Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Game of Thrones' lesson for #NBpoli

So everyone with the internet knows Walder Frey, Lord of The Twins, is one of the most villainous characters in fiction. Agreed. Walder Frey's predecessors on the other hand, they knew what was up.

House Frey is a newer nobility that earned it's fortune through foresight, geopolitical strategy, and hard work. The Freys build The Twins to serve as both a castle and a toll bridge over a river that cuts across the fictional continent of Westeros. Though The Twins took three generations to build, the family grew wealthy from the bridge's dues.

The Twins as depicted by HBO

New Brunswick is a lot like The Twins (and maybe New Brunswick might have some red ink with the Iron Bank). The provinces bridges the million Maritimers in NS/PEI and the oil-fueled fortunes of Newfoundland and Labrador to the East with the rest of Canada and the US border to the West. New Brunswick highways are integral the Atlantic Canadian and North Eastern US economies. The "drive-through" reputation New Brunswick has gotten undersells the natural beauty of and tourist attractions of the province, but it reaffirms the geopolitical advantage of being the gateway to the Atlantic.

(Just watch this for context - NB Premier's satire holiday wish)

Tolling New Brunswick's highways for out of province vehicles would generate public income with none of political costs associated with tax increases. Additionally, this policy directive would create an incentive for trucking companies to base their fleets in New Brunswick.

I'm not suggesting we gouge our visitors blind at the toll booths, but dropping a couple of toonies to enter or exit the province seems pretty reasonable to me. I'm also not too worried about tourism being impacted. The Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Heritage could promote staying in New Brunswick by offering toll vouchers for visitors staying in the province for a minimum amount of time.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The ONDP needs some soul searching.

Count me among the thousands (at least) who think this Ontario election is completely unnecessary. At the core of my ire, the stream of centrist fodder running from Andrea Horwath's lips. Several media critics have drawn attention to the rightward drift of the ONDP, who seem to have abandoned social democratic goals in a blind attempt for power. (Check out what Rick Salutin and Nora Loreto have written.)

The sickening reality that grinds my gears is that if Ontario operated under a system of proportional representation (PR), which the ONDP advocates, the most recent budget would have passed. PR creates the expectation of minority governments and the expectation that minority government can actually govern through policy compromise.

Kathleen Wynne presented the most progressive budget since Bob Rae was Premier. In response, Andrea Horwath rejected it for what she perceived as political gain. Under a PR system the political impetus for June's election would have never seeded within Horwath's ranks.

I'm not too sure that gamble is going to pan out well for Horwath. Being a progressive leader is hard because you have two principal groups to cater to: disadvantaged peoples and ideological social democrats. A fundamental tension of the NDP is that the social democrats understand that there will be growing pains as we transition to a more equitable economy; meanwhile, those experiencing hardship in Ontario may be less dedicated to the reengineering of the economy, because of their preoccupation with making their lives tangibly less difficult.

Andrea Horwath has been inept at balancing these interests. By waving flags of middle-class tax relief and frugal minimum wage increases, Horwath manufactured an ONDP consent to trudge to the centre of the political spectrum.

As other critics have noted, this budget was Horwath's last chance to become Premier. Realistically, the party would have needed to replace her for her complicity in Liberal budgets, but that wouldn't have been the end of the world, especially for the social democratic wing of the party.

Party-first politics and self-interest are toxic qualities in leaders, if you believe the project of politics is to make the world a better place. I cannot stand when people advocate an electoral model because it will advantage the party of their choosing. Similarly, I do not respect leaders who call elections based on their perceived potential to form government.

The ONDP can no longer pretend they're left-wing when the QS (Quebec Solidaire) is next door writing blueprints for meaningful reform at the provincial level. The ONDP doesn't even have the spine to support a transition to a single secular school board, which only the Greens support. I would love to support the ONDP as much as I do their federal counterpart, but I cannot in good faith. The party is in dire need of a leadership contest and a new policy book.

I encourage progressives to vote based on their local candidates, not party affiliations. We might not be able to elect a progressive party in Ontario, but we can send progressive people to Queens Park. Ask important questions about our how we administer our school boards, the barriers to post-secondary education, and how willing candidates are to stand against their own parties on matters of principle.

I will be voting Green in the Ottawa South Liberal stronghold.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

RE: Student Debt is Stifling Innovation #cdnpoli

Dear Jason Kenney, Minister of (under)Employment

I write you today to out of concern for innovation in Canada's economy. Specifically, I worry that many of our most creative minds are too saddled with student debt contribute their full capacities to progress and innovation.

Student debt creates a stagnating aversion to risk. Expecting innovation and entrepreneurial leadership from recent Canadian graduates, with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, is hypocritical. Every wisdom we've prepared youth with is to be financially prudent and repay debts. Student loan repayment is much more reasonably achieved on a salaried career path if your working life starts out deep in the red.

Counterintuitively, the creative potential of many educated indebted workers is completely factored out of our job creation strategies; meaning, the public takes a loss from our investments in post-secondary education. Under a user-pay system, the human capital  of debt-bearers is economically articulated in a such a way that it cannot reach its full potential. The indebtedness of graduates reduces the positive externalities of post-secondary education as a public economic good. Think of the public servants, insurance agents, call centre workers, and delivery drivers who have university education, hate their jobs, and may be sitting on a brilliant business idea, with the potential to create Canadian jobs.

A thriving creative economy does not saddle students with debt. While I personally advocate the elimination of tuition fees and a national strategy for program offerings, I understand those changes can only be achieved over time.

Today, I write to you to suggest a student debt forgiveness fund for Canadian entrepreneurs. Canadians need a policy mechanism to liberate the best ideas from the latent pool of innovation that is educated indebted workers. I suggest that a fund be established for entrepreneurs with student loans and lines of credit that repays significant portions (ideally all) of student debt once the viability of an entrepreneurial venture is verified by a standardized metric (ex. capital raising threshold, accurate forecasts, manageable business plan).

Minister Kenney, if your Conservative government can find 5 million dollars a year during a period of austerity for a new Office of Religious Freedom, you can surely find a generous budget for a student debt forgiveness fund for Canadian entrepreneurs.



Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Rip in my Flag. #NBProChoice

I just moved to a new place in Ottawa, and I realized my New Brunswick Flag got torn in the process. This imagery and a long overdue morning to write finally inspired me to say something about the appalling erosion reproductive choice in my home province.

The rip.
Abortion is a personal decision. If you oppose the idea of a fetus being aborted in principle, I welcome you to join me on calling on the government to better assist those who find themselves with unintended pregnancies through child care, education, and direct financial support. It is only through making pregnancy and parenthood more reasonable in today's economic climate that parents will choose against abortion.

The closure of the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton will disenfranchise thousands of women in the Maritimes. Beyond the irrefutable autonomy rights claims, access to abortion is necessary for creating equal opportunity for women's economic participation.

Social policy is how jurisdictions state their values publicly; Alward's Progressive Conservatives have written classism, sexism, and ignorance into New Brunswick's present. These differ greatly from the values of compassion, justice, and innovation my family and schools taught me. The social policy corollary New Brunswickers need is one that meaningfully expands opportunities for people to develop, not just extractive industries.

The reality of New Brunswick is that our talent pool flows west. Many of our professional workers study and settle in Quebec and Ontario, while skilled labour migrates further west and north. For those of us ex-pats who have grown homesick and ever plotted a return to the Picture Province, the closure of the Morgentaler Clinic is a startling disincentive.

I would love to find a good job in New Brunswick, move home, and start making my Northumberland Strait beach house more reality than dream. But why would I choose to raise a daughter under a policy that tells her she doesn't know what's best for her body and future? Where if she was forcibly impregnated, she'd need the permission of two doctors to abort her rapist's fetus.

The transience of talent is a problem that New Brunswick cannot ignore. The province must attract talented people through strong communities, generous social supports, and unique opportunities for personal and business development. Barriers to abortion are an unjust and unwise affront to progress. It's 2014, there is no excuse for abortion to be anything other than safe, free, and legal.