• By: Dan Donovan

Building a Better Canada

Welcome to 2014. This issue marks the beginning of our series on Building a Better Canada. Ottawa is where politicians and senior civil servants make the key decisions that directly impact the type of country we want Canada to be.

How do we improve health care by making it more patient focused? How do we care for those who are struggling? How do we build safe yet affordable transportation infrastructure to support our growing population?

Then there are those more difficult questions related to fairness and equity in our society. What can we do to address the growing gap between the very wealthy and the very poor? What accounts for our diminishing middle class? As the federal government uses over-reaching omnibus bills to fundamentally change the structure of Canadian society and corporations seem to be gaining more influence over government business, many people are questioning the fundamental premises about Stephen Harper’s vision of Canada. Is the PM on the right track or do we need to reassess the situation?

Ottawa MPs play a critical role in this debate. John Baird, the affable and popular Conservative MP from Ottawa West-Nepean, is the PM’s closest confidant. Pierre Poilievre, Conservative MP for Nepean-Carleton, is also at the top of the PM’s Rolodex. David McGuinty – Liberal MP for Ottawa South – is one of the most influential MPs in the Liberal Caucus, while Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar is the NDP’s go-to guy on numerous national and international issues. However, their views about what we need to do to Build a Better Canada are as diverse as their political parties.

So we are going to chip away at those views and see where we end up. Throughout 2014, our series will focus on workers and workers’ rights, fair wages, the federal Conservative government’s attempts to curtail unions’ and workers’ rights, while unions supported by the Liberals and New Democrats in the House of Commons try to derail that process. The series will also examine restrictive employment laws that are keeping Canadian workers from achieving a middle-income position in society; the erosion of the social safety net over the past decade; the contractingout of vital public services to private firms; the trend by many employers to reduce workers’ pensions and rights while paying themselves excessively high compensation; and the outsourcing of manufacturing and trades to cheap-labour jurisdictions.

The series will examine Canada’s overall competitiveness, job training and skills. We will examine why large companies such as Walmart and McDonald’s are not paying their workers higher wages and how government policy allows this to occur. Who are the loudest voices in Canada’s large pool of workers and what are their priorities? Who is most effectively fighting the battle for the maintenance of rights, benefits and pensions for workers in the 21st century?

The Building a Better Canada series begins in this issue with a focus on patientcentred health care. We look at the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre and its groundbreaking treatment and support for cancer patients. We examine the amazing progress being made by Canada Health Infoway in bringing e-health to the Canadian health-care system.

As we begin the slow burn heading into the 2015 election season, the Building a Better Canada series will give readers much to think about.