No horse

My room in the riding office was full tonight when. Ten or eleven people crowded in, while a projector on my desk beamed onto the wall and David Fisher stood at one end beside a flip chart covered with red magic marker ink. Beside him was a digital camera hooked up to a laptop. Everybody was wearing name tags and there was an air of studious exhilaration when I stuck my head in, and noticed half a dozen other people were online, and taking part on the meeting through a chat board being broadcast up there on the wall.

Who were these people? Citizens. Just citizens. A high school student, some seniors, some middle-class, middle-income and middle-aged parents, an accountant, a pilot, a government worker, two people who had driven 100 clicks to be there, and a person online in Nova Scotia.

Tonight was the genesis of something David is calling the “Constituents’ Policy Acceleration Committee,” and I have a strong feeling the whole country at some point will feel the reach of this small group. If an avalanche of public opinion brings change, then here I saw the first few grains of snow coming together. And I was proud.

David is a guy who lives in north Oakville in a semi with Marjie and their two kids and new dog. He invited me into his living room for a neighborhood political party during the election campaign, and then I returned after becoming the MP to ask the group for ideas for the first Conservative budget. Once I had written my report for Jim Flaherty and given a copy to the finance minister and the prime minister, I handed one to David. I asked him for his help in making the best recommendations come to life.

Some may wonder why an MP would ask a voter such a thing. After all, it is I who sit in the House of Commons. I am a member of the government. I can stand in my place and propose laws that others then decide upon with me. Why do I need a roomful of voters and a robust Internet connection to effect change?

Because, as I said tonight to the group, in the few minutes I was there, the time has come to change the way in which we are all governed. In the past, we elected people to go off and sit in Parliament and form a government and represent us. We did this because we lacked the ability or time to be there ourselves, or have any kind of ongoing input. MPs spoke for us. Made laws. Made deals. Did their best, came home and sold us on it. If we agreed, we sent them back. If not, we sent somebody else.

Ebenezer Bodwell That worked for the past 159 years. Not perfectly, but well enough. Besides, there was no alternative. When my great grandfather Ebenezer Bodwell went to Ottawa in 1867 to be the MP for Oxford, he carried with him the trust of all constituents. He knew that once the election was over, they had no choice but to trust him, since Ottawa was a long ways by horse. He rode off to represent them, since they had no other voice.

But here we are. Today the work of MPs and government is well understood by everyone. Media bathes us in information and there is almost nothing our political masters know before we do. We are informed, educated, involved – and wired. And yet we still have a 19th Century political system in place in which we vote for an MP, and with that vote surrender our ability to actually get the laws we want. How we are taxed. How we are asked to behave. How we are defended. How our tax dollars are spent. How are children are cared for and our broken bones set – all these decisions are made by others. The political class. MPs.

So, given the fact we are all involved, and getting more connected every day, why can’t we also have more influence over our own country? Our digital society now gives us instant information, the ability to erase distances between us, and the ability to collectively vote. Anytime. On any topic. Does this not make elections anachronistic? Are MPs irrelevant? In the Internet age, how can we possibly have a government that doesn’t listen?

These questions have haunted me for months, and follow me unanswered as I step onto the floor of the House of Commons. I listen to the meaningless and formalized speeches. I watch the prime minister float in for Question Period as the galleries fill and the charade of governing-and-opposing begins. I witness gestures of “listening to the people” for policies which have already been written. I sit through meetings of MPs and the political leadership in which debate does not take place. And I wonder, why?

And while I relish in my job and am humbled by its history and responsibilities, it strikes me the very best thing I can do is to give some of it back. And I am. I did. Tonight.

I have asked David to find citizens who wish to work hard, for nothing, for their country. There is no reason, as far as I can tell, why dozens, hundreds or millions of people can’t get online together and decide collectively if they want income-splitting within families, or whether a cut in the GST is better or worse than a cut in income tax. There’s also no reason why those people can’t access the resources to write their own legislation which can then be introduced in Parliament. And if there are enough people who actually care, and participate, then MPs will counter them at their political peril.

At least, that’s the theory. Laws from citizens for themselves. Voters educated as never before, informed as in no other age, able to communicate without bounds. The basis of the perfect state? I think so. I have asked David’s people to draft legislation on how families should be taxed. It will be my ground-breaking honour to take that to Ottawa. And, no horse.


#1 David Fisher on 04.13.06 at 11:33 pm

Thanks Garth.

In my charge to our stalwart inaugural CPXL participants tonight, I explained to them how your vision has haunted me, has plagued me, has challenged me and has taken up an incredible amount of my mind-space over the past week, since the time when we last met and you asked me whether I would accept this mission. I did not know what to expect – and I didn’t push people whom I knew I could coerce, to attend. My hope was that those who were truly called into this service would show up for this first meeting. And truly, I was not disappointed.

We had Sean, Ian, Tim, Mark, Margie, Dan, Linda, Patricia and Jim in attendance physically as well as Mark Brown, Ken Anderson and Robert Pratt online. (As a side note: Sorry about the wonky Internet connectivity, Mark, Ken and Robert. We seemed to have a bit of bad luck trying to run the audio and video feeds through Garth’s office computer systems. I think the security is pretty restrictive and kept cutting you guys off from our meeting interactions.)

But, it was a great first start to what looks like a pretty awesome endeavour. But, I have nothing “legislative” to report to everyone as of yet! (you will get a better synopsis, and a different perspective, from our youngest and most vocal participant tonight, the mighty Mark Johnson who has accepted the task of reporting on this BLOG, our experiences and evolution tonight.) We have decided to each take on a “SMART” task to help us to move the recommendations that Garth has proposed into true legislation. We have focussed on three of Garth’s recommendations that we feel would have the greatest impact for the most Canadians. Namely: the creation of a Family Tax Return and allowance of income-splitting, the proposal to make child care payment elective and means tested and the recommendation to allow retired couples to share their income.

If you wish to join us as we seek answers to what legislative modifications might lie ahead, please go to and register to participate (I will then need to “let you into the community”.) This is a basic community site that I have setup to get us started in this Digital democracy thingy that Garth is evolving. Stay tuned!

David Fisher

#2 Mark Brown on 04.14.06 at 3:30 am

Thanks for the opportunity Garth. GREAT START DAVID!

Mark Brown
Sault Ste. Marie, ON

#3 Paul Kristensen on 04.14.06 at 6:17 am

No horse? Well then there should be none of that offal byproduct of a horse either. 🙂

#4 Doug on 04.14.06 at 6:23 am

Dear Sir: i was a supporter of your policies and
initiatives when you were finance minister in a
previous Tory Government. I am mad as hell that there
is not a more fair system to finance city budgets. I
agree that there is only one taxpayer in this country
and I for one am getting sick and tired of having to
try and manage financially in this day and age while a
bunch of spendthrift idiots that I never voted for in
all three levels of government,especially the City of
Toronto, where all Mayor Miller says these days to his
union buddies is how much more do you want me to
squeeze out of the taxpayers now. It is about time
that all Canadians,not only in large cities, to rise
up and say enough is enough we won’t pay for your
jaunts and all expense paid trips overseas to attend
conferences that study the latest methods of fleecing
the taxpayers. Canadians have to get the guts and
backbone to do this and not be walked on by
irresponsible politicians and their ilk.

Thankyou for listening to me,

Yours truly
Douglas Lister

#5 MM on 04.14.06 at 6:25 am

Dear Mr. Turner,

I just heard, on the CTV whistleblower report, that you were proposing to tackle the 24% rise in municipal property taxes over the last five years, across the country. Although I am not one of your constituents (I own a home in Gatineau, Hull sector, Québec, since 2002), I am convinced that, regardless of political persuasion, this would have broad political support, across the country.

There are several issues, from my perspective.

1) Although municipalities are the « building blocks » of democracy (like Lego bricks), to quote Shakespeare in Hamlet, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (also home of Lego). In my experience, municipal councilors of varying competence and integrity are elected by an electorate seemingly uninterested in the self-serving links between campaign financing by construction firms and zoning decisions. To my knowledge, there are no rules which govern the public disclosure of financing of municipal and county election campaigns, resulting in very clear conflicts when municipal councilors have their election campaigns financed by construction companies that stand to benefit from zoning decisions. This cannot be in the “public interest” of the majority of citizens, particularly when green space in cities becomes high rent office buildings or shopping plazas. In my view, municipalities could also benefit from an “Accountability Act” that would cover the municipal level of government, all across the country.

2) Municipalities only have limited ways in which to generate revenue and balance their budgets. Property taxes are probably one of the most important of these sources of revenue. Yet they face some of the most important challenges facing modern civilization: managing municipal waste, including sewage, and providing public services such as water and public transport in an environmentally friendly (sustainable) way. I am appalled, for example, that Vancouver has electric buses (environmentally friendly), Calgary has a wind-powered sky train, and yet the National Capital Region (Ottawa-Gatineau) has buses running on petrol or, in the case of the STO, we have the “promise” or “threat” that the buses will soon be converted to bio-fuels (which are ultimately just as bad*). “Stewardship” does not, in my book, mean that we have the right to consume and discard waste in the air, water, or a land fill. Municipalities do not have the clout to stand up to large agrifood, agribusiness, and consumer retail chains to encourage minimalist or environmental packaging regiemes – such as they have in many countries in Europe (in Germany, each store is required, by law, to accept the return of any and all packaging they sold with their products), to reduce the cost of municipal waste, yet they are on the hook for disposing it…

3) I have no issue with property owners paying property tax. This is a fundamental tenant of the form of capitalism we have inherited, which depends on notions of ownership of property, the ability to borrow against that property, and a legal system to decide disputes. I can even see the logic of applying taxes on the basis of the “actual market value” based on the price at which I bought my home. There is also clearly a problem if someone has owned their house for 50 years and is paying taxes based on the purchase price in 1956, in 1956 dollars. As a result, I would fully support adjusting the “property value”, provided it is based on the price at which I purchased my home, to inflation. This would then serve as the baseline for property taxes and inevitable increases, to track inflation. However, I see no basis (other than a money grab) for annual adjustments of property taxes, reflecting the need of the local municipal council to balance their budget, based on the “presumed” value of my house at any point in time, based on complex and impossible to challenge formulas of value. This is like taxing me for capital gains I have not yet realized, because I am currently holding a stock which has risen in value. This is nonsense.

I appreciate any and all efforts you are undertaking on behalf of your constituents and on behalf of property owners (and renters – as they tend to end up having to foot the bill for a disproportionate amount of property tax increases) across Canada and would be prepared to discuss further, by e-mail or by phone.


Martin Mündel, MSc (Econs.) LSE

#6 Paul on 04.14.06 at 6:34 am

Garth :

We face some great challenges ahead as a nation, because, (as we know) one day up the road when all the boomers (who are living longer) are retired, there will be a smaller tax base to support the load…& clearly, (for those of us who can) there is a need to become as self-reliant as possible.

Today, I was speaking to my accountant & while discussing my own plans for retirement, I was amazed to learn that our government would “PENALIZE ME” for over-contributing to my RRSP plan !!!

Garth…for heaven’s sake…this one is just “over the top, totally stupid” !!!

In an environment where big employers are pink slipping so many people, & buyouts (as incentives to retire) are all too common, why on earth would our RRSP’s “NOT” be able to have a bulk contribution…& then people could use the “appropriate amount” (max according to our income for any given year) to defray our tax obligation, as we can now, by depositing year by year ??

To diswade people from making a contribution when $$$ present themselves (Grandma’s will, or a windfall from the sale of property, etc) makes no sense at all.

As you know, if a person does not make contributions to an RRSP plan, a “catch up” is allowed…so why not a bulk deposit & then a credit toward successive years ?? That would be the same thing, just in reverse.

Should we not be doing all we can do to prepare ourselves as a nation for the problems that are “obvious” to overtake us in the future ??

To have penalties in place for those who over-contribute, is a policy that just reaks of stupidity, & had to be made by people who are out of touch with the struggles of today’s working class.

I hope you agree with me that “this one” has to be addressed…& the sooner the better…for all of us !!

Coffee’s on me at Tim’s in Windsor if you can pull it off.

I’m counting on you Garth….& thanks in advance !!!

Regards, Paul.

#7 Mark Johnson on 04.14.06 at 10:38 am

Thanks David for the introduction,

Yes, tonight we started something that has never been attempted in the history of Canadian politics, and I am honoured to just be a part of it.

A small citizens group will be drafting a Private Members Bill, which will hopefully be passed into law. We are concentrating mainly on points 3 and 4 of Voices-Choices (and to a lesser extent, number 7, which falls under number 3). These Recomendations are:

-Create a Family Tax Return and Allow for Income Splitting


-Make the childcare payment elective and means tested.

Our group will be making a synthesis of these two recommendations and form it into a bill that Garth has so graciously offered to introduce into the HOC. There will be more information on the bill as it progresses.

Our goal really isn’t the legislation, though. While these recomendations are of the utmost importance and would benefit all Canadians greatly, and it would be great to see this passed into law, that is not what the CPXL is all about. Our ultimate goal will be to have a group like ours in each riding across Canada, where we take the power away from lobbyists, power brokers and the political elite and put it back in the hands of ordinary citizens.

That is basically our mission, we have unbelievably talented individuals who come from all walks of life and I think if anyone will be able to acomplish these lofty goals it is this group.

As a sidebar, if there are people out there who are reading this and think they could contribute positively to this effort, contact David Fisher, I am sure he would love to have as many people as possible.

#8 James on 04.14.06 at 11:56 am

Hi Garth;

I don’t know how influential the Federal Goverment can be, but the property tax issue that you have alligned your self with is not being addressed by provincial or municiple representatives. Regardless of the number of letters, and cordinated presentations to these people there is no movement to implement a fair format. It is my contension that property tax should be based on a combination of the purchase price and number of occupants.

Again I don’t know how you can help, but a federal law would provide unified a property tax system that would set a level playing field for all Canadians. It certainly would not take away from the muncipalities right to raise taxes, but at least the retired couple will not be penalized for maintaining their house in good repair. The current system surley must break some form of fedral law as it is a discrimintory fashion of assessing taxes.

James Virgin

#9 DM on 04.14.06 at 12:35 pm

If everyone was like you Canada would be a much better place. Yes I would like to show my support for you.

Thank you

Darren MacDonald
New Brunswick

#10 JIm on 04.14.06 at 12:37 pm

In response to the news story about the elderly couple on a fixed income about to loose the farm because of higher assements, you are right we should be ashamed. I am on disabilty and wondering if my wife and I can stay in our two yr. old town home in Belleville Ont. Realestate has gone crazy here too. I hope you find a way for those people on the farm and the rest of the country too. Good Luck. One last thing , I enjoy reading through your web site.
Regards Jim Putrus
Bellville, Ont

#11 PD on 04.14.06 at 12:38 pm

Hi Garth;
As past owner of my own Insurance Brokerage firm, & present owner of a Microbrewerey, as well as past President of the Insurance Brokers of Brampton Association, & past President of Madoc Community Association, I have lots to suggest, but never felt my suggestions would be listened to UNTIL NOW.
Please include me as a volunteer to David’s committee.
Paul Deerin,
Limehouse, Ont

#12 MM on 04.14.06 at 12:43 pm

A few thoughts for you.
The existing system of assesment is unfair to those who own a home and whose values increase because of the actions of others in the area.
I suggest that the taxes on a property should only increase by an amount to meet the cost of inflation or some such modest, fair system.
The taxes on a specific residential property should otherwise stay fixed until such time as the property changes hands and the new owner would then pay taxes on the current property value.
The existin system of assesing value on residential is outdated and too combersome. What is wrong with the real market value as determined by sales?
Commercial, industrial etc is another matter which also needs to be looked at but is not as simple as I believe that residential is.

ps……some years ago while I was president of the Oakville, Milton Real Estate Board I sat on a local Halton Region tax committee and put forward the above thoughts. They were met favourably by several of the commitee but we were overruled by the assesment office representatives. Several of us had the impression the the committee was only there to make it appear that the government was trying to improve the system but employees were out to protect their positions/jobs.


#13 Scott on 04.14.06 at 12:46 pm

Mr. Turner,

I would like to commend your efforts on behalf of middle class Canadians and especially your stance on ever-increasing property taxes. We live in Winnipeg one of Canada’s formerly “affordable” communities and have seen the same remarkable increases in assessed value. I agree wholeheartedly with you that nothing will be done about this problem until the general public makes it an issue.

In Manitoba not only do we suffer from increasing assessed values, but also increasing education taxes based on mill rates applied to these assessments. On top of this, we pay an additional Manitoba education support levy.

As father of 2 soon to be 3 young children (ages 5 and under) I see this as a major concern to our future. I would like further information on your position and would like to support the advancement of this movement.


Scott Koskie

#14 Gord Thorne on 04.14.06 at 12:48 pm

All I can say is, as much as I don’t like Harper, if I were living in your riding, I’d have to vote PC.

Gord Thorne
Sydney, NS

#15 mike on 04.14.06 at 2:26 pm

Garth – how does this impact your goal of empowering MPs?

Not one bit, Mike. I hope you can judge from this site that I speak my mind, and let you do the same. – Garth

#16 mike on 04.14.06 at 2:34 pm

Paul – sounds like you need a new accountant – the tax rules on rrsps are pretty clear – most people don’t screw up like that, and when they do, they don’t complain about it.

FYI – If you let everyone “overcontribute” as much as they want, you’d have millionaires deferring 100% of their income tax…

#17 Tim on 04.14.06 at 3:10 pm

Dear Garth and David,

I just wanted to publicly say “Thank you” for the opportunity given last night. When I came to the meeting, I had some apprehensions, and some doubts as to what we could do, and we could accomplish. As I mentioned in our introduction, I am somewhat skeptical, but now is my chance to stand up, speak out, and contribute to what I feel is important. Truely democracy in action.

Thank you Garth, for giving us this opportunity. Thank you David for bringing us together. To the rest of the group, I am very excited to be working with all of you. The excitment and energy, and desire for making not only a change, but an improvement for all Canadians was very palpable in the air last night.

I look forward to the work..and to the contribution I hope we can make. I also look forward to our small group growing.

I have not been this encouraged in a long time.


#18 Ryan on 04.14.06 at 3:15 pm

Dear M.P. Turner,

Since the election of the new government I have been worried with, what appears to be, an attempt on behalf of your leader, the Right Honourable Steven Harper, to silence the Canadian public’s dialogue with their duly elected political representatives.

I applaud your comments regarding Mr. Emerson and the unfair way that he crossed the floor and proceeded to take a Ministerial seat. Unfortunately, it would appear, that this story soon became one of your being relegated to silence; you even joked about this consequence in the media! You are obviously a man of integrity to have spoken out, as you said you would do during the elections, for what you believe to be wrong.

Upon continuing to see examples of Governmental silence-tactics, and more evidence of this coming to light consistently, I read the following article today, entitled;

“In Harper’s tightly scripted government, loose lips sink careers”
( )

I do understand that there are elements of control practiced within all government with the M.P.s, etc, however, I see a trend that passes many previous precedents.

I am asking you this question as a concerned Halton resident and voter; can you confirm or deny the truth behind this story?

I am asking you, a man of honesty and integrity, is this the government that you represent and do you believe that this is the way that government should represent it’s citizenry?

If you do believe in the freedom to express yourself as first, the representative of Halton, second as a member of the majority party, how can you stay with the elected government?

I ask for a reply at your earliest opportunity; and have only addressed this query to you, separate from your leadership, or fellow M.P.s.

I thank you, sincerely, for your time.

Burlington, ON.

Ryan: Do not make more of this than the actions of a prime minister on a mission who does not want to be diverted from it. Rest assured, while he may have his ministers on a short lease, I am not, have never been, nor will be. And yet I am a member of this party and this caucus, which proves that there’s pleanty of room for free expression and diversity within Conservative ranks. — Garth

#19 ANTHONY LANCE on 04.14.06 at 4:20 pm


Here ya go. I call things the way I see them, and I think you going over the top on us. If Harper doesn’t like reporters, he will have to live with the consequences. I am sure he knows that. AND STOP YELLING. — Garth

#20 Mark Johnson on 04.14.06 at 5:24 pm

hey tony, you have the tinfoil hat wrapped a little to tight, dont you think?

#21 Solomon on 04.14.06 at 8:27 pm

I have been following your web page since the very beginning. It is the first site I go to on opening my computer every night.
It was just great to be able to follow the election and the aftermath even while wintering in Florida, where I still am. To-night you mentioned on your site that you had an electronic meeting wherein folks from as far away as the eastern provinces were involved.

I would like to be a part of this group in a passive way. Can you give me an idea how to do this???

Thank you for your endeavor to bring governing back to the people!!!!

Solomon Robbins

Absolutely, and thank you. David Fisher, the chair, can be reached directly at [email protected]. — Garth

#22 David Fisher on 04.14.06 at 8:34 pm

Hello Solomon Robbins

David Fisher here – the guy with the webcam and the effervescent fervour for Garth’s digital democracy initiative.

Join us in an online community located right now at . We are in the genesis stages of a policy acceleration initiative loosley called the CPXL – Constituents’ Policy Acceleration committee.

I will be holding other webcasting sessions from within the Halton region in the near future. (and I will attempt to have more people who can join us with a more stable internet connection.)

Please email [email protected], Esther is Garth’s Executive Assistant, with your coordinates.


#23 Bruno on 04.14.06 at 9:26 pm

Seems like you are getting ready for the next PC leadership race. I understood that elected MPs worked with the agenda developed by the Party prior to the election.

I do not recall you running on your “Plan” and it seems rather traitorous to start putting forth your agenda when the voters elected you on the Party’s agenda. You might consider crossing the floor for a more prestigious post – shake hands with Erickson and Stronach on your way. The NDP. I’m sure, would offer you a shadow cabinet position.

My respect and support for the new PC Party dropped to zero when Mulroney attended one of the earlier meetings to give support. How Harper could even stand next to such a sleaze and thief is beyond me – as I wrote my Riding Association ” you may want to lower yourselves to the pig trough of politics but you are not taking me down with you.”

You seem to be unable to work within the Party’s objectives and would rather create divisiveness and splinter groups by conning others to put forth your ideas under their name.

Your “Plan” rejects the idea of giving back the taxpayers their money or taking less from them. With your elitist mentality you know better how to spend it then the people who earn it.

The NDP, a Socialist party that is afraid to call itself Socialist, the Liberals and PCs are not far apart in their political and economic philosophy.

You dare to degrade the career of used car salesmen for comparison to the low-life politicians. There are some bad apples in any trades or professions but none sink to the level of your kind.

You will fit in well anywhere in the political quagmire

Bruno Oberski

#24 mark p. on 04.14.06 at 9:31 pm

“Ryan: Do not make more of this than the actions of a prime minister on a mission who does not want to be diverted from it. Rest assured, while he may have his ministers on a short lease, I am not, have never been, nor will be. And yet I am a member of this party and this caucus, which proves that there’s plenty of room for free expression and diversity within Conservative ranks. — Garth”

Perhaps Harper is an excellent strategist/coach, but we are still looking at a team that must satisfy the paying public much like in the game of hockey. If Harper is so fascinated by the great Canadian game that he plans on writing a book about it, then I pray that at some point his research will uncover the value of free and open decisions made at critical moments by independent players. You cannot coach a Canadian hockey team like an American football coach. We’ll see how his control strategy unravels itself when he tries to play the game in Quebec. It’s already started with Maxime Bernier. Anyways, Garth keep scrapping as its keeping the audience awake.

#25 Tim Mischuk on 04.15.06 at 6:46 am

Hi David/Garth,

I am simply overwhelmed by Garth Turner connecting with the local constituency (David and his group) in such a powerful way. Team is about referencing, listening and using the wisdom of others in relationship to help with decision making. I am impressed this value is being utilized to form decision and thought with our government. Looking forward to hearing more!