OTTAWA – People are talking more & more about a possible election. These things are never certain but the expectation is gathering momentum. I hope this election will be about important things. Things like health care, and the cost of living.
Thunder Bay has a fairly new hospital, which serves both the city and much of the region. Last weekend the halls were so crowded that travelling them required an “excuse me” every few feet. The ER room was backed up. The wait for beds is long. Physicians and staff work in difficult and demanding conditions, yet manage to be professional and remarkably cheerful.
The number of people in the hospital who should be in other facilities causes much of the problem. The fact that roughly one third of residents of the city don’t have family physicians is another cause. These are significant issues we face. If the federal government improved its Scrooge-like support for health care (only funding 17% now) people here would get better health care. And the professionals who provide it would be able to their work.
Seniors share those worries and more. How to live on a miserly pension. How inflation is rising faster than incomes. The HST caused much of that increase. The Harmonized Sales Tax also pushed up heating costs, critical in our Northern climate. Hydro rates are expected to skyrocket 46% over the next five years, and there is meagre or no sustained help for the most needy.
These are the kinds of issues that the next election should be about. We need fewer spin-doctors and more medical doctors. More help for our seniors and less to senior executives in the oil patch. Tax breaks for fixed-income seniors, not for banks and multinational energy giants. I hope that the next election, when it comes, is about real issues – not just a war of fabrications and false promises.
As many people know, I have been dismayed at the level of debate in Ottawa. We’re dropping further into the muck of mud-slinging, of one-liners, of “might makes right” and hyper-partisan bickering. Parliament is now very dysfunctional. Even the reporting on politics has suffered, with journalism too often focussed on theatrics and “gotcha” moments, and analysing every small movement in the polls rather than what’s really important. The growing criticism of “reality-based journalism” in some circles in Ottawa will only get louder with SunTV’s “Fox News North” starting up next year in Canada. This all just serves to feed the deteriorating climate in Parliament.
That’s just not the Canadian way. We’re the country where people care about each other, work together and get things done in ways that benefit all of us. Our minority government and ethical people should be working together, finding solutions We need to drop the politics of division and support a real debate on issues that are important to struggling families.
There is a little hope. There are still many Members of Parliament – from many parties – who are genuinely willing to work across party lines to get things done for Canadians. I am also proud to be part of the hardest-working caucus in Parliament. New Democrats have held the government’s feet to the fire more effectively than any other, and we’ve proposed more legislation in Parliament to improve the lives of Canadians than all the other parties combined. Even the other parties know and admit that we work harder. We are reasonable, and willing to share the glory for successes. Ready to work together to solve a problem rather than pose and posture.
Let’s talk about the important issues now, and in the next election. But in today’s world, it will take everyday people to make sure the things that matter are raised and debated. Don’t let the political spin-doctors run away with YOUR public debate.
Bruce Hyer, MP