What progressives can learn from the Tea Party


Ssh! Don't share this Tory Senate media strategy


Injured soldiers take another hit from the Conservatives


98% of Canadians will click on this story


Science says: revolt!


What to put on the chopping block?

Conservatives from the Quebec riding of Beauce have come up with a plan to gut social programs, and they want their party to get behind the idea at the policy convention.

After the government balances its budget, set for 2015-2016, they want to freeze spending at $300 billion in today's dollars through 2020-21.

Let’s put this radical idea in perspective. Freezing total federal government spending in nominal dollars wouldn’t allow spending to grow in line with inflation – let’s put it at 2% each year to be aligned with the inflation target of the Bank of Canada. The plan also fails to take into account population growth – about 1% per year. 

This means there would have to be additional spending cuts amounting to 3% per year. That’s $9-billion in cuts, year after year, for four years. This is roughly equivalent to eliminating the federal government support for medicare through the Canada Health Transfer. But because some spending would increase at a faster rate than zero, this would mean deep, deep cuts in other areas of federal spending. Which ones?

Photo: triviaqueen. Used under a Creative Commons BY-2.0 licence.

Jason Kenney sticks to skills story

Jason Kenney, Canada's minister of jobs, has been busy these days talking up the controversial Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program.

Things got awkward for Kenney last week, when TD Economics released a study throwing "cold water" on the idea of a skills shortage in Canada. The problem? The number of TFW in Canada has been growing steadily over the years, with reports of companies abusing the program and bumping domestic employees for lower-paid temporary foreign workers vulnerable to human-rights abuses.

On Tuesday, the Globe and Mail chimed in, publishing fresh statistics that show TFW numbers have spiked this year, after the government claimed it was reforming the program to make sure Canadians weren’t losing out on jobs.

But facts and stats be damned. Jason Kenney is sticking to his story and talking up the TFW Program on Twitter. Check it out:


[<a href="//storify.com/PressProgress/jason-kenney-on-the-skills-shortage" target="_blank">View the story "Jason Kenney on the Skills Shortage" on Storify</a>]

Photo: 5of7. Used under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.

Who wants to stand in for the PM in QP?

Standing in for the Prime Minister during Question Period is considered a feather in a minister’s cap. But it can also come back to hurt you if you have to answer questions about the Senate scandal. That’s because the government’s story keeps changing

Check out how these three senior ministers fielded questions in the last session of Parliament – before the story “evolved" with Mike Duffy's document dump this week.


Photo: andrewrusk. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.

Retirement insecurity, anyone?

Guess it wasn’t enough to cut public pensions in the 2012 budget – after not saying a word about it during the 2011 election campaign. Now, Conservative Party activists want to take a whack at public sector pensions at their party’s convention in a race to the bottom on pensions.

This is the pitch from one riding association: “to bring public sector pensions in-line with Canadian norms by switching to a defined contribution pension model” – “comparable to the private sector.” 

Another riding wants to tack on an anti-pension line to the party’s policy statement on “Public Service Excellence.” The benefits and pensions of public servants “should be comparable to those in the private sector, and to the extent that they are not, they should be made comparable to such private sector benefits and pensions in future contract negotiations.”

Translation? Let’s gut public sector pensions and make sure this better model doesn’t spread. The private sector is already leading in this race to the bottom, with fewer and fewer employers offering defined benefit pension plans. If the public sector moves away from secure defined benefit pension plans and replaces them with inferior alternatives – hello, defined contribution plans! – this will drive down pension benefits for everyone. 

A job well done - if your goal is retirement insecurity. But how about raising the bar for everyone?

Photo: 401(K) 2013. Used under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.

The anti-science party

We’re not making this up: when Conservatives convene in Calgary for their policy convention, there’s a proposal on the table to eliminate all references in the party’s policy book to an independent Chief Scientist to "advise and report to Parliament on scientific matters, and help coordinate science policy issues within government and internationally."

Just cross it all out. Let’s not have an Office of Chief Scientist "modeled on the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology in the United Kingdom" and "mandated by Parliament to provide independent and balanced analysis of public policy issues related to science and technology… to enable informed decisions."

Scrap all that, and replace it with a “single window system” to review applications for large science projects.

Grassroots Conservatives in Brandon-Souris behind this policy proposal could very well be taking their cue from the Harper government. The Conservatives have already shuttered Canada’s Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Lab (PEARL) and pulled funding from the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, the Experimental Lakes Area and the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Data Center.  

Muzzling federal scientists goes hand and hand with gutting science projects. Last year, one of the world’s leading scientific journals Nature penned an editorial criticizing the Harper government for silencing government scientists. This year, the New York Times piled on.

When the unbridled development of natural resources is the priority, best not to let science get in the way.

Photo: jennfarr. Used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence.