Monday, April 30, 2018

The Wealth Cult

Dan Leger writes that, for quite awhile, we have been worshipping at the Altar of Wealth. That worship has been misplaced:

I do admire wealthy people who get there from personal brilliance, creativity and hard work. Kudos to them. But as to envying their bank accounts, what’s the point? The rich and famous get more than enough from society already. They don’t need my admiration, too.
However, the rich do seem to expect admiration as part of their overall entitlement package. It’s how they cement their status as rulers, supported by layers of tax-paying underclasses.
The wealthiest Canadians have been steadily increasing their share of the national wealth since the 1990s and now control much more than ever before. As the rich got vastly richer, the wealth of middle-class and lower-class Canadians barely increased in real terms and the poverty rate remained static.
This is no accident. The fortunate few prosper by influencing public policy to their advantage.

The wealthy have captured our political system. And the story of what has happened south of the border should serve as a cautionary tale:

That is precisely what is happening now. The Donald Trump phenomenon in the U.S. demonstrates both the causes and the effects of this persistent trend. The predatory classes, people like Trump, enrich themselves at cost to literally everyone else.
The lobbyist-laden Trump administration is deregulating consumer protections, downgrading environmental safeguards and undermining labour standards. Then Trump tells gullible Americans it’s good for them.
The result, as the OECD predicted, has been resentment, race-based populism and protectionism, or as Trump calls it, “America First.”

In the end, there is no communicating across the divide. And, when that happens, a nation becomes self destructive.

Image: Quora

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Ford's Definition Of Change

Doug Ford became the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party by forming an alliance with Tanya Granic Allen. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

Homophobia. Islamophobia. Anti-abortion hysteria and harassment. Demonizing gay marriage.
Lord knows, and Ford knows, the camp of Granic Allen — an anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-Muslim, burka-baiting candidate — put him over the top in last month’s leadership vote. No Tanya, no Tory leadership triumph.
When Tanya speaks, Doug listens — as he did during the party’s leadership debates by enthusiastically endorsing her demands to “repeal” the sex-ed curriculum (and embracing her vows to rip out all wind turbines in the province).
When the kingmaker demands a seat at the table, the king makes way — allowing her to seek the party nomination in Mississauga Centre, then sending warm good wishes after her victory last weekend. Far from barring her as an outlier, Ford blessed his comrade in arms and partner in populism.

Who is Granic Allen?

She told Sun News in 2013, a decade after Ontario legalized same-sex marriage, that it was the “demise of society.” And yet society has survived.
She speaks of an “abortion holocaust,” comparing the founder of Planned Parenthood to the fomenter of the Holocaust, Adolf Hitler, according to the National Post.
In 2014, she retweeted an image of mayoral candidate Olivia Chow caricatured as the founder of Communist China, Mao Zedong, with a caption referring to socialist “parasites.”
In a 2013 blog, she mused, “The niqab and burka … are masks which cover the face. I don’t believe people should dress like ninjas … bank robbers.”

They both deal in vulgarities:

To be clear, Ford hasn’t publicly uttered all the words spoken by Granic Allen, notwithstanding his record of vulgarisms when denigrating people who annoyed or challenged him (calling a female reporter a “little bitch,” or complaining a home for autistic teens had “ruined” the community). The so-called straight shooter has played a double game of first embracing Granic Allen, and only later distancing himself — but never denouncing her hateful words.

Ford says she's going to bring change to Ontario. It's pretty clear -- to anyone who is only half concious -- what kind of change that will be.

Image: The Toronto Star

Saturday, April 28, 2018

With Each Generation

This week's van attack in Toronto is a reminder that misogyny and hate in general are alive and well in the 21st century. Jonathan Freedland writes:

By a quirk of the calendar, April 2018 brought a double anniversary in the history of race relations in this country: 50 years since Enoch Powell delivered his “rivers of blood” speech, and 25 years since the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Implied in much of the commemoration of these two events has been a note of self-congratulation: look how far we’ve come.

But, more and more, it looks like we haven't come very far:

This month brought news of a survey finding that two-thirds of US millennials could not say what Auschwitz is, while 22% of that same age group had not heard of the Holocaust. Maybe education on this subject is better in Britain, but it was still possible for two Holocaust deniers to be adopted as Labour candidates for next week’s council elections, while the Conservatives nominated a man who once tweeted that he was “sweating like a Jew in an attic”. And it was possible for a supposedly humorous video, in which a would-be comedian repeats the phrase “gas the Jews” 24 times, to go viral.
In other words, the memory of the Holocaust is not secure, just as what seemed to be long-ago battles over racism and sexism have not been won. There is an amnesia abroad that is troubling, as if lessons we thought we had learned need to be relearned all over again. Perhaps each generation has to do it itself, itself from scratch. Maybe we should take no knowledge, no insight, for granted. Older generations, for example, might think it obvious, given the 20th century, that European nations need to cooperate rather than compete if we are to avoid mass slaughter and bloodshed. However, it seems even that is not obvious, but rather needs to be taught anew.
It is an especially dispiriting thought for progressives, who, as the name implies, want to believe in progress. But perhaps this is our fate. Like Sisyphus, we must roll the boulder to the top of the hill, only to watch as it rolls all the way down – then gird ourselves to push it all the way up again.

It appears that -- despite Barack Obama's fervent hope -- no lessons are ever learned for good. They must be re-learned with each generation.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Ignorance Still Rules the Roost

Albertans -- a good number of them anyway -- are making a lot of noise about the University of Alberta's decision to award David Suzuki an honorary degree. One of the loudest opponents of the university's decision is Conservative MP Matt Jeneroux. Michael Harris writes:

If more proof were needed that the Conservative Party of Canada has missed the boat on the most pressing issue of our times, it was recently supplied by Alberta MP Matt Jeneroux.
Consider the magnitude of Jeneroux’s stupidity and self-serving impudence. The university is not honouring Suzuki because of his stand on a single issue that is currently lighting up the news cycle. It’s giving him an honorary doctorate for a lifetime’s body of work in educating a popular audience about science. Suzuki has taken the arcane and made it approachable for millions of CBC viewers, surely one of the great triumphs of public television.
Besides the logical disconnect in Jeneroux’s irksome request of the university, there is another issue. What business does a federal MP have in trying to direct the decisions of an independent institution of higher learning?

Jeneroux's objection is yet another sign of modern conservatism's contempt for education. And Jeneroux is not alone:

This MP’s political blackmail of the University of Alberta is being matched by corporate blackmail touching the issue of financial contributions to the institution. It is nothing more than a naked manifestation of the power of the oil patch in Alberta, and now federal politics.
Donors like Moodys Gartner Tax Law are pulling their substantial contributions to the university because their clients are in the oil and gas industry. They say they are going to take their money and “make it speak” someplace else — whatever that may mean.
Dennis Erker has put it all on the barrel head. If the university doesn’t rescind Suzuki’s doctorate, the semi-retired Alberta businessman will end his fundraising and contributions to the university. Erker told the Edmonton Journal that the school could lose up to 50 per cent of its financial donations over an honorary doctorate conferred on the wrong person.

This is happening while the Chinese are "adding a 'London-sized' electric bus fleet every five weeks. That will displace 279,000 barrels of oil a day in 2018 alone."  And Toronto is currently deciding which of three types of electric buses it will use in the city.

Ignorance still rules the roost.

Image: Ottawa International Writers Festival

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Not Believed, Not Trusted

Donald Trump has a cluttered and chaotic brain. Nowhere is the chaos more evident than on the question of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran. On the one hand, Trump wants to do a deal with Kin Jung Un. On the other, he wants to tear up the agreement with Iran. Jonathan Manthorpe writes:

Trump foresees — fantasises might be more accurate — that when he meets Kim in May or June “we have a chance of doing something very special with respect to North Korea. Good for them, good for us, good for everybody.” Trump was blue-skying about Kim after a meeting with Emmanuel Macron. The French President had travelled to Washington on behalf of much of Europe to try to deter Trump from junking the 2015 multi-national agreement by which Iran agreed to end its nuclear development program.

However, on Iran "Trump re-iterated on Tuesday that he considers the deal 'insane' and 'ridiculous,' and that 'it should never have been made.'"

His quarrel with the deal is not clear. He has never moved from bluster to detail. This leaves the inference that the problem is that the agreement was made by President Barack Obama, and a central mission of the Trump regime is to destroy all vestiges of the Obama administration.

In fact, when you look at everything Trump has tried to accomplish -- ending healthcare, deporting DACA recipients -- the motive seems pretty clear. Like the reports of the "golden showers," Trump wants to get rid of any vestiges of Obama -- including the bed he slept in when he visited Moscow.

But anyone who deals with Trump -- including Emmanuel Macron -- understands that Trump is a nutjob. In Washington this week, Macron laboured hard to save the Iran Deal and the Paris Climate Accord. Trump gave him no assurances.

Surely, Macron must know that Trump can't be trusted -- because he can't be believed.

Image: CBS News

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Some People Haven't Done Their Homework

If Justin Trudeau is to be believed, the Canadian government is going to take an equity stake in Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline. Andrew Nikiforuk suggests that we should take a good look at Kinder-Morgan's history and balance sheet before making any such investment:

Kinder Morgan, which runs what founder and Texas billionaire Richard Kinder calls an “unsexy, dirty business,” started off as an offshoot of the U.S. corporate giant Enron in 1996. That’s when a pair of senior Enron executives, Richard Kinder and Bill Morgan, joined up to purchase a couple of pipelines from Enron. Kinder and Morgan parlayed that investment into a North American pipeline empire while Enron collapsed in a spectacular fraud scandal in 2001.
To this day Kinder rarely speaks about the Enron scandal even though Kinder Morgan’s senior management team includes many prominent Enron executives, including Jordan Mintz and Steve Kean.

Kinder-Morgan's balance sheet looks about as healthy as Enron's:

The company has been in the financial doldrums for years due to poor earnings (the smallest dividend yields in the industry) and high debt.
Originally structured as a master limited partnership, which doesn’t pay corporate taxes, the company restructured in 2014 and became a corporation. In recent years master limited partnerships have been big money losers “as the energy crash has exposed earlier excesses in terms of leverage and bad investments,” explained a recent article in Bloomberg.
Due to high debt levels ($37 billion, or nearly a third of the value of the company) and low oil prices, the company has lost half of its stock value since 2015. Analysts credit the company’s poor stock performance to “poor business execution and way too much debt.”

On top of that, the company's legal and environmental record is appalling:

Kinder Morgan has a long and detailed record of violating both environmental and financial laws resulting in penalties of $162 million since 2000 in the United States. Key offences include environmental violations ($119 million) such as pipeline spills and explosions, energy market manipulation ($20 million fine), pipeline safety violations and repeated labour violations. In 2011 the U.S. Department of Labor sued Kinder Morgan for underpaying nearly 4,600 workers for overtime for at least two years. The company resolved the lawsuit by paying out $830,000 in back wages.

And we're thinking of investing billions in this white elephant? Some people haven't done their homework.

Image: Last Real Indians

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

We Don't Need No Education

That's the title of Paul Krugman's column in this morning's New York Times. This spring, in several states, teachers strikes are springing up like dandelions. Krugman explains what's been happening:

So what happens when hard-line conservatives take over a state, as they did in much of the country after the 2010 Tea Party wave? They almost invariably push through big tax cuts. Usually these tax cuts are sold with the promise that lower taxes will provide a huge boost to the state economy.
This promise is, however, never — and I mean never — fulfilled; the right’s continuing belief in the magical payoff from tax cuts represents the triumph of ideology over overwhelming negative evidence.
For a great majority of states are required by law to balance their budgets. This means that when tax receipts plunge, the conservatives running many states can’t do what Trump and his allies in Congress are doing at the federal level — simply let the budget deficit balloon. Instead, they have to cut spending.
How, after all, can governments save money on education? They can reduce the number of teachers, but that means larger class sizes, which will outrage parents. They can and have cut programs for students with special needs, but cruelty aside, that can only save a bit of money at the margin. The same is true of cost-saving measures like neglecting school maintenance and scrimping on school supplies to the point that many teachers end up supplementing inadequate school budgets out of their own pockets.
At the national level, earnings of public-school teachers have fallen behind inflation since the mid-1990s, and have fallen even more behind the earnings of comparable workers. At this point, teachers earn 23 percent less than other college graduates. But this national average is a bit deceptive: Teacher pay is actually up in some big states like New York and California, but it’s way down in a number of right-leaning states.

Ontario, during the Mike Harris years, lived through the same phenomena. My family and I lived through two strikes. Harris was himself a failed teacher and his Minister of Education was a high school drop out. I suspect that, if Doug Ford is elected premier, history will repeat itself. Mr. Ford and his brother Rob are and were not noted for their stellar educations.

I have an obvious bias on this issue. But it seems clear -- at least to me -- that when the uneducated attain power, education is not a priority.

Image: The Tyee

Monday, April 23, 2018


The Liberal convention in Halifax left Michael Harris underwhelmed. That word also describes Harris evaluation of Justin Trudeau. He does give Trudeau credit for accomplishing a few important things:

There were definitely some things to boast about. Probably the most difficult piece of legislation passed by the government was its death with dignity provisions. Trudeau and the Liberals navigated this emotional minefield with grace and courage.
The Liberals have also clearly improved the Canada Pension Plan and the Child Tax Credit to the benefit of a lot of Canadians. And Justin did vanquish Stephen Harper, as millions of Canadians who cast a strategic vote for him, had hoped he would. All real accomplishments calling for a deep bow.

Justin admitted at the convention that he and his party weren't perfect. That admission set Harris off on a tirade:

Not being perfect doesn’t quite explain the sophomoric self-indulgence of holidaying on the private island of the billionaire Aga Khan while posing as the champion of the middle class.
Not being perfect is a long way from being perfidious. Where is the personally promised electoral reform offered during the 2015 election? Gone, but not forgotten.

But it's Trudeau's broken promises on the environment which particularly irk Harris:

Trudeau broke his promise that Harper-era environmental assessments for energy projects would be replaced by valid, scientific approvals, or there would be no federal permits.
Instead, he issued permits for B.C.’s ruinous Site C dam, which has just been plagued by another landslide, and the ill-starred Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
The prime minister has openly contradicted his passionate commitment to fighting the “politics of fear and division” by fomenting those very things over Kinder Morgan’s dubious pipeline expansion through British Columbia.
He has done that by teaming up with Alberta and the national business lobby to bludgeon B.C. into dropping its environmentally justified opposition to the transportation of noxious substances (diluted bitumen) across its land and waterways.

Perhaps it is that fate of all politicians not to live up to their hype. At the moment, the opposition parties are weak. But should they find their feet, Justin may have a hard time explaining the gap between promise and performance.

Image: The Chronicle Herald

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ontario And The Rest Of Canada

The Liberals held a convention in Halifax this week. Policy ideas -- like legalizing sex work -- were discussed. But, Susan Delacourt writes, if you want to know what policies the Liberals are considering for the next election, look to the Ontario election on June 7th:

Basic income and pharmacare were big topics on Parliament Hill this week, not because the Halifax convention is looming, but because those ideas are being tested right now by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government at Queen’s Park.
The parliamentary budget officer issued his price tag for an Ontario-style basic income all over Canada ($76 billion a year) on Tuesday. The next day, the Commons health committee issued its report on a national pharmacare program (also potentially expensive).
In a matter of weeks, all of Ontario will be plunged into a provincial election in which these pharmacare, basic income and other big policy ideas are going to be an important part of the debate. You can bet that the Ontario election will be a far bigger topic of conversation in the corridors at Halifax than the resolutions on the convention floor.
Chances are, the prime minister and his fellow Liberals are very keen to see how their provincial cousins, and their ideas, are going to fare in the coming Ontario election.

So what happens in  Ontario will find its way onto the national stage. And things are already turning nasty here.

Something to think about.

Image: Liberal Party of Canada

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Don't Believe It

California Governor Jerry Brown visited Ontario this week. He's worried that the province will back track on its promise to fight climate change. Tom Walkom writes:

The governor has harnessed his power as a populist-environmentalist to lead the crusade against global warming — by pushing back against the climate-denier-in-chief in the White House. But he fears Donald Trump’s thinking is contaminating Ontario, just as the poison of carbon infects the province.
“It would be a tragedy if Ontario attempts to go backward,” Brown warns in an interview.
There is an obligation to “reduce carbon poison in the economy of Canada and the economy of the world — we’re all in it together,” he tells me, after inviting me to hop in his car for the ride to the legislature where he will meet Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell (herself an expert on global warming).
“Time is a-wasting.”

That was the message he wanted to deliver to the Ontario Legislature. But he didn't get the chance:

In an unprecedented move, the opposition Progressive Conservatives refused to let Brown address the legislature.
Given that California boasts the world’s sixth largest economy and is a major trading partner at a time of NAFTA upheaval, the snub came as a surprise. Instead of addressing MPPs from all parties, Brown encountered a province poised to vote in a new premier, Doug Ford, who vows to dismantle Ontario’s cap and trade alliance with California and who has suspended his own Progressive Conservative Party’s recent promise of a carbon tax.

Brown knows something about populist politics -- both the good and the bad. Forty years ago he ran for president. He's now in his fourth term as governor of California. In California, they've reached a consensus on climate change:

He wants to get the message out that California is leading the charge against Trump, and that Canadians have joined hands with his state in a linked, market-based cap and trade program to lower greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest possible cost to the private sector. It was a Republican idea, embraced by his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the best way to achieve their bipartisan environmental goals.

Brown understands the existential threat. "“This isn’t for me,” the aging governor likes to say. “I’m going to be dead. It’s for you.”

Doug Ford will tell you that what he's doing, he's doing for you. Don't believe it.

Image: The Toronto Star

Friday, April 20, 2018

Snake Oil Isn't Selling These Days

Paul Krugman writes that, in the United States, snake oil isn't selling like it used to. Exhibit A is Donald Trump's tax cuts. George Bush touted the same snake oil and Americans bought it:

In the past, deficit hypocrisy was an important weapon in the G.O.P. political arsenal. Both parties talked about fiscal responsibility, but only Democrats practiced it, actually paying for policy initiatives like Obamacare. Yet Democrats were punished for doing the right thing — remember “they’re taking $500 billion from Medicare”? — while Republicans seemingly paid no price for their cynicism. Voters focused on the extra money in their pockets, ignoring the long-run consequences of big tax cuts for the rich.

So what's different this time around?

For one thing, in 2000 the U.S. had a budget surplus, and debt had been falling relative to G.D.P., making concerns about long-run fiscal impacts seem remote. In fact, Alan Greenspan infamously argued that a tax cut was needed to keep America from paying off its debt too fast.
By contrast, the U.S. ran large deficits in the aftermath of the financial crisis, and the people who yelled loudest about an imminent debt crisis were the same people who pushed through a $1.5 trillion tax cut. And at least some voters seem to have noticed, and even made the connection between tax cuts and Republican attempts to undermine Medicare and Medicaid.

But there are other differences as well. The party of "family values" is an obvious fraud. And Americans have redefined families:

I mean, claims to be the defenders of family values have lost their punch partly because the public has become far more socially tolerant — Americans now support same-sex marriage by a two-to-one majority! — and partly because the current resident of the White House may be the worst family man in America. Flag-waving claims to be more patriotic than Democrats worked well for Reagan and Bush, but are much more problematic for a G.O.P. that looks more and more like the party of Putin.

Unfortunately, snake oil sales are way up in Ontario. We have yet to learn the lessons Americans are learning.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

An Annual Basic Income

It's noteworthy that Andrew Coyne has come out in support of an Annual Basic Income Program. He admits that present studies are highly speculative. Nonetheless,

the results, speculative as they are, are intriguing. The PBO puts the cost of a nationwide rollout of the Ontario program, guaranteeing every adult of working age a minimum of $16,989 annually ($24,027 for couples), less 50 per cent of earned income — there’d also be a supplement of up to $6,000 for those with a disability — at $76.0 billion.

What would it cost? That, too is highly speculative:

The PBO estimates the cost of current federal support programs for people on low-income (not counting children and the elderly, who already have their own guaranteed income programs) at $33 billion annually. Assuming a federal basic income replaced these leaves a net cost of $43 billion. That’s still a lot — one seventh of current federal spending.

However, there would be savings in other areas:

But suppose we stick with the Ontario model. If implemented, it would replace Ontario Works (social assistance) and the Ontario Disability Support Program. The total savings: about $8 billion. Supposing equivalent savings were achieved in the other provinces — and federal transfers reduced accordingly — that would knock about $20 billion off the national pricetag.

These savings are based on the premise that the provinces would buy into the scheme. And, given provincial turf wars -- currently on display in the Kinder-Morgan standoff -- it's hard to imagine some kind of national unanimity. However, medicare faced the same hurdles.

Something tells me that if Doug Ford becomes the next premier, Ontario's basic income pilot is dead. But it is interesting to see that Conservatives like Hugh Segal and Andrew Coyne have come out in support of a National Basic Income.

Each man, however, is not currently revered in Conservative circles.

Image: SlidePlayer

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Beware The Bot

In the last couple of years, Britain, France and the United States have experienced cyber meddling in their elections. Yet in Canada, Tim Harper writes, "there is a puzzling, laissez-faire approach from our governments, which seem to find comfort in studies that show the remnants of the mainstream media hold greater levels of trust here than their peers in other countries."

There is much we can learn about how to counter what's been going on. Europe has given us some remedies:

All major parties in Germany agreed before last year’s parliamentary elections there that they would not use social media bots and would strongly condemn their use.
They also passed a law providing penalties of up to $60 million for social networking providers who did not quickly take down defamatory or fake news reports.
It worked.
An Oxford University study found only a tiny fraction of social media election traffic came from automated accounts, overwhelmingly from the far right anti-immigration party.
Further, German social media users shared links to professional news sources over junk news sources by a ratio of 4:1, a much higher rate than the researchers found in the U.S. or U.K. elections.

Bots do have their uses:

Indeed, banning them may be going too far because not all bots are evil. Parties can use bots to amplify policy announcements, for example.

But we're fools if we believe they should not be regulated. The manipulators are everywhere. And they think we're stupid.

Image: Quora

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What They're Trying To Do

In the wake of the stand off over the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, Paul Krugman provides some important economic insights:

Not that long ago, calls for a move to wind and solar power were widely perceived as impractical if not hippie-dippy silly. Some of that contempt lingers; my sense is that many politicians and some businesspeople still think of renewable energy as marginal, still imagine that real men burn stuff and serious people focus on good old-fashioned fossil fuels.
But the truth is nearly the opposite, certainly when it comes to electricity generation. Believers in the primacy of fossil fuels, coal in particular, are now technological dead-enders; they, not foolish leftists, are our modern Luddites. Unfortunately, they can still do a lot of damage.
As recently as 2010, it still consistently cost more to generate electricity from sun and wind than from fossil fuels. But that gap has already been eliminated, and this is just the beginning. Widespread use of renewable energy is still a new thing, which means that even without major technological breakthroughs we can expect to see big further cost reductions as industries move “down the learning curve” — that is, find better and cheaper ways to operate as they accumulate experience.
Recently David Roberts at offered a very good example: wind turbines. Windmills have been around for more than a thousand years, and they’ve been used to generate electricity since the late 19th century. But making turbines really efficient requires making them very big and tall — tall enough to exploit the faster, steadier winds that blow at higher altitudes.
And that’s what businesses are learning to do, via a series of incremental improvements — better design, better materials, better locations (offshore is where it’s at). So what we’ll be seeing in a few years will be 850-foot turbines that totally out compete fossil fuels on cost.

In the United States, the fossil fuel industry owns the Republican Party. In Canada, that industry has invested in both the Conservative and Liberal Parties. The smart money knows that it can't stop the transition to renewable energy. But it can slow it down.

And that's exactly what it's trying to do.

Image: National Observer

Monday, April 16, 2018

A Dark Future

Yesterday's meeting between Justin Trudeau, John Horgan and Rachel Notley does not bode well for the future. Michael Harris writes:

Whatever side you take on Kinder Morgan’s plan to triple its pipeline capacity from Alberta through B.C. to tidewater, a bomb is about to go off in Canadian politics.
There will be plenty of shrapnel to go around: Trudeau, Rachel Notley, Jagmeet Singh, John Horgan and a slew of other federal and provincial candidates are all in the blast zone. But the question is who, if anyone, will be fatally wounded?

The leader most damaged by this stand off will be Rachel Notley:

Despite the brave face in Ottawa Sunday, the drowning politician of the group is Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. Facing an election against a united right under Jason Kenney, she is desperately clutching at anything to show that she is the greatest petro-politician Albertans could ever hope to find. In the process, she is making Ralph Klein look like a tree-hugger.
From threatening to cut off British Columbia’s supply of oil, to musing about buying the entire Kinder Morgan project with taxpayer’s money, Notley has jettisoned crucial parts of the NDP’s policy mantra in the name of surviving Kenney’s political resurrection.
There is a reason for Notley’s mania to get Trans Mountain in place now. Simply, there may not be a tomorrow. If, as expected, demand for oil peaks in the next decade because of rapidly falling prices for clean energy options, Alberta could be saddled with vast reserves of unsellable oil. There is a shrinking window of opportunity and Notley is trying to get through it before it closes. In a nutshell, there is more bitumen than there is time to sell it.

Notley finds herself sitting on a resource that will soon be obsolete. She did not greenlight the massive investment in the Tar Sands. It was Klein who spearheaded that operation. Peter Lougheed, with his Harvard MBA, knew that the Tar Sands was a money pit. He refused to stake Alberta's future on bitumen.

But, now that Alberta has made that black goo its lifeblood, the future looks increasingly dark.

Image: Newsroom

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Dante's 21st Century Inferno

Syria, Tom Walkom writes, has become the most dangerous place on  earth. It is now the centre of several intersecting rivalries. Consider what has happened since the war began seven years ago:

The Syrian conflict began seven years ago as a popular rebellion against a dictatorial regime. It soon became a civil war with religious overtones before morphing into a series of proxy wars.
Saudi Arabia and its allies funded Sunni militias (some of them terrorist) fighting Assad. The U.S. tried, with little success, to find moderate rebel groups that it could arm and fund.
Kurdish militias in Syria made deals — first with Assad and later with the U.S. — designed to help them eventually carve out an independent state.
Turkey funded and armed its own militias, in part to maintain influence in a country that historically was part of its empire, in part to counter the Kurds.
Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah intervened on Assad’s side to protect their Shiite co-religionists from the Sunni militias and to expand Tehran’s influence in the region.
Israel intervened to counter Hezbollah and Iran.
The U.S. and its allies, including Canada, eventually intervened directly to fight the extremists known as Daesh, or the Islamic State. Russia intervened directly to prevent the Assad regime from collapsing.

It would be wise for the leader of any country to think carefully before entering such an inferno. But wisdom is not Donald Trump's strong suite. That's why Secretary of Defence James Mattis --  with help from Britain and France -- ordered a very limited and surgical strike last week. In the end, the strike will change nothing. But it will allow some people to salve their consciences. They will tell themselves that they did something.

One really concrete step would be for the international community to stop selling arms to the various factions. Those war wagons we sold to Saudi Arabia sent the wrong message.

Image: Gil John Rodriquez

Saturday, April 14, 2018


The Toronto Star editorializes this morning on the subject of change:

Newness is exciting. Improvement always beckons. The grass, as someone who understood human yearning once noted, usually seems greener elsewhere.

But then the paper turns its sights on Doug Ford:

What are the odds, though, that should a realtor suggest a house a few kilometres away but refuse to show it to us, or if an auto dealer brought a new car to the curb but draped in a tarpaulin, we’d make these changes sight unseen?
For as much as we aspire to do better or have more, we instinctively know that not all change is for the good. Some is. Some isn’t. The details don’t just matter. They make or break the deal.
Which makes it curious why, as consumers of a different product — as voters — we are so easily smitten by campaigning politicians who assure us that not only is it time for change, but that they, by some cosmic authority that conveniently demands no particulars, are the agent of that change.
It’s a tactic on which no political side holds a monopoly. Little is more unchanging, actually, in the 21st century than promises of change from campaigning politicians.

The problem is that the changes Ford promises are vague:

“We’re going to find efficiencies, we’re going to drive efficiencies through lean systems, best practices and technologies,” he told one interviewer. Asked how, he said: “We’re going to start sharing synergies.”

Ontarians have had a year to see how the purchase Americans made fifteen months ago is working out. As the Star suggests, voters in this province should be guided by that time worn axiom: caveat emptor.

Image: SlideShare

Friday, April 13, 2018

Mafioso In The White House

Excerpts from James Comey's book,  A Higher Loyalty, have hit the papers. The Guardian obtained an advance copy from a New York bookseller and has published excerpts from the book. Comey's description of his first meeting with Trump is instructive:

[He] appeared shorter than he seemed on a debate stage with Hillary Clinton. His face appeared slightly orange, with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assume he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coiffed, bright blond hair, which on close inspection looked to be all his. I remember wondering how long it must take him in the morning to get that done.

Here was a man who spent a lot of time in front of a mirror. But the more Comey got to know Trump, the more the president reminded him of characters he had met before:

I had never seen anything like it in the Oval Office. As I found myself thrust into the Trump orbit, I once again was having flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and the truth.”
Of Trump’s now famous demand over dinner at the White House in January 2017, “I need loyalty”, Comey writes: “To my mind, the demand was like Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony – with Trump in the role of the family boss, asking me if I have what it takes to be a ‘made man.

That insight seems to fit when one remembers that Trump's protector was Roy Cohn, who represented New York mafiosos like Tony Salerno, Carmine Galante and John Gotti. Moreover, given recent reporting on how Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen works, the characterization appears to be spot on.

And, because Robert Mueller was the man who finally sent John Gotti to jail, it appears that the folks at the Justice Department know who they're dealing with.

All of this means that Donald The Don will not go easily.

Image: Pinterest

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Republican Insanity

Do you want to know how insane things are in the United States? Tara Golshan reports in Vox that the Republican congress -- which just passed a budget with a $1.5 trillion dollar deficit -- will soon be voting on a balanced budget amendment.

The House is scheduled to vote on a balanced budget amendment Thursday. Though several states require their legislatures to pass a balanced budget every year, the federal government does not have the same requirement. In fact, many economists argue it’s necessary for the federal government to go into debt for the greater good of the economy. Nevertheless, balanced budget amendments are something of a white whale on the right. And many conservatives believe it is the only way to actually enact spending cuts.

Having just approved a colossal deficit, Republicans are now going to declare deficits unconstitutional:

For decades, Republicans have campaigned on cutting federal spending and reducing the national debt. And while there’s an ongoing debate among economists over how big an actual threat the deficit is, Republicans, now in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, have done just the opposite.
The bill the House plans to vote on this Thursday would be one of the first steps in amending the US Constitution to bar the government from spending more than it brings in in federal revenue. Changing the Constitution requires approval from two-thirds of the House and Senate and then it must be passed by two-thirds of state legislatures. Republicans currently hold 32 of 50 state legislatures.

This isn't just Republican insincerity. It's Republican insanity.

Image: Wallpapers

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Law And Wisdom

Tom Walkom writes that, when it comes to the Trans Mountain pipeline, the Trudeau government has the law and the constitution on its side:

The proposed Trans Mountain heavy-oil pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific coast has law, economics and the Constitution on its side.
It has been approved by the National Energy Board and okayed by the federal government which, under the constitution, has the ultimate authority in such matters.
First Nations along the right of way may not all agree. But they have been consulted, which is all that the law demands.
The project would boost Alberta’s economy and, by opening up new energy markets in Asia, reduce Canada’s unhealthy reliance on the U.S.
Barring one thing, it is a no-brainer.

But that one thing is the planet:

While the oilsands accounted for just under 10 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gases in 2014, they are the fastest growing source of carbon emissions in the country.
In climate terms, the most sensible course of action would be to gradually shut the oilsands down. Thanks to the growth of cheaper forms of energy, they are already headed in that direction. It wouldn’t take much of a nudge to finish the job.

Economically, the Tar Sands' days are numbered. When oil was selling for $100 a barrel goo from northern Alberta was pulling in a healthy profit. The break even point for a barrel of bitumen was somewhere in the $70 range. But nobody is making any money when oil is selling for $65 a barrel. And, with new green sources of energy coming on line, that price will go down. That's why -- with an eye to the future -- Royal Dutch Shell sold off its Tar Sands operations several years ago.

Wisdom -- with an eye to the future -- would shut down the pipeline. But the law could keep it going. Sometimes, the law and wisdom are on opposing sides of the argument.

Image: The Economist

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Out Of The Back End

Nothing illustrates the utter hypocrisy of the Republican Party more than the tax cuts which were just passed in the United States. Republicans used to be classical economists. They officially believed in balanced budgets. That changed when Ronald Reagan and both George Bushes assumed the presidency. Jonathan Chait writes:

The official conservative party line during the Reagan era, when Republicans introduced the modern phenomenon of the large structural deficit, was that it was necessary to run the red ink in order to win the Cold War. Then, under George W. Bush, the response to the 9/11 attacks became the new rationale: don’t ya know there’s a war on terror? Notably, and in keeping with the anti-intellectual spirit of the times, conservatives have not even bothered formulating a rationale for increasing the deficit during the peak of an economic expansion. They’re doing it for the same reason they’re undertaking every other abuse of power during the Trump era: because they can.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, there is Republican red ink as far as the eye can see:

CBO now estimates the 2018 deficit will be $242 billion higher than it had estimated last June, before the tax cuts. And the tax cut is the major reason: “Accounting for most of that difference is a $194 billion reduction in projected revenues, mainly because the 2017 tax act is expected to reduce collections of individual and corporate income taxes.”
The deficit is expected to grow to more than 5 percent of gross domestic product. That would make sense if the country was spending to counteract a serious but temporary emergency, like a recession or perhaps a major war. There is no such emergency, though.

When there was an emergency, and Barack Obama ran deficits in response to the Great Recession, the Republican line was that Obama's deficits had put Western Civilization on the edge of oblivion:

Republicans treated deficits of this scale as dangerous portents of civilizational collapse during Barack Obama’s first term, when the economy was recovering from the greatest financial crisis in three-quarters of a century. 

Their theory is simple and the ugliest of lies: When Democrats run deficits it's a sign of their evil intent. When we do it, we're -- as we always have been -- on the side of the angels.

It's the same stuff that comes out of the back end of a cow.


Monday, April 09, 2018

Is History Repeating Itself?

The federal government's plan to deal with climate change is running into stiff head winds -- partly because many Canadians don't believe the science. Andrew Coyne writes:

Fully 40 per cent of Canadians think climate change is either not happening or is due to natural causes, according to a new poll by Abacus Data. Even among the 60 per cent who think it’s real and man-made, there is no consensus on what, if anything, should be done about it.
The picture grows even cloudier when it comes to the particular solution of carbon pricing. Only 42 per cent claimed to have any understanding of the concept; most could not even say whether their own province had such a plan. And while nearly half (46 per cent) thought it was a good idea, versus 22 per cent opposed, this was very much in the abstract, with carbon pricing yet to be implemented over much of the country, and barely begun to be phased in where it has.

Saskatchewan is adamantly opposed to a carbon tax. If Doug Ford wins the election, Ontario will become a big naysayer. And who knows what will happen in Alberta? In the face of the growing backlash, Coyne  makes a straightforward proposal -- raise carbon taxes to a level that will significantly slow fossil fuel consumption while lowering income taxes to make up the difference. That is not what governments have been doing:

Rather than recycle any revenues collected back to the public in the form of cuts in other taxes, moreover, as under B.C.’s pioneering (and successful) carbon tax, they have increasingly used the proceeds to spend on other things, notably the same failed subsidy and regulatory programs carbon taxes were supposed to replace.
Indeed, not only have they kept all the old programs, but they are piling new ones on top, hoping these costlier, but invisible-to-the-public programs will attract less popular wrath than the cheaper but all-too-visible carbon tax. But the failure to tax carbon at a level that will do much good only invites the public to ask why it is being taxed at all. And, equally, it invites the response: as a revenue grab. We have, in short, the worst of both worlds, saddled with programs that won’t work but will cause maximum public aggravation.

Coyne spouts the usual conservative boiler plate -- government programs don't work -- a highly contentious argument. Nonetheless, scientists generally agree that the current carbon tax proposal will do little to stop climate change. If the government established a tax of $200 per ton, and offset that cost with a cut in income taxes, we might reach our climate change goals. Come to think of it, Coyne's proposal sounds a lot like Stephane Dion's Green shift of fifteen years ago. Is history repeating itself?

Image: Radio

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Anything But Dull

Jamie Watt is a Conservative strategist -- one of the gurus who guided Mike Harris' government in Ontario. I generally don't agree with what he has to say. But his take on the upcoming election bears some scrutiny. He writes:

The election is not going to be held today. It is, of course going to be held on June 7 after what I predict will be one of the most ruthless and cut-throat campaigns Ontario has ever seen.
We know that, when asked, about 8 in 10 Ontarians say it is time for a change. What we don’t know yet is exactly what they mean by that and therein lies the rub.
If they mean that after 15 years they have just had enough of the Liberals, then that’s a challenge for the premier. It’s a challenge because it means that the voters are done and, in the process of deciding they want change, they have stopped listening to what the government has on offer. In fact, they no longer care, they simply want something else. Think Mike Harris after Bob Rae. Justin Trudeau after Stephen Harper. Rob Ford after David Miller.
At these times, voters think things have gotten turned upside down; that the tail is wagging the dog, and that massive, even if disruptive, change is needed.

We may, indeed, be at one of those moments. But there is another possibility:

On the other hand, if voters want a change in the way government sets its priorities and delivers services to them, then change can mean a change in policies and programs and not a change in parties. In this case, think Alison Redford after Ed Stelmach. Redford skillfully moved her party to the left, embraced a new and changed Alberta and came back from a 22-point deficit to form a majority government.
And so the stage has been set. With Andrea Horwath inexplicably still on the sidelines, the Liberals and PCs are set for an epic grudge match.

In the end, Watt believes, what will make the difference is the number of people who feel precarious and the number of people who feel left behind:

If they are feeling left behind, that government is not working for them, that special interests have got the upper hand and that the elites are winning at their expense, then that’s advantage Ford.
If, on the other hand, they are feeling precarious, that daily life is getting harder, that enhanced entitlement programs make a difference for them, then that is advantage Wynne.

This election will be anything but dull.


Saturday, April 07, 2018

Perfectly Orwellian

Elizabeth Shogren reports that a recently released report from The National Park Service in the United States has been edited to omit all references to human impacts on climate change:

National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge, contradicting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s vow to Congress that his department is not censoring science.
The research for the first time projects the risks from rising seas and flooding at 118 coastal national park sites, including the National Mall, the original Jamestown settlement, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Originally drafted in the summer of 2016 yet still not released to the public, the National Park Service report is intended to inform officials and the public about how to protect park resources and visitors from climate change.
In changes dated Feb. 6, a park service official crossed out the word “anthropogenic,” the term for people’s impact on nature, in five places. Three references to “human activities” causing climate change also were removed.
The 87-page report, which was written by a University of Colorado Boulder scientist, has been held up for at least 10 months. 
The delay has prevented park managers from having access to the best data in situations such as reacting to hurricane forecasts, safeguarding artifacts from floodwaters or deciding where to locate new buildings.
The omissions reflect a broader crackdown on climate science at federal agencies, including removal of references to human impacts, since President Donald Trump took office. Trump previously called climate change a Chinese hoax, took steps to withdraw from an international agreement to cut greenhouse gases, and moved toward reversing President Barack Obama’s policies to regulate power plant emissions.

The scientific community is outraged:

Critics say the National Park Service’s editing of the report reflects unprecedented political interference in government science at the Interior Department, which oversees the park service. 
Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist and dean of the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability, said the deletions are “shocking from a scientific point of view, but also from a policy point of view.” 
“To remove a very critical part of the scientific understanding is nothing short of political censorship and has no place in science,” he said. “Censorship of this kind is something you’d see in Russia or some totalitarian regime. It has no place in America.”

Currently, Americans are in high dudgeon about Russian disinformation on Facebook. But consider the drivel produced by their own government agencies. It's perfectly Orwellian.

And thereby hangs a tale.

Image: Good Reads

Friday, April 06, 2018

It Will Not Be Pretty

Michael Harris writes that it's approaching high noon in B.C:

This coming Saturday on Burnaby Mountain will be a little like Gary Cooper’s classic western High Noon.
It will be a reckoning with big-time consequences for both the federal government and First Nations in their continued collision over the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
There will be some star power attending the protest of the pipeline expansion that day, including 82-year-old David Suzuki. At noon, “bold action” is planned. That has usually been code for people getting arrested — which 200 of them have already been. The leading man of the show will be one of British Columbia’s most revered Indigenous leaders, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.

Trudeau continues to claim that Canada can mine and ship bitumen while protecting the environment. British Columbians don't believe him:

First Nations people are not the only ones who reject Trudeau’s have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too approach to the conflicting realities of resource development and protection of the environment. The late Farley Mowat told me that a day would come when those two activities would collide, and that big government would always resolve doubts in favour of resource development.
Carl Rosenberg, who lives in the riding of Vancouver Granville, wrote a letter to PM Trudeau on one of the National Days of Action against Kinder Morgan’s project. It reflects Mowat’s view:
“You must decide whether your commitments are with Canada’s people (including its First Nations), with the environment, or with Canada’s oil industry.”
Internationally acclaimed writer, Ronald Wright, author of A Short History of Progress, is puzzled over how Trudeau has handled this file. As Wright told me at his home on Salt Spring Island, there is not much to be gained by his course of action politically speaking.
“Why is Trudeau spending so much political capital ramming through pipeline and tanker traffic? No matter what he does for Alberta, Alberta will never elect Liberals.”

This is an issue where you can't split the difference. But Trudeau continues to believe you can. When the two sides collide, it will not be pretty.

Image: National Observer

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Removing All Doubt

The Canadian Press reports this morning that Doug Ford's campaign to be the premier of Ontario will not include a bus for the media:

Ontario's newly minted Progressive Conservative leader will not bring journalists with him on the campaign trail this spring, a rare move experts say suggests the Tories are keen to keep the unpredictable populist politician out of the hot seat as he takes on two more seasoned rivals.
Doug Ford's team said Wednesday the former Toronto city councillor will not have a media bus following him as he criss-crosses the province ahead of the June election, an accommodation traditionally offered by Ontario's party leaders to facilitate coverage while they hold multiple daily events in different cities.

This is not a new strategy. It reeks of Stephen Harper's vetting of people who showed up at his campaign rallies. And, of course, it's utterly Trumpian. Ford sees the media as his enemy; and he's going to limit his contact with them. His spokeswoman -- are you surprized? -- is spinning another line:

Spokeswoman Melissa Lantsman said Ford's campaign events will be broadcast online and his itinerary will be released for media interested in covering them in person.
"Most media outlets have shifted to covering events from their office and relying on live feeds. It is in our interest to have as much media coverage as possible and will do everything we can to ensure our events are streamed online to assist in that," she said in an email.

No one should be fooled:

Experts say the decision suggests a campaign strategy that centres on limiting questions and preventing Ford — a brash politician whose candid remarks often make headlines — from publicly going off-script.
And while this approach may prove effective politically, it's concerning for democracy, they say. 
"He is attempting to bypass the accountability function of the free press by limiting access to his campaign. This will not prevent coverage, but it alters the degree of access and creates a different, more opaque degree of transparency in the campaign," said Tim Abray, a former journalist and current teaching fellow in political science at Queen's University.

Ford's handlers are well aware of his ignorance. And they are trying to keep it under wraps. Mark Twain wrote,"If you keep your mouth shut, people will only think you're stupid. Open it and you remove all doubt."

The reporters on the bus would remove all doubt.


Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Unwitting Masochists

Things are coming apart in the United States. That's been happening for quite awhile. Paul Krugman writes:

This isn’t a new story, or just about politics. Things have been falling apart on multiple fronts since the 1970s: Political polarization has marched side by side with economic polarization, as income inequality has soared.
And both political and economic polarization have a strong geographic dimension. On the economic side, some parts of America, mainly big coastal cities, have been getting much richer, but other parts have been left behind. On the political side, the thriving regions by and large voted for Hillary Clinton, while the lagging regions voted for Donald Trump.

If you look at the differences between Trump Country and Hillary country, you will be struck by the difference in jobs -- and the training required to get them:

For the most part I’m in agreement with Berkeley’s Enrico Moretti, whose 2012 book, “The New Geography of Jobs,” is must reading for anyone trying to understand the state of America. Moretti argues that structural changes in the economy have favored industries that employ highly educated workers — and that these industries do best in locations where there are already a lot of these workers. As a result, these regions are experiencing a virtuous circle of growth: Their knowledge-intensive industries prosper, drawing in even more educated workers, which reinforces their advantage.
And at the same time, regions that started with a poorly educated work force are in a downward spiral, both because they’re stuck with the wrong industries and because they’re experiencing what amounts to a brain drain.

This phenomenon is exacerbated by the politics of stupidity:

That new paper [by Austin, Glaeser and Summers] makes the case for a national policy of aiding lagging regions. But we already have programs that would aid these regions — but which they won’t accept. Many of the states that have refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would foot the great bulk of the bill — and would create jobs in the process — are also among America’s poorest.
Or consider how some states, like Kansas and Oklahoma — both of which were relatively affluent in the 1970s, but have now fallen far behind — have gone in for radical tax cuts, and ended up savaging their education systems. External forces have put them in a hole, but they’re digging it deeper.

Trump's recent tax bill and his other planned "improvements" are only making things worse. His supporters are masochists -- but they don't seem to know that.

Image: Slide Player

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

King And Economic Justice

We just marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination. We remember him as a crusader for racial justice. But, Michael K. Honey writes, we have forgotten that he was very much a crusader for economic justice:

One major failing in how we remember King “is our typing of him as a civil rights leader,” the activist and pastor James Lawson says. “We do not type him as a pastor, prophet, theologian, scholar, preacher … and that allows conventional minds across the country to thereby stereotype him and eliminate him from an overall analysis of our society.”
King early on described himself as a “profound advocate of the social gospel” who decried a capitalist system that put profits and property rights ahead of basic human rights. Beyond his dream of civil and voting rights lay a demand that every person have adequate food, education, housing, a decent job and income.
Ultimately, his was a more revolutionary quest for a nonviolent society beyond racism, poverty and war.

We tend to forget that when King was killed in Memphis, he was marching with striking garbage workers:

There is no intrinsic difference” between workers, King told the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), one of America’s most important trade unions, in 1963. Skin color and ethnicity should not divide those who work for a living, he said.
“Economic justice,” King went on, required “a land where men will not take necessities to give luxuries to the few,” and “where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity.”
This agenda was not only about civil rights. The 28 August demonstration that culminated in King’s I Have a Dream speech was publicized as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was the result of many years of organizing by black workers and their unions.

It's a safe bet that King would have been apoplectic about the Neo-liberal revolution. He would see it as a movement which sought to reinstate a new kind of slavery. The chains had been taken away. But workers were still slaves to their masters.

We still have a long way to go.

Image: Teamsters For A Democratic Union

Monday, April 02, 2018

Their Default Position?

In the last federal election, Justin Trudeau's Liberals swept Atlantic Canada. Daniel Savoie writes that Maritimers' support for Trudeau has not been reciprocated:

Consider the following. For the first time since the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency was established in 1987, a minister from outside the region is responsible for the the ACOA. The minister is from Mississauga and is also responsible for the two federal regional development agencies in Ontario, one in Quebec, one in Western Canada and another for the North.
It is not lost on Atlantic Canadians that the federal government now has a regional development agency for every postal code in Canada. Best to focus on regions with heavily populated postal codes when the goal is to win power. The recently tabled budget committed $920-million over six years to one of two federal regional development bodies for Ontario. When this agency was established in 2009, it was given a time-limited budget. No more. It now has core funding like all the other federal regional agencies.
It will be recalled that Mr. Trudeau, at one point, seriously contemplated taking away the one seat Atlantic Canada has on the Supreme Court. When tasked with replacing Thomas Cromwell from Nova Scotia on the court, Mr. Trudeau announced that the selection process would be open to “any qualified judge” from across the country. Atlantic Canadians believe that he would never do the same if it came to Quebec (the Constitution guarantees Quebec three seats) or Ontario and Western Canada (because here the political cost would be too high).
Many Atlantic Canadians remain unconvinced by Ottawa’s argument that the Energy East pipeline failed because of market conditions. Ottawa gave, at best, lukewarm support for the pipeline which was viewed by many in Western and Atlantic Canada as an important national unity project. They saw Ottawa changing the rules of the approval process on the fly, adding new requirements with some retroactively. Mr. Trudeau told supporters of Energy East to accept the decision and avoid “stoking regional divisions.” He said nothing to Montreal and Quebec politicians who labelled the decision “a great victory for Quebeckers.” It made the point once again that when it comes to national unity, it is a one-way street.

If Maritimers start feeling ignored, Trudeau's majority is in danger. And, if Canadians feel that the Liberals have returned to their default position -- arrogance -- they may soon find themselves in opposition.


Sunday, April 01, 2018

Whether Or Not

When Fox News stalwart Laura Ingraham mocked gun control advocate David Hogg this week, Hogg did not take the insult lying down. Jennifer Rubin writes:

Rather than return her juvenile taunt in kind, the 17-year-old Hogg rose above it — and then used his new-found fame to summon an advertiser boycott of her show, “The Ingraham Angle.” She apologized, grudgingly and weirdly. “Any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA — incl. @DavidHogg111. On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland,” she began the first of two tweets.

This generation of young people are different than their immediate forebears:

Young Americans from all walks of life continue to display qualities too many older Americans do not — tolerance, technological sophistication, political engagement, concern for the environment, etc. The Associated Press reports:
A majority of young people believe President Donald Trump is racist, dishonest and “mentally unfit” for office, according to a new survey that finds the nation’s youngest potential voters are more concerned about the Republican’s performance in the White House than older Americans.
The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV found that just 33 percent of Americans between the ages of 15 and 34 approve of Trump’s job performance. . . . Nearly half of younger Americans, 47 percent, say they’re personally paying closer attention to politics since Trump’s election; 2 in 10 say they’re engaging in political activism more than before.
In an age of cynicism, when the president and many Republicans show contempt for science, women and minorities, the poll discovered that “young people overwhelmingly support watching out for minorities: 69 percent favor a pathway to legal status for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, 59 percent favor protecting the rights of LGBT citizens, and 58 percent say the same for Muslims.” Sixty-seven percent said they want a health-care system in which ‘the government provides health insurance to all Americans,’ and 60 percent say they want the government to address climate change.

Many in power haven't figured it out yet. But change is coming -- whether or not they get out of the way.

Image: St. Cloud Visitor