light.  They pay for the street that runs beside the sidewalk.  You get the point… all the way up to the people who cut the grass at city hall, the provincial legislature, and the House of Commons.

I think we can all agree, or at least most of us can, that government at all levels needs money to provide the services that we use every day.  There are a few, like Stephen Harper who think there are no good taxes, period.

I guess he forgets who pays for the planes and ships of the military, and who pays his salary.

The problems arise when people complain about the stupid or the wrong places our money is spent.

One of these places that some people carry on about, which annoys me to no end is education.  Usually these are people whose kids have graduated or have no kids (yet) that complain about having to pay for other people’s kids getting an education…

Kindergarten through Grade 12 is provided free because it’s a benefit for all of us.  I don’t care if you send your kid to Professor X’s Academy or if you home school; you still get the benefit of having reasonably well educated people from the public system in your community.  Quit your whining and ante up.

Who is with me here?  Shouldn’t we be able to provide a good education to our Nation’s kids without forcing parents to dole out extra for paper and pens?  It’s a cheap investment in the future of our country is it not?

I’m not going to get into “how our schools are failing our kids” since we are failing the schools by not keeping them up to date physically as well as educationally.

Now I’m going to wade a bit deeper… bests get your bathing cap on…

Do they still make those?

Basically what I’m after at this point is that it is to your and my benefit that the young people coming out of high school be able to read and write and be able to function in our society.  It is to their benefit as well, that goes without saying…

But what about higher education?

We’ve all seen the protests in Quebec.  It all started with a proposed increase to tuition fees and that upset the students.  I don’t blame them, it all adds up and increases the amount of loans they’ll have to repay someday.

Now some folks are saying that Quebec has the lowest fees in Canada, and they are right, but part of the reason is simply because the students there fight the increases better than they do in the other provinces.  Maybe they care more?  I don’t know.

Maybe what we should do is lower the tuition for everyone… to zero.

Before you run off with your hands in the air yelling SOCIALIST and what not, think about it for a few minutes.

Some years ago, a record was set for the pole vault at the Olympics.  When the press interviewed the winner and congratulated him he said that there were probably hundreds of people who could jump higher, but they never had a chance to learn the sport.

How many Doctors and Nurses and Teachers across Canada are not following their dream because they simply cannot afford to?

This is not socialism, but rather capitalism at its most basic level.  In order to become a Doctor you would still have to qualify.  You would still have to have the grades to be accepted.  You would still have to convince the University that you are a good candidate for the program.  I’m just suggesting we remove pre-screen number one.  Can you afford it?

This is the same in most University level courses today.  Space is limited… prove that you are a good candidate.

What would that do for the rest of us?

In Healthcare it would help to lower costs.  If we have lots of Doctors you can phone your GP if you are sick and see him or her within days, maybe the same day rather than have to go to the clinic or the Emergency Room to find out you have the flu.

Quicker access to a Doctor would also mean that you don’t have to put off making an appointment until you are “real sick” and need to visit the hospital for a few days or weeks if it can be caught early enough.

In the bigger picture, what does business look for when they plan to expand into a new Country?  One of these things is available talent, are there enough trained people to support us?  China is producing more Engineers, Doctors, and other professionals and they are attracting business.  Canada, not so much.

They are screaming for skilled trades in Alberta and they are importing talent because we don’t have enough skilled people to meet the need.  How many handymen are there that could have been in the trades if they could have afforded the education in order to earn an apprenticeship?  The days of just “hooking up” with a tradesman to apprentice are long gone.

Foreign students would need to pay, sorry guys.  Maybe your government will pick up the tab.  Students from developing nations could be supported through our International Development Programs.  This would be part of our efforts to be First Class world citizens and likely would qualify as part of our commitment to various Treaties and Pacts to help Developing Nations.

But what would stop someone from getting their education here and running off to the U.S. or elsewhere to ply their trade?  Nothing right now, but I’m sure that most would agree to use their education here first for a period of years before being permitted to take it elsewhere.  Or we could add a provision that lets you pay your shot and take your degree to wherever you please.

I talked with a fellow some years ago who was studying to be a dentist.  He told me that when he graduated here in Ontario that he planned to head straight to PEI because there was a shortage of dentists there.  He did feel a little bad because his courses, like most courses at colleges and universities were [and still are] subsidized by the province, and we were not going to get any return from our investment in him.

You see we already invest heavily into higher education, I’m just suggesting we open the tap a bit more.  We can move from teaching the “best of those who can afford it” to teaching the “best students we have”.  If you kid wants to study Health Sciences (I think that’s what they call it) at McMaster right now, it costs thousands.  Imagine your child being accepted at McMaster and paying virtually nothing because they can stay with Aunt June in Hamilton.

The market will decide which courses people go into, if there are too many Engineers enrollment will decline.  Only people who really want to be an engineer will enroll if the chance of a job at the end of it is slim.  The same goes for any profession or trade.

Another benefit I can see is that many students in the system today see no future in higher education, it’s something that only the rich can enjoy… how many of those kids would apply themselves that much better knowing that if their grades are good and they have the drive that they can go on to be whatever their dream is?

Maybe we could have a few more pharmacists and a few less crack dealers?

It all boils down to where our tax dollars get spent.  Where do we best invest for the future of Canada?  If we spend the money to ensure that all our children get the best education available, including allowing our best and brightest to continue their education fee free to ensure we have the Professionals that we will need in the future, is this not a good place to invest?

I think it’s worth considering.

As always, your comments are welcome…

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

An Open Letter To the Honourable Elizabeth May,

To The Honourable Elizabeth May
Member representing Saanich Gulf Islands
Jun 13, 2012

Dear Ms. May:

I along with untold thousands of Canadians would like to thank you for your efforts on our behalf.

Recently David Wilks said that one Member of Parliament cannot make a difference.  I hope David sees that one committed Member of Parliament can indeed make a difference.

I hope that your actions make the Members Opposite realize that they were elected to represent their Constituents in the House of Commons, not to be a representative of their Party to their people.  Maybe there are 13 heroes in that crowd.

We can only hope.

I would also like to thank you for reminding a grumpy old cat that there are still good people in the House of Commons, people deserving of the title Honourable, as in the Honourable Elizabeth May.  A title earned and deserved and not just a courtesy shown to anyone elected to the House.

I wish you well in your attempt this evening, and I wish you success in your endeavour.

In closing, I’d like to offer you a gift.  Another title. 

The Honourable
Lady Elizabeth May,
 Defender of Democracy.

Best wishes in all your future endeavours,

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Is Stephen Harper Dumb?

I think we have to make a note of the date.

Today is June 9th, 2012.

For the First time in a long time, I find myself agreeing with an RAC (Reform/Alliance/Con), Mr. Bob Mills.  Mr. Mills said something that really made sense…

"I've always said that if you're smart you surround yourself with really smart people. And if you're dumb, you surround yourself with a bunch of cheerleaders. We don't need cheerleaders.
-NRTEE member and former MP Bob Mills

Mr. Mills was elected as a Reformer, as a Canadian Alliancer, and a Harper Party member of parliament.  There are not a lot of people in that crowd that I agree with.

His comment was directed at our Fearless Leader, Stephen Harper.

Mr. Mills and other soon to be former members of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) were making their voices heard in light of the Harper Party plans to do away with the NRTEE buried deep within the omnibus bill C-38.

Officially, the Harper Party is saying that we no longer need the NRTEE and that their time is past, but it sounds more like they don’t like the message that these folks are telling them, so they’re not paying anymore.

Now I’ve been looking for the link but I can’t find it, I’ll swear that I heard Harper saying  something about how the government shouldn’t sponsor groups (like the NRTEE) that don’t reflect government policy.

Every group from the Fraser Institute to Green Peace has an agenda, the only way to find an unbiased panel is to set it up yourself and use experts with various view points to debate and decide.  You don’t have to use their reports, but be prepared to explain why those reports were discarded.

It is all part of Democracy, you review the facts, you listen to view points and you make a decision based in part on those view points.  You don’t limit debate, invoke closure, move committees in camera, muzzle scientists… these things are not Democratic. 

These are the types of things that Harper and Co. used to rail against, but my how times have changed.

I can’t wait for the rhetoric to start over Elizabeth May’s plan to force a prolonged sitting of the House by proposing hundreds of amendments to Bill C -38.  I’m sure she will be vilified by the Harper Party for attempting to hijack Democracy.

I applaud Ms. May for her efforts to try and restore Democracy in the House and I applaud the Opposition Parties for supporting her on her quest to break the Harper Party’s grip on power.

I just hope Ms. May can show people like David Wilks what can happen when you surround yourself with smart people and stand up for what is right.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

It’s supposed to be about Democracy.

Recently, Erin Weir, an economist for the Steel Workers Union spoke to the Commons Finance Committee.  His remarks were on the proposed changes to the Investment Canada Act included in the latest omnibus bill of the Stephen Harper Party.

A Harper Party member of the committee, Randy Hoback let loose with a series of rambling questions and witness abuse I think is appalling.  All because Mr. Weir is a New Democratic Party member.

The word used to describe Hoback’s actions was McCarthyism.

Hoback didn’t challenge the facts that Mr. Weir presented, he attacked the man on his politics.  That is a sure sign of a lost argument, if you can’t attack the argument, attack the person.

I think this should be filed under BS.  That of course means Blatant Smear.

Our Constitution includes a section on discrimination.  It is illegal to discriminate based on race, creed, colour, age, and so forth.  Unfortunately the colour of your tie is omitted.  If you are an economist with an NDP card in your pocket, you are not a credible witness according to Hoback. 

That is not Democracy.

The Harper regime has a history of making bureaucrats shut up and people they can’t force to shut up get shouted down, like Mr. Weir did.  It’s gotten to the point where a bureaucrat cannot wipe their nose without a signed note from their manager, countersigned by the Minister in charge.

We elected the Vogons.

The Harper Party has killed the F 35 committee, they took the committee behind closed doors and declared it done.  If it wasn’t for the opposition members on that committee breaking the rules and telling what happened behind those closed doors, we’d likely never know it occurred.

The Harper Party has tabled the most omnibus budget bills and the largest ones at that.  These omnibus budget bills contain many things that are not budget related, but get tossed in there for expediency.  There are at least 15 items in the budget that are deserving of their own bill and debate, but that won’t happen because the Harper Party chose to limit debate on this bill as well.

Stephen Harper used to say that omnibus bills were undemocratic, I guess he flipped, or is that flopped?

Limiting debate certainly doesn’t sound democratic either, does it?

Now, when they formed the Reform Party way back when, it was supposed to be about Democracy.  Constituency groups would select candidates and not have Government Issue ones imposed on them.  They wanted the power to have members who didn’t represent their constituencies properly recalled.

Ask MP David Wilks about Democracy in the Harper Party.  His constituents told him that they did not support the omnibus bill and he said he would vote against it.  Then after a quick trip to the wood shed he came back with "I look forward to supporting the bill and seeing it passed."

The real Reformers, the farmers and the townsfolk who wanted change in how government works are not the bad guys, they wanted Democracy.  They were the grassroots supporters of the Party, but they have been Astroturfed by Harper and the rest of the leadership of his Harper Party.  They just haven’t realized it yet.

I hope they wake up before it is too late.