Thursday, December 13, 2018

Trump Of The North


In Ontario, things get more Trumpian by the day. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Loyalty to the leader is paramount.
Fidelity to law enforcement comes second.
Sound familiar? Just ask our American friends, who have been wrestling with the spectre of obstruction of justice ever since Donald Trump won the presidency — and trampled on the FBI by firing its director, James Comey.
Now, Ontarians are facing their own moment of truth as the layers of deception are peeled back from the premier’s alleged secret meddling over the next OPP chief. Doug Ford’s loyal chief.
The allegations from interim Ontario Provincial Police commissioner Brad Blair about who will succeed him as the province’s top cop amount to a political earthquake. Blair and many in the OPP are up in arms because they believe the fix was in for a hostile takeover of the very police force that polices our politicians in power.
Ron Taverner, a personal pal of the premier, didn’t meet the original qualifications for the job — until a hand-picked hiring committee downgraded the job qualifications, two days after the competition opened. Unless the public can make the premier understand that he has crossed a line, Taverner will take over as OPP chief Monday.

Doug Ford doesn't know much. And he doesn't learn much -- ever since he dropped out of Humber College after attending for two months. He shambles from one outrage to another. And the rule of law means nothing to him:

Are Ontarians to be governed by the rule of law, or by the misrule of a miscreant who bends the rules and rewrites our laws? Shall our premier indulge his personal peccadilloes — in a customized camper paid for “off the books” to deceive taxpayers and lawmakers — and then cover his tracks?
Consider the devastating allegations in the OPP commissioner’s detailed submission — on official letterhead — to the independent Ombudsman’s Office this week seeking a formal investigation:
The hiring process “remains enveloped in questions of political interference,” Blair wrote. “To have this new command assumed without addressing this matter will cause dysfunction in the service.”
His appeal followed a public protest from a previous OPP chief, Chris Lewis, over the rigged hiring process that has discredited a police force that requires public legitimacy to do its job:
“The fix was in,” Lewis complained publicly, referring to the Ford-Taverner tag team. “There’s old relationships there, we all know it, and I think it was a travesty that this occurred.”

And Ford calls this "the people's government?

Image: The Globe and Mail


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Selfish Fools


Theresa May faces a non confidence vote today, Ian Birrell writes in The Guardian:

It is hard not to conclude that the Tory hard right are intent on destroying their party and handing the country to Jeremy Corbyn as they move to depose Theresa May at this point in the corrosive Brexit process. Yes, she has made a series of dire mistakes, including triggering article 50 with no idea of how to achieve departure from the European Union and then throwing away her party’s majority. But for all her many failures, now is not the time to oust her amid political deadlock and a national crisis.

Like neo-liberals around the world, they were inspired by the drivel Ayn Rand peddled seventy years ago:

Has there ever been a bunch of more selfish politicians than these extremists, who have already sacrificed the previous three Tory prime ministers on the altar of their obsession with Europe? It was hard not to spew up my cereal listening to Bernard Jenkin, one of their shop stewards, claiming on the radio that “this is not a matter of self-indulgence … not a matter of one faction over another”. Once again, duplicitous chancers seek to deceive the electorate with cheap soundbites as they fight internal battles. Yet we can see with disturbing clarity now that Brexit could not be further from the national interest.

They have left wreckage and cynicism everywhere they have achieved power -- and then they disappeared:

Is it any wonder voters have lost faith with politicians as they observe such arrogant behaviour at Westminster? The Brexiteers, many having fled office after discovering the difficulty of turning shallow slogans into reality, still spout their platitudes, shift stances with slippery ease and fail to answer the complex questions they posed. Yet they blame the prime minister for failing to do their factional bidding. The Tory insurgents are driven by one thing only: taking back control of their own careers, regardless of any cost to a country they see merely as collateral damage. Look at how the repellent Boris Johnson jokes about his weight as he limbers up for another tilt at the leadership, despite his record for incompetence and laziness as foreign secretary.

They really are a fine crop of dunderheads. And now we in Ontario -- not to be outdone -- have our own.

Image: Quotefancy


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Vast Left Wing Conspiracy?


Donald Trump and his acolytes insist that "a vast left wing conspiracy" is trying to do the president in. Lawrence Martin writes:

That’s a frequent claim by Mr. Trump’s defenders, including former campaign operatives like David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski in their new book The President’s Enemies: How The Deep State is Undermining The Presidency.
The authors blame the old ruling class, as does Mr. Trump who, rather than pick up on George H.W. Bush’s example, is back to his old seething self. He issued a series of angry tweets on Friday morning, saying he’s the victim of some kind of liberal plot, and asking why the perpetrators haven’t been investigated.

But Robert Mueller plows ahead. And the facts keep piling up:

Mr. Trump received yet more bad news this week when Mr. Mueller told a judge that Michael Flynn, the President’s former national security adviser, has been in tight co-operation with his investigators. So tight, in fact, that Mr. Mueller is recommending that Mr. Flynn, who had extensive contacts with Russia during the 2016 campaign (and is not much of a deep-state enthusiast), get no prison time.
As a big-time squealer on the President, he joins Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former long-time personal attorney and fixer. Mr. Cohen, who could hardly be called a deep-state member, once said he would “take a bullet” for Mr. Trump. Now he is firing them at him.
He recently admitted lying to Congress in 2017 in testifying about an aborted Trump Tower project in Moscow. He initially said negotiations with the Russians did not go on during the 2016 election campaign. Now he says they did. It could well be true, as Cohen associates have suggested, that he has bombshell information about ties between Mr. Trump and Russia.

The deep state isn't doing Trump in. It's his own people -- Trump insisted that they were "the best people" -- who will bring him down. Grifters operate in groups. And they will go down together.

Image: Daily Kos

Monday, December 10, 2018

My Apologies


I''ve just discovered a raft of of comments that I didn't know were made to this blog. I apologize for their tardiness. Apparently, not all comments have come to my email.

I'll make a point of checking comments on the blog, not just my email.

Republican Rigging


Republicans have been rigging elections for decades. But, after the November mid-terms, they're on steroids, making sure that Democrats don't take control. E. J. Dionne writes:

Not so the Republicans in Wisconsin. Having lost the governorship, they’re using a lame-duck session of the legislature to strip Evers of many powers they were perfectly content to see Republican Gov. Scott Walker exercise. Why are they doing this now? Because Walker, who was defeated by Evers, is still in office to sign their bills.
Among other things, the legislation would stop Evers from taking control of a state economic development agency that the Democrat has pledged to abolish, and it would make it harder for him to overturn restrictions Walker imposed on social benefits. It would also limit early voting (which helped the Democrats win by expanding turnout). For good measure, the legislature wants to prevent Kaul [the newly elected Democratic Attorney General] from withdrawing the state from a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act — even though that’s exactly what Kaul told voters he would do.
And because of the way the state has been gerrymandered, Republicans still control the state legislature The Democrats won the popular vote in State Assembly contests by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent but emerged with only 36 seats to the GOP’s 63.

The same thing is happening in Michigan:

Republicans in Michigan (which also replaced a Republican governor with a Democrat this year) are working on a similar effort.
One Michigan GOP target: incoming Democratic secretary of state Jocelyn Benson, who, like other Democratic secretaries of state this year, was elected on an ambitious reform agenda. This includes greater transparency when it comes to political money. Republicans don’t like this, so they introduced a bill to restrict her oversight of campaign finance issues.

This kind of behaviour smells like what came out of the Jim Crow South:

The GOP’s anti-democratic impulse has far more in common with the old segregationist Democrats of the South than with the best Republican traditions that led to the rights-conferring 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. The party’s efforts to lock in power regardless of election outcomes also eerily echo some of the behaviors of anti-democratic politicians abroad.

Donald Trump represents a colossal threat to democracy. But so does his entire party.

Image: BetterMan


Sunday, December 09, 2018

Bridge Building


Robin Sears writes that the funeral for George Bush Sr. illustrated the difference between politics as bridge building and politics as a zero sum game:

George Bush, Brian Mulroney, Jack Layton, Justin Trudeau each understood the importance that bridge building means to successful party building, as campaigners. Donald Trump, Stephen Harper, Doug Ford are champions of a different, more 21st century politics. One that celebrates exclusion and identity over inclusion and solidarity. Recently, it appears that its champions are winning.
What Bush’s time in power — only four years — blazingly highlights is what you can achieve when you govern as a bridge-builder. Campaigning in kumbaya mode is easy. Governing by painful compromise is not. Justin Trudeau, sadly, demonstrates the difference, having slid back into partisan memes too easily when in power, having promised a more accommodating governing style on the stump.

If Justin governed as he campaigned, he might have accomplished more:

Imagine if the Trudeau government were going into this next campaign having stickhandled a compromise on electoral reform, had delivered on child care and pharmacare, and had actually achieved a broadly supported climate change agenda. They would have avoided the finger pointing fiasco of last week’s first ministers’ meeting and been virtually certain of a second majority in October.
Having chosen to play traditional partisan games on each of these files, that victory is less clear. Yes, Liberals can point out that the opposition was equally infantile in their resistance to compromise. But it is incumbent on the one who holds power to offer a hand of conciliation, of genuine commitment to compromise.

Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh are also operating from a zero sum perspective:

Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh each promised an inclusive politics in their leadership runs. Now Scheer has threatened to join the bridge-burners before the starter’s pistol for the next campaign, whining about the negative media he will need to battle. Singh’s wobbly launch has deflected attention from his inclusive leadership promise to bookmaking on his very survival.

The downside was that Bush's bridge making made him a one term president. But, in the end, leaders are remembered for what they did, not how long they served.

Image: The Irrawaddy

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Maladroit


One of Doug Ford's campaign promises was to fire the CEO of Ontario Hydro. When he assumed office, he gave Mayo Schmidt his pink slip. That decisions caused a cascade of problems. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

By pushing out Schmidt, Ford set off a chain reaction in the U.S. northwest, where regulators were examining Hydro One’s proposed $4.4-billion takeover of regional utility Avista. Written promises that Ontario’s government acted only as a passive investor in Hydro One were flagrantly contradicted by Ford’s meddling, prompting the regulator to step in.
Hence the kill fee Hydro One must pay, plus commissions to investment banks involved in the deal’s financing, adding up to more than $150 million. Not to mention massive legal bills.
Except that cutting Schmidt’s supersized salary won’t shave more than a fraction of a penny off monthly bills. Paying out more than $150 million in kill fees and lawyer’s bills will cost the company far more.

Ford's claim to fame -- like innumerable conservatives before him -- is that he's a businessman; and he promised to run his government like a business. But the business press knows that Ford is a con man:

Ford’s bumper sticker slogan mocking the “Six Million Dollar Man,” [Schmidt] and his new roadside signs proclaiming Ontario “Open for Business,” belie the reality that this Progressive Conservative government is bad for business, and bad for Hydro One’s balance sheet. Ford’s pro-business rhetoric hasn’t fooled the business press, which is panning his government’s intervention in corporate governance, its interference in the hiring and firing of top managers, and its readiness to tear up signed commercial contracts to score political points.
If a Liberal or NDP government had attempted half of the upheaval undertaken by PCs so far, the private sector would be raising cries of banditry and Bolshevism. Happily for the Tories they are buffered by their historical affinity with right wing rhetoric.
But the more maladroit their performance, the more glaring the distinction between conservatism and competence. Meddling with management is no way to run a corporation, just as mismanagement is no way to govern a province.

Maladroit accurately describes Ford. And there will be more examples of his maladroitness to come.

Image: lackingy.gq

Friday, December 07, 2018

Tolerating A Fraud


Paul  Krugman has coined a phrase which really encapsulates who -- or what -- Donald Trump is. Krugman writes that he's "a rebel without a clue." Nowhere is that more apparent than on the subject of trade:

Even as he declared himself Tariff Man, Trump revealed that he doesn’t understand how tariffs work. No, they aren’t taxes on foreigners, they’re taxes on our own consumers.
When trying to make deals, he seems to care only about whether he can claim a “win,” not about substance. He has been touting the “U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement” as a repudiation of NAFTA, when it’s actually just a fairly minor modification. (Nancy Pelosi calls it “the trade agreement formerly known as Prince.”)
Most important, his inability to do international diplomacy, which we’ve seen on many fronts, carries over to trade talks. Remember, he claimed to have “solved” the North Korean nuclear crisis, but Kim Jong-un is still expanding his ballistic missile capacity. Well, last weekend he claimed to have reached a major trade understanding with China; but as J.P. Morgan soon reported in a note to its clients, his claims “seem if not completely fabricated then grossly exaggerated.”

The world trading system now hangs in the balance. Trump claims his experience as a businessman has enabled him to understand world trade and to make deals. But Trump is no businessman. The only thing he has ever sold is his name. And that name has been exposed as a fraud.

The question is, how long will the world tolerate this fraud?

Image: splinternews.com

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Ruled By Thugs


Yesterday, Bonnie Lysyk -- Ontario's Auditor General -- released a two volume report, detailing where she believes Ontarians aren't getting value for their money. She handed the Ford government an ammunition dump with which to attack Kathleen's Wynne's former government. Ford claims that the province faces a $15 billion deficit.

But, this morning, Robert Benzie reports in the Toronto Star that, back in September,  Cindy Vienot -- the province's controller -- refused to sign off on that figure and quit her job because she “did not agree with accounting decisions made by the current government.”

“I believe that the consolidated financial statements of the province of Ontario as issued … materially overstate the deficit of the province for the year,” she said in a submission to the legislative “transparency” committee examining the province’s books.
Veinot, a civil servant, has declined to speak publicly, but the Star obtained her 12-page summary that was sent to the standing committee on Tuesday.

At the centre of the controversy is the dispute -- between Lysyk and Veinot -- over provincial pension plans:

The controversy centres mostly around whether $11 billion of government money in the co-sponsored Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union Pension Plan and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan can be counted as a government asset on the books.
Veinot, a leading expert on pension accounting who finished first among 63,000 candidates in the 1998 certified public accountants exam in the U.S., contends the holdings are an asset.
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk — and her predecessors — used to count them as such. However, Lysyk changed her tune in 2015 and no longer does.

At committee earlier this week, Wynne was grilled over her government's spending. The New Democrats tried to get Vienot in front of the committee. But the Fordians refused to call her. Clearly, this government enforces omerta -- the code of silence.

Yet another indication that Ontario is now ruled by thugs.

Image: LINKEDIN



Wednesday, December 05, 2018

A Reckoning Is Coming



Two years ago, Justin Trudeau and Rachel Notley reached what Tom Walkom calls a classic Canadian compromise:

The federal government would help Alberta Premier Rachel Notley exploit and transport bitumen from the province’s oilsands. In return she would support Trudeau’s demand for some form of national carbon tax.

In normal circumstances, it should have worked. But the circumstances aren't normal:

The circumstances today are far from normal. Climate change is not simply another blip in federal-provincial relations that can be resolved by, say, changing the equalization formula.
If the scientific consensus is correct, it is a crisis on par with worldwide nuclear war.
Already, climate change is producing unusually severe droughts in some areas and unusually wild storms in others. It threatens to swamp much of Florida. It is melting the Arctic ice.
It has expressed itself through flooding in Europe and devastating wildfires in British Columbia, California and Alberta. It is generally accepted as one of the root causes of the Syrian civil war and is expected to lead to more conflict.

The federal Conservatives and their provincial brethren are ostrichs. They have their heads in the oil sands. Yet they claim that economics is their strong suit. They refuse to recognize that the oil sands are no longer economically viable:

Economically, the oil sands are doomed. In a world awash with cheap shale oil, new tar sands projects are ultimately too expensive to develop — even if the $4.5-billion Trans Mountain pipeline that Ottawa bought to deliver Alberta bitumen to the Pacific coast goes ahead.
Environmentally, they are a disaster — in terms of both the tailing ponds created to store their waste and the carbon emissions they spew into the air.

Our politicians refusing to admit a painful truth. The goo in northern Alberta -- one way or another -- will have to stay in the ground. Coming to terms with that reality is very painful. But, one way or another, a reckoning is coming.

Image: United Church Observer

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

We Seem To Be Electing Them


On Monday, Doug Ford staged a show trial. The special committee he set up to look into what he called  the "cover up" on Liberal finances heard from Kathleen Wynne. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

On Monday, Wynne set foot in the lion’s den — or more precisely, the kangaroo court. For nearly three hours, she faced questions from a gaggle of Progressive Conservative MPPs about her “fair hydro plan,” which borrowed billions of dollars to deliver the rate reductions that the Tories had been clamouring for in opposition (and which they are quietly retaining now in government).
The committee hearings are not exactly a Stalinist show trial, but they are akin to a reality show — and very much for show. Flexing his majority muscle, Ford packed the committee with his own loyal MPPs and a couple of New Democrats, but not a single Liberal — on the flimsy pretext that they fell short of official party status in the new legislature.
Channelling their inner Perry Masons, the Tory troupe — four of them ambitious lawyers aspiring to act lawyerly — asked Wynne what she knew and when she knew it. But their aggressive antics — personified by York-Centre MPP Roman Baber, who had to be cautioned by the committee chair several times — were more farcical than ferocious, allowing the former premier to parry their questions with a practised calm.
Wynne countered with the one question her questioners couldn’t answer: Why have they blocked an NDP request to summon Cindy Veinot, the non-partisan public servant who signed off on the plan as the provincial controller responsible for the government’s accounting?
Good question. But a show trial isn’t a good show if a witness doesn’t follow their script.

Mr. Ford is all about settling old scores. He runs his government like a mob boss. And he betrays his inner insecurity. He's done that since the beginning of his tenure:

Someone should remind Doug Ford that he vanquished the New Democrats. And vapourized the Liberals.
Six months later, this might be a good time to ask: Why not be gracious in victory, rather than trying to settle scores real or imagined?
Why do his loyal Tories leap to their feet, applauding wildly almost every time Ford speaks in the legislature? Why does the premier hurl insults at opposition MPPs unlike any of his predecessors?
The churlishness started on election night, when Ford broke with tradition by big-footing Kathleen Wynne — talking over her on TV before she could finish her concession speech. A minor point of protocol, perhaps, but it set the tone.

He's just another politician who is unqualified for and unsuited to his office. We seem to be electing a lot of them these days.

Image: huffingtonpost.ca

Monday, December 03, 2018

Shareholder First Global Capitalism


Writing in this morning's Guardian, Robert Reich explains what is behind GM's decision to close plants in Canada and the United States. But, first, he takes a trip down memory lane:

Much has changed since 1953. Then, GM was the largest employer in America and had only a few operations around the rest of the world. Now Wal-Mart is the largest employer in America, and GM is a global corporation that makes and sells just about everywhere.
Moreover, in the 1950s, a third of America’s workforce was unionized, and GM was as accountable to the United Auto Workers as it was to GM’s shareholders. That’s why, in the 1950s, GM’s typical worker received $35 an hour (in today’s dollars).

GM now produces cars for a global market, not the American market. And that has effected the wages it pays:

Today, GM’s typical American worker earns a fraction of that. The bargaining clout of the United Auto Workers has been weakened not only by automation, but also by the ease by which GM can get cheaper labor abroad.
In 2010, when GM emerged from the bailout and went public again, it boasted to Wall Street that it was making 43% of its cars in places where labor cost less than $15 an hour, while in North America it could now pay “lower-tiered” wages and benefits for new employees.
So this year, when the costs of producing many of its cars in Ohio and Detroit got too high (due in part to Trump’s tariffs on foreign steel), GM simply decided to shift more production to Mexico in order to boost profits.

Trump is demanding that GM close a plant in China. But he doesn't understand that GM's Chinese plants produce cars for the Chinese market:

GM doesn’t make many cars in China for export to the United States. Almost all of the cars it makes in China are for sale there.
In fact, GM is now making and selling more cars in China than it does in the United States. “China is playing a key role in the company’s strategy,” says GM’s CEO, Mary Barra.

The other thing that Trump doesn't understand is that China isn't stealing American technology. That technology is going to where it can be used most efficiently:

In shareholder-first global capitalism, technology doesn’t belong to any nation. It goes wherever the profits are. If a particular technology is vital to American national security, the US government could stop American corporations from doing business in China – just as it does, in effect, when it blocks Chinese companies from acquiring American components if the purchase poses a national security threat.

When Trump claims that he's making America great again, he's really making American business great again. And American business believes it is only responsible to its shareholders, not the broader society. China sees things differently:

The difference between China and America is that big Chinese companies are either state-owned or dependent on capital from government-run financial institutions. This means they exist to advance China’s national interests, including more and better jobs for the Chinese people.
American corporations exist to advance the interests of their shareholders, who aren’t prepared to sacrifice profits for more and better jobs for Americans.

The Chinese are hamfisted in the achievement of their objective. But, for them, business serves the nation. In the United States and Canada, it serves individual greed.

Image: Tony Dejak/AP


Sunday, December 02, 2018

Bush And Trump


No two men could be more different than George H.W. Bush and Donald J.Trump. Both were born into money, But that's the only similarity they shared. So how,  Max Boot asks, did we get from Bush to Trump? The answer is in the story of what became of the Republican Party. First there was Newt Gingrich:

The president was determined to reduce the growing deficits that he had inherited from Ronald Reagan — and that had grown larger still because of the need to bail out failing savings and loan associations. With the nation headed to war in Kuwait, he wanted to put America’s finances in order. The problem was that in 1988 he had foolishly promised, “Read my lips: No new taxes.” Bush knew he would pay a price for breaking his pledge, but he was determined to do so for the good of the country.
The No. 2 Republican in the House, Newt Gingrich of Georgia, initially appeared supportive of a spending deal that would have limited tax increases to levies on gasoline, alcohol and other products, avoiding income tax hikes. But when it came time to announce the agreement in the Rose Garden, Gingrich stalked out. Opposition from conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats doomed the deal, forcing a temporary government shutdown. Bush went back to the table, agreeing to a small increase in the top income tax rate, from 28 percent to 31 percent. (It had been 50 percent as recently as 1986.) House Republicans still rejected the deal, but this time there were enough Democratic votes to pass the compromise.
From a fiscal conservative’s perspective, the 1990 deal was a raging success. As Bruce Bartlett notes, “The final deal cut spending by $324 billion over five years and raised revenues by $159 billion.” It also put into place stringent rules mandating that any future tax cuts or spending increases would have to be offset by spending cuts or revenue increases. Within eight years, a $376 billion deficit had become a $113 billion surplus. Yet conservatives never forgave Bush for his apostasy.

And then there was Pat Buchanan, who ran against Bush in 1992:

Bush’s tax hike was also part of the rationale for Patrick J. Buchanan’s 1992 primary challenge, which proved more damaging than anyone had expected. The syndicated columnist won enough votes in New Hampshire (37.5 percent) to embarrass the incumbent and earn a prime-time slot at the Republican convention, where he gave his fiery “culture war” speech that repulsed moderates and independents. As Jeff Greenfield has noted, many of the themes Buchanan hit in 1992 were similar to Trump’s in 2016: He denounced threats to U.S. sovereignty, railed against globalization and multiculturalism, and called for “a new patriotism, where Americans begin to put the needs of Americans first.” 

In retrospect, it's easy to see that Buchanan was the precursor of Trump. One of Buchanan's most ardent backers was another Pat, the televangelist Pat Robertson. After meeting with one of Robertson's flock -- who refused to shake Bush's hand -- the president wrote this in his diary:

“They’re scary. They’re there for spooky, extraordinary right-winged reasons. They don’t care about Party. They don’t care about anything. . . . They could be Nazis, they could be Communists, they could be whatever. . . . They will destroy this party if they’re permitted to take over.” 

And that's exactly what they did.

Image: The Mercury News

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Hot Air


On Thursday, the Ford Government released its environment plan -- the one they claimed would be "better" than the previous Liberal government's plan. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

The premier’s climate-change strategy is certainly a change in direction: It scales back Ontario’s obligation to curb carbon pollution by more than 25 per cent — 30 megatonnes — at the very time reductions are most needed.
But it also reverses the onus: Rather than imposing a price on carbon pollution as a cost of doing business, the Tories are shifting the burden to taxpayers by making them subsidize big business.
Instead of polluters paying up, polluters are being paid off with $400 million in corporate carbon welfare that comes at taxpayers’ expense. Turns out that the premier’s famous “axe the tax” slogan served to disguise a bait-and-switch ploy that lets big business escape unscathed — taking the hatchet to taxpayer’s pocketbooks while slashing environmental protection.

The government claims its plan doesn't have to be ambitious:

The document begins by declaring “Ontario responsible for less than 0.4 per cent of global emissions,” as if our small population base somehow diminishes our moral responsibility as one of the planet’s highest per capita energy consumers (at the very time we are trying to dissuade the developing world from matching our unsustainable consumption patterns). It goes on to argue that Ontarians have already done their part by eliminating coal-fired power generation, putting us “on track” to meet our obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Eliminating coal fired power plants was Dalton McGuinty's idea. He had foresight. Ford has none. It would require him to tackle transportation:

The heavy lifting in this province remains carbon emissions from transportation, which might have been better addressed through a cap-and-trade scheme that redeployed billions of dollars in emissions allowances to invest in public transit.

Instead the Ford plan is straight out of the neoliberal playbook -- privatize profits and socialize losses:

A Progressive Conservative government that regularly rages against red tape is returning to a regulatory framework — and a reliance on tax dollars — for outcomes that could be achieved more cost-effectively through the magic of free-market solutions under cap and trade or a carbon tax (which use price signals to incentivize reduced emissions). The Tories are proposing the Ontario Carbon Trust, “ an emission reduction fund that will use public funds” to encourage compliance.
The new Carbon Trust bespeaks the Tories’ approach — trust us — that brings to mind the Russian saying, “Trust but verify.” For Ford, this is an ideological (and illogical) backflip that betrays the environment, burdens entrepreneurs, and breaks faith with his fellow Tories.
The latest report promises special exemptions for industrial sectors, while stressing: “This approach does not enforce a blanket cap on emissions across Ontario.”

The Environmental Commissioner, who just lost her job, called out the plan for what it is -- a con job:

Ontario’s independent environmental commissioner, Dianne Saxe, has decried the new climate proposal for being “one-third as ambitious” as the cap-and-trade program it is replacing. Saxe exhorted the previous Liberal government to do better, and she has encouraged the Progressive Conservatives no less since they took power, but their response was to announce her position will be eliminated.
The Tories not only axed the tax, they sacked Saxe.

The Minister of the Environment, Rod Phillips, used to favour a carbon tax. But, like Caroline Mulroney, when he joined Ford Nation, he sold his soul. There's going to be more hot air in Ontario. But then, Doug Ford knows a lot about hot air.

Image: Twitter


Friday, November 30, 2018

A Dream Shattered


Caroline Mulroney's dream is dead. Bob Hepburn writes:

The dream harboured by the Ontario attorney general when she first entered elected politics in the summer of 2017 was that one day she would become premier of Ontario and eventually move on to become Canada’s first elected woman prime minister.

But, after being elected, it fell to Mulroney to defend Doug Ford's decisions -- the latest being on French minority rights:

The latest blow to the dream came two weeks ago when Premier Doug Ford’s government announced it was eliminating the position of French Language Services Commissioner and scrapping the plan approved by the previous Liberal government to create a French-language university in 2020.
As the minister responsible for francophone affairs, Mulroney was tasked with selling the cuts to outraged Franco-Ontarians as well as francophones in Quebec and other provinces.
She did so with great gusto, despite widespread condemnation about the cutbacks from across the country, including from federal Conservatives who fear a backlash in Quebec and in Ontario ridings with a large French-speaking population.
Without shame or hesitation, Mulroney insisted the moves were necessary as part of efforts to reduce government spending. She also tried to blame both the former Wynne government and the federal Liberals for the cuts.

This wasn't the first time she stepped up to defend Doug Ford's stupidity:

The first came in late June when in addition to her post as attorney general she accepted the downgraded role as minister responsible for francophone affairs, which no longer was a full cabinet position. She should have insisted Ford retain the post as a full ministry, as it was under the Liberals.
The second came in July when Ford failed to include a single word of French in his initial throne speech, an insult to Franco-Ontarians. Either Mulroney didn’t raise the point in advance of the speech or Ford simply ignored her. Regardless, she appeared unconcerned or ineffective.
The third came in September when Ford said he would use the “notwithstanding” clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to override a judge’s ruling that Ford’s move to cut the size of Toronto city council in the midst of an election was unconstitutional. Mulroney defended Ford’s action, despite almost universal condemnation, including from her father.

Rather than shaping government policy, it has fallen to Caroline to defend it. She's in a marriage that may well end in divorce. But that divorce would require displaying some integrity -- which, at the moment, is nowhere in sight.

Image: (CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Neither Wide Nor Deep


Amanda Simard -- the sole Francphone in Doug Ford's caucus -- has left Ford Nation. It should come as no surprise. During the election campaign, Martin Regg Cohn writes, Ford told Julie-Anne Lamoureau, Radio-Canada's Queens Park correspondent:

“It’d be important to be able to communicate with part of our country that speaks French — I love Quebec, I love Quebecers,” 

But there are 622,000 Franco-Ontarians, the people who tune into Lamoureaux reporting. Franco-Ontarians? Who are they? Ford did not -- in fact, he has never -- seen them:

Ford’s garrulous nod to French Quebecers and grievous snub to Franco-Ontarians gave the game away from the get-go. It revealed his obtuseness about minority rights that go to the core of linguistic identity.
If Ford could so easily forget his fellow Ontarians back then, is it any surprise his government remains so oblivious now — and that it would so wilfully toss grenades into so vulnerable a community? Let us count the ways:
On the day of his swearing-in last June, Ford summarily eliminated the stand-alone ministry of francophone affairs, downgrading one of our two founding peoples to second-class citizens.
In this month’s fall economic statement, his PC government went back on its campaign pledge to proceed with Ontario’s first dedicated French-language university. Promise made, promise broken — in either language.
The Tories also downgraded the independent French-language services commissioner, folding the advocacy role into the duties of the provincial ombudsman’s office (which focuses on individual grievances, not collective goals).

Mr. Ford's vision is neither wide nor deep. Word has it that other members of his caucus are thinking of  joining Simard -- who, for the moment -- is sitting as an independent.

Image: LaPresse.ca

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

White Degeneracy


What passes for White Supremacy these days, Keith Kahn Harris writes, is actually something quite different. It's really white degeneracy. That degeneracy is painfully obvious in the contrast between Barack Obama and Donald Trump:

Consider the contrast between Barack Obama and Trump. Obama is not a perfect human being, nor was he a perfect US president. But it’s impossible to deny his qualities. He is intelligent, competent, witty, plain-speaking, empathetic and has a loving relationship with his family. Obama is also a man who was not born into wealth and power, and worked hard to make something of his life. Trump is the reverse: incompetent, mendacious, rude and seemingly incapable of non-instrumental relationships. The only way he has made anything of his life is through being born into privilege, with sufficient reserves of family capital to allow him to build a “business” based on little more than bragging.
Aside from his politics, Trump is simply a man who falls short of any moral code you could care to imagine. Politicians are often cynical, cruel or corrupt, but a complete absence of human decency is rare. Even George W Bush can pass sweets to Michelle Obama and paint loving portraits of the soldiers he sent off to die.

This is not traditional White Supremacy:

What I think we are seeing is something rawer, a lust for power, coupled with an unvarnished hatred of non-white others that sees little need to disguise itself. This is a white racism that is predicated on nothing other than a desire to dominate and subjugate. Trump’s brutal expression of his basest urges empowers and licenses a similar abandonment, among his followers, of any pretence that white dominance is unjustifiable. This is not white supremacy as we have understood it. It is a move to demonstrate that whiteness can be as morally degenerate as one wishes it to be and still prevail.

It really is about setting free our basest instincts. And it is fuelled by insecurity:

At the heart of this proud degeneracy is an insecurity. A fear of “white genocide” has become normative on the far right, based on conspiracy theories about the likes of George Soros encouraging mass immigration as an attempt to replace the white race. Trump has come very close to trying to validate this myth. At the now infamous rally in Charlottesville in August 2017, the marchers chanted: “You will not replace us”. This suggests an awareness that white power cannot rest on justifiable foundations. Indeed, outside the old-style far right, the very concept of whiteness and race itself is given limited intellectual justification. All there is left is assertion and hate.

Just as Mr. Hyde was the liberated soul of Stevenson's buttoned down Dr. Jekyll, the people who are now dominant on the world stage represent the worst of humanity. But, Kahn Harris writes, perhaps there is hope:

If white racism and populism now rests on nothing more than naked power and self-assertion, there will be no need to wade through the academic verbiage about “bell curves” and black crime rates before we can tackle the problem. And perhaps the very degeneracy of Trump and the rest will begin to pall after a while. Most people – “white” or otherwise – are simply much better human beings than the leaders of the populist right. Maybe wallowing in the muck of white degeneracy will become such a sordid experience that an eventual realisation that it is better to be an Obama than a Trump will take hold.

We can only hope he's right.

Image: New York Post

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

He Misses The Big Picture


GM is pulling out of Oshawa. And Doug Ford has rolled over. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

No premier can force GM to cry uncle. But for reasons understood only by Ford, he has given up on the Oshawa decision, deferring to GM’s claim that it is final and irrevocable.
GM is not rolling up its Oshawa operations because it’s bankrupt — the company still earns billions in profits. No, this multinational is strategically re-engineering its own rebirth by wisely reinvesting in low-emissions vehicles that are the next consumer wave.
Where does Ford’s Ontario fit into that investment horizon? Consider the anti-business antics of Ontario’s supposedly pro-business Progressive Conservative government. 

The new Ford government has signalled to GM just how pleasant doing business in this province will be:

Ford’s first act as premier was to rip up signed private sector contracts, notably the White Pines wind turbine project that had previously been approved. To guard against litigation and compensation, he relied on legislation and confiscation.
In the aftermath, Ford spectacularly snubbed his visiting German counterpart last summer by refusing to sign a friendship agreement with the powerhouse state of Baden-Wurttemberg, home of renewable energy companies but also big carmakers. Open for business? Tell that to the Germans.
Ford recklessly dismantled the cap-and-trade framework that business had relied upon to price carbon pollution, laying the groundwork for a default federal carbon tax that created needless disruption.
Zapping renewable energy, the PC government unplugged its electric car supports — and lost a foolish court battle with Tesla after trying to cut out the California carmaker from sales incentives available to others.
The premier picked a public fight with Hydro One’s (admittedly overpaid) CEO. But instead of persuading him to reduce his salary, Ford sidelined Mayo Schmidt and the entire corporate board. Relying on the government’s partial ownership position, Ford chief of staff Dean French shut down any compromise talks, sources say. French later intervened in government-owned Ontario Power Generation to undo the hiring of another corporate executive he wanted out, Alykhan Velshi. Such is the PC government’s approach to corporate governance.
Ford cancelled a planned hike in the minimum wage to $14 an hour, clawed back two paid annual sick days, and cut corporate taxes further. 

The truth is that, like his cousin south of the border, Ford is a businessman who doesn't really understand how business is done these days. Like Mr. Trump, he suffers from a bad case of tunnel vision. And he misses the big picture.

Image: CBC

Monday, November 26, 2018

From Freedom To Fascism


Chris Hedges writes that neoliberalism has always been an absurd idea:

Neoliberalism as economic theory was always an absurdity. It had as much validity as past ruling ideologies such as the divine right of kings and fascism’s belief in the √úbermensch. None of its vaunted promises were even remotely possible. Concentrating wealth in the hands of a global oligarchic elite—eight families now hold as much wealth as 50 percent of the world’s population—while demolishing government controls and regulations always creates massive income inequality and monopoly power, fuels political extremism and destroys democracy. You do not need to slog through the 577 pages of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” to figure this out. But economic rationality was never the point. The point was the restoration of class power.

And, starting in the 1970's, the wealthy began to take back what they viewed as their birthright. They did this by establishing institutions which sold the idea that human freedom was synonymous with market freedom:

“It’s important to recognize the class origins of this project, which occurred in the 1970s when the capitalist class was in a great deal of difficulty, workers were well organized and were beginning to push back,” said David Harvey, the author of “A Brief History of Neoliberalism,” when we spoke in New York. “Like any ruling class, they needed ruling ideas. So, the ruling ideas were that freedom of the market, privatization, entrepreneurialism of the self, individual liberty and all the rest of it should be the ruling ideas of a new social order, and that was the order that got implemented in the 1980s and 1990s.”
“As a political project, it was very savvy,” he said. “It got a great deal of popular consent because it was talking about individual liberty and freedom, freedom of choice. When they talked about freedom, it was freedom of the market. The neoliberal project said to the ’68 generation, ‘OK, you want liberty and freedom? That’s what the student movement was about. We’re going to give it to you, but it’s going to be freedom of the market. The other thing you’re after is social justice—forget it. So, we’ll give you individual liberty, but you forget the social justice. Don’t organize.’ The attempt was to dismantle those institutions, which were those collective institutions of the working class, particularly the unions and bit by bit those political parties that stood for some sort of concern for the well-being of the masses.”

The problem is that neoliberalism hollows out everything it touches:

Neoliberalism generates little wealth. Rather, it redistributes it upward into the hands of the ruling elites. Harvey calls this “accumulation by dispossession.”
“The main argument of accumulation by dispossession rests on the idea that when people run out of the capacity to make things or provide services, they set up a system that extracts wealth from other people,” Harvey said. “That extraction then becomes the center of their activities. One of the ways in which that extraction can occur is by creating new commodity markets where there were none before. For instance, when I was younger, higher education in Europe was essentially a public good. Increasingly [this and other services] have become a private activity. Health service. Many of these areas which you would consider not to be commodities in the ordinary sense become commodities. Housing for the lower-income population was often seen as a social obligation. Now everything has to go through the market. You impose a market logic on areas that shouldn’t be open to market.”

When everything and everyone is commodified, there's a short road to fascism. Those who possess the most value possess the most power. That power is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. And those hands take steps to protect themselves. They establish the structures they need to do that. In the end, it is all about coercing the masses.

It's not difficult at all to go from freedom to fascism. All that is required is to establish market freedom as the conventional wisdom. Once freedom is defined as market freedom, social justice goes out the window. And where social justice disappears, fascism takes its place.

Image: politicsrespun.org

Sunday, November 25, 2018

This Is War


Doug Ford's government has declared war on the environment. It has systematically dismantled the previous government's environmental policies. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Welcome to Ontario’s upside down world of global warming — a province where Progressive Conservatives who once promoted environmentalism are now wishing it away. From one week to the next.
We shall see in the coming days precisely what Premier Doug Ford proposes as a replacement for the carbon pricing policy — pioneered by economic conservatives in Quebec (Jean Charest) and California (Arnold Schwarzenegger) — that he so proudly dismantled upon winning power.

Having done away with the office of the Environmental Commissioner, Ford has transferred those responsibilities to the Auditor General. But a look at Bonnie Lysyk's record on that file shows why Ontarians are right to be worried:

The mandate of Lysyk’s office is to deliver value-for-money audits ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent frugally — not necessarily environmentally. Investments in renewable energy or conservation can pay economic dividends, yet those arguments have eluded the auditor in the past.
In her 2016 annual report, the auditor demanded that the estimated cost of cap and trade be prominently displayed on natural gas bills, month after month. Yet the government had already disclosed the imputed $5 average cost, so what goal would be served by repetitively shining a spotlight on a recurring cost of doing business — paying a price for pollution — other than to call attention to a potential political irritant?
Remarkably for an auditor, Lysyk paid for a public-opinion poll, commissioned by her office, to ask Ontarians if they wanted to be reminded of this charge month after month — almost as if she were a Tory tax-fighter. Bizarrely for an independent officer of the legislature, she insisted that the Liberals order the arm’s length Ontario Energy Board to reverse the decision it had already taken that such disclosure was pointless — an auditor second-guessing a regulator.
In that same report, she also criticized the Liberal government of the day for an advertising campaign showing a “well-known Canadian environmentalist” — David Suzuki — warning students about the impact of global warming. The ad “appeared designed to create apprehension about the effects of climate change so viewers will be more likely to support Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan.” Imagine that.
In her 2015 report, the auditor noted that in times of energy surplus, “Reducing electricity consumption through conservation efforts is of little value.” In a previous report, she blamed the phasing out of coal — for which the Liberals had won an electoral mandate — for raising hydro prices.
And so an auditor who wanted to whip up public opposition to the cost of cap and trade, who argued against ads that call attention to climate change, who criticized conservation, and who fretted about phasing out coal, shall now be Ontario’s environmental steward?

Rather than doing something for the environment, Mr. Ford has decided to beat it into submission.

Image: Mississauga-Lakeshore PC Association



Saturday, November 24, 2018

Mutiny?


A couple of weeks ago, the Ford government increased the number of seats necessary for official party status in the Ontario legislature to 12 from 10. Today, the Toronto Star reports the reason for that move:

The Progressive Conservatives fear some disgruntled MPPs are set to cross the floor to join the Liberals, the Star has learned.
“There are at least two we’re concerned about,” a senior Conservative insider said, speaking like others from the Liberals and PCs on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal machinations.
“We’ve been watching this closely,” the PC source said, declining to reveal which MPPs are suspected of plotting to defect except to say that two are from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

But this week, Ford's MPP from the riding next to the Quebec border publicly dissented from Ford's decision to axe the Commissioner for French Language Services:

On Friday, sources close to Ford said there is also mounting concern that eastern Ontario PC MPP Amanda Simard might switch parties.
Simard (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell) made headlines this week by breaking with the government over the elimination of the French-language services watchdog and the cancellation of a new francophone university.

Perhaps that's why late yesterday afternoon Ford announced that Caroline Mulroney was going to be responsible for Francophone Affairs. These folks are driven by their guts, not their heads. There is mutiny in the ranks. That's why they will eventually blow themselves up.

Image: Extreme Movie Database


Friday, November 23, 2018

What's The World To Do?


Timothy Egan has been travelling California's blackened landscape and he's appalled:

The story it tells is grim, a portent of nature altered and convulsive. It’s not just that this audacious experiment — a huge parkland on the doorstep of a metro area of 13 million people — is now on life support. It’s that, as we are the first species to radically disrupt the world that gave us life, much of that world may soon be unsafe for human habitation.
California used to have distinct fire seasons. Now the storms of flame and smoke are year-round, and all of the nation’s most populous state is a fire zone. One in eight Americans lives in a land that could turn catastrophic on any given day.

The President of the United States looked at the same landscape, opened his mouth and proved why his former Secretary of State called him a "fucking moron:"

After a drive-by look at the wastelands, he suggested raking the forest floor, as he imagined they do in Finland. He said he wanted to “make climate great.” The Finns set him straight. The world laughed.
Trump has a crackpot for acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, a man associated with a company that promoted time travel and Bigfoot. And yet the president denies the peer-reviewed, consensus driven evidence on climate change.

In the face of such appalling ignorance, what's the world to do? Hope that Trump gets caught in a fire zone and doesn't make it out?

Image: Patheos

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Ford Is A Gift --To Trudeau


Many of us in Ontario feel nothing but contempt -- visceral contempt -- for Doug Ford. But Tom Walkom writes that, for Justin Trudeau, Ford is a gift that will keep on giving:

The Liberals’ real not-so-secret weapon is Doug Ford.
In the morality play that is Canadian politics, the Ontario Conservative premier can easily be portrayed by left-liberals as a black-hatted villain. He is big, brash and unapologetic.
In 2015, the Liberals successfully typecast then Conservative leader Stephen Harper as a malevolent genius — a kind of Lex Luthor to Trudeau’s Clark Kent.
They are having less luck with Harper’s successor, Andrew Scheer. With his easy smile and dimpled cheeks, Scheer does not easily fit the supervillain stereotype. So the Liberals tried something else.
First, they tried to define Scheer as a puppet of Harper who, in their storyline, was still the hidden mastermind behind Canadian Conservativism.

Scheer is incompetent. Ford is much more than that:

Ford is the left-liberal’s nightmare. He opposes carbon pricing measures to deal with climate change; he opposes employment standards aimed at alleviating precarious work.
From his time at Toronto city hall, he has a reputation as a blowhard and bully. And while he does not espouse the protectionist policies of Donald Trump, he looks and acts like the U.S. president.
Ford handily defeated Kathleen Wynne’s provincial Liberals in this year’s Ontario election. But the federal Liberals are betting that this was a one-off event spurred not by love of Ford but by Wynne’s personal unpopularity.
In fact, by polarizing the electorate, Ford may well make it easier for Trudeau in Ontario. Ontario NDP supporters deserted their party in droves in 2015, in order to vote Liberal and defeat the Harper Conservatives. They may do so again to ensure that Fordism doesn’t gain a hold nationally.

Ford's opposition to Trudeau's carbon tax will work in Trudeau's favour:

While too low to do any substantive good [it] is just high enough to assuage Canadian guilt and allow voters to think they are making a sacrifice for the environment.
Second, the Liberals are proposing to rebate this new carbon tax back to Ontario voters via a formula that miraculously will leave the average person financially better off.

The carbon tax may not do much for the planet. But it could well keep Doug Ford from damaging it further.

Image: CityNews Toronto

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

An Amoral Chump


Donald Trump is a con man. But the truth is that he himself is easily conned. Tom Friedman writes in The New York Times:


I really wrestle with this question: What is the worst thing about President Trump’s approach to foreign policy? Is it that he is utterly amoral or that he is such a chump? Because the combination is terrible — a president who is an amoral chump is the worst thing of all. He sells out American values — awful enough — but then gets nothing of value in return.
Trump presents himself as a tough, savvy deal maker, and then he lets all these leaders play him for a sucker. The word is out on the street: “Hey, guys, get in line! Trump is giving away free stuff! Just tell him you’re fighting Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood or that you’re a friend of Sheldon Adelson’s, and you get free stuff!”

Need proof? Consider Trump's decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem:

Last May, Hanukkah came early for Israel when Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a dream of every Israeli prime minister — for free! Trump could have gone to Bibi Netanyahu and said: “Bibi, here is the deal. I am going to make your dream come true and move the embassy. But in return you’re going to freeze all Israeli settlements in the heart of the West Bank.” Then Trump could have told the Palestinians: “You’re not going to like this. I’m moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. But I am getting you something no American president ever got you — a freeze on Israeli settlements beyond the settlement blocks.”

And, yesterday, the Saudis got the same treatment:

Now Christmas has come early for the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in the form of a get-out-of-jail-free card for his involvement in the murder of moderate Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi was killed by a Saudi hit team, which then reportedly sawed apart his body and dissolved the pieces in acid.
The Saudis claim this was a rogue operation that just happened to include key guards and aides of the crown prince. Attention: There has never been a rogue operation by the closest aides and guards of a Saudi leader in the history of Saudi Arabia. Not possible. This is an absolute monarchy. This was ordered from the top.
But because one cannot absolutely prove M.B.S. ordered it, Trump has chosen to give M.B.S. a pass, using the same language he did with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is another recipient of Trump’s free stuff. When U.S. intelligence agencies declared that Putin interfered in our 2016 election, Trump said Putin told him that he didn’t do it. Putin’s regime got a slap on the wrist — a few sanctions — but nothing remotely as damaging to him as his intervention in our elections was to us.

The world now knows what Putin, Netanyahu and MDS have known for awhile. Trump knows no moral code. But he is also profoundly stupid. He is, quite simply, an amoral chump.

Image: Redbubble

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mais, Non!


Yesterday, Quebec premier Francois Legault came to Toronto to try to convince  Doug Ford to reverse his decisions to cut the position of French Language Commissioner and to kill a new French language university. Ford refused Legault's request, triumphantly marching backward. Andre Pratt writes:

Not only will eliminating the position of the French Language Services Commissioner and killing the project of a French language university in Toronto have little impact on the provincial government’s balance sheet; they demonstrate a profound indifference, if not worse, toward the French minority’s rights and needs.

And standing to defend Ford's decision was Caroline Mulroney. Thirty five hears ago, her father rose in the House of Commons to defend French language rights in Canada:

“We are all children of our environments. We bring to given problems the judgment that has been shaped by the realities to which we have been exposed in our lives. In Canada, particularly in the area of language, these differ widely according to individuals and according to regions because of our sense of history. We must seek to understand these differences and consider them not as obstacles but as guides to the elaboration of sensible and realistic policies which will enhance rather than lessen the attractiveness of such policies in the minds of all Canadians.”
“The issue before us today is also one of simple justice. There is no painless way to proceed. There is no blame to be apportioned. There are no motives to be impugned. There is only the sanctity of minority rights. There is no obligation more compelling and no duty more irresistible in Canada than to ensure that our minorities, linguistic and otherwise, live at all times in conditions of fairness and justice.”

In the Ford government's recent throne speech there was not one word of French. Minority rights? Who's kidding whom?  Caroline Mulroney is a profile in cowardice. Andrew Scheer says the issue is a provincial matter. He simply confirms that his party is populated by dinosaurs -- and that the premier of Ontario is an idiot.

Image: National Observer

Monday, November 19, 2018

We've Been Here Before


One definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting a different result. By that measure, the current Government of Ontario is insane. Tom Walkom writes:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has completed the first part of the Mike Harris trifecta: He has declared a fiscal crisis.
Now the province awaits parts two and three. Stage two will be to slash spending in order to deal with this alleged crisis.
Stage three will be to return those fiscal savings to voters in the form of tax cuts.
It’s the formula Harris used successfully after he became premier in 1995. It’s the formula Ford’s finance minister, Vic Fedeli, put into motion Thursday with his fall economic update.
The update itself is slim but to the point. It says Ontario’s finances are in a mess because of the actions of the previous Liberal government. It says Ford’s government faces a deficit this year of close of $15 billion (a number that critics say is exaggerated).

In a twist from the Harris playbook, Ford has eliminated the office of Environmental Commissioner, which Walkom reminds his readers was "created by Bob Rae’s New Democratic Party government in 1993. Environmental commissioners have upbraided Ontario governments of all political stripes."

Ford has already eliminated Ontario's Green Energy program, which subsidized individuals and organizations for adopting measures which weaned us off fossil fuels. As the Large One leads the charge against the Trudeau government's carbon tax, he doesn't want the environmental commissioner proclaiming that he's a fool.

So how will spending be slashed? The latest update offered no clues. But Walkom has a few ideas on that subject:

First, the government is taking aim at those on welfare. Or, as the update puts it, the government will “present a plan to reform social assistance.”
This is exactly what Harris did in 1995 when he cut social assistance to the bone. It may have been mean-spirited. But it was immensely popular.
Second, the Ford government is zeroing in on the Ontario Drug Benefit program, which provides free or heavily subsidized pharmaceuticals to seniors and those on welfare.
What precisely it plans to cut back here remains unclear. The update says only that the government wants to make the program easier to understand, more consistent and more sustainable.
That could mean anything — from increasing the co-payments charged most seniors to eliminating the plan for all but the very poorest.

And remember. Ford's mantra is that he's a man of the people.

Image: The Conversation


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Reading the Tea Leaves


Stanley Greenberg is a pollster who has spent his career working for Democrats. In today's New York Times, he looks at the election results and he says that, despite everything else, there is hope:

At first, the results looked like something of a stalemate. The Republican Party retained and even strengthened its hold on the Senate. President Trump’s approval rating was at 45 percent, one percentage point below his percentage of the popular vote in the 2016 election. Analysts said that Mr. Trump still knew how to get Republicans “excited, interested and turn them out” and that he had “deepened his hold on rural areas.”
In the days that followed, though, it became clear that Democrats had made substantial gains. Analysts I trusted concluded that this was because suburban and college-educated women issued “a sharp rebuke to President Trump” that set off a “blue wave through the urban and suburban House districts.” At first, I also believed that was the main story line.
But the 2018 election was much bigger than that. It was transformative, knocking down what we assumed were Electoral College certainties. We didn’t immediately see this transformation because we assumed that Mr. Trump and the polarization in his wake still governed as before.

There are several reasons for Greenberg's conclusion:

First of all, Democrats did not win simply because white women with college degrees rebelled against Mr. Trump’s misogyny, sexism and disrespect for women. Nearly every category of women rebelled.
Second, Mr. Trump and his party maintained their principal base with white working class voters, the shift among women notwithstanding, and Democrats still need to do better. Nonetheless, Democrats got their wave in part because a significant portion of male and female white working class voters abandoned Mr. Trump and his Republican allies.
Third, Democrats made big gains because Mr. Trump declared war on immigrants — and on multicultural America — and lost. His ugly campaign succeeded in making immigration and the border a voting issue for the Republican base, according to the postelection survey I did with Democracy Corps, which asked those voting Republican why they did. “Open borders” was the top reason given for voting against a Democratic candidate. But it backfired among other voters.
Fourth, Democrats could not have picked up as many House seats as they did in 2018 without raising their share of the vote by four points in the suburbs, which have grown to encompass 50 percent of voters. Mrs. Clinton won many of these districts in 2016, so it was clear that any further shift in the Democrats’ direction would prove consequential. But Democrats made their biggest gains not there, but in the rural parts of the country. That was the shocker.

It appears that, even in rural America, a significant number of Americans are seeing Trump for the con-man he has always been. It will be interesting to see how they react as Robert Mueller unseals his indictments.

Image: Michael-In-Norfolk

Saturday, November 17, 2018

It's Personal


During the Quebec referendum in 1980, the fight between Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Rene Levesque was personal. In the next federal election, the fight between Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford will be just as personal. Marieke Walsh reports that:

Doug Ford is again putting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his crosshairs as the premier rallies Progressive Conservatives in Etobicoke this weekend.
The provincial Tories are gathering for a three-day convention to vote on policy changes and elect a new party executive. The meeting follows a rough two weeks for the new government; Ford has lost members of his inner circle to harassment allegations and former leader Patrick Brown has been causing headaches for the new leader.

Brown released his new book this week, Takedown, in which he takes aim at Ford,  Finance Minister Vic Fedelli, and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod. Ford has already turfed Economic Development Minister Jim Wilson.  And he's trying to switch the focus to Justin Trudeau:

I’m putting the prime minister on notice,” he said. “We’ve already taken Kathleen Wynne’s hands out of your pockets. And Justin Trudeau, you’re next.”
That line prompted a standing ovation from the crowd and chants of “Doug, Doug, Doug.”
Tensions between the two governments have been mounting since Ford came to office. The premier has frequently launched pointed attacks against Trudeau and the prime minister’s cabinet, and advisers have returned fire.
Last month, federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc — a close friend of Trudeau — came to Queen’s Park and accused Ford of putting national ambitions ahead of his priorities as premier.

 It's Ford who is leading the charge against Trudeau's carbon tax:

He’s rallied support in Alberta, and hosted federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe at his office in Queen’s Park.
“We will fight the carbon tax right to the end,” Ford said.
The premier didn’t stop there, however. He also accused Trudeau’s ministers and advisers of wanting to impose a carbon tax that will “jack up the price of everything.”
In October, Trudeau unveiled his government’s plan to rebate revenues from the carbon tax back to Ontario families. The federal government said the rebate will leave 70 per cent of households better off — but Ford has said many times he doesn’t believe it.

So the stage has been set. And the battle will be nasty. The House of Ford has always been Animal House. And those are the people the prime minister will face in 2019.

Image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov



Friday, November 16, 2018

Conservatism Rips Itself Apart


There is a cautionary tale unfolding for governments which call themselves Conservative. Maxime Bernier is staging a frontal assault on the Conservative Party of Canada. And in Britain, Theresa May's government is unravelling over Brexit. May was a Remainer. Yet she has been tasked with negotiating Britain's divorce from the E.U. The deal she reached with Brussels has split her party. Andrew Hammond writes:

The cabinet resignations reflect, in large part, the continuing U.K.-wide divisions over Brexit which leaves Ms. May’s tenure in Downing Street precarious. These problems were meant to have been put to bed by publication of the government’s Brexit White Paper in July.
Yet, if anything, Ms. May is even more politically isolated following the subsequent departure from her cabinet of leading Brexiteers Boris Johnson and David Davis. The former senior ministers have previously stood to be Conservative Party leader, and may do so again in the future, and are both lobbying hard against what has become known as Ms. May’s Chequers version of Brexit.
Her vision in the Chequers document came under intense criticism from the British political right and left, not to mention outside players such as U.S. President Donald Trump. Indeed, such was the opposition of elements of even her own Conservative Party, which lobbied to “chuck Chequers,” that the Prime Minister had to effectively rebrand it.
Now a draft U.K.-EU Brexit deal has been agreed to, the parliamentary arithmetic is such that Ms. May could need to rely on the votes of opposition Labour Party MPs to get the agreement through the House of Commons. Here it is highly unclear how many such Labour parliamentarians would support Ms. May, despite the potential pressure to do so for those politicians representing constituencies that voted in 2016 to leave the EU.

During the 1980's conservatism rejected its Burkean roots and adopted Ayn Rand as its philosophical godmother and Milton Friedman as its accountant. Rand and Friedman trumpeted the beauty of the Individual Unbound. The result was that conservatives became so enamoured of individualism they could agree on virtually nothing -- except what they were against. And what they were against, most of all, was government.

The end result has been that, when conservatives achieve power -- in Britain and the United States -- they can't govern because they can't craft policy. Their differences doom their dreams.

That's a lesson Ontario's Conservatives, under Doug Ford, are now learning.

Image: Politico Europe