HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Make Parliament Work
Pubdate: Tue, 27 Sep 2005
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2005 Southam Inc.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Following the ugliest sitting in living memory last spring, 
Parliament's summer break offered a welcome respite. The resumption 
of Parliament this week gives MPs an opportunity to restore public 
confidence in the institution. One hopes they are returning to the 
job with a renewed sense of purpose and civility, and a shared 
commitment to adopt needed legislation.

Even with an election looming early next year, there is no reason for 
Parliament to spend the next few months in a state of paralysis. If 
MPs are willing to shift away from the pointless gamesmanship that 
dominated the last sitting, there are a variety of policy areas that 
demand attention, among them:

- - Corporate taxes. When Finance Minister Ralph Goodale caved in to 
NDP demands last April and cancelled $4.6-million in planned cuts, he 
promised to reintroduce them as soon as possible. But now, the 
government has indicated they'll be further delayed until after the 
next election, for fear of triggering the Liberals' defeat. As we 
noted last week, some of the highest corporate tax rates in the 
Western world place Canada at an enormous competitive disadvantage. 
The Conservatives should pledge to help the Liberals pass the cuts 
they promised previously -- and Paul Martin's party, secure in the 
knowledge it will not fall, should reintroduce the bill.

- - Health care. Since the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling this past 
spring opening the door to private health insurance, all parties -- 
other than the NDP with its proposed ban on the expansion of private 
care -- have studiously avoided the issue. Granted, there is no 
chance that one sitting of Parliament will cure all that ails our 
medicare system, nor even settle on the bold steps needed to take us 
in that direction. But it is time for some meaningful debate on the 
future of medicare -- including serious consideration of a broad 
expansion of private delivery.

- - Rebuilding our Armed Forces. To its credit, the government finally 
made military investment something of a priority in this year's 
budget. But the increased funds still amount to only a drop in the 
bucket, especially since they will be staggered over several years. 
In a recent study for Queen's University, security and defence expert 
Christopher Ankersen wrote that the Forces' goal of 8,000 additional 
recruits is unrealistic -- not just because of the difficulty in 
attracting that many people, but also because the Forces' resources 
have been spread so thin that they simply cannot accommodate that 
many new troops. To rebuild our military to the point where it is 
actually able to contribute to major international campaigns, it will 
have to be made a bigger priority.

- - Gasoline taxes. Higher prices at the pumps are a fact of life 
Canadians will have to live with. But the federal government could do 
much to ease the burden by scaling back the absurd array of gas taxes 
- -- notably the application of the GST on top of other taxes 
(effectively a tax on a tax), the venerable "deficit elimination tax" 
that persists even though Ottawa has balanced the books and the 10 
cents/litre excise tax.

- - Drug laws. The marijuana decriminalization saga has dragged on far 
longer than it should have. While we prefer legalization, rather than 
the proposed half-measure, some reform would be better than none. Mr. 
Martin's foot-dragging on this file has gone on long enough; it is 
time to stop saddling Canadians who use a substance no more harmful 
than alcohol or tobacco with criminal records.

- - The age of consent. At present, it is legal for an adult to have 
sex with a 14-year-old, provided that the adult is not an authority 
figure and the relationship does not fit an official definition of 
"exploitive." A Conserva tive motion to be voted on shortly would 
raise the age of consent to 16, bringing it more in line with the 
United States and many other Western countries. Provided that any 
legislation include a "close-in-age" clause to ensure that it would 
not be a crime for two young people to engage in sexual relations 
with each other, it should be passed.

During its last sitting, Parliament became a running joke among 
voters. And the recent spate of backstabbing among Conservatives 
suggests the spirit of farce is still alive and well. But Canadians 
have had their share of bickering and brinkmanship. It is time now 
for Canada's legislators to get down to the business of legislating.
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MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman