TRC a Mix of Completely Sensible and Absurdly Illogical

The First Nations residential schooling program was a very dark era in Canada’s history. Thousands of Aboriginal children were taken away from their families, abused and many even died within this system. Atrocities happened within the residential schooling system that ruined lives and tore families apart. Thankfully, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government dedicated itself to working towards reconciliation with First Nations peoples on the issue of residential schools. On June 2, 2008, the Harper government launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission was set up to investigate the many problems that arose from the residential schooling system and put forth recommendations to help achieve this reconciliation. In June 2015, Chief Justice Murray Sinclair tabled a list of 94 “Calls to Action” arising from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). While a large number of these make sense, and would be easy steps for the government to make, many were just smoke and mirrors more intended to please liberal elites than actually accomplish the goal of reconciliation.

The first five recommendations outlined in the TRC’s Calls to Action (CtA) regard child welfare. This is a simple list of five things that the government can do to improve upon one of Canada’s worst child welfare jurisdictions. One portion of the child welfare section that particularly stands out to me is CtA #3, which calls on all levels of government to implement Jordan’s Principle. Jordan River Anderson, a young child from Norway House First Nation in Manitoba, died while in care of the Manitoba government while the federal and provincial governments argued over who would be responsible for covering the costs of his healthcare. Jordan’s Principle states that the government or agency of first contact will be responsible for covering the cost of required services for First Nations children, and in the case of dispute over coverage, the government or agency can then argue their case using jurisdictional dispute mechanisms. The implementation of Jordan’s Principle could save countless lives down the road, and is an obvious no-brainer when it comes to considering which Calls to Action should be adopted by the government. CtA #5 states, “We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate parenting programs for Aboriginal families.” This goes very much along the same lines as calls for regional decision making on issues such as healthcare and education. The situations in aboriginal communities are very different from those in the big cities. Parenting programs intended for cities like Vancouver or Toronto would never work in aboriginal communities. It is important to ensure that parenting programs are appropriate for the setting that they’re based in, and the implementation of this Call to Action would go a long way in ensuring that these parenting programs are appropriate for those that they are intended to serve.

Section two lists seven Calls to Action in regards to education. CtA #7 focuses on eliminating education and employment gaps between Aboriginal Canadians and Non-Aboriginal Canadians. While much of this has been occurring with the assistance of industry in locations such as the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in Northern Alberta, these programs should be greatly expanded, increasing the base of skilled workers that is so badly needed in the Canadian workforce. This would also go a long way in empowering First Nations peoples to seek opportunities for wealth and livelihood. CtA #10 is made up of seven different points regarding new Aboriginal education legislation. Point six in particular calls for parental decision making. This is something that conservatives at all level of government have been calling for. It’s an easy recommendation to implement, and one that I expect will be implemented without a second thought. Parents deserve the right to make decisions on the education of their children, regardless of whether they are Aboriginal or Non-Aboriginal. Things do get a little weird within this section, as CtA #6 calls for the government to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which states, “Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances. “ This author is honestly unsure of what banning parents from spanking their children would actually do to improve the quality of life for Aboriginal children. This section of the criminal code does not decriminalize child abuse, as it clearly states that only reasonable force is acceptable. I was spanked as a child, and I would assume that the same could be said for the majority of Canadians. It wasn’t abuse, and outlawing parents from reasonable discipline is simply asinine.

Language and Culture is next. All but one of these Calls to Action are reasonable, and should be relatively inexpensive. Language in particular is an issue dear to most aboriginal leaders. Even in the most remote locations in Canada, in the Nunavut Territory, Aboriginal languages are beginning to disappear. Many Aboriginal activists have fought hard to ensure the preservation of Aboriginal languages, and the government should embrace this as well. Where I take issue with this portion of the TRC list of Calls to Action is in CtA #16. This CtA is very vague, stating, “We call upon post-secondary institutions to create university and college degree and diploma programs in Aboriginal languages.” There is no mention of whether the intention is for all programs to also be taught in Aboriginal languages, or just those specific to Aboriginal culture. Regardless, Aboriginal languages are extremely diverse, and an attempt to run courses in all of these languages would be extremely expensive, with the cost falling on students through tuition increases for what would likely end up being programs with very low enrollment.

Moving on to the next two sections of the TRC’s list of Calls to Action, we find the topics of health and justice. While the majority of these Calls to Action simply aim to put on-reserve Aboriginals on the same playing field as off-reserve Aboriginals and Non-Aboriginals, CtA #22 absurdly calls for health care professionals to embrace unproven and unscientific traditional “healing practices”. As has been seen in so many cases over the years, the rejection of proven scientific medical care in favour of non-scientific traditional care based on culture or religion often results in death. This would put a large strain on the medical system as many people with serious illnesses would grow even more sick, resulting in further costs of healthcare and investigations into unnecessary deaths. CtA #23 part one makes the demand to increase the number of Aboriginals working in the healthcare field. As someone who has always opposed racial hiring quotas, this is simply illogical. Hiring should be based off of one’s qualifications, and not their race. A stronger alternative to this would be to work with Aboriginal and healthcare agencies to introduce new scholarships which would attract more young Aboriginal students into healthcare training programs, thus making them equal competitors for job openings. CtA #24 calls for mandatory education on the UN’s “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” for all nursing and medical students. Not only is this an expensive proposition, but also an unnecessary one. The educational demands for students in the healthcare field are already high enough. To add this clearly partisan indoctrination course to their requirements places a higher burden on students in a field that Canada is so desperately calling for, and it would take their focus off the science-based medical training that is required for them to correctly do their jobs. This Call to Action does make sense for those healthcare professionals who intend to work within Aboriginal communities, but not for those outside of Aboriginal communities. Similiarly, CtA’s #27 and 28 call for this same training for lawyers, and the argument against it is identical. CtA #30 states, “We call upon federal, provincial, and territorial governments to commit to eliminating the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody over the next decade, and to issue detailed annual reports that monitor and evaluate progress in doing so.” This Call to Action raises eyebrows due to the fact that people in custody are there due to their own doing. The government cannot control how many people are breaking the law, nor can they control the racial background of those breaking the law. CtA #34 point two looks to excuse those suffering from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder from mandatory minimum sentences. As someone who has fought strongly against excusing crimes based on mental state, this is something that I can simply not get behind. All criminals should be held responsible for their actions regardless of their mental state. In CtA #41 point one, we finally get to a call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women. This is yet another Call to Action intended to please liberal elites, but which won’t truly benefit anyone. We already know that the majority of these women were killed by their spouses or by other Aboriginal men. A national inquiry would take years and cost millions of dollars which would be better spent taking actual action towards fixing the issues that result in violence, particularly violence on reserves.

Finally, we move on to the set of Calls to Action regarding reconciliation itself. As there are 51 CtA’s in this portion, I will focus on the most impactful and the most asinine ones within the list. There are a number of mentions of the UN’s “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” within these 51 Calls to Action. Simply put, this declaration violates a number of sections within the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As former Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Chuck Strahl stated in 2007, “In Canada, you are balancing individual rights vs. collective rights, and (this) document … has none of that. By signing on, you default to this document by saying that the only rights in play here are the rights of the First Nations. And, of course, in Canada, that’s inconsistent with our constitution.” Adopting this declaration would require the Canadian government to gain consent from First Nations on all matters of public policy, and would also re-open many land claims agreements, potentially causing chaos for the government, industry and individuals. Some of the Calls to Action contained within this “Reconciliation” section fall outside of Canada’s jurisdiction, including calls for Royal reconciliation and an official apology from the Catholic Church. While Canada can lobby for these things, they cannot be forced, and may not come even if Prime Minister Stephen Harper were to beg on his hands and knees. In CtA’s #53-56, we finally see something achievable. CtA’s #53-56 propose the establishment of a National Council for Reconciliation, which would be made up of both Government and First Nations leaders of Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal backgrounds. This council would publish annual reports on the progress of reconciliation, and establish plans to work towards reconciliation while promoting dialogue to assist in that work. In CtA #62, the TRC calls for “age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada,” This is logical, and this should have been introduced into educational curriculums country-wide decades ago. CtA’s #67-70 call for commemoration of residential schooling victims through museums and archives. Aside from mentions of the asinine UN declaration, these Calls to Action make a great deal of sense, and would be a symbolic way to express true sympathy and understanding towards the victims of the residential school system.

Some of the most important Calls to Action included in the TRC’s list of recommendations may be the ones included in the “Missing Children and Burial Information” section. The children who died within the residential schooling system were the greatest victims of all, and they deserve to be remembered. This calls for the establishment of a National Residential School Student Death Register, which could finally give burial location information to the families of these victims, and allow those families to find closure once and for all. Two more very achievable Call to Actions are #80, which suggests the introduction of a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and #81, which requests the installation of “a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools National Monument in the city of Ottawa to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.” #82 calls for the same kind of monument to be erected in each province’s capital city. Perhaps the most absurdly unnecessary and worthless Call to Action within the TRC’s report is #84, which requests increased funding to the CBC. The TRC’s mention of APTN (Aboriginal People’s Television Network” in the very next recommendation makes this all the more confusing. Increasing funding to the CBC will do nothing for Aboriginal peoples, but slightly increased funding for APTN certainly would help in supporting reconciliation and promoting Aboriginal culture. Finally, in the final Call to Action, #94, the TRC calls to have the Canadian Oath of Citizenship altered to state, “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.” To alter the Oath to Citizenship, having newcomers swear to centuries old treaties that they were never a part of is almost as absurd as calls to increase CBC funding. Again, it’s another TRC recommendation that only exists to please the liberal elite.

Despite putting forth 94 Calls to Action, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission missed the mark on what would, perhaps, do the most in uplifting Aboriginal peoples. Not a single one of the TRC’s Calls to Action recommended the abolition of the Indian Act. Ultimately, it is this author’s belief that the Indian Act is the number one cause of the majority of issues facing Aboriginal peoples. The Indian Act has created a corrupt group of chiefs and councils who abuse the millions of tax dollars they receive, often pocketing large sums of money themselves. You see, the Indian Act doesn’t allow the federal government to give funding directly to individual residents on reserves. Instead, the money is given to the chiefs and councils, who then disperse the money as they see fit. Evidence of this corruption was front and center at the Northern Ontario reserve of Attawapiskat, where Idle No More leader Teresa Spence was found to have hired her common-law partner, Clayton Kennedy as the bands co-manager at a massive six-digit salary (Kennedy was later charged with fraud and theft for his actions in that role). Further evidence of this has been revealed after the introduction of laws requiring band leaders salaries to be published online. In 2008-2009, approximately 50 band leaders were making salaries higher than that of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Over 600 were making tax free salaries equivalent to a $100,000 salary for an off-reserve politician. The Indian Act also prevents Aboriginals from selling their own land, as they do not actually have individual property rights on reserves. While land ownership certificates can be transferred to other band members, they cannot be sold to those outside the band, preventing considerable opportunities for wealth. Furthermore, many bands do not actually own the land they live on, instead, the crown owns those lands. This prevents bands from selling their unused land to resource developers or others, again, preventing the opportunity to acquire wealth. I could go on about the issues with the Indian Act for another 1,000 words, but these are the two most blatantly obvious issues with the Act.

Ultimately, there is a long way to go before we can celebrate true reconciliation. The TRC hit some points right on the head, but completely missed the mark on many others. While Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has promised to adapt all 94 Calls to Action, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair have recognized the need to do a full analysis on the TRC’s recommendations before being able to commit to any of them. The cost of implementing all 94 Calls to Action would be massive, but the issues with that would go far beyond simple financial implications. However, with the implementation of the correct recommendations and the abolition of the Indian Act, Aboriginals would finally be set up to achieve their full potential. October’s election will go a long way in determining the future of the TRC recommendations, and I suspect that we won’t have a clear picture on the effects of the TRC until the first sitting of the new parliament. One can only hope that the government will take a responsible common sense approach when considering the sensibility of the Calls to Action proposed by the TRC. Until that point, anything said is just speculation.

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Who Said That? #1

Let’s play a game of “Who said that?”

1) “Did you not realize that it was inappropriate, at the very least, for you to be involved in a decision that would likely involve a substantial financial benefit to your ex-husband?”

2) “Even if she gets off on a technicality, I think most reasonable Albertans with a common-sense approach to this would know that she was in a conflict, and she should have recused herself from making that decision,”

These quotes were reported in media as responses to the Allison Redford tobacco scandal, in which her ex-husband’s law firm had been given a lucrative government contract for a lawsuit against “big tobacco” during her time as justice minister. Ultimately, Redford was cleared by the ethics commissioner, but the outrage was most certainly justified. Well, it would have been justified, if the people making these quotes weren’t complete hypocrites.

So, who said that?

1) NDP House Leader Brian Mason

2) NDP Premier Rachel Notley

Why are they hypocrites, you ask? Well, Alberta’s new Premier, the aforementioned Rachel Notley, is married to Lou Arab. Lou Arab is a long time communications and PR executive with the Canadian Union of Provincial Employees (CUPE). The CUPE represents over 35,000 unionized public employees in Alberta with over 200 collective agreements. With this information, it’s quite clear that there is plenty of room for conflict of interest between the Premier and her CUPE executive husband. Further evidence of this conflict of interest was the first quarter donation of $15,000 by the CUPE to the Alberta NDP (this was the largest Q1 donation to the NDP overall, and the maximum annual contribution limit during a non-campaign period). When observing these facts, eyebrows should certainly be raised.

While we do not yet have any solid evidence of Arab having direct influence on Notley’s decisions, there is simply too much opportunity for conflict of interest between the Alberta Government and the CUPE as long as Arab remains an executive with the union. I would encourage Lou Arab to resign from his position with the CUPE to avoid this conflict of interest. To the opposition, I encourage a thorough look at any CUPE contracts that are signed during Rachel Notley’s term as Premier. Alberta simply cannot afford backroom deals with unions, and this conflict of interest puts Albertan taxpayers at a high risk of even further bloated public salaries paid on our dime. Albertans deserve better than that.

A Look At Bill 1

During the 2015 election campaign, both the Wildrose and NDP ran with a promise to ban all corporate and union donations to political parties. It’s an admirable piece of legislation, and it should be no surprise that this promise has translated into Bill 1, the first bill tabled by the new government. As donation laws stood before, individuals, unions and corporations were permitted to donate up to $15,000 to a political party in a single year and $1,000 to a constituency association, up to a maximum of $5,000 to constituency associations per party per year. In a campaign period, these amounts are doubled. The PC’s had the largest percentage of donations from unions and corporations, the NDP were a distant second, and the Wildrose had the lowest percentage of these donations. While it’s clear that some parties have more to gain from this than others, it remains an admirable piece of legislation that all parties would be wise to support. With all of the above said, I take a number of issues with Bill 1. There are a number of other things that should have been included in this bill, or that remain unaddressed in the text of Bill 1.

First and foremost, this bill does not address municipal politics. Unions and corporations have a lot to gain from donating to municipal campaigns, and there is plenty of room for bribery in order to secure development or maintenance contracts. In the month of September 2013, leading up to the municipal election that October, eventual Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson received 33 donations between $3,500.01 and $5,000. Of these 33 donations, 29 were made by corporations. Three of the other four were personal donations from developers. The majority of these same corporations and individuals also donated to Karen Leibovici’s campaign. This makes it quite clear that these developers were making attempts to get into the good books of the Edmonton mayoral candidates. In St. Albert, a suburb of Edmonton, unions played a very large part in the re-election of Mayor Nolan Crouse. The Edmonton District Labour Council made a small financial contribution, which is all that was reported in Crouse’s funding documents. What wasn’t noted in these documents was the massive amount of “in kind” assistance given to Crouse by the EDLC. One St. Albert City Councillor described to me how Crouse had a number of campaigners going door to door in St. Albert that didn’t even reside in the City of St. Albert.

On that note, another issue with Bill 1 is that it does not address these “in kind” donations. The NDP has used paid union workers on their campaigns at both the federal and the provincial levels for a long time. These paid workers are off the books, both as NDP staffers and as union donations. Two questions worth addressing on this are, 1) “Why are these donations allowed to fly under the radar?” and 2) ”Why aren’t these donations being banned along with monetary donations?”. These “in kind” donations not only circumvent existing rules, but even further infringe on the new rules laid out in Bill 1. One would suspect that the NDP has no intention on legislating on “in kind” donations because they stand the most to gain from these donations.

Finally, there is the issue of donation limits. As I mentioned earlier in this article, donations are capped at $15,000 per political party in a single year and $1,000 to a constituency association, up to a maximum of $5,000 to constituency associations per party per year, with these amounts doubling during a campaign. These limits open loopholes for unions and corporations to continue making political donations under the names of their leadership. Realistically, it wouldn’t be difficult for an organization to hand out a “bonus” to individuals, which would then be donated to the political party of the union or corporation’s choice. Federally, individuals are only permitted to donate $1,200 per year to each registered political party. A further $1,200 is permitted for each candidate in any given election campaign. $1,200 is also the limit for contribution to a leadership candidate’s campaign. The NDP would be wise to amend Bill 1 to include these contribution limits, as it would make it much more difficult for a union or corporation to circumvent donation laws, and would make it much more obvious when an attempt is made to circumvent these laws.

Bill 1, as it stands, is a good start for the new government, but they should seriously consider proposing the above amendments in order to ensure true electoral reform in Alberta. Amendments such as the ones listed above would be a true test of just how committed Rachel Notley and the NDP truly are to electoral reform. Will they make such amendments? I question whether they will. Only time will answer that question. This writer hopes that the opposition Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives will propose these amendments and push the NDP government to approve them. For now, Albertans can only sit and watch.

The entirety of Bill 1 can be viewed here.

For inquiries, you may contact me by email at tnorrissg@gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter at @TNorrisYEG.

NDP Donation Hypocrisy

During the 2015 Alberta election campaign, NDP leader Rachel Notley was loud and proud about her plans to abolish union and corporate donations to political parties. Today, she made it known that Bill 1, a bill banning those donations, will be the first bill tabled by her new majority government. This is admirable. While I take some issues with the bill (particularly the fact that it does not address municipal elections), I think it is a very solid move by the new government. Bill 1 speaks clearly to the new NDP government’s commitment to political reform and transparency…or it would, had the Alberta NDP not just won an election won with the assistance of massive union and corporate donations.

Today, I was sent a first quarter (January – March 2015) donation report for the Alberta NDP. While the typical names line the report (Lou Arab, Guy Smith, party candidates, family of candidates, etc), there were also some fairly shocking numbers, especially considering how vehemently Notley claimed to oppose union and corporate donations.

Of the $221,548.16 in donations over $250 that were accepted by the NDP, $59,401.87 or 26.8% were made by unions or corporations. The two largest donations to the NDP in this span of time were made by the Canadian Union of Provincial Employees ($15,000) and the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada ($14,950). Six of the top ten donations made to the party during this time were made by unions and corporations.

Of course, these numbers do not factor in any of the $185,335.20 that the party collected in donations under $250. These numbers will become much more interesting when the party’s second quarter (including the election campaign) fundraising numbers are released. Again, it is admirable that the NDP made Bill 1 their first piece of legislation, but the numbers presented thus far reek of hypocrisy. If the NDP truly oppose union and corporate donations so strongly, why did they accept more than a quarter of their donations over $250 from those very same unions and corporations?

Furthermore, one has to wonder if members of the Insulators Local 110, USWA District #3 and Teamsters Local Union 362 realize that their dues, taken off their paycheques without them having any say in the matter, were donated to a party that openly opposes their jobs in the oil and gas industry. Ultimately, this is just another argument in favour of right to work legislation in Canada.

The January – March NDP donation report can be found here.

For inquiries, contact me by email at tnorrissg@gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter at @TNorrisYEG.

PC Rebuild Won’t Happen Overnight

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The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta was first elected to power on August 30, 1971 under the leadership of Peter Lougheed. Through terms under the leadership of Don Getty, Ralph Klein and Ed Stelmach, the PC’s appeared unbeatable. When they miraculously overcame some very poor late polling numbers in 2012 under Allison Redford, it seemed that even a miracle wouldn’t be enough to give any other party a victory over the PC’s. What happened next seems like ancient history now. Scandals plagued Allison Redford’s last two years as premier. PC polling numbers hit record lows and on March 23, 2014, Redford resigned as premier of Alberta. Jim Prentice was sworn in on premier on September 15, 2014, and the PC’s popularity level shot right back up. It’s hard to tell exactly when the wheels fell off of Prentice’s wagon. It could have been the Wildrose floor crossings. It may have been his “look in the mirror” moment, or perhaps the leader’s debate in the 2015 election campaign. When the dust settled, the once unbeatable PC Party ended up with only 9 seats to the NDP’s 53, as the NDP formed a majority government and the PC’s were relegated to third party status.

Since the election defeat, Ric McIver has been announced as the new interim leader of the party, and rumors have come out about the party having extremely poor financials, having spent millions on the election campaign. All but one party staffer, including executive director Kelley Charlebois, were laid off (the final staffer later resigned). Mass document shredding at the legislature (later admitted by NDP Premier Rachel Notley to have been legitimate) made bad optics look even worse. The Edmonton Sun recently revealed that Wildrose floor-crossers Rob Anderson and Danielle Smith had been promised cabinet positions by Prentice, but that the promises had been revoked following a caucus meeting on December 17, 2014. It is certain that the hits will keep coming over the next little while.

The question now is this: What’s next for the PC Party? I made some suggestions in my May 27th Open Letter to the PCAA. I received a number of responses from people involved with the party, including one regional VP who disagreed with me on my point about needing to find a new leader. He told me over the phone, “we need to decide who we are, and then find a leader who represents that”. He went on to exlain that, “for way too long, the PC Party has chosen a leader and then shaped the party around that leader”. It’s hard to disagree with that point. Under great leaders, like Lougheed and Klein, the PC Party soared. Under the corrupt leadership of Allison Redford, the stench of backroom deals and wasted money stretched from the premier right down to the most distant backbencher. It’s important for the PC’s to find a leader who answers to the party, rather than finding a leader who expects the party to answer to the leader.

Rebuilding the party will not happen overnight, but it appears that the PC’s have embraced the “take it slow” approach. The party’s AGM has been pushed forward, as has a leadership vote. There are plans to host regional meetings in Edmonton and Calgary to begin planning for the party’s future. These are the right steps to be taking at this point in time. Financially, the PC’s simply can’t afford to be blowing large amounts of money on a leadership race or on an AGM. Before making suggestions on who the next leader should be, the PC’s must ask themselves a number of questions:

Who are we?
What do we believe?
Why do we believe these things?
Where will we start this change?
When will we start making these changes?
How will we accomplish this?

Once these questions are answered, it will be time to find a leader who best represents the answers to these questions. This leader may come from inside the party, but I suspect it will be an outsider who takes the reins. There’s four years until the next election, but as I stated in my open letter, the campaign has already begun. It’s time for the PC’s to get back to work under interim leader Ric McIver and look into the future. The time for change is now, and the PC’s must do what they should have done the day Ralph Klein retired: find a leader who will answer to the party’s membership, and abide by the will of that membership. That is the only way that the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta can hope to survive.

The Minimum Wage Fallacy

Minimum wage has been a hot topic of discussion lately. A number of American cities have adapted a $15 minimum wage law, and an American group known as “Fight For 15” has been protesting for other cities to adapt the same wage. Here at home, the Alberta NDP campaigned on raising the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2018 (they have hinted at an increase to $12/hour by October 1). In theory, this so-called “living wage” sounds like something that would raise up the lower class and decrease income inequality. In practice, it’s a whole other story.

McDonald's Self Serve Kiosks

One common argument made by proponents of the $15 minimum wage is that corporations can easily afford the increased labour costs. While this may be true for large corporations such as McDonald’s and Walmart, these corporations have invested the money in developing electronic self serve options, and these are already being seen in cities like Seattle and Los Angeles (both of which have introduced $15 minimum wage laws). Seattle’s minimum wage laws took effect on April 1 (with a 7 year maximum timeline for full implementation for small businesses. Large businesses have a 3 year timeline). Leading up to this date, a large number of well-known Seattle restaurants made the decision to shut their doors. The Washington Restaurant Association estimates that the average Seattle restaurant, prior to the implementation of a $15 minimum wage law, had a budget breakdown of 36% labour costs, 30% food costs and 30% other operational costs, with a profit margin of only 4%. After the minimum wage increase, the labour costs are expected to rise as high as 47% in a full service restaurant. This will not only eliminate the 4% profit margin, but will also hit the bottom line of these restaurants hard, and without restructuring or increasing the price on consumers, will almost surely lead to the closure of even more restaurants down the road.

With all of the above said, the biggest victims of a massive minimum wage increase may be the very people that its proponents claim to be fighting for. A recent study conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business concluded that for every 10% increase in minimum wage, there will be an approximate 3-6% reduction in jobs for students and young workers. Here in Alberta, Rachel Notley’s NDP has proposed a 50% increase to minimum wage. Using this same CFIB study, that could equate to a 15-30% reduction in jobs for students and young workers. Notley has also hinted that she will eliminate the $1 difference in minimum wage for liquor servers. The impact of this is unknown at this point, but some pundits have suggested that it may lead to a decrease in tips. One aspect of a $15 minimum wage that hasn’t been mentioned much by the media is what will happen to those who currently make $15-20/hour. Workers currently making salaries within that range would likely require salary increases to remain satisfied in their positions, further increasing the labour costs on businesses. This will trickle down to the consumer and increase costs for everyone, including those that the $15 wage proponents claim to be fighting for.

Minimum wage jobs are not intended to be a career, but rather a stepping stone, and a source of income for students and young workers. As of March, only 2.2% of Albertans were working for minimum wage (compared with 7.6% on a national scale). Of the workers making minimum wage in Alberta, 51.3% were under the age of 25, 55.3% were part time workers, and 27.8% were temporary workers. Furthermore, 46.7% of these workers had been on the job for less than a year, and 35.2% had an education level less than a high school diploma. These statistics can be seen in further detail on the Government of Alberta’s Minimum Wage Profile, released in March 2015. This raises many questions as to exactly why Notley has been so insistent on raising the minimum wage. Interestingly enough, Notley hasn’t even suggested increasing the income tax personal exemption amount, which would have the greatest positive impact on low income earners. Due to this, some analysts have suggested that Notley’s main motivation behind increasing minimum wage may be to simply increase the amount of income tax going back to the government.

There is no way to know Notley’s true intentions, nor predict the full impact of a $15 minimum wage on Albertan workers and businesses, but the existing evidence and studies point to this being a very poor policy. Coupled with the promised 20% increase to current corporate tax rates, this minimum wage increase could be especially disastrous. Albertans need to brace themselves, because the upcoming NDP minimum wage increase is not looking like the saving grace that the NDP claims it will be. Instead, it’s looking like a very gloomy situation for everyone from the average consumer to those workers actually making minimum wage. Hold on to your wallets, Alberta. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
For inquiries, feel free to email me at tnorrissg@gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter at @TNorrisYEG

The NDP’s Lake of Fire

Rod Loyola was born on February 28, 1974 in Santiago, Chile, and relocated to Canada in 1976. He graduated from the University of Alberta in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural and Economic Anthropology and History. Since then, Loyola has held a number of union and NDP organizational positions, and ran in the 2014 Alberta NDP leadership race, finishing in last place with a meager 2% of the vote (Rachel Notley won with 70%). Loyola ran for the NDP in Edmonton-Ellerslie in 2012, garnering only 16% of the vote to Progressive Conservative Naresh Bhardwaj’s 43%. Finally, in 2015, Loyola won the Edmonton-Ellerslie seat with a shocking 61.5% and a margin of more than 7000 votes over PC candidate Harman Kandola.

That’s the story that Loyola and the NDP would like the public to believe. They’d like the public to believe that Loyola is a good, hard working man who picked himself back up after defeat to crush his competition the next time around. They’d like the public to believe that Loyola is a principled man who will work for the best interests of the residents of Edmonton-Ellerslie. Unfortunately for the NDP, this isn’t Loyola’s entire story. On the contrary, this isn’t even scratching the surface.

On May 2, 2015, three days before the Alberta general election, a former Alberta legislature staff member, Blake Robert, came across a Youtube channel run by Rod Loyola, in which Loyola was recorded making speeches in praise of now-deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. Oddly enough, within minutes of Robert posting a link to this Youtube channel on Twitter, it was taken down. Thankfully, Robert did manage to grab 19 seconds of the video before it was taken down. In this clip, which you may view below, Loyola is heard preaching, “Long live Hugo Chavez!” in Spanish.

Of course, there’s even more to Loyola than this video. During the NDP leadership campaign, Loyola openly spoke of his support for 60% oil royalties, stating, “Maybe even 60. I know those corporations won’t go because there’s other jurisdictions that get 80% and still don’t pull out”. In a 2008 article in “People’s Voice”, a communist magazine, Loyola (under his hip hop stage name Rosouljah) took it a step further, supporting 80% royalties, explaining, “When a country like Venezuela gets over 80 percent of its petroleum back – for us this is a foretelling of a socialist future to come. Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba: they all want more for their people”. On March 9, 2013, Loyola organized a vigil for Hugo Chavez, held at the Alberta Avenue Community League Hall. In an ad listed in the Marxist-Leninist Daily, Loyola described the event as “an opporutnity to express solidarity with the Venezuelan people and support for the Bolivarian Revolution. The event will also share with the media and local community the hard work, dedication and achievements of President Hugo Chávez and his government”. In a December 2014 Facebook post, Loyola stated that Canada should take lessons from Venezuela, “especially regarding democracy and social and economic justice. We have much to learn from our sisters and brothers in the south”. In a Vue Weekly article, Loyola also praised Cuba’s Communist Party, comparing it to Edmonton’s community leagues.

Hugo Chavez was greatly criticized by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for his silencing of news organizations and policies of locking up or murdering pretty much anybody who disagreed with his policies, and harrassing/threatening human rights organizations. In 2002, it was revealed by former high ranking Venezuelan military officers that Chavez had given $1M to Al Qaeda in celebration of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centres and the Pentagon. In the aftermath of these attacks, Chavez made a speech in Venezuela, stating “The United States brought the attacks upon itself for their arrogant imperialist foreign policy”. Furthermore, Chavez was a strong supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, assisting these two terrorist organizations financially in their attacks on Israel. He is also believed to have assisted Iranian militia in committing attacks on the Israeli embassy in Argentina in 1992, and on the AIMA Jewish Community Centre in 1994.

Yes, Alberta, this is what Rod Loyola aspires to be, and that should be greatly concerning for every single resident of Edmonton-Ellerslie. Why did the NDP allow Rod Loyola to run under their banner twice whist knowing all of this? Was this another Deborah Drever type case, where they simply didn’t vet their candidates, or is there more to it? During the election campaign, former PC MLA Thomas Lukaszuk revealed that Rachel Notley often wore a Che Guevara swatch into the legislature. Could Loyola’s beliefs actually be the party’s beliefs? As an Albertan, I hope not.

Knowing all of this, the NDP would be wise to distance themselves from Rod Loyola as soon as possible. They have a fairly large majority, and losing one member from that wouldn’t hurt them very much. However, ditching Loyola would be a principled move that would definitely reflect well on the NDP’s moral compass. Will they do the right thing, or will they allow this extremist to remain in their caucus? Personally, I expect the latter. This is the NDP’s lake of fire, but unlike that of the Wildrose in 2012, the media simply didn’t care.
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