Archive for December, 2010

Happy New Year

December 30, 2010

With 2010 coming to a close, best wishes for 2011.

2010: Layton reviews a year of achievements

December 22, 2010

New Democrat team took on Conservatives to help families in tough times

Jack Layton praised New Democrats for putting practical results ahead of reckless political games in 2010. Layton highlighted NDP achievements that included successful motions in the House on protecting jobs from predatory foreign takeovers and New Democrats’ ongoing efforts to get the federal sales tax taken off Canadians’ home heating bills.

“If Stephen Harper thinks soaring bank profits mean we’re out of the woods, then he needs to get out more in 2011,” said Layton. “Every day I talk to more Canadians who are still losing sleep over their jobs, their savings, their unpaid bills. I’m proud of the way New Democrats kept their eye on the ball this year, working to make life a little easier for people in tough economic times.”

This year, in the middle of a recession, the Harper government hiked payroll taxes and imposed the HST on BC and Ontario. Layton contrasted Harper’s out-of-touch policies with his team’s efforts to make life more affordable. Alongside the home heating campaign, New Democrats moved key legislation further through the House, including bills to improve Employment Insurance, launch a national housing strategy, and protect workplace pensions.

“New Democrats are proposing solutions, and we’re getting results by keeping pressure on Stephen Harper. Without New Democrats pushing every day, this government wouldn’t be extending the stimulus deadline by six months. They wouldn’t be stopping the Potash Corp sellout. They wouldn’t even be talking about enriching the Canada Pension Plan.”

Layton also praised his team’s ability to work with other parties and pass all five of their Opposition Day motions in 2010. Those included motions calling for tighter rules on foreign takeovers, limits on prorogation powers and better safeguards against oil spills.

“This government broke its promise to be different. Instead they rubberstamped more foreign takeovers, directed their unelected Senators to kill vital climate change legislation and built a cone of silence around the Afghan detainee scandal. That’s not acceptable,” declared Layton.

“My team and I will continue to show leadership by holding Stephen Harper to account every step of the way. In the New Year we’ll put forward more practical ideas and deliver more results for Canadians—proving once again in 2011 that New Democrats are the only real alternative to Stephen Harper.”

New Democrats demand government action to prevent anti-competitive credit card practices

December 15, 2010

Competition Bureau files application to ban anti-competitive practices employed by VISA and MasterCard

Today, the Canadian Competition Bureau confirmed what New Democrats have been saying all along― VISA and MasterCard’s credit card practices are punishing businesses and ripping off consumers.

The Competition Bureau filed an application earlier today to strike down restrictive and anti-competitive rules that Visa and MasterCard impose on merchants who accept their credit cards. According to the Commissioner of Competition, Melanie Aitken, these rules have effectively eliminated meaningful competition between the two global credit card giants, resulting in increased costs to businesses, and ultimately, consumers.

“This decision underscores the need for concrete government action. The Voluntary Code put in place by the Finance Minister isn’t enough. While banks make record profits, Canadian merchants and consumers are still victimized by predatory credit card companies,” said NDP Consumer Protection critic Glenn Thibeault (Sudbury). “Rather than introduce concrete measures to protect Canadians, the Harper Conservatives, like the Liberals before them, are catering to Bay Street.”

The rules challenged by the Bureau prohibit vendors from encouraging consumers to consider lower cost payment options like cash or debit, and prohibit merchants from applying a surcharge to a purchase on a high cost card. Further, once a merchant agrees to accept one of Visa or MasterCard’s credit cards, that merchant must accept all credit cards offered by that company, including cards that impose significant costs on merchants, such as premium cards. In most cases merchants are forced pass along some or all of the lofty costs they are required to pay as a result of Visa’s and MasterCard’s anti-competitive practices.

“These monopolistic practices need to be corrected. They drive up costs for consumers and business, hindering the real drivers of Canada’s economy. The government needs to stand up for small and medium sized businesses by facing down the credit card companies. The implementation of a mandatory code of conduct with punitive sanctions for violators would be an important first step.”

New Democrats call for credit card fairness

December 13, 2010

Put Canadians first, not new tax giveaways to banks and credit card companies

Predatory credit card companies are a serious problem this holiday season said New Democrat Leader Jack Layton while in Edmonton today. Consumers and retailers are being gouged by unfair fees, while Canada’s banks collected over $20 billion in profit last year.

“We are seeing predatory financial institutions handing out credit cards to people with horrible credit, and even mental illness—people with little ability to ever pay them back,” said Layton. “At the same time, Canadian retailers are being unfairly charged excessive credit card fees for transactions.”

Layton was joined by New Democrat candidate for Edmonton Centre Lewis Cardinal, a business owner himself, who pointed out that small business cannot afford these unfair fees.

“Most small businesses operate with a paper thin layer of profitability,” said Cardinal. “There are many businesses that could be sunk because the Harper government continues to fail small businesses. Instead of helping small businesses, the Conservatives choose to give out massive untargeted tax breaks to profitable multi-national corporations.”

New Democrats pointed out that Stephen Harper does seem to get into the holiday spirit when it comes to his friends in the big banks–giving them an additional $840 million in tax-breaks for the New Year. However, when it comes to helping Canadians the Conservatives are a lot more like Scrooge.

“While the government’s economic plan has helped traders on Bay St., most Canadians are still feeling the pinch of the recession,” said Layton. “The Harper government promised tough regulations for credit card companies but their voluntary code of conduct is already irrelevant. Harper should be giving Canadians a break, not his friends at the big banks.”

End billion dollar giveaway, support seniors instead: NDP

December 12, 2010

Instead of handing out another $840 million in tax giveaways to Canada’s most profitable banks, New Democrat leader Jack Layton called on the Prime Minister to remember seniors living in poverty and immediately raise the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).

“For seniors struggling to get by, watching this government hand over another $840 million gift to banks, whose profits last year topped $20 billion, just adds insult to injury,” said Layton. “In contrast, over the past 3 years Stephen Harper has raised Old Age Security by just a few dollars. How he expects seniors in poverty to pay for groceries, let alone afford their ballooning home heating bills, I just don’t know.”

For years New Democrats have repeatedly raised the fact that over a quarter million seniors are living in poverty, and been met with glib responses from the Conservative Finance Minister. Layton said that for an investment of around $700 million a year, Canada can end the tragedy of seniors living in poverty.

“We owe every senior a debt of gratitude, these are the people who built this country and made Canada what it is today,” said Layton. “If Stephen Harper can afford billions for profitable banks and oil companies, he can afford more than a dollar fifty for seniors. It’s just common sense.”

NDP tanker ban passes in Parliament !

December 8, 2010

Bell celebrates success of NDP tanker ban motion

December 7, 2010

Canada is one step closer to having a full legislative ban on supertankers operating off BC’s coasts after an NDP motion passed in the House of Commons 143 to 138.

“I celebrate the success of this motion with Nathan Cullen- NDP MP for Skeena- Bulkley Valley and the rest of the caucus in Ottawa,” says Catherine Bell, former NDP MP and current candidate for Vancouver Island North. “Now the government has clear direction to move forward and bring in much needed legislation.”

Bell introduced a private members bill banning tankers off BC’s coast in 2008, and Fin Donnelly- NDP MP for New Westminster- Coquitlam has introduced a similar bill in the current Parliament.

“This victory has been the culmination of years of hard work and consultation with communities, First Nations and other stakeholders,” adds Bell. “Now a majority of British Columbians support a ban, and now so do the majority of elected MP’s.”

Since this motion was tabled, thousands of Canadians have stepped up to support the tanker ban: joining online groups, signing up for email updates, signing petitions and lobbying their MP’s.

“I’m calling on John Duncan, current MP for Vancouver Island North, to stand up for British Columbians, and respect the will of the House, by immediately getting the Harper government to introduce a bill that stops tankers once and for all,” concludes Bell.

World AIDS Day choice: save lives or protect profits?

December 1, 2010

New Democrats challenge MPs to pass bill to get low-cost medicines into poorest countries

At a World AIDS Day event today, New Democrat MPs challenged their counterparts from all parties to come together and pass landmark legislation to get low-cost medicines into the world’s poorest countries.

“MPs need to decide—are we going to save lives here or protect brand-name drug profits? Today, more than 16,000 people will die in the developing world from treatable illnesses like TB, malaria and HIV/AIDS. Passing Bill C-393 in its original form will get people the affordable drugs they need,” said New Democrat Industry Critic Brian Masse, the bill’s sponsor.

In 2004, Parliament adopted Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR)—authorizing generic producers to create low-cost versions of brand-name drugs for developing countries. In six years, however, only one drug order has ever been shipped. Bill C-393 fixes CAMR’s fatal flaw with a “one-license solution” that ends the need for separate license negotiations for each drug order.

“Nearly 15 million people living with HIV/AIDS need antiviral drugs today, but barely five million are getting them,” said Health Critic Megan Leslie (Halifax). “Much of the developing world just can’t afford the brand name medicines some of us take for granted. Let’s not let another World AIDS Day slip by without doing our part to get these live-saving drugs into people’s hands.

“The provision of anti-retroviral drugs not only helps improve the lives and health of people living with HIV, but it also is an integral part of preventing the transmission of HIV, because lower viral levels means lower risks of transmission,” said Leslie.

After passing First and Second Reading in the House of Commons, Bill C-393 hit a roadblock at the committee stage. Supported by Liberal Industry Critic Marc Garneau, Conservative MPs amended the bill to eliminate the bill’s one-license solution. This change protects brand-name drug companies’ profits—and means affordable drugs will never ship overseas.

“Instead of listening to drug industry lobbyists, MPs should listen to Canadians and their own hearts. Africa represents just two per cent of brand name drug sales—surely, saving lives matters more than this little dollop of profit. We’re calling on MPs to join together across party lines to pass this bill without these poison amendments,” Masse concluded.