The Education Of Neil: Adventures In Step-Parenting

The names have been changed to protect the innocent, and the not so innocent.

By the time they came into my life I had mostly given up on the idea of having children. After an unsuccessful marriage I had modified my wants and expectations of how life was going to proceed going forward. However, when you make plans life often laughs at you and gets ready to either throw you a curve ball or a cream filled pie. My kids were both the best curve balls ever thrown at me.

Never a sports analogy left unsaid. But hey, I am a guy – let me stick with what I know.

I would like to think that I hit that curve ball out of the park and ran the bases jubilantly while the crowds cheered. It turns out that I am still at bat after fouling off the 11,372 pitch. But aren’t the ones that you foul off the best stories in life? I mean how many good stories go ‘Well, everything happened the way it was meant with no problems or unexpected events, and blah blah blah happily ever after…”

Happily ever after isn’t often a straight line, and isn’t always what we initially conceptualize as happily ever after. There are so many gifts that they have both brought me, and one of those gifts are a happily ever after that never imagined I would know. “Happily ever after” is such an inadequate statement to be honest. Life goes on, as do the lessons, as do the growing list of memories and most importantly – the stories. As I have gotten older, stories are how I have come to measure time. They are how I explain myself to the world. Do not judge me on what you see, judge me by my experiences and by how I communicate those experiences.

These are stories about my step-children…you know what, f&%k the whole “step” thing. I feel that they are as much a part of me whether they are my biological children are not. The worry, concern, and love that I feel for them knows no labels. It is one of those annoying distinctions that we have to make to society, because society needs those labels. It also has to do with a conscious effort that I made from the start to never try to replace their father, or have them perceive that – because I am not. I considered myself to be a bonus parent who can be highly entertaining, educational, and annoying at the same time.

I never realized how different two children could be. For the sake of keeping their embarrassment levels as low as possible, I will refer to them as “DFF” and “16”. When I first met DFF (means Double Full Full – an inside joke) when he was 14. We bonded easily over watching the Vancouver Olympics – especially watching aerial and freestyle skiing. We would often make up new names for tricks and began turning the volume off and commentating ourselves, saying things like “look at so and so, coming into land the double full full with McWaffle twist!” We then bonded further watching David Caruso super cuts on YouTube, Charlie Sheen’s public breakdown, and some very inappropriate stand up comedy. I am sure his Mom wondered what the hell I was doing, but she trusted me and knew that I was looking for ways to get to know him. DFF made me feel welcome from the very first day, we had the ability to communicate honestly from day one.

Then there was the other one, “16”.

I was a rambunctious child. As I have written earlier, I was a prank loving little rogue. My mother always told me that I was someday going to receive a karmic parenting bill that would make me reconsider the folly of my youth. Little did I know that my karmic comeuppance was going to come in the form of a headstrong, precocious, and wise beyond her years 7 year old.

I had yet to witness the rage that could be mustered by an angry 8 year old, but one day during our first winter together I made the mistake of laughing at her while she was angrily making a point about me preparing dinner too early. After she unleashed a scream at me that shook the wine glasses in the kitchen, she proceeded to turn from a 55 pound eight year old into a 300 pound gorilla while running up the stairs, making sure that I heard every step before stomping around more and slamming her bedroom door. I am certain that she proceeded to make a voodoo doll of me, but I never found out for sure. DFF gave me that ‘why did you have to poke the bear” look while we both stood in stunned silence. It was something that I never wanted to witness again, and understood a valuable lesson about 16 that day, do not laugh at or with an angry eight year old girl. ever.

There was the time that I learned the difference between parental worry and the perception of childhood fun, and that the two can be one in the same. I offered to help organize 16’s eighth birthday party. There is a public zoo where we live with public use gazebos that are first come first serve. It was a Friday afternoon in the summer, and I found an unoccupied prime location gazebo for us to use. Only a few minutes after claiming our space I almost got into a fist fight with a group who claimed that they had seen it first, a true birthday cake Mexican standoff. After running them off, I left my father to stand guard while I got the ice cream cake that she asked for, and to gather the supplies. I spent the day in a state of full on 100% anxiety as I worried about the ice cream cake melting, that we didn’t have enough refreshments, that the pinata didn’t break, that it was too hot for the kids – all while the kids were in full on fun mode, and that they were oblivious to the potential disasters of party planning. It was my first true lesson in adulting being a total killjoy.

I remember how we quickly developed our own language for everyday situations like “Is your seat belt on?” being replaced by “Meep meep? Meep Meep” and “Good night, I love you” being replaced with “Narf narf”. I understood the consternation that she sometimes felt, that she felt a loyalty to her father and how that loyalty may have caused conflict for a young girl who was trying to understand the new realities of her new familial situation. I understood more than others as I was an ACOD (a child of divorce) too. I could always tell when she was experiencing the inner struggle and confusion that an ACOD often experiences, and tried my hardest not push her, or DFF.

There were the parenting wins that would make me feel Machiavellian, like when I convinced 16 to eat my homemade meatloaf by calling it a giant meatball. I am sure she knew I was full of shit, but she appreciated the attempt at deceiving her. DFF and 16 lived through the growing pains of me learning how to cook, and that every recipe in the beginning involved chicken. 16 had a way of using shame to prod me into expanding my cooking comfort level. Some of our best times involved cooking or baking together, and we even have a cooking tradition of listening to Nelson Riddle era Frank Sinatra albums as we cook that continues today.

There were the awkward times, like when I took 16 as a 13 year old to go bra shopping and how truly awful walking around LaSenza and the training bra sections of American Eagle and Old Navy can be. It actually ended with us making the agreement to stop, go buy a smoothie, and to never discuss it ever again.

There were the difficult times that I do not wish to rehash here, or the times when my sense of discipline had to be updated from my childhood experience. There were the times that we stood screaming at each other on opposite sides of a door, and the times that we couldn’t find common ground with each other. Those times were few and far between however. I would like to say that those disagreements were never my fault, but that would be a lie. I always was able to admit when I made a mistake to both DFF and 16, and I can tell that they always appreciated it.

The hospital visits, PA days, scraped knees, visits to the dentist, sick days, and ups and downs of family life have given us an earned trust and history that have helped us forge our own distinct relationship together. As I look back, I miss the days that 16 stayed home “sick” and I would either call in sick myself or “work” from home, and we would binge watch Hannah Montana or Lizzie McGuire together. There is nothing more amazing than looking at the world through the eyes of child, or being allowed briefly into their worlds as a parent. I have never been as proud and as terrified as the day she chose me to tell about the young man that she had met at school and would be going to lunch with. Perhaps 16 saw me as the easier mark between her Mom and I. I get the feeling that it was more, and I loved being in the loop. In fact, she is now that main editor of what I write here. I cannot wait to see her reaction to this post.

I am not trying to diminish or minimize the relationship that I have with DFF, relationships between fathers and sons will always be different than the relationships fathers have with daughters. My experience with my own father and my stepfather tells me that age and shared life experience will bring us even closer together. My father and I saved the best for last in our relationship.

Even though I have had less time with DFF, and met him later in his development, I take no less pride or joy in the road trips with David Bowie and Ralph and Kevin that we have shared, taking him to his first Blue Jays game, and the many other memories that we have made together. Some of those stories will be for another time and place however.

16 made me work for it, she watched me with a hawk eye while she decided whether I was a worthy addition to her family. She, like her Mom, has always held me to a higher standard that involved a steep learning curve as a new parent in my early 30’s. I am hoping that after all this time, 16 now sees me as a keeper.

How can one say thank you to children without embarrassing them. To say thank you for giving me something that I never thought that I would get to experience. To thank them for helping me find a level of happiness that can only be experienced by carrying a sleeping seven year old to bed in your arms, or being the one that they wake up when they are scared in the middle of the night. The happiness that comes from meeting the first boy that your daughter brings home.

They have allowed me to feel that sense of pride and love that is experienced when giving a speech at your son’s wedding, or having him stand as my best man when I married his mother. The privilege of tying his tie for his prom, and talking to him on the phone when he told us that he was getting married. The joy of having his beautiful wife SDIL (Step Daughter In Law) join our family, and fit so seamlessly that it feels like she was always there.

Words cannot express the profound impact that the two of you (now three) have had on me, or how I truly came to life when you came into my life.

All I can do at this point is hold on and enjoy the memories that my rapidly increasing perception of time are bringing. To remember to enjoy every single moment. To savor every little victory. To be the voice of reason or shoulder to cry on when life gets the better of them, and to be the same rock of foundation or safe harbor that my parents gave me when I needed it.

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Of Tony Toni Tone And Tales Of Being A 417 Bubble Boy

I feel like Ottawa politics has turned into an episode of The Brady Bunch, with partisan pol Jan screaming “Tony, Tony, Tony!” It is so indicative of life in the bubble on Parliament Hill.

16 (my step-daughter) once asked what working in politics was like, and all I could think of was the scene in ‘The Lion In Winter’ when Geoffrey says “You fool! As if it matters how a man falls down.” To which Richard replies: “When the fall’s all that’s left, it matters a great deal.” It was such an obscure reference, yet one that has always came to mind about my time there.

I went into political work like an overly-idealistic Sam Seaborn from The West Wing, that I was in the magical kingdom of decision making complete with long walk and talk scenes reminiscent of an Aaron Sorkin drama. I left learning the meaning of pragmatism, the wrong kind of compromise, and that low level staffers are meant to be seen and not heard. I wasn’t important, nor did I think I was, but I decided at that point in my life that public service was a higher calling that we should all experience at one time.

There was a lot of good that came out of my time working on Parliament Hill, like making a few life long friends. It truly taught me how to debate and sharpened my political instincts. There was a lot of static working for a political party in Ottawa, and the signal to noise ratio was intense. The only way that you could be heard or be noticed was to be really good at what you did, and to know the issues inside and out. I had to learn to assert myself and when to shut my mouth. Sadly, I never really was good at the latter.

Although the bursting of the bubble is a right of passage, the fall still hurt. I will never stop believing in the politics of optimism, and that there is no greater calling than public service. I just came to realize that my fight was best made outside of the political bubble. I also realized that I may have been too politically rough and tumble for a place of employment that required more diplomacy than I was capable of providing.

I would like to share a few stories about my time on Parliament Hill. One is a Tony Clement story. The other is why I respect Justin Trudeau and always will.

First of all, bizarre stories about Tony Clement and women on social media were well known. I personally heard from at least three female friends who told me about Tony Clement clicking like on bikini pictures from Cuban vacations or other candid pictures that they thought may be somewhat inappropriate considering he was a married man approaching 50. There were late night Facebook messages sent, or DMs on Twitter – but what were they supposed to do? They were young women who were low level staffers and he was a cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s inner circle. That is what bothers me so much about this story. To me its an abuse of power, and I will forever regret not speaking up. I feel that I failed my friends. What we laughed about then seems so inappropriate now. But I digress.

Here is my funny Tony Clement story. I was walking with my good friend Denise. Denise was a true star. Smart, funny, exuberant, and everyone who came into contact with her felt it. I was walking with her outside the PMO and Privy Council building (formerly known as the Langevin Block) when we crossed paths with Tony Clement, Denise says too loudly, “Hey that’s Tony Clement!” and Tony stops, approaches us, and tells her that if he had a pen he would give us an autograph. He then asked Denise if she was on Facebook. She responded that as a Mennonite she didn’t believe in the internet, which was a total lie. We both almost pissed ourselves laughing after he walked away, and she commented that he was a creep. True story.

The other was my first interaction with Justin Trudeau. I have been lucky to have met Prime Minister Trudeau on a few occasions, he is a very humble and kind person. He connects on a personal level with each person he meets. I have seen many politicians politicking but he is easily one of the greatest retail politicians that I have ever seen. When I was a lowly Liberal Party staffer in 2009, licking my wounds and dusting myself off after a brutal divorce, there was a St. Patrick’s Day event at a nearby pub after work. I am sure to those around me it was obvious that I was working through things, but that day he took the time to sit down and give me a little pep talk. He was a new MP, he didn’t have to do anything. That’s who Justin Trudeau is to me and I will never forget that small act of kindness.

Politics were the best of times and the worst of times, especially being on the losing side, but it was never boring. Every morning walking to work in the shadow of the Parliament Buildings was a thrill that I will never forget.

The Love Ballad Of Andrew Scheer And Hamish Marshall (In The Key Of Rebel Media)

“Call me Stephen Harper with a smile” Andrew Scheer

There is one truism about the Conservative Party of Canada under Andrew Scheer. It may be Andrew Scheer’s smile, but it is still the party of Stephen Harper. I am not here to beat up on Stephen Harper however, who has been sent to the historical and electoral waste bin already, but to talk about the foundation of deceit that Andrew Scheer himself is built on.

Lets look beyond that doughy awe shucks smile, and that weak quivering voice that sounds like a prepubescent boy when he asks questions in the House of Commons, and look at the little man behind the Andrew Scheer curtain: Hamish Marshall.

Who is Hamish Marshall and why should we care about him? Hamish Marshall ran Andrew Scheer’s successful leadership for the Conservative Party of Canada, and is now a top adviser to Andrew Scheer and is campaign manager for the Conservative Party for the 2019 election. He is the person responsible for Andrew Scheer and the CPC’s messaging.

I get it. This story has already been told, but it has been woefully under-reported by Canadian media. I will shout it from the rooftops if I have to.

Media already loves Hamish Marshall, to them he seems like a swell guy. I mean, how can a guy who looks like the president of your high school’s math club be evil, right?

By all accounts, Hamish is a smart person who has built winning campaigns in the past for conservatives all over Canada. But like with Scheer, looking beyond the smile establishes something much darker.

Hamish Marshall helped found the Rebel Media. That should be the first sentence in any media story about Hamish Marshall. The Rebel Media, for those of you who have not been properly introduced is Canada’s even trashier sister-wife to Breitbart. Rebel Media is the bastard love child of Ezra Levant and Brian Lilley that has given rise and a platform to the most notorious white supremacists and hate speech aficionados in Canada such as Faith GoldyLaura Loomer, Lauren Southern, and Gavin McInnes. This is the all-star team for the racist alt-right, whose Fisher Price fascism training wheels were given to them by Rebel Media, and by association – Hamish Marshall.

The Rebel Media. Here are the Rebel Media’s greatest hits.

Certain members of the media say that Hamish Marshall had nothing to do with the editorial direction of Rebel Media – that was all Brian Lilley and Ezra Levant.

But let me ask you this. Someone is building a guillotine and needs your help, so you register yourself as a director of Guillotine Corp, help them create the business plan, help plan strategy, help market the Guillotine, and then help hire those who will use the guillotine – doesn’t that make you somewhat complicit for how the guillotine is used?

It is hard to say exactly what Hamish Marshall’s role at Rebel Media was, but here is Hamish Marshall himself discussing how his Torch Agency used NationBuilder to help launch Rebel Media, and another post speaking on behalf of Rebel Media promoting Zype.

Yes, Hamish Marshall is no longer part of the Rebel Media board and has allegedly cut ties with Rebel Media and Ezra Levant. However Hamish Marshall is still listed as a partner of 2 not for profit political advocacy groups, The Joseph Howe Institute and For Canada.

How does this tie to Andrew Scheer exactly? Well Hamish Marshall ran his campaign for leadership of the CPC from Rebel Media offices. Andrew Scheer was promoted by Rebel Media while running for the CPC leader.

During the campaign Andew Scheer appeared with Ezra Levant

And with Faith Goldy

Here is Rebel Media celebrating his CPC leadership victory.

When looking at a political leader we have to also look at who the leader is beholden to, or how they came to power, and there is now no denying the fact that Andrew Scheer is beholden to the Rebel Media and their supporters for his leadership victory. That is terrifying. We have a direct link between an alt-right website and the potential Prime Minister of Canada.

But again, what does Hamish Marshall have to do with this? With Hamish Marshall now directing the 2019 Conservative campaign from the Opposition Leader’s office, the Conservative Party will lean heavily on Rebel Media’s trademark efforts to microtarget potential voters on an issue-by-issue basis. The very methods that Hamish Marshall perfected with his Torch Agency and Rebel Media will now be used by the Conservative Party to politicize wedge issues to create division for their benefit. They already have.

Hamish Marshall has not been shy about this. Here he is discussing the use of building detailed psychological profiles of Canadian voters and targeting them with personalized political messages.

It is eerily similar to how Cambridge Analytica – a data analytics firm once run by Steve Bannon, used data mining to help create sophisticated psychological and political profiles of voters to help engineer the election of Donald Trump and the “Yes” vote in Brexit.

According to Justin Ling, the Conservative Party has been leveraging its email list to direct supporters to microsites set up around a specific campaign, complete with their own social posts (like the suggested tweet “Did Justin Trudeau work with Khadr’s lawyers to time the payment while the Prime Minister was out of the country?”) petitions, and donation forms. The Rebelization of Conservative Party of Canada has been completed.

There is a very dark and insidious element to this style of politics that runs counter to Andrew Scheer’s claim of being “Stephen Harper with a smile.”  In fact, it shows that the Conservative Party of Andrew Scheer is the same party that Stephen Harper lead, but even darker. If that is possible.

Its pretty much the same Conservative Party of Canada, but with even more undeniable links to the alt-right and white supremacy.

To quote Pete Townsend, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” I just hope that Canadians won’t get fooled again.

 

The Tony Clement Self Pity Tour And Peep Show

This story about Tony Clement bothers me on a few levels.

For those hiding under rock or lost in the US mid-term election drama, Tony Clement has resigned his House of Commons duties after being caught up in an extortion attempt after sending highly inappropriate pictures and videos to someone who he thought was a consenting adult. Tony Clement was an Ontario Cabinet Minister under Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, and a Federal Cabinet minister under Stephen Harper. He held multiple cabinet positions in many governments and was a leadership candidate for the Conservatives Party of Canada on 2 occasions. He is as experienced a politician in Canada as there is.

One of the more troubling aspects of this story is that Tony Clement is a member of the top secret national security and intelligence committee — a special joint parliamentary committee composed of MPs and senators that oversees the work of the country’s intelligence agencies, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Communications Security Establishment, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency. Now we find out that he has put himself in a position to be extorted by a foreign resident.

Are you fucking serious? This man who we trust with our highest national security clearance and oversees our national intelligence agencies cannot control himself, or realize that the consequences of his actions could have been catastrophic for our national security.

On a personal level. I have had experience working on parliament hill, in the national office of a political party, in constituency offices, and on more than one national campaign. This type of behavior that Tony Clement exhibited was far too prevalent in political culture in Ottawa. I have personally met Tony Clement, and witnessed a few negative interactions between Tony Clement and political staffers and media. I heard rumours of weird interactions between young staffers and Tony on social media. I personally got a very weird vibe from him, and know others who have described his behavior as “creepy”. I was blocked on Twitter by Tony Clement for telling him this.

He should know better. But men like him, white men who have power and influence often cannot help themselves. They feel they are owed it, they feel it is their right to act in any manner that they feel is appropriate.

Look at the sexual harassment scandal that is currently engulfing Doug Ford’s Ontario Conservatives. According to them, Jim Wilson is just a nice man who has substance abuse issues. Never mind that the day he “resigned” he traveled with Doug Ford to a number of announcements. Never mind that he is accused of sexually preying on men in his office. They forgot to mention that in the press release announcing his “resignation”. If Doug Ford really cared he would have fired Jim Wilson into the sun, forced his resignation as MP, and have informed the public of the real reasons.

Now we get to pay Jim Wilson’s salary as he gets to “recover”. Hiding Jim Wilson and refusing to comment has historical parallels to the bad old days when the Catholic Church would just send Priests accused of misconduct to new parishes. No, I am not accusing or inferring that Jim Wilson is sexual predator in any way.  I am not trying to be hyperbolic here. I am saying that trying to mitigate stories of sexual harassment and impropriety has the potential to have a negative historical impact, and a negative impact on the victims themselves. I am also saying that the political establishment will almost always try to protect the transgressor rather than investigate the transgression because of what it might find. They want to send him away to get political cover, and for the spin machine to start and for the crisis PR firms to be called in. That is unless we the people force them to shine that light inward.

Get ready for the spin and narrative that the Andrew Scheer conservatives will try sell Canadians. “He is a good family man who made a one time mistake, we are giving him time and space through this difficult time to concentrate on his family…blah blah, fucking blah.” They wont discuss the actions, but rather the extortion or the blackmail. They will use slight of hand to paint Tony Clement as a victim of the extortionist rather than the see the irresponsible behavior and lack of self control by Tony Clement that caused the extortion in the first place. They will try to avoid the broader conversation of how a number of young women on Twitter and Instagram have similar stories about Tony Clement that I once heard on Parliament hill. This is no coincidence.

 

 

 

These are just 3 people brave enough to share there stories. These are just the first of many.

And of course, Andrew Scheer was quick to dismiss this as a one time event. His is the stock answer of all white conservative men in a position of power. Lets believe the harasser. It makes Andrew Scheer complicit in what we all know is going to come next. No, this isn’t the first time he has sent naked pictures or flirted with women on social media, it will come out and you will look once again like a weak leader, and an even weaker person.

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For me, as the father to a teenage daughter, it hits home. The thought that Tony Clements are out there ready to prey is terrifying.

This isn’t a matter of partisanship. This is a man in a position of power and influence with a history of harassing young women on a number of social media platforms who decided to come clean when only when possibly jeopardizing his finances and reputation. Never mind the effect his behavior could have had on those who have been on the receiving end of pictures, suggestive comments, or flirtations from one of Canada’s most powerful politicians. Never mind that it could have effected our national security. I find it sickening.

Its not like we didn’t see this coming…

***Update 2:21 pm, Tony Clement was resigned from the CPC caucus. I am sure it is the same voluntary resignation that we often saw on the Sopranos. The only question is why it took so long? Because only 3 hours ago Scheer was giving Clement the dreaded vote of confidence. I am certain that this story will keep growing. That was not a pun.

 

Conservative Memory Lane Has Dementia

The best part of being a conservative it seems is not remembering the recent past.

“It’s 2018, not 1984! Why are the Trudeau Liberals using Orwellian techniques to harvest your private banking information?” Dan Albas, Conservative MP.

The Harper government was one of the worst governments in Canadian history when it came to breaching the privacy of Canadian citizens. In fact, in 2015 the Privacy commissioner appointed by Stephen Harper, Daniel Therrien said “On the whole, all of the bills discussed here are tied together by a common thread. Each will increase the power of the government and its agents to collect, use and share our personal information without our knowledge or consent, and without a commensurate increase in oversight or independent review to help to assure these powers are not misused or abused.”

While the Conservative Party of Canada is having its little outrage cosplay festival regarding Statistics Canada, perhaps it can explain the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act (SCISA) — which allowed every federal institution to share personal information collected from Canadians 17 specifically federal departments and agencies.

The Privacy Commissioner himself stated that legislation put forward by the Harper government that allowed for what he called “dangerous amounts of government surveillance” — and identifying the flaws in those laws will be an ongoing focus of his office in the “months and years to come.”

How quickly they forget.

“Justin Trudeau is failing the Canadian Economy.” Andrew Scheer, Conservative Leader.

Take a walk with me from 1993-2015. Lets take a brief look at our recent economic past. We were in a seriously bad economic position left to Canadians by the Mulroney government.

The federal debt under the Liberals was reduced by $90 billion from 1993-2006; the debt burden fell from 66.6 per cent in 1994-95 to 31.4 per cent in 2006-07. To accomplish this, the Liberals implemented a temporary capital tax on large deposit taking institutions, a higher tax on large corporations, a temporary corporate surtax; and higher excise taxes on gasoline and tobacco products. There were ZERO personal tax increases.

Yes, initially the Liberals did cut transfer payments to the provinces. When the budget was balanced, The Liberals introduced a 10-year plan which put the major transfers to the provinces on a sustainable and growing rate. In 2000, with the deficit eliminated and with no interest rate risk, the Liberal government implemented the largest personal and corporate income tax reduction in Canadian history. This fueled our economy, even with the tech bubble bursting in 2001. We managed to avoid the recession that hit most countries post 9/11.

In 2006, Harper Government inherited a surplus of $13.8 billion — which they turned into a deficit of $5.8 billion within two years. They remained in deficit each year, creating a structural deficit. In 2009-10, the deficit reached its peak of 3.5 per cent of GDP. Under Stephen Harper, the net federal debt increased by over $150 billion, wiping out the total reduction in federal debt achieved under Chretien and Martin. Even with a global economic downturn this was an inexplicable and unnecessary increase.

Under the Harper Government, after 2006, economic growth declined in every year after 2010 and averaged only 1.7 per cent per year. In the previous nine years under Chretien/Martin, economic growth averaged 3.4 per cent per year. As of January 2015: the unemployment rate was higher than at the end of 2008. Labour force participation rate was lower than in 2008. The youth unemployment rate was higher than at the end of 2008. Full-time and manufacturing jobs fell substantially 2008-2015. From 2008-2015 we created jobs at far lower rate than the other G7 countries. Post 2015, the share of total employment made up of full-time jobs was less than in 2008 — and the quality of jobs had sunk to its lowest level in a quarter of a century.

All of this despite the largest accumulation of net national debt over a 7 year period in Canadian history. What is left to show for it. Name one legacy Stephen Harper economic achievement.

Credit is mistakenly given to Stephen Harper for his steady hand during the global economic downturn of 2008-09, but the truth is the decisions made under the Jean Chretien government were the ones that saved the Canadian economy. All the Harper government did was take credit for the stability that the economic decisions made by the Chretien/Martin governments gave us – including stopping Canadian banks from merging. When his hand was forced by the opposition he emulated the stimulus plan Bob Rae used in Ontario in the 90’s. Not one original idea.

We aren’t stupid, the only legacy of failure that I can see here is yours, Andrew Scheer.

Oh, and about the economy under the Trudeau Liberals. The Government of Canada recently released its annual financial report. Lets take a look at a few key points.

Federal interest costs as a share of GDP are at its lowest level today since before the Great Depression.

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The Canadian economy was remarkably strong in 2017, growing at a pace well above that of all other Group of Seven (G7) countries, and at its strongest pace since 2011. Canada added 427,300 jobs in 2017, leading the unemployment rate to fall to 5.8% in December 2017—matching its lowest recorded level in over 40 years. According to IMF, Canada’s total government net debt-to-GDP ratio stands at 27.8% and is the lowest of any of the G7 countries. Canada’s nominal GDP grew 5.4% in 2017, up from 2.0% in 2016.

You call this failure?

Canada’s Federal Debt Percentage to GDP has fallen each year under the Liberal Government as compared to the Conservative Governments under Stephen Harper.

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A large portion of deficit carried by the Trudeau Government in 2015/2016 was caused by incorrect projections in the previous Conservative budget. The 2014/2015 oil slowdown created a $70B shortfall from Budget 2015 projections to 2016 GDP. That created $12B shift in the budget as per the report.

Creating a failure based narrative based on the economic record of the Trudeau government is not in any way supported by facts with Canada’s current economic reality.

These are only two examples of Conservative sloganeering not matching their past record nor Canada’s current realities. Remember that the past performance and historical record of a political party or politician is the best indicator of what their future policies and actions will be. You cannot claim to be an economic steward when your past record shows you to have been a failure, and you cannot claim to be a defender of privacy when your past record shows you to be the opposite.

I have a saying when listening to proclamations and promises made by today’s Conservative Party of Canada: Laugh once, think twice.

Beware the Carbon Tax A-Tax!

It is an economic principal so simple that my 16 year old daughter figured it out in less than a minute.

  1. Set a price on pollution.
  2. Industries have a choice to reduce the emissions, or pay the carbon tax.
  3. Extra costs passed on to consumers by price increases.
  4. Carbon tax revenue is given back to households directly via tax rebate to offset higher costs.
  5. Small businesses and households have a price incentive to change their consumption habits, or to buy less pollution intensive goods and services.
  6. Demand increases for clean energy technology and for more efficient products and services. More investment for clean technologies is driven by demand.
  7. Demand for energy efficient and environmentally friendly products shifts carbon intensive industries to adopt lower emissions technologies.
  8. Carbon emissions fall.

Debunking myths. 

There it is. Yes, it is a rather simplistic view of carbon pricing, but no less accurate. We live in the era of the 20 second soundbite, but also in a time of truth decay and alternative facts. The skeptics will say that offering a tax rebate that is revenue neutral offers no incentive to change consumption habits. Well, here is a simple analogy for the alternative facts crowd from Tristan Hopper: “Consider a scenario in which the government places a $5 tax on every bottle of wine and simultaneously hands every Canadian a $5 “rebate cheque” at the end of every day. Sure, Canadians could keep drinking wine with no hit to their bottom line. Or, they could drink beer and have an extra $5 at the end of each week.” Feel free to apply that analogy to any product you like.

“But the $307 tax rebate won’t cover the costs of the carbon tax price increases or my consumption. Doug Ford says that it will cost me $1000!!!” Well I have a math lesson for the alternative facts jet set. (Trigger Warning: anyone triggered by facts may experience rage at what comes next.)

A) Projected Carbon Tax proceeds in Ontario: $1,770,000,000

B) There are 5,169,175 households in Ontario

A/B=?  1,770,000,000/5,169,175

 

$342.41, that doesn’t look like $1000 to me. Facts matter. Or conversely, Doug Ford is a f**king liar, and all that skeptics have is fear and not facts to sell their worldview.

Just to prove the point of what the costs of carbon pricing will be on the average Canadian household with carbon pricing. Here is this amazing study.

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This shows that household costs in 2019 for the carbon tax with electricity factored at $20/tonne is $283.00, the tax rebate is $307 meaning that we get back more money than the carbon tax cost us.

“There is no proof that carbon taxes are an effective tool for cutting emissions!”

Sigh.

I am truly sick and tired of answering this question. To put it simply, anyone who says this is full of shit. End of story. There are thousands of studies. Peer reviewed studies. There is data from the countries that have used carbon taxes.

The truth is, there is data out there, carbon pricing is proven to work. My advice is to get informed, to read all the materials available to us. Get to know the facts and numbers. Numbers do not lie. Yes, people lie, and context matters but knowledge, and application of facts and statistics will always win the debate.

What does this all mean?

This is a complex issue. As irreverent as I can be, I acknowledge this. I am aware that complicated issues open up room for populists and politicians who cater to the lowest common denominator to to use disinformation and deceit to sow fear and distrust.

Lets communicate on their level for a minute. If we do nothing the world as we know it will come to an end, the futures that we have planned for ourselves and for our children will not be possible. The costs of dealing with climate change will overwhelm our financial capacity and take from the ability of our governments to provide even the most basic services. Forget the CPP, EI, and healthcare. I am talking about a dog eat dog world at the most basic levels combined with environmental and ecological disasters as our reality.

Don’t take my word for it either, this very future was just spelled out to us by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

So beware the politician who claims that a carbon tax isn’t necessary to combat climate change without a plan of their own. Beware the naked conservative offering you their clothes. A carbon tax is just a part of what we have to do to change the environmental path that we are on. We need bold leadership, we need a plan, we need facts, we need truth, and we need the will to see this through.

I am in. Are you?

Guest Post By The Girl Who Waited: The Cost Of Hating Kathleen Wynne

(Neil’s note: The Girl Who Waited is an amazing source for progressive news and views on Twitter. She recently came up with a incredible Twitter thread that I asked her to post here.)

The Cost Of Hating Kathleen Wynne 

This is my first time writing on a blog, or posting on one. This is terrifying.

There has been some misunderstanding regarding my post about whether I am attacking NDP supporters, or that it is the fault of the Liberals that Doug Ford won. I am not here to rehash that, or to fight the 2018 Ontario Election again. I am merely discussing what we have lost.

When I say Kathleen Wynne, I am referring to policies that I held dear, the measures that we fought for and have now lost. Doug Ford and the Ontario Conservatives have turned hating progressive politics into a sport, a sport that will have a lasting impact on Ontario and it’s people.

I am talking about the hatred of women, of the poor, of students, of youth, of the abused, of teachers, etc. – you name it. It is the hatred of our social safety net and those who use it. It is the hatred of everything that isn’t conservative ideology or orthodoxy encompassed in one convenient straw person named Kathleen Wynne.

I guess the cost of hating Kathleen Wynne is 210,000 Ontario college students losing their funding.

I guess the cost of hating Kathleen Wynne is minimum wage earners in Ontario losing a $2000 per year income increase. 

I guess the cost of hating Kathleen Wynne is taking away the ability to take time off work if you or your child has been threatened with/experienced sexual, physical, or domestic assault. 

I guess the cost of hating Kathleen Wynne is delaying delivering critically needed, already-budgeted funding to sexual-assault crisis centres across Ontario. 

I guess the cost of hating Kathleen Wynne is cancelling a plan to combat climate change without having a replacement plan prepared, and spending hundreds of million’s of dollars in court to fight the federal government’s plan.

I guess that cost involves the plans being offered to us being called scams and schemes.

I never would have imagined such anti-science garbage and regressive economics being offered in the place of sustainable environmental policy. We have a Premier who doesn’t believe in the fundamental science of climate change claiming that he alone can come up with a plan. Sounds familiar doesn’t it. We have heard that one before.

Time machines do exist, listen to a Conservative – they always want to go backwards.

Thank you for hearing me out.

This is much better than screaming at strangers.

Don’t Chrysler For Me, Argentina

There is some seriously high octane bullshit permeating punditry and the political class in Ottawa about the Chrysler loan write off.

In 2009, The Stephen Harper government gave a loan in the amount of $2.9 billion to Chrysler. This funding from the Harper Government was converted into a 2 percent equity ownership stake (24,615 “Class A Units”) and a $1.6 billion loan and $80 million promissory note (a financial instrument where one party promises to pay a predetermined amount to another party) to “New Chrysler”. The additional $1.3 billion remained as a loan to “Old Chrysler” to help it wind down its operations. The amount loaned was Canada’s proportional share of the total amount required to support “Old Chrysler”, with the balance supplied by the U.S. Treasury. Neither Canada nor the U.S. expected any of the loans to be recovered from “Old Chrysler” but Canada received, as its proportional share, $12 million in interest from this entity, prior to the restructuring.

The Harper Government KNEW the loan was unrecoverable from the very beginning as Industry Canada acknowledged in 2014 in this very report. Rather than acknowledging this, Finance Minister Joe Oliver and Treasury Board President Tony Clement chose to kick that can down the road, as it would have prevented their paper surplus in 2015.

Why did the media in Canada not report these facts in 2009? That a large portion of the funding given to the automakers in the bailout was unrecoverable?

Why did the Harper Government not acknowledge this fact, a write the debt off sooner?

Why does the media in Canada not acknowledge that under bankruptcy laws, the loans given to “Old Chrysler” by Canada cannot be paid off without voiding the bankruptcy agreement itself.

Just like every other mess left by the Stephen Harper government it has been left to the Trudeau Liberals to clean up, to finally make right, what should have been done years before. We had no legal recourse to recovery the money, and we made the loan in 2009 knowing that it would never be recovered. It was time to write this bad debt off.

Today’s Lesson: The Doug Ford War On Those Who Cannot Defend Themselves

We all know that Conservatives hate women. They hate feminism. They are terrified of strong and empowered women. Conservatives also hate the poor, they also hate the mentally ill. They hate weakness, or their definition of it.

But wait, you say. They have women in their government. I mean Lisa MacLeod is a twofer, a woman who identifies as having a mental illness. However, any woman in this government is purely a Stepford conservative whose ambition and ideology is far more important than an obligation to the women of Ontario, or to be a role model to the young women who are watching them closely.

Lesson One: Lets give people cheaper poison.

Firstly, Doug Ford’s signature achievement was making alcohol cheaper with his wildly successful “Buck-A-Beer” initiative. I understand that we cannot look at this in a vacuum alone, but when you look at the cancellation of a planned increase in beer taxes, he is making it cheaper for Ontarians to access alcohol. There is a correlation between alcohol and domestic abuse. I have found well over 100 studies that prove this link. It seems like a logical conclusion to make without even studying the subject.

Lesson Two: Lets take away the hope of those who are already suffering.

Doug ford cut provincial spending on mental health from $525-million annually under the previous Liberal government, to $190 million. That represents a cut of $335 million dollars. Some of that money was meant to combat drug and alcohol abuse, especially the worsening opioid epidemic. Combine that with Doug Ford’s opposition to methadone clinics and safe injection sites, that means even more hopelessness and death for addicts in Ontario.

Lesson Three: Blame the poor and cut the social safety net from those who need it.

Doug Ford cancelled the Basic Income Pilot program, a fully costed and funded pilot project before any data could actually be compiled to determine the success of the pilot project. I know for a fact that it was fully funded and costed, because I helped roll out the program in a local community.

We made a commitment to the people in this project, and the government yet again failed them. It was cancelled with no contingency or plans on how to help the people whose financial stability was just taken away from them. I saw firsthand the happiness that being accepted to the pilot project brought, I witnessed the tears of happiness. It was bringing real change to lives of those involved. It could have changed how we fund social services in Canada and Ontario. That is exactly why Doug Ford cancelled the pilot project. You cannot break the cycle of poverty without bold thinking and bold action. For conservatives, the only bold thinking that they are interested in are tax cuts for the wealthiest Ontarians, and not for those among us who need a hand up the most.

While they were at it they also cancelled increases for those who rely on Ontario Works, ODSP, and other social assistance programs. This was of course after they cancelled expanded OHIP+ coverage for Ontario’s children.

It reminds me of a story that I was once told by a friend, when I was in a time of need. It goes like this: This guy’s walking down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep, he can’t get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, “Hey you, can you help me out?” The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up “Father, I’m down in this hole, can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. “Hey Joe, it’s me, can you help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, “Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.” The friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.” This is the only way that we can break the cycle of poverty, it means getting into the problem and getting onto the level of those trying to break free. With compassion, with understanding, and with our shared experiences. We have to commit fully.

But I digress, I am ranting. This is just another example of Conservative compassion.

Lesson Four: It is now open season on women and workers in Ontario.

Doug Ford is repealing Bill 148. “The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act”, which provided Ontario’s workers with new protections against predatory scheduling, and contained provisions which included an increase in the minimum wage to $15/hour, equal pay for part-time and casual workers, guaranteed vacation days, protections for workers who required days off due to sexual assault and domestic violence, protection for temp agency workers as well as many other rights. Basically it gave non-unionized employees in Ontario a level of protection that they have never previously enjoyed. It also increased safety regulations for Ontario workers.

So of course Doug Ford cancelled it.

What bothered me the most about the repeal of Bill 148 are the loss of protections to Ontarians who have experienced or are living with the threat of sexual and domestic violence. We know women experience domestic violence at higher rates and are more likely to be seriously injured or killed by a current or former partner. Bill 148 permitted people to take up to 10 individual days of leave, five of which would be paid, if they or their children experience domestic or sexual violence or are threatened. If the situation is even more dire, workers could take up to 15 weeks of unpaid leave without risking their employment. Now imagine having these protections, and then seeing them taken away without any contingency or replacement law that would continue these protections. This is not a hypothetical. We’re talking about a woman being killed every other day in this country by a current or former intimate partner. Bill 148 was the start to finding a solution to this very real problem. We were leading the way. And now it is gone.

After losing these protections, we received news that Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod pulled the plug last week on the Round Table on Violence Against Women, a panel of experts that advised the government on measures it could take to help women flee domestic violence. If that isn’t bad enough, we learned that Attorney General Caroline Mulroney has purposefully delayed delivering critically needed, already-budgeted funding to sexual-assault crisis centres across Ontario. What the actual fuck?

There is no disputing that the government of Doug Ford hates women. He is openly waging war on the women of Ontario.

Lesson Five: The future isn’t for everyone.

Cut cap and trade with no plan to combat climate change. Cut a $100M fund meant to help address the infrastructure deficit in Ontario’s schools…and I can go on and on but my level of anger and despair is starting to get the best of me.

So here you go, class is out. It is the dream conservative lesson. One that is playing out in Ontario as we speak, and one Andrew Scheer will only be too happy to bring to all of Canada should he be elected.

And that lesson is? Keep them poor, keep them poisoned, keep them helpless, keep them hopeless, keep them defenseless, keep them sick, keep them without protections, keep them afraid, keep them stupid and most importantly? Keep the world for yourself. As a rich, white male you have worked tirelessly giving yourself every advantage in this life and no one weaker than yourself, and those you deem to be worthy, will inherit the earth. It is your birthright. Just daring us to try and stop you.

Challenge accepted.

The Only Thing Middle Class About Andrew Scheer Are His Flowbee Haircuts And Ill-Fitting Suits.

$23,397,488 plus plus plus plus.

We need to have a talk about Andrew Scheer’s fake middle class act. Andrew Scheer has no concept of what it is like for middle class Canadians. None.

Lets not kid ourselves.

There is nothing middle class about Andrew Scheer. He is elite and lives a lifestyle that Conrad Black would gladly go back to prison to lead again.

Andrew Scheer has been a Member of Parliament since 2004. In 2011, Andy became Speaker of the House of Commons. That meant that Andrew Scheer got to live in a taxpayer funded mansion called The Farm. It has 11 bedrooms, 5000 sq. ft., has a tennis court and games room, comes with a maintenance and landscaping crew, and comes with a driver and free apartment in the city.

NCC-official residences

Other perks? Andrew Scheer as speaker also had an office budget of $1M+, $157,731 in salary plus bonus of $75,516, $1061 for a car allowance and $3000 for a rent allowance for an additional residence per month. Of the speaker’s budget, $170,000 of that budget was to be used on hospitality expenses. Scheer also had a travel budget as Speaker that was separate from his taxpayer funded travel as an MP, an amount that has never been disclosed. That doesn’t sound very middle class to me.

Even still, he managed to get the speaker’s office involved in the robo-calls scandal.

In Andrew Scheer’s first year at his official residence, The Farm (Kingsmere Estate) cost Canadians $196,609 to maintain. That’s snow removal, new appliances, new flooring, painting, hydro, and his free cable.

Now Andrew Scheer lives in Stornoway, as the Leader of the Official Opposition. Stornoway is a taxpayer owned mansion in the exclusive Rockcliffe Park neighborhood of Ottawa, and has an assessed value of $4,225,000.

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Stornoway is a 34-room mansion with eight bedrooms, five bathrooms, living room, sitting room (2nd floor), and dining room, and sits on extensive grounds. Besides the residents in the home, Stornoway is served by a staff of three: a chef, chauffeur, and household administrator. Andrew Scheer as leader of the opposition now makes $247,000 plus an undisclosed stipend from the Conservative Party of Canada, an allowance for an additional residence and an office budget of over $1 million. He also has a separate office and expense budget as the MP for Regina—Qu’Appelle. All paid for by us.

I have sent an Access To Information (ATI) request for all expenses incurred for Stornoway and for the expenses Andrew Scheer has incurred as OLO (Official Leader of the Opposition), and for his travel budget as OLO.

Andrew Scheer has cost Canadians $23,397,488 since becoming an MP in 2006.

This is before expenses for housing at Stornoway or Kingsmere Farm, or the benefits of his luxury accommodations. This is before his travel or expenses as OLO and as Speaker of the House of Commons.

We know that in 2011 alone the expenses for The Farm were close to $200K, so as a baseline it could have been as much as $1.4M to have housed Andrew Scheer and his family.

Middle class?

How many of us middle class folk have spent $470,334.40 in dependent and spousal travel from 2010-2017, as Andrew Scheer has. Since becoming MP, Andrew Scheer has spent $2,035,886 for luxury travel for himself, his wife, and his dependents. And remember, this doesn’t include any travel paid for by the Speakers office or his travel as OLO.

Middle class Andy is the top travel spender of anyone that I can find records of during his time in government.

Middle class?

For all of us who struggle to make ends meet, it is an insult to have a man that has accumulated close to $6 million in salary and pension benefits (plus incalculable other amounts of money), call himself middle class or claim to know how the middle class in Canada live.

It turns out that middle class Andy has little to no class at all.