Friday, October 03, 2008

Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar Conservative candidate Kelly Block refusing to debate; mail outs to voters ignore Stephen Harper’s poor record

“As I meet with farmers it is clear that there continues to be diverse opinions regarding the role of the Canadian Wheat Board. At this point I do not have a solution to offer however we live in a province which contains 51% of the arable land in our nation.”
–Kelly Block on agriculture
Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar Conservative candidate Kelly Block has turned down all debates.

That’s the story being reported by The StarPhoenix. In the article Block passes on debates (StarPhoenix, Oct. 3, 2008) reporters David Hutton and Rod Nickel said Block won’t participate in any election debates because of what her campaign team calls a strategic decision to meet as many electors as possible.

Block’s communications manager said her door-knocking schedule is busy.

“This is not a directive from the Conservative party,” Carol Reynolds said. “She will be spending the bulk of her time getting to know residents.”

Reynolds defended the decision as “strategic,” arguing Block has to get out to see as many constituents as she can. She said the campaign team receives “three or four” requests for Block’s presence at debates, forums and events every day.

[Ms. Reynolds appears to be the director of corporate development and communications for Saskatoon-based Genome Prairie, a not-for-profit organization supporting and managing large-scale genomics and proteomics research projects in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.]

Nettie Wiebe, the NDP candidate for Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, said Block’s decision not to attend the forums is “disappointing.” She said there are only two all-candidates’ forums in the riding, both of which she will attend.

“It displays a lack of respect for voters and the democratic process,” Wiebe said. “Voters deserve the chance to hear from candidates in as many forms as possible.”

Leader-Post political columnist Murray Mandryk blasted Conservative candidates, including Kelly Block and her Saskatchewan Party colleague Michelle Hunter in Regina, for ducking debates.

Manryk said canvassers for Palliser Conservative Ray Boughen came to his door the other day and dropped off a smart-looking blue political pamphlet.

It contained a large question mark and posed the question, “Which candidate will deliver results for you and your family?”

To the question posed by Boughen and the other 13 Conservative candidates in Saskatchewan, Mandryk posed one in return:

How on Earth would any of us know whether Conservative candidates will deliver results for Saskatchewan families when you duck the media and duck public debates?

Which Saskatchewan families are you talking about? Those with university students? Those that have interests in Indian and Metis issues? You sure aren’t showing up at their forums. [Saskatchewan Tory candidates running a silent campaign (Leader-Post, Oct. 3, 2008)]

Voters in Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar have begun receiving election pamphlets in the mail from Kelly Block’s campaign office.

So far at least two have been sent out. The first arrived on Sept. 26, 2008, and the second on Oct. 1, 2008.

In bold letters the former claims: Lower Taxes, Safer Communities, and Support for Agriculture.

The latter states: “Stephen Harper will cut taxes on fuel.” “Stephen Harper tackles gang, drug and property crime.” “Stephen Harper cut the GST and cut income taxes.”

Tax cuts and more tax cuts seem to be the bedrock of every Conservative campaign with crime, the military and family values bringing up the rear.

In a new book published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives called The Harper Record that gives a detailed account of the laws, policies, regulations, and initiatives of the Conservative minority government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper during its 32-month term from January 2006 to September 2008, Andrew Jackson and economist Erin Weir wrote: “Lower corporate taxes are supposedly needed to make Canada internationally competitive. However, when the Conservatives took power in 2006, combined federal/provincial corporate tax rates were already well below the U.S. average, among the lower half of G-7 countries, and only two percentage points above the world average. Nevertheless, the Conservatives decided to cut federal corporate tax rates by seven percentage points.

“KPMG’s 2008 Competitive Alternatives report constructed an index or corporate income taxes, other business taxes and employer payroll taxes for 10 countries. Based on tax rates announced for the coming decade, KPMG concluded that Canada will be tied with the Netherlands for the second-lowest business taxes. Only Mexico will have (slightly) lower business taxes. The other G-7 countries and Australia will have significantly higher business taxes than Canada.

“These huge corporate tax cuts have not stimulated additional investment. As a Statistics Canada paper observes, “Over much of the last decade, corporations as a whole have been posting record profits. Meanwhile, business fixed capital investment has been relatively sluggish in recent years. Similarly, TD Bank notes that the ratio of business investment to profits has fallen to an all-time low.” [The Harper Record, p. 58-59]

In the same book contributors Toby Sanger and Corina Crawley said: “Tax cuts, including the cut in the GST, in business taxes, and the wide array of other tax loopholes have been a top and ongoing priority for the Harper government. They have used tax cuts measures with zeal and as a substitute for public programs, in the absence of any evidence that they are effective – and even when they have been shown to be highly ineffective and costly. The tax cuts have been so costly and ineffective that they have forced the federal government to face a deficit for the first time in over a decade.” [The Harper Record, p. 391]

Next up is crime. The Harper Conservatives would like people to believe that it’s not safe for Canadians to leave their homes, and that only they can fix this.

In The Harper Record, Dawn Moore and Erin Donohue note it “is relatively easy…to put together a tough-on-crime agenda that will play on people’s visceral reactions to the crime segment on the evening news.

“This is exactly what the Harper government successfully did in the 2006 federal election. Picking up the momentum of a few flash points – the “summer of the gun” in Toronto, high-profile murders in Ottawa, a serial killer in Vancouver, and climaxing with the boxing day murder of a teenage girl on Yonge Street in Toronto – the Harper camp was exceedingly effective in pulling together a campaign using these crimes to create the impression that Canadian cities were undergoing a crime wave, and offering tailor-made solutions.”

The authors go on to say: “These are all scary crimes, but the reality is that, while most of us will be touched by crime in our lives, these are not the kinds of crimes we are likely to experience. So the Harper crime plan is a piece of legislation [Tackling Violent Crime Act] set up to respond to a problem that isn’t really there and that doesn’t really affect the vast majority of Canadians.”

“The major assumption on which Harper’s crime agenda rests is that crime, especially violent crime, is on the rise,” Moore and Donohue said. “This simply is not the case. Juristat, the arm of Statistics Canada responsible for justice statistics, has reported a decline in virtually every category of reported violent crime consistently over the last ten years. Canadians now face less of a threat when it comes to crime. The crime rate is approximately 30% lower than it was in 1991 and continues on a steady decline. Crime rates haven’t been this low in Canada since the 1950s.” [The Harper Record, p. 375-377]

Kelly Block says that Stephen Harper “will cut taxes on fuel.”

During the 2004 federal election the Conservatives promised to limit the GST collected on gasoline once prices exceeded 85 cents per litre. So even if prices hit a dollar or more, the federal government would only collect GST on the first 85 cents. The promise was never kept.

In April 2006, Harper said higher gas prices are “something that we’re going to have to get used to.” [Higher gas prices here for a while: Harper (CTV News, Apr. 19, 2006)]

Gas prices in Saskatoon are currently around 123.9 cents per litre. Why should Saskatonians believe Block and Harper now?

On agriculture Block says “As I meet with farmers it is clear that there continues to be diverse opinions regarding the role of the Canadian Wheat Board. At this point I do not have a solution to offer however we live in a province which contains 51% of the arable land in our nation. This fact compels us to ensure that the views of our farmers and farm families are heard and that national agricultural policies will be developed in consultation with producers.”

Stephen Harper is hell bent on destroying the Canadian Wheat Board. So who does Block support, Harper or the views of farmers and farm families?


The following letter to the editor was submitted to the StarPhoenix on Sept. 25, 2008. It was published on Oct. 2, 2008, under the headline Harper’s record marked by manipulation, secrecy, but the reference to Kelly Block’s long association with the right-wing Saskatchewan Party was deleted. It would seem the StarPhoenix does not want voters to know about the connection.

Dear Editor:

In a Mar. 13 letter to the editor Kelly Block, a long time Saskatchewan Party member and the Conservative candidate for Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, applauded Stephen Harper for his leadership and accomplishments.

Not mentioned then or now on her campaign website is that the Harper government has been secretive and manipulative, with all power concentrated in the prime minister’s office and cabinet ministers reduced to mere ciphers. The public service has been effectively muzzled, too, with the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission being fired for daring to do her job.

Harper promised accountability then gave Tory MPs a 200 page guidebook telling them how to favour government agendas, select party-friendly witnesses, coach favourable testimony, set in motion debate-obstructing delays and, if necessary, storm out of meetings to grind parliamentary business to a halt.

On the environment, Harper abrogated the Kyoto accord and has been relentless in the push for rapid, unchecked development of Alberta’s tar sands.

On health care and the cities, Harper has essentially abandoned all responsibility to the provinces. And he has failed to engage in the war on poverty and has undermined Canada’s child care system.

In foreign affairs, Canada has lost its standing as a respected independent voice as Harper’s government has cozied up to the Bush administration in the U.S.

In June, the Federal Court ruled that the Harper government violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Wheat Board Act when it issued a gag order making it illegal for the Canadian Wheat Board to present its views in the barley plebiscite in 2007.

Harper broke his equalization promise to Saskatchewan, slashed funding to the Status of Women, axed the Court Challenges Program, caved on softwood lumber and recently cut arts and culture funding. The list is endless.

Joe Kuchta


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