What will we be left with?
Last Tuesday, University of Regina sociology professor John Conway and political science professor Jim Farney had an informative discussion on the effects of the Harper majority at the Regina Public Library.
The debate, “Canadian Party Politics after a Harper Majority: Instability, Polarization, or the Status Quo” covered equalization payments, the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP), the Safe Streets and Communities Act (Bill C-10), and health care reform.
The overarching theme of the evening was the need as Canadian citizens to get informed and educated about our political structures. Our government and parties require a great deal more attention than ever before, the professors stressed, and that need is becoming ever more pressing with our current majority government.
The CPP and Old Age Security (OAS) were topics of significant concern. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has hinted at changes to the CPP, one of which is widely speculated to be a change in eligibility from 65 to 67). The OAS is a monthly payment that is not based on contribution, and is of significant value to low-income seniors, there is a concern that there will be considerable detrimental changes to this bill.
Interestingly enough, this age bracket is Harper’s natural constituency; the outcomes of these amendments will be ones to observe in the next election.
The controversial Safe Streets and Communities Act, an omnibus bill combining nine previous crime act amendments that we not passed through the House, also spent time in the question-and-answer spotlight, as did proposed cuts to social programs like low-income housing, and welfare.
A variety of these changes could open the door for the privatization of institutions like health care, and prisons; these benefit a small amount of people and leave those without money or insurance in the dust. Reforms such as these are ones that have Conway concerned.
“I don’t trust privatization, ever,” he said, explaining that privatization is a short-sighted economic ploy, one that will drive an already-struggling Canada much farther down.
Healthcare reforms were the main issue for The TETRA Society, a group that aids those who are differently-abled. TETRA Society member Angelica Barth-Burkholder wondered aloud “if charity will be able to fill the voids” that will come from cuts to public health care.
With accusations as strong as Harper being an American neo-conservative, Conway said, it’s imperative that we look closely at his platforms.
“It’s not a stretch to see that he is in support of militarism [and] imperialism,” he said.
After such perplexing topics the more complicated matter of how to fix the way our political realm is structured were on the table. Other topics regarding the likelihood of implementing proportional representation, the chances of a left wing merger, and the importance of micro politics became the subject of debate.
The debate was not so much a debate – as Farney said, “[Conway and I] did not outright oppose each other.” For those attending the debate, this was perhaps an indicator that the Harper government is something that requires a great deal of scrutiny no matter which side of the political spectrum you reside on.