By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
Paul Adams proposes seats for aboriginals in the House of Commons.
Having their own MPs would give Canada’s first peoples an opportunity to vote for representatives who hold their concerns as a priority and who could speak for them with a degree of independence and authority that no one now has. None of us thinks it is remarkable that Albertans or Québécois have their voices directly heard in Parliament: we have even had parties such as Reform and the Bloc which ran for election as voices for regional concerns. Is there something fundamentally wrong with aboriginal Canadians having a similar voice?
Aboriginal seats would hardly be a panacea. They would not displace protest or moral suasion. They would not end the need for negotiations over land and they would not remove the need for organizations such as the AFN. But they would ensure that aboriginal concerns were raised in the process of legislation, and not just in anguished howls afterward.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 1:38 PM - 0 Comments
NDP MP Sana Hassainia proposes increasing EI for parents who have twins and triplets.
The NDP is hoping for all-party support for a private member’s bill that would double parental leave for the parents of multiples … “This is not something partisan,” said Sana Hassainia, the NDP MP for Vercheres-Les Patriotes who will introduce the bill. “It’s something all Canadian citizens with twins or triplets can benefit from.”
Her bill ultimately seeks to amend the Canada Labour Code so that employees can take up to 72 weeks of parental leave in the event of a multiple birth or multiple adoption. The weeks can be divided between the two parents, used in its entirety by one parent or taken consecutively by each parent. It also amends the Employment Insurance Act so that parents of multiples and parents who adopt multiple babies at the same time can receive up to 70 weeks of parental benefits. Parents of multiples are currently entitled to the same 35 weeks parents with a single baby receive.
Ms. Hassainia was involved in a small kerfuffle earlier this year when she brought her infant son into the House.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 10:12 AM - 0 Comments
Former Liberal MP Omar Alghabra proposes an association of politicians dedicated to accountability.
An independent, non-partisan, non-governmental association — let’s call it the Canadian Association of Accountable Politicians (CAAP) — is established for all politicians to join. The association would require members to sign on to a code of conduct that includes commitments to always tell the truth, avoid inappropriate language, reject personal insults, pledge honest public service and to always behave according to highest ethical standards. The association would also have an independent Ombudsman where alleged violation of the code of conduct and other complaints would be investigated. CAAP could also offer its members professional development courses on campaigning, policy development, human resources management, communication, public speaking, campaign financing and provide legal advice.
Politicians, which include political candidates and workers, would be eligible to join CAAP. The only membership requirements would be to sign the pledge and to accept the Ombudsman jurisdiction. If a member is found to have contravened the pledge, they can be censured, suspended or have their membership revoked. A political candidate will not be required to join the association in order to run for office. Membership is optional. The public, however, will have the right to ask why a candidate is refusing to join the association and take up the pledge.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 11:56 AM - 0 Comments
Mike Moffatt considers a pop tax.
Placing a general tax on junk food proves problematic, because one kid’s treat may be another child’s dinner (ask two people to define junk food, and you will likely get two different answers). But before you cry “nanny state,” consider this: soft drinks provide little to no nutrition, so it is easier to implement a specific tax on them than on all junk food. A tax on pop would more closely resemble the sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco. For instance, the federal government taxes beer at 31 cents a litre, and it could place a similar per-litre surcharge on soft drinks. A 2010 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that a 10 percent across-the-board increase in the price of sweetened soft drinks would lower consumption by 4 to 11 percent; therefore, even a modest tax could have a big impact.
The goal, however, is not to control pop sales but to reduce obesity. All else being equal, a 10 percent reduction in pop consumption would cut roughly 6,500 calories per year from the average American male’s diet, resulting in slower weight gain or a loss of nearly two pounds per year. This may seem insignificant, but taken over several years and across a large population segment, the weight loss adds up.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
NDP MP Mike Sullivan proposes a stolen cellphone registry.
A local MP and police in northwest Toronto are calling for a national stolen cellphone registry to stop an epidemic of thefts in their area and across the city. Mike Sullivan, MP for York South-Weston, says the CRTC must act quickly to create a registry of identification numbers from stolen cellphones and ask providers not to reactivate phones on that list…
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission, along with major wireless carriers AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, announced in April they would create a national database of identification numbers that are unique to each phone. Cellular carriers will use the list to permanently disable stolen phones. Until now, U.S. carriers have only been disabling SIM cards, which can be swapped in and out of phones to turn them on for service.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 12:19 PM - 39 Comments
David Mitchell suggests Parliament should become a travelling road show once Centre Block is closed for renovations.
Think for a moment about the potential impact of convening a parliamentary session in Saskatchewan or New Brunswick or Manitoba or the Yukon. Wouldn’t each and every province or northern territory enjoy the opportunity to host this important national institution and showcase their regions and their issues. And imagine the possible impact on our politicians. What might be the effect of our Parliament meeting in Quebec? Or of Bloc Quebecois MPs being required to meet in Alberta? In my own experience, Canadians don’t know as much about each other as they sometimes believe they do. This would be a chance to familiarize our elected representatives with their country. It would be an exercise in nation-building.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 1:52 PM - 36 Comments
Jack Layton pitches Senate reforms.
“Unfortunately, today’s Senate is too often just partisans working for their parties while being paid with public money. No ‘sober second thought’ can come from unelected appointees with such an obvious conflict of interest,” said Layton. “Let’s take two small – but important – steps towards a more accountable Senate. First, remove all failed candidates and party insiders from the Senate. Secondly, let’s make sure all Senators stop fundraising for political parties.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 1:31 PM - 109 Comments
Mike Moffatt considers how much it would cost to increase the lithium levels in drinking water, and how much might be gained as a result.
The city of Toronto has 3.3 murders/100,000 people (Source). A 30% reduction in this rate would lower it by 1 murder per year per 100,000 people. If our rough back-of-the-envelope calculations are correct and the lithium carbonate method works like the Texas study suggests, $153,000 buys us one less murder. That does not take into account the reductions in rapes, suicides, drug use or thefts.
Will it work? I don’t know. It seems like it would be worthy a pilot study or two. Although those levels of elemental lithium are believed to be safe, there may be side-effects we are not considering. There are ethical considerations as well, but it is hard to make a case that adding fluoride to the water supply is ethical but lithium is not – and we’ve been adding fluoride to drinking water for over half a century.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 11:02 AM - 16 Comments
Windsor city council is voting by email.
Maghnieh said he took umbrage with the latest council matter to land in his inbox: a request to change a sign at Applebee’s on Division Road. He said it wasn’t urgent enough to warrant what he said should be a vote used only in emergencies. But city CAO Helga Reidel said that’s effectively what they’re used for anyway. She said she made the call to poll by email because the December request came in a month with no council meetings scheduled.
“It was important to that small business owner,” she said. ”It’s the 21st century. Email makes it easier to get in touch with councillors, and I think we should take advantage of it.” Reidel said the email votes are a rarity – there were about half a dozen in 2010, more in 2009 during the prolonged CUPE strike – and tend to come up only when the issue is urgent. Holding one or not is usually a judgment call.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 11:44 AM - 61 Comments
The program, called Bolsa Familia (Family Grant) in Brazil, goes by different names in different places. In Mexico, where it first began on a national scale and has been equally successful at reducing poverty, it is Oportunidades. The generic term for the program is conditional cash transfers. The idea is to give regular payments to poor families, in the form of cash or electronic transfers into their bank accounts, if they meet certain requirements. The requirements vary, but many countries employ those used by Mexico: families must keep their children in school and go for regular medical checkups, and mom must attend workshops on subjects like nutrition or disease prevention. The payments almost always go to women, as they are the most likely to spend the money on their families. The elegant idea behind conditional cash transfers is to combat poverty today while breaking the cycle of poverty for tomorrow.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 3:28 PM - 21 Comments
At some point I decided I could use this tiny corner of the Internet to create the sort of op-ed page I’d like to read—filled with people like Stephen Gordon, Eric Grenier, Alison Loat, Mike Moffatt, Alex Himelfarb, Rob Silver, David Eaves, Taylor Owen, Brian Topp, Bruce Anderson and all the other names that have turned up here these last few years. Smart people—far smarter than I—with smart things to say about serious matters.
These periodic nods to seriousness—as well as my own periodic turns toward the earnest—were probably in response to the realization of just how unseriously everyone else seems to regard the proceedings here (it’s less fun to poke fun when everything is already treated like a joke). And in the same spirit, with tongue at first placed in cheek, I began issuing periodic Idea Alerts. These were attempts to identify those fleeting outbreaks of thought that periodically interrupt the daily dance of jesters. These were, for the most part, legitimately intriguing notions, theories and passing fancies.
Herein, the Idea Alerts that were issued in 2010. No doubt if you could manage to implement them all, you would have a kind of utopia. Or at least fewer plastic bags and better television programming. My favourite remains the suggestion that we randomize seating in the House of Commons. Although an end to political hackery would perhaps result in the greatest benefit to society at large.