prideparade

Conservatives have come far on same-sex marriage – but far enough?

Last year, I wrote about and supported efforts to remove opposition to same-sex marriage from Conservative Party of Canada’s policy declaration.

I watched proudly as Rona Ambrose, Patrick Brown, Maxime Bernier, Michelle Rempel, Lisa MacLeod and others stood up for and supported LGBTQ rights. And I was proud to take in the Ottawa Pride Parade with a large group of conservatives.

LGBTories have become a fixture at Conservative events, and The Big Blue Tent is always one of the biggest and best events at Conservative conventions. The Party has come a very long way.

But today I wonder – have we come far enough?

An Abacus Data poll asked Canadians to do some word association with the Conservative Party and the results were shocking.

Of those who answered, 73% per cent say the Conservative Party is “old-fashioned.” Another 61% say Conservatives “favour some over others.” And most tellingly, 52% say Conservatives support “government laws to restrict freedom.”

These results are terrible news for the Conservative Party and its brand. This Party lists among its founding principles “a belief in the equality of all Canadians” and “a belief in the freedom of the individual.” So why do so many Canadians think Conservatives want to restrict their freedoms?

The answer for many Canadians is simple: if you do not support same-sex marriage, you do not support individual freedoms. Period. And that’s a totally fair assessment – the right to love and marry whomever you want is one of the most important freedoms we have.

As I wrote last year, many people my age equate “conservative” with “homophobic.”

And guess what? By the next federal election in 2019, millennials will be the largest portion of the electorate. Many of those voters will never even consider the Conservative Party as an option, simply because of the same-sex marriage issue.

Not opposing same-sex marriage is not the same as supporting same sex marriage. And “the issue is settled” is not a good enough response from our leadership team.

We need to do better.

Supporting same-sex marriage is the right thing to do. And we may never win another election if we don’t. It doesn’t matter how strong we are on other issues if Canadians think we are going to discriminate against their LGBTQ brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends, and family.

So, is it time for the Conservative Party of Canada to officially support same-sex marriage? With a policy convention coming up in 2018, I believe the time to start that discussion is now.

Leave a comment below with your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you!

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Why are we so smug about Canadian health care?

A new report by the Commonwealth Fund says the Canadian health care system ranks ninth out of eleven countries surveyed. This begs the question — why are we so smug about our health care system?

Out of 11 countries surveyed, we have the fewest doctors per person. We are the worst for getting same-day appointments while sick. We have the most patients waiting four months or more for elective surgeries.

“Universal health care” is something Canadians take great pride in. But Canada’s health care is not universal or something to be proud of.

Of course, the Commonwealth Fund report is not the first of its kind. Canada has consistently ranked poorly for health outcomes. The OECD Health at a Glance 2015 report looked at 34 countries, and we ranked near the middle or bottom of the pack on most key indicators.

We are one of the top spenders on health care, but rank 28th in doctors per capita, and 29th for hospital beds per capita. The Fraser Institute says 63,000 Canadians left the country last year for medical care.

Yet all our politicians seem to agree our health care system is perfectly fine. Our provincial premiers say the only thing we need is more money. And politicians attack any proposed changes as “U.S.-style” or “two-tier health care.”

Most blame is aimed at the federal government by provincial politicians. They blame the federal government for a lack of funding, or the lack of some key “national strategy.”

The federal government does deserve some blame — but not for those reasons.

Health care is not a federal responsibility. Canada’s constitution says health care is a provincial responsibility. Federal politicians should not interfere with the delivery of health care.

Instead, the federal government has used the Canada Health Transfer (worth $37B to the provinces in 2017-18) as a weapon against the provinces.

As Brian Lee Crowley writes in the National Post, Saskatchewan has been experimenting with the private delivery of some health care services. The result has been lower costs and reduced wait times for 34 different procedures, according to this Macdonald-Laurier Institute study.

Instead of supporting this innovation, the federal government ordered them to stop, and threatened to cut their health care funding.

Because of this, the provinces have been able to use the federal government as a scapegoat. Provincial politicians are rarely punished for their failures, despite being directly responsible for delivery. For example, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in office, he gave the provinces more money than ever for health care — and yet he was routinely criticized for refusing to interfere in provincial health care matters.

Canada’s largest health care system in Ontario has struggled to innovate. They spent millions on new bureaucracy, picked fights with doctors and nurses, and wasted over a billion dollars on an electronic health records system that still has failed to fully materialize after nearly a decade.

Despite this, no provincial party leader has been willing to have an adult conversation about the health care system. Premier Kathleen Wynne wants more money from the federal government. The NDP want more federal intervention. And the Progressive Conservatives? Tim Hudak delivered a sharp criticism of health care bureaucracy in Ontario, but cutting red tape is not a bold idea.

Maxime Bernier was the only leadership candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada to suggest big changes. He wanted to get the federal government out of health care. He’d transfer tax points to the provinces, end the Canada Health Transfer, and let provinces be responsible for health care.

But this idea was met with hysteria from the pundits, the opposition, and even some in his own party. Most of his critics acknowledged he was probably right, but said the issue was “electoral poison.”

Health care is the perfect example of what happens when politicians are more concerned about getting elected than doing the right thing. We’re approaching a health care crisis in Canada, and we’re running out of time.

According to the MLI, the Ontario government is currently spending 46% of its revenue on health care — and that number is expected to grow to 80% by 2030. More money isn’t going to solve this problem — we can’t keep up. We need real innovation. We need it now.

In Canada, 69% of health care expenses are paid for by government. The OECD average is 37%. Despite government doing more, our outcomes are worse. Our “universal” system isn’t universal (ranked 9 out of 11 by the Commonwealth Fund for access), and we aren’t nearly as good at health care as we think we are.

We are proud because our health care system is better than the United States — but when we trail behind everybody else, it’s clearly time for a change.

Canada’s conservatives must think bigger. Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party are headed down the right path, but who has the courage to follow? Who will follow their example to its logical conclusion?

We must call on Andrew Scheer, Patrick Brown, the next leader of the United Conservative Party in Alberta, and other conservative leaders to step up and get serious about health care — before its too late.

books

Three Books I Loved in 2016

2016 was a pretty great year of reading for me. I finally got back in the habit – especially in the last two months – and I couldn’t be happier about it.

I like to read non-fiction – specifically, books about lifestyle design (think Tim Ferriss), philosophy, economics, history, and politics. The books on this list have helped me in a lot of ways this year – from helping me conquer my anxieties and my ego, to helping me improve as a small business owner, to making me the happiest I’ve been in years. I hope these books can do the same for you.

#1 Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Holiday is a fantastic author and a believer in stoic philosophy. I’ve read two of his other books – “Growth Hacker Marketing” and “The Daily Stoic” – and both have been really helpful in my day-to-day life.

“Ego is the Enemy” is the book I wish I read 10 years ago, before I started my career, before I finished school. I initially purchased the audiobook from Audible.com, but after listening to it twice, I had to purchase a hard copy – where I’ve marked up almost every page, as this book is full of tremendous insights.

As Holiday puts it, armed with the lessons in this book “you will be less invested in the story you tell about your own specialness, and as a result, you will be liberated the world-changing work you’ve set out to achieve.” If you’re a long-time high-achiever like me, who has had a hard time understanding why things haven’t gone better for them, this book is going to set you free.

#2 Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is the best-selling author of “The Four-Hour Workweek”, “The Four Hour Body”, and host of “The Tim Ferriss Show.”

It’s hard to describe what Tim Ferriss does – “lifestyle design” is part of it – but I would recommend Tools of Titans to basically everybody. Over the past few years, Tim Ferriss has interviewed 200 of the most amazing people on the planet – from tech titans like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, to Hollywood icons like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Foxx, to extreme athletes like Shaun White and Triple H.

Tools of Titans is a nearly 700 page tome with his notes from those interviews, which outline “the tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers.” I’ve learned more from this book than every other book I read this year combined. It’s full of stories that will help you improve your life. And the best part is that if you’re not completely convinced, you can get a ton of his awesome for free on his blog or through his podcast. Trust me – you’ll want this book!

#3 Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur, best known as the co-founder of PayPal. He’s a billionaire investor (the first outside investor in Facebook) and a noted political activist who was recently named to the executive committee of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.

“Zero to One” is a compilations of his lectures on start-ups at Stanford University, prepared with the help of his student Blake Masters. It’s a wildly optimistic book that examines how we can build a better future. It provides his brilliant insights on the dot-com crash, on competition and monopoly, on how we can control our future, and ultimately how to build a successful start-up.

I think my favourite part of this book is how unconventional his advice is. So much of it flies in the face of conventional wisdom – but it works. I would highly recommend this book to anyone searching for a “big idea” or a way to change the world, and it’s absolutely mandatory reading for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Other great books

I’ve read a few other great books this year, listed below in no particular order. If you have any questions about these books, or have books of your own to share, please leave them in the comments!

  • Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
  • Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games are Won by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim
  • All Marketers Are Liars Tell Stories by Seth Godin
  • The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg
pride-1571904

Time for Conservatives to embrace equality and end opposition to same-sex marriage

Many people my age equate “conservative” with “homophobic.”

That’s a big problem for Conservative parties across Canada — especially at the federal level.

It’s a big problem for our Party’s future. Twenty years from now, it’s entirely possible that we’ll have a generation of voters who have never been able to shake their first impression of the Conservative Party.

It’s also a big problem for our Party today. Many of the first-time voters in the last federal election were driven by the idea of “Real Change.” That’s not because of what the Liberals offered — it’s because of what Conservatives offered.

To be fair, the Conservative record on LGBTQ rights wasn’t all bad. In fact, I’d say Conservatives had a lot to be proud of when it came to defending LGBTQ rights. From openly criticizing Ugandan and Russian anti-gay laws, to defending LGBTQ minorities in the Middle East from ISIS brutality, our government got some of the big stuff right.

And from a Party standpoint, the doors have largely been opened to the gay community. The Fabulous Blue Tent — an event hosted by gay Conservatives — was a massive success at our last convention, featured Laureen Harper, and promises to be an even bigger and better event this weekend in Vancouver. It’s no longer a secret to the general public — a large contingent of senior Conservative staffers while we were in government were gay. One media outlet even asked the question: is Canada run by a gay mafia?

But on other issues — some of which really mattered in the eyes of the public — we absolutely failed.

Many Conservatives seemed afraid to speak publicly about LGBTQ rights, fearing retribution from social conservatives. Our MPs rarely spoke passionately in favour of LGBTQ rights, declined invitations to Pride parades for no clear reason, and routinely opposed gay rights and trans rights bills put forward by the opposition. All this despite the fact that in my years on the Hill, I don’t think I ever met someone who was actually opposed to gay marriage, or to equality for gay people.

Worst of all, the Conservative Party inexplicably still has an official Policy Declaration opposing same-sex marriage.

This is both morally and politically reprehensible. Morally, we are on the wrong side of history — it is indefensible to treat LGBTQ members of society as lesser human beings for political gain.

Politically, while we’ve pandered to small groups of outspoken donors and members, we’ve alienated an entire generation of voters, and its going to be very difficult for our next leader to bring them back on board.

And on a personal level, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life explaining that I’m not a bigot every time I mention my political affiliation.

The Conservative Party must repeal its anti-same sex marriage policy declaration this weekend — and leadership candidates should line up to condemn this chapter of our past, before our Party can move forward.

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The Path Forward — Why Conservatives Can’t Wait for a New Leader

Part one of a series on the upcoming Conservative leadership race

With the convention upcoming and a leadership vote just over a year away, many are debating the best path forward for the Conservative Party of Canada.

It has become increasingly clear to me that the best path forward involves a dramatic reversal of some of the recent changes made by National Council.

The decision to raise membership fees to $25/year is an astonishingly bad one. It’s a blatant attempt by the Party to try and suck every dollar they can out of their most hardcore supporters. Instead of selling, for example, 200,000 memberships during leadership for $15, they are hoping to sell 150,000 memberships for $25 at a net profit to the Party.

This might make us the first Party in Canadian history to actively discourage people from getting involved. It’s wrong, and it’s incredibly short sighted.

Even if we didn’t care that we are disenfranchising thousands of Canadians who can’t or won’t pay the new fee, and accept the fact that the Party needs all the help it can get as the Liberals crush our fundraising numbers, this is still a losing proposition.

During the Liberal leadership race, they built a list of 300,000 supporters — most of whom did not pay any sort of membership fee. But these supporters now form a large part of the Liberal donor base, worth roughly $6 million a quarter.

It’s no wonder the Liberals have proposed getting rid of membership fees — who cares about a $10 membership fee? When you have hundreds of thousands of people engaged and caring about your Party, you’re going to be able to raise a ton of money from small, repeat donors. That’s how our Party used to work, and we routinely out fundraised our opponents.

But when you’re transparently trying to suck every dime out of Party members — as the Conservatives are doing now — people don’t feel engaged. They are paying a fee to vote for the next leader. That’s it. And that’s not the way to rebuild a Party.

And yes, the Party fees are structured in a way that provides incentive to buy multi-year memberships. But the experience of the last few years has taught us that most of the time, all a Party membership buys you is the privilege of being telemarketed to repeatedly. If you want to convince people to buy multi-year memberships, it should be done by providing value, not by gouging your most dedicated supporters.

So today, I’m calling on National Council to reverse this decision and return to a $15 membership fee. And I’m hoping you will join me in supporting any person running for National Council who supports this change.

I’m also calling for a revision to the leadership rules which make it incredibly difficult to sell memberships. Section 2.3.6 of the leadership rules says “Membership payments must be accompanied by a prescribed membership form signed by each applicant, and a copy of the applicant’s cheque, money order or first and last 4 digits of the applicant’s credit card number used to purchase such membership.

There are so many problems with this. First, it seemingly makes it impossible to sell memberships online. You cannot collect signatures through a website, nor does any payment processing service provide the first 4 digits of a purchaser’s credit card number. Whether this was intentional, or made due to a lack of technical understanding over how online transactions work, this needs to be fixed. While I have chatted with executive director Dustin Van Vugt and he’s told me online membership sales would be allowed, this rule makes it basically impossible. It is completely backwards that a Party in the 21st century would take away this important avenue for reaching out to new members, and this rule needs to be amended to allow for online membership sales.

Secondly, the rule makes it incredibly difficult to sell memberships at events. Candidates will undoubtedly find themselves at hundreds of small events as they travel across the country campaigning. Are they going to have to warn people ahead of time that they need to bring their cheque book if they want to sign up to vote?

I understand the Party wants to prevent campaigns from committing fraud. Some campaigns in the past have been accused of buying memberships with cash for people who don’t even know what they are signing up for. But this rule is clearly and specifically targeted at ethnic communities in the GTA.  It also risks us being labelled, as our own MP Deepak Obhrai put it, as “elitist and whites-only.” If someone as loyal to the Party, and who has worked as hard and as tirelessly as he has, is willing to say it, so am I.

There are other ways to prevent fraud, and it’s not as if someone can sign up 10,000 members in Brampton and win the country — each riding is weighted. It won’t matter if 100 people vote or 100,000 people vote in a GTA riding, each riding’s vote total is worth the same. This rule makes it more difficult for all candidates to sell memberships, across Canada, and it means less people will be casting votes. It absolutely needs to be removed from the leadership rules.

There are other rules that seem egregious to me — for example, requiring every single donation to go through the Conservative Fund and then taking a “processing fee” of 10%. Or taking requiring $5 to process every membership sold after October 28, 2016. The Party seems to be nickel and diming Party members and leadership candidates — likely to compensate for poor fundraising since a disastrous election campaign.

But fundamentally, the biggest problem is the Party is closing itself off, rather than opening up — and that’s a big mistake. The leadership race is the best opportunity we’re going to have to engage our membership before the next election.

We can’t wait for a new leader. We have to reverse these changes now, and if the current National Council won’t do it, we need to elect one that will.

If you are a candidate for National Council, please contact me at tester.dean@gmail.com and let me know where you stand. I’m happy to provide an open forum here for any candidate who wants to weigh in, including those who disagree with me.

A quick rundown of our new “non-partisan” senators

So, a quick rundown on our new “non-partisan” senators…

  • Peter Harder — led Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s transition team, worked closely with Gerald Butts and the senior campaign team
  • Ratna Omidvar — donated $1000 to Trudeau’s leadership campaign, and $1000 to the Liberals in 2012.
  • Raymonde Gagné — Liberal donor who gave $100 and $84.59 in October 2008.
  • Murray Sinclair — dozens of anti-Conservative tweets during the election
  • Frances Lankin — donated $350 to the NDP in 2015, former Bob Rae cabinet minister, worked closely with Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government in Ontario
  • André Pratte — La Presse columnist highly critical of Stephen Harper
  • Chantal Petitclerc — Paralympian and the only appointment without any obvious partisan ties

I’m not terribly surprised by this, or the fact that Justin Trudeau is mysteriously unavailable for a press conference today.

Nor am I surprised that, besides the obvious Peter Harder, the mainstream media has completely neglected to mention the other partisan ties from this group.

Instead, we get more boasting about the “non-partisan, merit-based process” from the Globe and Mail.

During last year’s federal election, Mr. Trudeau promised to create a “non-partisan, merit-based process” to appoint new senators. To come up with a pool of qualified candidates from which to make final choices, Mr. Trudeau created an independent advisory board chaired by Huguette Labelle, a former federal deputy minister and former chancellor of the University of Ottawa.
Globe and Mail, March 18, 2016)

What a remarkable coincidence that this non-partisan process recommended a group of Liberal donors, supporters, and anti-Conservative thinkers.

The Million-Dollar Liberal Website You’ve Never Visited (And You’ll Never Visit Again)

If you’ve ever wanted insight into the scale of government excess and waste, this would be a good place to start.

This week, news broke that the Privy Council Office wants an additional $600,000 per year to “modernize (the Prime Minister’s) web presence.”

But the lede of this story was buried – the website is already costing taxpayers $1 million per year to operate.

Have you ever visited the Prime Minister’s website? Probably not. It’s the million-dollar Liberal website you’ve never visited — and once you visit it, you’ll never visit it again.

It’s poorly designed and has only the most basic information about our Prime Minister, and functions as little more than a “non-partisan” homepage for government propaganda.

One company was quoted by the Toronto Star as saying the website could easily be replicated for $10,000-$20,000 – less than 1% of the budget being proposed by Trudeau’s government.

As a web developer and owner of testerdigital, a full-service digital marketing firm, I would go a step further.

I would be embarrassed if any website I produced looked like that, and I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I had produced this for a paying client. Anyone who compared the Prime Minister’s website to WhiteHouse.gov would be supremely embarrassed for our country.

The content posted to the Prime Minister’s website is equally humiliating. I don’t know how they justify needing four full-time staffers to copy and paste news releases onto the web 3-4 times a week — but they’ve proposed hiring two more.

One of the government’s justifications for spending hundreds of thousands on the website is the need to livestream events. Perhaps they think Canadians are woefully ignorant. Anyone who spends ten seconds on Google would find out that the world’s top livestreaming service, Livestream.com, charges a maximum of $399 per month – and that’s only if viewers are watching over 30,000 hours of content a month. And the kicker? The Liberal Ontario government has been using Livestream.com for years.

And was the site built on expensive, custom content management systems, or using a ton of custom JavaScript or plugins? No — it uses common elements like Drupal, jQuery, and Bootstrap, that anybody you’d hire for a junior web position would have a supreme mastery over.

And yet here we have a proposal to spend $1.6 million a year on a website that any designer would be ashamed to put their name to.

The last Conservative Prime Minister’s Office was rightly mocked when they launched 24 Seven – a lame, weekly video that was highly partisan and mostly pointless, receiving a couple hundred views a week if they were lucky. But the cost of 24 Seven was next to nothing compared to the new Prime Minister’s website.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s spokesperson, Cameron Ahmad, defended the price tag, saying it was necessary to ensure the website was “adequately funded,” according to the Toronto Star. It’s as if a million dollars a year were not adequate to maintain a website that would have looked bad when Jean Chretien was Prime Minister.

Perhaps the reality is that nobody in the Prime Minister’s Office knows any better. They could be woefully uninformed about the cost of building websites, web design trends, or the time and effort it requires to copy and paste things into Drupal.

Or perhaps the reality is that nobody in the Prime Minister’s Office cares – $1.6 million wasted on a vanity project to promote their leader is a drop in the bucket compared to what they are planning to spend in the upcoming budget.