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Ryan Solcz

Discovering Jack’s appeal

I was never a fan of Mr. Layton. I always thought of Jack as more of a circus juggler than a serious politician who presented Canadians a real alternative to any government in power. I have never voted for him, and I probably never will vote for his party. However, during the past few days, I, like many Canadians, have felt uneasy with Layton’s passing.Yesterday’s first day of viewing on Parliament Hill was extraordinary. Not only did Canadians see the obvious tears from Layton’s loved ones—such as Olivia Chow—as they passed by his coffin, but they also saw complete strangers, ordinary people who probably never even met the guy, break down. Why did they, and what made them do this?It really doesn’t make any sense. Jack Layton was never Prime Minister, a Cabinet Minister, or Governor General. Until May, 2011, his party was in fourth position in the House of Commons, and, aside from the famous 2011 “vague orange” in Quebec—which may turn out to be a one-hit wonder similar to the ADQ’s experience in the 2007 Quebec provincial election—his party was not unusually successful in the rest of Canada.Furthermore, Layton was first elected as the NDP’s leader on January 25, 2003, and led his party through previous elections in 2004, 2006, and 2008 to an unsuccessful fourth place finish before the miracle (or disaster, depending on whom you ask) in May 2011; which still only gave him opposition party status in a House of Commons dominated by a majority of Conservative MPs.  Sure, he was a vibrant man in Toronto City Council beginning in 1982, but what does that have to do with the rest of Canada? What’s the big deal?I thought the answer might be in one of those articles already in circulation. The ones that state the… Read More

Why I voted YES for the Toronto TA/Instructor Strike

I am definitely not pro-collective bargaining. In these tough and unchartered economic times nobody should be asking for a raise as far as I am concerned; especially when this raise comes from Ontario taxpayers, who fund, to a great extent, our post-secondary institutions. This holds even more so when Ontario faces a huge deficit of approximately $16 billion, and mediocre (at best) economic growth of 1.8% over the next two years. Yet somehow I managed to X the box voting “yes,” and gave my CUPE union a strike mandate—why?TAs make about $39 per hour at the University of Toronto, which is a great wage compared to what our counterparts in Québec apparently make. We have guaranteed funding packages of $15,000 minimum for anyone in the doctoral stream, and a pile of benefits. To clarify, the unions want more of all the above: paid childcare, compensation for travel time between the University of Toronto’s three campuses, and a tutorial cap of fifty students. What a nice world these representatives live in.I did not vote yes for any of these reasons. And I most certainly did not vote yes because, as union leaders explain, “voting yes actually prevents a strike.” I will not even comment on the terrible logic behind that argument. I also did not vote yes because the union representative was watching me as I crossed “yes” on my ballot—how democratic of CUPE.I voted yes because I want to raise my voice. My tuition is $8,000 per year; my one-bedroom apartment within walking distance of the University is $1395 per month; travelling 400 km home for Christmas, Thanksgiving and Eastern puts me back about $500 with Via Rail; and I don’t even know how to add up my eating costs—not so extravagant mind you.I am not complaining when I list… Read More

‘Occupy Canada’ a waste of time

The last week has been an interesting one for some fifteen Canadian cities as the Occupy Wall Street movement makes its way to the Great North. From Vancouver to Saint John’s, protests and sit-ins have been used by many Canadians to show their apparent support for the movement in the US, and their disdain for those big, mean, money-grubbing businesses and the government policies that favour them.My first reaction this phenomenon was a bit of fear, for I had just finished running tutorials on the French Revolution, and the idea of the “mass” and what it is capable of (i.e. the execution of Louis XVI in 1793) alarmed me — could this be the dawn of something similar? Of course I quickly realized that this was quite an exaggeration, and came to my senses. But as I have learned more about the movement, and although I do rejoice at this new surge of freedom of speech and expression, I still cannot understand what these people hope to accomplish in Canada.First, what can one really complain about in Canada? Our country made it out of the past recession a lot better than many other comparably rich nations, our debt is—albeit in existence—much lower than America’s, and our tax structure is quite equitable. According to Revenue Canada’s website, if one makes over $130,000 in Ontario, he or she can expect to pay the 11.61% in provincial income tax, and must also pay the federal government 29%. That amounts to over 40% of earnings spent on taxes before all else (i.e. mass transit, municipal taxes, RRSP contributions, union dues, mandatory fees for vehicles or licenses, etc.).Comparatively, if one makes $35,000 per year, he or she is taxed 20.05% of annual income. This seems especially fair given that healthcare is free (a financial drain… Read More

School junk food bans should not be permitted

This week has been exciting if you work for a local health unit in Edmonton, Alberta, or any of the units in Ontario. Edmonton’s 190 public schools, along with Ontario’s Ministry of Education (under The Health Food for Schools Act), are banning the sale of junk food on school properties, and the health unit is making sure all schools are complying. Students will no longer be able to purchase chocolate bars, French fries, pop, or any other salty treats. They also will not be able to sell candy on school property for fundraising purposes (parents: say goodbye to your school jungle gyms and free field trips, and hello to more unwelcome expenses!).Bureaucrats are rejoicing over the move. Jeff Hillman, the superintendent of education for the Greater Essex County District School Board calls the decision a step in the right direction that will help students make better eating choices, and Edmonton District School Board’s Chairman David Colburn says that the decision is in line with new education on “healthy, active lifestyles.” London-Middlesex’s Health Unit, furthermore, states on its webpage that “students who are well nourished are better able to focus, think and learn.”While nobody can argue with the fact that a healthy diet is good for students, one can certainly debate about whom is responsible for deciding what students eat, and what type of lifestyle they should follow, especially when the students in question are in high school. According to Canada’s Tackling Violent Crime Act from May 1, 2008, the age of legal consent for sexual activity is 16 years (raised from 14 years) and, last time I checked, teenagers can begin driving in both Alberta and Ontario (albeit with restrictions) at age 16. Surely if a 16 year-old high school student can choose to have sexual intercourse with her/his significant other… Read More