Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Not Here. Not Now

The Parliamentary Budget Office has released its report on last month's Federal Budget. Kevin Page should be proud of the work his office has done. As was the case with its reports on the War in Afghanistan and the the purchase of the F35 fighter jets, the report excoriates the government's numbers:

The federal government's most recent "jobs and growth" budget will wind up costing Canada both jobs and economic growth over the next few years, the Parliamentary Budget Officer says in a new report.

The PBO's latest estimates on the impact of the 2013 budget handed down in March show the cumulative impact will be to reduce economic growth by 0.12 per cent and job creation by 14,000 by 2016.

It's all part of what New York Times columnist Paul Krugman calls The Story of Our Time:"

Let’s start with what may be the most crucial thing to understand: the economy is not like an individual family.

Families earn what they can, and spend as much as they think prudent; spending and earning opportunities are two different things. In the economy as a whole, however, income and spending are interdependent: my spending is your income, and your spending is my income. If both of us slash spending at the same time, both of our incomes will fall too.

And that’s what happened after the financial crisis of 2008. Many people suddenly cut spending, either because they chose to or because their creditors forced them to; meanwhile, not many people were able or willing to spend more. The result was a plunge in incomes that also caused a plunge in employment, creating the depression that persists to this day. 

Yet the Harper government bought the analogy that government budgets are like family budgets. Its response to the financial crisis has been to cut spending. True, it didn't take that path in 2008. But that was because its survival was at stake. Now, with a majority, Harper and Co. insist that they can cut their way to prosperity. They keep on insisting that:

the real problem is on the economy’s supply side: that workers lack the skills they need, or that unemployment insurance has destroyed the incentive to work, or that the looming menace of universal health care is preventing hiring, or whatever. How do we know that they’re wrong?

Well, I could go on at length on this topic, but just look at the predictions the two sides in this debate have made. People like me predicted right from the start that large budget deficits would have little effect on interest rates, that large-scale “money printing” by the Fed (not a good description of actual Fed policy, but never mind) wouldn’t be inflationary, that austerity policies would lead to terrible economic downturns. The other side jeered, insisting that interest rates would skyrocket and that austerity would actually lead to economic expansion. Ask bond traders, or the suffering populations of Spain, Portugal and so on, how it actually turned out. 

In the face of all the evidence, they keep insisting that austerity works. Perhaps on another planet -- but not on this one. Not here. Not now.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Twisted Priorities

The Harper government is a nasty piece of work. Its twisted priorities now permeate the Canadian economy. Those priorities are best illustrated by the temporary foreign workers program. Originally established in boom times to help alleviate labour shortages, the Harperites have used the program to cudgel Canadian workers. Haroon Siddiqui writes in the Toronto Star:

Under Stephen Harper’s watch, temporary foreign workers have tripled, from 140,000 to 338,000. The total may be more like 500,000, if you add those who may have gone underground at the end of their temporary visas, plus the refugee claimants and foreign students who have work permits.

This at a time when there are 1.3 million unemployed, a high percentage of them educated young Canadians who are having trouble landing their first job. Also, too many of the 250,000 immigrants that Harper is bringing every year by the normal route cannot find jobs commensurate with the education and skills for which they were selected.

This makes sense only as a policy to depress wages across the board, weaken worker rights and make it easy for businesses that barely look for Canadians to fill vacancies, let alone train new hires. Between 2007 and 2011, nearly a third of all net new jobs were filled with temporary workers.

It is that last sentence which bears repeating: a third of the new jobs created have gone to temporary foreign workers. If you think the Harper government is working for you, think again. Siddiqui writes:

Most temporary foreign workers are not allowed to bring families or apply for permanent immigration status. Many are abused at work. “There are countless harrowing stories from thousands of people facing threats from employers and labour brokers, toiling on poverty wages in unsafe work places and living in horrendous conditions,” says Karl Flecker of Canadian Labour Congress. Given that, most have little commitment to Canada.

Permanent immigrants do. More than 80 per cent become citizens. Even if they don’t do well, their children do and become productive citizens. That’s why our immigration policy has been a successful citizenship policy.

But Jason Kenney, minister of immigration and citizenship, has reduced himself to the role of chief headhunter for businesses.

The Harperites work for Canada's business elite. That's the same business elite which buys clothing from Bangladesh and pays those who make the clothing $38 a month -- before the building burns down or collapses.

Twisted, indeed.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Making The Mighty Nervous

Stephen Harper has greeted the new leader of the Liberal Party with mockery. It is the same response he had for both Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. But don't be fooled, Paul Wells writes in Macleans. Justin Trudeau has got Harper rattled. Consider his attack on Trudeau at Margaret Thatcher's funeral:

All Harper had to do was zip up, and Trudeau’s comments would have stood alone for all to judge by their lights. He didn’t figure that out until after he had used a funeral to pick a fight. For the leader of a party that will be lucky indeed if it can simply stop losing seats, Trudeau has a knack for making his opponents do dumb things—simply, as far as I can see, by existing. In Quebec City, Trudeau paid a courtesy call on provincial party leaders. Jean-François Lisée, normally the brains of the Parti Québécois, convened a news conference to denounce Trudeau as a “young prince” who had summoned all three leaders like “vassals” to a single meeting. Problem: Trudeau had made no such request. Lisée wound up apologizing lamely on Twitter.

The Prime Minister has turned Justin's father into the bogeyman of Conservative politics. And his obsession with the father has brought about the rise of the son -- who Harper tries to dismiss as insubstantial.

But Wells warns that Trudeau knows how to aim his arrows at Mr. Harper's Achilles Heel:

Anger wrecks his judgment. He has that in common with Lisée. In my years in Ottawa I’ve seen other politicians who polarized debate so effortlessly they drove furious opponents to dumb mistakes. Jean Chrétien was one. Harper himself is another. Apparently young Trudeau has some of that too. It’s a handy attribute.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Signifying Nothing

Michael  Harris writes that the Canadian Bar Association does not support Bill S7, the Harper government's recently passed anti terrorism legislation:

The CBA makes the point that the legislation does not give investigators new tools, but merely duplicates, with a few new wrinkles, laws that already exist. So why would any society based on the rule of law want to bring in legislation that doesn’t prevent terrorist acts and doesn’t make people safer?

That question becomes all the more pressing when you consider that S-7 will authorize the arrest, detention and forced testimony of people who have not been charged with any offence, and who don’t know the evidence against them. In fact, S-7 could be used against a citizen who is not even suspected of a crime, but simply suspected of knowing other people who might be cooking up a plot.

It is a bill which seeks to take out anyone who is suspicious about this government's motives. But why the paranoia? The reason, perhaps, is that the Harperites are afraid that Canadians will cotton on to the fact that they are the northern version of the Republican Party, a party -- which according to Michael Tomasky, -- is "an immovable wall of nays." The Republicans, he writes, have become the Seinfeld Party -- "the Party of Nothing." The proof  is in the agenda of the Republican controlled House of Representatives:

Yesterday in Salon, political scientist Jonathan Bernstein wrote up the following little discovery, which has to do with the numbering of bills. Historically, the party that controls the House of Representatives reserves for itself the first 10 slots—HR 1, HR 2, and so on. Usually, the majority party has filled at least most of those slots with the pieces of legislation that it wants to announce to the world as its top priorities. When the Democrats ran the House, for example, HR 1 was always John Dingell’s health-care bill, in homage to his father, a congressman who pushed for national health care back in the day.

Today, nine of the 10 slots are empty. Nine of the 10. The one that is occupied, HR 3, is taken up by a bill calling on President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Even this, insiders will tell you in an honest moment, is completely symbolic and empty: the general expectation among Democrats and Republicans is that Obama will approve the pipeline sometime in this term, but that eleventy-jillion lawsuits will immediately be filed, and the thing won’t be built for years if at all, and nothing about this short and general bill can or is designed to change that. One other slot, HR 1, is provisionally reserved for a tax-reform bill, so at least they have settled on a subject matter, but if you click on HR 1, you will learn that “the text of HR 1 has not yet been received.”

The Republicans were defeated twice by Obama, who ran on a platform of "hope and change." One can argue about how much hope and change Obama has achieved. The point, though, is that the Republican response to Obama was to demonize him. Now, Harris writes,

There is more than a whiff of political opportunism in the air. Just when the polls show that Justin Trudeau is getting Canadians to think about hope, the PM returns them to his special metier — fear.

A paranoid party has nothing to offer but fear itself. It is full of sound and fury -- signifying nothing.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Dark Future

Stephen Harper -- that fountain of sweetness and light -- has stepped up his attack on Justin Trudeau. He tries to paint Trudeau as weak because Mr. Trudeau wants to know why young men who have lived in Canada for a long time turn to radical Islam. Harper says:

“This is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression . . . . these things are serious threats, global terrorist attacks, people who have agendas of violence that are deep and abiding threats to all the values that our society stands for,” Harper said.

“I don’t think we want to convey any view to the Canadian public other than our utter condemnation of this kind of violence, contemplation of this kind of violence and our utter determination through our laws and our activities to do everything we can to prevent it and counter it.”

This is the man who ditched the Statistics Canada long form census. He insists that government scientists have all their work screened before publication. And he has closed the Experimental Lake Area -- which Ontario Premier Kathleen has now agreed to fund. That decision pleased Dr. David Schindler, the ELA's founding director. "Her intervention," he said, "is like a ray of sunshine in the Dark Ages that the Harper government has planned  for Canada."

Harper is straight out of the Dark Ages. Anyone who believes that knowledge is the enemy is dangerous. When he is the Prime Minister of Canada, the country is in for a dark future.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Government By Distraction

Bill S7 is a deeply flawed piece of legislation. Its provisions for "preventative detention" and forcing people to answer questions are unlikely to pass a Supreme Court challenge. But the bill passed yesterday amid all the yelling and screaming about political attack ads. Susan Delacourt writes in The Toronto Star:

While the stage had been set in Ottawa for a debate over whether MPs are free to speak their minds, a new wave of ads created a battle over the freedom to wage partisan advertising wars instead.

Liberals are crying foul at yet another set of looming Conservative attacks on their new leader, Justin Trudeau, which are due to be mass-mailed to voters in flyers financed by the public purse.

Government House leader Peter Van Loan said his party was making no apology for organizing a Parliament-funded mail-out to warn voters away from Trudeau.

It's all part of what has become Standard Operating Procedure for the Conservatives: government by distraction. They divert attention from controversial legislation by directing public attention away from what they want to accomplish. And, when all the yelling and screaming is over, a bill is passed.

Bill S7 also diverts atttention way from a Liberal motion which would take the muzzles off Stephen Harper's caucus:

A Speaker’s ruling on Tuesday appeared to make it a bit easier for dissident Conservative MPs to stand up and make statements in the chamber. British Columbia MP Mark Warawa, one of the leaders of a vocal group of Conservatives who has been bristling at party control, got a chance to speak on Wednesday.

But a Liberal-led attempt to loosen party control over the daily members’ statements appeared headed toward defeat when the Commons votes later in the week. Van Loan made clear that Conservatives were content with how Tuesday’s ruling from Speaker Andrew Scheer had opened up room for more independent statements in the Commons. 

Stephen Harper knows how to use the red herring. The problem is that all those rotting fish -- which decompose from the head down -- are beginning to stink.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Harper's Time Has Passed

The Liberals have answered the first of the Conservative attack ads against Justin Trudeau. That ad blew up in their faces. As Michael Harris wrote earlier this week:

In a word, instead of defining their political enemy, the Conservatives have defined themselves. Through years of incumbency, the Harper crowd has become an increasingly grumpy cabal of aging incumbents full of spite, malice and, of late, a bloated sense of entitlement. The Senate housing debacle shows how comfortably the party has settled into the easy chair of power.

With each display of bad manners and bad judgement in their zeal to damage the new Liberal leader, they will draw attention to the elephant in the room: their own increasingly dismal record in office. From orange juice to panda bears, things are beginning to slide.

There comes a time when television shows become tiresome. You've seen all the re-runs, and you change the channel. The ad shows Trudeau turning off the channel and taking credit for being a son, a teacher and  a leader.

If the Liberals do things right, they won't have to attack Harper. He has become his own auto-immune disease. Harris enumerates the symptoms:

At this moment in the Harper majority, the record is decidedly dog-eared and the polling ominous. According to pollster Frank Graves, the Liberals under Trudeau are on the rise. Even the immigrant vote the Tories worked so hard to win may be slipping back to the Grits. Meanwhile, Harper continues to degrade Canada’s democratic institutions in his pursuit of presidential-style governance. What passes for parliamentary democracy these days is budgets without the numbers, omnibus budget bills bigger than the Bible, and closure.

The system has become so politicized that even the top civil servant in the land is telling other civil servants that they can’t have budget information. Having already stifled scientists and bureaucrats, the info-minders in the PMO are now muzzling members of Mr. Harper’s own caucus. When your own zombies turn on you, you have to ask: What the junta is going on?

Victor Hugo wrote that "there is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come." The corollary is: There is no one so impotent as a man whose time has passed -- because the people have seen through him.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Gum On Their Noses

The international community knows by now that the Harper Government -- remember, the moniker is now on official documents -- is full of navel gazers. And navel gazers aren't concerned with facts. The ramifications for Canadian foreign policy are deeply disturbing. Natalie Brender writes in The Toronto Star  that:

The Harper government’s tendency toward dismissing the salience of worldly conditions is particularly marked when complex realities outside Canada’s borders are at issue. Globalization means that most policy choices facing us fall into this category of complex international realities. And for that reason, you’d think the government would pin its foreign policy-making to shared facts and knowledge wherever possible.

But that wasn’t the principle that informed the government’s decision last month to make Canada the only country in the world to be a non-member of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. The prime minister said that funding direct action against drought was preferable to remaining part of a bureaucratic “talkfest” – another instance in which Canada sees no need for action to be informed by investigation into facts. 

That decision -- in fact, all of Canada's recent foreign policy pronouncements -- has left diplomats scratching their heads:

As former Canadian diplomat Dan Livermore writes, the rest of the world finds us baffling: “A befuddled diplomatic community, both in Canada and abroad, is asking when the real Canada will return.”

But that befuddlement seems to have passed over the head of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird:

This willful obliviousness to realities beyond Ottawa spin extends even to the government’s own assessment of its performance abroad. Just last week, foreign minister John Baird declared that “[o]ur foreign relations record under the principled leadership of Prime Minister Harper has restored respect for Canadian principles and positions, and given us a stronger role on the world stage.

One suspects that the international community shares Megan Leslie's disdain for Baird. Recently she opined that Mr. Baird is "the kid in class with gum on his nose."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Permanently Unemployed

Paul Krugman writes in The New York Times that America is creating a new social class -- the permanently unemployed:

Now, some unemployment is inevitable in an ever-changing economy. Modern America tends to have an unemployment rate of 5 percent or more even in good times. In these good times, however, spells of unemployment are typically brief. Back in 2007 there were about seven million unemployed Americans — but only a small fraction of this total, around 1.2 million, had been out of work more than six months.

Then financial crisis struck, leading to a terrifying economic plunge followed by a weak recovery. Five years after the crisis, unemployment remains elevated, with almost 12 million Americans out of work. But what’s really striking is the huge number of long-term unemployed, with 4.6 million unemployed more than six months and more than three million who have been jobless for a year or more. Oh, and these numbers don’t count those who have given up looking for work because there are no jobs to be found. 

Unfortunately, when companies hire, they assume that long term unemployment is caused by moral turpitude, not a flawed system. The unemployed become "tainted goods that nobody will buy." Krugman pulls no punches:

And let’s be clear: this is a policy decision. The main reason our economic recovery has been so weak is that, spooked by fear-mongering over debt, we’ve been doing exactly what basic macroeconomics says you shouldn’t do — cutting government spending in the face of a depressed economy.

It’s hard to overstate how self-destructive this policy is. Indeed, the shadow of long-term unemployment means that austerity policies are counterproductive even in purely fiscal terms. Workers, after all, are taxpayers too; if our debt obsession exiles millions of Americans from productive employment, it will cut into future revenues and raise future deficits. 

There is nothing new in Krugman's thesis. History supports it. Unfortunately, as Santayana said, "Those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it."

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

It's About Fair Trade, Not Free Trade

Canada's three major parties now endorse Free Trade. Tom Walkom writes:

Free trade is now orthodoxy in Canada. It used to be debated fiercely. It no longer is.

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives embrace free trade. So does Justin Trudeau, the new Liberal leader.
 As part of their ongoing effort to pretend that they are not New Democrats, so do Tom Mulcair’s New Democrats.

The problem is that politicians have reached this consensus just as the evidence confirms that free trade isn't working. The problem is that what sounds good in theory never works in practice:

The 19th century theory of competitive advantage that lies behind free trade is a venerable one. And in some instances, it makes sense. Canada is probably better off trading lumber in exchange for bananas than producing both.

However, theory is only theory. In the textbook version of free trade, time does not exist and all parties always win immediately. But in the real world of free trade, entire generations can be savaged as jobs and capital slosh around the world.
In countries ranging from Greece at one extreme to Canada at the other, this is what’s happening now.

It didn't used to work that way. Canada used to insist that trade support manufacturing:

Previously, Canada had a more nuanced approach to trade. We were happy to sell resources freely as long as some refining was done here. We protected some fruit and vegetables from foreign competition (which, among other things, encouraged food processing). We protected most manufacturing, which gave rise to factories throughout southern Ontario.
In the auto sector, trade was managed between the U.S. and Canada in a way that ensured production in both countries. Japanese firms like Toyota and Honda were enticed to set up plants in Canada in part by making it harder for them to ship finished autos here.

The people who tout free trade don't believe in fair trade.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Removing All Doubt

At Margaret Thatcher's funeral this week, Stephen Harper couldn't resist the opportunity to attack Justin Trudeau. Even though the reporter who asked the question made no mention of Trudeau's comment that we should try to understand the "root causes" of terrorism, Harper said:

“When you see this type of violent act, you do not sit around trying to rationalize it or make excuses for it or figure out its root causes. You condemn it categorically, and to the extent you can deal with the perpetrators, you deal with them as harshly as possible."

It was vintage Harper -- the same kind of ham handed attack Harper directed at Paul Martin when he accused Martin of supporting child pornography. But, today, Americans are asking the very question Trudeau posed. What led two kids who immigrated to the United States, and seemed to assimilate so well,  choose to act with such horrific violence?

And Andrew Coyne, of all people, has come to Justin's defense:

If we are trying to defend against this sort of threat, then — to catch and punish those responsible for past atrocities, and more important, to anticipate and prevent the next — it would seem only logical to try to understand what causes it: the process by which these individuals are radicalized, the types of personalities most susceptible to it, and the circumstances that make them that way. Indeed, I would be astonished if there were not whole sections of the security establishments in both countries devoted to just that challenge, for the same reason the police employ psychological profilers.

Nothing in the notion of looking for causes says that we cannot also deal with effects. Neither is there anything in what Trudeau said that would equate understanding your enemies with excusing them, or explaining away their acts.

No, this was yet another attempt by Mr. Harper to eliminate a rival -- the verbal equivalent of that pooping puffin which unloaded on Stephane Dion's shoulder.

The Harper spin machine likes to sell the idea that the prime minister is a brilliant man. But Harper's remarks had the opposite effect. The prime minister proved the wisdom of  of Mark Twain's admonition: "Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt."

Friday, April 19, 2013

Vampire Government

Claiming "We Can't Afford It," The Harper government has been killing all arms length entities whose job has been to hold the government to account. Its latest target is the Health Council of Canada. Michael Harris writes:

HCC’s work has never been more important, as evidenced by the dour conclusions of the Mar. 27, 2012 Senate committee report on health care. Among other things, the committee found that after ten years of special government commitment and increased funding, real systemic transformation of the health system simply hadn’t happened.

The HCC was one of the better tools legislators had to find out why not. That’s because it reported in detail on the issues casting the longest shadows over the future of medicare: access to physicians, wait-times for essential procedures, pharmaceuticals management, aboriginal health and primary health care reform.

Even more important, the HCC was the only independent national body acting as a watchdog on how health care dollars were spent once they gushed from tax spigots in Ottawa to the tune of $35 billion a year. The federal government itself was once the custodian of national standards — always holding in reserve the power of the purse if it detected violations of the Canada Health Act.

Mr. Harper has systematically been killing the organizations which provide evidence running contrary to his program:

The long form census died, (even though its replacement cost $30 million more) because it professionally gathered nuanced information that got in the way of governing by ideology.

The Experimental Lakes Area was erased because its scientists might have come up with irrefutable reasons to reconsider the breakneck development of the tar sands at all costs.

The Law Reform Commission was put out of business because some of the brightest legal minds in the country thought too much about constitutional and legal considerations that might create inescapable restraints for political bullies.

This is a government which -- like vampires -- can't survive in the light of day.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

No "There" There

Taking his cue from Andrew Coyne's recent column on the utter vacuity of Canada's three major political parties, Zack Paikin writes that the Conservative Party has replaced values with venom. Whether or not you agreed with them, the Reform Party -- which gave birth to the Harper Party -- was a party of principle:

If any party on the national scene could claim to be known as the party of principle, it was Reform. One could agree or disagree with those principles, but one could not deny that the party had them.

Brian Mulroney being unable to balance the books, Reform advocated controlling public spending. Mulroney and Jean Chrétien having taken the centralization of power in Ottawa to new heights, the Reformers stood for more power for individual MPs.

But, Paikin writes, consider the modern Conservative Party of Canada:

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is — even after inflation and taking population growth into account — the highest-spending government in Canadian history. It has taken party discipline to new extremes, ramming omnibus bills through Parliament and invoking closure on debate like never before. Harper’s is a party that clearly has discarded its principles in order to win power. More importantly, it is a party that has been unable to find its principles again once it won power. 

The day after Justin Trudeau was elected leader of the Liberal Party, the attack ads -- patently false -- began:

These ads are guilty of several moral flaws and factual errors. First, Trudeau is shown stripping to circus-like music as if in a fashion show — despite the fact that these actions were done to raise money for the Canadian Liver Foundation. Second, a quote is attributed to him which came out of Trudeau paraphrasing his father’s beliefs, not his own.

Paikin's conclusion is unavoidable:

Behold: the Conservative party — once the party of principle, now nothing more than the party of character-assassination. One can think of no reason why the Tories would resort to such puerile tactics other than the fact that they are themselves devoid of ideas. The Conservatives have exhausted their social agenda — having gone as far as possible on crime while not daring to touch the abortion file — and have proven themselves incapable of balancing a budget or advancing Canada’s global position.

As Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland, California, "There is no 'there' there."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Great Grind Down

Tom Walkom writes that The Great Recession has not been like The Great Depression:

This slump is not like the Depression of the ’30s. It is not a time of total economic collapse. Rather it is a time of relentless grinding down.

Unions are being ground down; wages are being ground down. Jobs are being ground out of existence. With the economy so weak and foreign competition so fierce, domestic firms find it harder to expand.

For many, the only solution is to squeeze their workers.

Before the Great Recession, goods moved easily across borders. So did capital.

But what’s new about this slump is that labour has become an equally fluid component of the production process.

Sometimes labour moves physically. The federal temporary foreign worker program is designed to shift individual labourers swiftly and painlessly into Canada in order to accelerate the downward pressure on wages here.

The Harper government is intent on lowering wages. It is a self defeating strategy. If workers have less money to spend on goods and services, an economy stalls and goes into reverse. It's happening now in Europe. That's why the IMF is warning Canada to take its foot off the brakes:

The IMF said Tuesday that Canada's economy will likely slow to about 1.5 per cent this year, down 0.3 points from its earlier expectation and also from 2012 growth, before picking up to 2.4 per cent in 2014.

Their recommendation is to make use of "economic stabilizers," like employment insurance and infrastructure spending. Unfortunately, Stephen Harper promised that he would balance the budget by 2015 -- and that will require elimination of those stabilizers. He intends to keep his promise, come hell or high water.

Harper is committed to The Great Grind Down. Like Captain Ahab, he is fiercely focused on going down with his own white whale.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sabotaging The Public Service

Natalie Brender writes in the Toronto Star that two former Clerks of the Privy Council, Mel Capp and Alex Himelfarb, recently spoke out about the Harper Government's concerted efforts to sabotage the public service:

Befitting the nonpartisan role they previously held, Cappe and Himelfarb each delivered strong but not overtly political speeches. A subtext running through their remarks, however, delivers an undeniably political message. Taken together, their comments suggest that the risks the public service should be grappling with today are not the ones the Harper government is forcing it to address — and that diversion of public servants’ attention affects the vital interests of all Canadians, whatever their political views. 

Himelfarb has been warning for sometime now that the policies the Harperites are implementing -- with religious ferocity -- are self-defeating:

What our public service ought to be tackling, Himelfarb’s speech urges , are the challenges of adapting itself to a new age. Some facts remain constant: “the public service continues to be critically important to our quality of life, to our economic performance and to our international standing.” But organizational models of authority and information-sharing are transforming, and “public issues are more complex, often with no historical precedent, and with multiple poles of conflict.” To reinvent itself in response to these changes, he says, the public service must become more creative, open and connected to Canadians. 

And Capp insists that the public service should be focused on the well being of future Canadians:

The proper role of public servants, Cappe says, is to produce “economic, social, scientific and environmental analysis that takes into account the long run and future generations’ interests.” Though they should not talk publicly about policy, they “should be encouraged to talk to the public about their science and their research.” Yet such information-sharing is being thwarted by the Harper government’s obsession with stifling perspectives that might diverge from its chosen policy path. Their disregard of public servants’ analysis and evidence in favour of ideologically-based policymaking is well documented. So too is their restriction of researchers’ and analysts’ capacity to share insights with the public.

The Harperites know that the evidence is against them. Essentially, they have chosen to defend the indefensible. The information the public service generates -- at the ELA or at Statistics Canada -- proves that government policy is wrong headed.

And, in pursuit of what is demonstrably false, this government is quite prepared to destroy the public service.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Yesterday's Man?

Suddenly -- with the ascension of Justin Trudeau -- everyone is talking about Stephen Harper's future. Michael Harris writes:

If he were a week-old loaf of bread, or a dubious meatball at the back of the fridge, it would be time to throw him out.

But all political leaders wear out their welcomes. The longer you are in power, the higher the pile of dirty laundry gets.

And Tim Harper writes in the Toronto Star:

Should Harper decide to seek another mandate from Canadians in an election that will happen no later than October, 2015 — the Prime Minister has already mused about holding it earlier — he will be trying to break through a wall that many before him have hit — or saw coming too late.

Jean Chrétien, who fired the Liberal audience Sunday with an old-time partisan speech, served 10 years but had to promise to hand off power during the 2000 campaign in order to secure his third majority.

Brian Mulroney, even with two majorities, lasted just short of nine years.

At the provincial level, the same best-before date appears to work. Dalton McGuinty announced he was stepping down almost nine years to the date he was sworn in as Ontario premier. In Quebec, Jean Charest was defeated after nine years in office.

Should Harper decide to run again, he will have passed Louis St. Laurent, Robert Borden and Mulroney by the time the campaign starts and would already have become the sixth-longest serving prime minister in Canadian history before seeking another four years.

Suddenly, Stephen Harper is beginning to look like yesterday's man. At this point, it's a sure bet that Harper doesn't see himself that way. His whole life has been devoted to the acquisition of power. And he loves to exercise it too much to give it up easily.

But, in the end, it's not about how Stephen Harper sees himself. It's about how Canadians see him. If they begin to think of him as  -- to repeat  a recent comment at this space -- "an old man yelling at people to get off his lawn" -- then, indeed, Stephen Harper's days are numbered.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Return To Responsible Government?

Andrew Coyne writes, in The National Post, that there's not a dime's worth of difference between Canada's three major political parties:

This is our politics, then, at least for the next two years: three parties offering more of the same, saying little, differing less, wholly in thrall to their leaders, and applauded on all sides for their pragmatism and discipline. Bliss is it in this dusk to be alive.

Parties have become empty vessels, waiting to be told by their leaders what they believe. There is, of course, the Conservative Party:

Pride of place, of course, goes to the Conservatives, who have devoted most of the last decade to shedding any vestigial belief systems in the service of electing what they learned to call a Harper government. This was called “moving to the middle,” or in other words giving up, and was greatly applauded by the wisest heads as a sign of maturity. For as long as they continued to believe things they could never win power, and without power they could never put into effect all the things they no longer believed in.

And so the party that was against deficits became for them; the party that wanted to cut spending instead raised it to record highs. The party of tax reform became the party of tax distortions. The party of free markets became the party of corporate handouts and 1970s-style industrial strategy. The party of free trade became the party that banned foreign investment and raised tariffs.

The same thing has happened to the NDP, which used to think of itself as Canada's conscieence:

At this weekend’s convention of the New Democratic Party, the great question to be decided is whether the party will prove itself, in the current phrase, “ready for government.” Much speculation has centred on whether it will bow to the demands of its leader, Tom Mulcair, and renounce its commitment to socialism. But in truth, this is merely part of a larger project of renouncing its commitment to much of anything.

 Perhaps the odd resolution will sneak through that in some way departs from the status quo, the leader’s wishes or the undiluted pursuit of power. At which point the media, those active volunteer enforcers of party discipline, will again descend to ridicule this impudent individuality, this insult to authority, this failure to do as they were told.

Then there are the Liberals. Justin Trudeau says his campaign will be bottom up: He will listen to Canadians and develop his platform based upon the principle that citizens -- not leaders -- control the party. Coyne is not convinced that this is what will happen:

His authority will be absolute, owing nothing to either the caucus or even the membership, but having been elected, in the main, by people with no attachment to the party, whose loyalty is entirely to him, or at least his Twitter feed. As such he will have a free hand to take the party in any direction he likes, which on the evidence is straight into the same valley of indistinction where the other two parties await: so far as he has allowed a glimpse into his thinking, it has been to suggest he would not change much of anything.

If Coyne is right, we are in a very bad place. But, if Justin really does seek guidance from the people, he will re-establish responsible goverment in Canada. That was certainly not his father's template. In fact, responsible government began to wither under the first Trudeau. We are about to learn how Trudeau Two works.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Lessons RBC Should Teach Us

It's my bet that, when historians look back at this decade, they will point to the temporary workers debacle as the incident which hastened Stephen Harper's exit. They will note that what happened last week crystallized something for Canadians -- the realization that Stephen Harper wasn't working for them.

Not that temporary workers don't have their advantages. But last week clarified who, exactly, were the advantaged. Michael Harris writes that the government program is:

certainly a good thing for multinational corporations, a term Prime Minister Harper often confuses with the Canadian economy. They get cheap labour, malleable governments and a regulatory environment that is simpler than a Hells Angel’s tax return. In the United States, they also get jaw-dropping tax benefits from moving their physical assets, production and jobs overseas.

It's about more than shipping jobs overseas. It's about not paying taxes:

The principle benefit is the ability to ‘defer’ taxes on profits made offshore indefinitely. Once those profits are booked outside the country, they often find their way into tax havens in places like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. As for the taxes the multinationals actually pay offshore, they are 33 per cent less than if they would have been if paid in the United States, according to a 2008 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

And, as the CBC has reported, there is a lot of money sitting in places like the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands. The oligarchs sit on that money and -- contrary to the conventional wisdom -- they don't create jobs:

As for job creation being funded by offshore profits — it just doesn’t happen, here or in the U.S. Between 1998 and 2008, U.S. multinationals shed 1.9 million American jobs and added 2.4 million in the offshore. According to StatsCan, a quarter of a million jobs have been lost in Ontario’s manufacturing sector in the decade since 2002. Offshoring is part of the reason. Its actual effect is not just to get rid of jobs and benefits in costly jurisdictions: It also reduces real wages in the ones that are left.

Then the mantra becomes "we can't afford it" -- it being Medicare, or the Canada Pension Plan or Old Age Security.

Canadians have begun to figure out that Stephen Harper works for multinational corporations -- and that the voters who put him in office are expendable.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Patient Is Dying

The president of RBC says,"First, I want to apologize to the employees affected by this outsourcing arrangement as we should have been more sensitive and helpful to them. All will be offered comparable job opportunities within the bank." And Stephen Harper says he will look at reforming the guest worker program. As if the problem were a mere slip up -- a piddling lack of oversight.

But Haroon Sididqui writes in the Toronto Star that the temporary worker program is a carefully conceived attempt to undermine Canadian workers. And the man behind the scheme is Jason Kenny:

Jason Kenney is a clever politician juggling contradictory goals.

He floods the country with 250,000 immigrants a year, even though most cannot find jobs commensurate with the education and skills they were selected for. Tens of thousands of Canadian-educated graduates cannot find jobs either. His is an exploitative model that suits only the corporate sector — driving wages and worker demands down, profits up.

This arrangement is augmented with his even more blatantly exploitative temporary workers program. Employers get foreigners at a legislated lower wage than Canadians.

Kenny is doing more than providing business with cheap labour:

He has upended our traditional immigration system, wherein newcomers were seen as future citizens (not just fodder for corporate greed or a force to undermine the ostensibly spoiled homegrown workforce).

Immigrants were entitled to family reunification and citizenship, the latter after three years if they stayed on the right side of the law. Now they struggle for ages to get their families united and become citizens. This is a matter of policy or bureaucratic incompetence. Either way, it is not good for them and not good for Canada.
Kenney courts selected ethnic communities, turning up for their festivals and dinners, and gaining just enough votes to win targeted ridings for the Tories.

At the other end of the electoral spectrum, he manages anti-immigrant backlash, especially in his conservative constituency, by harping about how he’s “fixing the broken immigration system”; keeping out bogus refugees, such as the Roma; and standing on guard against “barbaric cultural practices” being imported into the country.

It really is quite a trick. But -- like the Wall Street Barons who can't see beyond the next quarter -- he and the prime minister are focused only on the next election, oblivious to the damage they are doing. Their country is dying. They are like  incompetent physicians -- confident that the operation has been a success, regardless of the outcome.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thatcher Is Dead. Thatcherism Isn't.

Margaret Thatcher died this week. Unfortunately, the program she advocated hasn't -- at least not yet. Tom Walkom puts the Iron Lady in historical perspective:

The world that Thatcher faced when she became Britain’s prime minister in 1979 was still coming to terms with the events of the post-1945 era.

World War II had produced a great compromise between labour and capital. Under the terms of that compromise, capitalism was allowed to do its magic. In return, through both labour unions and the welfare state, working people were awarded a piece of the action.

It was a remarkably productive period. But it also contained the seeds of its own undoing.

By ensuring that employment stayed at high levels, the great compromise eliminated the most potent weapon bosses had over their workers — fear of joblessness.
As a result, workers were able to win higher wages. But with rising wages came inflation. As inflation rose, the engine of capitalism itself was undermined.

Thatcher and Ronald Reagan came to power on the promise that they would tame inflation. But their prescription just about killed the patient:

[Their] remedy, soon copied by nations like Canada, relied on the deliberate creation of unemployment.

This was accomplished in part by letting central banks boost interest rates to levels that drove weaker businesses bankrupt.

It was accomplished in part by gutting social programs like welfare and employment insurance that provided aid to the jobless.

Where unions were strong, as in Britain, labour rights were severely restricted.

For a while, Thatcherism succeeded. In Canada and elsewhere, unemployment soared, wages stalled and income inequality increased.
But the economy, as measured by output, soared. To the Thatcherites, this was all that mattered. The new orthodoxy was lauded.

The new orthodoxy was best summed up in Thatcher's claim that "there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first."

It was a philosophy that worked well -- if everyone started in the same place. But the green grocer's daughter held a chemistry degree from Oxford. Not everyone was born with her advantages. Her step children -- David Cameron and Stephen Harper -- believe, like Thatcher, that they were born on third base and hit a home run.

The problem with the program, of course, is that most people don't get to play the game. And, when they get angry, they storm the field. That is happening in Europe -- and it will soon happen in The Peaceable Kingdom.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The War on Workers

In Harperland, the war on workers continues. Carol Goar reports that, this past Sunday, new EI eligibility rules went into effect:

Until Sunday anyone living in a region with an unemployment rate above 8 per cent was eligible. Now the benchmark is a 13.1-per-cent jobless rate. Only a handful of regions qualify: parts of Newfoundland-Labrador, eastern Nova Scotia, Gaspésie, Restigouche, northern Manitoba, northern Saskatchewan, Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Under the old rules, laid-off workers in most regions could use their best 14 weeks of earnings when submitting their claim. This allowed them to omit weeks when the plant was idle or their hours were sporadic.

Under the new system, only a tiny minority of workers can use this device. The rest must use the number of weeks Ottawa sets. In Windsor, for instance, it is 18. In Oshawa, it is 19. In Toronto it’s 20. The larger the number is, the harder it is to filter out temporary layoffs and lean weeks.

The losers will be call centre workers and hotel/hospitality workers and factory workers with unpredictable, unsteady hours. The winners are employers and the government (which raised EI premiums despite reducing benefits).

The  EI contribution rates for workers went up in the 2012 budget. The rate for employers stayed the same. Now those who have contributed more get less. The government has shifted the temporary worker program to the unquestionable advantage of business. It has now done the same for Employment Insurance.

How long will Canadians tolerate this kind of egregious injustice?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?

So went the lyrics of a song from my youth. Lawrence Martin writes this morning that those lyrics should be repeating themselves inside Stephen Harper's head. The reason for the ear worm is the ascension of Justin Trudeau:

The Trudeau name is his worst nightmare. Mr. Harper’s animosity toward the Liberalism of Pierre Trudeau was what ignited and drove his political ambition. Nothing would plague him more than having a Trudeau succeed him and begin turning back his conservative advances.

And Harper's best before date is catching up with him:

If he decides to stay, he must not only face the Trudeau phenomenon but also the problem – as an Ipsos Reid poll shows – that people are getting tired of him and his secretive, closed style of governance. Some tried to defend him for his latest muzzling effort, one that targeted his own MPs. They failed to see beyond the abortion issue to the broader context, the gagging here being only one of dozens of examples of this kind of conduct.

The Conservatives have a succession problem. The party is Harper centric. It's a one man band. The  Prime Minister could argue that he is the best person to take on Trudeau. But, when former Tory prime ministers like Brian Mulroney say things like, “I’ve known Justin since he was a child. He’s young, articulate, attractive – a flawlessly bilingual young man. What’s not to like with this picture?” you have to wonder if such pronouncements dent Harper's hubris.

Rest assured that, if Mr. Harper begins to believe he is vulnerable, he will get out before the next election.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Believing The Earth Is Flat

Corporate Canada is still sitting on its profits. Despite cheer leading from Mark Carney and Jim Flaherty, business is not investing that money and it is not creating jobs. Carol Goar writes:

According to Deloitte Canada’s 2013 outlook, “defensive balance sheet strategies are the order of the day.” Its survey of chief financial officers showed their companies’ top priorities were cutting costs and bolstering cash flow. Capital spending ranked a distant fourth. “By and large, big companies have the power to invest,” the consultancy said. “The missing ingredient — and one which holds the key to corporate behaviour — is confidence about future growth.”

The missing ingredient is demand. And when consumers are tapped out and carry heavy debt, the government is the customer of last resort. When he faced defeat in 2008, Stephen Harper was willing to act as that customer. Now, having encouraged Europe's Age of Austerity, he has applied the same medicine to Canada.  As last week's job report indicates, that idea didn't work out so well:

Canada's economy lost 54,500 jobs in March, bleak new data from Statistics Canada showed Friday.
That's the worst month for Canadian employment since before the last recession, in February 2009. When added to the numbers for January and February, they show that Canada's economy has lost 26,000 jobs so far in 2013 as a whole.

The job losses pushed Canada's jobless rate higher to 7.2 per cent.

The data raises questions about the government's chief sales pitch -- superb economic management:

It raises questions about the value of the $1.4 billion in investment tax credits he offered the corporate sector to do more research, open new markets and modernize their factories and equipment. They all require capital spending, which doesn’t appear to be on the corporate sector’s agenda.

And it leaves taxpayers wondering what the nation is getting for the $60 billion in corporate tax cuts the Conservatives have doled out since they took office. The recipients of this largesse aren’t using it to spur economic growth. They aren’t creating jobs. And they aren’t turning scientific discoveries into commercially viable products.

The Harper mantra is corporate tax cuts create jobs. That notion has always been hogwash. Customers create jobs. Believing what Stephen Harper says is the equivalent of believing that the earth is flat.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Damned Lies and Statistics

"There are lies, damned lies and statistics," Sam Clemans said. The Harper government has done its best to undermine Canada's statistical database. But, occasionally, it still likes to use them. The devil, however, is always in the way they are used. In a recent article in the Literary Review of Canada, George Fallis wrote:

It is said that Canada has a severe and growing problem of income inequality — the rich get richer while the poor get poorer and the middle class struggles to stay even. The picture is not accurate.”

In response, Carol Goar wrote in the Toronto Star:

There is an imbalance, Fallis admits. The average chief executive earns 220 times as much as the average worker. And trouble signals are flashing: swelling food bank use, chronic homelessness, increasing inequality of incomes. But overall, he insists, “the steady reduction in poverty is one of Canada’s great accomplishments of the last 30 years.”

By the same logic, the swelling food bank population must also be one of Canada's greatest accomplishments over the last thirty years. Then take the Globe and Mail's praise for Harper's decision to fold CIDA into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "In today's world," Canada's newspaper of record gushed:

aid is  just a trickle outstripped 10-to-one by foreign investment . . .  Moreover, handouts had little to do with the remarkable progress in China, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Nigeria. Trade liberalization, technology, productivity gains and domestic policies turned them into economic tigers.


What the editorial didn’t establish was any link between foreign investment and potable water, health clinics, schools or community markets. What it didn’t mention was the social and environmental damage western capital can do to developing countries. Nor did it offer any proof that the benefits of North American commerce filter down to the poorest people.

And, finally, there is Mr. Flaherty's surprisingly fact free budget:

Flaherty highlighted Canada’s job creation record to counter the impression that this is a jobless recovery and refute claims that those laid off in the recession haven’t found work. “As job creators, we have an enviable record,” he maintained.

What he didn’t address was the number of highly educated young people trapped in entry-level jobs; the number of blue-collar workers whose jobs will never return; the number of part-time, contract and temporary workers who don’t earn enough to lift themselves out of poverty; and the number of job applicants who send out hundreds of resumés without a bite.

The problem is that those who rely on statistics to bolster their arguments can be -- and usually are -- highly selective in the statistics they choose to use. The real story is contained in the statistics they choose to bury.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Ignorance Is Strength

George Orwell published 1984 sixty-five years ago. He did us all a great public service. Michael Harris writes:

After all, it was Orwell who lifted the curtain on how the end of free thought was creeping across western democracies. In the end, stripped of the very language needed to form ideas, future citizens would be shuddering under a government colossus whose most efficient agency was the Thought Police.

The central premise of Orwell’s horror-scape dystopia, 1984, is that the facts are mutable.

Simple really: if there are no objective facts, there is no knowledge. That leaves it to a vastly empowered government to impose whatever ‘facts’ are required — and then to change them in the bat of an eye if necessary. Think of Stephen Harper on income trusts. Only the masters of Doublespeak can deny a flip-flop.

In Stephen Harper's world, facts are the enemy -- unless they are what you say they are:

In Harperland, there is no weed as noxious as independent facts. If possible, they are pulled up by the roots. Science is just another corporate enabler as far as the PM is concerned; if it’s not that, then it’s a potentially dangerous source of independent public information.

Last week, David Schindler once again tried to lay out some immutable facts about the tar sands:

After all, when someone sends you a picture of tumours, lesions and spinal deformities, the probability is that they are seriously unhappy about something.

When they include a letter pointing out that fish downriver from the tar sands development in Alberta are exhibiting mutations very similar to those of deformed marine life in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico after the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon disasters, they are sounding an alarm.

And when that same person advises you that in order to understand the impact of petroleum pollution on freshwater and the aquatic life it supports, you must ditch your plans to close the ELA, they are offering a very rare thing — a second chance to get it right.

Unfortunately, the only second chance the prime minister believes in is his own re-election. Facts -- the kind the ELA uncovered, and which resulted in the Acid Rain Treaty -- must be denied, then sent down the memory hole. Ignorance is Strength.

Friday, April 05, 2013

The Forest And The Trees

Devon Black writes that the Harper government suffers from tunnel vision. It is focused on eliminating the deficit. Why? Because, these wise ones say, it will lead to lower taxes. But will it lead to a better Canada? And, to put that question in perspective, Black looks at the legacy of the recently departed everyman of Canadian politics, Ralph Klein:

One of Klein’s most striking successes was balancing the budget in 1995, a mere three years after he entered office as premier. In 1992, Alberta faced a $23 billion deficit. Klein oversaw major spending cuts, massive layoffs (including thousands of nurses) and substantial reductions in government services, all with the goal of eliminating that deficit.

He did put Alberta back in the black, and he did so two years earlier than promised. Still, it’s hard to see the elimination of the deficit as a legacy. Alberta is once again billions of dollars in the red, and is confronting the long-term consequences of Klein’s cuts.

Once the deficit was gone, it seemed that Klein didn’t have a grand vision of the Alberta that he hoped to create. Instead, his policies were sometimes reminiscent of the dog that, having caught a car, isn’t quite sure what to do next. Ralph bucks for everyone? Sure! After all, what else would we do with all that extra money?

Klein didn't have an answer to that question, and neither do his federal stepchildren:

Without an articulation of that vision, we’re reduced to watching a sort of “placeholder politics,” biding our time until the next election. Decisions are being made not in pursuit of a better Canada, but in pursuit of another election win. This leads to a degradation of both our politics and our policy.

Moreover, without an articulation of that vision, voters don’t have the opportunity to fully evaluate the options with which they are presented. What sort of Canada does abandoning the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, or eliminating the Experimental Lakes Area, or alienating First Nations people create? What is the Conservative vision for Canada, and are they achieving it?

Alberta is in worse shape today -- after Klein -- than it was before he became premier. And Canada will be in worse shape -- after Stephen Harper -- than it was before he arrived.  The man can't see the forest for the trees.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

The Four H's

The Conservative attack machine is primed and ready to go. When Justin Trudeau  becomes leader of the Liberal Party in ten days, the Conservatives will unleash the same kind of smear campaign they used on Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. Their message will be that Trudeau is a lightweight with a thin resume.

But Bob Hepburn writes in the Toronto Star that the Harper Party would be wise to rethink that strategy. Both the federal and the Ontario Tories have chosen leaders who, at the time of their ascension, offered pretty thin gruel:

In comparison, Harper’s work resumé when he became Canadian Alliance (nee Reform) party leader in 2002 was even thinner than Trudeau’s is today.
Other than working in a few low-level jobs, starting in the mail room, for Imperial Oil in Alberta, Harper has spent his entire life in conservative politics. He has a master’s degree in economics from the University of Calgary, but never worked as an economist.

Mike Harris' first education minister dropped out of high school in grade 11 and never returned. Harris taught for awhile -- three years -- then quit:

Mike Harris dropped out of the first university he attended to become a ski instructor, later taught a few years in a North Bay elementary school before quitting again to work at his dad’s ski-hill operation and later as a golf pro. He was first elected as an MPP in 1981, served only a few weeks as a minor cabinet minister in 1985 and became party leader in 1990.

And, like Harper, Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak possesses a master's degree in economics. But he has never worked as an economist:

Tim Hudak’s resumé is even weaker than that of Harris. Although he earned a master’s degree in economics, he has never worked in that field. Instead, he worked for just one year as a Walmart travelling manager before being elected as an MPP in 1995 at age 27. Hudak served as an undistinguished junior minister in the final years of the Harris government.

Trudeau the Younger has a more impressive resume than either of the Three H's:

And while Trudeau’s resumé does lack major business or institutional accomplishments or a lengthy track record in a profession, it is not without reasonable heft. He has a BA from McGill University and a bachelor of education degree from the University of British Columbia. He taught social studies and French at Vancouver high schools, served as chair of the now-defunct Katimavik youth volunteer program, studied engineering at the University of Montreal and was partway to a master’s degree in environmental geography at McGill when he was elected in 2008 as a federal MP.  

So, when the blitz begins,  it would be wise to remember that four H's are behind it -- Harper, Harris, Hudak and Hypocrisy.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Gang Who Can't Shoot Straight

Canadian bitumen befouled the Kalamazoo River back in 2010. Now it slurps down the streets of Mayflower, Arkansas. And the Harper government keeps telling Americans that the Keystone XL Pipeline will be a godsend.

That sales pitch rings hollow. After all, it comes from the country which withdrew from the Kyoto Accord and is now the only country to withdraw from the UN Anti-Drought Convention. Tasha Kheiriddin writes that the Harper government has managed to sabotage its path to power:

The pipeline represents not just an economic, but a political lynchpin of their long-term national strategy: displacing the power centre of Canada westward.

If they had built a record of environmental stewardship, they might have succeeded. Certainly, Preston Manning has been saying for years that the road to power for conservatives is as green as grass. However,

This government’s greatest failing — and Achilles heel — may be squandering the opportunity to converge environmentalism and conservatism. Over the past nine years, the Tories could have taken Canadian environmental policy in a whole new direction. They could have championed market-based conservatism in areas from land preservation to fish stocks. They could have encouraged energy conservation through market pricing. They could have initiated consultation processes on projects such as Northern Gateway that were more than just “for show”, to give people the sense that their views were actually being heard.

But true to their Manichean roots -- every issue is a struggle between good and evil -- the Harperites pitted the economy against the environment, painting environmentalists as economic illiterates. Now they are reaping what they have sown -- and proving that they really are the gang who can't shoot straight