Monday, April 9, 2012

RE: Community Access Programs

Dear Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry
CC: Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance
CC: Paul Dewar, MP for Ottawa-Centre

I am writing as a citizen concerned by the cancellation of The Community Access Program. As a youth who grew up in rural New Brunswick, I have used these services since their creation in the mid 1990’s. Programming offered at community access centers largely formed my computer skill set. Just last summer, I visited the Sussex Regional Library extensively to gain internet access that facilitated academic research and job searches.

Closing community access centers is an ideologically motivated austerity cut. While those who can afford personal internet access barely notice a change in their daily routines, poor, rural, and otherwise disadvantaged Canadians will have their ability to connect to the internet severed. Internet-based job search and skills development initiatives will be deprived from those who most need them.

The Harper governments’ neoliberal ideology is attempting to grind the lower classes into a cheap pool of labour open the predation of multi-national corporations. Let me reiterate, wealth creation is not the same as job creation. A low-tax, low-skill country will not deliver equal opportunity and betrays Canadian values.

The internet is a place of possibility for Canadians. This year we have learned from Vic Toews that the Conservative Party of Canada wants to monitor Canadian internet use without a warrant from a judge, and now we learn that Harper doesn’t believe Canadians should have equal and public access to the vast resources on the internet.

Community access programs are the latest attempt for the Harper Conservatives to reconcile a fiscal deficit with a democratic deficit; the Harper government has been systematically removing public mechanisms that ensure government accountability and citizen advancement. The Court Challenges Program was stripped bare of all work other than claims of official language discrimination (and that had to be fought for). Parliament was prorogued to detract from the Afghan detainee scandal. The per-vote subsidy for national political parties was removed. And right now, the Harper Conservatives refuse to call a public inquiry into the Robo-call scandal, while they close the doors to Rights and Democracy and Katimavik. All the while, Harper, who was initially elected on a pledge of senate reform, is filling the unelected and undemocratic senate with Conservative faithfuls. Harper has even offered a revolving door to senators who resign in attempt to gain a seat in the House of Commons.

The direction Harper Conservatives are dragging this country must be fought with every ounce of Canadian determination and decency that exists. Canadians will not bow down as our way and quality of life are compromised along a Conservative ideology. The recent attacks on internet freedom and access illustrate the vast disconnect from the Canadian people and the majority Conservative government. As part of a larger process to remedy this discord, I demand that the budget be amended to reflect the real public service needs of Canadians including Community Access Programs. I implore you to examine the feedback from the #notourbudget campaign and incorporate the needs of working Canadians more meaningfully into the federal budget.


Friday, April 6, 2012

RE: Student Vote 2014

CC: Jody Carr, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development

I am writing as an expatriate of Sussex, NB. Following my K-12 education in New Brunswick, I moved to Ottawa to study at Carleton University in 2005. I understand moving into the most politically charged arena in the country from a small town would be somewhat a culture shock for many, but I soon noticed that students educated from other provinces had much more political education than I had.
That was discrepancy I acted quickly to mend, and I became involved in partisan and non-partisan political organizations. Through my studies and activism, I came across the Student Vote program that parallels real elections with a high school voter imperative.  Therein, high schools organize information sessions about the actual parties and candidates and students cast their votes on Election Day. The Student Vote program engages youth in our democratic tradition of learning, sharing, and debating.  At a time when youth voter apathy stains Canadian politics, programs encouraging youth voter engagement must be offered.

While New Brunswick students have participated in the federal parallel elections, the province has never incorporated this program into their curriculum during a provincial election. As New Brunswickers are hit with austerity budgets on the federal and provincial levels, I want to reiterate the importance of education in creating good citizens and the thinkers of tomorrow.
In short, I am writing to encourage that the NBTA and the Ministry of Education work together to ensure that necessary resources will be available for New Brunswick high schools to run a Student Vote election parallel to the 2014 provincial election. New Brunswickers value their democratic tradition, and a fiscal deficit cannot be repaid with a democratic deficit. I hope that my thoughts have been presented as amicable and that a public commitment to a 2014 Student Vote initiative is issued.