Monday, September 30, 2019

More Fordian Folly

Today is the day that support staff in Ontario's schools begin work to rule. Doug Ford's mouth always gets him in trouble.  Martin Regg Cohn writes that, if Doug Ford were smart, he would have learned a lesson from past school strikes:

School strikes are the perennial conflict that bedevils premiers, as Ford’s predecessors can attest. We have seen this movie before, no matter the party in power.
Bob Rae’s NDP launched the prequel in the early 90s; Mike Harris and his Tories headlined the main event later that decade; Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals produced their own unhappy sequel in 2012.
Ahead of this year’s contract negotiations, the Tories have set the stage for confrontation:
The government announced a one per cent cap on all public sector pay raises; raised the student-teacher classroom ratio from 22 to 28 (an increase of 27 per cent in average class sizes over the next four years); and mandated four online courses for each high school student ⸺ an adventure in e-learning unmatched (and untested) across the continent.
The PCs argue that higher teacher-student ratios will be painless for union members, thanks to the magic of attrition. But that is small consolation for students left behind after those retired teachers are long gone.

For Ford, all of this has always been about numbers, not students. And Ford's numbers were wrong:

The stated reason for the higher class sizes, when announced earlier this year, was Ford’s claim that the budget deficit was out of control — after supposedly soaring to $15 billion for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Last month, the Tories acknowledged that the true deficit number was closer to $7.4 billion after all ⸺ less than half of the initial projection that served as the pretext for education cuts.
That inflated deficit scenario was also the impetus for a salary freeze of one per cent to be applied to all public servants. It is a recipe for unfairness that will only stoke confrontation.

All of this incompetence has led the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation -- of which I was a member -- to make their bargaining position public:

The OSSTF wants a return to last year’s class ratios; a pause on the unprecedented e-learning plan; and a cost-of-living increase tied to inflation, without any other salary hike.

Given the fact that there is no research to support Ford's e-learning plan, that seems like a pretty reasonable offer. But one wonders if Ford is smart enough to take it.

Image: The Toronto Star

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Democracy Is Alive and Kicking

The last few years have given Democracy a rough ride. But last week, Robin Sears writes, we learned that Democracy is not down for the count:

Early on Tuesday, by an unanimous 11-0 decision the United Kingdom Supreme Court smacked down Prime Minister Boris Johnson, declaring in the most searing language that he had broken the law, and by implication had lied to the Queen, about his motives for seeking an unheard of one month and one-week long suspension of Parliament — on the very brink of the most momentous decision it will make in this century.
In the chilling understated tones that only a certain kind of Brit can muster, Chief Justice Lord Hale, dubbed Boris Johnson a fraud. With painfully slow and brittle enunciation, she devastated the reputation of the prime minister as a foolish grifter. It was an unprecedented finding, not seen, as Justice Hale said, since the 17th century.
Her decision meant the prorogation had never happened and MPs went back to work the next day pummelling the embattled prime minister. It was their collective declaration of the supremacy of Parliament, abetted by their ferocious and funny speaker, John Bercow, that had provoked Boris into trying the shutdown ploy.

And, twelve hours later, Nancy Pelosi informed Donald Trump that he faced impeachment. She declared that:

Trump had abused his office, broken the law, and announced the launch of formal impeachment proceedings against him.
It is only the third time in U.S. history this has taken place, as Nixon resigned before he could be impeached. But like Nixon, this president seems destined to fall on his attempted coverup of a hilariously inept attempt to find dirt on his opponent. Like someone who had watched “The Godfather” once too often, Trump had growled to the Ukrainian president he had better “make up dirt on Biden” — or else.
These two explosions were not bad for a day’s work by institutions — the courts and the legislature — that were said to be crumbling. They demonstrated their resilience and that they remain the bulwark of democracy on each side of the Atlantic.

These are still dark days. Both Johnson and Trump have a truly stunning list of enablers. Nonetheless, there are several lessons that everyone -- particularly Canadians -- should take to heart:

First, is that the executive branch of government is not all-powerful, if government and opposition MPs are willing to assert their authority. If we have a minority government after Oct. 21, the members, new and old, might want to consider how they can quickly establish their sovereignty, similar to the astonishing revolt by the U.K. backbench.
A second lesson, especially for our politicians, is: Think twice before trying to rope judges into your partisan agenda — you might get badly bitten. The scrofulous trickster who is using taxpayer millions and the official public inquiry system in his province to blacken his opponents, has also gathered a group of credulous premiers to support his attempt to bring our Supreme Court into his climate denial cabal.
His lawyers should have pointed out the fate of these kinds of legal charades. Our Supremes will once again assert the right of the Government of Canada to govern on issues of national importance, especially ones of national security, like the climate crisis.

What does all this mean for Johnson and Trump? Both men may be headed for the exits -- much sooner than they or their enablers ever imagined.


Saturday, September 28, 2019

When They're Being Conned

The Conservatives are pitching Andrew Scheer as a Canadian Everyman. Alan Freeman writes:

The Globe and Mail’s fawning profile of Andrew Scheer starts with a bit of a fib. It contrasts the laid-back security approach at Stornoway, the official home of the opposition leader, to the “sprawling and regal” residence of the Prime Minister at 24 Sussex Drive.
The anecdote is to convey the idea, much beloved of Conservative Party spin-masters, that Andrew Scheer is “everyman” compared to the Trudeau princeling who’s the current prime minister.

But these days, Trudeau doesn't live at 24 Sussex Drive. And the idea that Scheer is an everyman is a carefully manufactured myth:

Like all myths, Andrew Scheer as the “Canadian everyman of 2019” is essentially a lie. Ordinary Andrew is a one per center. His salary of $264,400 a year as leader of the opposition puts him into the top one per cent of Canadian tax filers, according to Statistics Canada.
His first real job—aside from brief stints as a waiter, insurance broker and political aide—was a $141,000-a-year job as a 25-year-old MP. He’s lived off the public teat in grand style ever since.
At the age of 32, he became the youngest ever Speaker of the House of Commons and moved into the Farm, the lovely rural residence of the House Speaker in the Gatineau Hills north of the city.
Who else but a one per center with essentially free housing could afford to have a stay-at-home spouse and five children? Not the real “Canadian everyman of 2019,” who’s likely living in a one-bedroom condo in downtown Toronto or Vancouver wondering if and when he and his working spouse can ever afford one child, let alone five. (The average Canadian family now has 1.56 children and there at last report there were only 493,000 families in Canada with a single earner and stay-at-home parent, a third the number in 1976.)
Yet the Conservative Party has the nerve to state that “Andrew knows the joys and challenges of raising a growing family in Canada today.” Really?
To gild the “everyman” lily, Scheer harkens back to his Abe Lincoln log-cabin story, only this time it’s a townhouse in suburban Ottawa, where his family made do without a car. “We had to take the bus everywhere we went.” The horrors. In fact, his parents were solidly middle-class, his father a librarian at The Ottawa Citizen and his mother a nurse.

It's the same kind of balderdash which was behind the notion that Donald Trump was The Master of The Deal.

Canadians should know when they're being conned.

Image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Friday, September 27, 2019

Ignorance Incarnate

Ontario's Financial Accountability Office has crunched the numbers. And Victoria Gibson reports that:

Ontario is set to lose more than 10,000 teaching positions over the next five years, due to the Ford government’s changes in class sizes and new requirement that students take a number of their courses online, the legislature’s financial watchdog has found.
In a new report published Thursday, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario estimated that 994 elementary positions and 9,060 secondary positions will be eliminated from Ontario’s publicly-funded education system by the 2023-24 school year.
The report also estimated that there will be 2,826 fewer teachers in Ontario’s education system this year — 967 fewer elementary teachers and 1,859 fewer secondary teachers.

The FAO also concluded that:

the province’s assertion that the reduction in teaching positions could be achieved without layoffs, saying that Ontario’s new $1.6 billion Teacher Job Protection Fund “should provide sufficient funding” to allow the new class sizes to be achieved without dismissals. News of teacher layoffs have sent tremors through the education system as recently as early September, when in Toronto alone, a local union told several media outlets that more than 150 high-school teachers were without full-time contracts due to what they billed as provincial cuts to education funding.

It's easy to lose sight of what was behind these cutbacks. When he came to office, Doug Ford claimed that the province's deficit was $15 billion. He has recently revised those numbers down to $7.4 billion -- not far from the deficit of $6.7 billion Kathleen Wynne was projecting in her last budget. Ford used the inflated figures to radically restructure the education system. There has been a deluge of criticism:

The FAO report Thursday was followed by swift criticism from Ford’s opposition. Marit Stiles, education critic for the provincial NDP, said the loss of more than 10,000 teachers would “hurt students in every region of our province.” “Parents and educators are sounding alarm bells about the negative impact these cuts will have on our education system – damage that will only get worse as our population grows over time,” Stiles wrote in a statement, urging Ford to reverse the changes that she billed as “deep cuts.”
Michael Coteau, the Don Valley East MPP who has announced his bid for leadership of the provincial Liberal Party, also framed the changes as ‘deep cuts’ in a statement released Thursday. “This will lead to class sizes increasing by up to 27%, on average. In some schools, the damage will be much worse,” Coteau wrote. “This is not what parents want. This is not what students want. This is an irresponsible decision by a government that has shown time and time again that it puts ideology above evidence.”
Another Liberal leadership hopeful, education critic Mitzie Hunter, later called the cuts “short-sighted” and “callous,” citing an Ontario Student Trustees Association report that showed 95 per cent of student respondents disapproving of the new e-learning requirements. “Other reports have indicated that students are struggling to get into classes they need to graduate or for post-secondary programs because they’re full,” Hunter said.

And Mr. Ford wonders why he is booed at public events. The reason is simple: He's Ignorance Incarnate.

Image: twitter

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Be Careful

A year ago, the Conservatives were predicting a juggernaut. Chantal Hebert writes:

Maclean’s December 2018 issue captured the belligerent spirit of the time with a cover picture featuring Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba premiers Doug Ford, Scott Moe and Brian Pallister along with then-would-be Alberta premier Jason Kenney and federal leader Andrew Scheer.
The intention was to put Canada on notice that a Conservative juggernaut was set to crush Trudeau and his climate agenda. The various Conservative leaders were, according to the caption, “spoiling for fight.”

But the times -- and things -- have changed:

At this juncture in the campaign, the Conservative premiers have mostly turned into as many ghosts haunting Scheer’s bid for federal power.
The more they rattle their chains, the more they risk spooking voters into the Liberal fold.
Since the election was called, Scheer spent a lot of time in Ontario but never on a stage with Ford.
A few weeks ago, Saskatchewan’s Moe declared he would not endorse any of the federal parties. The Conservative Party of Canada’s (CPC) war room had reportedly not seen that coming especially since Scheer’s seat is in the province but in the current context it could not have caused it a lot of anguish.

And, in Quebec, it's not the Conservatives who are on the rise. It's the Bloc Quebecois:

The Léger poll found the sovereigntist party in first place among francophone voters — three points ahead of the Liberals and five points ahead of the CPC.
Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet has so far run the most efficient Quebec campaign. Premier François Legault — by making demands on immigration and bill 21 that no national party can wholly embrace — has smoothed the Bloc’s path to gains next month.
The prospect that the Bloc could hold the balance of power in a minority Parliament is no longer an abstraction.

Some of us have hoped that the Greens will hold the balance of power. But that balance could turn out much differently than we hoped.

The old adage, "Be careful what you wish for," still holds true.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Now Is the Time

The Democrats have decided to hold hearings on the impeachment of Donald Trump. Those hearings were inevitable simply because Trump has always been unfit for office. But the timing of those hearings has been critical. David Leonhardt writes in The New York Times:

The Mueller report was too much of a letdown. True, that was in part because of the artful deception by Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, in releasing the report — but only in part. Over all, the report was anticlimactic. It persuaded virtually no one who wasn’t already persuaded of Trump’s unfitness.
If the Democrats had impeached him after the report’s release — after specifically saying that they would make their decision based on the report — they would not have persuaded many swing voters (or virtually any Republicans). I understand that many progressives wanted House Democrats to impeach Trump anyway, as a matter of principle. But I think that view overlooks the history and purpose of impeachment: It is, again, a political process.
If you impeach a president and fail to damage his political standing — if you’re just as likely to shore up his standing, as I think a post-Mueller impeachment would have — you’re doing it wrong. You are going to political war with the Constitution you want rather than the one the country has.

But the whistle blower's report has changed things:

Starting an impeachment inquiry is the proper move because of both what’s changed and what hasn’t. What has changed? In his dealings with Ukraine, the president committed a new and clearly understandable constitutional high crime: He put his own interests above the national interest by pressuring a foreign country to damage a political rival. He evidently misused taxpayer money in the process. He has shown he’s willing to do almost anything to win re-election.
What hasn’t changed? Trump is unfit for office. He has repeatedly violated his oath of office, to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. He has weakened America’s national security. He has used the presidency for personal enrichment. He has broken the law more than once. He has tried to undermine American democracy.
Trump has handed Democrats a new opportunity to persuade the country that his presidency needs to end, on Jan. 20, 2021, if not sooner. Democrats should seize that opportunity. Even if they can’t persuade Republican senators to remove him from office, they can focus voters’ attention on his egregious misbehaviour.

The irony is that Trump could have escaped impeachment after the Mueller Report. But he is not smart enough to understand that he shouldn't repeat the behaviour that got the Mueller Inquiry going.

Do his supporters understand this? Probably not. They elected Trump to shake up the system. What they didn't understand -- and still don't understand -- is that his aim is not to shake up the system. He is dedicated to its destruction.

If the Democrats  fail to impeach Trump -- even if the Republicans refuse to follow through -- he will succeed. And the Republicans will go down in history as his enablers -- those who happily were unwilling -- in Benjamin Franklin's word -- to "keep" their republic.

Image: Pinterest

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

So, Boris, How's It Going?

The Supreme Court in the UK has ruled that Boris Johnson illegally prorogued Parliament. Martin Kettle writes in The Guardian:

The supreme court has delivered a comprehensive demolition of Boris Johnson’s government and its handling of Brexit. The unanimous judgment of the 11 justices, announced by Lady Hale this morning, amounts to a root and branch rejection of the prime minister’s attempts to rule without parliament, to take Britain out of the European Union by 31 October without a deal, and to contrive a premature general election. The judgment was incisive and without any waffle. It was very consciously written in the best tradition of British constitutional law, of which parliamentary sovereignty is the foundational rock.
The immediate effect of the judgment is devastating for Johnson. It is expressed so cogently and unambiguously that it will be difficult for him to wriggle out of it – even though he is certainly foolish enough to try. Parliament will surely be recalled on Tuesday – since, as the judgment said, it has not been prorogued in the first place. Johnson’s efforts, to the extent that they exist at all, to negotiate a new or tweaked deal with the EU will be held up to the light. And, since Johnson spectacularly lacks a majority in the House of Commons, it is likely that the cross-party efforts to shape Brexit will be redoubled.

The ruling also puts the spotlight on Johnson's opponents:

His opponents, therefore, absolutely need to agree on the form, composition and, above all, the leader of any government that could replace him. If the court’s ruling means anything for politicians, it is that trying to govern as if you have a majority when in fact you do not is impossible. The belief of the hard-right Tory Brexiters that a party coup against Theresa May in a hung parliament would enable them to get their way by electing Johnson lies shattered. They need to learn the lesson very fast. Militant remainers will have to face the equivalent lesson, too. One notable consequence of the judgment, not to be overlooked in the other excitements, is for the Union. By not overruling the Scottish court of session decision on Johnson’s actions, the supreme court has upheld Scottish judges against English ones, and has removed a potential source of grievance for the SNP against “London judges” if the ruling had gone the other way.

Britons are still in a pickle. But their Supreme Court has upheld the primacy of democracy.

Image: IBTimes UK

Monday, September 23, 2019

Hell To Pay

Yesterday, Robin Sears warned that, out in the hinterland, there is palpable rage:

My neighbours in northeastern Ontario are quick to vent their rage about all manner of foolish government regulations and about guns, opioids, and their children’s futures. Trudeau pounding on about women, climate and Indigenous Canadians are the angry backyard chat among our friends. They are not racists, but they are deeply angry about two things: no good jobs for their children unless they leave for the city, and being talked down to by smart aleck politicians.
At the gas pump or the mall, they are the picture of polite deferential Canadians. But scratch the surface on “cruelty to farm animals” or cutbacks to their health clinic and they erupt. They are neither conventional conservatives nor narrowly populist. Their irritations are sparked by too much spending on sex education and too little on the “basics;” too much CRA harassment over GST payments while ignoring “the real rich tax cheats:”; and too little spent on roads in rural Canada versus “billions for big city subways.”
There are two troubling connectors in this welter of grievances: first, governments and politicians are all frauds and corrupt — even “Tyrants!” Second, everything is “rigged” against them by “George Soros and Trump’s gang of billionaire friends” and the politicians they control. The range of enemies runs from “the rich guys” to “the politicians they own,” to mainstream media appearing to sneer at their concerns.
The combinations of villains and issues may seem bizarre, but perfectly defensible to people who feel they are now permanently cast as outsiders, and “losers.”
“Why should my son work for less than minimum wage and yours makes three times that in town?! He worked just as hard at school? I am terrified he is going to fall into the opioid hole,” says an angry father to a richer neighbour, as I quietly eavesdrop at our local diner.

The digital revolution has left many in small town and rural Canada behind:

The so-called “big muscle jobs” at the small industrial plants are gone, the township jobs are being held onto to by elderly men who should have retired but can’t afford to, and there’s no money in farming. For an 18-year-old high school grad in these towns, someone with no family farm or business to fall back on, there are very few local choices. She can be a small-town cashier or domestic helper. He can serve summer tourists or be a handyman — the original insecure gig economy jobs.

It's true that only 15% of Canadians live in the hinterland. But politicians like Doug Ford and Jason Kenny have stoked their anger successfully. If voters in rural Canada are ignored by the major parties, there will be hell to pay.


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Tuned Out

Canadians are turning out this election. Bob Hepburn writes in The Toronto Star:

I’ve overheard a woman talking to her 20-something daughter about the election and the daughter responding: “There’s an election?”; I’ve listened as my dentist told me he just wants “it over;” I’ve heard a colleague speak about how no one at an eight-person dinner party on the weekend talked at all about the election.
It’s just not me who is seeing this trend. Viewership for TV political programs and news stories is reportedly down from levels in the 2015 election. At the same time, election stories are garnering less attention from readers at some online news sites than was expected.
In addition, campaign organizers are noticing the same voter sentiment as their leaders criss-cross the country and their volunteers knock on doors in their neighbourhoods seeking support for local candidates.

There are several reasons for this ennui:

First, the election campaign is too long. It actually started back in January, not last week when Justin Trudeau formally asked Gov. Gen. Julie Payette to give her blessing for the launch of the official six-week campaign. For months now, all parties have been in full-election mode, complete with policy pronouncements, local rallies and detailed media strategies.
Second, while campaigns are seen as a time for voters “to get to know” the leaders, the reality is that we already know them. We know what Justin Trudeau is like and what he would bring to a second term — the good, bad and the ugly. We know who Andrew Scheer is because he’s been the Conservative leader since May, 2017. We’ve seen him on television for years. The same is true of Jagmeet Singh, who has led the NDP since October, 2017, and Elizabeth May who has headed the Greens since 2006.
Third, to the casual voter it must seem there’s hardly any difference between the Liberals and the Tories on many key issues, or between the NDP and the Greens. In truth, it’s difficult to discern how the parties differ on how helping the middle class, or how they would deal with health-care funding. And if a voter believes — rightly or wrongly — that there’s no real difference, then would we expect them to follow the campaign?
Fourth, no one big issue that will galvanize voters dominates this election — not SNC-Lavalin, not the regulations on religious symbols in Quebec, not pipelines. Climate change, tax cuts, the economy and jobs are key issue, but not drivers of widespread voter engagement. The last truly issue-driven elections may have been in the 1980s when free trade with the U.S. highlighted the campaigns.

Elections are important. They're the cornerstone of our democracy. These days, democracy is in trouble all over the world. That is one trend we can't afford to follow.

Image: The Atlantic

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Why Republicans Play Dirty

Donald Trump is not the only person dedicated to sabotaging democracy in the United States. Professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt write in The New York Times:

The greatest threat to our democracy today is a Republican Party that plays dirty to win.
Republicans across the country seem to have embraced an “any means necessary” strategy to preserve their power. After losing the governorship in North Carolina in 2016 and Wisconsin in 2018, Republicans used lame-duck legislative sessions to push through a flurry of bills stripping power from incoming Democratic governors. Last year, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a Republican gerrymandering initiative, conservative legislators attempted to impeach the justices. And back in North Carolina, Republican legislators used a surprise vote last week, on Sept. 11, to ram through an override of Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto — while most Democrats had been told no vote would be held. This is classic “constitutional hardball,” behavior that, while technically legal, uses the letter of the law to subvert its spirit.

This has happened once before -- but the party doing the damage was the Democrats -- in the wake of the Civil War:

In the United States, Southern Democrats reacted in a similar manner to the Reconstruction-era enfranchisement of African-Americans. Mandated by the 15th Amendment, which was ratified in 1870, black suffrage not only imperiled Southern Democrats’ political dominance but also challenged longstanding patterns of white supremacy. Since African-Americans represented a majority or near majority in many of the post-Confederate states, Southern Democrats viewed their enfranchisement as an existential threat. So they, too, played dirty.
Between 1885 and 1908, all 11 post-Confederate states passed laws establishing poll taxes, literacy tests, property and residency requirements and other measures aimed at stripping African-Americans of their voting rights — and locking in Democratic Party dominance. In Tennessee, where the 1889 Dortch Law would disenfranchise illiterate black voters, one newspaper editorialized, “Give us the Dortch bill or we perish.” These measures, building on a monstrous campaign of anti-black violence, did precisely what they were intended to do: Black turnout in the South fell to 2 percent in 1912 from 61 percent in 1880. Unwilling to lose, Southern Democrats stripped the right to vote from millions of people, ushering in nearly a century of authoritarian rule in the South.

Democracy is not just about winning. It's also about knowing how to lose. Levitsky and Ziblatt believe that Republicans are afraid of losing. They know they're going to lose. But they refuse to accept the reasons for their loss. So they do whatever they can to rig the system in their favour.

I confess I have a soft spot for the sixth movie in the Star Trek franchise, The Undiscovered Country. I enjoyed watching two old Stratford alumni -- William Shatner and Christopher Plummer  -- as the two protaganists. The script also gave Plummer ample opportunity to quote Shakespeare. But, more importantly, there is a scene in the film when Spock turns to Kirk and asks, "Are we two -- you and I -- so old and so inflexible that we both have outlived our usefulness?"

I suggest that Republicans know that they are old and inflexible; and they're scared as hell. But they refuse to change. The Democrats understood the problem. It took time, but they changed. After all, they elected the first black American president.

Image: You Tube

Friday, September 20, 2019

When You Live In A Glass House

I'm disgusted. When you live in a glass house, it's not wise to throw stones. But throwing stones is what our politics is all about.

I have no idea how this will effect the outcome of the election.

Image: Business Insider

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Political Honesty

It's better to be honest than to say -- as Doug Ford has -- that you "believe in honest conversations." Martin Regg Cohn writes:

A year ago, Ford told Ontarians he wanted to “follow the money” —code for criminality. An accounting dispute between the previous Liberal government and the auditor general amounted to “the biggest government scandal in a generation,” he claimed.
Ford pointed an accusing finger at his predecessor, Kathleen Wynne: “If you lie on your taxes … there are consequences.”
Her crime? In her last budget, for the 2018-19 fiscal year, Wynne projected a budget deficit of $6.7 billion.
Impossible, cried Ford. After taking power, he assembled an outside panel that alleged the deficit had somehow soared to an outsized $15 billion — more than double Wynne’s figure.

But, after a year, Ford's numbers have changed -- radically:

This month, Ford’s Tories announced the final numbers for that disputed fiscal year. Let us try to uncover the coverup — in all honesty.
Turns out the 2018-19 deficit was $7.4 billion after all. Not the $15 billion that Ford alleged (by mischievously counting a number of Liberal campaign promises that never came to pass).
Compare that final figure to the original $6.7 billion estimate from Wynne’s government in their original budget. That’s a difference of roughly 10 per cent, versus Ford’s post-election allegation that overstated the deficit by 100 per cent.

Ford has been cutting programs ever since he came to office -- because, he said, that $15 billion deficit was unsustainable. However,

no one will be surprised when Ford’s government quietly restates the deficit numbers downwards yet again. Expect the final — truly final — deficit figure to align even more closely with the original projections from that disputed Liberal budget, the one that Ford claimed in so many words was criminally corrupt.

Political Honesty? Where should we look for it?

Image: St. Catherines Standard

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Racing Toward An Uninhabitable Planet

William Rees believes that the climate crisis could cause mass human extinction. He writes:

On Aug. 15, in a memorable session of the BBC’s HardTalk, [Roger] Hallam irritated multiple cultural nerves by claiming, on the basis of “hard science,” that six billion people will die as a result of climate change in coming decades.
More specifically, our ruling elites’ inaction and lies on climate change will lead to climate turmoil, mass starvation and general societal collapse in this century. Normally unflappable HardTalk host, Stephen Sackur, just couldn’t wrap his mind around Hallam’s unyielding assertions.

There are lots of scientists who are as sceptical as Sachur:

One key to understanding these scientists’ rejections is their language. They assert that there is “no mainstream prediction” nor analysis in the “peer reviewed literature” that climate change will precipitate such catastrophic human mortality.
But keep in mind that scientists are reluctant, for professional reasons, to go far beyond the immediate data in formal publication. Moreover, organizations like the United Nations, including even its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are so dominated by economists’ concerns and bent by political considerations that extraneous noise obscures the scientific signal.

But, if you look at data on the human population explosion, Hallam's claim becomes quite believable:

When something is growing exponentially, it has a constant doubling time. For example, a population growing at two per cent a year will double every 35 years. Interestingly, the increase that occurs during any doubling period will be greater than the sum of the increases experienced in all previous doublings.
As the figure below shows, it took 200,000 years for the human population to reach its first billion in the early 1800s. In other words, population growth was essentially negligible for 99.95 of human history. But when sustained exponential growth kicked in, it took just 200 years — 1/1000th as much time — for the population to top 7.5 billion early in this century!

The same exponential math applies to the climate crisis:

As much as a decade ago a climate symposium organized to discuss the implications of a 4 C warmer world concluded, “Less than a billion people will survive.” Here [Hans Joachim] Schellnhuber is quoted as saying: “At 4 C Earth’s... carrying capacity estimates are below 1 billion people.” His words were echoed by professor Kevin Anderson of the U.K.’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change: “Only about 10 per cent of the planet’s population would survive at 4 C.”
Similarly, in May of this year, Johan Rockström, current director of the Potsdam Institute opined that in a 4 C warmer world: “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that.... There will be a rich minority of people who survive with modern lifestyles, no doubt, but it will be a turbulent, conflict-ridden world.” Meanwhile, greenhouse gas concentrations are still increasing.
Keep in mind that a global temperature increase averaging 4 C means land temperatures would be 5.5 to 6 C warmer away from the coasts. Much of the tropics would be too hot for humans and many densely populated parts of the temperate zone would be desertified. A 4 C warmer world map suggests that as much as half the planet would become uninhabitable. (A ‘4 C world’ assumes business-as-usual or no new climate policies in coming decades. Note, however, that known and unknown ‘feedback’ mechanisms could make 4 C possible, even with new politically acceptable policies in place.)

We are racing -- blindly -- toward an uninhabitable planet.

Image: Countercurrents

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Locked And Loaded

Donald Trump says his country is "locked and loaded" for a confrontation with Iran. Before he wanders into the desert again, Andrew Bacevich writes that Trump would do well to remember how the United States got entangled in Iran:

In 1987, an Iraqi warplane attacked an American Navy frigate, the Stark, on patrol in the Persian Gulf. Accepting Saddam Hussein’s explanation that the attack, which killed 37 sailors, had been an accident, American officials promptly used the episode, which came at the height of the Iran-Iraq war, to ratchet up pressure on Tehran. The incident provided the impetus for what became a brief, and all but forgotten, maritime war between the United States and Iran.
After the Stark episode, American and Iranian naval forces in the gulf began jousting, an uneven contest that culminated in April 1988 with the virtual destruction of the Iranian Navy.
Yet the United States gained little from this tidy victory. The principal beneficiary was Hussein, who wasted no time in repaying Washington by invading and annexing Kuwait soon after his war with Iran ground to a halt. Thus did America’s “friend” become America’s “enemy.”
The encounter with Iran became a precedent-setting event and a font of illusions. Since then, a series of administrations have indulged the fantasy that the direct or indirect application of military power can somehow restore stability to the gulf.
In fact, just the reverse has occurred. Instability has become chronic, with the relationship between military policy and actual American interests in the region becoming ever more difficult to discern.

Much of American foreign policy provides a study in the law of unintended consequences:

The conviction, apparently widespread in American policy circles, that in the Persian Gulf (and elsewhere) the United States is compelled to take sides, has been a source of recurring mischief. No doubt the escalating rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran poses a danger of further destabilizing the gulf. But the United States is under no obligation to underwrite the folly of one side or the other.
Supporting Iraq in its foolhardy war with Iran in the 1980s proved to be strategically shortsighted in the extreme. It yielded vastly more problems than it solved. It set in train a series of costly wars that have produced negligible benefits. Supporting Saudi Arabia today in its misbegotten war in Yemen is no less shortsighted.
Power confers choice, and the United States should exercise it. We can begin to do so by recognizing that Saudi Arabia’s folly need not be our problem.

Mr. Bacevich is no idle theoretician. Americans -- and others -- would be wise to head his warning.

Image: Modern Diplomacy

Monday, September 16, 2019

Pas Comme Les Autres

Martin Patriquin writes that there are  stark parallels between the Adscam scandal of the 1990's and the SNC-Lavalin scandal of today:

A quick refresher: In 1995, utterly spooked by Quebec's near-exit from the federation, the Liberal government of the day devised a plan to essentially sell Quebecers on Canada's many merits and delights. In theory, this branding exercise would make the Maple Leaf ubiquitous at sporting events, hunting shows and on Quebec's formidable festival circuit. In practice, this exercise was entrusted to Liberal-connected ad firms in the province, which billed inflationary amounts for work often not done. 
The ensuing scandal, also birthed by the Globe and Mail, had a feedback loop effect. English Canada resented the Liberal Party's rank Quebec favouritism, which Quebecers themselves resented for the graft and corruption done in their name. The Liberals were relegated to near-rump status in Quebec in the following years, and it took nearly a decade for the party to recover from the cacophony of outrage and arrests. Lavscam has many similar ingredients: ample finger wagging from English Canada and a Liberal government willing to break the rules for an allegedly corrupt Quebec-based business.

But, in Quebec, the outrage felt in the rest of the country hasn't taken hold. Why?

Simple: as a large, home-grown entity, SNC-Lavalin is less a company than corporate god. Like Couche-Tard, GardaWorld, Bombardier and CGI Group, to name a few, SNC is a symbol of Quebec success and might on the world stage.
When one of these corporate gods is sold off — like, say, when an U.S.-based Lowes bought Quebec-based Rona in 2016 for an absurd amount of money — the reaction is less joyous than wake-like. "What will be the next Quebec crown jewel to be sold off?" wondered one columnist in a familiar fit of pique. 
Being a Quebec corporate god holds a lot of water and hides a lot of sin. Even before the Globe and Mail revelations, the Quebec government included the company on a list of 10 "strategic" firms that would be protected from foreign takeovers. 
In the wake of the Globe's revelations, when SNC-Lavalin's decampment to foreign shores became a very real possibility, the company's myriad alleged overindulgences at the behest of Muammar Gaddafi's homicidal regime became an afterthought. Far more important, as Quebec Premier François Legault put it last February, was to "settle" SNC's inconvenient legal situation and "protect the headquarters and the thousands of good, well-paying jobs we have at SNC-Lavalin."
In attempting to do exactly this, Trudeau endeared himself to Quebec's political and media classes — and, apparently, to most Quebecers themselves. 

Quebecers will tell you that la belle province is "pas comme les autres." And they will have a large say in who becomes the next prime minister.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

It Follows You Forever

Social media are taking down lots of candidates these days. There is one ugly fact that we all now live with: What you write or do on the Internet lives on forever. Robin Sears writes:

It is too much to hope that young people will not say and do dumb things. We all did. But is it too much to expect that they will not lie about them when they are seeking public office?
It shouldn’t be. But once again, a spate of bozo candidate moments has bedevilled the launch of each party’s campaigns.
Everything from domestic abuse to antisemitism, to white supremacy, to Islamophobic attacks have taken down candidates from every party.

We all do stupid things in our youth. But, these days, if you try and lie about the stupid things you've done, the lies will catch up with you:

Do these idiots think that in these days of eternal digital life for every dumb thing you have said or done that they won’t be exposed? How many cases of lives and reputations ruined do they need to hear about to understand that that has not been true for more than a decade now.
Seeking the privilege of holding public office is not filling in a job application. The standards of character and integrity are much higher. For it is entirely appropriate when a hidden embarrassment is revealed, for voters to ask: “Well, if she will lie about that, what else will she lie to me about?”
Yes, the parties will need to continue to tighten their vetting processes, but few screening processes can pick out every determined liar, not even polygraphs.
So the obligation is on the aspiring candidate.
They are the ones who must ask themselves before seeking the trust of thousands of voters, is there something I have done that I am ashamed of? Are there things I have said I wish, years later, I could take back?
Most of us have examples of each in our lives. The next question is quite simple: If I disclose it and offer a genuine apology for it, could I still be accepted as a candidate?
If you honestly cannot see that happening, stand down.

Good advice for political candidates -- indeed, for all of us.

Image: Twitter

Saturday, September 14, 2019

What They Won't Talk About

There are lots of issues on the agenda this time around. But, Bob Hepburn writes, there's one issue none of the leaders will touch:

Missing will be plans on how to address what is arguably the most critical issue of all — our increasingly fractured nation.
It’s the big election issue that no one is talking about.
Indeed, this election is actually about fractures between urban and rural, highly educated and moderately educated, elites and ordinary folks. It’s an election about solitudes — West versus East, the rich versus the middle class versus the poor.
While the leaders may talk a little about these divides, none will likely say anything truly unique. Instead, they will simplistically say “vote for me and I will resolve these issues.”

True, we've always been a divided nation. But some divisions can cause irreparable harm. As a kid, I grew up in the middle of Quebec -- and Canada's -- Two Solitudes. The end result was The October Crisis. We survived that and developed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But this time around, we are faced with multiple simmering divisions:

Today, 62 per cent of us believe the country is divided and 51 per cent feel it has worsened over the past 10 years, according to a recent Ipsos poll.
On the urban-rural divide, the split is huge and growing, especially on issues such as the carbon tax and gun controls. In Tuesday’s election in Manitoba, for example, outside of Greater Winnipeg the NDP won only two ridings and the Liberals none.
Many politicians, notably Ontario Premier Doug Ford, have made careers of pitting suburban and rural voters against those living in cities. In trying to appeal to non-urban voters, Ford last year branded downtown voters as “people who look down on the common folk, the people who think they are smarter than other people.”
At the same time, the rich-poor gap has grown so wide that the poor have given up on most politicians working to achieve income equality. In fact, they believe — rightly in many cases — that no politician will save them soon and that few will even try.
What the poor do see too often are politicians bowing to the rich and ultra-rich, that 1-per-cent crowd that fights against their taxes going up, money that could be spent to repair decaying schools or fixing playgrounds in poverty-ridden areas.

If we ignore those divisions, there will be an explosion. They must be addressed.

Image: HuffPost Canada

Friday, September 13, 2019

Red Tories

Pundits are suggesting that this election will be won or lost in Ontario -- primarily because Ontario is Canada's most populous province. When politicians come looking for votes here, Tom Walkom writes, they need to remember that Ontarians are Red Tories -- and they have been for a long time:

Analysts often divide voters into two camps: progressive or conservative. That is a useful distinction as far as it goes. But it doesn’t capture Ontario’s political culture which, typically, is an amalgam of both.
In general, Ontarians are wary of abrupt change. They tend to value competent management over ideology. They usually see balance as a virtue.
This is the Tory side of Red Tory-ism.
But voters in Canada’s largest province are also willing to use the state to achieve social goals. Since the early 20th century, they have backed public power in the form of Ontario Hydro (indeed, they eventually punished former premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals for privatizing part of that utility).
This is the Tory side of Red Tory-ism.
But voters in Canada’s largest province are also willing to use the state to achieve social goals. Since the early 20th century, they have backed public power in the form of Ontario Hydro (indeed, they eventually punished former premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals for privatizing part of that utility).

Once again, Justin Trudeau is presenting himself as a Red Tory:

This time around, Trudeau’s Liberals are again emphasizing their Red credentials. On Thursday, they promised to beef up subsidies for first-time home buyers in Canada’s hot housing markets, including Toronto.
They have announced that they have no interest in balanced budgets and are signalling that they will promise a comprehensive pharmacare scheme.
With one important exception, they have made few overtures to the Tory side of the typical Ontario Red Tory. That exception is the Liberal climate-change strategy, which emphasizes the classic, if ultimately unsatisfying, Tory virtue of balance — in this case, between the economy and the environment.

Andrew Scheer -- who still walks in Stephen Harper's shoes -- defines himself very much as a Blue Tory:

Scheer’s Conservatives have focused almost completely on the Tory side of Red Toryism. They accuse the Liberals of poor financial management. They accuse them of incompetence in foreign affairs, particularly with regard to China.
Scheer accuses Trudeau personally of malfeasance in the SNC-Lavalin affair.
Here, he runs the danger of going too far. Slagging Trudeau personally goes over well with the committed Conservative base. But an undecided Ontario Red Tory might find Scheer’s harsh language disturbingly reminiscent of the take-no-prisoners approach to politics associated with Harper.

Doug Ford has tried that message -- and it hasn't worked very well.

Here's the really big question: How will Elizabeth May do in a Red Tory province?

Image: The Toronto Star

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Iceberg

Andrew Scheer is hoping that no one will use the F-word -- Ford -- during the election campaign. Rob Benzie writes:

While the premier’s Progressive Conservatives won 76 of Ontario’s 124 provincial ridings in last year’s election, Scheer’s federal Conservatives fear he could hurt them where they need to win most.
Yes, Ford did his national counterparts a favour by postponing this past Monday’s scheduled return of the legislature until Oct. 28 — a week after the election.
And he has promised he’s “not getting involved” in the campaign.
But it may be difficult for the limelight-loving premier of Canada’s most populous and electorally important province to remain in the shadows for the next six weeks.

But the F-word doesn't know when -- or how -- to  shut up:

Indeed, just last Friday, Ford, whose government is spending $30 million fighting federal carbon pricing measures, fired a salvo at Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in an email fundraising appeal for his provincial party.
“It makes me so angry that we have to deal with the federal carbon tax. Because it isn’t just gas. It’s everything. Groceries move by truck. Homes are heated with natural gas,” he wrote.
“Honestly … it just makes me sick. Politicians who want to make your life more expensive don’t deserve to get elected. End of story.”

And just before the start of the campaign, Ford declared that stickers, purportedly showing the gross unfairness of the carbon tax, be placed on every gasoline pump in the province:

In that vein, Ford’s mandatory stickers attacking the federal carbon plan began appearing on gas pumps two weeks ago.
However, the Tory-blue decals — printed by Astley Gilbert at a cost to the treasury of $4,954 — are being challenged by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which argues that compelled speech violates the Constitution’s protection of free speech.
Vandalized and peeled off so quickly that supplies have run short, they may end up as a historic curio because the premier has suggested he might abandon the fight against Ottawa’s carbon pricing if the Trudeau Liberals are re-elected.
“We’ll be consulting with cabinet and we’ll move forward from there, but I do respect democracy,” he said two weeks ago.
It’s that sort of freewheeling style that alarms the button-down team around Scheer.

Scheer has every right to be concerned. Ford's the iceberg in the channel that could sink his ship.

Image: medium

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

It's Here

The election has arrived. And, Susan Delacourt writes, it will be all about our children:

Children can’t vote in this election, but they will loom large in the electoral conversation of all parties over the next six weeks.
Kids are evoked by politicians when they want to talk about the long-term future, and so much of the top issues in this campaign will be a struggle between long-term and short-term thinking. Is this election about what happens for the next few years or are voters making choices for future generations too?
Climate change, of course, will be one of those big issues. What was once a long-term concern — global warming and the future of the planet — has recently been sliding on to the short-term horizon. Last year’s report from the International Panel on Climate Change, warning that the world had only 12 years to get its act together to avert catastrophe, has prompted many politicians and voters to see the 2019 federal election as do-or-die for the environment. Certainly that is how it is being cast by Liberals, New Democrats and the Greens.

So climate change has finally moved centre stage. But money will also be in the centre ring:

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals will be accused over and over again, especially by Conservatives, of mortgaging the future of Canadian children with all the spending and debt saddled on future generations.
So on these two key policy debates — climate and debt — voters should be braced for a pitched battle over how dreadful a world Canadian kids are poised to inherit and what kind of reckless, short-term thinking created it.

Immigrants will be part of the debate. And, in the west, oil will certainly be on the agenda. How will it all shake out?

Stay tuned.


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

They're Scared

It's time, Chris Hedges writes, to take the sugar coating off capitalism:

Capitalists seek to maximize profits and reduce the cost of labor. This sums up capitalism at its core. It is defined by these immutable objectives. It is not about democracy. It is not, as has been claimed, about wealth creation for the working class. It has nothing to do with freedom. Those capitalists, especially in corporations, who are not able to increase profits and decrease the cost of labor, through layoffs, cutting wages, destroying unions, offshoring, outsourcing or automating jobs, are replaced. Personal ethics are irrelevant. Capitalists are about acquisition and exploitation.
If maximizing profit means turning the oceans into dead zones, filling the atmosphere with carbon emissions and toxins that render the climate unfit for humans, pumping chemicals and waste into the soil, water, air and food supply that ensure that cancer is an epidemic, buying off elected officials and judges to serve the exclusive interests of capital and privatizing social services, including health care, transportation, education and public utilities, to gouge the public, that is the price of business. If reducing the cost of labor means forcing workers to remain unorganized and abolishing work, health and safety regulations, if it means moving industry overseas where foreign workers toil like 19th-century serfs, if it means suppressing wages at home to force an impoverished population into debt peonage, that is the price of business.

It's been obvious for some time now that the price of business is not worth paying. The serfs know they've been conned. And capitalists are running scared:

It is about the capitalists running scared. They know the reigning ideology of neoliberalism no longer has any credibility. Its lies have been exposed. They know the ruling institutions, including the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, are dysfunctional and despised. They know the media, Wall Street and the big banks are distrusted and hated. They know the criminal justice system, which criminalizes poverty and legalizes corporate fraud, is a sham. They know social mobility is, in effect, nonexistent. And, most importantly, they know that the financial system, built on the scaffolding of trillions lent to them by the government at marginal interest rates, is not sustainable and will trigger another recession, if not a depression. They also know they are to blame.

And so they are triggering a full court press:

The capitalists are determined to protect their wealth. They are determined, and probably able, to block left-leaning candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders from obtaining the Democratic nomination for president. But they are also aware that politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden who have spent their careers serving corporate power are harder and harder to sell to the electorate. The mendacity and hypocrisy of the Democratic Party are evident in the presidency of Barack Obama, who ran as an outsider and reformer in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. Obama—whom Cornel West called “a black mascot for Wall Street”—callously betrayed the party’s base. 

Donald Trump is  a capitalist who merely told the betrayed what they wanted to hear. He never had any intention of acting on what he said.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Some Claim To Fame

Over the weekend, Donald Trump blew up a meeting between the United States and the Taliban. The meeting was supposed to take place at Camp David. Max Boot writes:

It’s appalling that Trump would have even considered hosting Taliban leaders just days before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks plotted by their ally, Osama bin Laden. Imagine what Trump — who excoriated President Barack Obama for negotiating with the Taliban — would have said if Obama had invited them for a sleepover.

But Trump's claim to fame has been that he's a dealmaker:

"Deals are my art form,” President Trump proclaimed in his ghostwritten book, “The Art of the Deal.” “Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals.” It’s true that Trump likes making deals. He’s just not very good at it. In fact, he may be the worst dealmaker ever to occupy the Oval Office. The abrupt disintegration of his accord with the Taliban provides the latest evidence that he’s too impetuous and ignorant to be a successful negotiator.

Consider his record on that score:

Instead of producing a deal with China, he has sparked an endless trade war. Instead of denuclearizing North Korea, he has allowed Pyongyang to test ballistic missiles and expand its nuclear arsenal while refusing to send envoys to negotiate. Instead of stopping Iran’s nuclear program, he has actually accelerated it. Instead of reaching the “deal of the century” between Palestinians and Israelis, his peace plan has still failed to materialize. Now Trump’s special envoy for Middle East peace has resigned, to be replaced by Jared Kushner’s 30-year-old gofer. And negotiations to get Mexico to pay for the border wall? Fuhgetaboutit. That’s being funded by the Pentagon, which is diverting funds needed to pay for child care for military families and to rehabilitate “high risk” facilities that pose a threat to workers.

Some claim to fame.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Is It 2016 Again?

Michael Harris writes that the upcoming election could be a replay of the 2016 American election:

This election may boil down to which leading candidate most confirms voters’ worst impressions of him.
First, ponder a recent Angus Reid poll, reported in the Globe and Mail, that indicates Trudeau and Scheer should probably be considering a new line of work.
Fifty-two per cent of respondents don’t believe Andy is dandy. A whopping 63 per cent have an unfavourable impression of Justin the Sock Doll.
The Angus Reid Institute recently put the same information in a different way. Only one out of three respondents think Scheer would be the best PM. That should have the Conservatives biting their fingernails.
But the Liberals have zero reason to be smug. Even fewer, one in four, thought that Trudeau would be the best PM. It wasn’t that long ago that Trudeau could walk on water, with an approval rating in June 2016 of 65 per cent. Now he’s stumbling on terra firma.

Remember how 2016 worked out in the United States?

Donald Trump was the most unpopular presidential election winner in U.S. history. He won the White House in 2016 despite 61 per cent of Americans actively disliking him.
How did that happen? Hillary Clinton was also deeply unpopular. Though she got a few million more votes than Trump, she was vulnerable to defeat in the (dodgy) electoral college because she was so widely disliked.
Up until 2016, no losing presidential candidate had a higher unfavourable rating than 47 per cent, according to the Conversation. Clinton drove that number up to 52 per cent. Emails, leaked debate questions, cheating dear old Bernie Sanders — it all added up.
The take-away?
Trump’s victory was less of an endorsement of a glitzy conman than a contemptuous kick at what American democracy had become — Washington-centric and lobbyist-driven.

And, in the wake of that election, the United States is in chaos. Could we be headed down the same road?

Image: Burnaby Now

Saturday, September 07, 2019

It's Going To Be Bruising

All signs are pointing to a knock down drag out election. Chantal Hebert writes:

Based on Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer’s performances over the course of back-to-back sessions with the Toronto Star’s editorial board this week, both are reasonably well prepped for what is expected to be a take-no-prisoners battle.
Trudeau has had the job of prime minister for the past four years and he has plenty of chinks in his armour to show for that. But he is also comfortable in the role and, by all appearances, with the choices he has made along the way.
Scheer still has to convince a critical number of voters that he is made of prime ministerial material. As former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair’s experience demonstrated in the 2015 campaign, efficiency — even at a remarkable level — in the role of chief critic of the incumbent does not necessarily lead to a successful audition for the top job.
What is certain is that the early dynamics of Canada’s 43rd federal campaign bear little resemblance to those that attended Stephen Harper’s election call a bit more than four years ago.

And what is truly different this time around is the bad blood between the NDP and the Green Party:

Over the past few weeks, the Greens and the New Democrats have inflicted more hits on each other than on one or the other of the main contenders for government.
Last month, the NDP lost two-term Quebec MP Pierre Nantel to Elizabeth May’s Green party. Over the past week, the Greens and the New Democrats have been at each other’s throats over the size of a New Brunswick contingent of NDP defectors.

Both the Dippers and the Greens have stated that they would not support a Conservative minority government, unless (in May's case) the Tories supported Green environmental policies. Clearly, that will never happen:

May has doubled down on that pledge, stating that the Greens would support neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives unless one or the other comes around to the party’s prescriptions on climate change.
If the exercise the Greens and the New Democrats have engaged in comes across as drawing lines in the moat of a castle in the sky, it is because that is what it is.

So, where does that leave us? Who knows?


Friday, September 06, 2019

Crunch Time

David Suzuki has been sounding the alarm on climate change for thirty years. And now, he writes, we're almost out of time:

Last October, hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists, representing almost every nation, gave us another, even more dire warning: We only have about 12 years to reduce our global emissions by half in order to avoid the catastrophic, irreversible effects of locking too many emissions into the atmosphere for years to come — everything from widespread drought, crop failure and water shortages to intensified wildfires and mass human displacement. The world’s best-known medical journal, The Lancet, also tells us the health consequences for humanity — from heat stroke to the spread of diseases and parasites — will be enormous.
This UN report — by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading body on climate — focuses on what we need to do as a global community to meet our Paris Agreement targets and limit average global warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels. This is the target we must all focus on, and governments, industries and citizens must have the courage to change the way we think and act if we are to meet it.

That is why, during the election campaign, Suzuki and Stephen Lewis will be touring the country:

This is why co-conspirator and fellow “silverback gorilla” (as we amicably refer to ourselves) Stephen Lewis and I are touring Canada in September and October. We need to spread the message: Everyone in Canada and all political parties must rally together to take action on climate disruption. This isn’t a partisan issue.
We’ll speak in at least six cities, with a special focus on connecting with Canadian youth who have the most at stake from the repercussions of global heating. Other notable Canadians — Indigenous leaders, musicians and public figures — have signed up to help.
Stephen and I have a life’s worth of knowledge and nothing left to prove. Our responsibility now is sharing our wisdom with a new generation, and giving young people the tools they’ll need to navigate the challenges of the world they will inherit.

Unfortunately, we're out in the boonies. Nearly four decades ago, Stephen Lewis came to our neighbourhood, and addressed our local teacher's union. He was -- and has always been -- an inspiring speaker. David Suzuki is equally inspiring.

If you get the chance to hear them, it will be time well spent -- because it's crunch time.

Image: Radio Canada International

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Our Darker Angels Are Ascendant

The writ hasn't dropped yet. But the signs are not good. It's going to get nasty. Susan Delacourt writes:

Canada is no stranger to intense election campaigns, with passions running high on all sides, and even the occasional, infamous political incidents — tomatoes thrown at parades, scuffles in the audience. Nor is this country immune to attack-style, personal politics — again, from all parties of all stripes.
What’s potentially different in the coming campaign, though, is the heightened role of the angry crowds, and their power to disrupt political debate in unexpected, maybe even unprecedented ways. It happened on Labour Day weekend on at least three fronts.

Everywhere, the nastiness is palpable:

In Mississauga, the leader of the anti-immigration National Citizens Alliance confronted MPP Gurratan Singh, brother of federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and challenged him: “What about sharia? Political Islam? You’re hiding bud. I’ll debate you anytime.”
In Hamilton, Justin Trudeau was blocked by union protesters when he tried to join the annual Labour Day parade, the hecklers chanting: “Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, same old b- - - - - - t, different year.”
And on Twitter, People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier launched an extraordinary, eight-part rant against the young, Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg on Twitter, calling her “clearly mentally unstable.” Bernier rattled off all the reasons that the 16-year-old Thunberg should be “denounced” and “attacked:” “Not only autistic, but obsessive-compulsive, eating disorder, depression and lethargy and she lives in a constant state of fear.”

We're better than this. But it appears that we're not immune from the disease that is running rampant in the United States and Britain. Our darker angels are ascendant.

Image: Typos Of Life

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

The Revolution Has Arrived

There is a revolution going on in Britain. Jonathan Freedland writes:

When some of the best-known Conservative figures of the last half-century are booted out of their party, when a new prime minister loses his first parliamentary vote and his governing majority on the same day, when historians are referring to this as a “revolutionary moment”, you know something of great significance is going on. But what exactly is it?

Something similar occurred in the 17th century:

What we are witnessing is another round in the same historic struggle that powered the English civil war of the 17th century: the contest between the executive and the legislature. At its simplest, the House of Commons has voted – once again – to take control of the Brexit process, in order to prevent the UK crashing out of the European Union with no deal on 31 October. That’s the substance of the bill that MPs will vote on, and are likely to pass, today, having cleared the procedural hurdle in dramatic fashion last night. The comparisons with the 17th century are not hyperbolic, because what this move represents is a bid by the legislature – parliament – to grab powers that have traditionally been the preserve of the executive.

The opposition wants to extend the deadline for a deal to January 31. Johnson has threatened to call an election:

But that can only happen if MPs allow it, by voting for it. Under the current rules, he needs two thirds of the Commons to agree to an early election and Labour has said it won’t do it – fearing a ruse that would allow Johnson to crash out of the EU during an election campaign.
In other words, parliament is asserting itself and its rights, refusing to be pushed around by an overmighty executive (in the form of Johnson this time, rather than King Charles I). Indeed, I’m told that MPs are pondering a means to ensure their will is done over the head of the prime minister: one senior opposition figure has a bill ready that would mandate the Speaker, John Bercow, to apply to Brussels himself for that extension on behalf of the British parliament.

There is a deep irony in all of this:

It was the champions of Brexit who back in 2016 posed as the defenders of parliamentary sovereignty, determined to reassert the supremacy and independence of the Commons from the supposed encroachments of Brussels. Yet here they are now, fighting parliament at every turn: first proroguing, or suspending, parliament for five weeks; then expelling MPs from their party, even those with decades of devoted service; now seeking to defy parliament’s will. It’s quite a reverse, one captured well by that photograph of the leader of the house, Jacob Rees-Mogg, stretching out contemptuously on the Commons front bench.

All of this manoeuvring could destroy the Conservative Party -- not to mention the United Kingdom.

Image: The Commentator

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Marching Backwards

When it comes to education, Doug Ford firmly believes in going back to the basics. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

The premier is rebranding — by banning cellphones, banishing discovery math and abandoning an anti-sex-ed crusade he couldn’t sustain. Embarrassed by his shameless sex-ed cock-up and awkward climbdown, Ford is distracting people with mobile phones and dividing us over multiplication tables.
If the government’s latest attempt to silence cellphones sounds familiar, that’s because recycling old promises is what all governments do in a jam. With great fanfare, the Progressive Conservatives announced last March — you can look it up — that phones were out, only to reannounce it last week.
It proved to be a popular talking point. More to the point, however, school boards in Toronto and New York tried banning phones a decade ago, only to back off because today’s pocket phones are like yesterday’s pocket calculators.

Ford forgets that the math he vilifies was embraced by a former Progressive Conservative government:

Ford and Lecce insist on crediting the Liberals for this controversial innovation, perhaps not realizing it was first embraced by a previous PC government under then-premier Ernie Eves, who took office in 2002. Facing a decline in math scores that began when the his fellow Tories returned to power in the late 1990s, Eves convened a panel of experts that called for an “early math strategy” focused on “meaningful problem solving.”
In the aftermath, math scores started to go back up, then resumed their decline again over the last decade. But as the EQAO reminds us — and Lecce pointedly forgets — the latest data shows today’s students are doing better than ever on the fundamentals; where they fumble is in applying those skills to problem-solving.
All of which suggests the Tories have it backwards on back-to-basics: Students don’t need more fundamentals, they need more critical thinking to apply their skills to the world outside the classroom.

All of this retrograde rhetoric, Cohn suggests, is an attempt to distract from Ford's sex ed disaster:

It turns out that the sex-ed update he vilified on the campaign trail isn’t so vile after all. After summarily suspending it — and reverting to a two-decade-old curriculum last year — The Tories have quietly reinstituted it virtually in its entirety, with a few virtuous tweaks on timing and wording.

What is the larger picture behind the Fordian vision of education? Take a look a Ford's education brain trust:

Such are the priorities for our public school system, thanks to the triumvirate of Tories heading up our educational brain trust: a premier who dropped out of college; a minister who graduated from a private high school; and his parliamentary assistant (MPP Sam Oosterhoff) who was home-schooled and has yet to graduate from university.

Should we be surprised?