Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Great Disruptor?

Doug Ford styles himself as The Great Disruptor. But, the truth is, he's not very good at disrupting things for his own benefit. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

The pushback over Ford’s latest cuts — in health care, education, libraries, transit and forestry — has left his Progressive Conservatives off balance. And off message.
Ford revels in picking fights with the federal and municipal partners he views as adversaries. But as the premier and his cabinet are slowly learning, conflict for conflict’s sake is a poor way to govern Canada’s biggest province.

He loves to pick fights. But, these days, he's picking fights with everyone:

When you are fighting everyone at once — Parliament Hill and city hall, school boards and teachers, librarians and legal aid lawyers — the static makes it harder to be heard. And the mixed messages make it impossible to be persuasive.

Recently, Ford announced a massive subway expansion in Toronto. But his cuts to Toronto's public health services have drowned out his message about expanding the subway:

Ford mounted a pre-budget offensive by boasting of a $28-billion transit investment. But he quickly found himself on the defensive over a $1.1-billion cut in gas tax payments that will hobble Toronto’s transit operations for the next decade — a classic case of bad news cancelling out good news.
And this month’s provincial budget promised hospital funding will increase slightly, but it is also cutting funding by $1 billion over 10 years to Toronto’s board of health — hamstringing its services amid falling vaccination rates and rising overdoses.

The man who inherited his father's decal business thinks that political messaging can be reduced to bumper stickers:

Ford clearly sees the world through stickers — whether a bumper-sticker slogan like “buck-a-beer,” or a food-safety sticker on a restaurant window. Not to mention forcing every gas station to slap his propaganda stickers on every gas pump in Ontario, just so our premier can pour gasoline on his $30 million carbon tax fight with Ottawa.

Bumper stickers don't work when the stuff hits the fan. And, for Ford, lots of stuff is hitting the fan.

Image: Get Smart Digital

Monday, April 29, 2019

Living Amidst The Carnage

Chris Hedges has been in Canada lately -- specifically, in northern Alberta -- surveying the plight of a Cree reserve, surrounded by the Tar Sands. He describes the process involved in extracting bitumen:

Tar sands oil is a thick, mucky, clay-like substance that is infused with a hydrocarbon called bitumen. The oil around Beaver Lake is extracted by a process known as steam-assisted gravity drainage, which occurs under the earth and is similar to fracking. Farther north, extraction is done by strip-mining the remote boreal forest of Alberta, 2 million acres of which have already been destroyed. The destruction of vast forests, sold to timber companies, and the scraping away of the topsoil have left behind poisoned wastelands. This industrial operation, perhaps the largest such project in the world, is rapidly accelerating the release of the carbon emissions that will, if left unchecked, soon render the planet uninhabitable for humans. The oil is transported thousands of miles to refineries as far away as Houston through pipelines and in tractor-trailer trucks or railroad cars. More than a hundred climate scientists have called for a moratorium on the extraction of tar sands oil. Former NASA scientist James Hansen has warned that if the tar sands oil is fully exploited, it will be “game over for the planet.” He has also called for the CEOs of fossil fuel companies to be tried for high crimes against humanity.
It is hard, until you come here, to grasp the scale of the tar sands exploitation. Surrounding Beaver Lake are well over 35,000 oil and natural gas wells and thousands of miles of pipelines, access roads and seismic lines. (The region also contains the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, which has appropriated huge tracts of traditional territory from the native inhabitants to test weapons.) Giant processing plants, along with gargantuan extraction machines, including bucket wheelers that are over half a mile long and draglines that are several stories high, ravage hundreds of thousands of acres. These stygian centers of death belch sulfurous fumes, nonstop, and send fiery flares into the murky sky. The air has a metallic taste. Outside the processing centers, there are vast toxic lakes known as tailings ponds, filled with billions of gallons of water and chemicals related to the oil extraction, including mercury and other heavy metals, carcinogenic hydrocarbons, arsenic and strychnine. The sludge from the tailings ponds is leaching into the Athabasca River, which flows into the Mackenzie, the largest river system in Canada. Nothing here, by the end, will support life. The migrating birds that alight at the tailings ponds die in huge numbers. So many birds have been killed that the Canadian government has ordered extraction companies to use noise cannons at some of the sites to scare away arriving flocks. Around these hellish lakes, there is a steady boom-boom-boom from the explosive devices.
The water in much of northern Alberta is no longer safe for human consumption. Drinking water has to be trucked in for the Beaver Lake reserve.

All of this activity has meant horrendous consequences for the population:

Cancer rates are 30% higher than in the rest of Alberta, according to the Alberta Cancer Board, which was disbanded soon after releasing this information in 2008.
The exploiters have sought to corrupt the Cree and bastardize their traditions. Extraction companies have paid off some tribal leaders to support pipelines or surrender tribal territory to oil development. The companies use the quislings to mount propaganda campaigns in favor of extraction, to divide and weaken indigenous communities. The federal government last year staged a Cree religious ceremony, complete with honor songs and drums, to bless the Trans Mountain Expansion Project and Canada’s $4.5 billion purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline, developments that mean death for the Cree people.

With Jason Kenny installed in the premier's office, the carnage will continue.

Image: HuffPost Canada

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Things Have Changed

Six months ago, Justin Trudeau was poised to win a second majority government.  But, in those six months, the political landscape has changed drastically. Jaimie Watt -- a Conservative operative -- writes:

Each new provincial election brings more evidence that the wave of conservative victories across the country is turning into a tsunami. And with that, the inescapable conclusion that the Liberal brand is, if not in crisis, certainly not what it was on Election Day in October, 2015.
Last Tuesday, Prince Edward Islanders not only elected a PC minority government but were sooner ready to consider the Green Party than re-elect Wade MacLauchlan’s governing Liberals.
Trouble for the Liberals all started with Brian Pallister in Manitoba, then Doug Ford, here, in Ontario, François Legault in Quebec, Blaine Higgs in New Brunswick, Jason Kenney in Alberta and now Dennis King in PEI.
Today, 82 per cent of Canadians are governed by conservative parties.

Given Mr. Watt's political roots, it's understandable that he feels optimistic about the future. But he does speak the truth about the fading Liberal brand:

The Liberal ship is floundering. Its cause matters not. The handling of l’affaire SNC-Lavalin. The internecine squabbling. The accumulation of seemingly minor missteps. Or the global rise of populist right-of-centre ideology, the Liberal message is not resonating as it once did.
The three years since the blue tide began have seen the federal Liberal approval rating fall by over 15 per cent. Two-thirds of Canadians now say that Trudeau does not deserve to be re-elected. What’s more, the Liberal’s majority has, through resignations and scandal, become seven members thin.
Some may point to the well established pattern of provincial governments of one stripe and federal governments of another:

But the past may well not, any longer, be prologue.
As of today, one poll found that the Conservatives were 20 points ahead in the 905 region. Although it’s worth noting the Ontario race, provincewide, is closer.

The election is six months away. And. as the last six months demonstrate, a lot can happen in six months. But, if Justin is to win the next election, he'll have to pull a rabbit out of his hat.

Image: AllPosters.com

Saturday, April 27, 2019

In Whom Or What Do You Trust?

Trust, they say, is the coin of the realm. But, according to the CanTrust Index, trust in Canada has taken a beating. Susan Delacourt writes:

For the first three years that this index was conducted, [Justin] Trudeau’s trust numbers hovered around 46 per cent. But that dropped to 40 per cent this year, accompanied by similar plunges for the news media and large corporations. In 2018, a reasonably healthy 51 per cent of people expressed trust in the media, while 28 per cent said they trusted big business. In 2019, it’s just 40 per cent for the media and 20 per cent for large corporations.
If these results are correct, we’ve become a very skeptical nation — not even sure whether we should trust each other. Only two out of every five Canadians agreed with the statement that “most people can be trusted” and three out of five endorsed the idea that “you cannot be too careful in dealing with people.”
Alberta looks to be ground zero for crumbling trust, and Edmonton in particular, where only one in five respondents from that city said people could be trusted. “Only 22 per cent of Albertans trust governments, compared to 36 per cent of Canadians overall and 39 per cent of Ontarians,” Proof reported in the release accompanying the study.
Trust is now a partisan matter, too. Only 21 per cent of Conservatives said that overall, people could be trusted, compared to 50 per cent among Liberals. Only 21 per cent of Conservatives said they trusted governments, compared to 63 per cent of Liberals.
Oh, and how are Canadians feeling about the immigration and refugee system? Forget those heady days of late 2015, when a newly elected Trudeau government opened its arms to Syrian refugees and proclaimed Canada a haven for newcomers. Only 43 per cent of respondents to this online poll agreed that the immigration system was fair and a scant 36 per cent said the refugee system balanced “the plight of refugees with the needs of the country.”

The same disease that has infected Europe and the United States has arrived on our shores. That's not good news. The problems we face require collective action. And when you can't trust your neighbours, you stay inside your own cramped house.

Image: Facebook

Friday, April 26, 2019

A Confirmed Knuckle-Dragger

Doug Ford announced this week that his government would no longer cover the cost of health insurance for Ontarians who travel abroad. The coverage, as of now, is pretty flimsy. Tom Walkom writes:

An Ontarian requiring emergency outpatient hospital care while travelling outside Canada, for instance, is entitled to be reimbursed by OHIP at the rate of only $50 a day. That figure hasn’t increased in 20 years.
Overall, the current out-of-country rates paid by OHIP are chintzy. An Ontarian requiring hospitalization abroad can receive up to $200 a day ($400 in intensive care). Manitoba, Nova Scotia and the three territories are more generous. So is Prince Edward Island. It will pay up to $1,423 per day for a citizen needing emergency hospital care outside of Canada.
None of this suffices to cover U.S. hospital costs, which can amount to $4,000 a day or more. That’s why so many Canadians who travel in the U.S. choose to buy supplementary private insurance.
As a result, the proportion paid by public insurance — by OHIP — continues to decline. It now represents only five per cent of the cost of a typical medical emergency abroad.

But the issue isn't payments. It's portability:

Canadian medicare is, in essence, an insurance plan. Those who live in this country are automatically covered by their provincial medicare programs when they use physician or hospital services anywhere inside or outside of Canada.
This is known as portability. In the case of those who are “temporarily absent” from the country, the Canada Health Act reads as follows:
“Where the insured services are provided out of Canada, payment is made on the basis of the amount that would have been paid by the province for similar services rendered in the province.”

So Ford is attacking -- directly -- the Canada Health Act. Will he invoke the Not Withstanding Clause? Who knows? But his latest move confirms that, rather than being what he claims -- a Progressive Conservative -- he's  a confirmed knuckle-dragger.

Image: Wiktionary

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Doug Orwell

I doubt that Doug Ford reads much. I doubt that he's read George Orwell's novel, 1984. Maybe somebody's read it to him. He's certainly sounding like the man who coined the term doublespeak. Consider the government's spin on its cut to Toronto's public health budget. The province had previously funded 75% of the city's public health costs. But, Edward Keenan writes:

That funding is going down to a 50 per cent share by 2021. The immediate cut applying to this year’s budget is $64 million.  It will be down by $102 million per year. $1 billion over 10 years. Mayor John Tory is using the same numbers as he also decries the cuts.
And they seem, on the surface, to align with the gist of what Premier Doug Ford said when he phoned in to a show on Global News Radio 640 on Tuesday and said the province was moving from funding 75 per cent of the department to 50 per cent of the department, which he dismissed as being the “folks who go around and go into restaurants and put the little stickers on saying it’s safe to eat.” The premier contrasted that with “the things that matter to people,” where he’d invest more money.

Travis Kann, the spokesman for health minister Christine Elliott, says that" these aren’t cuts at all! They’re merely “modernizing” by implementing a “shift to the cost-sharing funding model.” Kann said the province expects, given how big a priority the city says things like school nutrition programs and vaccinations and preventing epidemics of communicable diseases are, they expect these programs will not be cut at all."

Ford was in Bracebridge yesterday speaking to citizens there about the flooding they're currently experiencing. He pledged his "full support," even as he cuts flood relief funding by 50%. Ford may not know the definition of doublespeak. But he knows how to talk the talk. He's been doing it his entire life.

Image: Twitter

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Rich Are Getting Worried

Dominic Rushe writes in The Guardian that the wealthy are worried. Ray Dalio is the latest billionaire to air his unease:

Dalio, founder of Bridgewater, the world’s biggest hedge fund, an investor in low-wage employers including Walmart and KFC, and a man worth about $18bn according to Forbes, became the latest in a bank of billionaires to go public about his fears of widening income inequality.
The yawning gap between rich and poor is a “national emergency”, Dalio wrote in an 8,000-plus-word blogpost on LinkedIn (where else?) that poses an “existential risk for the US”.

The list of worried billionaires is growing:

Dalio joins the JP Morgan boss, Jamie Dimon, investment guru Warren Buffett and even the Blackstone chairman, Stephen Schwarzman, “private equity’s designated villain” ( copyright the New Yorker) and usually an unapologetic 0.01%er, in publicly worrying that income inequality has stretched the US body politic to breaking point.
So dire has the situation become that Schwarzman called for a Marshall plan – referencing the US initiative that aided the rebuilding of western Europe after the second world war – to help rebuild the middle class. Admittedly he couldn’t quite use the word “inequality” (that might suggest something was unfair), preferring to argue the real problem was that those not in his wealth bracket were suffering from “income insufficiency”.

That's the new buzz phrase -- "income insufficiency:"

Never before have so many of the kings of capitalism showed so much concern about the system that created them, said Charles Geisst, author of Wall Street: A History and professor of economics and finance at Manhattan College.
The last time the 1% felt so under pressure was probably back in the 1930s as the US came to terms with the Great Depression, said Geisst. But back then the super rich did not criticize capitalism. “If you called someone a communist or a socialist at that time, that was fighting words because of the atmosphere with the Soviets,” he said.
Now the political debate has shifted, said Geisst. “I think they realize that Bernie Sanders has a lot more support than a lot of people think,” he said. Sanders and fellow Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren “could give them a really bad time” with their plans for higher taxes and greater regulation, he said. “These people are famous for hedging their bets, and this is another way of doing it.”
Steve Glickman, a senior economic adviser in the Obama administration and now founder of Develop, a company seeking to attract investment to low-income areas called “opportunity zones”, said the very wealthy understand there has been a societal change that challenges the way they have done business.
“An increasing chunk of the country has been left behind and that can’t be ignored any more,” he said. “The rise of populism, not just in the US but also in many other markets like Europe, is dramatically affecting the business model they have taken for granted. We are turning the table on what was close to 90 years of agreed upon bipartisan policy goals around trade and immigration.”

If the billionaires are really concerned for the future, they could start to change that future by getting rid of Donald Trump.

Image: The Fiscal Times

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

May's Honeymoon

On Monday, Elizabeth May got married. Susan Delacourt writes that she may also be experiencing a political honeymoon:

All signs currently point to this being a very good week for May and the Greens, part of a long-building, upward trend in their fortunes that could well keep climbing until the fall federal election. Personally, things are definitely looking up for May, too.
Greens have held the balance of power in British Columbia for two years now. Last June, the Greens elected their first MPP in Ontario — Leader Mike Schreiner, who represents Guelph at Queen’s Park. In this year’s federal byelection in Outremont, Greens finished surprisingly in third place, ahead of the Bloc Québécois and the Conservative party.
On Tuesday, Canada’s smallest province could give the Greens their biggest achievement in this country: real, actual power. A new poll projection by 338Canada.com over the weekend cautiously forecast a majority win for the Greens, which would make PEI the first Green-led government in Canadian history.

When voters get tired of status quo politics, they tend to shake things up. It's happened in the recent past:

That’s how the then-brand-new Reform Party and the Bloc Québécois vaulted to record numbers in the Commons in 1993, the same year [Kim] Campbell was attempting, unsuccessfully, to stay on as Canada’s first female prime minister.
May is well-placed to benefit from potential voter fatigue with the traditional parties and politics as usual. She will be the only woman leader among the main parties vying in the fall’s election and Greens are an untried alternative for many Canadians. If voters are in the mood for a real break from the past, as they were in 1993, May could reap a lot of “none of the above” sentiment.

None of the above seems to be a popular option these days. Perhaps May will be in the right place at the right time.


Monday, April 22, 2019

Assaulting "The People"

Antonia Zerbisias is keeping a list. She's counting the things that Doug Ford is doing to make the lives of  "the people" more miserable:

Sometime in January, a list, a very long list, documenting all the attacks by Doug Ford's government on Ontario's social services, safety nets and support systems began to take shape on my Facebook profile page.
I too have been adding to the original list, barely able to keep up with all the announcements, pronouncements and chops to health care, education and even firefighting services wielded by Ford Nation while horse racing gets a $10-million annual boost and the premier's cronies and bagmen get appointed to head Crown corporations.
These rapid-fire assaults on "the people" that Ford purportedly champions are reminiscent of Donald Trump's tactic, inadvertent or deliberate, of spitting out diversionary tweets whenever CNN or MSNBC focus on his sympathy for white nationalism or his wall or on what he calls the "witchhunt."
In Ontario, no sooner do we hear about new slogans and new logos on car license plates  than comes news that all gas stations will be hit with fines up to $10,000 for not sticking Conservative Party anti-carbon tax decals to their pumps. Oh, and taxpayers are paying for those stickers, plus a radio ad campaign, plus a follow-up TV buy in Ford's $30-million fight against what he deems to be a recession-causing tax. Go figure.

The evidence keeps piling up. And, as long as "the people" aren't paying attention, Ford can get away with all of this. Perhaps that's why Ford is focusing on alcohol:

As CBC Queens Park reporter Mike Crawley tweeted, "The word 'alcohol' or 'beer' appears 46 times in the Doug Ford government's first budget. The words 'teacher' or 'teachers' appears 25 times. #onpoli"
Also on Twitter, Toronto City Councillor Joe Cressy noted, "Number of times Doug Ford's budget mentioned the words 'alcohol' or 'beer': 46. Number of times 'poverty' was mentioned: 0. Priorities."

There is a method to Doug Ford's madness.

Image: City News Toronto

Sunday, April 21, 2019

No Impeachment

Donald Trump has been repeating the same lie for almost two years -- "No Collusion, No Obstruction." The Mueller Report proves that both claims are lies. But, Robert Reich writes, the truth is that there will be No Impeachment:

Let’s be real. Trump will not be removed by impeachment. No president has been. With a Republican Senate controlled by the most irresponsible political hack ever to be majority leader, the chances are nil.
Which means Trump will have to be removed the old-fashioned way – by voters in an election 19 months away.
The practical question is whether the Mueller report and all that surrounds it will affect that election.

Removing Trump by election won't be easy:

Mueller’s report probably won’t move any of the 40% who have held tight to Trump regardless.
So how to reach the 11% or 12% who may decide the outcome?

The way to accomplish that, Reich writes, is to keep underscoring how morally loathsome Trump is:

Democrats and progressives tend to shy away from morality, given how rightwing evangelicals have used it against abortion, contraceptives and equal marriage rights.
But that’s to ignore Americans’ deep sense of right and wrong. Character counts, and presidential character counts most of all.
Even though Mueller apparently doesn’t believe a sitting president can be indicted, he provides a devastating indictment of Trump’s character.
Even though Mueller apparently doesn’t believe a sitting president can be indicted, he provides a devastating indictment of Trump’s character.
Trump is revealed as a chronic liar. He claimed he never asked for loyalty from FBI director James Comey. Mueller finds he did. Trump claimed he never asked Comey to let the “Michael Flynn matter go”. Mueller finds he did. Trump claimed he never pushed the White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller. Mueller finds he did. Trump even lied about inviting Comey to dinner, claiming falsely, in public, that Comey requested it. Trump enlists others to lie. He lies to his staff.
Trump treats his subordinates horribly. He hides things from them. He yells at them. He orders them to carry out illegal acts.
He acts like a thug. He regrets his lawyers are not as good at protecting him as was his early mentor Roy Cohn – a mob lawyer. When reports surface about the now infamous Trump Tower meeting of June 2016, Trump directs the cover-up.
Trump is unprincipled. The few people in the White House and the cabinet who stand up to him, according to Mueller – threatening to resign rather than carry out his illegal orders – are now gone. They resigned or were fired.
This is a portrait of a morally bankrupt man.

The evidence -- which Mueller has marshaled  -- is unambiguous. If Americans refuse to acknowledge it, they're doomed.

Happy Easter or Passover -- or whatever you may celebrate this weekend.

Image: Kagro In The Morning

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Libraries? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Libraries!

Doug Ford is slashing funding wherever he can find it. He just announced that he is cutting funding for the Ontario Library Service Budget by 50%. Edward Keenan writes:

While this cut was unexpected and unheralded — I cannot recall any campaign promises pledging to fight Big Book or stick it to those fat-cat librarians — it’s hard to say it’s exactly surprising, coming from this premier. Doug Ford, when his brother was mayor of Toronto, made his pathological disregard for public repositories of knowledge well known.
Asked if he would close library branches then, he said, “Absolutely I would, in a heartbeat.” He said anyone who reacted negatively to that suggestion was simply taking their cues from self-interested “library groups.” The city was lousy with libraries, he suggested, complaining that there were more branches in his area than Tim Hortons franchises — which there were not — and suggesting that was a bad thing.

He felt the same way eight years ago when Ford and his brother Rob took an axe to the funding of Toronto's libraries. That decision brought on the wrath of Margaret Atwood, who complained loudly.

Ford was not impressed:

Councillor Doug Ford has fired back at world-renowned author Margaret Atwood for her criticism of suggested library cuts, telling reporters: “I don’t even know her. If she walked by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is.”
Ford also said that the literary icon and activist — who took him to task on Twitter for saying, erroneously, that his Etobicoke ward has more libraries than Tim Hortons — should get herself elected to office or pipe down.
“Well good luck to Margaret Atwood. I don’t even know her. If she walked by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is,” said the councillor and advisor to his brother, Mayor Rob Ford, after a committee meeting on proposed cuts.
“She’s not down here, she’s not dealing with the problem. Tell her to go run in the next election and get democratically elected. And we’d be more than happy to sit down and listen to Margaret Atwood.”

Sound familiar? But more than that, Ford's ignorance is gobsmaking.

Image: Toronto Public Library Workers Union

Friday, April 19, 2019

He'll Live in Infamy

For weeks, Donald Trump has been claiming that Robert Mueller totally exonerated him. We should have known by now that was a lie. Mueller did nothing like that. E. J. Dionne writes:

The Mueller report paints a broad picture of an administration that systematically lied to just about everybody, including the public and the media. It describes a president prepared to do whatever was necessary to close down inquiries into his behavior and Russian ties. And it noted that “some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated — including some associated with the Trump Campaign — deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption.”

Besides the rampant corruption, the report verifies that Trump is a terrible executive. Things could have been worse:

Oddly, Trump may have been protected from even more damaging conclusions about obstruction by staff members who refused to do what he asked. “The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful,” the report found, “but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.” Whatever this is, it is not exoneration of Trump.

This was, indeed, no exoneration. The Mueller report tells a story. And the story underscores the fact that Trump is -- perhaps -- the worst president in American history. Worse than Richard Nixon.

Trump's name will live in infamy.

Image: Facebook

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Far Reaching Consequences

Doug Ford has railed against "unelected judges." But this week he has been trying to convince those judges that the federal carbon tax should be quashed. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

In a Toronto courtroom this week, the Ontario government launched Doug Ford’s quixotic legal battle against the federal carbon tax — at a cost of $30 million coming out of Ontario taxpayers’ pockets.
Ontario’s lawyers argued in court that the province has already done enough, thanks to the previous Liberal government’s decision to shutter coal-fired power plants. While Ontario is unlikely to meet future emission reduction targets, the Ford government insists that Ottawa has no right to meddle. Except that, implicit in Ford’s argument is the contradictory suggestion that other provinces should be compelled to do more so that Ontario can do less in the future.
Unsurprisingly, Ford’s lawyers downplay the reality that the federal government granted the provinces flexibility to design their own programs. In fact, Ontario’s pre-existing cap-and-trade program (inspired by a similar carbon pricing program in neighbouring Quebec) complied fully with the federal requirements — until he cancelled it. And until Ford took over the Tories a year ago, the official PC platform called for full co-operation and implementation of the federal carbon tax — so is it truly intrusive?

While the fight was going on in court, Fordian acolytes began a media blitz that conveniently avoided key facts:

While his lawyers argue a weak case before the judges, Ford is flexing his legal muscle outside the courtroom: New legislation would impose $10,000 fines against any gas station that doesn’t affix to its pumps government-dictated propaganda stickers opposing Ottawa’s policy.
Drafted to demonize and distort the federal carbon tax, the stickers inexplicably fail to explain that the 4.4 cents a litre cost at the pump will be largely rebated to Ontario families. The stickers also ignore the reality that Ford is quietly pocketing a far bigger share of gas taxes (14.7 cents a litre, plus 8 per cent provincial sales tax under the HST).
The costs of sticking it to Ottawa with stickers are indeterminate. But there is a price to be paid by a pro-business party that casts itself as a guardian against the big hand of government while converting gas pumps into partisan messengers.
While threatening heavy fines, the government is spending big bucks to get its message onto the airwaves this week with the launch of its controversial anti-tax ad blitz that boasts, “Ontario has a better way.” The provincial advertising campaign is more accusatory than explanatory, unprecedented in its puerile targeting of a federal government that Ontario voters elected four years ago.

Ford has always been a bottom feeder. He has an ally in the newly elected premier of Alberta. Both practise the politics of resentment and victimization.

The upcoming election will have far reaching consequences.

Image: Macleans

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Unadulterated Ignorance

Yesterday, Albertans voted in the Regressive Conservative Party -- otherwise known as the UCP. Geoff Dembicki writes in The Tyee:

Albertans elected one of the most socially conservative and environmentally hostile governments in its history Tuesday night, handing a majority of seats to the United Conservative Party and electing its leader Jason Kenney as premier.
In the end it seemed voters acted the way pollsters and other observers had predicted all along: by voting in a government that promised to do whatever it takes to get Alberta’s bitumen to the Pacific coast and scrap climate change policies brought in by Notley’s NDP and Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals.

But the election was about more than oil:

Kristopher Wells, an international expert on sexual and gender minority youth issues based at MacEwan University in Edmonton, told The Tyee that Alberta currently has some of the best legislation in the world for gay-straight alliances in public schools, which create spaces for LGBTQ students and their allies to be safe and open in their sexuality. The UCP has promised to change the rules so that teachers have the option of informing a student’s parents when they join a GSA.
“Why would we go backwards on that?” Wells said. “It’s sound legislation that was developed out of concern and need by students and teachers on the ground in schools. To roll that back as many have suggested would be to place vulnerable LGBTQ youth at increased risk in their schools.”

Like Ontario, Alberta is now ruled by a collection of ignorant thugs, dedicated to accomplishing the impossible. Climate change is proceeding apace and Jason Kenny is the Sergeant Schultz of Canada:

Tzeporah Berman, a Canadian environmental activist who is international program director for the group Stand.earth, said Kenney’s confrontational rhetoric won’t bring the benefits many Albertans are expecting — a swift return of jobs and investment in the oil patch — during an era when the world is rapidly shifting to cleaner sources of energy.
“Attacking those that are concerned about the cumulative impacts on our water, on our air, and on our climate as a result of the growth of the oilsands is not going to solve this,” Berman said. “It’s a dramatic overblown shoot-the-messenger moment. No matter how much Kenney attacks civil society groups and environmental groups, it’s not going to make the issue go away.”
She predicted that a UCP government would govern “by anger and fear and not reason or logic or science” and that “this will set us back on climate policy.” Berman, a one-time advisor to the Alberta government on climate policy who frequently critiqued Notley’s stance on pipelines, went on, “While the NDP strategy was far from perfect, at least it was moving in the right direction, albeit slowly.”

Score another one for unadulterated ignorance.

Image: Redbubble

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

It's A Con

Now that the dust has settlled, analysts are taking a hard look at the Ford government's first budget. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

It gets tough on some (mostly poor people and students).
It lavishes love on others (tax breaks sprinkled here and there).
Call it tough love — not to be confused with “tough luck” — from a premier who loves to be loved. By the right people.

And that's really the point: Ford's populism is for the right people:

Ford’s first budget deceptively heralds his munificence while it downplays the take-aways. He is spending more than any previous Liberal government, piling on bigger deficits than his immediate predecessor and projecting record debt levels.
But his budget also confirms that high school students will be squeezed into more crowded classrooms (27 per cent bigger) as teachers’ positions are reduced and online teaching is increased. Scheduled welfare increases are being scaled back, promised transit funding is being cut back, and legal aid that underpins our justice system is being undermined.

Ford's munificence is supposedly on display in his plan to upgrade Toronto's transit system:

On the eve of Thursday’s budget unveiling, the premier convened a photo-op where he mischievously proclaimed a $28.5 billion transit plan to redraw Toronto’s subway map. A perfectly populist pitch.
Except that the fine print showed him funding just 39 per cent of the price tag, allocating a mere $11.2 billion of the total — while demanding other governments fill in the built-in gap. An unpopular footnote that went largely unnoticed.
The transit postscript is especially peculiar, for this government giveth with one hand and taketh with the other: Despite a solemn campaign commitment to maintain annual transit funding via the agreed municipal share of gas tax revenues, Ford went back on his word by redirecting hundreds of millions of dollars from Toronto transit operations and diverting them back to provincial coffers.
The timing is especially awkward, given that Ford’s “Government for the People” is in court this week arguing against a federal carbon tax at the pumps. While Ottawa is rebating the money directly to Ontario taxpayers, our tax-fighting premier is quietly pocketing the people’s gas taxes for his own provincial purposes.

It's a con, of course. But, so far, Ford has gotten away with it.

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Pathology Of Oil

The Albertan mind, Andrew Nikiforuk writes, has been warped by the politics of oil:

Oil, a commodity that nurtures dependency, has so coddled the Alberta mind that it has fostered a provincial culture of victimization as poisonous as the identity politics unsettling university campuses.
Every day the province’s oil-obsessed politicos warn Albertans that Canada is a dangerous place full of self-righteous climate activists (and some are indeed self-righteous), anti-pipeline protestors, dumb courts, stubborn First Nations, and nasty liberals.
Moreover the province’s potential for offence-taking has become as grand as Justin Trudeau’s vindictive Liberal Party of Canada. It can’t tolerate any truth-telling either. 

That pathology has been on full display during the election campaign:

The province’s allergy to criticism has grown so formidable that United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney proposes to set up a Saudi-like war room in the energy ministry to respond to any micro-aggressions and offensive material. Should it be called Snowflake Central?
Albertans have become such a fragile, oil-reliant people, reasons Kenney, that the province now needs the equivalent of university Bias Response Teams, in this case to foster “a safe and inclusive environment” for its petroleum exporters who have now claimed Alberta’s identity as their own.
(The rulers of Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Russia, we should remember, don’t much like oil critics, either. The political records show that oil relishes conflict and breeds political aggression like no other commodity, except cocaine.) 
 Kenney, a belligerent proponent of oil-safetyism, would much rather play the blame game than accept the truth that the rapid development of bitumen mining in Fort McMurray violated two fundamental principles of risk mitigation: go slow and save the money.

Peter Lougheed understood that going all in on oil was a path to disaster. But, after he retired, his successors bet the farm on what they thought was black gold. And that tunnel vision caused a collapse in the price of oil:

Over many years, Alberta’s Tories repeatedly gambled that the price of bitumen, a garbage crude that requires upgrading and complex refining, could only go higher, and they bet wrong. 
[Art Berman] recently documented how combined Canadian and U.S. unconventional oil production from the tar sands and Permian Basin “surged in 2014 and caused oil prices to collapse.” As prices fell, producers — including OPEC — rejected any production cuts.

Unfortunately, that tale has not been made public during the Alberta election.

Image: Vervantis

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Cost Of Ignorance

Donald Trump has been throwing the word "treason" around these days -- alot. Dana Milbank writes:

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that the [Mueller] probe was a “Treasonous Hoax” and that “what the Democrats are doing with the Border is TREASONOUS.” That same day, boarding Marine One, he reaffirmed that what Democrats and Justice Department officials did in the Mueller probe “was treason.”
On April 6, he declared it’s “about time the perpetrators . . . start defending their dishonest and treasonous acts.” He added an injunction associated with the Holocaust: “Never Forget!”
In the past few weeks, Trump informed the NATO secretary general that the investigation of him could be “treasonous” and let Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu know that “a lot of people out there” have done “treasonous things against our country.” Trump told Fox News’s Sean Hannity: “It was really treason. . . . We can never allow these treasonous acts to happen to another president. . . . you are talking about major, major treason.” 

And he has accused alot of people of being traitors:

He began by accusing the likes of Bowe Bergdahl, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, then moved on to include the executives of Univision and Macy’s, Republicans who didn’t support him, Democratic lawmakers who didn’t applaud him, the failing New York Times, the media generally, people in his administration who leak, and Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, Eric Holder, Loretta E. Lynch, Huma Abedin, James B. Comey, James R. Clapper Jr., Rod J. Rosenstein, Robert S. Mueller III, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.

The Constitution says that treason "shall consist only in levying war against” the United States “or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort,” Obviously, Trump's definition of treason is Henry VIII's definition -- anything that offends the sovereign.

It is painfully apparent that Trump has never read the Constitution "because he has vowed to protect all 12 articles of the Constitution, even though it has only seven."

As Doug Ford continues to tell Ontarians that the price of education is too high, they only need look next door to see the cost of Ignorance.

Image: induced.info

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Method Behind The Madness

Like his Orange Cousin to the south, Doug Ford is a disruptor -- and a master of distraction. Mitch Potter writes:

From the vengeful, shock-and-awe downsizing of Toronto city council to the ham-fisted and ultimately failed attempt to install old family friend Ron Taverner atop the Ontario Provincial Police, isn’t Ford still simply bumbling forward with a haphazard bagful of random ideas, still clumsily feeling out the limits of his new-found power?

In the midst of the madness some people see a method:

No, according to many veteran scholars of Ontario politics, who see in this government’s latest moves — and in the distractions themselves — clear evidence that old, tried and true Progressive Conservative patterns now are taking hold around Ford. They now see sophisticated method in the seemingly populist madness.
It is no accident that every time the tough stuff comes out (the budget, the transit plan), the Ford government has a companion piece to go with it to take the conversation elsewhere,” said Tim Abray, a doctoral candidate at Queen’s University’s department of political studies who specializes in the effects of political communication on voter behaviour.
“The Ford government is getting very good at popping these things out and the best example is the biggest story of the last week — the seemingly trivial and largely symbolic and meaningless licence plate slogan change to a 50-year-old phrase from the summer I was born — ‘A Place to Grow.’
“It’s worthy of discussion — but is it worthy of dominating discussion? That’s not lost on the government’s communications strategists. It’s a weird and very different hybrid — a populist premier with an unclear, uncertain agenda together with a highly orchestrated, carefully modulated communications machine that, when things get hot on contentious issues, is able to bait discussion away from policy and toward symbolism.”
That symbolism, not by accident, signals to a specific thread of nostalgia that has coursed through Ontario conservatives for decades.

Some see Ford as Mike Harris 2.0. But Nelson Wiseman isn't so sure:

Wiseman, a veteran professor of Canadian Studies at University of Toronto, is an outlier among the scholars interviewed for this article, in that he now sees Ford more closely aligned with Donald Trump in style and substance than he did a year ago.
“I threw water on that idea. But I see it more now because it is clear that like Trump he feels he can dictate by fiat and to some extent he can. It’s entertaining, it’s disruptive and it’s disturbing — and it is consistent with someone who doesn’t know the system, doesn’t know how it works and what he does know he doesn’t like — and feels like he has a mandate to blow it up,” said Wiseman.
“What’s clear is that while the majority of his MPPs didn’t want Ford as leader — and a good number of them, I believe, think he is the yahoo that he is — they are also frightened of him because of course he holds their future in his hands. He can keep them from running as a conservative in the next election.”

This gray head has concluded that, at this point in time, we've displayed a talent for electing the pathologically stupid. That's the method behind the madness.

Image: The Toronto Star

Friday, April 12, 2019

Somebody's Blowing Smoke

The Ford government introduced its first budget yesterday. It's interesting to look at figures for the budget deficit -- which Ford claimed had put us on the road to Armageddon. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

At budget time a year ago, the Liberal government of the day announced a deficit of $6.7 billion for the 2018-19 fiscal year. In her pre-election report weeks later, the auditor general said it was $11.7 billion (partly because of an accounting dispute over the value of government assets from a pension surplus). A month later, the independent Financial Accountability Office pegged it at $12 billion.
Yet upon taking power, the Tories insisted even those higher numbers were still too low, claiming last September that the true deficit was $15 billion. But in February, miraculously, Fedeli claimed credit for bringing it back down to $13.5 billion, followed by Thursday’s budgetary boast of $11.7 billion — bringing us full circle to what the auditor predicted a year ago.

And that carbon tax -- which would be a job killer?

Despite the budget’s doomsday rhetoric about a “clear and present danger” from the carbon tax, Fedeli confirms the economy will in fact continue to grow, not shrink, as the premier claimed. The unemployment rate, which has been tracking downwards since long before the Ford-Fedeli Tories took power last year, will remain at record lows.
Turns out there will be more job-hiring than job-killing despite the killer tax.
Instead, Ontario’s economy will grow by 1.4 per cent in 2019, according to Fedeli’s budget. Even that positive number dramatically understates the consensus among the top 13 private sector forecasters consulted by the Finance Ministry, whose prediction averaged a more robust 1.8 per cent.
Interestingly, when Fedeli issued his fall economic statement in November, he predicted economic growth for 2019 would in fact be 1.8 per cent — precisely the private sector forecast Ontario is now ignoring. Either way — whether you trust real-world economists or the government’s own downsized prognosticators — that’s a world away from a provincial recession (defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth).

Somebody's blowing smoke.

Image: GQ Videos

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Peaceable Kingdom?

Next week, there will be a really big show in Toronto. University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson will be debating Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek. Bob Hepburn writes:

Tickets for the April 19 event went on sale in March for the 3,100-seat Sony Centre venue and instantly sold out. Online ticket resellers are now charging up to $950 for a seat. So popular is the debate that Peterson and Zizek are live-streaming it around the world — at a cost of $14.95 per view.
It’s another in a long line of sold-out shows for Peterson, who shot to fame in 2016 when he criticized legislation aimed at protecting gender identity and openly refused to use people’s preferred pronouns.

Peterson says he's doing nothing to promote hate:

For years, he has insisted he’s done nothing to promote racism, misogyny, Islamophobia or a stream of other issues that stoke the fires of the far right. That may be true in a strict sense.
Troubling, though, is the fact Peterson has done little if anything to distance himself from white supremacists, racists and bigots. Nor has he done anything to silence those who spread their hate on social media and who cite his writings and lectures as “proof” that they are on the right path.
The worst example of this is a photo taken in New Zealand a few weeks before a white nationalist murdered 50 Muslims in terrorist attack last month on two Christchurch mosques. The photo shows Peterson with his arm around the shoulder of a man wearing a T-shirt with the words “I’m a Proud ISLAMAPHOBE” on the front.

The photo made waves:

Cambridge University withdrew its offer of a visiting fellowship. Cambridge vice-chancellor Stephen Toope said the New Zealand photo was a “casual endorsement by association” of Islamophobia and the message was “antithetical” to the work of the Faculty of Divinity, which made the fellowship offer.
Outraged, Peterson accused the school of “signalling their solidarity with the diversity-inclusivity-equity mob,” adding it was “kowtowing to an ill-informed, ignorant and ideologically addled mob.”

And Peterson's anger has made him rich:

Peterson has also become insanely rich touting what some critics have called half-baked ideas and “the greatest scam of our time.” He has 1.16 million followers on Twitter, 1.5 million YouTube subscribers and nearly 3 million copies have been sold of his book, 12 Rules of Life.

Proof that the Peacable Kingdom is not so peaceful.

Image: The Toronto Star

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Stiglitz on Trump

When I come across a piece by Joe Stiglitz, I pay attention. This morning he has a column in The Guardian. The subject is the long term damage Donald Trump is doing to his nation's institutions:

What concerns me most is Trump’s disruption of the institutions that are necessary for the functioning of society. Trump’s “Maga” (Make America Great Again) agenda is, of course, not about restoring the moral leadership of the United States. It embodies and celebrates unbridled selfishness and self-absorption. Maga is about economics. But that forces us to ask: what is the basis of America’s

Those institutions are rooted in the Scottish Enlightenment and the work of Adam Smith:

Smith himself was a leading light of the great intellectual movement known as the Scottish Enlightenment. The questioning of established authority that followed the earlier Reformation in Europe forced society to ask: how do we know the truth? How can we learn about the world around us? And how can and should we organise our society?
From the search for answers to these questions arose a new epistemology, based on the empiricism and scepticism of science, which came to prevail over the forces of religion, tradition and superstition. Over time, universities and other research institutions were established to help us to judge truth and discover the nature of our world. Much of what we take for granted today – from electricity, transistors and computers to lasers, modern medicine and smartphones – is the result of this new disposition, undergirded by basic scientific research (most of it financed by government).
That process of experimentation, learning and adaptation, however, requires a commitment to ascertaining the truth. Americans owe much of their economic success to a rich set of truth-telling, truth-discovering and truth-verifying institutions. Central among them are freedom of expression and media independence. Like all people, journalists are fallible; but, as part of a robust system of checks and balances on those in positions of power, they have traditionally provided an essential public good.

Trump is engaged in a full court press against truth:

The attack by Trump and his administration on every one of the pillars of American society, and his especially aggressive vilification of the country’s truth-seeking institutions, jeopardises its continued prosperity and very ability to function as a democracy. Nor do there appear to be checks on corporate giants’ efforts to capture the institutions – the courts, legislatures, regulatory agencies, and major media outlets – that are supposed to prevent them from exploiting workers and consumers. A dystopia previously imagined only by science fiction writers is emerging before our eyes. It should give us chills to think of who “wins” in this world, and who or what we might become, just in the struggle to survive.

The dystopian future imagined in 20th Century novels like 1984 and Brave New World is becoming a reality in the 21st Century.

Image: Lord Lawson Of Beamish Academy

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Ford And The Press

Doug Ford has taken a page out of Donald Trump's playbook. The media, he says, is his enemy. Rob Benzie reports:

Following the lead of U.S. President Donald Trump, Doug Ford is attacking the media.
In an email fundraising blast sent Monday by the Progressive Conservatives, Ford charges that unnamed journalists and news organizations are unfairly targeting him for opposing the federal carbon-pricing measures.
“I don’t know if you get to follow the headlines, but this is bogus. The journalists are out there mocking us,” the premier writes in a missive entitled “They’re laughing at us,” and signed, “Doug.”
“Regular folks who tried to save a few bucks on gas by filling up before the carbon tax kicked in. Maybe these guys don’t care about what gas costs them, but I know how much it matters,” he continues.
“It’s journalists and politicians like these who make it tough for the little guy. They don’t understand there’s a whole world out here, filled with folks just trying to get by.”
His appeal for donations for the Tories does not mention any specific reporter or news outlet.

No one should be surprised. This is another millionaire claiming he's on the side of the little guy -- as he cuts services for the little guy and cuts taxes for guys like himself. And it's the carbon tax that has got under Ford's skin:

Ford’s email appears to have been triggered by some of the online mockery suffered by Tory MPPs — scores of whom took selfies while filling up their tanks on March 31 before the federal measure increased gasoline price by almost 5 cents a litre.
Under Trudeau’s program, which is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, an average Ontario household would pay $244 more a year for gasoline, natural gas and home heating oil.
But families will receive $300 in rebates for a net gain of at least $56 annually. Those rebates will be bankrolled by big industrial polluters.
In recent days, Ford has stepped up his criticism of the media with tweets aimed at journalists who have filed unflattering stories or those he claims are inaccurate.

Like Trump, these people keep stepping in their own incompetence. And they blame those who keep pointing that out.

Image: Cheezburger

Monday, April 08, 2019

The Alberta Election

Things are getting interesting in Alberta. Last week's leaders' debate provided a clear contrast. Robin Sears writes:

Rachel Notley may not flaunt the swaggering charisma of a Trudeau, but as she demonstrated in this week’s leaders’ debate, she sure wins on character. She conveys as well, a deep determination to fight for a politics of values, as she laced her opponent over and over for his wobbly handling of some very insalubrious candidates. Putting her opponent’s name in the same sentence as charisma or values-driven leadership increasingly produces sardonic guffaws.
Her opponent, United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney, often sounded like an overconfident policy wonk angrily spouting stats in a student union debate. Political insiders score debates on direct hits and good recoveries. Real voters look for clues as to character: “Is this a leader who will fight for me and my family?”

The problem is that Kenny's overconfidence should not be confused with competence:

A fascinating study of gender differences among leaders, asks “Why do so many incompetent men become leaders? (and how to fix it).” A respected organizational psychologist, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, says one factor ranks higher than most: we are too easily deceived into confusing confidence for competence.
A tough, swaggering leader is assumed to be a competent leader. No prizes for guessing who wins the overconfidence stakes — men overestimate their abilities twice as often as women. Narcissism, overconfidence’s first cousin, is 40 per cent more likely among men.
Her campaign strategists knew from the start that Notley wins the likability, authenticity stakes by a country mile. They have been trying to persuade voters that she has been an indomitable fighter, managing through the greatest economic challenge the province has seen since the Depression; that she led a government true to its values, especially on the jobs versus climate divide.
Her opponent would have voters believe he could have forced the price of oil higher, and single-handedly overruled Ottawa and the courts to get a pipeline built. Bizarrely, he claimed he would stage a referendum to kill Canada’s equalization formula. A silly claim: Equalization is a federal statute embedded in the Constitution.

Conservatives have been claiming for decades that they are competent. The evidence of that lie is everywhere.

Image: CBC

Sunday, April 07, 2019

President Dithers

Ten days ago, Donald Trump threatened to close the American-Mexican border. Then he reversed himself, saying he would give Mexico a year to comply with  his demands -- but he held out the prospect of 25% tariffs on cars imported from Mexico. Max Boot writes:

The good news: Trump did not carry out an ill-advised ultimatum. The bad news: The president of the United States has once again been exposed as a very bad poker player. Trump is the maestro of empty threats. The pontiff of broken promises. The bard of bluster, bluff and BS. You cannot take him seriously — and increasingly, few do, either at home or abroad. Both foreign governments and savvy Americans by now know to discount most of his rhetorical effusions.
Indeed, at the very time that Trump was retreating from his threat to close the border, he was also backtracking from his promise, also made the week before, to produce a health-care bill. Now, he says, that will happen right after the 2020 election if voters simply hand back control of the House to Republicans. Vote Republican to find out what’s in the health bill! So, at some point in the future, the GOP will produce a bill with better coverage and lower costs than Obamacare. Yeah, right. Of course, in 2016, Trump vowed to unveil such legislation on his first day in office. More than 800 days into his presidency, a Republican health-care bill remains as chimerical as a good 5-cent cigar — or Trump’s tax returns.

There are lots of other promises he hasn't kept:

He has not locked up Hillary Clinton. He has not forced Mexico to pay for a border wall. He has not kept the government shut down until Democrats funded the wall. He has not rained “fire and fury” on North Korea. He has not torn up NAFTA. He has not pulled U.S. troops out of Syria. He has not loosened the libel laws.

Boot believes it's a good thing he didn't keep these promises. But what does that tell us about the man?

With his empty verbiage, Trump is decreasing his own bargaining leverage with adversaries such as China, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea, while raising the risk of a fatal miscalculation in an international crisis. A president’s words can mean the difference between war and peace. Even if Trump means what he says, how would anyone know? Being a fabulist may be acceptable for a real estate developer. It’s destructive and self-defeating for a commander in chief.

And there is the distinct possibility that Trump is in the early stages of dementia. That should scare the hell out of all of us.

Image: Capitol Hill Blue

Saturday, April 06, 2019

And A Fool

This week, students across Ontario walked out of their classes. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

On Thursday, more than 100,000 students walked out of schools across the province, not to cut class but to protest class cuts. They rallied against $851 million in foregone funding, which will force students into larger classes as thousands of teaching positions are eliminated by late 2022 — supplemented by more online courses than anywhere else in North America.
“This is about the union bosses telling the teachers and the students what to do,” Ford announced in the legislature before the protests had even begun.
“That’s what the union bosses are doing right now. It’s absolutely shameful that they’re using our students as a bunch of pawns.”
On the radio that afternoon, he went further, blaming “union thugs” for the protests.

That's our premier.  He's full of hot air. But hot air isn't harmless:

He cannot bring himself to tell the truth: That he overpromised on tax cuts and so must now under-deliver on services, shortchanging our students who must now pay the price — to the tune of $851 million and 3,475 lost teaching positions by late 2022.

What will be the consequences of those lost teaching jobs?

Ford’s “Government for the People” is taking people out of the classroom. As my colleague Kristin Rushowy has reported, Ontario’s plan to impose four mandatory online credits is without equal.

Not all students have equal access to the internet or the computer skills required to complete the courses. Ford announced that, with an average class size of 28, “We will have the lowest class size in the entire country.” But the facts tell a different story:

British Columbia’s government website notes its average class size is 22.9 for grades 8 to 12. Alberta’s government website shows an average of 23.2 students for grades 10 to 12.

Obviously, Mr. Ford is a con man -- and a fool.


Friday, April 05, 2019

A Shout Out From Brooks

This morning, in The New York Times, David Brooks gives Canadians a shout out. He writes:

According to recently released data, between 2015 and 2017, Canada reduced its official poverty rate by at least 20 percent. Roughly 825,000 Canadians were lifted out of poverty in those years, giving the country today its lowest poverty rate in history.

We did it, Brooks believes, because we approached poverty with a methodology:

A common model is one-donor-funding-one-program. Different programs compete for funds. They justify their existence using randomized controlled experiments, in which researchers try to pinpoint one input that led to one positive output. The foundation heads, city officials and social entrepreneurs go to a bunch of conferences, but these conferences don’t have much to do with one another.
In Canada it’s not like that. About 15 years ago, a disparate group of Canadians realized that a problem as complex as poverty can be addressed only through a multisector comprehensive approach. They realized that poverty was not going to be reduced by some innovation — some cool, new program nobody thought of before. It was going to be addressed through better systems that were mutually supporting and able to enact change on a population level.
So they began building citywide and communitywide structures. They started 15 years ago with just six cities, but now they have 72 regional networks covering 344 towns.
They begin by gathering, say, 100 people from a single community. A quarter have lived with poverty; the rest are from business, nonprofits and government.
They spend a year learning about poverty in their area, talking with the community. They launch a different kind of conversation. First, they don’t want better poor; they want fewer poor. That is to say, their focus is not on how do we give poor people food so they don’t starve. It is how do we move people out of poverty. Second, they up their ambitions. How do we eradicate poverty altogether? Third, they broaden their vision. What does a vibrant community look like in which everybody’s basic needs are met.

That doesn't mean that all is rosy. The Ford government is actively trying to undermine these structures. And, from what I read, if Jason Kenny is elected premier in Alberta, he'll do the same.

The Neanderthals did not go extinct. In fact, they're on the rise. Nevertheless, we must not lose sight of what we've achieved.

Image: Fox News

Thursday, April 04, 2019

The Forest And The Trees

For two months, we have been obsessed with the SNC Lavalin Crisis. But, Thomas Walkom writes that we've been focused on the wrong crisis:

The climate apocalypse is fast approaching. That’s the word from federal government scientists who Monday issued an alarming report on climate change in Canada.
They say that even in the unlikely event that the world meets its global carbon emission targets Canada is at high risk of extreme temperatures, drought and flooding.

The evidence keeps piling up, and our political leaders keep ignoring it. Justin Trudeau's carbon tax isn't enough to change the climate trajectory. But, with the exception of Elizabeth May, the other party leaders offer nothing:
The opposition Conservatives, joined by like-minded governments in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, attack Justin Trudeau’s Liberals for imposing a carbon tax to deal with the global warming problem.
But they offer nothing plausible in its stead. Ontario Premier Doug Ford argues that he doesn’t need to do anything to reduce carbon emissions — that the decision of a previous government to shut down the province’s coal-fired electricity generating plants was sufficient.
Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, another vociferous critic of carbon taxes, says he’ll come up with ideas of his own — eventually.
If the Tories were serious about climate change, they wouldn’t criticize Trudeau for doing too much. They would attack him for doing too little.
By the federal government’s own reckoning, it is not on course to meet even the minimalist carbon emission targets it agreed to in Paris in 2015.

Wilson-Raybould has provided us with a bizarre distraction:

I say bizarre because ultimately, this is a story in which nothing much happened.
Last fall, Wilson-Raybould was pressed by those around the prime minister to consider offering a form of plea bargain to SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec engineering firm under indictment for bribery. She demurred and eventually was shifted to another portfolio before quitting cabinet entirely.
But SNC-Lavalin still faces criminal charges and remains without a plea bargain.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, climate change rolls along. The federal report predicts that if carbon emission growth continues unabated, sea levels on the east coast will rise by as much as one metre. In the St. Lawrence basin, water levels are predicted to rise half a metre.
Under the same scenario, the scientists report with medium confidence that, by 2100, periods of drought will become more frequent in the Prairies and the British Columbia interior.

It's an old saw, but it's true. As our forests burn, we can't see the forest for the trees.

Image: Hazlitt

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Going Her Way

Jody Wilson-Raybould is gone. And she left in a huff. Susan Delacourt writes:

Maybe there have been other politicians who turned a cabinet demotion into a three-month-long crisis for their governments, though none spring to mind. Perhaps there are other ministers who have spent days warning their bosses not to move them out of their jobs.
But no one in Canada, until Wilson-Raybould, appears to have done this so publicly and with such bridge-burning tenacity — up to and including Tuesday’s fiery warning to fellow Liberals against ejecting her from caucus.
None of the warnings worked. In the space of three months, Wilson-Raybould has become the former justice minister, the former veterans affairs minister, and as of Tuesday night, a former Liberal MP and no-longer candidate for Vancouver Granville in the next election.

The final straw was the recording of her phone conversation with the Clerk of the Privy Council. It's one thing to record someone with his or her knowledge. It's something else to do it surreptitiously. Until the end, Wilson-Raybould did not see this as a reason to eject her from caucus. Her fellow caucus members felt differently.

Wilson Raybould did not leave quietly. And, in the weeks to come, she will not be quiet. How this will all play out remains to be seen.

Image: South China Morning Post