Monday, September 30, 2013

Revolution And The Corporate State

Chris Hedges has no illusions about the power of the corporate state:

The state, to protect itself, lies. Politicians, corporations, the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and our ridiculous television pundits speak as if we can continue to build a society based on limitless growth, profligate consumption and fossil fuel. They feed the collective mania for hope at the expense of truth. Their public vision is self-delusional, a form of collective psychosis. The corporate state, meanwhile, is preparing privately for the world it knows is actually coming. It is cementing into place a police state, one that includes the complete evisceration of our most basic civil liberties and the militarization of the internal security apparatus, as well as wholesale surveillance of the citizenry.
And it is concentrating its power on eliminating those who would rebel:

The state has, at the same time, heavily infiltrated movements in order to discredit, isolate and push out their most competent leaders. It has used its vast surveillance capacities to monitor all forms of electronic communications, as well as personal relationships between activists, giving the state the ability to paralyze planned actions before they can begin. It has mounted a public relations campaign to demonize anyone who resists, branding environmental activists as “ecoterrorists,” charging activists under draconian terrorism laws, hunting down whistle-blowers such as Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden who shine a light on the inner secrets of power and condemning them as traitors and threats to national security. The state has attempted—and in this effort some in the Black Bloc proved unwittingly useful—to paint the movement as violent and directionless.

Faced with such a phalanx of power, one has every right to ask whether there is any hope for change. Hedges believes there is; and he hopes that the revolution will be nonviolent. But,he writes, it will not be like past revolutions:

It is not the poor who make revolutions. It is those who conclude that they will not be able, as they once expected, to rise economically and socially. This consciousness is part of the self-knowledge of service workers and fast food workers. It is grasped by the swelling population of college graduates caught in a vise of low-paying jobs and obscene amounts of debt. These two groups, once united, will be our primary engines of revolt. 

As always, revolutions start among the dispossessed. But they gather steam among those who can no longer stomach injustice. The problem is that modern technology has made it easier to entrench injustice.

In the end, as Martin Luther King said, physical force must be met with soul force. Hedges believes that such a revolution is underway.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The International Gasbag

Bob Rae writes that Canada now conducts its foreign policy using a megaphone. It didn't used to be that way. And it doesn't have to be that way now:

Imagine a different approach. Imagine if we'd kept our small embassy in Tehran open, with a seasoned diplomat and a couple of bright political and legal officers. Imagine if they'd kept open a window on potential change, as Robert Ford did for years in Moscow at the height of the Cold War.

Imagine we'd brought together our most experienced ambassadors to discuss the Arab Spring as we should be doing...and then been able to intervene more usefully than we have.

Imagine if we had diplomats who were allowed to explain to Canadians what is happening. And imagine if the Prime Minister actually picked up the phone and asked for their opinion and advice.

Imagine if our political intelligence on Iran allowed us to separate the rhetoric from the reality, to understand the differences in the complex theocracy - the impacts of the sanctions, the pressures to ease the economic pain.

But the Harper government doesn't conduct business that way. It believes that its vast knowledge and expertise give in the right -- no, the moral imperative -- to lecture the rest of the world:

Instead we have the megaphone, the Prime Minister telling the American President in his own country that "he won't take no for an answer" on Keystone, John Baird on Saturday expressing skepticism but having no information and no knowledge to assess what is actually happening in Tehran. Just the megaphone.

In my recent travels and discussions with seasoned foreign policy experts and politicians in the U.S. and Europe, I haven't met one who took Canada seriously anymore, except as a posturer, a poseur, a political game player. And these are people who remember a different kind of Canada, and a better approach to diplomacy and politics.

The root of the problem is the prime minister's aversion to people. Consider his recent outburst over the Keystone XL Pipeline. Rae writes:

Remember - Stephen Harper never led a team Canada delegation to Washington to make the case in a reasoned, coherent way. His fear of the face to face means he has no choice but to shout. It won't work.

Our prime minister has developed a far from flattering reputation in the international community. Canada has gone from being an honest broker, Rae writes, to a "right wing gasbag."

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Inequality For All Canadians

As the Robert Reich film, Inequality for All, hits theatres this weekend, Jordan Brennan and Jim Stanford write that what has happened in the United States has also  happened in Canada:

Now Statistics Canada has turned its attention to the problem, too. The agency’s National Household Survey has documented the stark differences in personal income between the richest 1 per cent and the rest of us. The data are less precise than would have been attained from the former long-form census (which was cancelled by the data-phobic Conservative government). But despite its flaws, the report confirms that the gap between rich and poor in Canada has become enormous.
Incomes for the bottom 90 per cent of Canadians averaged just $28,000, according to the report. In contrast, the top 10 per cent took home an average of $135,000. And the top 1 per cent pocketed $381,000.

We like to think that somehow we're more humane that our American cousins. But the data -- even though the Harper government tries to hide it -- tell a different story:

Income inequality has reached a historic extreme. Inequality was high during the 1920s and 1930s (the “gilded age”), but fell sharply during the Second World War (as Canadians got back to work and taxes were raised to pay for the war effort). The three decades after the Second World War — a “golden age” of controlled capitalism — saw further decline in inequality. The economy was booming and powerful institutions (like progressive taxation and surging unionization) ensured the wealth was broadly shared.

Since 1980, however, we’ve entered another “gilded age.” Business-friendly economic and social policies replaced the former Keynesian welfare regime. In recent years, inequality has reached levels higher than at any time since the 1930s. And it is clearly staying that way, regardless of small year-to-year fluctuations.

And it's not just a matter of political philosophy:

Does income inequality matter? There’s a growing consensus among scientists from many disciplines that it does: in complex, surprising and economically important ways. Numerous studies document a powerful relationship between income inequality and varied dimensions of social pathology.
Indicators as diverse as happiness, mental illness, infant mortality, children’s educational performance, teenage pregnancy, homicide, imprisonment, social trust and social mobility all get worse as the income gaps within society deepen.

The Harperites insist that they know what they're doing. They don't understand -- or care to understand -- the consequences of their policies. They only understand who will reward them. And, so far, that's been enough to keep them in office.

Friday, September 27, 2013

On His Own Little Planet

If you were hoping that Stephen Harper was re-evaluating his approach to people -- particularly Barack Obama -- yesterday should have dashed that hope. Speaking before the Canadian American Business Council, the prime minister said that, on the Keystone Pipeline file, he wouldn't take no for an answer:

The logic in support of the project going ahead is "overwhelming," and governments at all levels on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border are endorsing it, Harper told a high-powered business audience in New York.

"My view is that you don't take no for an answer," Harper said. "We haven't had that. If we were to get that, that won't be final. This won't be final until it's approved and we will keep pushing forward."

That must have sent shivers down Barack Obama's spine. The prime minister made his statement in the wake of a New York Times editorial which lambasted Harper for trying to promote public ignorance by muzzling scientists:

"This is more than an attack on academic freedom. It is an attempt to guarantee public ignorance.

"It is also designed to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the northern resource rush — the feverish effort to mine the earth and the ocean with little regard for environmental consequences. The Harper policy seems designed to make sure that the tar sands project proceeds quietly, with no surprises, no bad news, no alarms from government scientists. To all the other kinds of pollution the tar sands will yield, we must now add another: the degradation of vital streams of research and information."

Our prime minister is a master of diplomacy. That is why he goes to New York as the United Nations begins its new session and skips it. One wonders what planet he is living on. Like St. Exupery's little prince, it's his own planet. And it's very small.

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bright and Blind

Michael Ignatieff still does not understand the part he played in his party's worst defeat in history. Bob Hepburn writes that Ignatieff's new book should be titled It Really Wasn't My Fault:

According to Ignatieff, the Liberals were trounced because they lacked money to buy television ads to counter Harper’s attack ads, which kept hammering away at the fact Ignatieff had been out of Canada for nearly 30 years, because they were in worse shape internally than he had imagined and because Harper and Layton were veteran politicians who knew how to connect with voters better than he did.

To Ignatieff, the Liberals’ demise had little or nothing to do with his flip-flopping on key issues, his failure to focus on two or three issues about which he felt passionately or his wooden, cold television image.
If anything, the book reinforces the widely perceived image of Ignatieff as arrogant and aloof, a man who turned voters off, not on. It’s as if he is saying about his political life: “I’m brilliant, I’m better than this.”

Hepburn writes that Ignatieff made all kinds of mistakes:

As leader, he was uninspiring and his political smarts were questionable. He failed to establish distinctive policies that set him apart from Harper. He failed to tell Canadians two or three key issues that he felt most passionately about. He supported Harper on virtually every Conservative legislative initiative, keeping the Tories in power.

At the same time, Ignatieff excluded his own MPs from a major Liberal policy conference. He failed to attract star candidates. He showed little understanding of what he wanted to do as a politician or how he would achieve it. He was terrible on television and refused to listen to advisers who wanted to help because, as a former TV star, he knew better.
Canadians didn’t like him not because he wouldn’t get down and dirty in politics, like Harper does. They voted against him because they knew he didn’t have any core values and because they felt he looked down on them.

There's a lot that Ignatieff has failed to learn. A man can be very bright -- and utterly blind.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

They Tell Us It's About Principles

Tim Harper writes that the prime minister and the mayor of Toronto  are a political odd couple:

Harper would treat a meeting with a voter in an unscripted moment as a crisis. Ford ditches his aides and wanders into crowds at a Saturday night street festival on the Danforth.

Harper works hard to avoid over exposure. Ford has his own open line show. The prime minister seeks political advantage in a squeaky clean image, proudly denying marijuana use in his younger years while

Ford laughs, and, without missing a beat, agrees he smoked “a lot.’’

What explains this oxymoron? The next election. Both men are shopping for votes:

Harper has signalled he believes in a Ford re-election in 2014 and he’s quite happy to help him, as long as the mayor lends him the support Harper will need to keep and grow his suburban beachhead the following year in the 2015 election campaign.

The next federal election could indeed hinge on the GTA and 905 suburbs that slavishly back Ford.
The prime minister and his finance minister, Jim Flaherty, have clearly decided that the    scandal-prone, gaffemeister mayor will not have another nuclear misstep between now and voting day in 2014. This is not merely Conservatives deciding Ford is safe.

This is a full-out plan to embrace Toronto’s stumbling mayor Harper and Flaherty get a two-fer in one fell swoop, not only helping Ford with the subway announcement, but undermining the provincial Liberals as well, providing a potential bump for their other ally in Toronto, provincial Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak.

So what if this feds distrust between the federal government and the government of the largest province? This is all about politics.

And they tell us it's all about principles.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Desperation Is The Harvest Of Failure.

Stephen Harper is desperately trying to get Canada's First Peoples to buy into the Northern Gateway Pipeline. But, Michael Harris writes, they will not be snookered by Mr. Harper. They know the man too well:

Stephen Harper’s trust account is badly overdrawn. Native leaders will not soon forget how the Conservatives blithely walked away from the work-in-progress that was the Kelowna Accord.

Although former prime minister Paul Martin wasn’t around long enough to implement a program that aimed at ending native poverty in a decade, his plan enjoyed wide support and created something even more seductive: a sense of optimism.

Then-Opposition leader Stephen Harper claimed that he supported the plan to end native poverty and the principles of the Kelowna Accord, though he differed on how that should be accomplished.

This is one of the things that Harper said in a letter to Dwight Dorey of the Congress of Aboriginal People dated January 10, 2006: “The Conservative Party of Canada is committed to holding another meeting with First Ministers and National Aboriginal Leaders within the next two or three years to measure the progress of the Kelowna commitments.”

Put that in the same category with Harper’s promises not to mess with income trusts or the Old Age Supplement. Canada’s First Nations leaders have had their bags packed for that meeting for going on seven years but the invitation, apparently, is still in the mail.

There was Harper's treatment of Theresa Spence and:

The last blow to the PM’s credibility on the aboriginal street may well be the government’s vaunted native education legislation — a plan AFN Chief Shawn Atleo has already panned because it was conceived, as most of this government’s legislation is, unilaterally.

The First Nations know that Stephen Harper doesn't negotiate with anyone -- not with the opposition parties, not with the provinces, and certainly not with them. His present desperation is the harvest of his own failure.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Seismic Shift?

Some pundits claimed the 2011 election was a political earthquake. John Ibbitson and Darrell Bricker  asserted that it was a Big Shift. Peter C. Newman claimed that it marked the death of the Liberal Party. Andrew Cohen isn't so sure. Canada may, he writes, be reverting to its old three party system -- with the NDP as the third party:

Looking at polls, you could think we have returned to the way things were in Canada before we elected a multi-party Parliament in 1993, when the Reform Party and the Bloc Québécois erupted as regional powers. Now we have become essentially a three-party country again (the Greens and BQ notwithstanding.)

While they may shift positions with each other, the story is about the Liberals and Conservatives. What has not changed much in recent months is the growing marginalization of the New Democrats.

The Dippers will not be happy with that conclusion. But even more controversial is Cohen's assertion that Canadian politics is more about personality than policy:

Today, we are governed by the politics of personality. Experience matters less than character. The Liberals chose smart but weak leaders in 2008 and 2011. Trudeau may not have the same intellect as his predecessors, but he has a winning temperament. He is a master of retail politics who has yet to put a foot wrong.

The problem for the New Democrats is that however substantial Mulcair, however prosecutorial in Parliament, Trudeau is winning the personality contest. This is putting his party back in business, and in the public consciousness.

There is a long time between now and the next election. But, if Cohen is right -- if we care more about personalities than we do about policy -- we may still be in a quagmire after the 2015 election -- even if there has been no real seismic shift.

We have to make a quick trip to Montreal, so I will not post tomorrow. But I hope to be back on Tuesday, or Wednesday at the latest.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Inequality For All

On September 27th, a documentary film with that title hits the theatres. The little guy who the film revolves around makes the same argument he has been making in print for over a decade: the middle class is being squeezed, and their plight -- the harvest of right wing ideology -- is why the United States is being pulled apart.

Reich was interviewed this week for an article in The Tyee. Here are a few excerpts:

"Losers in rigged games can become very angry," he says in the documentary Inequality for All, which will be released in the U.S. on Sept. 27. "We're seeing an entire society that is starting to pull apart."

 "Unlike the 1930s, we haven't had the kind of reforms we need to change direction." In fact, he says, since 2007 economic gains have gone to the rich and inequality has increased.

He starts with something a little oblique, and asks the class where they think the $178 cost of making a 3G iPhone was spent. Students naively believe the majority of the money stayed in the United States. But the real surprise is how little went to China, where the phones are assembled. The breakdown? Japan was tops with 34 per cent, followed by Germany (17 per cent) and South Korea (13 per cent). The U.S. came in at six per cent and China at just three.

Before the crash of 1929, the tax rate charged against the biggest incomes was 25 per cent. Today, it's 35 per cent, although that's brought way down by compensation built around stock options and capital gains, which are taxed in the United States at a rate of 15 per cent. The surprise, though, is that under former Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s, the top income tax rate was 91 per cent.

In 1978, the documentary asserts, the average middle class male made $48,302. Today (and all these numbers are adjusted for inflation) the same person makes $33,751. Meanwhile, top earners have gone from an average of $390,682 to $1,101,089. There are more shocking numbers -- an increase of 350 times in executive pay here, seven hedge fund managers making more than a billion dollars each over there -- but the broad decline in middle class incomes is at the centre of Reich's argument.

So, you think we're better off? We've just gotten into the game later than the United States. But Stephen Harper is convinced that we should follow the American lead.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Harper's Achilles Heel

I wrote yesterday that, when it comes to the economy, Stephen Harper takes his cue from the 19th century. And that perspective, Lawrence Martin writes, should make the economy Mr. Harper's Achilles heel. Ralph Goodale certainly thinks so:

A more partisan view came this week from Ralph Goodale, Paul Martin’s former finance minister, who with charts and graphs argued that Stephen Harper “has the poorest economic growth record since R.B. Bennett.” That may be partisan — it’s also quite an indictment, since Bennett was in office during the deepest trough of the Great Depression.

[And] an overall growth record that, as Goodale claims, is worse than that of any government in eight decades still has a powerful ring to it — and it’s something on which the Liberals should be blasting Harper daily. If the Conservatives were in opposition and the Grits were putting up those numbers, you can be sure the Tories wouldn’t be letting them off the hook with talk of ‘global conditions’.

And therein lies the problem. The Liberals and the New Democrats have not taken on Harper's claim to fame -- that he is a competent steward of the economy. Having a Master's Degree in Economics doesn't make it so:

Another point Goodale’s been hammering home is the spike in our national debt under the Tories: the figure he cites is $169 billion. There’s been a lot of talk about the deficit, a problem which was worsened by the government’s two per cent decrease in the GST. But the debt hike has not received the attention it’s due. Under Chretien and Martin, as Goodale noted, the debt-to-GDP ratio was cut by more than half. Under the Tories there’s been no reduction in that ratio.

Some other statistics of recent vintage are hardly flattering. Newly released global competitiveness rankings from the World Economic Forum place Canada at a dreary 14th. On the trade front Canada now has a billion-dollar deficit. Our current account deficit of three per cent of GDP makes Canada the worst performer in the G8 in that category.

Harper's record is at odds with who and what he claims to be. That is more than an Achilles heel. It's a travesty.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Back To Where We've Been

The Harper government has repeated the same mantra for seven years: We know best how to manage the Canadian economy. But, Edward Greenspon writes, the truth is opposed to the mantra:

With exceptions such as the drive to rebalance the budget, ours is a government that dabbles in economic policy, often with little consistency, coherence or conviction. Telecom is just a recent manifestation. Policy has been predicated on a simple — and simplistic — proposition: introduce a fourth player in the market and prices will plummet. The government has been at it since greasing the wheels for Mobilicity and Wind in 2008. In the case of Wind, it went so far as to ignore the law of the land on foreign ownership but not so far as to change the law, which would have opened the protected sector to U.S. competitors.

"Simplistic" is the operative word. The Harperites are focused on the deficit, not the economy. The Martin Liberals, who are bogeymen to the Harperites, also faced deficit problems. But they worked hard to develop a 21st century economy:

Once they beat down the deficit, the Liberals focused their economic policy on supporting the building blocks of the knowledge economy through creation of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canada Research Chairs, etc. The Harper government has turned instead to energy and trade as its priorities. The former has been a well-documented jumble, culminating in a Keystone XL pipeline file that could have been managed by the Keystone cops themselves.

Past governments knew how to lay the groundwork for the world ahead:

Peter Harder, a former deputy minister of industry and foreign affairs and current president of the Canada-China Business Council, has observed that with our European partners devastated after the Second World War, Canadian leaders realized the future lay in North America. Government policy promoted all kinds of hard and soft infrastructure: the St. Lawrence Seaway, pipelines, electrical grids, an auto pact, interconnected highways, bilateral talk shops.

With its emphasis on resource extraction, the Harper government steadfastly believes it can return the Canadian economy to the 19th century. Mr. Harper doesn't know where's he's going. But he will be happy when we return to where we've been.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Unpaid Internships

The latest entry point in the job market is the unpaid internship. Young people are told that an internship will help them get their feet in someone's door and on their way to a promising career. But Devon Black writes that the truth is far different than the pitch:

That rosy picture of unpaid internships is almost certainly wrong. The U.S.-based National Association of Colleges and Employers released the results of a three-year-long survey on internships, where students were asked if they’d received offers of paying jobs during the critical pre-graduation period of February to April.

While just over 63 per cent of paid interns were offered a paying job during that time, only 37 per cent of unpaid interns got the same offer. Thirty-five per cent of students who didn’t work an internship also got an offer — so why are we pretending unpaid internships are a stepping stone to paying jobs?

Worse, the same survey found that unpaid interns who did get job offers were offered less money than the students who had worked no internship at all. Work done for free is seen as less valuable, it seems.

Internships are not new. What is new is the notion that young people should not be paid -- or given something in exchange for -- their labour. I went to the University of North Carolina to become a teacher. Part of the training required me to spend a year in a high school in  Greensboro. I taught regular classes. And, for my labour, I was paid a stipend of $2,700 and paid in-state tuition -- which, at the time, was $37 a credit hour. It wasn't a princely sum. But, forty-five years ago, it was enough to live on.

My sister had the same arrangement when she trained as a nurse. The arrangement was pretty standard. She  trained in a hospital, which gave her room, board and tuition in exchange for her labour.

We used to believe that all work is valuable and requires some form of compensation. Now employers and right wing governments -- on a mission to drive down labour costs -- have peddled the idea that people should be grateful to work for nothing.

Where I live, farmers have a word for that stuff. They use it to fertilize their fields.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

You Can't Take Him At His Word

Stephen Harper was in British Columbia over the weekend, "negotiating" with British Columbia's native peoples on the Northern Gateway file. Michael Harris writes that Mr. Harper has a constitutional duty to consult with first nations. But Harper doesn't negotiate:

That approach would violate the Harper government’s preferred tactic when dealing with opponents: blunt declarations of how it’s going to be, followed by a rabbit punch or two. Think of Jim Flaherty’s negotiating technique with provincial health ministers in Victoria. Not a lot of back-and-forth, right?

If the prime minister had really wanted to talk to native leaders, he wouldn’t have sent Enbridge executives to assume Ottawa’s constitutional role of consulting about pipelines — a company’s whose reputation for stewardship of the environment is well known.

The prime minister, who is supposed to be a bright guy, has finally realised that Northern Gateway is in deep trouble:

It has suddenly dawned on the PM that native reservations about Northern Gateway are headed to court. And since Ottawa has a constitutional obligation to consult, accommodate and compensate First Nations for developments that touch their lands, Harper is belatedly touching all the bases before the legal briefs are filed.

Harper's charm offensive is totally insincere. When it comes to Canada's First Nations, what Harper does is diametrically opposed to what he says. Consider the record:

Harper is the prime minister who killed the Kelowna Accord, replacing Paul Martin’s commitment to change things with a commitment to something less than the status quo.

It was the Harper government that gutted environmental protections in a spate of anti-democratic omnibus legislation, forcing natives to protect the land on their own.

The Harper promise of a new relationship between First Nations and Ottawa has fizzled. After a florid apology with all the trappings of state, the PM merely replaced the mistakes of the past with the mistakes of the present, including a sneaky change to band funding agreements that critics believe would allow government policy to trump native treaty rights.

During the Idle No More protests in Ottawa, PM Harper was as aloof as Louis the 14th, refusing to meet certain native leaders who were tired of the federal runaround on land claims and treaty rights. They learned that Stephen Harper doesn’t make time for nobodies.

Harper has now decided that a promise to do something on the environment file might help sell Keystone to the Americans, and that playing nice with Canada's native peoples might sell Northern Gateway to them. Mr. Harper is a slow learner.

And it should be evident to all parties that you can't take him at his word.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Emerging Police State

It all began with the War on Drugs and racial profiling. If you're looking for the origins of the new police state, Chris Hedges writes, that's where you should begin. Both developments made it easy to target minorities. Any police state begins with an attack on an easy to identify minority:

The unrestricted and arbitrary subjugation of one despised group, stripped of equality before the law, conditions the police to employ these tactics against the wider society. “Laws that are not equal for all revert to rights and privileges, something contradictory to the very nature of nation-states,” Hannah Arendt wrote in “The Origins of Totalitarianism.” “The clearer the proof of their inability to treat stateless people as legal persons and the greater the extension of arbitrary rule by police decree, the more difficult it is for states to resist the temptation to deprive all citizens of legal status and rule them with an omnipotent police.” 

Hedges writes that the last decade has seen a steady erosion of civil liberties in the United States:

Under a series of Supreme Court rulings we have lost the rights to protect ourselves from random searches, home invasions, warrantless wiretapping and eavesdropping and physical abuse. Police units in poor neighborhoods function as armed gangs. The pressure to meet departmental arrest quotas—the prerequisite for lavish federal aid in the “war on drugs”—results in police routinely seizing people at will and charging them with a laundry list of crimes, often without just cause. Because many of these crimes carry long mandatory sentences it is easy to intimidate defendants into “pleading out” on lesser offenses. The police and the defendants know that the collapsed court system, in which the poor get only a few minutes with a public attorney, means there is little chance the abused can challenge the system. And there is also a large pool of willing informants who, to reduce their own sentences, will tell a court anything demanded of them by the police.

And, if you were thinking it's only happening in the United States, think again -- of the G20 summit and Sammy Yatim.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Dystopian Future

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley envisioned nightmarish worlds, which were the result of 20th century trends. Now American economist Tyler Cowan has produced a vision of the dystopian world of work in this century. Richard Reeves writes:

It might be called "Brave New World 3.0."—a new projection of a world of machine-driven alphas and lesser beings, from betas to epsilons. The book is a smart and cruel projection of the world Cowen sees coming. In fact, he thinks it is already here.

It's not a vision which should make anyone comfortable:

What will that work be like? What obligations and rights will employers and have employees have? Or what do the wealthy and accomplished alphas owe to everybody else and vice versa?

"Workers," he writes, "more and more will come to be classified in two categories. The key questions will be, Are you good at working with intelligent machines or not? Are your skills a complement to the skills of the computer, or is the computer doing better without you? Worst of all, are you competing against the computer? Are the computers helping people in China and India compete against you?"

Cowen dutifully recounts the statistics that describe work and compensation in our society: high school and college graduates, including those with master’s degrees, are earning from 5 to 20 percent less in constant dollars than they did only 10 years ago. That is, if they can find work. Then he goes on to guess how much worse it will get.
He writes of a "hyper-meritocracy," in which those who can interface with the magical machines of our time—today’s iPhone is more powerful than the world’s largest computers were in 1985—will be quickly and fabulously rich and useful. That would be, he estimates, 10 to 15 percent of the population. The other 85 percent will find some servant-like work making the high-earners feel better about themselves—masseurs, chefs, drivers, gardeners, whatever.

If it all seems far fetched, consider the job market which young workers face. CNBC reported in 2010 that:

 Global youth unemployment has hit a record high following the financial crisis and is likely to get worse later this year, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said Thursday.

 The report from the ILO says 81 million out of 630 million 15-24 year olds where unemployed at the end of 2009, some 7.8 million more than at the end of 2007.

The ILO warned these trends will have "significant consequences for young people as upcoming cohorts of new entrants join the ranks of the already unemployed."

Cowan  predicts that:

The values of the wealthy class will become more influential. It is their values that will shape public discourse. We’ll pay for as much of a welfare state as we can afford to, and then no more.

Keep that in mind the next time Stephen Harper tells you that he will bravely lead you into the future.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The New Charge Of The Light Brigade

For the last decade, Stephen Harper has been pitching the idea that he and his party -- which has changed its name three times -- have given this country economic stability. But, despite the re-branding, Tim Harper wrote this week that the numbers tell a different story:

In Harper’s Canada, more than four in 10 of us live paycheque to paycheque.

Almost half of us over 50 have barely one-quarter of what we will need for our retirement.

In Harper’s Canada, wealth is the domain of middle-aged white men, but if you are a visible minority or an aboriginal working full time you are earning well below the national median income.

We’re working longer — four in 10 of us are still working at age 66.

One in four of us who own homes are paying more than 30 per cent of our income to keep them, a debt level that many will find unsustainable.
In the absence of a national post-secondary education strategy, university tuitions will triple in a generation, soaring to new levels, saddling our graduates with more debt and forcing Ottawa to forgive more student loans.

No one should be surprised. The same thing has been happening in the United States -- and for a longer period of time. Joseph Stiglitz, in The Price of Inequality, has exposed the economic balderdash behind the phenomenon.

Yet Harper is not a man to be swayed by facts. And -- what is even more surprising -- as a man who claims to be an economist, he pays no attention to statistics. Yet he insists that he knows what he's doing.

It's the 21st century version of The Charge of the Light Brigade

Friday, September 13, 2013

Remember The Robocalls?

The robocalls investigation continues at a snail's pace. Perhaps that's because, as Laura Stone reported this week, Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton has been sitting in on the Elections Canada interviews.  But Hamilton was representing the Conservative Party, not the interviewees.

According to excerpts of interviews, Hamilton at times took charge of the interrogation, telling witnesses what to say and speaking for them.

“You’ve spoken to your parents as well about this,” Hamilton says to one witness.

“Yeah,” the witness says.

“Go ahead, type. Yeah. His parents live in Saskatchewan,” Hamilton replies.

True to form, the Conservatives tell their people what to say. But, Lawrence Martin wonders if it's more than that:

In the view of Steven Shrybman, who represented the Council of Canadians in their robocalls case last year, “it’s very curious because he wasn’t representing the person being interviewed. I assume then that he could only have been present with the consent of both Elections Canada and the interviewee.

“It would be interesting to know why either would have agreed, given the obvious potential conflict of interest between the Conservative party and those being interviewed.”

Given Hamilton's past work for the party, it smells of obstruction:

On the robocalls controversy it has become clear that Arthur Hamilton is the Conservatives’ heavy-hitter. In the days before the vote in the 2011 election, Elections Canada officials were getting a slew of complaints from voters, as internal emails have shown, about misleading phone calls. Officials went to the party and were referred to Hamilton who, after a day’s wait, got back to say the party was contacting voters because some polling stations had been changed and the party wanted to make sure all was right.

Later, it was revealed that Elections Canada had asked parties not to contact voters about polling station changes, that only a tiny percentage had in fact been changed and that many of the Tory calls, curiously enough, were going to non-Conservative supporters.

You can bet that, if the Mike Duffy-Nigel Wright case gets to court, Hamilton will be there.  But the word on the street is that Hamilton won't be able to shut Duffy up.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

They've Come A Long Way, Baby

Tommy Douglas and David Lewis wouldn't recognize today's New Democratic Party. If you want to take the measure of how much the party has changed, start with economic policy. On that score, Tom Walkom writes, Thomas Mulcair and Stephen Harper aren't that different:

So how would a Mulcair government act? If the NDP leader’s comments are any indication, the answer to that question is: very, very cautiously.
First, he has rejected most tax increases. As he told the Bloomberg news service in March, an NDP government would not raise income taxes on the rich. Nor would it boost the federal portion of the HST.

Marginal tax rates on the well-to-do, he said are already too high.

However, Mulcair has left open the possibility of hiking corporate taxes. He says he would use any money raised there to fight poverty and bring back down to 65 the age at which Canadians can receive Old Age Security pensions.

But, perhaps most tellingly, Mulcair has bought into the austerity myth:

As part of its effort to appear fiscally responsible, the NDP has been promoting balanced budgets since Jack Layton was leader. What isn’t clear is the time frame involved. Harper has pledged to balance the books by 2015. Mulcair hasn’t yet committed himself to a zero-deficit date.
But at the same time, he hasn’t attacked the Conservatives for being too hasty in eliminating the fiscal shortfall. Rather, he criticizes them for bad management — for spending too much on the wrong things.

And, like Mr. Harper, Mulcair  wants to do big oil's bidding:

When he first became NDP leader, the former Quebec environment minister talked a lot about sustainable development. In particular, he talked of the need for Alberta tarsands operators to pay for the damage they are wreaking on the environment.
It was a reasonable position, but one that Mulcair doesn’t raise quite as much any more. Rather he talks of enforcing existing environmental standards. And he has promised the oil industry that an NDP government would be a reliable “partner” in developing the energy sector.

Under Mr. Mulcair, the New Democratic Party has ceased to be Canada's conscience and become a player:

Trade. Oil. Fiscal probity. If this sounds like a fairly conservative economic platform, that’s because it is.

 Mr. Douglas and Mr. Lewis would not be happy.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Our Darker Angels

Now that the Quebec Charter of  Values has been officially unveiled, it's clear that Pauline Marois and her party are appealing to an old strain in Quebec life -- fear of those who aren't like nous autres. It was there in Abbe Groulx's anti-Semitism. It was there when Paul Larose and his confreres kidnapped James Cross. In fact, in Quebec, fear of the other is nothing new.

But, by targeting the clothes and the religious symbols people wear, Marois is making it easy to identify "the other" -- thus, making them targets of hatred. Tasha Kheiriddin notes that Marois links multiculturalism with terrorism:

She extolled France’s policy of state secularism while lamenting that “in England, they’re smashing each other in the face and throwing bombs because of multiculturalism and nobody knowing any more who they are in that society.”

And Kheiriddin reminds her readers that:

Marois also seems to have forgotten another piece of history. Most of the people throwing bombs in this country in the last fifty years have not been “multicultural” terrorists, but Quebec separatists. In the late 1960s, the Front de Libération du Québec targeted English-owned businesses, Canadian institutions (including the post office), as well the Montreal Stock Exchange, where an explosion injured 27 people in 1969. In over 160 attacks, eight people were killed, including Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte, murdered during a kidnapping. As recently as 2001, three Second Cup cafes in Montreal were firebombed by persons associated with the FLQ and the “Brigade de Défense du Québec”.

When the elected leaders of a society stoke the fires of fear, that society is on the brink of truly nasty behaviour. That is what comes of appealing to our darker angels.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Playing Into His Hands

A lot can happen before the next election. But, Andrew Coyne writes, public perceptions of the opposition leaders are beginning to solidify. Justin Trudeau has had a good summer:

The Liberals continued to draft in the jetstream of their leader, Justin Trudeau, who demonstrated at several points his effortless ability to command the media’s attention, as few opposition leaders can. Yes, in part this is mere celebrity fascination — dynastic politics at its shallowest — but in part it is owing to the personal qualities that a life in the public eye seem to have instilled in Trudeau.

What the public seems to be taking away from these repeated episodes is that he is unafraid: unafraid to be candid with them, unafraid to let people see who he is. Polls show him leading his rivals in the “trust” category, an advantage that would seem only to have been strengthened by his late summer admission that he smoked marijuana as an MP.

Tom Mulcair, on the other hand, has had a difficult summer:

What a contrast has been the performance of Tom Mulcair as leader of the NDP. Both face the burden, as opposition leaders, of resolving doubts about themselves and their parties: but where Trudeau is unguarded and transparent, Mulcair has been cautious, often to the point of inertia.

Rather than tell us what he would do — abolishing the Senate to one side — Mulcair seems more concerned with telling us what he would not do: not raise taxes, not legalize pot, and so forth. Where Trudeau was forthright in denouncing the Quebec charter, Mulcair has said little. On the other hand, his response to the Lac Mégantic disaster was so over the top that it attracted criticism that might otherwise have been directed at the government.

Mulcair is a much more seasoned politician than Trudeau the Younger. But, in a strange way, he finds himself in the same position as Robert Stanfield when he faced off against Trudeau the Elder. Perhaps that is why the NDP plans to run attack ads against Trudeau:

Part of the B.C. NDP’s problem, Mulcair said, was an early decision to run an exclusively positive campaign. “Anytime they talked about their adversary, they were told, well, you’re not being positive,” he said.

“There is a big difference in saying you’re not going to attack somebody personally and saying that you are not going to have a robust debate about the differences between your policy and the history of the other party,” Mulcair said.

Needless to say, there is an inherent danger in that strategy. If the next election is about the Liberals and the NDP beating each other up, both parties will play into Stephen Harper's hands. Despite all of his troubles, Mr. Harper must be smiling.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Harper Unleashes The Dogs Of War

Stephen Harper is stocking his office with fanatical loyalists and delivering red meat speeches about the "dangerous" opposition. Clearly he is preparing to go to war -- not in Syria, but at home. And that tells you a lot about the man. He does not see that he is the author of his own folly.

Lawrence Martin wrote back in May that "serial breaches of trust will doom the Harper machine." The Wright-Duffy affair is only the latest in a long list of abuses of power:

Much has been written about their odious record on ethics and abuse of power. But there’s a common thread to the narrative that is more offensive. At almost every turn you can find attempts by them to subvert the system to their advantage. The real scandal here isn’t excessive expenditures by Senate members — though given the involvement of the Prime Minister’s Office, it is serious enough. The real story is serial violations of the public trust. These Conservatives haven’t just breached it, as one MP said this week. “They’ve stomped all over it.”

There are countless examples, some still coming at us. One which did not get the notice it deserves — due to being overshadowed by Duffygate — is the ad campaign the Harper machine has launched for a job grants program that does not yet exist. The ads, running in prime time and costing exorbitant sums, are being paid for with public funds. The program is nowhere near being approved by Parliament, let alone by the provinces.

It’s an outrage right out of ‘fake lake‘ territory. It’s almost in a league with the Tories’ use of civil servants as stand-in stooges for a bogus citizenship ceremony a couple of years back. The full North Korean, as it was called.

Psychologists have a word for it -- projection -- blaming others for your own mistakes. And, to make sure there is no evidence of those mistakes, you make sure there is no paper trail, no documentation to provide clues to wrong doing. It's straight out of Richard Nixon's playbook -- like those edited volumes of what was on the White House tapes. And, when investigators got too close, he simply erased eighteen minutes of tape.

Obviously, Mr. Harper believes that, when the prime minister does it, it's legal. And the best defense is a good offense. Bring on the dogs of war.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Canada's Sonny Corleone

Scott Reid writes in The Ottawa Citizen that the Senate scandal has forced Stephen Harper to give the Prime Minister's Office a makeover. That makeover isn't merely cosmetic:

But the shakeup of his staff in favour of flinty longtime loyalists tells us not only that the prime minister is girding for war in the style of Sonny Corleone. It also provides clues about his inherent instincts as a leader, his gnawing distrust of many fellow Conservatives and even the truth behind that controversial cheque cut to Mike Duffy.

David Orchard wrote recently that Harper didn't engineer a merger with the Progressive Conservatives. He instigated a coup:

Thus came about what PC Senator Lowell Murray referred to as a “coup, similar to what we have seen in some countries, when the constitution is suspended and a new order ratified in a quick plebiscite.” The historic founding party of Canada — the party of Macdonald, Georges-Etienne Cartier, R.B. Bennett and John Diefenbaker, of the national railway, the Canadian Wheat Board, the Bank of Canada, the CBC and the creation of one country from sea to sea — ceased to exist. Its name and colours had been stolen by Mr. Harper and the Reform/Alliance party.

Harper works hard to present a kinder and gentler facade. But the man is neither kind nor gentle. And, when he's under attack -- as he is now, and more vulnerable than he has ever been -- you get a look at what the man is really like. The picture is far from flattering:

The prime minister is behaving like a man betrayed, like a leader who has determined he must re-evaluate who he can and cannot trust within his own coterie. And who has concluded that only those who share the blood oath of his own Reform Party roots are to be clutched close.

Harper's paranoia is now full blown -- just like Sonny Corleone. He might recall that things did not end well for Sonny.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

A Dream Denied

There was a great deal of fanfare a couple of weeks ago, when thousands of people gathered on The Mall to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of The March on Washington. Barack Obama stood where Martin Luther King had stood and declared that the United States was "the greatest nation on earth."

Without a doubt, King would be pleased with Obama's ascension. But Gerry Caplan wonders, in today's Globe and Mail, if King would agree with Obama's assessment of the country:

King had three great objectives: human equality, social justice and peace. But given America’s distance still from anything remotely approaching equality, social justice and peace, you really had to wonder what part of Dr. King’s dream, health care aside, President Obama had actually been working on since becoming president.

Caplan then goes on to flesh out just how far from King's dream America is:

We can be pretty confident that King would have been aghast at the vast inequality that characterizes America today; disconsolate at the thousand ways in which racism still plagues black America; distressed by the neoliberal economic advisers with whom Obama has surrounded himself; startled by the corporate lobbyists who have so much influence in the White House; and shocked that the President’s defence budget is a mind-boggling $660-billion a year. Not to belabour all those killer drones needed for Terror Tuesday or the fact that it’s easier to buy a gun in America these days than it is to vote.

Given King’s passionate opposition to American aggression in Vietnam, we can be pretty sure what he’d have thought of the multiple American aggressions since he was murdered, from Cambodia to Nicaragua to Panama to Afghanistan to Grenada to Iraq. So he might be spinning once more at proposition that a righteous America is somehow entitled to punish the president of Syria for his transgressions.

No, the Baptist preacher would not be happy. America is far from being, "Free at last! Free at last!" The dream has been denied.

Friday, September 06, 2013

It's Still The Economy, Stupid

Justin Trudeau has been talking about pot. Tom Mulcair has been talking about abolishing the Senate. But, Paul Wells writes in Macleans, that talk will not generate votes in the next election. The focus will still be on the economy. The Liberals may think they can remind voters of the Chretien-Martin years, when the nation was running budget surpluses. However,

This is something else that Liberals cannot understand: the notion that most Canadians are no longer properly grateful for the work Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin did to clean up deficits in the 1990s. In fact, a growing number of Canadians, even the ones who don’t smoke a lot of pot, have dim memories of the 1990s or none at all.

This helps explain a Harris-Decima poll from the end of August that inquired about respondents’ opinions of the national political parties. Trudeau’s net favourable impression is way higher than Harper’s and a fair bit higher than NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s. Respondents were likelier to believe Trudeau “shares your values.” He’s having a strong year in the polls. But Harper still has a slight edge over both Trudeau and Mulcair on “judgment,” and on “economic management” it was a blowout: 39 per cent prefer Harper to only 20 per cent for Trudeau and 15 per cent for Mulcair.

Those numbers are a little strange, because a good case can be made that Harperian austerity was exactly not what the Canadian -- or the world  -- economy needed. As for the Senate, talking about abolition is much easier than doing something about it:

Canadians are angry at the Senate right now. That’s not the same as believing any party has the ability, once in power, to do much about it. His Senate tour illustrates a little-noticed difference between Mulcair and his predecessor Jack Layton. Layton came from Toronto city politics. He hadn’t the faintest interest in constitutional tinkering. The NDP stood for abolishing the Senate, as it always had, and Layton never talked about it. Mulcair comes from Quebec provincial politics, where a generation grew up believing that if you have no constitutional scheme to peddle you cannot be serious.

Pot and the Senate will be red herrings by the time the next election rolls around. If Trudeau and Mulcair are to be successful, they will have to convince Canadians that Stephen Harper is not the economic icon he claims to be.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Hope Where Power Is Divorced From Politics

Henry Giroux is one of neo-liberalism's fiercest critics. From McMaster University, he now writes about his native land with incandescent passion. In the United States, Giroux opines, power has become divorced from politics. And the American experience is spreading around the world:

As power is separated from politics, it becomes more reckless, arrogant and death-dealing. No longer viewed as accountable, casino capitalism and its minions turn savage in their pursuit of wealth and the accumulation. All bets are off and everything is fodder for increasing the wealth of the bankers, hedge fund managers and the corporate elite. Ensconced in culture of cruelty, neoliberal power relations have become global, eschewing any sense of responsibility to an ethics of care, justice and spiritual well-being. Responsibility now floats like a polluted cloud signaling a dystopian future - a symbol of both extreme savagery and corporate irresponsibility.

It's hard to be hopeful when the corporate juggernaut has advanced so far. But, Giroux writes:

Hope is not an individual fantasy or a recourse to a romanticized and unrealistic view of the world. On the contrary, it is a subversive force that enables those who care about democracy and its fate to not mistake the difficulty of individual and collective agency with the urgent need to shape it in the interest of the arc of justice and the promise of a democracy to come. In opposition to those who seek to turn hope into a new slogan or punish and dismiss efforts to look beyond the horizon of the given, progressives need to resurrect a language of resistance and possibility, a language in which hope is viewed as both a project and a pedagogical condition for providing a sense of opposition and engaged struggle

Giroux believes that hope is rooted in resistance. There are those who still resist -- and who are, therefore, a cause for hope:

Prophecy, moral witness and civic courage matter more than ever in American society. And we see hits of such practices in the rise of public intellectuals such as Michael Lerner, Stanley Aronowitz, Carol Becker, Angela Davis, Chris Hedges, Amy Goodman, Bill Moyers, Robin D.G. Kelley, Noam Chomsky and too many others to name. We also see the power of collective hope in the increasing resistance by unions, workers and young people to the attack on all things public in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Maine and other states now controlled by right-wing Republican extremists. In this instance, the longing for a more humane society does not collapse into a retreat from the world but emerges out of critical and practical engagements with present policies, institutional formations and everyday practices. Hope in this context does not ignore the worse dimensions of human suffering, exploitation and social relations; on the contrary, it acknowledges the need to sustain the "capacity to see the worst and offer more than that for our consideration."[xiii]

It is true that we live in dark times. But there is reason to hope that we still can, in Tennyson's phrase, "seek a newer world."

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Anti Union Snake Oil

Modern conservatism has been repeating the same balderdash for three decades -- that unions are bad for the economy. The Fraser Institute, predictably, has jumped on the bandwagon. Andrew Jackson writes in The Globe and Mail:

A new study by the Fraser Institute argues that introduction of anti-union “right to work” laws in Canada would boost manufacturing output and jobs. While they are right that these laws, which make dues payments voluntary, severely weaken unions, it is far from evident that unionization comes at the cost of poorer economic performance.

In fact, Jackson writes, some of the Institute's own work undermines its argument:

Ironically, recent work by the Fraser Institute itself suggests no link between higher unionization and poor economic performance. The think tank’s 2012 report on labour markets in Canada and the United States found that all Canadian provinces rank ahead of all U.S. states in terms of union and labour rights, but the 10 provinces rank in the top 21 states and provinces in terms of labour market performance between 2007 and 2011. (The index is based on job growth, unemployment and productivity growth.)

Evidence from the United States -- where there has been a concerted push to enact "right to work" laws -- suggests that  discouraging unions suppresses economic growth:

 In fact, North Carolina – which has the lowest unionization rate in the United States at just 4.1 per cent – lost a third of its manufacturing jobs over the past decade. But Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which have significant high-tech industries, have unionization rates well above the American average. Firms seeking very low wages are more likely to move to developing countries than “right-to-work states.”

And a recent study by the World Bank discovered the same thing. More importantly, the same study argues that suppressing unions increases economic inequality:

A major World Bank study found no relationship between the rate of unionization and national economic or employment performance: “Union density per se has a very weak association, or perhaps no association, with economic performance indicators such as the unemployment rate, inflation, the employment rate, real compensation growth, labour supply, adjustment speed to wage shocks, real wage flexibility, and labour and total factor productivity. There is, however, one significant exception: Union density correlates negatively with labour earnings inequality.”

Conservatives have been selling economic snake oil for a long time. The evidence is in. What they say simply isn't true.


Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Buyer's Remorse

Even as Stephen Harper repeats his mantra that he knows best how to manage the economy, the ground is shifting under his feet. The Hill Times reports that:

The Conservatives are bleeding support from older voters, Ontarians and ethnic Canadians who helped the party win a majority government in 2011, say pollsters, noting Liberals are the ones gaining.

“The Liberals, no matter what the poll is, are still leading among older voters. The Conservatives have banked on these older voters, where law and order and economic stability are the most important issues, but in recent polls we’ve seen that the Liberal lead is just as strong among 30 year olds as it is among 60 year olds,” Eric Grénier, a polling expert who blogs at, told The Hill Times. “That’s great for the Liberals because those are the people who turn out.”

According to Mr. Grénier’s aggregate of recent federal polls, the Liberal Party currently has 36 per cent support across the country, while the Tories and NDP sit at 30 and 23 per cent, respectively. Last week the site pegged support for the Liberals at 39.4 per cent in Ontario—five points ahead of the Conservatives and nearly 20 points ahead of the NDP.

 Ontario, which handed Mr. Harper his majority, is turning its back on its native son:

The Forum Research poll, accurate to within three percentage points, shows that in Ontario, where the Conservatives took 44 per cent of the popular vote and 73 of the province’s 106 seats in 2011, the federal Liberals are now polling at 43 per cent support, while the Conservatives are at 34 per cent and the NDP is a distant third at 17 per cent.

The Liberals also beat out the Conservatives and the NDP among voters aged 35 to 44, 45 to 54, and 55 to 64 by double-digit margins in the recent Forum survey. Among voters older than 65, the Conservatives were the party of choice with 36 per cent support, with the Liberals trailing by two percentage points.

The Conservatives are also losing support among ethnic Canadians who helped the party win 32 of 47 seats in the GTA in 2011, the Forum Research poll shows. Exit polls from 2011 put support for the Tories at 42 per cent among ethnic voters, but the recent Forum Poll put the party’s support among ethnic Canadians at 38 per cent, while ethnic support for the Liberals was at 36 per cent. Support for the NDP among ethnic Canadians was at 15 per cent.

Overall, the Forum poll put national support for the Liberals at 38 per cent, with the Conservatives and NDP polling at 29 and 22 per cent, respectively. Another poll conducted by Nanos Research Aug. 12 to 19 with 2,000 Canadians had the Liberals and Conservatives closer at 35.3 per cent and 31.9 per cent, respectively, with the NDP polling at 22.8 per cent. The Nanos poll is accurate to within 2.2 percentage points.

A lot could change in two years. The Liberals could stumble badly. But the damage keeps piling up. The Senate debacle is only the latest mess the prime minister has created. Canadians have finally cottoned on to the notion that Stephen Harper isn't who he says he is -- and they're having buyer's remorse.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Memory Serves

A generation has passed since Sally Field won an Oscar for her performance in Norma Rae. Most people have forgotten the film. They have forgotten the battles auto workers waged against Henry Ford. The have forgotten the Asbestos Strike of 1949, and the battles miners waged against the Quebec Provincial Police and Maurice Duplessis.

They have forgotten the forty hour work week, vacation pay, child labour laws and -- if Tim Hudak gets his way -- they will forget  the Rand Formula.

In Stephen Harper's Canada, strikes are outlawed before they begin.

Our economy collapsed because we ignored the service of working men and women. Today memory should serve them.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

The Arctic Shadow

Michael Byers, the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia, writes that during his recent Arctic Tour Stephen Harper tried to look like Vladimir Putin:

Photos showed Harper standing awkwardly in front of a campfire made of logs that must have been flown in specially, because the camp was 800 kilometres north of the tree line. Putin would have killed a seal with his bare hands and ignited its oil by striking a rock against his teeth.

Harper’s rifle was one of the 65-year-old relics used by the Canadian Rangers, relics that Harper once promised and then failed to replace. Putin does his target shooting with a Kalashnikov. Just for fun, he hunts Siberian tigers with a tranquilizer gun.
Harper, bundled up like a toddler at the rink, went for a ride in a motorboat. Putin swims naked in Arctic lakes.

His Northern Trek was an attempt to project Canadian power and abundance. Unfortunately, he projected neither:

Harper just announced $5.6 million to build a centre for mining innovation in Whitehorse. In the Arctic, $5.6 million buys you a website, some letterhead and antifreeze for the truck. Putin funds the Sobolev Institute of Geology and Mineralogy in Novosibirsk, which employs 700 scientists and technicians.

The prime minister desperately wants to play with the big kids. But he winds up looking like a pre-schooler peering through the chain link fence as the other kids enjoy the playground.

He is The Arctic Shadow.