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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A better political system

So the Conservatives under Stephen Harper have won a majority and will form the next government of Canada. From a US point of view, conservative is probably a good thing. Bush probably is thinking (well, wait...does he ever think about Canada?), "I can work with this." What is fascinating from my point of view is the difference between the electoral systems in our two countries.

Here in the US, we vote for local, regional, state and federal positions including the Poresident. In Washington State where I live, voters are forced in advance to choose a party to vote for. In Canadian federal elections, voters can still make up their minds at the poles. In Canada, you vote locally, and it is the accumulation of local preferences that create the leadership position in Parliment. The leader of the party with the majority of seats becomes the Prime Minister.

I like this system. It really is democratic in the best (and in all fairness, the worst) sense. In my opinion, better than the US system. Why? Because look at the results: In Canada, there are four parties that must get along and agree in order to move legislation forward. This is good. It requires consensus. In the US, the limited two-party system results in a majority typically getting their way...for years...

The bad in Canadian political structure? A minority government (one without a clear majority) can fall at any time. Elections can come at very short notice. Bickering and the difficulty in reaching consensus can mean that getting legislation passed in a huge political challenge.

Still and all, the Canadian political system is one that I have come to prefer. I can't imagine Bush lasting through even one question period...and that's a sad commentary.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Chasing the dragon

First, a recap of the basics: Professionals looking to immigrate to Canada face huge hurdles - it's no secret. We are told by the government we are wanted, we are sorted and rated for our skills and qualifications. However, once professionals arrive, they find themselves limited by a lack of "Canadian experience" in their profession, or Candian credientials required by professional organizations that control accreditation. Thus, their skills are wasted.

Why is this and why can we expect that change wont be coming soon? It's simple. It's chasing a dragon. New immigrants are not citizens - they are permanent residents at best (temporary residents at worst). Because they are not citizens, they do not vote. They do not have a voice in government. Their issues do not directly drive the acquisition of seats in Parliment by any party.

When the minority of these new immigrants do succeed in overcoming the obstacles of integration into Canada, their political thinking and issues are no longer the ones they once shared with new immigrants.

When will change come? In this blogger's humble opinion, only when employment in Canada is in true defecit - when the shortage of trained professionals required to maintain economic momentum becomes chronic. When there are no doctors or nurses to be seen save for wait times that are perhaps double of what they currently are. When there are not enough skilled engineers to oversee infrasturcture projects that are causing true economic loss to those in power.

As long as the Canadian people, through fear or greed or worst of all omission of attention do not care about the skill and intellectual capital being wasted through the barriers imposed on eager immigrants, then nothing will really change.

And as long as nothing changes, immigrants will chase the dragon - that mythical creature that, if you could kill, would make everything better.

Friday, January 13, 2006

If I had a vote

Like a lot of Canadians, I have been following the election coverage. The Globe and Mail has a nice email update I get every morning, and of course, my evenings with Peter Mansbridge give me another healthy dose through the eyes of the CBC. Early overtures and common sense demonstrated by the Conservatives gave me a feeling that it may be time for a change in the Federal government, even if by a minority Conservative government, but now, weeks later, I'ave heard enough from Harper to scare me silly.

If I had a vote, it would be Liberal.

I owe even the shread of possibility that I have to oneday become a Canadian to the Liberal governments of the past that opened the policy doors to multiculturalism and to immigrants. Without their vision and compassion, I don't think we would recognize modern Canada. I believe that even while flawed, Liberals still represent the Canadian ideals I have come to love more than any other party.

I also believe in redemption. I don't think when someone makes a mistake that you exile them. I believe that the recent scandals that the Liberals have had to face head-on have served as wake-up call and a call to live up to the ideal of "good government" once again. Whereas the other parties see these troubles as an opportunity to strike, I sort of look at it like youwould a restaurant that had just had a food safety scare with the department of health on their backs - if you really think about it - that restaurant should be the safest place to eat!

so my best wishes to the Liberals. If you do manage to hold on or even if you don't - keep your commitments to immigrants and those wishing to make your country their home. We're all watching you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Winter to come

It's been awhile since I've been to Toronto, and over a couple years now since I wintered over there. With the unusual warmth this year, I'm not missing much of the cold and the snow that I associate with my time in the City I love. All I'm missing is a lot of people coming down with colds, or so it seems from the reports I'm getting from my friends.

I always look for signs and try to approach my life with faith. The sign I see in this Canadian Winter is that it's just not right that I am not there to spend it with my loved ones and God knows it. He is just telling me to continue to have faith, that I will be home one day - on His schedule and not mine, and when that day comes, and when that season comes - that Winter of homecoming, He'll make it beautiful and more than I could ever hope for.

My friends and I will meet again for a skate at Nathan Phillips Square, then off to dinner somewhere on Queen West. We'll head back to my place or one of theirs for something warm to drink and I'll take my place near some window with the same wonder I've had since childhood of watching the snowfall and hoping for at least a little while that it wont stop.

It will be so much fun. For now, I'm not missing anything!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Fundraising program begins - Donate now!

Well, it's come to this. I am making an appeal to those of you who regularly read TEM to help me out. If you have been informed, entertained, amused, upset or inspired by this here blog, then I'm asking you to help by hitting the button to the right and making a small donation to help with the cost of applications to gain my Canadian residency.

As you know, I have already put thousands into this effort and frankly, I'm tapped out. While I am doing everything I can to be ready in April to apply once again, I thought I would ask my public to chip in too. Once I have the basics covered, or am back on my financial feet, I will pull the program and believe me - it's hard to ask this of you all.

If you can help, then thank you very much. If you have ideas for me on other fundraising approaches I could take, please pass them on.

Thank you in advance for anything you can do. Remember, your donation is being used soley to pay processing fees to the Canadian government for someone who sincerely wants to become a a benefit to the society he has grown to love.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The price of admission is $975

The Globe and Mail: Martin pledges to repeal $975 immigrant 'head tax'

Well the campaign is back after a nice holiday respite. Martin is looking to shore up immigrant support by addressing an issue close to their wallets, and that's the entry fee that immigrants must pay after they have recieved their permanent residency permit and arrive at the border for the first time.

Fees are everywhere in the immigration process and they aren't cheap. In addition to a process which is unmonitored, expensive, mistake prone, defensive, and in some instances (such as those cases dealing with inadmissability) is not even required to abide by rules any other agency must adhere to; once you do get approved, there's one more little hurdle.

Now to those of us in the west, $975 may not seem like a lot of money. But consider the wages and the ability to save those wages for a moment: The Red Cross estimates that the average monthly wage of those people living in developing countries to be $17 CAD. If an individual from a developing country could afford to put all of their earnings aside to pay the current head-tax, it would take 6-years. Think about that.

Let's hope this isn't just another promise that wont be kept once the upcoming election is decided.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year - hope is all that's left

Happy New Year, everyone! This will be my year of hope, and it and faith are nearly all I have left at this point. I am running out of cash, and don't know even if I choose to, whether I could afford a lawyer or not to help me with my immigration quest, or at this point even afford the application and landing fees. Probaly because in the years gone by I have spent so much already...But those are years gone by and not this new year of 2006! In this year I will have faith and hope. God WILL find a way.