Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Who Says You Can't Buy An Election?



Donald Trump keeps rolling along. And things keep getting worse for Hillary Clinton. The real campaign hasn't even started yet. A lot of Clinton's misery is of her own making.  Trump is a sociopath -- who will say anything and stop at nothing to win. But, Gerry Caplan writes, things will really get bad when "Kochtopus" is unleashed from its underwater lair. The meme refers to:

Charlie and David Koch and the astonishingly rich and powerful gang of extreme right-wing billionaires they have quietly organized over the past few decades. They have already wreaked havoc among Democrats and undermined any number of progressive causes.

They may operate underwater. But they are now well known:

This record is meticulously documented by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer in her terrifying new book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.

Mayer shows how the syndicate that the Kochs have organized has been responsible for everything from the emergence of the Tea Party to the charge that Obama’s health-care act provides for “death panels” to the widespread denial of climate change across the United States. The Kochs and many of their allies are themselves oil billionaires who hate environmentalists, government regulation and paying taxes. If Trump is dangerously unpredictable, Koch and his plutocratic pals are only too predictable.

They will, as they always do, use smears, lies, distortions, fabrications, fear-mongering – whatever it takes, or costs. The Kochs and their fellow conspirators are pledged to spend no less than a cool $889-million fighting the Democratic nominee this year.

Trump will deliver the fear, lies and distortions. Kochtopus will pay for them. Who says you can't buy and election?

Image: thegreenmarketoracle.com

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Party Of The Young

 
Tim Harper wrote his last column yesterday. In it, he reviewed the state of Canada's three major parties -- which have all held conventions in the last four months:

The three gatherings have provided a real-time barometer on the state of politics in this country.

 New Democrats chose a coup and chaos by deposing leader Tom Mulcair last month and their short-term prospects look grim.

Conservatives this weekend were waiting to see whether their so-called A-listers will actually run for their leadership or whether a perceived prospect of another seven years in opposition will give some pause.

What most distinguished the Liberal convention was its youthful energy:

The youth gave the gathering energy even if there was precious little to get excited about. Party greybeards were in the minority.

No one is making 2019 predictions this early in the Liberal term, but there can be no question the party feels good about its future.

 Harper warned all that could change:

It was a great weekend to be a Liberal in Winnipeg.

It may never get any better, but it cannot last.

It never does.

You don’t have to trust me on that one. As Trudeau repeatedly pointed out, it was five years ago this month that this party had been all but left for dead.

For the moment, the Liberals are the Party of the Young.


Image: John Woods Canadian Press

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pretty Thin, But . . .


As prime minister, Stephen Harper didn't accomplish much. Andrew Coyne writes that Mr. Harper's legacy is pretty thin:

Any honest examination of Harper’s nine-odd years in office would find a government that wandered all over the intellectual map, boasting of its commitment to balanced budgets while adding $150 billion to the national debt, talking of its respect for free markets while launching 1970s-style industrial-subsidy programs, praising the military while denying it adequate equipment, and so on. 

Its defenders point to all the things other governments might have done — a national daycare program, say — that Harper’s didn’t. But we could as well list all of the conservative policies it failed to enact, from privatization to deregulation to reform of social programs. We might talk of how the party’s social conservatives were gagged, or how the party of democratic conservatism became the party of one-man rule.

There was much that it did that it shouldn’t have — a long list that would include abusing the prerogatives of Parliament, packing the Senate with spendthrifts and cronies, and attempting to skew elections via the Fair Elections Act — and much else that it tried to do but failed, from reforming the Senate to building pipelines.

And, Coyne admits, the Liberals are rapidly undoing what Harper left on the books. However, he gives Harper credit for uniting a party which tends to self destruct:

The Diefenbaker sweep in 1958 was reduced to a minority in just four years. The Mulroney sweep in 1984, likewise, carried within it the seeds of its later demise. Both were too sudden to last.

Time will tell whether the Harper Party survives this weekend's convention and beyond.

Image: 25mmpinbadges.co.uk




Saturday, May 28, 2016

Will The Conservatives Move Left?



Not very likely, says David Orchard, who was betrayed by Peter Mackay, when Orchard threw his support behind Mackay's bid for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. Mackay threw in his lot with Stephen Harper. And Progressive Conservatism went out the window:

The party's leadership will likely continue to hew hard right, says a prominent member of the former Progressive Conservatives, David Orchard.

Orchard was famously misled by Peter MacKay in 2003 when the Canadian Alliance merged with the Progressive Conservatives to created the modern Conservative Party.

Orchard was running for the party leadership and dropped out to throw his support behind MacKay on the condition MacKay would not allow the merger of the two parties. Later that year MacKay sealed the deal with Stephen Harper's party.

Those who helped MacKay twist the knife still hold most of the power in the Conservative Party, Orchard told the Tyee, and that will prevent the party from shifting towards the centre.

As Harper existed stage right on Thursday night, there was no sign that the party would reject what he stood for. And that's a big problem:

Studies show younger voters in Canada, and in much of the western world, lean more to the left than in previous decades and tend to be more populist.

Meanwhile, Conservatives are trying to rebuild their popularity after Stephen Harper's long, hard shift of the movement rightwards.

Harper prioritized the oil industry, passed the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act, refused to fund abortions in developing countries and proposed a telephone line for Canadians to snitch on each other if they saw a suspected a barbaric cultural practice was committed.

"The past is no place to linger," Harper told his audience on Thursday night. But that is where the Conservatives plan to plant their flag.

Image: weheartit.com

Friday, May 27, 2016

The End Of Globalization?


This year's American presidential campaign has given citizens around the world much to trouble their dreams. But, Murray Dobbins writes, behind the ugliness something good may be emerging -- the end of corporate globalization:

Increasingly grim inequality has revealed the broken promise and American workers are pissed. That is in large part what drives the mind-boggling Trump phenomenon in the U.S.: it's not exactly class warfare but Trump supporters sense the system as a whole -- political and economic -- is truly broken. And the support for Bernie Sanders is as close to class conflict as the U.S. ever gets. For the first time in over 30 years, these corporate rights deals are a hot U.S. election issue, with all three remaining candidates opposing the TPP.

But perhaps equally important, the state apparatus itself is showing cracks in its own consensus. This has taken the form of leaks from within the U.S. government about the TTIP and a government study of the benefits of the TPP to the U.S. Both present genuine threats to the future of these agreements in the U.S. And defeats in the U.S. could be the death knell for these deals everywhere.

And the government Cone of Silence which has been erected to protect the corporate juggernaut is starting to crack:

The leak regarding the TTIP came right on the heels of the typical reassuring noises from the Obama administration regarding protection for labour and environment standards in the TTIP. According to the New Republic article, "The Free-Trade Consensus Is Dead": "[d]ocuments leaked by Greenpeace Netherlands revealed that U.S. negotiators working on a trade deal with the European Union have actually been pressuring their trading partners to lower those same standards." The leak was a revelation to the French trade minister who declared that the talks were "likely to stop altogether" as a result. (In 1998 France killed the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, the largest deal ever conceived.)

The second nail in the coffin of free trade consensus in the U.S. came from a U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) analysis of the benefits the U.S. could expect from the even larger deal, the TPP. The report, released this past week, will be difficult for promoters to explain away:
"[T]he ITC estimates a worsening balance of trade for 16 out of 25 U.S. agriculture, manufacturing, and services sectors... Indeed, output in the manufacturing sector would be $11.2 billion lower with TPP than without it in 2032... the proposed 12-nation trade deal will increase the U.S. global trade deficit by $21.7 billion by 2032."
It's worth remembering that, when Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, everything in the United States changed. Hell hath no fury like a nation that's been lied to. Dobbin knows how things work:

 Once members of the political elite begin to question the high priests of free trade, the spell is broken, and all sorts of alternative political narratives present themselves. It takes an accumulation of unlikely suspects breaking with the consensus before that happens and we have already seen some high-profile defectors from the TPP -- including Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, economist Jeffrey Sachs and in Canada RIM co-founder Jim Balsillie. At first the Teflon seemed to hold, but there is always a time lag when it comes to cultural change and their interventions are still playing out.

In Canada, we haven't reached that point. In fact, the Liberals are making noises about bowing to the corporate sacred cow.  They would be wise to watch what is unfolding south of the border.

Image: slideshare.net

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Climate Change Did Harper In


If there was one policy which doomed the Harperites in the last election, it was their steadfast refusal to do anything about climate change. Chantal Hebert writes:

Last October, a mismanaged election campaign only compounded the decade-long mismanagement of some core policies. Few of those are more closely identified with Harper’s leadership than the party’s dismissive approach to climate change. On his watch, it became part of the Conservative brand and an albatross around the party’s neck.

At both ends of the nation, Harper's refusal to tackle the problem led to his defeat:

Last October, Harper’s approach paid few dividends in the parts of Atlantic Canada where projects such as TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline otherwise enjoy widespread support. His candidates were beaten across the region.

It failed even more spectacularly in British Columbia. Going into the last campaign, B.C. was a long-standing pillar of Conservative support. On the scale of the party’s past presence in the province, Canada’s Conservatives are paying a visit to a field of ruins this weekend. Here are some numbers:

In British Columbia -- which had adopted a carbon tax -- the numbers tell the story:

  • The Conservatives came out of the last election holding only 10 of 42 B.C. seats — seven fewer than the Liberals and four fewer than the NDP. It was the worst Conservative showing in at least three decades.
  • The year Stockwell Day lost to Jean Chr├ętien and the last time a divided conservative movement took on the Liberals in 2000, the Canadian Alliance won a majority of B.C. seats (27) and almost 50 per cent of the province’s popular vote.
  • Between 2011 and 2015, the Conservative share of the vote went from 45 per cent to 30 per cent. Over Harper’s majority mandate, the party lost almost 150,000 B.C. supporters.

The Conservatives will be saying goodbye to Harper this weekend. As he heads for the exit, they would be well advised to pay attention to his blind spots.


 Image: canadians.org

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Just What The World Needs


Bob Fife reports, in the Globe and Mail, that Stephen Harper will resign his seat before Parliament resumes in September:

“He is not going to be there when the House returns in September,” one close associate said. “He has had some good conversations about what is next for him. … He has some board discussions happening and he’s looking at some options about setting up his own institute.”

Apparently, the institute will focus on foreign policy:

The institute is in its early stages of discussion, but friends say it won’t be academic or domestic-policy focused, such as the conservative think tank founded by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning. Mr. Harper’s interests will be directed largely at global “big picture” issues that he has espoused over the years.

His former policy director, Rachel Curran, said once Mr. Harper leaves politics, he will want to champion global free trade, building on his success in negotiating deals with South Korea and the European Union, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“He spent tremendous time and energy really concluding these trade agreements and opening up trade corridors,” Ms. Curran said. “He has got a really recognized expertise and a lot of respect internationally in terms of his kind of knowledge.”

She said Mr. Harper will also want to promote his geopolitical thinking – whether it’s on human rights, the promotion of democracy or standing up to authoritarian regimes.

Mr. Harper knows something about authoritarian regimes. He'll need money to fund the institute. Word has it that he has been spending time lately with Las Vegas casino magnet Sheldon Adelson. His base might be a little concerned about where the money comes from. But one suspects the base is not on Harper's mind these days.

No, he's thinking about the world. And that's just what the world needs -- more Stephen Harper.

Image: pressprogress.ca

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Is The TPP Dead?

 
Michael Geist thinks it might be. He writes:

First, the TPP may not have sufficient support to take effect, since under the terms of agreement both Japan and the United States must be among the ratifying countries. Implementation has been delayed in Japan where politicians fear a political backlash and seems increasingly unlikely in the U.S., where the remaining presidential candidates have tried to outdo one another in their opposition to the deal.

Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have been outspoken critics of the TPP from start of their campaigns. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has shifted her position from supporter to critic, recently unequivocally stating that “I oppose the TPP agreement and that means before and after the election.” 

If the deal goes down, that's good news -- because new models are emerging for international trade agreements:

Canada already has an alternate blueprint for a trade strategy to open up key markets throughout Asia. By the government’s own admission, the Canada-EU Trade Agreement offers a better investor-state dispute settlement system than the TPP, while the Canada-South Korea free trade agreement, which was concluded in 2014, eliminates tariffs without requiring an overhaul of Canadian or South Korean laws.

There are criticisms of both of those deals, but they offer better models than the TPP.

And a recent analysis by the C.D. Howe Institute claims that the proposed agreement offers Canada  few incentives:

For example, a recent C.D. Howe study found that the Canadian gains may be very modest, with some gains offset by losses on issues such as copyright and an outflow of royalties. Given the limited effect of staying out (the study describes the initial impact as “negligible”), some have suggested that killing the agreement might be a good thing for the country.

The C.D. Howe study, which is consistent with several other reports that found that TPP benefits to Canada are among the lowest of the 12 countries, should not come as a surprise. Canada already has free trade deals with several key agreement partners, including the U.S., Mexico, Chile and Peru. Moreover, some Canadian business sectors have told the government they would be better off removing inter-provincial trade barriers before working to open markets like Vietnam and Malaysia.

The government is currently holding cross-country hearings on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It will be interesting -- and critical -- to see what Chrystia Freeland and Justin Trudeau decide to do with another piece of Stephen Harper's legacy.

Image: youtube.com

Monday, May 23, 2016

Kagan On Trump



Robert Kagan has been a consistent neo-conservative voice for the last twenty-five years. From his desk at the Brookings Institution, he has advocated for a tougher, more militaristic American foreign policy. Successive Republican administrations have adopted his suggestions. That is why his take on Donald Trump is so interesting. In a recent column, "This Is How Fascism Comes To America," he writes:

The entire Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with policy or ideology. It has nothing to do with the Republican Party, either, except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy. Trump has transcended the party that produced him. His growing army of supporters no longer cares about the party. Because it did not immediately and fully embrace Trump, because a dwindling number of its political and intellectual leaders still resist him, the party is regarded with suspicion and even hostility by his followers. Their allegiance is to him and him alone.

Neo-conservatives fear government. But Trump is what the American Founding Fathers feared most -- rule of the mob:

But here is the other threat to liberty that Alexis de Tocqueville and the ancient philosophers warned about: that the people in a democracy, excited, angry and unconstrained, might run roughshod over even the institutions created to preserve their freedoms. As Alexander Hamilton watched the French Revolution unfold, he feared in America what he saw play out in France — that the unleashing of popular passions would lead not to greater democracy but to the arrival of a tyrant, riding to power on the shoulders of the people.

And when a nation chooses one man who will run roughshod over its system of government, the result is fascism:

This phenomenon has arisen in other democratic and quasi-democratic countries over the past century, and it has generally been called “fascism.” Fascist movements, too, had no coherent ideology, no clear set of prescriptions for what ailed society. “National socialism” was a bundle of contradictions, united chiefly by what, and who, it opposed; fascism in Italy was anti-liberal, anti-democratic, anti-Marxist, anti-capitalist and anti-clerical. Successful fascism was not about policies but about the strongman, the leader (Il Duce, Der Fuhrer), in whom could be entrusted the fate of the nation. Whatever the problem, he could fix it. Whatever the threat, internal or external, he could vanquish it, and it was unnecessary for him to explain how. Today, there is Putinism, which also has nothing to do with belief or policy but is about the tough man who singlehandedly defends his people against all threats, foreign and domestic.

Kagan warns his readers that:

Once in power, Trump will owe politicians and their party nothing. He will have ridden to power despite the party, catapulted into the White House by a mass following devoted only to him. By then that following will have grown dramatically. Today, less than 5 percent of eligible voters have voted for Trump. But if he wins the election imagine the power he would wield: at his command would be the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence services, the military. Is a man like Trump, with infinitely greater power in his hands, likely to become more humble, more judicious, more generous, less vengeful than he is today? Does vast power uncorrupt?

This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.

Kagan used to be a Republican. He now claims that he is an Independent.

Image: Brookings.edu

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Will He Pay?



Some people are convinced that Justin Trudeau will pay a price for his less than sunny behaviour in the House last week. Tom Walkom isn't so sure. Canadians, he writes, like to have "chippy" prime ministers:

Trudeau broke all the rules Wednesday when he marched across the Commons floor, grabbed Conservative whip Gord Brown by the arm and hustled him to his seat, all in order to get a projected vote underway.

In the melee, the prime minister also inadvertently elbowed Quebec New Democrat MP Ruth-Ellen Brousseau in the chest.

New Democrats standing nearby said Trudeau used a vulgar synonym for fornication as he urged MPs to get out of his way.

But this kind of behaviour isn't new to prime ministers:

Voters often like it when a prime minister gets tough or rude. Jean Chr├ętien suffered no political penalty when, as prime minister, he grabbed a peaceful protester by the throat and forced him to the ground.

Pierre Trudeau, in what became known as the fuddle-duddle incident, famously told opposition MPs to fornicate with themselves. Voters elected his Liberals to government three more times after that.

Was it polite behaviour? Certainly not. It showed that Trudeau can be impetuous and far from sunny. More importantly, his actions caused proceedings to ground to a halt. But Trudeau apologized more than once. Other than his apology for residential schools, when was the last time you heard Stephen Harper apologize?

Will he pay? We'll see.

Image: youtube.com

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Trump-Clinton Syndrome



 When Alan Freeman was the Globe and Mail correspondent in Washington, nobody paid attention to Canada. Suddenly, he writes, that has all changed:

Over the past week, major U.S. news outlets like The New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post haven’t been able to get enough of Canada. And that was before Thursday’s meltdown on the Commons floor.

In recent weeks, major American media outlets have run stories on the Fort McMurray wildfire, Canada’s transgender anti-discrimination legislation, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau’s plea for more staff help, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apology to South Asian immigrants turned away on the Komagata Maru in 1914 — and, of course, the elbows-out fracas involving Trudeau and several other MPs in the Commons.

Why the change? Call it the Trump-Clinton Syndrome:

Instead of any sense of excitement over a new kind of leadership, Americans are brooding over the prospect of six more months of a nasty election campaign — between a reality TV star who seldom mentions a rival or a foreign leader without resorting to crude insults, and a political veteran who has trouble shaking her image of arrogance and entitlement.

The personal weaknesses of Trump and Clinton normally would be enough to sink either one of them in a presidential election campaign — if it weren’t for the fact that they’re running against each other. So many Americans are stuck with a choice between two people they don’t like.

Some Canadians -- people like Conrad Black -- used to look with envy on the United States. Black's envy seems to have disappeared after his acquaintance with American Justice. And it appears that a significant number of Americans are now envying us.

Image: refe99.com

Friday, May 20, 2016

Words, Words, Words



Young Mr.Trudeau is starting to get under my skin. It isn't the Kabuki Theatre the other day in the House that bothers me. It's the announcement that the Liberals plan to contest the class action lawsuit which veterans brought against the Harper government. Tasha Kheiriddin writes:

The vets claimed the Tories were discriminating against combatants in modern-day conflicts, such as Afghanistan, by offering them lump-sum payments, rather than the life-long pensions paid to veterans of older conflicts, such as the Korean War. The issue cost the Conservatives support among veterans’ groups — a traditional base of support — and became a black eye for a government that loved to play up the importance of Canada’s military.

 During the election campaign, Mr. Trudeau promised that veterans would not be treated so cavalierly:

“We will demonstrate the respect and appreciation for our veterans that Canadians rightly expect, and ensure that no veteran has to fight the government for the support and compensation they have earned.”

The Liberals went farther than that:

The Liberal platform further stated that the federal government has “a social covenant with all veterans and their families that we must meet with both respect and gratitude.”

Words meant nothing to Stephen Harper. It's beginning to look like they mean nothing to Justin Trudeau.

Image: ipolitics.ca

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Entertainment And Politics


So you think Canada would never elect a Donald Trump? Think again. Debra Van Brenk writes:

Conservative voters would be more more likely to choose outspoken TV personality Kevin O'Leary as their party leader among a field of seven declared and potential candidates for Stephen Harper's old job, a Forum Research poll suggests.

But among voters generally, not just those likely to vote Tory if an election were held today, former cabinet minister Peter MacKay leads the pack. 

All it would take would be a party of crazies -- people who are seething with resentment and not very bright -- to make it happen. And a culture that confuses entertainment and politics. Consider the field of potential Conservative leaders:

Forum asked more than 1,500 randomly-chosen adult Canadians who would be the best Conservative leader from among a field of seven that includes party stalwart Jason Kenney, the already-declared Maxime Bernier, interim party leader Rona Ambrose and former cabinet ministers Lisa Raitt and Kelly Leitch, the latter of which was a children's orthopedic surgeon in London before entering federal poltiics.

 O'Leary is as prepared as Trump to change his positions:

And just as Donald Trump's actual political leanings confound some in the U.S. Republican party, O'Leary's take on politics has to be decidedly unsettling to established Conservative candidates. O'Leary has said his main aim is advocating for tax-paying Canadians and he hasn't even ruled out running for the Liberals for the next election.

Something to think about.

Image: kevinoleary.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bitumen's Days Are Over



These are hard days for Fort McMurray. But, Andrew Nikiforuk writes, there is another fire burning -- a slow burning one -- that will eventually bring the place to its knees. And Murray Edwards, the head of Canadian Natural Resources, has seen the future:

Murray Edwards, the billionaire tycoon behind Canadian Natural Resources, one of the largest bitumen extractors, has decamped from Alberta to London, England.

Edwards and company slashed $2.4-billion from CNRL's budget in 2015.
Since the oil price crash, by some accounts, Murray's company has lost 50 per cent of its market value.

(Cenovus, another oilsands player, got cursed with junk bond status.)
Edwards likely has read the tea leaves and understands that bitumen might not play a significant role in the secular age of stagnation.

Former CIBC chief economist Jeff Rubin has also seen the future:
 
Last but not least comes a pithy analysis by Jeff Rubin, CIBC's former chief economist. Rubin warns that contraction is the only future for the oilsands unless Canada wishes its economy to become "obsolete and non-competitive."

He correctly notes that 80 per cent of the increase in new global oil did not come from OPEC but from high cost bitumen mines and fracked U.S. shale deposits.
North American corporations, in other words, engineered the global oil glut.

Encouraged by easy credit, Big Oil flooded the market with difficult and largely uneconomic hydrocarbons.

The Saudis, the world's number one and cheapest producers, refused to scale back production or give up market share. Instead they precipitated a price free-fall.

When oil prices stood at $100, rash bitumen development made some sense. But when prices fell below $45 the gamble turned into Russian roulette.

Most of our movers and shakers haven't figured it out yet. But bitumen's days are over.

Image: tihanenterprises.com

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Do The Right Thing, Justin



Back in the 1960's, an estimated 100,000 Americans fled to Canada, rather than being drafted into the armed forces of the United States. Former CBC broadcaster Andy Barrie was one of them. He writes:

In Vietnam, it’s called the American War. Not, mind you, the North American War, because this country, blessedly, refused to be part of it. Just as we refused to join George Bush’s so-called “Coalition of the Willing” to stop the spread of those non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction.

At the time, Stephen Harper, as Leader of the Official Opposition, actually apologized to the American people, making it clear he would have said “ready-aye-ready” to Bush. Years later Harper would reverse himself, calling the Iraq war “absolutely an error.” But that didn’t stop him from going after those young soldiers who made the mistake of equating our country with its government and sought sanctuary in Canada.

A lot fewer Americans fled to Canada. And Stephen Harper deported six of them to face court martials. There are still 15 Americans facing the same fate. It's time to put an end to another part of Harper's legacy:

There are currently 15 known active cases of conscientious objectors in Canada. There were once estimates of 200 American Iraq War resisters in Canada, many of them underground waiting for those who went public to win status before coming forward.

Sad, nasty business, just one among many pieces of nastiness Justin Trudeau promised to undo if he was elected. Well, he was, and with a majority. But he’s yet to tell government lawyers to call it quits to Harper’s deportations.

Harper's justification for sending the six objectors back to the United States was as porous as the thirty-one charges against Mike Duffy:

Harper, in his time, claimed that since military desertion was a crime, Canada would be granting sanctuary to criminals. This is patent nonsense. These people broke no laws in Canada and we have no business enforcing American law. Follow this logic and it would have meant deporting every escaped slave who reached freedom in Canada on the Underground Railroad, as they were considered property in the U.S. and allowing them to stay would have made us recipients of stolen goods.

It's time to step up and do the right thing, Justin.

 Image: nytimes.com

Monday, May 16, 2016

Still Indispensable



Paul Godfrey appeared before the Heritage Committee last week to ask the government for a hand. It was more than a little ironic that the publisher who would prefer to get government out of our lives was coming to it cap in hand. But, Tom Walkom writes, Canadian governments have been giving publishers hand outs for a long time:

In his book Making National News, Ryerson University historian Gene Allen details the agonizing debates among publishers over the federal government’s handsome subsidy to their wire service co-operative, Canadian Press.

The subsidy was required in part because some Canadian publishers were unwilling or unable to pay the high rates charged by telegraph companies for transmitting news over the wire.

During the First World War, publishers also convinced Ottawa that a government-subsidized Canadian wire service would act as a pro-British antidote to news routed through the U.S.-based Associated Press.

At one point, Canada’s wire service was subsidized by both the British and Canadian governments.

In the early years, Ottawa rewarded friendly newspapers by contracting out government printing to them. Later, publishers lobbied for and won reduced rate postage for newspapers. At a time when many readers received their papers through the mail, this was a significant bonus.

Still later, publishers persuaded Ottawa to change the income tax system to favour domestic publications. Those businesses that advertised in Canadian newspapers and magazines could write the cost off. Those that advertised in foreign publications could not.

Known informally as the Maclean’s law, this rule proved of particular benefit to the newsmagazine of that name.

Surprisingly, Walkom believes Godfrey's proposal has merit -- perhaps not just because Postmedia is drowning in debt, but because Walkom's own publisher,  Torstar, lost $53.5 million in the first quarter of this year.

These are tough days for newspapers. But they're still indispensable.

Image: ipolitics.ca

Sunday, May 15, 2016

It Takes More Than Rhyme To Make Poetry



There are some ghostly similarities, Michael Winship writes, between the American election of 1968 and this year's election. 1968 was the year that Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. It was the year there were riots in the streets of Chicago during the Democratic convention. And it marked the ascension of Richard Nixon at the Republican convention. It was also the year that George Wallace ran as a third party candidate.

New York Times columnist Russell Baker described Wallace's campaign:

Wallace’s crude animal reaction to the complexities of American society found a sympathetic hearing that summer among millions baffled by the speed at which the future was hurtling upon them and frustrated by their individual impotence against the tyranny of vast computerized organizations spreading through American life. With his snake-oil miracle cures, Wallace satisfied a deep public yearning to be deluded with promises of easy solutions.


Wallace's daughter recently pulled no punches when she compared Donald Trump to her father:

George Wallace’s own daughter, Peggy Wallace Kennedy, recently told National Public Radio that both men have played to our basest instincts. “Trump and my father say out loud what people are thinking but don’t have the courage to say,” she said. “They both were able to adopt the notion that fear and hate are the two greatest motivators of voters that feel alienated from government.”

Winship reminds his readers of Mark Twain's notion of history. "History," Twain wrote, "doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."

However, it takes more than rhyme to make poetry.

Image: shsclassof68.com

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Ball Is In Trudeau's Court



Justin Trudeau has done an admirable job of tending to his image, Murray Dobbin writes. But his real test as prime minister will be how he deals with the Isle of Man Tax Dodgers:

By now most people are familiar with the KPMG tax "sham" uncovered by CBC News. The scheme involved at least 26 wealthy clients (minimum contribution, $5 million) for whom KPMG set up shell companies in the Isle of Man, one of many tax havens for the rich and large corporations.

The Canada Revenue Agency initially said the scheme was "grossly negligent" and "intended to deceive."

But 15 of the 26 participants would end up getting special treatment. Some of the first ones caught were assessed huge penalties, but later KPMG clients were offered a secret deal. The "amnesty" agreement granted rich KPMG clients immunity from civil and criminal prosecution and freedom from any penalties, fines or interest as long as they paid the taxes they had dodged. Secrecy was written into the agreement: "The taxpayer agrees to ensure the confidentiality of the offer and will not inform any person of the conditions of the offer..."

It's interesting that this story came to light just as the Panama Papers fiasco was surfacing. The root of the problem, Dobbins writes is the cozy relationship which exists between top executives at the CRA and Canada's major Accounting firms:

The practice of making deals and providing amnesty for the biggest offenders seem rooted in the cozy relationship between senior CRA officials and senior management figures from the accounting firms that facilitate the scams. The CBC uncovered five years of expensive receptions hosted by KPMG and other accounting and law firms for senior agency executives -- including those involved in overseas compliance.

"Senior enforcement officials from the Canada Revenue Agency were treated to private receptions at an exclusive Ottawa club, hosted by a small group of influential tax accountants that included personnel from KPMG -- even as the firm was facing a CRA probe for running a $130-million tax dodge in the Isle of Man," the CBC reported.

Despite strict rules stating employees must "not accept gifts, hospitality, or other benefits that will, or could, have a real, apparent or potential influence on your objectivity and neutrality in performing your CRA duties," these unseemly get-togethers became routine. One that took place at the exclusive Rideau Club in June 2014 saw more than 20 "high-ranking CRA executives" wined and dined by accountancy and law firms including KPMG. CRA executives were actually "required" to attend by the agency. The same day they had been treated to a luncheon followed by a session where they were lobbied by KPMG and other firms.

Little folk pay penalties. But the big fish continue to swim unimpeded. The ball is in Trudeau's Court.

Image: msmoem.com

Friday, May 13, 2016

They're Perseverating

 

Just before Mike Duffy's acquittal,  the leader of the Conservative caucus in the Senate, Leo Housakas, released the following statement:

“In the event Senator Duffy is acquitted on all counts, he will immediately be reinstated to the Senate as a member in full standing with full pay and access to all office resources. Senator Duffy will be allowed to take his seat in the Chamber at the next scheduled sitting.”

Now he's changed his tune. Even though Justice Viallancourt found Duffy's expenses legitimate, Housakas wants to review them. Michael Harris writes:

Instead of turning the page, Housakos is trying to turn the page back. Here’s what is on the table: Out of the $124,000 in travel expenses and contracts examined by the RCMP — the spending that provided the foundation for its charges against Duffy — Housakos wants his committee to review $56,546 in travel and $16,995 in contracts.

Why? Harris speculates that:

The operative idea here seems to be that if Conservatives in the Senate can find Duffy guilty of something — anything — it will have a restorative effect on Harper’s soiled reputation, and take the sting out of Judge Vaillancourt’s otherwise devastating verdict.

The Conservatives are perseverating -- which, by the way, is one of the indicators of brain injury.

Image: slideshare.net

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Who Should They Serve?


Your local post office used to be a bank -- until 1968. That's when Canada Post got out of the banking business. But, Linda McQuaig writes, there are good reasons for restoring banking services to Canada Post's mandate:

As they’ve turned their attention to catering to the wealthy, Canada’s six big banks have shut down more than 1,700 branches across the country in recent years. In many rural communities today, you’re no more likely to see a bank than a buffalo.

This has left hundreds of thousands of Canadians without bank accounts, including many low-income city dwellers – notably young people with poor credit ratings and lack of identification – who now rely on pay-day loan companies charging annualized interest rates well above 300 per cent. 

As email cut into its profits, the executives at Canada Post suggested to the Harper government that getting back into banking could solve Canada Post's woes:

But if the idea seemed like a sure winner, it ran into a major roadblock – the fierce ideological objections of Stephen Harper’s Conservative cabinet. After all, postal banking would be public banking, and the Harperites were hell-bent on shrinking government, not expanding it.

So instead of opting for a win-win strategy, the Harper cabinet came up with a lose-lose strategy for the post office: dramatic increases in the cost of postage stamps and the elimination of home delivery.

But the proposal is back on the table. And it offers distinct advantages -- not just to the post office, but to all Canadians:

A postal banking system could even inject some competition into Canada’s highly concentrated banking sector, one of the least competitive in the world. According to a 2014 IMF report, Canada is among a handful of countries where the three largest banks control as much as 60 per cent of banking assets.

This uncompetitive situation has left Canadian bank customers – even those lucky enough to locate a branch – facing some of the world’s highest banking fees.

If postal offices throughout the country offered a range of banking services – savings accounts, low-fee chequing accounts, low-interest credit cards, small business loans – the big banks might be forced to compete, novel as that sounds.

The CEO's of the five major banks will howl. After all, "even in last year’s sluggish economy, they collectively enjoyed $35 billion in profits – about $4 million per hour per day – with bank CEOs among Canada’s top-paid executives." 

 But who should the banks serve?


 Image: canadians.org

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Pressure Is Building

 
Tim Harper writes that Justin Trudeau will soon be under pressure to approve a pipeline -- whether he wants to or not:

When the economic cost of this tragedy is tallied, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is going to be under renewed pressure to approve a pipeline and get oil to market from a province staggering under the weight of historic economic troubles.

Oil production in Alberta is down a million barrels a day — this in a province already coping with jobless rates unseen in 20 years, which bled 21,000 jobs last month before the fires, and now must cope with oil patch shutdowns and international investor nervousness.

Beyond Alberta, the fires are going to have a huge impact on the Canadian economy.

How he can do that and meet his commitments to reduce greenhouse gases seems impossible. Add to that the Liberals commitment -- announced yesterday by Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett -- to sign the United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and it's clear that Trudeau has to try and unscramble a political Rubik's Cube.

Mr. Harper is right: "The expectations and moral suasion from Alberta will be even greater. The pipeline-environmental-aboriginal axis on which Trudeau spins is about to get a lot more dizzying."

Image: huffingtonpost.ca

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Fat Is In The Fire



In a superb piece for the Globe and Mail, Ed Broadbent, Alex Himelfarb and Hugh Segal argue that Canada needs true proportional representation. Nothing else will do:

The central problem with our winner-take-all system is that the composition of our elected parliament does not reflect how we actually voted. A candidate who receives a plurality of the votes wins, even if a majority of the voters chose others. The majority of the votes in such a case have no impact on the outcome of the election.

That means a party that receives only a minority of votes, say less than 40 per cent, can form a majority government, taking full control of the policy agenda. In fact, this is the norm in Canada. But this cannot continue. In a representative democracy, representativeness surely should matter.

The Liberals claim that the new system will be guided by eight principles. The authors write:

 We note, nonetheless, that only a proportional system can meet the government’s first principle: To ensure that votes are fairly translated into elected results.

No more staying at home because our preferred candidate cannot win. No more so-called strategic voting in which we vote to stop a party we like the least rather than choose the candidate or party that best reflects our views.

Not surprisingly, countries with some form of proportional representation – and that is the majority of advanced democracies and 85 per cent of OECD countries – elect more women, more members of minority communities and more diverse legislatures.

Proportional Representation is not a vague theory: 

Given that most democracies have opted for greater proportionality, there’s a good deal of evidence on how it’s working. And it is working.

Voter participation and trust in government are higher. There has been some increase but no proliferation of parties. It does become harder – though not impossible – for single parties to get a majority so these countries are often governed by coalitions. But coalitions in fact provide good, stable government. Elections are no more frequent and politics tend to be less polarized because parties know they may have to work together.

They warn that preferential ballots won't bring about these changes. Only a genuinely proportional system will do that.

The fat is in the fire.

 Image:whocanada.wordpress.com

Monday, May 09, 2016

What A Gift!


Dan Leger writes in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald that a President Trump would be a gift to the enemies of the United States:

But if your goal is to undermine American democracy, then wrecking a Grand Old Party is useful. If you’re ISIS or Vladimir Putin and democracy is your enemy, Trump is your friend. He’s wrecking one of two legitimate American parties.

Trump will further undermine democracy by stifling free speech and the independent press by making libel suits easier to prosecute and by installing judges who agree with him.

Trump says he’ll encourage Japan and South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons, almost certainly setting off an arms race in Asia. That won’t make Americans safer.

Trump says he’ll use the U.S. military to impose America’s will on the world. He doesn’t realize that Washington’s been trying that for years, and failing.

His anti-Islamic rhetoric is a boon to ISIS:

Then by fulfilling his promise to mistreat American Muslims, he’ll deliver propaganda ammunition to radical Islamists around the world. You can’t buy that kind of publicity. President Trump might turn out to be the best friend the terrorists ever had.

And consider what he'll accomplish at home:

Meanwhile Trump will sharpen racial tensions in the U.S., which are already acute. African Americans see him as the white man’s candidate and that’s never good.

Within 100 days of a Trump presidency, the promised wall with Mexico will be designed, an immigration ban on Muslims will be in place, an audit of the Federal Reserve will be started as well as a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

That's right. He's a gift. A real gift.

Image:tanveernaseer.com

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Bigger, Hotter, More Frequent



Canadians have been appalled by the Fort McMurray Fire. But, Ed Strurzik writes, some people saw it coming:

Fire scientists and fire managers actually saw this coming back in 2009 when 70 of them gathered in Victoria to address the issue of climate change and what impact it was going to have on the forest fire situation in Canada. Each one of them was already well aware that fires were burning bigger, hotter, faster, and in more unpredictable ways than ever before.

''We're exceeding thresholds all the time,'' said Mike Flannigan, who was at the time a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service. ''We'd better start acting soon.''

The dragon in the woods is climate change:

There are a number of reasons why fires are going to burn bigger, hotter, faster, and more often in the future. There are more people living and working in the boreal forest, and like it or not, people start a lot of fires -- more than half that occur in Canada. And in fighting fires so religiously to protect valuable timber, oil sands, pipelines and communities, we've created an unnaturally large amount of old growth forest in the boreal, where spruce and pine are prevalent and highly combustible.
But there isn't an expert out there who doubts that climate change is the biggest reason why we're losing the battle to control wildfires.

For every one degree of warming, there needs to be 15 per cent more precipitation to keep the fine combustible fuels on the ground sufficiently moist. So if temperatures rise by about three degrees by the end of the century, which is as conservative an estimate as there is, we'll need 45 per cent more rain. Flannigan says there is nothing in the climate models that suggest we'll come close. In fact, we're likely to get less precipitation in some areas.

More heat is also going to result in more lightning, which currently accounts for 85 per cent of the area burned in Canada. Typically, lightning occurs in clusters where there can be 50 to 100 strikes in a day. But increasingly we're seeing lightning events such as the one that occurred in Alaska last year when a slow-moving storm unleashed 50,000 lightning strikes in just five days. More than five million acres of trees were destroyed in a fire season that turned out to be second worst in the state's history. No one had ever seen anything like it.

What's more, insects like the mountain pine beetle and the spruce bark beetle that kill or weaken mature spruce and pine will continue to proliferate in these warmer environments, adding fuel for combustion.

Premier Brad Wall wants a national fire strategy --  a good idea. But, so far, he -- and many others -- have had little policy to offer on climate change. Without those policies, fires like the Fort Mac Fire will be bigger, hotter and more frequent.

Image:TheTyee.ca

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Politics As Air Rage

 
These days, we hear frequent stories about the passenger on an airplane who loses it and has to be restrained by the flight crew. Mark Kingwell writes that air rage has overtaken our politics. The root causes of both are about class:

So there we have it, the perfect image of democratic society circa 2016.

This is airborne hyperdemocratic dysfunction, the condition in which everyone has been promised everything, but where some kinds of everything are never enough to go around. Because they can’t all be first-class seats.

Some people are just happy to have a seat on the plane, maybe want a better seat for their kids one day. Others can’t believe it took so freaking long for them to get on the plane, but they’ll suppress their rage to avoid getting kicked off now.

But there are a lot of passengers who have had enough:

So they respond with gleeful rage when a Row 4 billionaire slides back and tells them that their raw economy-seat deal is the result not just of the elites ahead but also the rapists, unbelievers and possible terrorists behind. How did those people even get on the plane? Send them back! (Note: There is no farther back for them to go.)

A couple of middle rows are trying to warn everyone that the plane is about to crash, but they keep interrupting each other and preening in their porthole reflections. Some others, permanently seated in Economy Plus, whatever that is, are trying to recall the original purpose of the plane, pointing out that the bad version of the plane was predicted in Plato, or Tocqueville, or Canetti.

They are all shouted down by “safety reminders” of where the emergency exits are. A chant goes up in Rows 12 and 13, encouraged by the wackadoodle from Row 4: “Get out! Get out!” A charming man with no assigned seat is telling everyone the whole plane is rigged. A bossy lady from Row 1 says she knows all about the plane, her family used to run the plane and everyone should trust her with the plane.

And, then, there are those passengers who always fly first class:

In first class, meanwhile, the pinot gris has arrived tepid. What is the point of success if you don’t get to enjoy it right now? Speaking of which, yes, the pinot gris is warm, but it’s also not arriving quickly enough. No, I’m not drunk. Where is my smoked salmon? Get your hand off my arm! Who’s flying the plane? Not clear, except that they almost certainly work for the horrible people sitting right behind them.

If all hell breaks loose on the plane, it may not make it to its destination. 

Image: dailymail.co.uk

Friday, May 06, 2016

Joe Slept Though The Verdict


If you want to know what the Conservatives have learned since their election defeat, Michael Harris writes, you should read the op-ed which Joe Oliver recently penned for the National Post:

Oliver tried to make the argument that the Trudeau government is overturning all the wonderful things done by Side Door Steve (he doesn’t sit in Parliament — he lurks there). Take the Office of Religious Freedom (ORF). Joe sees this Harper-era initiative as a giant step forward for mankind. Others, whose comfort zone isn’t necessarily the Middle Ages, prefer the separation of church and state — a secular approach to governance. (Yes, Joe, it’s a radical thought. But a lot has happened since the Battle of Hastings.)

Joe also slammed the Liberals for scuppering such Conservative initiatives as increasing the OAS retirement age from 65 to 67. And yes, Trudeau did reverse that in his government’s first budget, as promised.

What Joe neglects to mention is that Side Door Steve once promised to never touch Canada’s pension system. Then, one day, he woke up on the other side of the bed and did just that. He even made the announcement in Davos, Switzerland, rather than in Parliament. There was no supporting Finance Department white paper to justify the move. That sent coffee rockets jetting out of Kevin Page’s nostrils. It was Steve in communion with his belly-button — again.

Oliver argues that the Trudeau government is overturning all the brilliant things the Harper government did:

We should have kept those bombers bombing in Iraq, we never should have imposed all those pesky environmental restrictions on pipeline projects, we should carry on stripping citizenship from convicted terrorists and we should have invested $3.2 billion on military spending right away, instead of delaying it.

And he neglects to mention all the things the Harper government overturned:

The Law Reform Commission, disbanded. Katimavik, obliterated. The National Roundtable on the Economy and the Environment, abandoned. Kelowna, dumped. Kyoto, ditto. The Wheat Board, sold. The long-form census, cancelled. The convention on fighting drought in Africa, defenestrated. CIDA, castrated. Priceless diplomatic assets such as Strathmore in Ireland and the Canadian High Commissioner’s residence in the U.K., auctioned off for short-term gain.

There is still some of Harper's legacy which Trudeau hasn't overturned -- the Saudi arms deal, and the Trans Pacific Partnership. So the jury is still out on Mr. Trudeau. But the jury came to a decision on Harper last October.

Joe slept through the verdict.

Image: calgaryherald.com

Thursday, May 05, 2016

We've Forgotten Recent History


Now that Donald Trump has become the one and only Republican candidate for president, it's worth returning to a column that Henry Giroux wrote in December of last year. Its title was Fascism in Donald Trump's United States. Giroux wrote the column after Trump proposed banning Muslims from the country:

Donald Trump's blatant appeal to fascist ideology and policy considerations took a more barefaced and dangerous turn this week when he released a statement calling for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." Trump qualified this racist appeal to voters' fears about Muslims by stating that such a ban is necessary "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."

The qualification, Giroux wrote, cannot cover what Trump is really about:

What almost none of the presidential candidates or mainstream political pundits have admitted, however, is not only that Trump's comments form a discourse of hate, bigotry and exclusion, but also that such expressions of racism and fascism are resonating deeply in a landscape of US culture and politics crafted by 40 years of conservative counterrevolution.

Trump's fascist politics were revealed a month earlier,

when Trump mocked Serge Kovaleski, a New York Times investigative reporter living with a disability, at a rally in South Carolina. This contemptuous reference to Kovaleski's physical disability was morally odious and painful to observe, but not in the least surprising: Trump is consistently a hatemonger and spreads his message without apology in almost every public encounter in which he finds himself. In this loathsome instance, Trump simply expanded his hate-filled discourse in a new direction, after having already established the deeply ingrained racism and sexism at the heart of his candidacy.

We've seen this kind of stuff before:

Moreover, Trump's hateful attitude toward people with disabilities points to an earlier element of Hitler's program of genocide in which people with physical and mental disabilities were viewed as disposable because they allegedly undermined the Nazi notion of the "master race." The demonization, objectification and pathologizing of people with disabilities was the first step in developing the foundation for the Nazis' euthanasia program aimed at those declared unworthy of life. This lesson seems to be lost on the mainstream media, who largely viewed Trump's despicable remarks toward people with disabilities as simply insulting.

There is a feeling these days that, if you play the Hitler card, you've lost the argument. Perhaps we've simply forgotten recent history.

 Image: bbc.com

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

We'll Know The Answer


When news broke that John Ridsdel had been beheaded by terrorists, Justin Trudeau sounded like William Tecumseh Sherman: “I do want to make one thing perfectly, crystal clear,” Trudeau said, his ministers standing behind him. “Canada does not – and will not – pay ransom to terrorists, directly or indirectly.”

Andrew Cohen writes that, at that moment, Justin also sounded like his father:

It was a bold, bald refusal. What was striking about his declaration and the subsequent explanation was his tone and delivery. It was largely free of the hesitation – the verbal tick of ums and ahs – that sometimes punctuate Trudeau’s speech.

His statement on ransom felt instinctive, even guttural. It flowed from him like his defence of citizens’ rights (“a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian”) in the election campaign. Or when he invoked the memory of his father (“I’m incredibly proud to be Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s son and I’m incredibly lucky to be raised with those values.”)

In talking about hostages, he exuded a confidence shorn of doubt. More than ever, he was his father.

The jury is still out on whether or not Justin is his father's son. And, responses in these situations are more difficult than they at first appear. Trudeau the Elder said he would not bargain with James Cross's kidnappers. However,

Morality is messy. Six weeks after the kidnappings in Quebec in 1970, Trudeau’s government negotiated with the kidnappers who held Cross. In exchange for his release, the kidnappers were allowed safe passage to Cuba.

Ultimately, then, Pierre Trudeau did what was necessary to save a life. In a similar situation, his rhetoric notwithstanding, would Justin Trudeau not do the same?

That's a difficult question. Chances are that Justin will be tested on this file yet again. And we'll know the answer.

 Image: cbc.ca

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Owning A Cottage Is Not Enough


In the wake of the Duffy Affair, Errol Mendes writes, the Senate has begun reforming itself:

The Senate to which Mr. Duffy returns is, in a multitude of ways, much different from the chamber from which he was suspended. The Senate leadership, in particular those on the powerful internal economy committee, has greatly tightened expenditure and travel rules. In the wake of the damning Auditor-General’s report, the Senate leadership, along with most senators, will also endorse a forthcoming independent oversight mechanism that they promise will be far more rigorous than anything seen in the House of Commons in terms of financial transparency and accountability.

The Duffy Affair  began with Stephen Harper's claim that Mr. Duffy was a resident of Prince Edward Island -- a claim that Duffy himself had a hard time swallowing. And, when Harper referred his plans for reform to the Supreme Court, the Court informed him that reform would have to be done with the consent of the provinces -- because the Senate had to reflect the regions of the country.

So, as the Senate gets back to work, one of the first items on its agenda should be clarifying what residency means:

For this reason, the very loose rules of primary residence undermines the architecture of the modernized Senate. So, too, do the so-called strengthened rules that say senators only have to show that their driver’s licence and health card comes from their province of appointment, and that their taxes are filed in the same province.

To improve the Senate’s credibility, and build Canadians’ trust in the revamped chamber, every senator must prove that the actual length of time they spend in their province reflects how they can be legitimately representing the interests of their constituents. Their physical assets, including property, should reflect and reinforce that representation.

Owning a cottage in a province should not be enough to make you a senator.


Image: ctvnews.ca

Monday, May 02, 2016

The Flying Edsel


Lately, Michael Harris has turned his sights on military equipment -- its sale and purchase. When it comes to those Saudi armored vehicles, he says, there's a skunk in the woodpile. And a familiar stench is beginning to arise -- again -- over the F-35. Over at the Ministry of Defense,  the word is that the purchase of the F-35 is still under consideration -- despite Justin Trudeau's promise that it was dead. Harris writes:

This is an issue in which Justin Trudeau either earns his wings as a new type of politician, or he ditches in the same sea of double-talk that swallowed up his predecessors. Either his government is running the show, or bureaucrats over at Industry Canada are – the ones who are still dazzled by the lure of industrial benefits for the Canadian aerospace industry if Canada only sticks with the F-35.

The Harper government pumped out plenty of fog about the F-35. And the United States Air Force continues to cloud the skies. But the news on the F-35 -- and how it performs -- keeps getting worse:

Despite all the public relations that tax dollars can buy, the Pentagon doesn’t even know if the $100-million planes are fit for combat. In the United States, the F-35 program was supposed to deliver 1,013 aircraft by fiscal 2016; it has delivered 179. Since the project began in 2003, the cost of the aircraft has doubled. According to the Government Budget Office in Washington, it costs $30,000 an hour to fly. The last F-35 is now scheduled to be delivered in 2040 — fifth generation jets produced at horse and buggy speeds.

 Five of six F-35s were recently unable to take off from Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. After 15 years of “development” and billions of dollars of investment, the planes could not boot up their proprietary software to get airborne — a story first reported in Flight Global and picked up by the Daily Mail.

Consider the opinion of that well-known peacenik John McCain about the F-35 program. If anyone should have been an advocate for this futuristic weapon it should have been McCain. Instead, America’s most famous pilot-cum-POW and the Republican senator from Arizona, excoriated the F-35 last week at a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said he could not “fathom” how the delivery schedule of the F-35 made any strategic sense. He added that the history of the F-35, “has been both a scandal and a tragedy with respect to cost, schedule and performance.”

Mr. Trudeau still needs to prove he's in charge -- not the oil barons, and not the military-industrial complex. Grounding the Flying Edsel would be a step in the right direction.

Image: tgdaily.com

Sunday, May 01, 2016

From The Same Folks

 
We've been told that the "Sharing Economy" is the way of the future. But a new book by Tom Slee questions that proposition. Tom Walkom writes:

But as Tom Slee writes in his authoritative new book What’s Yours is Mine, the original idea, however laudable, has turned into something far darker.
Or as he puts it: “The sharing economy is extending a harsh and deregulated free market into previously protected areas of our lives. The leading companies are now corporate juggernauts themselves.”

Slee holds a PhD in theoretical chemistry and works for a Waterloo software company. He knows something about innovation. But he believes that companies like Uber and Airbnb are innovations which do more harm than good:

Uber enthusiasts, he writes, attribute its success to technology. But the real reason Uber thrives is that it avoids paying many of the costs borne by regulated taxi services, including insurance and mechanical fitness tests.

More important, and again unlike regulated taxi firms, it is not required to provide services to everyone, such as those using wheelchairs.
When Uber enters a city, Slee writes, it usually offers bonuses to its drivers and discounts to its customers.
Over time, as it captures more of the market, these incentives are scaled back. In the end, Uber ends up raking in as much revenue as regulated taxi fleet owners, yet faces lower costs.

Airbnb also thrives because it doesn't have to play by the rules that govern other property owners:

Accommodation sharing, too, is not always what it purports to be. Airbnb claims to connect those needing hotel space with ordinary people willing to rent out an apartment or extra room.

The reality is that in some cities almost half of Airbnb’s hosts have multiple listings — that is, they are in the landlord business.

Yet unlike regular bed-and-breakfast operations, Airbnb landlords are not required to adhere to government health and safety rules.
Nor, to the dismay of some neighbours, are they subject to zoning bylaws.

It's more of the same -- from the same folks who brought you Neo-liberalism.

 Image: blogto.com