Category Archives: CBC Articles

The Art of Promising an Un-promise

CBC News Politics

Wasaga Beach: The art of promising an un-promise

April 15, 2011 5:55 PM

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/myelection/yourtake/2011/04/wasaga-beach-the-art-of-promising-an-un-promise.html

Region: Ontario Topics:

Amy-MacPherson-52.jpg  By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, Ontario)

Like countless others I tuned into the English Leaders’ Debate and managed to be one of the four million who absorbed the performance from beginning to end.  I choose the word “performance” carefully in that lines were for repetition, shoulders squared for the correct camera, and hand movements choreographed as if conducting the words that followed.

All cynicism aside, I think it would have been worth the ticket price had they changed the event to a “Leaders Debate on Ice.” Just imagine the improv we might have seen if they were handed skates and a hockey stick.

Social media, on the other hand, was forthcoming with opinion and – as expected – the airwaves were vibrantly a-Twitter. I soon found I was not alone in my reluctance to embrace the event. Few watchers enjoyed the constant finger wagging or how very few of the questions were actually being answered. A query about immigrants was quickly flipped by Stephen Harper to suggest Quebec was somehow separating. If that didn’t make any sense then neither did Duceppe’s response that Harper signed a coalition in 2004. In any event, six million viewers and the overwhelming majority turned the channel for some reason.

Those who remained were treated to a very special lesson in the art of promising an un-promise. I have never seen a campaign based on programs that might start five and ten years down the road, but that’s the platform the Conservatives were offering. We would have another election before then and even longtime supporters have been wondering who this mandate benefits.

In Simcoe-Grey riding we have numerous small business owners, especially geared to cottage country. I spoke with Tim Wardell of Wasaga Beach, Ont., who has a shop in town. Traditionally he has always identified with right wing ideologies, but after watching the leaders’ debate he’s decided to change his vote. Here’s what he had to say:

The Conservative Party is offering tax breaks for the middle class, but only after the deficit is paid. They’re offering art credits and fitness credits, also after the deficit is paid. The only things they’ve budgeted in the next term are jetssubmarine bombsprisons, Quebec’s HST subsidy, andcorporate tax cuts. Harper has been very clear about where our money is going, except he uses a certain way of describing it: tax cuts!

It’s a very catchy phrase, but if you try to say it too many times you’ll stumble on the words before long. The biggest problem with this picture is these tax cuts are for corporations and not at all for the family or the little guy. The reality is we have a record deficit and it’s only the richest of the rich who stand to benefit. Anyone else will need a good psychic to peer through the next decade to see what happens.

Along with these long range promises for middle class relief, the Conservatives have spent 10 years into the future. They’ve put us on a rent-to-own plan for purchasing the F-35s, with an unlimited price tag upon completion of contract. Unlimited. We just don’t know. The seller can demand any amount it wants.

So how will families ever get their tax cut if we have to carry this burden for another 10 years? By that time Suzy will be in college and her dreams of ballet school will have fallen by the wayside. George will be 70 instead of 60 and never made it on a treadmill to strengthen his heart.

Corporate tax cuts are proven historically ineffective for job creation. We’re already lower than the U.S. and most G8 countries. In the process we’ll remove billions of dollars from our tax base at a time when baby boomers are starting to rely on health care.

Stephen Harper’s pledge to families relies on a number of different variables: If he is elected two more times, in addition to the current vote; If we have a surplus of money after the F-35s are paid in full; If there are no disasters in the meantime; If our health care system can sustain the pressure of an aging population; If the world recovers from a global recession in our time frame; If we don’t commit to any more wars; If wages match food and energy inflation. Only then will the family unit be considered.

As far as I can see it’s campaigning on the hypothetical, the art of promising an un-promise.

Rally For Respect In Toronto

CBC News Politics

Wasaga Beach: Rally for respect in Toronto

April 12, 2011 4:00 PM

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/myelection/yourtake/2011/04/rally-for-respect-in-toronto.html#igImgId_4171

Region: Ontario Topics:

By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, Ont.)

Amy-MacPherson-52.jpg  Over the weekend I had an opportunity to attend the Rally for Respect at Dundas and Yonge Square in Toronto. It was organized by the Ontario Federation of Labour, but countless individuals, organizations and community groups came out to voice their concerns and support one another.

I’ve been to a handful of peaceful gatherings but a few things really struck me this time.  Although the event began as a statement against public service cuts and privatization, the venue was quickly embraced by every voter longing to be heard. Their issues ranged all levels of government, but united was their plea for basic, human consideration over that of corporations. That particular take-away was shared by everyone.

It reminded me of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s This or That project almost immediately. The people are aware that government has choices and they’re holding them accountable to make the right ones. If you visit the site it will demonstrate a number of key tradeoffs in proposed budget plans and as voters we are tasked with guiding their decisions – not the other way around and perhaps in spite of what advertising tells us.

I’ve included a photo gallery to share some of their sentiments. You’ll see messages regarding employment, subsidized housing, food, women’s rights, isolation of immigrants and military withdrawal to name a few. One could say these echoed the same qualms expressed during the G20, but without police in riot gear there were no violent incidents to mention.  Instead they brought the beautiful horses out to mingle and smiled for the camera in good spirits.  It was a very positive event, from all perspectives.

Ten thousand people harmoniously stood shoulder to shoulder, waving their flags and chanting in unison.  The mantras were equal parts frustration with not being valued and a certain warm strength that bonds them together.  A sign reads, “We Are One” and that’s exactly how I would characterize the crowd.  Yet their ages ranged from toddlers to grandparents and every ethnicity was represented.  These weren’t just certain groups of people, they were all the people united in one voice:  Fight back!

Now don’t get me wrong, their idea of fighting was to fill out a postcard that would bombard government offices for now. They’ll even hand deliver so postal staff won’t be overwhelmed.  That’s the thing about underestimating though. These folks send their dissent in writing, make songs that are lyrically pleasing and because they’re so peaceful the government hasn’t been listening. Is it not ironic, their political fates will come down to what these people scribble on a paper ballot then?

They’ll be writing for healthcare instead of jet planes. Childcare instead of prisons. Pharmacare instead of corporate tax cuts. I think the popular theme is reminding Parliament Hill that Canadians care about we-the-people, contrary to their sacrifice for the pursuit of sheer capitalism. You might also be surprised by the amount of young voters with opinions on Afghanistan, so until next time, I leave you with their video clip.

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Wasaga Beach: Where Two Worlds Collide

CBC News Politics

 

Wasaga Beach: Where two worlds collide

April 11, 2011 11:42 AM

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/myelection/yourtake/2011/04/where-two-worlds-collide.html

Region: Ontario Topics:

By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, Ont.)

Amy-MacPherson-52.jpg     The world’s longest freshwater beach, one of the most photographed sunsets and water so clear you can see your toes a mile out; where salmon, trout and prehistoric sturgeon still roam and you might wake up to a porcupine or wild turkey in your yard – where are we?
Wasaga Beach of course and the place I call my home.  We’re a beautiful part of the great in-between that accounts for most of Ontario. We enjoy two million visitors a year to help boost small business and the tourism industry, despite the fact Wikipedia still hasn’t updated that we fully recovered from the fire!  It’s truly a family playground every season of the year.  From caving to boating, tanning, fishing, clubbing, snowmobiling and skiing – we’ve got the whole R & R itinerary covered.

Wasaga-Beach-by-Amy-MacPher.jpg      With so many great features to boast, it’s no wonder our population tripled overnight. One day there were 6,000 and they soon became 17,000 in what seemed like the blink of an eye. We were the fastest growing town in all of Ontario and the third fastest in Canada. You’ve got to admit, that deserves some bragging rights. It was a heyday in construction at the very least.

Thousands of houses went up as many of our forests came down. No longer was the drive into town lined by towering pine trees with green puffs on top. They were replaced by sidewalks with people busily riding bicycles along them. Up popped a doggy park, Walmart and the Y.  Goodbye to Wakestock, rock concerts and Blue Light weekend in the trade off.  I guess you could say suburbia had arrived.

Times were good and there were plenty of life sustaining wages. We were surrounded by factory employment in addition to massive infrastructure projects like water, sewer and roads.  We built and they came, that much is true. The families happily signed on to new mortgages and our community transformed beyond the seasonal nature of a tourist town. But once the projects were completed, the price of gas went through the roof and a harsh recession came to bear.  We lost Good Year, Alcoa, Barber Glass, Kaufmann Furniture, a printing press and any contract work that was coming out of Honda. In a nutshell, we lost all gainful employment. Literally. All of it.

Today brings us challenges no one could have foreseen. If you look at the raw data we only have a 48.5% employment rate, meaning the other 51.5% may need to rely on government support of some type. In fact, when we step away from averages and look at each demographic closely, more than half our seniors, disabled, Natives and immigrants are living in poverty. I’m sure these numbers must also reflect that 43% of our population doesn’t have access to a vehicle for employment purposes, nor do we have a transit system to overcome that obstacle.

Altogether there are only 786 jobs in Wasaga Beach itself. The vast majority are seasonal, minimum wage and part time. The portion of our residents who are doing well survive through small business, terribly long commutes or coveted pensions. The rest have begun migrating at excessive rates and over the past few years up to 30% of our working age demographic may have left the area in search of greener pastures. This is contributing to a predominantly senior population and serves as a good example of things to come, as baby boomers transition into retirement.

Less than half our families have kids at home, although one-third of our food bank users are children.  We don’t have any subsidized housing, apartment buildings, homeless shelter or soup kitchen.  For those on public assistance market rent is impossible to afford. We see numerous examples of families who cope by camping in a tent during summer (renting a site) and paying discounted rates to stay in beach cottages for the winter. As soon as the May 1 tourist season begins, they’ll be back outside to accommodate vacation rentals.

Like many other in-betweens our growth was started and came to an abrupt halt.  It’s left us in limbo with so many people and little way for them to be productive. As a result they’re leaving and with them go my grandmother’s hairdresser, auntie’s Red Cross driver, the dog walker, Meals On Wheels lady, aquatic instructor and their favourite coffee barista. In all earnest I say to the leaders, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye or you’ll create rural pockets of senior populations with no one to serve them adequately. A community can’t thrive when it’s missing vital parts – and those parts are regular, hard working families. They’re working any available hours at minimum wage and don’t qualify for tax cuts. Their EI has run out and many are on welfare now. You just can’t share 786 jobs amongst 17,000 people even-handedly.

Politically speaking the Simcoe-Grey riding has voted provincially Conservative for two decades without fail. Federally they’ve waivered between Libs and Cons as the boundaries were renegotiated. The NDP continues with a solid support base and Greens are starting to make a presence. I’m concerned I haven’t heard a word about affordable housing yet, a strategy for sustainable employment, or a candid talk about health and home care. More emphasis is given to whether Helena Guergis got a raw deal from the PM or if Kellie Leitch is his new pet and parachute candidate. More on that another time though – keep reading and cheers!