My wish list for this coming year -- no matter who winds up in power come year's end, and there's a better than even chance there will be an election:
- A real policy to end child poverty -- abolish the so called "universal" child care credit, put it on top of the geared to income and tax free Child Tax Benefit, and set real targets to lift people out of destitution (with major salary penalties on Cabinet ministers if they don't meet the targets -- say in the order of 100%). If Britain can do it, so can we.
- A genuine day care policy. If Québec can do it so can the rest of Canada -- it doesn't have to be exactly the same model, it can be geared to income for instance rather than universal. But mothers and single fathers shouldn't have to make the choice between career and home.
- A real nation-wide environment policy. This would include mandatory emission testing for all vehicles in all provinces and territories, done by the provinces of course but recognizing smog doesn't stop at borders or specific natural geographic checkpoints. Demand the tar sands and precious metals mining industries clean up their act and impose the strictest penalties for tailings discharges. Shut down the asbestos mines in Québec, permanently.
- Extend our 200 mile limit to 370 miles -- and demand those who treat our custodial management waters as a dumping ground be subject to the consequences.
- A way to ensure indigent seniors get the same tax treatment as wealthy ones. Every $100 increase in seniors' tax credits for those who pay taxes must be matched by an equivalent increase in the Guaranteed Income Supplement for those who don't pay taxes -- which at present tax rates would be $15. This is real money, for many it would pay the monthly phone bill.
- An expansion of the "child fitness credit" to include the performing arts. PMS promised this one in the 2008 election and we're still waiting. Meantime several provinces like Ontario have moved forward and Québec has had a refundable (not a non-refundable) credit long before anyone heard of PMS.
- An insistence that if any province wants to withdraw from the CPP and create its own plan (as Québec did with the RRQ) there must be full reciprocity just as there is with the RRQ. Same premiums, same basic retirement, disability and death benefits. If a province can invest the money better than our pension board, let them. But Canadians will not stand for a province (read: Alberta) that decides they can just charge lower premiums willy-nilly. If they do, then the other provinces should reduce the payments that come out of the "number two" end for the time spent working in a discount province. Fair is fair.
- Completion of a free trade agreement with the EU, one that reconciles our and their respective systems of agricultural subsidies -- and creates one class for immigration and visa controls rather than singling out certain countries in the bloc for allegedly bombarding us with bogus refugee claims.
- A declaration there will be no further free trade agreements with Third World countries until they comply with specific and accepted standards of human rights -- this includes fighting trafficking of women and children. I am shocked that more than eight years after we signed an accord with Costa Rica child prostitution there is at an all time high and we still treat "sex tourists" with a velvet glove rather than with an iron fist.
- A return to a foreign policy that is based on pragmatism and honest brokerage rather than ideology dictated by Bay Street and the Christianities. This also includes making it absolutely clear that while we oppose terrorism in all its forms, we also insist on a fair and equitable solution to the biggest issues facing the Middle East. And that any state that still refuses to recognize the Israeli fact will see a progressive escalation in trade sanctions until such diplomatic ties are established.
- Finally, Mainland China. If they continue to ship lead paint, toys, poisoned dog food, melamine laced infant formula and chocolate bars marked "nut free" when they are in fact full of nuts -- then we should terminate their Most Favoured Nation status. And we should demand other democracies do the same. If it takes a trade war to liberate the 1.3 billion people who continue to be enslaved by a small pack of Politburo apparatchiks then so be it.
Too much to ask for? Well, it's time someone stood up for Canada. These are actually small steps that can bring some hope instead of fear to Canadians; and make Canada a beacon of respect and not a laughing stock amongst the community of nations.
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