Some Big Ideas To Consider In 2020

January 5th, 2020 | Poletical

The new year opens a whole new chapter for Canadians. Here are a few big ideas that surpass the boundaries of partisanship and ask every Canadian to be pragmatic, rather than ideological.

Floating Statutory Holidays

Canada has about ten fixed statutory holidays mandated by the federal government every year. Employers are forced to pay their employees double-time, or time-and-a-half, if they choose to keep their shops and businesses open during these days. It's estimated that Canadian businesses pay out hundreds of millions of dollars per year to employees who work on federally mandated statutory holidays. Businesses that stay closed on these holidays lose out on potential revenues, but most of those kinds of businesses are small businesses that cannot afford to pay double-time and that face a better financial outcome by staying closed. Still, however, they lose out on potential revenues.

Big corporations, like Walmart and 7-11, can often afford to stay open on such holidays. However, many of them opt to save their money and stay closed, leaving many who don't celebrate Christmas or Easter stuck at home, unable to run daily errands or buy groceries. Other businesses that usually stay closed on holidays are government institutions, essential service providers and some healthcare providers—making basic services hard to come by for most Canadians during Christmas and other holidays.

The solution to the inconvenience and loss of revenue incurred by fixed statutory holidays is floating statutory holidays.

Instead of mandating ten fixed statutory holidays, the federal government should mandate ten floating (variable) statutory holidays that are allotted to employees in the same way as vacation pay. This means that the government would force all businesses to grant their employees ten floating statutory holidays that can be taken on the days the employees choose. Christians and Catholics can book their floating stat days on Christmas and Easter, while atheists, Muslims and Jews can choose their own holidays.

By implementing a system of floating statutory holidays, the government would be eliminating the law that requires employers to pay time-and-a-half and double-time. This would allow more businesses to stay open and reap the rewards from those who choose to shop and live like normal on Christmas—and it would save Canadian businesses hundreds of millions per year. Above all, it would create a whole new layer of convenience for people who don't celebrate Christmas and other holidays.

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"Here are a few big ideas that surpass the boundaries of partisanship."

Both sides of the political spectrum could find something to agree on here. However, a new policy like this is bound to stir outrage. Some would argue that Canada's “Christian values” and traditions would be displaced in favour of a better economy, more convenience for consumers, more money for big corporations and a more accommodating environment for multiculturalism.

It must be noted that for a system like this to work, the laws and labour standards of provinces would have to eventually follow along.

Annual Leaders Debates

Every October, the federal government should mandate a federal leaders debate, giving the prime minister and party leaders an opportunity to prove their cases and explain their accomplishments to Canadians. Rather than forcing a sitting prime minister to defend himself only in Question Period and during a national election campaign, mandated annual debates would work to improve democracy and transparency.

The debates could be between 2-3 hours long and the federal government would pay a different television network, each year, to broadcast it to Canadians. Likely on a Sunday night, every October, the sitting prime minister and opposition leaders would be forced to debate their platforms and hold each other accountable on live television. This would help keep voters engaged in politics and government, while forcing party leaders to remain accountable, exposed, transparent, engaged and on their toes.

A Credit-Based Private Healthcare Sector

The debate over public and private healthcare has always been a heated one in Canada. Those in defence of our current public system often disregard any alternatives as either blasphemous or ridiculous. This needs to stop. The Canada Health Act currently prohibits any Canadian citizen from paying for most life-threatening medical treatments. In order to have a co-existent private system, this restriction would need to be removed. 

By introducing a private system based on credits—or time served—doctors fresh out of medical school would enter the public system and only "graduate" to the private sector after serving an allotted amount of time in the public sector, after receiving a certain number of credits, or after establishing a level of merit. This private sector would be optional and only available to doctors, physicians, and nurses who have earned the ability to transfer out of the public system. This secondary private system would allow doctors to establish their own private practices, or join existing practices. Such a system would also open the door to patients who are willing and capable of funding their own procedures or having them covered by their own private insurance policies. This could also reduce disastrous wait times in the public sector as well as prevent talented, Canadian-born doctors from leaving the country. 

The exact details of such a system would need to be worked out. The amount of time, credits, or merit required for doctors to transfer into the private system would have to be decided through collaboration between legislators and medical organizations. Criticisms about this system being one for the wealthy and privileged would arise, as well as criticisms regarding differing pay scales in each sector and the quality of care. Such a secondary system, however, would exist separately from the current, public system and remain optional for all qualifying healthcare practitioners. 

Ideas like this should be explored honestly rather than be disregarded as radical or unsustainable. Canada's current healthcare model has also been criticized for being unsustainable and in need of change. So, why not start with an open and honest discussion that explores every possible option?

A Democratically Elected Head Of State

Like many European parliamentary systems, Canada should have a democratically elected (and possibly partisan) president in place of the Governor General. Canada's current head of state is the Governor General, who acts as a representative—or symbolic representation—of the Queen of England and is appointed by the prime minister. The GG's roles include giving new laws royal ascent, appointing senators on the advice of the prime minister, dissolving parliament and approving coalition governments. This should all be done by a democratically elected head of state, or president.

By abolishing the Governor General, Canada could replace the role and all of its current duties with a democratically elected president. Having a partisan president could add a new layer of power to Canada's executive branch, while also solving the current issues plaguing Canada's un-elected and outdated senate.

All senators are appointed by the Governor General, usually without resistance, following the advice of a sitting prime minister or advisory board. The GG also has the power to unseat a sitting prime minister who has been found in breach of certain laws. Of course, because the role has become symbolic, those powers are never exercised. Having a democratically elected replacement for the GG and restoring some of those powers could add a new dimension and dynamic to Canada's current democratic system—albeit, a very controversial dynamic.

The option for a non-partisan president is also worthy of consideration.

© 2020 Poletical