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The Liberal Record 2010: A Year of Building

Posted on December 17, 2010

In 2010, the Liberal Party of Canada demonstrated that we are the progressive, compassionate, responsible alternative to the Harper Conservatives.

While the Conservatives “recalibrated” during an extended and undemocratic prorogation, Liberals went back to work. Our party addressed the challenges facing Canada in the future at the Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge conference in Montreal. Michael Ignatieff went on the road all summer long on the Liberal Express and welcomed Canadians into “the Big Red Tent.”  We kept the conversation going with Canadians online and in-person across Canada through Open mike town halls that contrast starkly with Stephen Harper’s secretive style of politics.

All year long Liberals focussed on the need to ease the pressure on middle-class Canadian families, whether it’s the rising cost of post-secondary education, keeping public health care strong and sustainable, caring for sick or aging loved ones, securing their retirement, and finding high-quality, full-time jobs.

In Parliament, we contrasted the very real economic choices of Canadian families with the Conservative government’s out-of-touch fixation on untendered stealth fighters, super-prisons and corporate tax breaks.  We took strong stands on protecting the environment, fighting to protect disability benefits for Nortel pensioners, and helping our veterans get the benefits they deserve.  We saved the life-saving gun registry and took a stand against divisive politics by banning the Conservatives’ taxpayer-funded “ten-percenter” attack mail outs.

Here are some of the Liberal Party’s 2010 highlights:    

Liberals are Working – While Stephen Harper took an extended vacation and shutdown Parliament, Liberals held over 50 town halls and public hearings.  These included 24 meetings in Ottawa involving some of the country’s most notable advocates on a wide range of issues, and a successful 11-campus, national university and college town hall tour. 

Canada at 150 – For three days at the end of March, leading thinkers and doers from across Canada and around the world came together to share their ideas about Canada’s future leading up to our 150th birthday as a country, in 2017. Over 30,000 Canadians participated online and through 72 satellite events across Canada. These discussions generated important ideas that will ultimately become part of the Liberal Party’s policy platform. Mr. Ignatieff continued the discussion into the spring through regional policy forums.

Liberal Express: Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal team brought old-fashioned politics back to the people of Canada. Aboard the Liberal Express they spent the summer listening to Canadians in every province and territory, visited 102 cities and towns, held 166 public events and travelled 57,000 kilometres.   

Open mike Following the successful Liberal Express summer tour, Michael Ignatieff launched his weekly Open mike town halls across the country to keep the discussion from the summer going through the fall. The town halls, which had a live, online component, were unscripted opportunities for every Canadian to share their views and ask questions about the issues that matter to them.

Michael Ignatieff’s ‘One Canada Tour’ – Michael Ignatieff discussed issues of diversity and inclusiveness on a cross country tour of meetings, roundtables and local events with a broad spectrum of ethno-cultural communities.  Discussions included economic development, education and specific settlement and integration challenges affecting our communities.

Focusing on the priorities of Canadian families – Drawing on Canada at 150’s discussions, Mr. Ignatieff pledged to move Canada forward with investments in: 

  • Learning through a pan-Canadian learning approach spanning early childhood development and care, aboriginal education, workforce literacy, language training for New Canadians, and access to higher education and training;
  • Care through pension reform to look after our aging population and support for families caring for loved ones; and
  • Canadian global leadership through clean energy innovation and constructively engaging global partners.

Reducing the deficit and restoring fiscal prudence – At the close of the Montreal conference, Michael Ignatieff presented a balanced and fiscally responsible economic approach that includes: 

  • Freezing corporate income tax rates to their current level until Canada can afford to lower them further, unlike Conservative plans to further cut corporate taxes by $6 billion annually;
  • Deficit reduction by committing to a deficit to GDP target of 1% within the first two years of a Liberal government and further decline every year thereafter until the budget is balanced and fiscal prudence by restoring a reserve as a buffer to achieve targets; and
  • Spending restraint by finding targeted, sustainable savings in partnership with the public service and proposing new programs in the Liberal platform only if they can be financed without adding to the deficit.

 

Liberal Family Care Plan – Michael Ignatieff announced the Liberal Party’s plan to stand with Canadian families by helping family caregivers with the cost of caring for sick or aging loved ones at home.

The Liberal Family Care Plan will help defray the costs associated with providing home care with a new six-month Family Care Employment Insurance Benefit, similar to the EI parental leave benefit, as well as a new Family Care Tax Benefit, which will provide hundreds of thousands of families with a tax-free payment worth up to $1,350 per year to help defray the costs of providing family care.

Rural Canada Matters – Liberals introduced a policy platform for rural Canada that ensures access to essential services like healthcare, internet, education, and mail service and emergency services.  The initiatives include:

  • Canada’s first ever National Food Policy – Michael Ignatieff committed to helping Canadians eat healthier, home-grown food through a new National Food Policy based  on healthy eating, safe food, sustainable farm incomes, environmental farmland stewardship and international leadership.
  • Rural health – A future Liberal government will attract more doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners to underserved rural communities by forgiving up to $20,000 of their student debt.
  • Recognizing the vital service of volunteer firefighters – Liberals committed to a $3,000 refundable tax credit to recognize the costs Canada’s volunteer firefighters incur for their emergency public service.
  • High-speed internet for all rural communities – A future Liberal government will achieve the goal of 100% high-speed internet connectivity within three years of being elected, and expand mobile phone coverage for rural and remote Canada.

Environment, climate change and clean energy jobsMichael Ignatieff announced that a future Liberal government will set ambitious targets to reduce carbon pollution and make an historic investment in clean energy and energy efficiency, quadrupling Canada’s production of renewable energy, and creating a cap and trade system with hard caps leading to absolute reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This strategy, combined with a commitment to protect our air, oceans, waterways, forests and Arctic, will restore Canada’s place as an environmental leader.

Following the devastation of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party also announced policy to protect Canada’s Oceans and Coastal Communities

A Liberal government will:

  • Formalize the existing B.C. crude oil tanker moratorium off the Pacific North coast;
  • Expand Canada’s marine protected areas network and establish timelines and targets to implement integrated ocean management and ocean zoning to support conservation and our ocean economy;
  • Create a world-leading oil spill contingency plan in partnership with the provinces by launching an independent review of Canada’s offshore oil spill prevention and response capabilities, as well as the liability limits for companies in the event of a spill; and
  • Halt all new leasing and current oil exploration activities in Canada’s Arctic pending an independent examination of the risks related to oil drilling under Arctic ice.

Pension reform: Liberals called on the Harper government to help the three-quarters of Canadians working in the private sector who do not have registered retirement plans by allowing them to save more through a Supplementary Canada Pension Plan, which would allow Canadians to voluntarily invest extra funds in our trusted national pension.

A Global Networks Strategy – Michael Ignatieff announced the Liberal plan to restore Canadian leadership in the world through a Global Networks Strategy.

In order to secure Canada’s economic prosperity and make the world a safer place, Liberals will apply a ‘whole of Canada’ approach to relationships with other countries that will harness Canada’s unique advantages: our global diasporas, our linguistic and ethnic diversity, our geography, our resources, our technology.

To fund a Global Networks Strategy, after the end of the combat mission in Afghanistan, a Liberal government will reallocate the $1.7 billion annual cost of the Afghanistan mission to deliver the right balance between defense, development and diplomacy.

Saving the Gun Registry – This fall, the Liberals stood up for victims of violence by working to save the life-saving gun registry in a vote in the House of Commons. The Liberal ‘Save lives, save the gun registry’ tour pressured the Harper government and the NDP to side with police officers and victims of gun violence.

Mandatory long-form censusAfter the Conservatives scrapped the mandatory long-form census, Liberals passed a motion in the House of Commons to reinstate the mandatory long-form census. To maintain pressure on the government, Liberal Democratic Renewal Critic Carolyn Bennett introduced a Private Member’s Bill aimed at amending the Statistics Act to enshrine the mandatory long-form census in law and remove the threat of prison as a penalty for not filling out the form.

Agreement to view Afghan detainee documentsFollowing the Speaker’s precedent-setting ruling on the supremacy of Parliament, Liberal MPs negotiated an historic agreement with the government to access previously classified documents regarding the transfer of Afghan detainees.

Weekly Waste WednesdayThrough weekly Waste Wednesday press conferences, Liberals highlighted the Harper government’s waste and mismanagement of billions of tax dollars, including:

  • Over $130 million each year on advertising;
  • $2 billion in additional annual spending on Professional and Special Services put in place since taking office;
  • An additional $3.2 billion spent by not holding a competitive bidding process to find replacements for the CF-18s; and
  • An extra $8.3 million that PMO and Cabinet Ministers have spent on their office budgets since the last fiscal year.

Liberal Open Government InitiativeLiberals announced that a future Liberal government will launch the single largest effort of government openness and transparency in Canadian history through the Liberal Open Government Initiative that will:

  • Immediately restore the long-form census;
  • Make as many government datasets as possible available to the public online free of charge at opendata.gc.ca in an open and searchable format, starting with Statistics Canada data, including data from the long-form census;
  • Post all Access to Information requests, responses, and response times online at accesstoinformation.gc.ca; and
  • Make information on government grants, contributions and contracts available through a searchable, online database at accountablespending.gc.ca.

Culture – A future Liberal government will make culture a priority. This year, Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party reaffirmed our commitment to restore the role of the Government of Canada in promoting culture, by ensuring the following:

  • Stable and predictable funding for CBC/Radio-Canada;
  • Cancelling Conservative cuts to the international promotion of Canadian culture and the moratorium on international co-productions, making them attractive again; and
  • Doubling funding to the Canada Council for the Arts.