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Opinion editorial on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Posted on July 29, 2014

Mayor Naheed Nenshi should be applauded for his recent comments about Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program. He not only pointed out that the federal Conservative government’s recent changes to the program will not work for our city, but that it is profoundly un-Canadian “[t]o treat people like commodities that come here for two years and serve us our coffee in the mornings.”

The government created major problems for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program when it began to loosen the rules in 2006; it created an approval process with little oversight that largely amounted to rubber stamping applications, which has directly led to Canadians losing their jobs to temporary foreign workers.

But the government’s most recent attempt to fix the very problems it created is a sledgehammer approach that will not work everywhere; the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has now become one of the federal government’s most anti-Alberta policies in decades. The new rules appear to be based on the assumption that every region and industry in Canada faces identical labour challenges.

Even in our respective ridings of Calgary Confederation and Calgary Skyview, which we hope to represent, have vastly different needs and characteristics. The lack of nuance in this government’s hap-hazard decision-making does not recognise the varying economic challenges in our communities.

More important than fixing the short term labour problem, however, is planning for the long term; not only because it is the right thing to do, but because as Mayor Nenshi correctly stated: “We need immigration in order for our system to work.”

Consider that in 1991 the Calgary Herald ran an editorial entitled, “Baby Boomers: Old age will force changes on society,” which pointed out that by 2030, one-fifth of our population will be over the age of 65. It concluded by stating: “There is no reversing the aging process, but with proper care Canada can grow old gracefully.” Twenty three years later, Statistics Canada now estimates that by 2030 almost one-quarter of our population will be over the age of 65.

Canada must seize the moment and meet the coming economic challenges head-on. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program brings people to Canada, most of who have proven that they can successfully integrate into Canadian society and our labour market. Unfortunately, it is also a system that brings people here for a limited time, only to send them back where they came from. If their employer cannot find a Canadian to fill their vacated position, they then hire a new Temporary Foreign Worker who has likely never been to Canada before.

Of course, not every temporary foreign worker aspires to become a Canadian citizen. But by creating new pathways to citizenship, we can give those who do, and who have a proven track record of economic success in this country, a fair chance to stay and continue to contribute to Canadian society. If Canada is prepared to welcome these individuals as temporary foreign workers, they deserve a fair and reasonable opportunity to become citizens.

Matt Grant
Liberal Candidate for Calgary Confederation

Darshan Kang
MLA for Calgary-McCall
Liberal Candidate for Calgary Skyview

Are these the kind of officials we want in government?

Posted on July 17, 2014

Canadians’ faith in public office holders and politics has been seriously shaken. We deserve answers to the questions that the Prime Minister has refused to answer.

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Scenes from the road: June 28 – July 4

Posted on July 7, 2014

Justin Trudeau, Xavier, and Ella-Grace visit the Calgary Stampede grounds. July 4, 2014.Justin Trudeau, Xavier, and Ella-Grace visit the Calgary Stampede grounds. July 4, 2014.

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Lac-Mégantic: One Year Later

Posted on July 7, 2014

I drove down to Lac-Mégantic on Sunday to join the thousands commemorating the tragic loss of life that occurred one year ago when a train, laden with crude oil, derailed in a crowded area of the town, setting off a series of tanker car explosions that killed 47 people and shattered the lives of so many more.

On my way there, I drove through the village of Nantes, 11 kilometres to the northwest of Lac-Mégantic. This is where the fateful train began its out-of-control journey, a massive weapon rolling inexorably towards the heart of a community. I could see very clearly how the rail bed sloped downwards on its way out of Nantes, allowing the train in question to build up speed from the simple effect of gravity. How could this have been allowed to happen?

To put it bluntly: it was a failure to take the proper safety measures to prevent the train from ever moving by itself. It was also a failure to understand the explosive nature of the crude oil being carried by the train.

The main purpose of the commemorative ceremony was to remember those who lost their lives one year ago. It was also more than that. As firefighters lined the street in front of Sainte-Agnès church, it was also important to pay tribute to the courage and heroism of first responders and to acknowledge the many who, for the past year, have supported the community through this tragedy.

As I watched and spoke to some of the residents, it was clear to me that they have been profoundly changed by what happened a year ago. While they are resilient, it will still take time and it will never be quite the same for most. The death of 47 people in a small, tightly-knit community turned their world upside down. I felt that everyone in Lac-Mégantic knew someone who died that night.

As we mark this solemn occasion by remembering those we lost, we must also strengthen our resolve to ensure that the tragic events of Lac-Mégantic are never repeated. Our railways are vital to our Canadian infrastructure and economy, and it is the responsibility of the Canadian government to ensure that we have the safest rail system in the world.

Trains will continue to pass through the hearts of our communities from coast to coast to coast, and more must be done to ensure they do so as safely as possible.

Transport Canada has done some good things. The 5,000 least crash-resistant DOT-111 tanker cars have been retired and the others are being phased out or retrofitted. Trains carrying dangerous goods will now have to do so with an emergency response plan that can be shared with first responders.

However, there is more work to be done. The Auditor General recently expressed his concern that “Transport Canada does not have a quality assurance plan to continuously improve its oversight of rail safety.” The inspectors in charge of deciding if a railway’s Safety Management System is adequate lack the proper training materials needed to make those judgments.

The Auditor General also found that Transport Canada lacked data in important areas such as the condition of railway bridges. These problems must be addressed as soon as possible.
As my colleague David McGuinty recently wrote: Canada was brought together as a country by rail and many of us continue to live near the same rail lines that helped build Canada. On the anniversary of the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, let us commit to ensuring Canada’s rail system is the safest in the world.

Marc Garneau, M.P. (Westmount—Ville-Marie)

A journey through the Arctic

Posted on July 5, 2014

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Climate change is one of the great challenges of our time; it is a global issue, and the consequences are both visible and invisible to the eye. Fortunately, science and technology can help us tackle this challenge and, at the same time, help us build a greener economy.

Upon my return from the Ilulissat Icefjord, located in northern Greenland, I reflected on what I had experienced over the past few days; I spoke about climate change with experts like Dr. Robert Corell, a renowned climate scientist, and witnessed with my own eyes the impact that human-caused climate change is having on our planet. This incredible learning experience was organized by fellow Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum, and participants came from all walks of life. I cherished every minute I spent in the Arctic Circle. The beauty of nature, the immensity of the ice sheet, the icebergs in the Davis Strait of Baffin Bay, and the local Inuit community all left a lasting impression on me. I quickly realized that, like the Canadian Arctic, this is a pristine part of our planet that we need to better understand and protect. I would now like to share with you a few thoughts that have stemmed from my experience in the Arctic.

The science behind climate change is now well-established and it is clear that the changes occurring to our planet are demonstrably caused by human activity. Global carbon emissions from fossil fuels have significantly increased since 1900; in fact, emissions were 16 times higher in 2008 than they were in 1900.

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The impact of climate change on humankind is already severe, and it will continue. With rising sea levels, droughts, and more extreme weather becoming commonplace, it is clear that we must act. Thanks to innovation and technology, we have the tools required to reverse this trend and to reduce our collective carbon footprint.

I was impressed to hear from the Danish foreign minister and a group of Danish business leaders about the so-called ‘Danish consensus,’ which has allowed Denmark to achieve remarkable economic growth and energy efficiency, without increasing its carbon dioxide emissions. It is a great example of how development and environmental sustainability can go hand in hand.

Throughout our discussions, it became clear that one meaningful way to achieve better energy efficiency is to adopt policies that will lead to innovation and the conservation of energy. About 40 percent of the energy we consume is used in residential and commercial buildings; as a result, higher energy efficiency standards in buildings, appliances, and lighting would make a real impact on the amount of energy we consume as a society. Encouraging people to adopt more eco-friendly lifestyles has proven to be effective in Scandinavian countries, and it is worth exploring here in Canada. Contrary to what the current government would like us to believe, there is a path to greener, more sustainable economic growth.

I am proud to be a part of the Liberal team and to work closely with our Leader, Justin Trudeau, to address these growing issues. Together, we will provide Canadians with new leadership on one of the greatest challenges of our time and work diligently to ensure the protection of our natural environment.

François-Philippe Champagne
Liberal candidate
Saint-Maurice—Champlain