Breaking down Canadian politics
Chloe Arbutina, president of the Laurier Campus Conservatives, discussed the current Conservative government’s policies and initiatives. The Campus Conservatives are working to build a broader membership base and spread awareness on politics and current events.
Despite their role as the governing party, the Conservatives do not have full power due to the constrictions of a minority government. “The good thing about that is it keeps the government focused … it keeps all the parties working together.
“Some problems that we faced is the issue of things not being able to get through as quickly as we’d like.”
To combat the recession, Arbutina noted that the Conservatives have contributed direct tax relief, including tax credits, and have increased spending to develop the country’s infrastructure.
The employment insurance policy is also undergoing revision. “EI is extremely important, but it’s not a lasting solution to the economic crisis.”
To support post-secondary education, the Knowledge Infrastructure Program (KIP) was developed as a short-term investment with long-term benefits.
“Canada’s investment in higher education, in research and development, is the highest in the G7 now, which is something we’re really proud of.”
In addition to the KIP, Arbutina spoke on the investment in student grant programs that “helps students who are from middle income families that aren’t necessarily eligible for OSAP but still need financial assistance.”
On June 2, the federal government, along with the province of Ontario, put forward $10.5 billion to bailout General Motors. “The GM bailout, it was a regrettable but a necessary decision.
“The US bailout forced us to do it as well, because if we didn’t support this restructuring of General Motors, it would have been restructured outside of Canada. This would have had devastating results for thousands of jobs in so many communities.”
“[The environment] is something that is important regardless of whether you’re in a recession or not.
“There’s tougher new fuel emissions standards. We’re implementing this four years earlier than we had originally planned.” Arbutina also explained that they would be focusing on new clean energy strategies and companies that could implement those strategies.
Measures have been taken to address the effects of the recession in the global community. “We recently put more funds into the World Bank for the aid of developing countries…. We’re helping with infrastructure and education all over Afghanistan for example.”
Arbutina also acknowledged the threat of a Buy American clause. “In any recession there is huge pressure to be protectionist, but when countries do this it’s the developing countries that get hit the worst, so we’re continuing to always fight against that.”
President of the WLU Young Liberals Nick Gibson expressed the views of the official opposition. The Young Liberals are entering a re-launching year on campus to develop a greater presence and promote positive politics. The group acts as a forum to connect with liberals on campus, in south-western Ontario and in the entire province.
As the the party with the second highest number of seats in Parliment, the Liberals are the official opposition party of Canada.
“The problem is feeling that you’re always in that election hysteria…. It’s difficult sometimes to legitimately look like you’re trying to put good policies through without looking like you’re trying to provoke an election.”
The Liberal party is looking for a national standard for employment insurance in order to get money to those who need to spend it immediately.
“Unfortunately, at this point the employment insurance policy was made for a different time; it wasn’t made for recession times.”
Gibson highlighted the Liberal’s support of KIP. “If we want to have the jobs of tomorrow we have to equip the people with the knowledge and skills today.”
He also noted the lack of support in social science research. “We think that the social sciences are just as important as business … and we hope that both proposals that go forward get the funding.”
“We support the bailout in principle.” The mass job losses associated with GM’s failure are an issue the Liberals are working to prevent.
“There’s many things in terms of where this money is going, how and what sort of shares we’re going to be having in our company and where are we going to get our returns. We want to see this transparency.”
“If we want to repeat the same mistakes that we have done for many, many years, including industrial waste, we’re going to find that we’re not going to have any economic growth.
“If we want to move forward we want to make sure that the economy and the environment are working together.”
Although the party is promoting emission reduction, Gibson explained that the carbon tax would not be a pursued policy given the negative feedback from its previous campaign.
“We have to look to see if we can start relieving some of the debts for some of the countries that are having absolute economic failure.
“We can’t allow these countries to be paying interest all the time and not being able to pay for essential services.”
In relation to the United States, Gibson said that strong advocacy for the protection of the NAFTA agreement is needed to maintain healthy trade economy and to support Canada’s export industries.
Currently, the Laurier Activist New Democrats is not an active group on campus. Morgan Alan, a second-year political science student at WLU, volunteered to discuss the New Democrat Party and their platform regarding current Canadian issues.
The NDP has been given a greater opportunity to support the progressive voice of Canadians in the minority government. “The opportunities provided in a minority government is that the NDP holds the balance in power where, along with the Bloc as well, any decisions that have been made has to be passed by them.”
“There is no quick fix solution for the economy…. We need to invest in long term solutions.”
Alan explained that the NDP supports the restructuring of employment insurance. “It’s regular people like ourselves who literally cannot find a job.”
“Its not a good idea to have the EI covered by a Crown corporation as proposed by the Conservative government…. The people who should be reaping the benefits of EI should be the workers themselves and the people who are actually receiving it.”
“Infrastructure in relations to post-secondary education is good as a long-term solution in providing the structures to ensure the future growth.”
Short-term support for institutions and students still needs to be improved according to Alan.
“Specifically, providing more grants and bursaries to students and re-examining the way we are doing student loans.”
“People who have worked at GM their entire lives, now, they literally do not know what to do anymore because they don’t have a job and they have a family to provide for.” Alan said that the bailout funds must be properly managed. “It should go into more long-term goals, a new revenue model, low emissions cars … not the pockets of CEOs.”
“The environment is more important than it’s ever been because of all the crossover between the environment and every other way we can get out of this recession.”
“One of the plans is to implement a carbon tax, which is a good idea, it was just sold horribly previously.” Supporting green jobs related to clean energy and low emission cars is also part of the NDP mandate.
“Canada has always had a reputation as peace keepers, peace builders around the world, a reputation that has been eroding over the past several years.”
Canada’s role in the international community is one that Alan says needs to reflect a culture of peace keeping. “It should be in providing development aid, providing disaster relief aid; that should be our priority.”
“With relation to NAFTA, we have to make sure that the interest of Canadians are still being protected, specifically in a more economic sense in our sovereignty of our energy and our water.”
The Laurier Campus Greens represent the growing power of the Green Party of Canada. President of the club Griffin Carpenter discussed the party’s policies including environmental advocacy. The Laurier Campus Greens launched three years ago and has proudly submitted two passing policies at the Green Party convention.
Although the Green Party failed to secure any seats in the House of Commons, the current minority government has still benefited the party. Other parties are becoming aware with the increasing support for the Greens that Canadians want politicians to address environmental issues.
“You don’t waste a good crisis.”
“The Green Party advocates for building a green economy…. an economy based on renewable energies and sustainable communities.”
A proposal in February was made for changes to EI. “The problem with it is … about access because most Canadians don’t qualify right now. “
Carpenter supported the KIP initiative but noted that more funding is needed. “We’re moving to a knowledge-based economy, and most of the new jobs that are being created are based around knowledge. University is the place where you learn these skills.
“The Green Party is the only major party to oppose the GM auto bailout. If it’s about stimulating the economy, GM is not a good company to do that.”
Carpenter suggested funding homegrown Zen Automotives, which develops electric cars.
Concerning the job losses at GM, Carpenter noted the issue of severe job losses hitting the forestry industry in Western Canada that have been ignored.
“There seems to be a lack of geographical justice. Politics seems to be mattering more than the actual affects of the recession.”
Addressing climate change is the key principle underlying the policies of the Green party.
“Besides the green stimulus plan, the most important policy change in addressing climate change is for the government to put a price on carbon.”
To put carbon taxes into perspective, Carpenter discussed the taxes implemented on cigarettes.
“The government is going to tax those who incur those costs…. We need to be responsible for the damages that we are doing.”
“We have a moral obligation to provide for those countries that are suffering from our carbon emissions and our oil addiction.”
According to Carpenter the green stimulus plan would support an increase in consumption and promote the global economy. Forgiving the debts of developing nations is also necessary to redirect their spending for national development.
Carpenter spoke in opposition of protectionist policies. “The government should be working closely with American administration to relieve any of those calls of ‘Buy American.’”