John Horgan's NDP can bring leadership to Ottawa

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BC NDP Leader John Horgan makes a stop at George Chow's campaign office. Photo: BC NDP/flickr

Justin Trudeau invited John Horgan to come to Ottawa, shortly after the NDP leader was asked by the B.C. Lieutenant Governor to form a government.

The premier-designate agreed to talks with Trudeau that will take place once the New Democrat and his future cabinet are sworn in.

Though the B.C. legislature is not expected to resume sitting until September, Horgan plans to address three issues immediately: education, the epidemic of painkiller deaths, and U.S. protectionist actions against B.C. softwood lumber exports.

Team Trudeau will be running a whispering campaign to turn Horgan away from his pledge to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline, proposed by Texas-based Kinder Morgan.

Horgan is on solid ground in opposing the project. Three B.C. Liberal MPs are shy about supporting the expansion of an existing pipeline. The B.C. lower mainland population worries about what a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic bodes for B.C. coastal waters. 

Ottawa has other issues they want Horgan to support, including their Brian Mulroney-inspired campaign to make nice with Donald Trump by soft-pedalling the trade differences between the two countries.

Instead of responding to the Trudeau agenda, the B.C. NDP should be raising its profile in Ottawa.

John Horgan wants to improve the quality of life in B.C. -- and many of the obstacles the incoming B.C. government faces originate in Ottawa.

Tax expenditures benefiting the top 10 per cent of income earners and corporations are estimated to total $80 billion, enough to fund every promise any NDP leader has ever made in any province.

Ottawa collects taxes for the provinces (only Quebec has its own revenue agency) and the Trudeau government is doing a terrible job of limiting offshore tax loopholes.

Even the easy tax dodges were left in place by Finance Minister Morneau when he drew up his last budget.

Allowing professionals to incorporate and avoid personal income tax rates costs Canadians $500 million a year.

Horgan needs to take the initiative with Trudeau on tax reform. The NDP is going to be short of provincial allies on most issues; it can lead on the tax avoidance file.

Over the last 10 years of their 16-year reign, the B.C. Liberals refused to raise welfare rates. Single recipients now have $610 for lodgings, food, transport and other necessities.

An army of homeless people live on the streets of Vancouver. 

It was 32 years ago that the Chrétien Liberals abolished the Canada Assistance Plan, and with it, the national safety net.

In B.C. people are now routinely denied welfare payments; disabled and injured people make up 63 per cent of welfare recipients.

John Horgan needs to push Ottawa to restore the social safety net. Life in Canada can only get worse without a coast-to-coast-to-coast income security policy.

The Chrétien Liberals killed funding for co-operative housing. B.C. faces an affordable urban housing crisis of epic proportion.

At one time, the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation provided federal government leadership on housing.

The NDP premier needs Ottawa to restore funding for affordable urban living.

Canada's students are getting a raw deal. Student debt payments grow, as steady job prospects diminish.

A properly federally funded post-secondary education system would allow for nominal or no tuition. Student grants need to replace the loan sharking now backstopped by Ottawa.

The NDP premier needs to challenge Trudeau: why should young Canadians by punished with debt for pursuing education that benefits all Canadians?

The recent modifications to the Canada Pension Plan are less than generous to seniors. The Canadian Labour Congress made proposals to double the CPP; these enjoyed wide support. Instead, payouts were increased from 25 per cent of average annual earnings to 33 per cent. These will take effect over nine years -- denying benefits to an important segment of the population.

Finance Minister Morneau, who inherited the family business of creating employee pensions that work for employers first, introduced Bill C-27, which would worsen pensions for federal, Crown corporation and private sector workers.

The federal government needs to hear that pensions represent deferred wages, and that guaranteed benefit pensions are cheaper to run and richer for the pensioners than the privatized defined contribution system the Trudeau Liberals want to sneak past its employees.

B.C. is a major destination for retirees with pensions. The finance minister has plans to impoverish retired public servants.

Through the failure of its American-sourced IBM payroll system, Phoenix, Ottawa has demonstrated it cannot pay its public servants. Now it plans to ruin their pension benefits.

Before meeting Trudeau, John Horgan should be canvassing youth, social and labour activists to determine what needs to be done to create retirement with dignity for working Canadians, provide a living wage to all, income security for those in need, and immediate debt relief for students.

Bringing a substantial agenda to Ottawa would be a welcome change from current photo-op, talking-point politics.

Duncan Cameron is former president of and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

Photo: BC NDP/flickr

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