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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

FELDSTED -- We are hitting a reset button to deal with stark new realities. Following the failed initiatives of the past will not work

There has been much commentary on the passage of Bill C-13 which gives the governing Liberals extensive spending powers through to September 30th, 2020. The opposition has been criticized for allowing this to take place. Time for a reality check.

Parliament is due to return from recess on April 20th, just 21 days from today. The Commons chambers cannot fit 338 MPs and conform to social distancing rules currently in effect or comply with the prohibition on large gatherings. The emergency session held on March 24th recognized the problems and had an agreed number of MPs present to minimize infection risk.

I expect the spring session will be postponed until there are clear signs that the coronavirus threat has diminished substantially.

We do not know the economic impact of the coronavirus social distancing and self-isolation rules. For example, the wage subsidies to small business (10%) were badly underestimated. The government is now looking at a 75% subsidy plus other measures. It is clear that:

  • we cannot afford to lose a skilled workforce; and
  • we need to have jobs waiting when we return to more normal activities; and
  • we can’t allow small businesses to close without risking a very slow and painful economic recovery.

We are between a rock and a hard place. 

As details develop on the economic impacts both business and personal, the government has to be able to pivot quickly to meet challenges.

Parliament usually recesses for the summer months. Parliament was due to recess from June 23rd to September 21st in 2020 (90 days). It would make far more sense for parliament to delay the spring session until the worst of the coronavirus threat is over, and then reconvene for a summer session. It is pointless to allow for a summer BBQ circuit if social isolation is still the order of the day.

The spring session would normally have run from April 20th to June 23rd, (roughly 64 days with a one-week break). Just because the coronavirus threat is sucking up all the oxygen in the room at present does not mean we don’t have other government business that desperately needs attention.

We have to get serious about creating a fair deal for aboriginal people. We have kicked that can down the road for so long that the remaining shards are unrecognizable as part of anything.

We have driven away billions of dollars in energy sector investments and the colossal stupidity of those policies are coming home to roost. We desperately need to create a stable environment for energy investment to recover from the economic hit we face. Look at the bulleted list above. That is what we did not follow with our energy sector and now we pay the price in terns of diminished living standards.

We need to get serious about foreign interference in our governance. We are allowing foreign funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to drive our government policies and that has to stop.

We need a protection wall to keep foreign economic viruses out. We need a healthy economy as well as a healthy society. We must shut down any non profit organization that receives funds from foreign sources, and prohibit any indigenous bodies from receiving funds from a foreign source with severe penalties for infractions.

Carbon taxes are off the table. We can’t lumber a struggling economy with (increasing) taxes when we are in self-isolation which is reducing carbon use in a way that taxes cannot.

We need to address a dysfunctional equalization program. That is a priority which can be resolved with a conference on the issues.

We need to hold a federal - provincial conference on the constitutional authorities of the provinces. The current mishmash of jurisdictional overlap cannot be allowed to continue.   

We need to block federal subsidies to large business. The federal government must create a climate that allows free enterprise to operate without subsidies. Bombardier is a classic example of pouring funds into a failing enterprise. These organization are run by professionals who clearly understand business risks and rewards far better than bureaucrats ever will.

We need to break up the news monopolies that are killing our freedom of expression. We have tens of thousands of capable, experienced journalists whose voices are muted by executive level editors who have to follow the mandates of their employers. If we don’t break up the monopolies, freedom of the press in Canada is history.

We need to get the government out of the media business.

The CBC has to be privatized as part of the media conglomerate breakup. Turning the CBC into a publicly owned Public Broadcasting System is not off the table. We have to innovate to deal with the new realities of our existence.

Many of you can no doubt add to this list. As the coronavirus threat diminishes, we are not picking up where we left off. We are hitting a reset button to deal with stark new realities. Following the failed initiatives of the past will not work.
John Feldsted
Political Commentator, Consultant & Strategist
Winnipeg, Manitoba


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