Thursday, June 30, 2016

They Also Begin At Home



During the 2015 election, Justin Trudeau made a number of promises to immigrant communities across the country. He has kept some of those promises. Avvy Go writes:

To his credit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has either delivered on a number of his promises, or has taken some critical first steps towards their implementation, not the least of which are the inquiry into the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the reinstatement of the Court Challenges Program, and the acceptance of more than 20,000 Syrian refugees.

In some immigrant communities, the change in government has even generated rumours that there are now more generous rules granting permanent resident status for non-status immigrants. Several ethno-racial legal clinics are seeing a sudden surge of clients who have lived underground for many years in Canada, and are now reaching out for help to regularize their status.

But Trudeau promised much more. And there is much more to do:
 
On other issues, repeated assurances have been made for reform with no concrete action. An example of this is the Liberal promise to revoke the Conditional Permanent Resident (CPR) status, which forces sponsored spouses to stay in a relationship with their sponsors for two years or risk losing their permanent resident status. This CPR provision has been shown to increase the risk of domestic violence and abuse. Immigration Minister John McCallum has said that the CPR will be revoked, without stating when or clarifying whether the revocation will be made retroactive to cover all those who have been, and continue to be, subject to investigation by immigration authorities.

Further, while there has been talk to reform the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, the consultations to date have been skewed towards employers and agencies that broker contracts, as opposed to the migrants living in precarious conditions.

True, the “to do” list for the new government is long. But it is not long enough. 
Missing from the list is the much needed renewal of Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism (CAPAR) instituted by the Paul Martin government in 2005. Little to no action has been taken over the last 10 years to maintain programs that were once designed to combat systemic racism, let alone implement new measures to address growing colour-coded disparities. Although it is encouraging to see significant commitments and initiatives with respect to Indigenous issues and concerns, for peoples of colour Canada has effectively wasted 10 years on this important file.

Yesterday Trudeau, and Presidents Obama and Pena Nieto made a joint commitment to co-operation and openness. Like charity, they also begin at home.

Image: huffingtonpost.ca

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

That's When They Turn On You


As the leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada meet today in Ottawa, they're feeling pretty good -- particularly after last week's vote in Britain. Tom Walkom writes:

Their cheery collaboration is being deliberately portrayed as a counterpoint to the British public’s gloomy rejection of the European Union.

In effect, the three NAFTA amigos are saying: Hey don’t worry overmuch about Britain and the EU. Global integration is going gangbusters. Look at us.

If it were only that simple.

It's not that simple. Donald Trump is talking about getting out of NAFTA -- unless he gets his way:

In fact, NAFTA is on uncertain ground. In the U.S., presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has taken a hard line against it.

On Tuesday, in an unusually coherent speech, he repeated his promise to either radically renegotiate NAFTA in America’s favour or have the U.S. withdraw from the pact.

And Canadians themselves are not that gung-ho on the deal:

In Canada, a poll this week found support for NAFTA is split, with roughly 25 per cent in favour, 25 per cent opposed and the remainder indifferent or unsure.

No wonder. The addition of Mexico in 1994 to the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement has helped manufacturers who locate in that country. But it hasn’t necessarily helped Canada.

Cheaper Mexican wages have encouraged auto plants to build there — often at the expense of jobs in Canada. Even Toronto’s troubled new Bombardier streetcars are being built, in part, in Mexico.
Canada’s trade deficit with Mexico stands at about $10 billion.

What the Amigos should remember as they meet, writes Walkom, is that sometimes people get fed up. That's when they turn on you.

Image:care2.com

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Incapable Of Complex Thought



Everywhere in the English speaking world, Lawrence Martin writes, conservatism is in trouble:

In Britain, party hardliners pushed David Cameron into calling a referendum on the European Union. With the Brexit result, they are now in control. The consequences for Britain and well beyond Britain, as the great wealth of analysts agree, could be dire.

In the United States, the Republican Party fell under the sway of Dick Cheney and his ilk. They brought on the Iraq war, the consequences of which have been dire and still are. The Republican Party then fell into the grip of the radical-right Tea Party. Now they are under the control of demagogue Donald Trump. His appeal has similarities to that of the rebels in the British Conservative Party. It is driven by aging, angry-man populism.

If you like Brexit, if you liked the Iraq war, if you favour the retrograde prejudices of Donald Trump, you will like the direction of modern-day conservatism.

And that's the point. Increasingly, modern day conservatism has shown itself to be retrograde, morally bankrupt and incapable of meeting the demands of the new century.  However, Canadian conservatives haven't figured that out yet:

They don’t see Brexit as a step backward. They don’t see the new conservatism as a sure bet to lose the battle of the generations. In Britain, surveys showed the youth were most opposed to Brexit, seniors most in favour. In the correctly named Grand Old Party, the appeal under Mr. Trump is primarily to aging, less-educated voters. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives played mostly to the old-age demographic as well. Millennials being the voice of the future, what are these parties thinking?

It would appear that conservatives -- Canadian conservatives particularly -- preach selfishness and are incapable of complex thought. 

Image: quotesgram.com

Monday, June 27, 2016

Remaking The World


The ripples from Britain's decision to leave the EU keep spreading. The most immediate shocks, of course, are being felt in the UK. Michael Harris writes:

David Cameron and his government, gone; Britain’s senior EU official, Jonathon Hill, gone. Aflame with divorce anger, European leaders wanting the UK out of the marital home tout de suite. More than a million Europeans living in London potentially gone. The opposition Labour Party in chaos with half the shadow cabinet resigning after millions of voters rejected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s injunction to stay in the EU. And the unthinkable prospect of a Donald Trump/Boris Johnson transatlantic political axis.

On the economic side, Moody’s lowered the UK’s “outlook” from stable to negative. Overnight, Britain slipped from the fifth-largest economy in the world to sixth, leap-frogged by France. The pound dropped like a stone. There are reports that Brexit wiped out $2-trillion in wealth, though it is far from certain whether those assets were made of anything more substantial than paper.

And then there is Scotland. Scots recently voted against independence largely because they were told that if they split with the UK, they would also be splitting with the EU. Now that Scotland has apparently lost the highly valued EU connection, there has been an immediate call for a second vote on independence. In fact, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is threatening to veto the Brexit vote, and directly lobby EU member states to allow Edinburgh to remain inside the pan-European trading bloc.

The United Kingdom may soon be a thing of the past. And, likewise, the EU -- at least as it is presently constituted -- may soon be assigned to the dustbin of history:

The whole European shooting match is now in play. What is to stop hard-right nationalists in places like France and the Netherlands from demanding a referendum of their own on their futures in the EU? There is already the same anti-immigrant sentiment in those countries waiting to be exploited by native populists cut from the same cloth as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

Both countries will be facing elections next year and it’s a safe bet that leaving the EU will be front and centre on the political agendas, pushed by National Front vice-president Florian Philippot in France, and the Freedom Party in the Netherlands. And they are not the only countries that might be thrown into chaos by the euroskeptics taking heart from the Brexit vote.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the political opposition in Sweden has been inspired by Britain bailing out of Europe. Opposition leader Mattias Karlsson told the WSJ the British vote was inspiring and that, “We will start campaigning for a Swexit.”
Likewise with Italy’s Northern League and its leader Matteo Salvini. He said that it’s time Italians had the chance to pass their own judgement on EU membership. Salvini, who is an unabashed Trump supporter, is known for his vitriolic attacks on migrants, and his praise for the “good works” of fascist Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. Trump in turn has expressed his hope that the Northern League leader will be the next prime minister of Italy.

The world is being remade -- and whether or not it will be for the better is entirely uncertain.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lessons Learned


We don't know what the long term consequences of Britain's decision to leave the EU will be. But, Tom Walkom writes, there are already lessons to be learned:

First, democracy and advanced capitalism aren’t always compatible. Britain’s voters were asked whether they wanted to stick with a globalized system designed to increase wealth in the aggregate. The majority looked at what they were getting out of the arrangement and said no.

Second, nationalism is alive. There was a time, not so long ago, when the nation-state was viewed as passé. It is not. When Britain’s leavers said they didn’t want to be governed by bureaucrats in Brussels, they meant it.

Third, full labour mobility is, politically, a step too far. The conceit of the European Union was that it had erased borders — that EU citizens could travel, work and live anywhere.
Thursday’s referendum showed that a lot of Britons simply don’t agree. If the polls are right, a lot of other Europeans don’t agree either. They fear an unrestricted flood of newcomers will drive down wages. Sometimes, these fears are justified.

Fourth, the refusal of centre and left parties to deal with any of this has allowed the hard right to monopolize antiglobalization sentiment. In Britain, the right dominated the leave campaign in part because there was no one else.

In the United States, would-be presidential nominee Bernie Sanders articulated a centre-left critique of globalization. But his Democratic party didn’t agree. Now demagogue Republican Donald Trump has the field to himself.

The United States has its critics of globalization on both the Left and on the Right. In Britain, it was the Right that won the day. And there are lessons, too, about the kind of leadership the Right espouses:

The motives of those who voted to leave the EU in Thursday’s referendum were not always noble.

Racism played a role as did plain old xenophobia. Those leading the leave campaign were hardly Churchillian. They included Nigel Farage, the odious leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party as well as former London mayor Boris Johnson, a buffoonish toff who may well end up being the country’s next prime minister.

But the most important lesson was simply this:

Global integration may serve that abstraction known as the economy. But it doesn’t always help real, flesh-and-blood people.

The lessons are there. We'll have to wait and see if people around the world are paying attention. 

Image: quotehd.com

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Brain Damaged


 The Harperites have never liked the courts or judges. Michael Harris writes:

Remember Stephen Harper’s attack on Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin — the one that had her squirmin’ in her ermine? And then there was Dean Del Mastro’s assertion that his guilty verdict on four counts of electoral fraud was only Judge Lisa Cameron’s “opinion.”

The CPC crew has always been happiest being judge in its own cause. It treated the judiciary like interfering busybodies good only for rubber-stamping the government’s agenda, constitutional or otherwise.

So on one level, it’s no surprise to see the Harper appointees who control the Standing Committee on Internal Economy returning at warp speed to a scandal that’s a political shade of kryptonite. They are once again in full-throated pursuit of Senator Mike Duffy for — you guessed it — disputed expense money. Nearly $17,000.

The problem is that Justice Charles Vaillancourt found Duffy's expenses allowable under Senate rules -- something Duffy's lawyer, Donald Bayne, has reiterated:

Bayne points out that this amounts to challenging and attacking Justice Vaillancourt’s finding of facts on those very same impugned expense matters now being regurgitated by the Senate. As Bayne reminds the Clerk of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy in a hand-delivered letter dated June 22, “leading evidence which is inconsistent with findings made in the accused’s favour in a previous proceeding” is precluded from subsequent proceedings. “Thus Justice Vaillancourt’s positive factual findings about all of the impugned expense matters cannot be challenged, attacked or contradicted.”

Justice Vaillancourt had all the evidence available to arrive at his decision. There was no new evidence, as the Standing Committee on Internal Economy originally claimed in their June 8, 2016 letter to Duffy asking for repayment of $16,955 in ineligible expenses.

I have written earlier in this space that perseveration is a symptom of brain damage. One has to wonder if the Conservative caucus in the Senate is brain damaged.

 Image: quotesgram.com

Friday, June 24, 2016

For Good Or Ill



Britain is out. Yesterday was momentous and there is no telling what the consequences will be. But, Andrew Nikiforuk writes, yesterday had everything to do with what he calls, "the misery of bigness:"

Years ago, the great Austrian economist Leopold Kohr argued that overwhelming evidence from science, culture and biology all pointed to one unending truth: things improve with an unending process of division.

The breakdown ensured that nothing ever got too big for its own britches or too unmanageable or unaccountable. Small things simply worked best. 

Kohr pegged part of the problem with bigness as "the law of diminishing sensitivity." The bigger a government or market or corporation got, the less sensitive it became to matters of the neighbourhood.

In the end bigness, just like any empire, concentrated power and delivered misery, corruption and waste.  

Kohr was an iconoclast whose

masterful and humorous work, The Breakdown of Nations, argued the root of most evil lies in big government and big institutions. Whenever power reached it, a critical mass, its wielders, no matter how nice or educated, tended to abuse it. Bigness not only allowed but invited the abuse.   

The only way to stop the cancer of bigness was to return to the modesty of smallness.

"If a society grows beyond its optimum size, its problems must eventually outrun the growth of those human faculties which are necessary for dealing with them," wrote Kohr.

The problem, he added, "is not to grow but to stop growing; the answer not union but division."

Yesterday the Brits put another nail in the coffin of globalization. Despite what its cheerleaders say, it's falling apart. The centre cannot hold -- for good or ill.