Tuesday, July 31, 2012

RE: #NBPoli, It's time to stop playing for third.

New Brunswick’s political scene has been drably adorned in Liberal red and Tory blue since the departure of the NDP’s Elizabeth Weir. Subsequent NDP leaders Roger Duguay and Dominic Cardy failed to capture seats in the NB legislature. Duguay’s second place finish was much less a blow to progressive New Brunswickers than Cardy’s dismal third place Rothesay by-election performance.

By-elections are the best means to harness the electorate’s discontent for any number of government decisions enacted since the previous election. Opposition parties tend to do well in by-elections. The NDP’s poor performance in Rothesay indicates that something needs to change within the NB NDP if they have hopes of electing members, let alone forming official opposition or government.

The trend of alternating between PC and Liberal majority governments wastes untold public resources as each government undoes the work of that which came before. (Remember the toll highways Lord tossed?) Third party representation and the possibility of minority government forces politicians to work across party lines to tweak policies until they meet the needs of a multitude of stakeholders.
The elephant in the room whenever politicos discuss flailing left-wing parties is merger, ideas that we’re stronger together and that the province would benefit from our cooperation. In 2010 the NDP got about 10% of the provincial vote and Jack MacDougall’s Greens nabbed 5%; neither elected members to the legislature.  I don’t see the logic in these parties fighting it out for third place when they share so many goals of environmental, social, and economic success.

The only way to change the political climate in Fredericton is to launch a legitimate partisan challenge to the old parties and the old ways of patronage. Neither the NDP or Green Party are suited to do this on their own, and their ardent assertions of difference just divide the attention of New Brunswickers who crave a politic that puts people before corporations.  An amalgamated Green Democratic Party (GDP) of New Brunswick could be the effective opposition that keeps Fredericton in touch with the real concerns of the province: health care, the impacts of resource extraction, flood prevention, infrastructure redevelopment, poverty relief, post-secondary education affordability, and making sure rural citizens have access to services. It is our duty to pass to our children a liveable world, and our best means to secure one is through cooperation.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

RE: A National Cycling Strategy

Dear Denis Lebel, Minister of Transport and Steven Fletcher, Minister of State (Transport),
CC: Olivia Chow, NDP Transport critic
CC: Denis Coderre, Liberal Transport Critic
CC: Elizabeth May, Leader, Green Party of Canada

I am writing today out of concern for Canada's lacking transit infrastructure. Too many years have passed without an appropriate strategy to ameliorate the anachronism that is Canada’s transit reality. We are decades behind our international competitors, and we are beginning to see associated inefficiencies in our economy. To create an equitable and efficient economy, Canadians regardless of place and socio-economic status need access to transportation for their meaningful participation in the labour market and skills development initiatives. I use this letter as a mean's to develop one of the most valuable tenants of a sustainable transit strategy: cycling.

Cycling is a preferred means of transport for two principal reasons; firstly, as a zero emissions means of transit, exchanging car use for cycling will dramatically help Canada reduce our green house gas emissions and mitigate the devastating effects of a climate crisis. Further, encouraging cycling is a pivotal tool in the fight against obesity and inactivity-related health issues.

Many complex barriers impede the adoption of cycling as Canada’s preferred means of transit, namely making streets across Canada safer for cyclists. That task, I leave to city planners while I employ my own training in social sciences to offer two policy recommendations that could advance cycling in Canada.

To begin, cost is the obvious first barrier to cycling. I argue that it is within the nation’s best interest to create a low-income bike grant that would provide, either through tax credit or voucher, support for low-income children and adults to acquire bicycles, safety equipment, and required maintenance. With obesity and sedentary lifestyles correlated to low income levels, a low-income bike grant would be a lifeline to many who want to embrace lifestyle changes but had previously been unable to. Further, many children, markedly those of single parent homes, students, and homeless Canadians would be eligible for such a grant. This grant would provide financial relief, a means of transportation, and a boost toward active lives for those most in need. This policy will also pay for itself; as cultural shift toward healthy lifestyles is incited, preventative health implications will save taxpayers billions.

My second policy recommendation is a tax credit for pro-cycling businesses. Recently, Atlantic Cities published that one of the most discouraging factors keeping professionals from cycling to and from work is the lack of showering facilities available to them. In response, the government should be providing a tax credit to businesses that install showers for employee use.

The free market cannot solve the complex socio-economic issues that Canada faces. Our government needs to be both creative and concerned as we craft a just and prosperous economy. The suggestions I have put forth are effective ways to help Canada become a cycling-friendly country. I hope these ideas resonate with you and that you use your parliamentary prerogative to turn them into a reality for Canadians by amending Olivia Chow's BILL C-305 to include a national cycling strategy before supporting it in the house of Commons.