The National Day of Misinformation

You’ve seen all the posters gracing the hallways of York (and various other Universities) for the past few months. The “National Day of Action” is today, and it will be a great, feel good moment fighting the good fight at Queen’s Park, forwarding the tuition revolution, and establishing solidarity with our fellow students from across the GTA. It’s an undertaking taken once a year; a ritualistic tradition with investments into it unmeasured, and a return on it nearly non-existent, for demands mediocre through all the wrong avenues towards change.

The flavour of the year is the Ontario Liberal Party’s campaign promise. Apparently, instead of dedicating $430 million towards students who need it the most, those from low to middle income families in the form of a $1600 grant adjusted yearly for tuition increases, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is arguing for a 13% across the board tuition cut. Such a proposition is not only ill-designed on part of the CFS, but it is regressive as it disproportionately benefits those more well off.

Look at the students here in question who are benefiting from this grant. They have been out of high school for less than 4 years; their parents make less than $160k a year; are full time students; and they’re in an undergraduate program. To put this into perspective, these are students that don’t have time to work, in an environment where youth unemployment is approximately 15%, who have parents that generally speaking can’t afford to pay for post-secondary education out of their own pockets. To take away this $1600 grant and instead give everyone an across the board 13% cut in tuition is tantamount to getting rid of the progressive taxation system and replacing it with a “flat tax” as trumpeted by the GOP south of the border.

Assuming the average tuition fee is a well-rounded $6000 this year which isn’t all that off the mark, then 13% of it would amount to $780. The $1600 saved by these low and middle students would make a greater impact in their daily lives, than would $780. To top it off, entire low and middle income families would thus have $1600 extra to allocate towards sustenance goods, transportation, and books. That’s a fairly hefty subsidy to deny to families in greater financial need, in a quest to save everyone including those who can already afford it, around $780. The latter sounds like you are fighting for fairness, when all you would be doing is taking the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and just letting it grow.

The CFS’s regressive stances don’t end there, either. One poster coloured with a shade of green on the walls of York argues that the Government of Ontario has cut approximately $112 million in scholarships and grants, amongst them being the Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship, the Textbook and Technology Grant, and the Ontario Trust for Student Support. Asides from the fact that the government actually increased funding by a difference of approximately $317 million while reallocating that $112 million, what these grants and scholarships actually do, and their eligibility requirements, have not even been mentioned.

First of all, the Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship is exclusive only to graduating high school students of the highest academic standing in all of Ontario. A study in the USA shows a positive correlation (R­2=0.95, for all the stats nerds) between the wealth of a family and a student’s test marks in school, which has also been reflected in Canada according to a StatsCan study. Basically, what this means is that the Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship more likely than not gets appropriated to high school graduates from privileged households. Secondly, the Textbook and Technology Grant is but a measly $150 a year, and students get more money from their HST/GST cheques. Alas, the Ontario Trust for Student Support was a program where the Government of Ontario would match a post-secondary institution’s fundraising, which would go towards students in deep financial need; something which the $1600 dollar grant would do a better job at, while reaching far more people in need of such financial support. Essentially, there is no point in keeping these regressive programs above worth at around $112 million when that money can be better used as part of the more progressive grant which the CFS will be protesting today.

These are just a few of the many aspects by which the CFS is coming short. They need something better to demand from the government, and arguably it should be so that there are more specific needs-based grants for the students they claim are excluded by this program, such as a grant for part time students, a grant for mature students, and a comparable grant for those who have been out of high school for more than 4 years but are doing their undergrad.

Ultimately, let’s not trumpet regressive policies, ideas, and what-ifs, under a misguided effort to keep things “fair”.


The Liberal Help Line

I have an idea for Young Liberals clubs, which can perhaps be extended to Riding Associations.

In terms of the Young Liberals, outside of the scope of an election, we get pretty useless. Oftentimes, young liberal clubs end up deratified when they have nothing to do. Furthermore, quite a bit of human resources remains wasted every second it isn’t used, and that applies to the members of these clubs. There is ample time that can be spent building the Liberal brand, which often goes underutilized, largely since there is nary a clue on how to build the brand at the local level. I mean, YL’s are mostly poli sci majors, not those that specialize in marketing. No offense, all my dear friends in YUYL 🙂

So I propose something quite simple. We work towards the following brand image and notion:

“Liberals are here to help”

Essentially, how we work towards it is that in the absence of an election, Young Liberal Clubs across Canada would serve primarily as a pool of volunteers that can be called upon to help out with local non-profit organizations and chapters, community events, and community issues. We need to make it so that if a soup kitchen needs volunteers, they would look towards the Young Liberals first for the human resources.

Essentially, it engrains the Young Liberals into their community, it provides them with volunteer experience that would be helpful later on for use in the party, it builds connections with community leaders, it serves inherently as a method of marketing the Liberal Party locally, and ultimately we would come off as the one group that the community can rely on.

It doesn’t have to end there, as a mere pool of volunteers that is called upon, which is somewhat reactive. We can serve as a proactive force as well.

For example, there could be a snowstorm, and a group of Young Liberals living in a suburb band together to shovel snow off driveways for no cost after asking property owners for permission to do so, (perhaps a donation afterhand to the party could be nice) and then celebrate the end of the day with a warm cup of Timmies or something.

Essentially, Young Liberals can help on an ad hoc basis, as possibly discussed during meetings.

Through this, as Young Liberals, we can in an autonomous fashion build at the local level the Liberal brand. Young Liberals, via this sort of program, can learn the importance of the notion of public service, as it would likely be a humbling experience. For riding-level young liberal clubs, it could serve as a method to connect high school students who need to get their 40 hours completed (at least in Ontario) with a community organization they can volunteer at. Alas, it can establish lasting friendships between Young Liberals as they work together, which may last for a generation when they become the ones to grab the reins of a level of municipal, regional, provincial, or federal government.

This can also be done with Riding Associations. Once again, the help that is provided can be either reactive (as the Riding Association is called upon for something such as weekend volunteers), or an ad hoc approach to provide help with regards to situations that arise. For example, every income tax season, member of the Riding Association who is a seasoned CGA, CA, or even a CMA can host a Tax Clinic every weekend, with a donation box at the door. Simple things, such as this, where Liberals volunteer not just for organizations that need the human capital, but offer their specialized skills to those who may need it the most in turn for a voluntary donation. Heck, we can even sign up “supporters” or members in the process if their donation amounts to $10.

The sky is the limit in terms of what we can do to help the community, and surely, I argue, we would be remembered and thanked for it for when the time of the next election rolls by. I imagine a Canada where communities look to the Liberal Party as an organization that is always there to help.

Alas, I hope the implementation of these ideas don’t break any laws.

Social and Economic Freedom are One and the Same.

I thought I’d write a bit about my views regarding society and the market.

I’m all about expanding both social and economic freedom by expanding choice and expanding opportunities.  I view them as one and the same. Limiting economic freedom limits choice, and therefore social freedom. Limiting social freedom I argue limits economic freedom. Limiting both limits what choices you can make, and therefore opportunity. For me, limiting either when it brings no harm to others is wrong, especially under the pretense of morality, which is often the case with the likes of socialists and conservatives.

Regulations should only exist for ensuring immediate public safety and wellbeing from external threats, be it short term (workplace safety, EI) or long term (global warming, CPP). Government spending should focus on expanding opportunities first and foremost, which is why I am anal about public education and having more publicly funded R&D.

Anyway, I just feel that society and the market is the same thing at the end of the day, and that meddling with either affects both.

I mean, ban abortions and you put abortionists out of business. Ban gay marriage, and as a result, insurance companies cannot sell joint insurance plans to an entire segment of the population. Ban marijuana, and it becomes illegal to excercise your economic freedom to grow and sell the Mary Jane. As seen here, regulations on society and social mores reduce overall consumer spending, and as a result, the GDP.

Limiting economic freedom, through regulation like outright banning the sale of say, guns, would serve only to stomp all over rural society’s social mores. Things like our government-sanctioned wheat and milk cartels (obvious meddling and price fixing in the market sanctioned by the government) only drive up prices, resulting in poverty stricken families often resorting to drinking pop instead of milk, which is a discernible negative effect on society.

Ultimately, the market and society are one and the same. Placing limitations on either serves to limit both. As a result, we should be mindful of this reality, and as Liberals, use this as a point of differentiation from both the NDP (meddling with the market) and the Conservatives  (meddling with social mores).

Yeah, I’m big on the whole “freedom” thing.

They Call Me Sushi, and This is My Blog (I Think)

Welcome to my blog.

I will write of wondrous things.

Or perhaps nothing at all.

Don’t expect many updates.