The Politics of Human Rights

Canadian Human Right Museum

Canadian Human Right Museum

Friday, September 19th marks the grand opening of the Canadian National Human Rights Museum. The Human Rights Museum is located where people, cultures, history and business all come together in a picturesque backdrop allowing us to better understand our journey towards a fair and just society.

It is no wonder there is great excitement in Winnipeg surrounding the opening of the Human Rights Museum. I for one am looking forward to frequent visits in hope to gain a deeper understanding of past and current struggles in regards to our human rights. However, it isn’t always the event itself that will prevent Human Rights atrocities from continuing to occur today and in the future, but it is the symptoms, the causes just prior to the actual event that set the stage. We must treat the symptoms, the causes that take humans to the point where they can abuse or neglect the rights of other people. What happens that takes people to a point where they can ignore the plight of others, see other human beings as less deserving or as worthy as they are?

Canada's Oliver Twist

Canada’s Oliver Twist

Politics of Human Rights

Whenever societies develop policies that create discrepancies in how people are treated, valued and are able to access the basic human rights afforded all citizens the steps are being instilled into the culture of a community.

Over the last number of years in Canada a number of government policies have resulted in the favouring of certain segments of the population and neglecting others. One simple example is our current governments neglect of children, families and working-age Canadians. On November 24th, 2014 it will be the 25th Anniversary of the House of Commons unanimous resolution to eliminate child poverty among Canadian children.

The cost of ignoring this issue will have long-term negative effects on education costs, health care, crime as well as the inclusion of all our people in our society. The marginalization of an increasing number of Canadians both politically and economically will continue to put a financial burden on our country today and in the future.

The Price of Poverty, March 30, 2014

Child Poverty

According to the Conference Board of Canada in regards to child poverty Canada ranks 15th out of 17 peer countries with Japan and the United States being the only countries that scored lower. There are actually more children living in poverty today than there was in 1989 when the declaration to end child poverty was agreed upon by all political parties.  The child poverty rate has far-reaching implications for the long-term health of a society. With an estimated 1 and 7 Canadians children living in poverty and in provinces like Manitoba and Saskatchewan where almost 50% of Aboriginal children live in poverty the human and financial costs are staggering.

Poverty Rates

The Conference Board of Canada recommends taking examples from other countries who are tackling the issues by a combination of social supports, education and job creation. The immediate action of changes to the tax system that supports children, single parents and families is an important first step but it must be done in a way that encourages self-sufficiency rather than dependence. A focus on ensuring every Canadian has a place to live, food to eat, education and the safety of a healthy community in which to live.

Working-Age Poverty

The Conference Board’s overarching goal is to measure quality of life in Canada and its peer countries. High rates of poverty among working-age populations indicate wasted human resources, opportunities, and public spending. As the OECD has concluded, “failure to tackle the poverty and exclusion facing millions of families and their children is not only socially reprehensible, but it will also weigh heavily on countries’ capacity to sustain economic growth in years to come.

greedOur current government’s focus on putting more money into the hands of business has not resulted in the job creation promised. according to the Conference Board of Canada 1 out of every 10 Working-Age Canadians live in poverty which is jeopardizing their well-being and the well-being of their family and children. Twenty-one per cent of children in poverty live in families where both parents work. The focus on reducing the business share of taxes has resulted in a small segment of the population getting a larger share of the pie with less obligation to be contributing to the larger society. This policy has neglected the rights of children, young people and families. The long-term cost of a poor, uneducated society that devalues individuals through socially irresponsible policies will be staggering.

Poverty is marked by increased crime, health needs, and a lack of skills and training to take part in the jobs of the future. It creates dependence rather than a culture of shared responsibility and sustainability. It creates a culture that changes our view of people. When we start to look at people as less than who we are, it becomes easier to allow the neglect and marginalization of those disadvantaged economically will lead to more Human Rights violations in our government policies and actions. The tough on crime agenda without dealing with the root causes of increased crime again continues to punish those people already marginalized. Tough on crime in combination of supporting the root causes is the solution required. Unless we seriously tackle the issue of poverty the tough on crime agenda will not only be ineffective but in the long-run cost more than the social supports required to enhance every Canadians outcomes.

youth

Youth-Poverty

Much policy discussion has centred on what to do about persistently high rates of youth unemployment. Two approaches have been adopted, in varying degrees, in OECD countries over the years; one focuses on increasing participation in schooling, and the other on active labour market programs to help youth find jobs. In addition, programs in some countries target youth experiencing homelessness, drug abuse, or crime.

Conference Board of Canada

Youth unemployment (Age 20-24) is twice a high as other age groups. The negative effect this has on emotional well-being as well as on pressures on families as they work towards helping their young adults become self-sufficient is not easy to measure. However social and economic indicators are describing devastating long-term  consequences unless policies are created to provide a more inclusive community.

CONCLUSION

Society often overlooks how government policies and actions may be in direct violation of Canadians expectations of treatment of people and specifically children. Although it may not have been the intention of government, the results of the Canadian government’s policies have resulted in a neglect of Canadian children as defined by the RCMP and supported by the findings of the Conference Board of Canada, OECD and the United Nations.

The RCMP put child abuse into 4 categories.

What is Child Abuse: RCMP Definition

The RCMP define neglect as “The failure to give due attention or care to a child resulting in serious emotional or physical harm.” With government policies resulting in increased child poverty, increased youth unemployment, working-age poverty and a failure to support Canadian families find work and provide for their children with an opportunity to be successful, one could make a case that our government is guilty of neglect of Canadian Children and the resulting social consequences and costs associated with policies that widen the gap between those that have and those that do not. This policies are not only hurting Canadian children but in violation of their human rights.

The Canadian Human Rights Museum’s galleries will be evolving and changing. The legacy of previous government policies have resulted in numerous human rights violations. Residential Schools, the Internment of Japanese Canadians, women’s rights and now the apparent disregard of our children, for our future are just a few examples.

The untruthfulness about the politics is that cutting supports to children and families will balance our budget. There is absolutely no supporting evidence of this even in the short-term. The evidence is even in the short-term there are increased health, crime and societal costs that more than off-set the apparent savings. The long-term cost to our society as indicated by the Untied Nations, OECD and economists generally is the financial burden now and in the future will negatively affect the well-being of Canadian society.

We can no longer neglect the needs of Canadian families, youth and children. Without immediate action our generation, this government, will find their place in a future gallery at the Canadian Human Rights Museum.

The Cost of Poverty

The Cost of Poverty

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TALK IS CHEAP

Conclusion: The Real Issues Facing the Mayor

city hallOne of the largest challenges is bringing about substantive changes required is understanding the complex interrelationships between all levels of government, business and society. Bringing about change in one sector without at least building consensus amongst all of the stakeholders creates an atmosphere where rather than working together to solve a problem each of the stakeholders creates a barrier by protecting their interests rather than being solution orientated.

Current issues in Canada have resulted in job losses, increasing gap between rich and poor, politically based decisions rather than solution-based, crumbling infrastructure, increased child poverty, rising health costs, a more urbanized society, compounded by an aging population which will require specific policies to support citizens.

The increase in child poverty, the prevalence of exploitation of marginalized woman and children, ease of access to degrading images of woman and children, decreased access and influence of the majority of Canadians to our democratic system as well as a loss of the basic cultural foundations that a vibrant Canada is founded on.

Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Woman

  • A new Mayor must not only support a national Inquiry but be a voice for a national plan of action.

The research in Canada and world-wide indicates that globally the exploitation of marginalized people, especially women and children is a serious problem. The disproportion number of missing and murdered aboriginal woman is caused by the over-representation of Aboriginal men, woman and children in poverty which also denies their rights to full participation in decision-making processes. The majority of exploited individuals and globally find themselves in poverty.

Canadians are trying to have their voices heard that the time to address these problems has arrived. It is more than an inquiry that is needed to address the exploitation of our vulnerable citizens but a plan of action that gets to the root of the issues that lead to so many Canadians being victimized.

Canada’s aboriginal people are abandoning their communities and coming to cities in hope of leaving the difficult conditions found on many of Canada’s Reserves. In many ways Canada’s first people are experiencing the difficulties faced by refugees. They have been displaced from their home communities which is resulting in a lack of culture and a lack of connections. Once leaving the Reserve they lose their rights and status that is guaranteed under the Treaties. They lose their connection to the Canadian Government as well as their community.

Aboriginal people is Winnipeg’s fastest growing population group. Without a clear plan and vision to reduce poverty, create jobs, inclusion in our political and decision-making process and all stakeholders becoming part of the solution we have not been witness to the last of the human tragedies of missing and murdered aboriginal woman and children.

A new Mayor must not only support a national Inquiry but be a voice for a national plan of action. On this issue talk like so many of the issues where we have had Inquiries, unless they include a Plan of Action the new policies and changes that are required will not happen.

The Reduction of Poverty and Child Poverty

  • Despite job creation being outside the mandate of our next Mayor, it is essential for whoever is elected to be an advocate for reducing child poverty.

As my introduction indicates the issues surrounding poverty and child poverty are complex and require a commitment of everyone in order to bring about the required change. We can talk all we want but the real solution to poverty is jobs. Good paying jobs.

Despite the reduction of taxes and substantial increase to our wealthiest Canadians according to our most recent report from Stats Canada that over 100 000 private sector jobs have been lost. At a time where the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening, the data in regards to the unfairness of our current taxation system, as well as the untruthfulness to the rhetoric of it is business that creates jobs is clear. The current policies are not working.

The creation of jobs for Canadians will occur through a commitment to infrastructure development. Jobs will be created in areas like health-care, road repair, and development of more sustainable cities. Job creation that results in the strengthening of community will happen through the strengthening of small business, a new tax policy on Canadian Corporations and individuals that rewards investment in local communities as well as public sector jobs.

These kind of substantive changes will require someone with the courage to identify and hold accountable the current fiscal policies of the Federal and Provincial Governments that are impeding the growth of our economy. It must be noted that people must begin to understand the new dynamics of making money. No longer is it done by creating local jobs, but rather by investing in money markets, creating jobs in countries where you can pay low-wages and not be concerned with working conditions. Most CEOs earn their money through profit-sharing and stock options. A lean work force means more investors and a higher stock value despite the fact the company may only look good on paper. Unless as Canadians we understand this new reality and change our current system that rewards people for job reduction, instead of encouraging and rewarding job creation the issues of poverty and child poverty will not be addressed.

The result for a new Mayor that remains silent as a voice and a person of action will mean the Cities human infrastructure will continue to deteriorate.

Summary

In all four parts of the ‘Real Issues Facing a New Mayor’ it may appear that a new mayor of Winnipeg has their hands tied as most changes will require collaboration of all stakeholders. In a real sense a new Mayor must change culture. The culture of City Hall. A new Mayor must create a vision on a smaller scale for our city that will unite people and begin to include them in their city. A new Mayor must hold counsellors and civil servants accountable to work towards a shared vision. A new time for transparency and openness needs to be the starting place. Political promises must be replaced by the sharing of facts, by opening up our books and setting the direction to create the City of Winnipeg that people want.

What is stopping Winnipeg, Manitoba and Canada from becoming the country we all envision is the untruthfulness of the politics that are plaguing our policies. Policies are not developed based on the evidence but rather to support those that have a voice and influence of our politicians. Our decisions must be evidence-based and solution orientated. They must be more than words they must be result orientated.

Also Read:

1) The Real Issues Facing the New Mayor (Part 1)

2) Sustaintainable Growth: The Real Issues Facing the New Mayor (Part 2)

3)  The Need for A Plan: The Real Issues Facing our Next Mayor (Part 3)

 

 

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The Need for A Plan: The Real Issues Facing our Next Mayor (Part 3)

_DSC3373 (2)It is disheartening listening to the current Mayoral campaigns. It feels like each of the candidates is trying to reach the voters by offering BAND-AID solutions for the comprehensive challenges facing Winnipeg. The 2011 City of Winnipeg document called A Sustainable Winnipeg is one of four documents supporting the voices of Winnipeggers from the Mayor’s Symposium on Sustainability in April of 2009. Here we are in September 2014 and we still remain a city without direction, without vision and a lack of faith that we have the capability to put a plan in place that will move OUR WINNIPEG towards a sustainable future.

Our infrastructure deficit continues to grow each year we ignore the symptoms of a city with crumbling roads, developer-driven communities that appear more focused of building houses rather than enhancing Winnipeg and building a community. In ‘A Sustainable Winnipeg’ the people of Winnipeg stated:

Citizens have told us they want a future which includes opportunities for people of all ages, abilities and walks of life to live, work and play in the same community. It includes a sustainable transportation system that connects Winnipeg’s communities. In our sustainable city, tree-lined streets and trails and pathways are ribbons of green or white that link neighbourhoods and a diverse system of parks, open spaces and natural areas. Vibrant and safe neighbourhoods, including the Downtown, offer clean, animated streets and walkways, quality entertainment and shopping and thriving residential communities.

A Sustainable Winnipeg (Page 7)

_DSC3412

The people of Winnipeg have provided their input on numerous occasions but we have a system of government that is guided by politics rather than creating a workable plan that will take us to the city the people of Winnipeg want, deserve and research supports. The Mayor and previous City Council ignored the voices of the people who elected them and our current candidates are ignoring the challenges Winnipeg faces. In previous consultations in regards to development in ‘The Exchange’ by-laws were changed without consultation or by ignoring the people who spoke for a different kind of development.

The three audits reinforced what people have been thinking about politics and politicians. Decisions without proper process, accountability and a lack of transparency and perceived favoritism. The audits clearly identified next steps for our next Mayor and Council as well as the public administration. However, like so many reports without a commitment to implement the recommendations and a plan of action the audits are destined to collect dust on the shelves of politicians and bureaucrats. Do any of our prospective Mayors have the courage to address the numerous recommendations and put the plan in place to make the changes necessary?

Do any of the current Mayoral candidates have the courage to put in place a plan to create the sustainable Winnipeg citizens are asking for? On page 9 of A Sustainable Winnipeg the following statements are identified as the foundations needed for effective change.

  1. Include everyone: goals and actions need to consider all Winnipeggers and address accessibility.
  2. Work towards equity: opportunities and access should be shared.
  3.  Make decisions transparently: decision-making processes should be as clear and as open as possible.
  4.  Be continuous and resilient: the plan needs to be permanent, but it also needs to respond to new opportunities and threats, like Peak Oil.
  5.  Everything should align: every part of the plan, from its vision, through to its goals, objectives, targets and measurement need to work together.
  6.  Measure progress: every goal needs targets, indicators and regular measurement, and results should be reported.
  7.  Adapt: lessons learned from measurement and experience should lead to changes, and new ideas should be accommodated.
  8.  Promote sustainable thinking: deal with the causes of our challenges to sustainability, some of which are based on habits and old ways of doing things.
  9.  Human Element: address the social dimension of change – raise awareness, educate and support change towards sustainable behaviour.
  10.  Set goals: measure progress using targets, indicators and regular measurement; report results

The people of Winnipeg know what kind of city they want. The people of Winnipeg in their vision for a sustainable city clearly identify the challenges that need to be addressed. The people of Winnipeg understand that change takes time and resources. The people of Winnipeg also understand we need a change. We need a plan, a plan of action and most importantly a plan to move us closer to our vision of a city as outlined in ‘A Sustainable Winnipeg’.

Transparency of Information

Transparency of Information

The disheartening part of the current Mayoral campaign is that despite so many candidates both old and new, the change Winnipeggers want is one again mired in politics rather than a vision of action.  Mired in the promises of ‘Band-Aid’ solutions to lure voters rather than the comprehensive policies and plan essential to be inclusive of all people as we work towards a society that addresses equity for everyone.

A plan to create the place we all can call ‘Our Winnipeg’.

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September in ‘The Peg’

Esplanade Riel Bridge and the Human Rights Museum seen from the banks of the Red River.

Esplanade Riel Bridge and the Human Rights Museum seen from the banks of the Red River.

We often take for granted the beauty of our home town. When we visit other places as tourists, we will capture our memories in countless photographs of the beauty and uniqueness each destination offers. To walk in your own community as a tourist, allows you to see and appreciate the gifts we often take for granted.

A fallen tree rests on the banks of the Red.

A fallen tree rests on the banks of the Red.

My home town of Winnipeg derives its name from the Cree word of “win” for muddy and “nippee” for water. Winnipeg is a culturally diverse city with about 100 languages and nationalities represented. Winnipeg has a flourishing arts scene, as well as a vibrant meeting place where the Assiniboine and Red River come together at ‘The Forks’. ‘The Forks’ is a public place where the diversity of Winnipeg can be celebrated through outdoor concerts, festivals, green space, patios and the ‘Human Rights Museum’ opening on September 21st.

Enjoy my hometown seen through my eyes as a tourist.

Human Rights Museum opening September 21st

Human Rights Museum opening September 21st

 

The Winnipeg Skyline from Tache Promenade

The Winnipeg Skyline from Tache Promenade

Winnipeg’s history is celebrated as you walk east from the downtown along the  ‘Riel Esplanade Pedestrian Bridge’ casually strolling along the Tache Promenade which celebrates the richness of Winnipeg’s francophone heritage.

St. Boniface Cathedral-Basilica on the Eastern Banks of the Red River facing 'The Forks' and the "Human Rights Musuem'

St. Boniface Cathedral-Basilica on the Eastern Banks of the Red River facing ‘The Forks’ and the “Human Rights Museum

 

St. Boniface Museum

St. Boniface Museum

In the shadows of the St. Boniface Cathedral-Basilica you will find the burial site of metis leader Louis Riel widely regarded as the ‘Father of Manitoba’.

Memorial to fallen World War 1 soldiers

Memorial to fallen World War 1 soldiers

Remembering our History

Remembering our History

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continuing your stroll along Tache Promenade will lead you to Queen Elizabeth Way which will once again take you across the Red River.

Looking north along Queen Elizabeth Way

Looking north along Queen Elizabeth Way

 

Ladybugs enjoy a sunny September morning

Ladybugs enjoy a sunny September morning

Wild Flower line the bridge as you south to the entrance of the Bridge and sculpture by Catherine Widgery.

Wild Flower line the bridge as you look south to the entrance of the Bridge and sculpture by Catherine Widgery.

Turning right off of Queen Elizabeth Way you will begin your journey into ‘The Forks’ the meeting place of the past and the present. ‘The Forks’ represents what our city and people can be if we remember this is a place to celebrate our diversity, celebrate our cultures, celebrate everything that brings us together as one.

'The Forks' where the rivers and people come together.

‘The Forks’ where the rivers and people come together.

Oodena Celebration Circle. It pays homage to the 6,000 years of Aboriginal peoples in the area. Oodena, Cree for “centre of the city”, features ethereal sculptures, a sundial, interpretive signage, a naked eye observatory and a ceremonial fire pit, making it a desirable venue for Aboriginal and cultural celebrations or a place to simply sit and marvel at its beauty.

Oodena Celebration Circle pays homage to the 6,000 years of Aboriginal peoples in the area. Oodena, Cree for “centre of the city”, features ethereal sculptures, a sundial, interpretive signage, a naked eye observatory and a ceremonial fire pit, making it a desirable venue for Aboriginal and cultural celebrations or a place to simply sit and marvel at its beauty.

Remembering too much violence

Time to Remember, Reflect and find a new way

Time to Remember, Reflect and find a new way

A time to heal

A time to heal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A beautiful September day enjoying a walking tour of some of Winnipeg’s most beautiful locations and letting one’s mind embrace the beauty of art, architecture, history and nature as they all come together to celebrate what we can accomplish when ‘We come Together’.

Cyclists enjoying a sunny September Day

Cyclists enjoying a sunny September Day

Reflections at the 'Meeting Place'

Reflections at the ‘Meeting Place’

 

A place to play for our children

A place to play for our children

 

The Red River looking east to St. Boniface

The Red River looking east to St. Boniface

This is my city. This is the place where like the two rivers, we come together and we call this home.

All pictures were taken by James W Hoddinott and my Sony A57

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Sustaintainable Growth: The Real Issues Facing our Next Mayor (Part 2)

 

Creating Sustainable Communities

Creating Sustainable Communities

One of the essential components of having an effective government, at any level, is the ability to create both short and long-term plans that fit into a comprehensive vision for municipalities, the province and the country. The difficulty with a government that is politically driven, is it creates a system based on ideologies, the desire to get votes, or rewarding individuals, groups or corporations in return for their support, rather than making decisions based on the basic principles of creating sustainable growth as outlined in well-thought out plans and visions that is service orientated.

Canada’s success as a nation has been based on understanding the need for economic growth as well as addressing the need to develop effective policies for people. When policies become too focused on the economic-side, inevitably the human side suffers and vice-versa. It is why politics needs to be removed from of the equation and decisions need to be based on effective and sustainable plans. The key to successful municipalities, provinces and our country is identifying our vision and then understanding where we are, the gaps and then implement the strategies required in order to move us closer to our vision. It requires both a plan, and a plan of action to be successful.

Examining the City of Winnipeg, it is this lack of a clear vision, plans that are ignored or not in place, as well as the politic interference that has seemingly corrupted and plagued decisions.

Growth is imperative for a city and through a well-thought out vision and action plan the politics of decision-making can be removed from planning. The Smart Growth Network of Canada was created to assist this planning process.

The Smart Growth Canada Network (SGCN) is a national organization founded in May 2003 to help advance the implementation of smart growth and sustainability principles across the country through education, research and capacity building strategies for the broad range of decision makers.

It is essential that in order to eliminate the debacles of the last Mayor and Council we need to implement the essential components of planning. The Smart Growth Network of Canada identifies 10 principles of Smart Growth. These are the foundations essential to guide our municipal government as well as serve as the cornerstone for our civil servants as they implement the City’s vision. If that was the case, the questions asked in council, at public meetings, as well as in the media would be based on “Is this helping us get to where we need to go?”

Sustainable Growth

Currently it appears Winnipeg does not have a plan for growth and it has created an environment driven by politics. Research currently over-whelming supports the need for cities to create walkable communities with a mix of residential and commercial use, making neighborhoods an attractive place to live. Research also makes it clear that ignoring the issues associated with Urban Sprawl and not focusing growth on enhancing already existing communities that utilize the services and infrastructures already in place is not sustainable, costly and is not environmentally friendly.

Urban Sprawl has created the need for people to use cars as they live further and further away from their work place. Our current reliance on cars creates a need to spend large amounts of money repairing the infrastructure required to support a system that is not sustainable in the long-term. Winnipeg needs to create a safe and effective public transportation system. In order to change the current car culture, it will require specific policies in regards to growth and the incentives required for development to occur in existing communities as well as incentives for the public to use public transportation as a move to a more sustainable city as we move forward.

Policies to decrease bus fares to increase ridership and enhancing service on major arteries as well as the Park and Ride locations that can serve as hubs for drop off and pick-up locations are some of the initial steps required to be implemented while the long-term infrastructure of the city is developed to create a sustainable vision for the city’s transportation needs. Some cities have provided free bus fare with exciting results. Less traffic would assist in the creation of safe routes for cyclists as well. In some respects it is expanding the transportation being currently utilized to get football fans to the new stadium but on a much larger scale. This can also be expanded for Jets’ games as well as getting people to and from work. In the long-run, research also indicates not dealing with long commutes and traffic decreases a person’s happiness and increases problems associated with mental health. All with huge costs that can be lessened through a planning process that incorporates people into the equation.

By designing Winnipeg moving forward that supports and encourages the need for public transport and walkable and cyclist friendly communities requires re-building existing communities to mixed-use development as well as capitalizing on existing green space. New developments must include Green Space for parks as well as common meeting places to build a sense of community. A plan for growth must include the services people need in their community for groceries, medical, and other essential services. It is essential communities are developed into self-sufficient pods that are unique with the city centre serving a place for all citizens to come together.

A city designed on these principles would certainly not entertain the removal of green or public land space but rather put a plan in place to enhance and develop the existing infrastructures to support the utilization of public green space.

In order to accomplish this kind of long-term sustainable growth it will require a Mayor who can clearly articulate a long-term vision for Winnipeg. It will require planning at all three levels of government but most importantly a change from decisions being based on politics rather than best practice.

 

To see 10 Principles for SMART GROWTH click on link below:

The Smart Growth Network of Canada 10 principles of Smart Growth

To see articles on the cost of Urban Sprawl click on links below:

Societal Costs of Urban Sprawl: A New Look

Hidden costs of sprawl will cripple cities, report says

Part 3: On the series Real Issues Facing a Next Mayor to be published on Wednesday, September 3rd.

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The Real Issues Facing our Next Mayor (Part 1)

city hall

One of the complicated issues relating to running for Mayor in the City of Winnipeg is the expectations of the voters wanting each candidate to explain:

1) What are you going to do?

2) Why should I vote for you?

This often results in as Bartley Knives indicates in his very good summary of the campaign thus far in his article ‘(Some) campaigns picking up steam: A look at the landscape in the mayoral race’ a torrent of promises. The other complicated issue is many of the major issues relating to economic growth, poverty alleviation, crime reduction, tax fairness and infrastructure improvement are not entirely something the Mayor or City Council can solve or is even in their power to solve unilaterally.

The requirements of a Mayor necessitate being an advocate for the City of Winnipeg and its people. It is essential the Mayor understand policy implications at the Municipal, Provincial and Federal Level. The City of Winnipeg is able to generate very little revenue to make the impact on infrastructure as a result of some inequities that have resulted by policies of both the Provincial and Federal Government.

A website every Canadian should visit is called ’Canadians for Tax Fairness’. It provides some excellent discussion points about the data and the truth about Tax Fairness in our country.

Property Taxes

proprty

Many people would describe Property Taxes as a necessary evil, but in Winnipeg and in Manitoba, it is counter-intuitive to the economic and educational growth the tax is intended to provide. Property Taxes, by most experts, is considered to be a regressive tax, as it impedes growth. Manitoba is the last province that relies so heavily on Property Tax as a method to fund education. Historically property taxes were seen by local communities as a way to address the unique educational needs of their communities. However, with provincial curriculum, educational policies, standards and most of what happens in schools in regards to programming, assessment and reporting is now mandated, therefore the rationale has lost its validity. Education is 100% the provinces responsibility (except on Reserves-more on that later), as well as the responsibility of every Manitoban, not only property owners. Even if School Divisions no longer collected educational taxes; despite what some may say; the need for School Trustees would still be required as representatives of the community’s voice and an integral part of the accountability process for education. Their role may become less focused on budget issues and more focused on student outcomes.

bill

Every property owner in Winnipeg when they open their letter from the Assessment and Taxation Department look to the bottom of the page to see how much they owe. They then will see how much goes to the City and how much goes to education. The City of Winnipeg has no control over the education portion of property taxes and for that matter neither do the Trustees of the School Divisions. When the province mandates educational policy and standards (which they should) the School Divisions must create and provide the systems and provide the resources to ensure these standards are reached.

The money needs to come from somewhere. Education is an essential component in the well-being of our society now and in the future. Property Taxes for education needs to end and the 35% of Education Taxes that are generated that way need to go back to the Province to fund. Currently the Province tries to make political points by giving money back to property owners and now even more if you are a senior. For more information on this matter visit: letsplayfair.com.

Imagine opening your Tax Bill and seeing it be cut in half. Imagine what that does to your spending money or the ability for business to develop the many empty lots in Winnipeg, improve property without the worry of increasing value. Imagine what it means to small business and their ability to grow and expand. The province could look at numerous other ways to fund education which the foundational principal would be to create a more equitable way to fund education.

Poverty

Canada's Oliver Twist

Canada’s Oliver Twist

This is a larger and more complicated issue which currently is eroding our human infrastructure and negatively impacting police services, ambulance services as well as the need to address the associated impact of what increased poverty does to the cost of many of our essential services. In Canada, child poverty remains high as well as the discrepancy between those that have and those that do not. This discrepancy is having a negative impact on Canadian unity. The majority of Canadians have seen a decrease in their disposable income resulting in everyone trying to maintain their standard of living with less. The double–edged sword of course is that if we don’t address poverty now, the costs associated with poverty such as medical, social services and crime will increase, resulting in the long-term costs continuing to balloon. We have high unemployment when it comes to full-time jobs for young people and 1/3 of people in poverty have jobs, but are the working poor.

wage

In the 1960’s more than 25% of seniors lived in poverty. This was unacceptable to Canadians and pressure was put on the government and society to solve this issue. The solution was the development of Old Age Security, the Canadian Pension Plan as well as Medicare to ensure all Canadians were able to benefit from being Canadian. It is those systems developed to assist all Canadians that also help provide Canadians with a social safety net that minimized our impact during the last global recession. The solutions needed today will require similar innovative changes to our taxation system to support families, decrease child poverty and provide people with full-time work.

The tax system can be a key tool for redistributing wealth. Closing the gap between rich and poor is not only a moral and ethical imperative, it is also critical to restoring a healthy society and a healthy economy.

Taxes could reduce inequality and boost economy: by Dennis Howlett, 05/22/2014

This is not to say the only solution is to increase taxes on the wealthy or on corporations but we do need to close Tax Haven loop holes immediately. Many G7 countries have already done so. Secondly, if the rationale for decreasing taxation for corporations is to create employment and that is not being accomplished despite profits and income of Canada’s wealthiest Canadians growing, then the Government needs to tax the so-called ‘Dead Money’ as former Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney indicated. We need to create tax incentives that reward corporations who help strengthen communities and encourage growth of jobs and help educate Canadians to become part of the workforce.

Successful People

Successful People

A fair tax policy is essential to reducing income inequality and to re-building Canada. Since 1981 Corporations have seen a 40% reduction in their tax rate and this does not include the tax relief legally or illegally obtained through Tax Havens. At the same time individuals are paying more and small businesses that are often the life-blood of growth in local communities have also not benefitted to the same degree from Federal Government Tax Policies. The OECD states the top one per cent of Canadian pre-tax income earners captured 37 per cent of the overall income growth between 1981 and 2012, and now account for 12.2 per cent of the country’s total annual income.

All of this could be tolerated if as indicated by our Prime Minister that the reason for decreasing tax burden for Corporations and the wealthy was to create jobs. This has not been accomplished, rather, what has occurred is the decreasing of full-time jobs, decreasing of salaries and an increase burden on the so-called ‘Middle Class’ to support Canada’s economic and social infrastructure.

tracy1

The bottom-line is that by decreasing taxes for corporations, the support to assist all Canadians has also lessened. The untruthfulness of the rhetoric that lower taxes for the wealthy benefit everyone has not worked and our government has no evidence to support this is helping Canada be a better stronger, healthy country. A fairer tax system is needed and even one perhaps that can vary from corporation to corporation depending on the business’s committment to the creation of full-time jobs. Many Canadians have fallen victim to blaming the poor as being the problem rather than looking at what the data is actually telling us. This blame game is destroying the Canadian social fabric.

A simple example of excess of the wealthy is the purchase of car for 38 million dollars. The purchaser of the car did not want to be identified but if I was a business owner that 38 million dollars means a salary of $50, 000 a year for 760 employees. For the government, it means receiving taxes from 760 people were previously not paying taxes. It means more money for families, fewer children in poverty and an increase in spending in the local community benefitting small and local businesses. It means a reduction in social costs for our communities, increased employment and increased revenue to support our social programs benefitting all Canadians. Hey, but perhaps one person got a 38 million dollar car from the money they didn’t pay tax on because they took advantage of the loopholes in our taxation system.

This is certainly not something a Mayor or Winnipeg can solve alone, as Taxation is a Federal issue. It is estimated that by closing some of these loop holes and making a fairer tax system could net at least $40 billion dollars a year for Canada to invest in health, education and infrastructure development of our crumbling cities and towns. It would mean we wouldn’t need to have a fire sale of ‘Green Space’ in the City of Winnipeg to fix our roads. It would mean we could support children and families in the way that will benefit society today as well as in the future. It would mean jobs, training and a much-needed influx of capital for municipalities to address the issues related to roads, public transportation, public safety, frozen pipes, snow removal and creating a greener, more sustainable Canada.

This requires a leader, a mayor, who is vocal and will challenge the Federal Government to address these tax inequities that are putting such a heavy financial burden on provincial and municipal governments.

PART 2 (to be posted Sunday, August 31st) and discuss issues relating to Sustainable Development, City Planning as well as the need for an inquiry into Missing and Murdered Woman and I will include protection of children as well.

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Sunsets

Sunsets are one of the most photographed of nature’s natural wonders. There never seems to be a sunset exactly the same. It comes as no surprise the romance of a sunset whether it be as you stroll down the beach or admire the sun as it says goodnight with a group of friends, it is hard not to be amazed by nature’s tapestry.

      A Sail Boat on       Tamarindo Bay

A Sail Boat on
Tamarindo Bay

        A Sunset at Sea           Playa Grande

A Sunset at Sea
Playa Grande

A Sunset in Hanalei Bay on the Beautiful Island of Kauii

A Sunset in Hanalei Bay on the Beautiful Island of Kauii

A South Pacific Sunset on the Cook Islands  (Taken with a phone)

A South Pacific Sunset on the Cook Islands
(Taken with a phone)

A Maui Sunset

A Maui Sunset

 

A Big Island Sunset

A Big Island Sunset

 All photos taken by James W Hoddinott

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