Roadmap to One Canada for All Canadians (March 2013)

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Canada is a magnet to people from around the globe. People choose Canada because of the opportunities we offer, both economic and social, and because we have the best of universal values: justice, equality, diversity, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms, equal rights, non-discrimination. People choose Canada to join in building a great nation where we live together peaceably, compassionately, and respectfully, exercising the mutual responsibilities that go along with the rights of citizenship.

But too many Canadians are on the sidelines today, disengaged from national politics and a political process that seems irrelevant and outdated, and that divides rather than unites us. We have a federal government that is letting us drift apart, shirking the mantle of leadership. We are being conditioned to expect less and less from our national government and from one another.

It is time to live up to a vision that appeals to our higher aspirations and hopes for the future. More than ever we need to work together as Canadians to repair the broken social contract and unleash the creativity and innovation that is essential to building a prosperous future together. Our diversity of geography and population is an incredible source of dynamism that knows no boundaries.

We need strong national leadership that inspires us to look over the horizon to build a country that is much bigger than the sum of its parts. Together we can build One Canada for all Canadians.

Here are a few concrete steps to get us started.

A More Equitable Canada – Repairing the Broken Social Contract

Justice for First Nations – End the Indian Act: The federal government must commit itself to enthusiastically negotiating comprehensive indigenous self-governance arrangements and burying the Indian Act once and for all.

A Better Life for Urban Indigenous People: The Council of Canadian Governments will make improvements to the quality of living for urban Aboriginals a priority: something for cities, provinces, First Nations, and the federal government to work together on.

Making Sense of Equalization: An independent advisory commission will inject some consistency and accountability into the equalization and transfer payments system — because national equity matters.

Equity in Childcare: Working families should not have to change provinces just to receive quality, affordable childcare. The federal government must work with the provinces, territories and aboriginal communities to establish clear national goals for childcare spaces and a system of fiscal transfers that ensures assistance goes where it is needed.

Protecting Retirement Security: CPP/QPP is still the most efficient, portable and equitable way to enlarge retirement savings nationwide. The retirement age should be raised, but only after full consideration and accommodation of the long-term interests of younger Canadians in a secure and affordable retirement system. Ottawa must also take immediate steps to ensure pensioners are well protected in the event of a company’s bankruptcy.

A Disability Benefit System That Makes Sense: The federal government can lead in streamlining the mishmash of seven different disability-related programs (including CPP, EI, WC, and tax credits) and ensure that no one suffers from arbitrary and unfair federal or provincial clawbacks of essential income support.

A Prescription for Healthier Medicare: We need a revamped intergovernmental body that is clearly and permanently mandated to facilitate compromise, and that can advise both federal and provincial governments on maintaining national standards for health care services — including regulating the mix of private and public care.

A National Pharmaceutical Strategy: We need a federally led drug program that will expand and coordinate the patchwork of public and private schemes that already provide drug insurance to some 22 million Canadians.

Taking Politics Out of Justice: A new, independent Criminal Justice Council will advise the government on all proposed Criminal Code changes, to ensure that law is built on the best evidence, rather than on knee-jerk reactions to short-term political pressures.

Legalize It: As our scientific understanding and societal views evolve, so too should our laws. Legalizing and regulating marijuana will reduce the burden on our criminal justice system and decriminalize what is usually a recreational activity.

Consumer Protection — On Guard for Thee: Consumers should not be left vulnerable to unsafe, sometimes toxic commercial products. Fixing this means always being prepared to challenge vested interests, and pushing back at Conservatives’ mindless opposition to any and all regulations. Protections for telecommunications customers should not be buried deep in the Department of Industry or left to a provincial patchwork of regulations.

Reforming Our Democracy – Transparency and the Pursuit of the National Interest

Council of Canadian Governments: We must create a Council of Canadian Governments, chaired by the federal government, to bring together the provinces and territories, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and Aboriginal leadership in constructive collaboration to find solutions for the problems that concern all Canadians.

Returning Power to Parliament: A serious plan to challenge the bloated powers of the Prime Minister’s Office must include a new electoral system adopting some form of proportional representation, new rules limiting the powers of prorogation and omnibus bills, the empowering of parliamentary committees, genuine independence for such positions as the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and the curtailment of patronage through use of an independent appointments board.

Welcoming Science Back to Parliament: We must reinstate the senior science advisor to the federal government, and establish and support an independent National Academy of Sciences responsible to but independent of Parliament, to provide a place to bring the best science together, encourage essential networks and shield science and scientific endeavor from political and other vested interests. Lawmakers should have direct access to the objective science on medicine, energy, the environment, and more.

A Public Broadcaster for the 21st Century: The CBC must be distinctly public and distinctly Canadian. It should be restructured so that appointments to its board of directors are independent of the Prime Minister, and the board chooses the president of the CBC.

Building a Solid Economic Foundation: Prosperity through Creativity and Innovation

Giving Canadian Entrepreneurs an Early Hand: We need to facilitate increased access for Canadian entrepreneurs to early-stage financing to help good ideas and technology get off the drawing board and the lab bench and into the market, where it can help grow our economy and create employment. A blue ribbon panel must examine all the existing programs addressing the links between research and commercialization, and propose a more robust and coherent role for the federal government in facilitating access to financing, for both the seed stage and for capacity building.

Doing Better for Students: The federal government can lead on post-secondary education (PSE) and foster creativity and ingenuity by developing a national strategy that includes: creating an independent PSE federal transfer to ensure, among other things, financing for the first two years of training or education after high school; increasing responsiveness to labour market demands, setting targets, collecting better data, and supporting provinces in expanding the recognition and transfer of credits among universities and colleges, as well as online learning. We must ensure that any new federal investment is tied to increased access, and that income is not a barrier for qualified students.

EI and Training That Works for Workers: We need fundamental reform to ensure that Employment Insurance serves the needs of today’s workers who are frequently in part-time and non-standard contract work. We need to build a program that serves everyone and that provides effective apprenticeships and training for all those who need it.

A True National Economic Union: The federal government must lead an effective intergovernmental effort to finally implement a Canadian economic union, removing the barriers to free movement of goods, services, and skills across provincial borders that currently hinder business and employment opportunities for Canadians.

Getting Our Trade Priorities Right: We are stronger when we open our doors to people, investment, and trade — but any trade and investment deals we make must be transparent, based on the principle of reciprocity, and must result in tangible economic gains, including the creation of quality jobs.

Eliminate the Infrastructure Deficit: A non-partisan Canadian Infrastructure Financing Authority will pave the way towards more robust and innovative financing and investment partnerships, ensuring a sustainable financial future that addresses our pressing infrastructure deficit, from safer bridges, better roads, clean water and affordable housing to efficient public transportation and broadband access.

We Need to Talk about the Tax System: The time has come to redesign our tax system for a 21st century economy. As a starting point, in line with fundamental principles of fairness, efficiency, and effectiveness, we should eliminate the exemptions, special cases, and tax breaks for favoured interests that have vastly increased the system’s complexity and benefited those that need them least. And we must ensure that the tax system helps, not hinders, Canadians making the transition from welfare to work.

A Greener, More Sustainable Canada

Putting a Price on Carbon: Business leaders and environmentalists agree that instituting a carbon tax is the smartest, most efficient and most effective means of shifting consumption away from fossil fuels, and protecting our environment and our prosperity.

Sustainability First: A sustainable approach to resource development means not taking risks that we do not know how to mitigate. We need regulation to oversee the creation, life, and completion of projects, and we need to demand that companies finance legacy projects up front.

A National Energy Grid: We need a more integrated national electricity market to reduce economic and environmental inefficiencies, and to finally establish greater national cohesion in energy production and transmission.

Canada’s Place In The World

Strengthening Canada’s Global Role: Canada has to constantly earn our place in the world to maintain and enhance our contribution and influence in global forums. Among other things, this means having coherent policies, being good global citizens, and strengthening our diplomatic skills and talent.

Protecting People Worldwide: Canada must be a leader in the pursuit of human security across the globe. We must be innovative in addressing a complex new world in which the vast majority of violence occurs outside of formal conflict. Canada must also lead in implementing effective international measures to end mass poverty, as well as fundamental reforms to global governance structures.

Long-Term Vision in Immigration Policy: We should seriously rethink employer-sponsored and provincially sponsored immigration streams. We need an immigration policy that reflects an over-the-horizon vision of what we want our country to be, rather than one driven by short-term employment needs.