Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fundraising Training in Niagara

Adam Smith, Senior Manager of Grassroots Fundraising for the Liberal Party of Canada spent the day with a number of dedicated liberals from Niagara. Adam travelled from Ottawa yesterday and spent some extra time with our group from Niagara West-Glanbrook discussing fundraising ideas. What a valuable session it was! As you can see from the photo, we enjoy each other's company. From left to right: John Caron, Pat Butcher, Heather Carter, Adam Smith, Bill McFarland and Shirley Decaire.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Is Dean Listening?

Dean Allison, MP for Niagara West-Glanbrook is in Ottawa now, confident that he has a good understanding of the concerns of constituents in the riding. In a recent MP Report from Dean, he indicates during the summer months, he consulted with constituents and the three re-occurring themes were Afghanistan, justice and taxes.

During the same summer period, The Strategic Council* conducted a national survey. Canadians were asked “What is the most important issue facing Canada today – that is the one that you are most concerned about?” The results are interesting and, with the exception of the Afghanistan issue, highlight a different list of priorities. The biggest concern - at 23% of the respondents – was the environment, followed by healthcare at 16%, and terrorism (which includes all mentions of Afghanistan,) at 10%. The issue of taxes was way down the list – at 3% and crime/violence at 2%.

Like Dean, during September I manned a booth at the Smithville, Lincoln and Binbrook Fairs. We conducted a poll of attendees, asking them the question “What is the most important issue facing Canadians?” Our list was extensive with a total of 12 items; respondents were given one vote only and the opportunity for to write down other issues that did not appear on the list. The three priorities across all the Fairs were consistent. The number one issue was very clear: healthcare. The second priority was the environment, followed by education as the third issue. At the Smithville Fair, priorities number two and three switched places, with voters rating education slightly higher than the environment. It should be noted that the provincial issue of faith-based education funding was on people’s minds at the time and many individuals checked off “education” because they were either for or against funding of faith-based education. However, many individuals indicated that it was the cost of post-secondary education that was of concern when they chose the education issue as the most important issue.

If we are to take out the education choice because of the confusion over the faith-based funding issue, a provincial matter, we then look at the fourth issues down the list. At the Smithville Fair, the issue of taxes was a distant four at 5%. At Lincoln and Binbrook, crime came in fourth at only 8%. (In comparison, healthcare represented 45% and the environment 23% of the top five priorities.)

So what are we to make of the findings? First of all, there is a great amount of consistency between the national survey and the very informal survey done at our booths for the two top priorities. Healthcare and the environment share number one and two positions. Canadians and residents of Niagara West-Glanbrook are concerned about the state of our health care system and climate changes that are affecting our environment.

The results beg the question: Why didn’t Dean Allison identify the same top two issues during his consultation with constituents this summer? Did the issues not come up? When a constituent raised the issue of the healthcare crisis that we are facing, did he merely pass the buck to the province? What about the environment? Surely, Dean is receiving feedback that it is time for the government to act on the impending crisis and the climate changes we are witnessing.

The overriding characteristic of this government is its bulldozing ahead with its own agenda. And we have seen that Harper will stop at nothing to ensure that his minority government’s own priorities are given importance with little or no consultation with the other parties. During the last 18 months, MPs have been muzzled, parliamentary committees have been shut down by the Conservative Committee Chairs, and a Playbook manual has been distributed to all Conservatives outlining the ways to disrupt committee proceedings. Important priorities like the health of our citizens and the commitment to our environment are being ignored. I hope that you join me in urging Dean Allison, our representative of priorities in Niagara West-Glanbrook, to not fall prey to a narrow agenda that does not reflect the concerns of our residents. Although 36% of Canadians voted for the Conservatives during the last election, 100% of the people living in the communities across the riding expect that, in the democracy that we enjoy in Canada, Dean will listen to every voter’s concerns.

*The Strategic Counsel survey that tracks the concerns of Canadians from May 2005 to July 2007 can be found at

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Max Delivers Marketing Message

At NTAB's 10th Anniversary Celebration tonight, Max Valiquette delivered an entertaining and informative speech about marketing to youth. Some of the information he shared:
  • 60% of women work outside of the home
  • 44% of 20-29 year olds live at home
  • Full transition to adulthood is happening later
  • 25 years ago, average age of 25 for first marriage, now age 29
  • 25 years ago, average age of 25 for having first child, now age 29
  • Young people value relationships, communication, information, diversity and technology.
Max is the the founder and president of Youthography, Canada's leading youth marketing onslutancy, and the host of TVOntario's VoxTalk, a youth issues talk show. He was very entertaining and bears a little resemblance to Rick Mercer, don't you think?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Training in Barrie

Lynne Steele, Organizer Extraodinaire and Past President York-Simcoe Federal Liberal Riding Association arranged a training session for new candidates. I felt like an old pro, having been through one election! What an impressive group of candidates with varied backgrounds and solid experience in many different fields. Carolyn, as usual, was encouraging and humorous. In the photo from left to right: Hon. Carolyn Bennett, MP St. Paul's, Jamie McGarvey, Parry Sound-Muskoka, Andrea Matrosovs, Simcoe-Grey, Heather Carter, Rick Jones, Barrie, and Skid Crease, Dufferin-Caledon. Lynne Steele is seated in front.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's Time for Real Debate on Afghanistan

No matter what you think of the Canada’s mission in Afghanistan there are two undeniable facts: our current commitment ends in 2009 and by mid-next year we will have to decide what role we will take on in the future.

Canada has a duty to build a peaceful, secure and prosperous Afghanistan. This commitment started in 2001 when we first joined the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and was reinforced in 2006 when we supported the international Afghan Compact for the country's security and development. The experience of Somalia also tells us that leaving before the job is done will only lead to anarchy.

That said, there's a wide range of options between withdrawal and continuing the status quo, and the commitment to build a brighter future for Afghanistan should not blind Canadians to the fact we are bearing more than our fair share of the burden for the international mission in the country. While our 2,500 troops are engaging the Taliban on a daily basis in order to bring peace to the Kandahar region, Germany has placed its soldiers in the more stable Northern region and refuses to let them help Canadian troops, even when they encounter heavy Taliban resistance. The same goes for Italy, whose troops are based in the West. To make matters worse, most NATO countries haven't sent more than a token number of soldiers. Our European ally Austria has only deployed four.

While some argue that questioning our presence in Kandahar strengthens the Taliban, failing to explore other military missions within the country gives other NATO countries a free ride at our soldiers' expense. So far, there does not seem to be any valid reason why Canada shouldn’t have a tour of duty in a more stable region after 2009, while another country takes our place in the South. This kind of burden-sharing would allow our troops to rest, retrain and re-equip after the difficult mission they have endured, and in no way diminishes our commitment to the Afghan people.

That other NATO members are not stepping forward to share the burden of the Afghan mission raises serious concerns about the future and effectiveness of the Alliance - concerns that cannot be addressed unless we take the time to ask deep and challenging questions before agreeing to a new deployment. The need for this kind of thorough investigation is why Liberal leader Stephane Dion and Defence Critic Denis Coderre are calling on the government to holding an open and honest debate this fall on the future of our mission in Afghanistan. Doing otherwise may mean that Canadian soldiers will continue paying a price that our allies aren't willing to stomach.