Canada Day updates

With the beginning of the Summer season and celebration of Canada’s 152nd birthday, below is a summary of both an update on Canadian politics, but also US politics too as they approach their July 4th and the Democratic presidential nomination heats up.

Canadian Political Update

Certainly the attack ads and negativity is being stepped up.  While like many I don’t particularly like attack ads, as long as they work, I suspect parties will continue to use them.  My real concern is more with social media the growing intolerance of those with different political viewpoints.  Conservatives are not all racists, ignorant, selfish or other stereotypes that the left often portrays them as nor are progressives lazy, stupid, victims, or other negative stereotypes the right portrays them as.  So I think as we debate policy, it is time to start showing respect for all sides even if we disagree.  But also it is time to start applying the same rules to all parties.  I find way too many have one set of rules for their preferred party and another for their opponents.  It is time for this to stop this.  I am probably more conservative than liberal overall, but again I look at each issue individually and not what party supports it or which side of the ideological spectrum it falls on.  There was a time when most parties governed this way; after all the Progressive Conservatives under Diefenbaker, Stanfield, Clark, and Mulroney included many left of centre ideas in their platforms while the Liberals under John Turner, Paul Martin, and Jean Chretien including many right of centre ideas in their platform.  It would be nice if we could see more of this.  Certainly whatever happens on October 21st, I hope the country can come together.  If the Liberals get re-elected, I would hope conservatives respect the results and while fine to be disappointed; also still understand we are one of the greatest and most successful countries on earth and we’ve survived past Liberal governments and will survive future ones.  If the Tories win (despite being slightly ahead in the polls, I still think Liberals are favoured for two reasons: Liberal vote more efficient as high Tory numbers in part due to running up the margins in Alberta and Saskatchewan and also if Tories win a plurality of seats, Liberals will likely stay on by forming a supply and confidence agreement with NDP and/or Greens much like we have in BC) I would hope those on the left give them a chance.  By all means oppose them when you disagree, but Tory voters are not evil people; they are Canadians too and the sky will not fall if Andrew Scheer becomes PM.

US Primaries

With 20 candidates running for the Democratic leadership race, haven’t paid too much attention and probably won’t until the ranks get thinned out a bit.  My guess though is the final two will be divided by ideology with a centrist (like Biden perhaps) being one candidate and a leftist another (probably Sanders or Warren) so the debate will come down to does the party stay close to the centre, or does it move leftwards.  While both have their risks and rewards, I believe staying close to the centre is the best way to beat Trump.  At this point, if I had to choose a candidate, it would probably be Amy Klobuchar, but without being able to name all the Democrat candidates and not even having read all their platforms I am still undecided.  I do think though on a few issues the party needs to be careful so below are my thoughts on them.

Gun Control

After several mass shootings, public opinion has shifted and the NRA no longer has the clout it once did so if there is ever a time for tougher gun laws, it is now.  At the same time with the 2nd amendment and the US having more guns than people, I don’t expect them to realistically have as restrictive gun laws as we do in Canada or most other industrialized countries.  Still I think things like mandatory background checks for all sales including private ones, a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, more funding so background checks can be done in timely manner and also rogue dealers shut down, and red flag laws are all common sense gun laws that public is generally for, would save lives, and still respect the 2nd amendment while also allowing people to still use guns for hunting, sports shooting, and self defence.

Health Care

A number of candidates have been pushing the idea of Medicare for all.  The plan of Bernie Sanders if implemented would take the US from having the least socialistic health care system in the industrialized world to the most socialistic.  It is far more comprehensive than what we have in Canada while would ban private health insurance for procedures covered by the public plan; something that no industrialized country save Canada does and even here is being challenged in the courts.  While single payer has many benefits over a private system, the set up costs would be huge and taxes would almost certainly have to go up for not just the rich, but middle class too and I believe this is just a great way to hand the next election to Trump on a silver platter.  Most Americans may support single payer in principle, but when told it means abolishing private health insurance and paying more taxes, I somehow doubt it will be so popular.  I think the option of expanding Obamacare by implementing a public option while allowing those who like their current coverage to keep it is far more cost effective and would achieve the goal of universal health care without blowing the whole system up or costing the taxpayer’s a fortune.  The US already has Medicare and Medicaid so simply allowing those who are not covered by either but cannot get private health insurance or don’t like their plan to sign up for one of those seems far more sensible.

I know as a Canadian, single payer health care is like a national religion here and saying anything bad about it is heresy, but I think we need to realize changing systems is not easy and gradual change is preferable in most cases to radical.  Likewise here in Canada, I would like to see us moved to a mixed system like much of Europe has and you sort of have in Quebec and BC (although feds want to end it and BC government wants to too) whereby you can legally purchase private health insurance for medically necessary procedures and if you wish to go private and pay you may do so, but with limits.  I would however mandate that it must be one or the other; billing the government for the procedure and then charging the patient extra should remain prohibited; otherwise either patient pays 100% or government pays 100% unless it is mixing a medically necessary with non-medically necessary in which government pays medically necessary part and patient non-medically necessary.   I would also to prevent an exodus of doctors mandate all doctors work a minimum # of hours in the public system before they are allowed to go private so that way it reduces waiting times for all, not shorter waiting times for the rich and longer for the poor.  I also think what Saskatchewan is doing with MRIs where for every paid scan offered, one free of charge must be is another idea worth exploring and expanding nationally.  But as long as our governments remain ideologically opposed to any reforms, provinces are prevented from experimenting.  I am not sure a parallel private system is a panacea, but it would be nice if one province tried it while another didn’t and we could compare results which unfortunately we cannot do now.

Climate Change

I believe climate change is real and all countries must do their part, but as we are seeing here in Canada and also in France with Yellow vest protests, there are limits.  No one wants to see their standard of living decline massively therefore I think the Green new deal much like Medicare for all would just hand the election to Trump on a silver platter.  Yes all of us must do our part on climate change, but we need to be pragmatic.  Its not an all or nothing; falling short of targets but still moving in the right direction is preferably to doing nothing at all.  And more importantly if the changes do not cause too much undue hardship you can get the public on side, whereas if too over the top, you just ensure nothing gets done due to public backlash.

Immigration

On the one hand, US much like Canada needs immigrants and no doubt Trump’s hardline stance appeals well to his base, but is turn off to most outside his base.  Still going to the other extreme like advocating abolishing ICE is not the solution.  US can have both a welcoming immigration policy while at the same time rules and ensuring those who enter illegally are removed.  I believe most Americans want an immigration system that works and while no easy answer, extreme rhetoric is unhelpful.  Otherwise its about finding the right balance as no country in the developed world would be well served by no immigration, but neither is any well served by just letting in everyone who wishes to come.

Taxes and Income Inequality

Income inequality is not doubt a big issue and it is quite bad in the US compared to other developed countries.  As such various methods to tackle it such as stronger welfare state and a more progressive tax system have been proposed.  Things like free tuition and medicare for all may sound popular but are very expensive and I believe a bad idea. Nonetheless tuition is too high in US, but abolishing tuition is a bad idea as there is a strong private benefit with higher education so best system is to have the government partially subsidize it due to its public benefit, but also individuals pay a portion due to personal benefit.  In Canada, I think our tuition on balance is about right although we should have more bursaries so low income individuals who get the grades can go without making it free for everyone.  On taxing the rich more, this is where one has to be careful.  I have been quite critical of Trudeau’s tax hikes on the rich, but since the average top marginal tax rate in the US is around 7-10% below what it is in Canada, they can afford to raise theirs a bit while being mindful it won’t bring in a lot of money.  Still much like Canada, I don’t think having top marginal rates over 50% when you combine all levels of government is a wise idea.  Ideally top rates should be in the 40-45% range, but with far fewer deductions than available now so US top rates are actually depending on the state about right, but way too many deductions.  Something like the Warren Buffett rule where all millionaires must pay 30% in federal taxes on every dollar over a million minimum is a better idea than raising the top rate, although putting the top rate back to the 39.6% rate that it was under Obama makes sense, just not any higher.  As for wealth taxes, it is an interesting idea as the idea of a capitalist society is anybody can become rich and nothing wrong with being wealthy, but you become wealthy based on your own hardwork and success not on what family you were born to.  The main thing is any wealth tax should kick in at a really high rate.  $1 million is way too low as in some of the larger US cities like San Francisco or New York City, an average home is around that so would hit many older middle class earners who bought their homes many years ago when much cheaper.  Also most farms are well over that and wanting to preserve the family farm is definitely a good policy so should be high enough so not impacted.  Some have suggested a $15/hour minimum wage.  I think Obama’s suggestion of $10.10 is far more reasonable since while $15/hour may make sense in some large expensive cities like San Francisco or New York city, it makes little sense in rural Alabama or rural Mississippi where cost of living is much lower.  In Canada we don’t have a federal minimum wage, just provincial ones so in the US federal is meant to be the minimum, but states and municipalities can set it higher as many do if they so choose.  Even here in Canada, I have suggested minimum wage should vary based on cost of living.  In Lower Mainland where I live, $15/hour is probably too low, but in Prince George where cost of living is much lower, one can live on a lower wage than one can in Lower Mainland so I like the idea of regional minimum wages tied to cost of living.

 

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