Entries from October 2005 ↓

It’s time

It was a stunning weekend in southern Ontario – warm, sunny, with enough golden, orange and red leaves left on the trees to make the countryside nothing less than spectacular. Definitely, it was the last hurrah for all the guys on motorcycles, who were massing in a parking lot on Dundas Street in the late morning on Sunday, as I drove to my designated door-knocking territory in north Oakville.

Later in the day, my country store near the Forks of the Credit – one of the three businesses I have in the hills of Caledon – was slammed by bikers and other visitors. The staff was overwhelmed, and reinforcements had to be called in from the nearby Inn to deal with the deluge. I felt guilty not being there to help them cope, but – given the unbelievable weather – my mission was clear: Banging on the maximum number of doors.

And it sure went well. As I wrote here late Saturday, I got to 179 homes that day, and just over 200 yesterday. It was a personal best for me, and I felt pretty satisfied by the time I got back in the newfound standard-time darkness last night. The reception was entirely consistent with what I have been encountering for months, even in this area of newly-built homes. People were welcoming, friendly and familiar. It was apparent that my efforts to get into the news pages of the local media are working as I had hoped. Every day in Halton, I get more like wallpaper.

So, here we have a big week looming. Gomery on Tuesday – the last, flickering opportunity for the opposition guys to bring the tottering Martin government down this year. If they miss this chance, or misjudge it, or decide the gamble is not worth it, then I am pretty much relegated to knocking on doors – in the snow – for another five months.

Sure, I can do that, and I will, but I’d rather be into an election campaign by the end of this week. Our team is ready. We have a major fundraiser Wednesday night with Laureen Harper. We have a campaign office that even has furniture in it. We have arterial signs sitting in Patric’s garage. We have hundreds of volunteers (I got three more yesterday) and we have valuable experience working together as a group. We have door-knocked for five months, had a series of successful Town Hall meetings, dominated the local media, attended fall fairs, community events and barbeques.

I have been to more than 6,000 doors, and we have distributed over 8,000 copies of my Voter’s Guide. This blog has now received 1.8 million hits, and every day I am getting more feedback from people who live here and are eager to join the campaign.

But, beyond Halton, we have a federal government that has shocked people with its disregard for taxpayer money – for the culture of arrogance and waste that’s developed in Ottawa. People like Dingwall, Volpe and Pettigrew are the poster boys for expense account excess. Ralph Goodale is ripping off seniors as he attacks their income trusts. Paul Martin’s entire government is at war with the middle class as it taxes unfairly, redistributes wealth from the middle to everywhere else, forces mortgage rates higher with a 15% surge in program spending and – tomorrow with the Gomery report – shows a deep disregard for morality and ethics.

Will enough Canadians share this anger to convince the opposition leaders to defeat the Liberals? I can only hope. It’s time to let slip the dogs of war.

Bearer of good news

Seventeen degrees, and the overriding sound this afternoon was that of lawnmowers on Nichols Drive in north Oakville. The day was gorgeous – all the more spectacular coming on the heels of a cold, wet and dank week – and everyone was relishing in the ability to cut grass, pull weeds and wash cars on the 29th day of October.

Glorious for me, too. I was able to get around the entire poll, doing all 179 houses – and finding a huge number of people at home. The weather helped their moods, too. Almost everyone was cheerful, talkative and, yes, supportive. I picked up a couple of new volunteers, got a few sign locations and – of the 179 houses I visited – just two people claimed to be Liberal.

This neighbourhood is so new we have no poll results from the last election, which makes the canvassing all-important. Based on the four and a half hours I pounded the streets today, this is Conservative country, solidly middle-class. The houses range in value from low fives into the seven hundred thousand which, for Oakville, is completely normal. These people have mortgages, car loan payments and in many cases have shelled out hundreds of bucks to decorate their homes for Hallowe’en. And the streets in this poll are quite multi-cultural, with a real blend of Indian, Italian, Polish and White Bread families.

Actually, today has been a good day on many levels. While I was waiting for a doorbell to be answered, I leafed through today’s edition of the Oakville paper on the porch of one house, and saw my smiling little face on the editorial page. A guest column I had submitted a couple of weeks ago on the plight of the middle class was there!

So, here I was, going door to door, meeting people and giving out my brochures on my middle class action plan, while the same message was being reinforced in their local newspaper – not in a paid ad, but in the credible environment of the news pages. I made sure that at every other home I visited, where the paper was lying on the driveway or the at the front door, I delivered it by hand. Yes, the bearer of good news.

Here’s the column:

We stood talking on the front porch of his house on a corner lot in north Oakville. It was late afternoon and I had known this guy for less than a minute. The home, almost a copy of every other one on the short street, was worth maybe half a million – modest for this neighbourhood.

He told me it felt like his life was being squeezed now from all sides. Property taxes, incomes taxes, gas taxes. “I have more contribution room in my RRSP than my entire salary,” he said. “I’m middle-aged and I’ll never be able to put that money in there. All I’ve got is this.” He kicked the bricks at his front door.

Days later and ten miles away a young mother opened the door to me. She knew little about me, other than I was a politician, and began speaking about the pressures on her family. They made the choice to have her stay home and care for the kids, which they could afford on her husband’s six-figure salary. “He makes a lot of money,” she said, “but we have no savings. Our friends who have two incomes make a lot less, and always have more to throw around. The system is killing my family.”

These people, by the nation’s standards, are well off. They’re solidly middle class. They are not the ones the government is sending energy rebate cheques to, or whose kids qualify for grants, or who will ever see a GST payment.

They are also the worker bees of our society – the ones who are always employed, always taxpayers, always spending. Middle class people are the backbone of Halton, as they are of Canada. In fact, they define our society, make up the bulk of the population, and are responsible for the economy, as well as funding the government which then redistributes their taxes to others.

And yet, today, these folks are facing a vortex of problems not of their own making, and about to rob them of wealth, confidence and precious purchasing power. Runaway energy costs are eating into disposable income, since these people are commuters who spend hours on the 401, who have sizeable homes to heat this winter, and no alternative to consuming electricity.

Their mortgage payments are on the rise – the inevitable result of a 15% explosion in annual government spending, which increased the consumption of money in Ottawa by $20 billion. And property taxes are about to jump, the consequence of a hot real estate market which has raised the value of homes. Sure, homeowners have more equity but they don’t have more money.

And, in Ontario, the McGuinty government’s health care premiums are taking hundreds more dollars in taxation, while waiting times for care have not been decreased and while it’s still all but impossible in Oakville to find a family doctor.

This is a continuous erosion of family conditions brought on by governments who pride themselves in caring for the rest of society, at the expense of the middle. The current rebate of energy costs – to seniors and low-income families – is a perfect example. Suddenly $2.3 billion, harvested from that guy with no RRSP and the single-income family without savings, is being sent to others. There will be no rebates in their neighbourhoods. Just higher costs, less money to spend at Future Shop and fewer jobs at the Oakville Place come the Spring. The middle class is under attack.

And it must stop. Without a vibrant, prosperous and hopeful middle class, the country just cannot move forward. It is the middle class folks in places like Oakville whose tax dollars end up supporting everyone else, everywhere. So, today, when the economic tide is turning against them, they need – and deserve – some propping up. That may not be politically sexy at a time when others get all the attention, but it is a priority. At least, it is with me. It’s the reason I am a political candidate again, and why I think it’s crucial the voice of the middle class rings through Parliament.

We need an agenda that includes tax breaks for individuals and a new system that taxes one and two-income families the same. We need breaks for people who provide care for their own kids, along with the stable and predictable mortgage rates that only result from less government spending. We need balanced budget and debt repayment legislation; lower gas taxes for everyone; and a drop in capital gains tax so your retirement savings can grow faster. Let’s improve health care by giving a balance of public and private care providers, so long as it all remains free. And let’s encourage GO train use with a tax credit, while we toughen up on street crime, and encourage folks to look after themselves in old age with income-splitting RRSPs and a new Registered Lifetime Savings Plan.

There are ten key actions needed for our middle class to survive and prosper. This is what the next election is really about, since these people are at the heart of our economy and our country. This is the special interest group that now matters most.

What we need

A sunny Saturday morning in Halton – the last week of October, and just two more days until the release of the first Gomery report. I know what chaos that will cause on Parliament Hill on Tuesday. My old friend Mike Duffy tells me that the CTV news guys are going nuts trying to prepare for what they expect to be a momentous day.

Of course, Paul Martin has already arranged to get an advance copy, and is now expected to address the nation as part of a giant damage control operation. Will the opposition leaders have the courage to strike, and bring this Parliament to an end? Or will they judge Canadians to have no stomach for a federal election in the middle of December? If they were to ask me (and they are not, naturally), I would not hesitate to pull the plug.

Not a day goes by that the Liberals do not weaken further, nor that our issues become more clear. The country will not be served well by leaving these guys in office for five more months – months during which federal spending will spin out of control, mortgage rates rise further, the real estate market be negatively impacted, family income be drained by soaring energy costs, and financial markets gored by government incompetence.

Canada needs Conservatives right now. And, I mean now.

Finally a sunny day – bright, hopeful, colourful, promising. I am off to door-knock my little heart out. It is highest contribution I can make today to winning the country back.