A Bold Tim Hudak is Ready to Take Ontario in a New Direction!

Ontario PC Party Leader, Tim Hudak, released his Party’s election platform last weekend and showed the people of Ontario just how serious the Ontario PCs are about becoming the new government in that province.  The document is bold and ambitious, which is consistent with this leader and exactly what Ontario needs to get turned around.

Cleverly called the “Changebook”, Hudak and his Party have set a clear direction through this document that will make many Ontario residents excited.  Its focus is on putting “more money in families’ pockets, guarantee services and cleaning up government – it’s progressive and it’s conservative.   It’s the stuff winning campaigns are made of!

Of particular interest to this blogger is the section of the Changebook about making “Ontario labour laws fairer for union members and taxpayers”.  I am impressed that Hudak included these policy statements in this document.  It shows the he is not afraid to stand up for what is right on the labour front – something most politicians in Canada have struggled with.

The policies in this section are substantial: “giving individuals the right to a secret ballot in certification votes; introducing paycheck protection so union members are not forced to pay fees towards political causes they don’t support; requiring unions to be transparent and open with their financial information just as businesses and charities are.”

These policies address the issue of workplace democracy and transparency and are critically needed in Canada.  They address the rights of individuals within the collective.  It’s a subtle and complicated topic, but it’s critically important for Canadians to discuss.

One policy in this area is about increased financial transparency for unions.  This is long overdue.  Transparency is becoming more important in all aspects of business, government, charities, etc. … and unions must be held to the same standards.

Some people will kick and scream about how these policies are an assault on unions and the rights of workers.  They will make emotional arguments about how Hudak is trying to screw over the working man when in fact these policies will do the opposite – they will give individual workers rights vis-à-vis their union – they will correct an imbalance that currently exists in ALL Canadian unionized workplaces.

These are important rights to have.  Think about the fact that workers in Ontario’s construction industry do NOT have the right to a secret ballot for union certification votes.  That in itself is appalling in a modern Canadian democracy.

Now think about the fact that construction workers had this right stripped from them immediately after Dalton McGuinty became the Premier of Ontario.  Why?  Because Mr. McGuinty won the election with the help of $5 million in attack ads paid for by the “Working Families Coalition”, which is an organization made up of Ontario unions – primarily building trade unions.

Think about it – the “Working Families Coalition”, made up primarily of Building Trade Unions spend $5 million on negative attack ads to help McGuinty win the election.  As soon as McGuinty wins, he strips construction workers the right to a secret ballot so that it’s easier for these unions to get organized.  More organization means more money in union coffers and more money for attack ads to help the Liberals.  These things were not done in the interest of the Ontario construction worker; they were done in the interest of the Ontario Liberals and union bosses.

The “Working Families Coalition” is at it again this election – according to estimates, they are planning to spent up to $10 million of mandatory union dues on this round of American style personal attack ads.

This could be the reason that Hudak took it a step further and is campaigning on paycheck protection – or the right for union workers to opt out of having to contribute financially towards political causes they don’t support.  This type of legislation is needed in every province in Canada.

This right to disassociate financially from the political view of one’s union is just as important as the right to be part of that union or the fundamental right to association, which is guaranteed by the Charter.

Individual union members do not all support the same political parties or causes.  In fact, many unionized construction workers in Ontario will likely support Hudak and his PC Party in the next election.  These workers MUST be given the right to opt-out of paying dues that go towards the Ontario Liberals or other causes they do not believe in.

Imagine how you would feel if someone took a mandatory deduction from your paycheck to contribute to a political party you do not support?  It would not be accepted in a non-union setting and should no longer be tolerated in a unionized environment.

By introducing these policy pieces as part of his comprehensive “Changebook”, Hudak is showing the people of Ontario that he truly is ready to be the bold and deliberate leader they so desperately need.  He is proving that he understands what helping Ontario families ACTUALLY means and that he is willing to stand up for THEIR individual rights.

This is the kind of leadership Ontario needs and the kind of leadership that is needed across the country.

Kudos to Tim Hudak for putting forward a bold and ambitious policy agenda and best of luck in the next election – real working families across Ontario need your help.


It’s Coffee Time: Doug Griffiths arrives in Living Rooms across Alberta

Okay – I admit it. I had never been to a coffee party before May 5, 2011. It seems to me that the era of the coffee party was a bit before my time. I’ve heard the days of the coffee party praised by board members from both Calgary Shaw and Calgary Foothills. Many claiming that that was the way Premier Lougheed won – that was how they met him – and that is how they knew he was a great leader.

There is something about coming into someone’s home, being on their turf, and embracing their friends, their neighbours and their community. It’s the principle of breaking bread together but in this case it’s sipping coffee. I laughed when I saw some comments on a Facebook photo Chris Harper posted of a coffee party he hosted this past week – his friends were amazed that a PC leadership candidate would come over to his house just to talk to his friends. It really is the simple things that amaze people the most.

And a coffee party is a very simple thing.

There is nothing to know about a coffee party before you have one. Nothing to learn. No membership to buy. No prerequisites. No expectations.

A coffee party is whatever you want it to be. It’s a passionate Albertan coming to talk to, get to know and share their vision with other passionate Albertans. A coffee party is what comes to my mind when I think of the term grassroots engagement. It’s literally invite your friends – gather them in your living room – listen to a visionary – ask questions – mingle.

My favourite part? The questions! That’s when you see people truly engaging. The questions are when you find out what makes your neighbours tick and what has been on their mind. It’s when you find out that many of us are passionate about the same things and want the same things for Alberta’s future. The questions are what get a room excited. And the answers to those questions are what keeps the room excited and triggers a desire to purchase a PC membership and get involved in the process – at least that’s what is happening at coffee parties featuring Griff.

I may be biased but Doug Griffiths’ strength is certainly in the coffee party. It’s no secret that he is passionate about people and communities. Without strong communities we cannot build a better Alberta together. In a room full of new friends his excitement about Alberta’s future is clear. He is personable, thoughtful and enthusiastic. You can tell he feels right at home in the living rooms of his volunteers and supporters – why? Because that is the kind of man he is. When he has the day off work he is hanging out in the living rooms of his family and friends. That’s where he watches his boys grow up, that’s where he invites his friends to watch the game and that’s where he hammers out his vision for Alberta.

Doug wants to get to as many Albertan living rooms in the next several months as possible. He wants to come to you … not make you come to him. He wants to build a better province … and he knows he can’t do that alone. Every community is different, every group of people gathered will be different but we are all passionate about Alberta and passionate about making it the best it can be today and for future generations.

So why don’t you have a coffee party? The latest people to sign up for coffee parties in Calgary? My parents! Lisa Mackintosh’s friends. A new supporter who DM’ed us on Twitter. And an incredible 70-something women I met at Chris Harper’s coffee party for Griff. She is so excited. She told me that it isn’t time for change in this province … it’s time for the next generation to step up and take their place in Alberta … and that place is in leadership roles. She told me that the last time she was this excited is when she attend a similar gathering for Premier Lougheed decades ago.

Everything old is new again. Why? Because Alberta has realized the importance of the community, of personal connections and that the only way we can advance this province is if we advance it together.

If you want to have a coffee party email the campaign or even just reply to this blog post. We will get you in touch with the right people and do our best to get Doug into your living room.

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to have a coffee party. Political engagement is personal – it’s flexible – it’s simple. Doug Griffiths’ coffee parties are political engagement.

Can’t wait to have a coffee with you in your living room and watch your neighbours get excited about our next PC Leader, Doug Griffiths.

CR xo

Guest Blog by Doug Griffiths: On the Budget

As you may have noticed there is a PCAA leadership race going on in Alberta – it is an exciting time and there is promise of change in the air. What excites me most is that a party leadership race often sparks the opportunity to share new innovative ideas. There is an expectation that there will be fresh prospective.

Doug Griffiths and his Build a Better Alberta campaign is exactly that, in my opinion. His first, in what he tells us will be a series of blogs, talks about the Alberta Budget in a different way that we are used to. Sit back and take it in … and pay close attention to the need for a long term fiscal framework.

CR xo

Doug’s words start now …

I have been reading over the budget and I have a few comments I thought I would make since there is ‘sort of’ a leadership race going on and so many have asked me for comments and my evaluation.

First, it is a little tough to fully evaluate this budget without the context of a long-term fiscal framework to judge it against. A long-term fiscal framework lays out the spending, saving, and tax policy over the next few years so that all Albertans know what to expect—not just this year—but in years to come. A long-term fiscal framework would ease fears by putting into place plans that would show the course for getting out of the red ink, but also for managing the next round of surpluses that would come with the next boom.

Some will want to simplify our current fiscal challenges as either a spending problem or a revenue problem. Our situation is, unfortunately, more complex than that. We have both revenue and spending problems. Natural gas royalties provide about two thirds of the province’s royalty revenue. With prices consistently low it is causing huge revenue shortfalls, and there is no end in sight as forecasts predict natural gas prices to remain low for years to come. Any upward revenue adjustments that come from, and will come from, increasing crude oil prices are, and will continue to be, offset by the rise in the Canadian dollar, which lowers revenue to the provincial coffers. So we have a revenue problem.

We have a spending challenge as well. We consistently spend more per capita than virtually anywhere else in the nation, and unfortunately we often spend more while seeing average or below average results in some of our largest programs. It has been too easy in Alberta to simply spend more money, since we had lots, and hope the problem would go away. It’s not simply the government’s fault for that either, though it is easy to blame the government. We, as Albertans, consistently demanded more money be spent on our challenges. Often money is the last step in the process to find a solution, and often isn’t necessary at all, but we got used to saying and hearing how much money was going to address a problem, and we accepted that everything would be okay. So, we have a spending problem too, since spending isn’t always the answer we think it is, but have come to rely on it.

Now, I am going to shock a few of you by saying that there is nothing inherently or morally wrong with running a deficit. A deficit is a one-year shortfall of revenue over spending. It is necessary, on occasion, to run a deficit to cope with unforeseen circumstances, such as the worst global recession in 70 years, or a steep and long decline in the price of natural gas. Circumstances like that happen and so it is appropriate to offset steep, sudden, and unforeseeable revenue declines with acute deficits that are covered by accumulated savings deliberately set aside for this very purpose.
It is important to have the savings to ensure there is no need to cut essential programs and critical investments, such as in education, research and development, and necessary social programs due to a temporary situation. It would be short-sighted to cut investments that ensure our long-term success because of a short-term issue. Building a savings account, such as our Sustainability Fund, to cover shortfall revenue is sound government policy, especially for such cyclical economies as ours. It affords us the opportunity to cushion and pad the boom and bust blows we are all too familiar with in our economy.

We have some long-term revenue challenges, as I identified earlier, that could keep us in a tight spot for a while, so it is critical to watch spending. I am pleased that this budget keeps the spending to only a 2.2% increase; pretty good by anyone’s standards. In fact, if you look closely, you will see that the province is running an operating surplus of almost half a billion dollars. That is good because operating deficits are dangerous even with a Sustainability Fund in place. Operating deficits have the potential to become chronic, rather than acute, and accumulate into long-term debt. Long term debt accumulated because of operating deficits is unacceptable. This is a tax on the next generation for what we want today. That is spending money our children have not yet earned. Thankfully, we are not in this place. Not yet.

It is also important to have the resources available to invest in infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, and roads that will be used for generations to come. The province had an Infrastructure Fund, which it rolled into the Sustainability Fund. That was a pool of funds set aside to deliberately build infrastructure during the economic downturn when the province would get much more value for the money spent than at peak economic cycles. That was prudent planning and the province is spending much of that money to build infrastructure while costs are still down. Once our economy heats up again and the private sector increases their investments, we will not get as much value for our money. We need a solid plan to provide the necessary infrastructure to support our economy, and manage that investment throughout the market cycles.

As a wise and successful man once said, “When everyone else is afraid, be bold, and when everyone else is being bold, be afraid.”

The current shortfall in this budget, therefore, is not due to operating deficits, but rather investment in infrastructure. Some people may suggest that the government should not be using savings to invest in infrastructure. They may suggest the government should only invest in using in year cash available. In reality, infrastructure is utilized over generations, and as the foundation on which the economy is built, must be capitalized over longer terms, especially in economies such as ours that grow at such incredible rates. The investment in infrastructure during this downturn is an investment in the future and for future generations. Government is a $36 billion dollar company and requires long-term planning and vision, and must invest on market cycles, not cash cycles. Cash in-cash out thinking is how you run a flea market, not a $36 billion corporation.

That said, we cannot cease to be vigilant. The investments we make in infrastructure must be wise and prudent, be critical to the foundation of our economy. As a province and as a public we cannot afford to build our infrastructure in cycles that compete with the private sector and exacerbate the boom and bust cycles we so often experience. We must ensure a planned flow of investment to ensure wise spending of taxpayer dollars. As well, we can never place ourselves in a position where short term program spending deficits caused by unforeseen circumstances become chronic spending deficits. Currently we are not running a deficit on program spending, but with consistently low revenue pressures and consistently high spending pressures, the situation has the potential to get away on us.
This all warrants having a discussion, and Albertans, not just politicians, need to be front and centre participants in that discussion. We need to be deliberate architects of our own destiny.
Without a long-term fiscal framework, it is hard to assess whether this situation is still short-term acute or at risk of becoming chronic.

Without a long-term fiscal framework it is hard to evaluate if we have ensured the right time to invest, or the right way to save, or the right programs for government to provide. Without a long-term fiscal framework we don’t have a plan to manage the next boom, which will then prepare us for the next bust. Without a long-term fiscal framework we don’t know whether we are making the right choices for ourselves, and for our children to ensure their future is bright. Without a long-term fiscal framework we simply have no context to assess whether we are making all the choices necessary to build a better Alberta.

Doug Griffiths