Jack Layton -Malcolm Allen
January 22nd 2009

Leader of the Federal NDP party Jack Layton accompanied newly elected Welland M.P. Malcolm Allen to a town hall meeting with constituents; the purpose of the meeting was to talk about the upcoming federal budget.

After the Conservative government forced an extended vacation for parliament and retreated to lick their wounds. Jack Layton had an idea… to embark on a Canada wide tour to hear what Canadians were concerned about.

What differentiated this meeting from other political events I have attended, they listened and we talked, an interesting twist in format, for a politician. Both Jack and Malcolm heard constituents concerns about the Niagara area and the Canadian economy. Many issues were raised.

The need for better public transportation and affordable housing to help Niagara’s working family’s work and live. It was suggested developing a trolley system utilizing the old railway beds to interconnect the Niagara peninsula. Government spending on our infrastructure should be increased; this would help stimulate the local economy, creating jobs.

The importance of an effective social net which would include reforming the E.I. system; increased payments, elimination of the 2 week waiting period, benefits for a longer period of time and payment should be paid out immediately. How workers severance pay is handled also needs to be changed, currently workers are forced to use all severance before collecting E.I. benefits.

The increasing strain of debt load for working families was another hot topic, partially caused by exorbitant credit card interest rates. It was suggested that banks could assist Canadians by using bailout money to reduce interest rates charged for credit cards and making credit available.

Some of the other issues raised included the need for universal healthcare and stopping P3’s, Child poverty, helping sick kids, increasing the minimum wage, the need for green industries and automobiles. The next budget needs to increase in the funding for non profit organizations that help create the safety net for an increasing number of unemployed and working poor.

With the massive job losses in the manufacturing sector, GM lay offs and the John Deere plant closure, concerned CAW members raised the important issue of the need for a Made in Canada Procurement Policy, this is needed to help slow the erosion of good paying Canadian jobs to other countries.

The government needs to use our tax dollars to create jobs for Canadians. Jack said when Steven Harper visited the Welland area in September he never commented about the John Deere closure, his advice was to buy stock! Given the past three months of financial crisis any one who did so would have been very sorry they took the Prime Ministers advice.

Considering the large turnout and all the important issues that were raised, it was abundantly clear to all those present, the current Conservative government is failing to meet the needs of Canadian families in countless areas of our lives and it is time for them to go.
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