Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Radicalized Right

Max Fawcett writes that we are about to discover how much the Right has been radicalized:

A public inquiry into the federal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act has been struck, and it will look into the events that led up to that precedent-making occasion. Justice Paul Rouleau, an Ontario judge who has been described as “practical” and “thoughtful” by his colleagues, will examine the “evolution and goals of the convoy and blockades, their leadership, organization and participants,” along with the role domestic and foreign funding and the spread of disinformation played in turning a protest into an illegal occupation. His report will be tabled in the House of Commons and Senate of Canada by Feb. 20, 2023.

That report should shine a crucial light on the growing influence of far-right radical movements in Canada and the degree to which they’ve infiltrated more mainstream institutions like the Conservative Party of Canada. That didn’t just start happening over the last few months, either. The Yellow Vest movement, which culminated in a convoy of its own to Ottawa, was marbled with white supremacists and far-right extremists, as National Observer’s own Caroline Orr noted in 2019. That same year, David Vigneault, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, told a Senate committee his agency was “more and more preoccupied” with violent right-wing extremism.

None of this seems to have registered with the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, much less with Maxime Bernier, who came within a handful of votes of becoming its leader in 2017 before breaking off to form the People’s Party of Canada. Surely, they were aware of renewed warnings in late January from the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC) that the convoy about to converge on Ottawa was filled with radical elements.

Conservatives -- like Pierre Poilievre and Candice Bergen -- danced with the leaders of the truckers' convey. Now they're trying to suggest that the inquiry is a plot to punish those devoted to freedom:

In question period Wednesday, Bergen suggested the inquiry is going to be “another chance for [the prime minister] to call innocent people racists and misogynists and accuse them of all kinds of things that are factually not true.”

What is and isn’t factually true will be up to Justice Rouleau to decide, and he’ll have plenty of leeway to do that, including the power to summon witnesses under oath and require them to provide documents. Conservatives have complained loudly that the government hasn’t (yet) waived cabinet confidentiality around internal documents related to the decision to invoke the Emergencies Act, with MP Raquel Dancho suggesting the inquiry “will be useless unless they waive cabinet confidence and allow Canadians to know the whole story.”

But as Postmedia columnist Matt Gurney wrote, we may not get to know the whole story here. “It’s very possible that the government possesses information that has not been made public for valid national security reasons, which informed its decision-making, and led cabinet to believe the Emergencies Act was warranted.”

And remember: This is happening as "Rolling Thunder" pulls into Ottawa -- some of whose members were arrested last night for defying police edicts that they could walk -- but not ride -- into the downtown core.


Friday, April 29, 2022

The Arsenal Of Democracy -- Again

Mark Twain wrote that "history doesn't repeat itself. But sometimes it rhymes." Paul Krugman writes:

Britain in 1940, like Ukraine in 2022, had unexpected success against a seemingly unstoppable enemy, as the Royal Air Force defeated the Luftwaffe’s attempt to achieve air superiority, a necessary precondition for invasion. Nonetheless, by late 1940 the British were in dire straits: Their war effort required huge imports, including both military hardware and essentials like food and oil, and they were running out of money.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt responded with the Lend-Lease Act, which made it possible to transfer large quantities of arms and food to the beleaguered British. This aid wasn’t enough to turn the tide, but it gave Winston Churchill the resources he needed to hang on, which eventually set the stage for Allied victory.

Now Lend-Lease has been revived, and large-scale military aid is flowing to Ukraine, not just from the United States but also from many of our allies.

Thanks to this aid, the arithmetic of attrition is actually working strongly against Putin. Russia’s economy may be much bigger than Ukraine’s, but it’s small compared with the American economy, let alone the combined economies of the Western allies. And with its limited economic base, Russia doesn’t appear to have the capacity to replace its battlefield losses; Western experts believe, for example, that the fighting in Ukraine so far has cost Russia two years’ worth of tank production.

Ukraine’s army, by contrast, is getting better equipped, with ever more heavy weapons, by the day. Assuming Congress agrees to President Biden’s request for an additional $33 billion in aid — a sum we can easily afford — cumulative Western support for Ukraine will soon come close to Russia’s annual military spending.

In other words, as I said, time appears to be on Ukraine’s side. Unless the Russians can pull off the kind of dramatic battlefield success that has eluded them so far — such as a blitzkrieg-style assault that encircles a large part of Ukraine’s forces — and do it very soon, the balance of power seems set to keep shifting in Ukraine’s favor.

The outcome of the war is still unclear -- as it was in 1940. But it appears that some folks have learned the lessons of history.

Image: AZ Quotes

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Language Pirates

Lawrence Martin writes that those on the Right have become skilled language pirates:

The word “woke” used to have a positive connotation. It originated in Black culture and took on a more common, mainstream usage following the killing of Black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. To be woke meant to be socially progressive, with an acute awareness of social injustices.

Then, in the United States, Canada and elsewhere, the word woke was co-opted, hijacked by the political right and turned into a broad-sweep putdown of anyone with politically correct liberal values. Woke was newly reserved for lefty intellectuals and tree huggers, sushi eaters and faculty lounge highbrows, New York Times readers and the like.

It’s a strong weapon for the right, all the more so because progressives have ceded ownership of the term. You don’t hear “I’m woke and proud of it” much. They don’t have a retaliatory catch-all smear for reactionaries or their backwardness. Hillary Clinton tried “deplorables.” We know how well that went.

Re-engineering political language to discredit progressives hasn’t just been limited to woke. The language pirates put liberals on the defensive by weaponizing the term “elites” as well, which used to signify success, having reached a high level. Now it’s shorthand for ruling class condescension and snobbery.

It also used to be that the wealthy elites were primarily conservative. But the right smartly politicized the term, slotting elites on the left side of the spectrum – part and parcel of the woke crowd.

Let's be clear: this is not a trend to be applauded. George Orwell wrote in Politics and The English Language that corruption of language leads to corruption of thought. These days that corruption supports all kinds of intellectual fraud. And now Elon Musk has acquired Twitter:

This week, with Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, the right has more to celebrate in terms of its power over the public discourse. With the company going private, it appears that deregulation is in the works. There will be no more banning the Donald Trumps of the world. It’s a victory for the politically incorrect.

Over time, the language pirates in the U.S. have even turned the word liberal into a derogatory term. That hasn’t happened in Canada, but conservatives here have been no slouches in picking up on some of the trends.

Pierre Poilievre’s leadership campaign strongly appeals to anti-woke sentiment. “Stand up to woke culture,” he tweets. “Stand up for freedom.” It’s not the hard right that divides Canada, insists the demagogic MP who was one of the foremost defenders of the truckers’ occupation of the country’s capital. It’s the woke mob. “We know what this woke culture is about,” he recently told supporters at a rally. “What it’s about is dividing people. Dividing them by race, gender, vaccination status.”

Caveat Emptor.


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Exam Time

We're getting close to exam time in Ontario. It's been a long time since I was involved in this annual ritual. But I was struck by George Monbiot's column in The Guardian:

Why are we doing this to our children? As exam term begins, the question hangs over millions of households. NHS figures suggest that 17% of 6- to 16-year-olds in England now suffer from a “probable mental disorder”, and the incidence has risen by 50% since 2017.

In a survey by the children’s commissioner for England, two-thirds of children ranked homework and exams as their greatest cause of stress. Responding to a poll by the National Education Union, 73% of teachers said they believed the mental health of their students had deteriorated since the government introduced its “reformed” GCSEs, which put more weight on final exams and less on coursework and other assessments.

These reforms, imposed on schools by Michael Gove against expert advice, may have contributed to the OECD’s shocking finding in 2019 that, of the 72 nations in which the life satisfaction of 15-year-olds was assessed, the UK came 69th. Our children’s joy of living suffered the greatest decline of any country since 2015, the year in which the GCSE reforms became effective. If we are going to subject young people, already so vulnerable, to the extreme stress and anxiety of exams, there must be an excellent reason. So what is it?

I'm not against exams. But Monbiot states a simple truth:

You can pass your exams, enter a top university and become a cabinet minister, yet fail to achieve basic standards of research, insight, originality, reasoned argument, empathy or humanity. 

That notion came to mind yesterday when I heard that Senator Rand Paul tried to justify Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Paul is a graduate of the Duke University School of Medicine. But he strikes me as a horrendously stupid man -- who passed his exams. Monbiot writes:

What exams measure is aptitude in exams. While they might rank certain skills, such as the retention of facts and the performance of linear tasks under pressure, these represent just a small part of the equipment a person needs to navigate the world. Many of the challenges we face are complex, long-lasting and multi-layered. They might demand social and emotional intelligence rather than the ability to marshal facts, and might best be overcome by collaboration instead of competition.

But performance in these narrow, unrepresentative tests can determine the entire future course of a student’s life. Some will be branded failures, creating a self-image that will never be erased. I’ve met children who are brilliant in peculiar ways, but who flunk exams. I’ve met adults who, often after long struggles with self-esteem and social condescension, succeed magnificently despite their low grades. I’ve met others whose evident talents remain unrecognised, as they never overcome the stigma.

It’s not the child who fails the system. It’s the system, seeking to force everyone into the same box, that fails the child. It pathologises diversity. For example, as The ADHD Explosion, by the clinical psychologist Stephen Hinshaw and the health economist Richard Scheffler, suggests, a massive increase in ADHD diagnoses appears to be linked to the rise in high-stakes testing. As exams become more important, parents have a greater incentive to seek the diagnosis and acquire the drugs that might improve their child’s performance. At the same time, as a report by the education professor Merryn Hutchings argues, more children are likely to show ADHD symptoms in a stressful, channelled schooling system that forces them to sit still for long periods and reduces opportunities for creative, physical and practical work.

It's time to rethink how we do exams -- and what we want to test.


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

It's Called Stupidity

The Ontario Party is the new kid on the block. Kelsey Carolan reports in The Hill that:

The party was founded in May 2018, according to its website, but didn’t have a leader until December 2021, when Derek Sloan, a former conservative member of parliament, took control.

“In the fall of 2021, with the launch of vaccine passports, citizens who requested that their right to freedom of conscience, informed consent, medical privacy, and bodily autonomy be respected, had their request overruled,” the party mission outlines. “In the absence of sufficient cause, they were banned from public life, fired from their jobs, or removed from their college or university programs.”

Sloan spoke during the Freedom Convoy, advertising the party as an alternative to the Conservative Party, which he said has moved “so far to the left.”

And now the party has announced that it has hired Roger Stone as an advisor:

“I can’t wait to see the amazing effect that Roger’s genius will have on our campaign to take back Ontario,” Sloan said in a statement.

Stone commended Canadians who protested COVID-19 mandates and restrictions throughout the three-week “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa, which ended in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoking emergency powers to quell the disruption. According to the statement, the protest inspired Stone to join forces with the party.

“They [protestors] came there for a purpose and when you’re protesting you may not get everything you want but you’re expecting to at least have the government listen to what you talk about,” Stone said on the “The Stew Peters Show.” “The government has done nothing but show contempt toward these people.”

There is a virus more deadly than COVID. It's called stupidity.

Image: Vanity Fair

Monday, April 25, 2022

More Lies

On the Right these days, lies are the common currency. Supriya Dwivedi writes:

Conservatives are incensed over a truck tax that does not exist. The outrage stems from an opinion piece in the Toronto Sun by a director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which claims the federal government is “planning to hit Canadians with a big new tax on their trucks and sport utility vehicles.”

The basis for the claim stems from recommendations provided to the government by an independent advisory panel, known as the Net-Zero Advisory Body (NZAB). The NZAB was created via section 20 of the Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act.

Section 13 of the act mandates that the “governments of the provinces, Indigenous peoples of Canada [and] the advisory body established under section 20” be provided with the opportunity to make submissions to the federal government.

The NZAB recommended, among other things, that the government “broaden Canada’s existing Green Levy (Excise Tax) for Fuel Inefficient Vehicles to include additional [internal combustion engine] vehicle types, such as pickup trucks.” This recommendation was included in the annex of the federal government’s recent emissions reduction plan, alongside recommendations from every province and territory, the Métis National Council, the Assembly of First Nations and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

The environment minister is legally bound via section 13.1 of the act to ensure submissions made to the government are available to the public, hence the inclusion of all the submissions in the annex of the government report.

The Conservatives are apoplectic. But a little history is instructive:

The Alanis Morissette-level of irony in all this is that the existing excise tax on fuel-inefficient vehicles was brought in under former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2007. This salient detail seemed to have been edited out of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s opinion piece. It also went completely unmentioned by Conservative politicians like Alberta premier Jason Kenney and presumptive Conservative leadership front-runner Pierre Poilievre — even though they were members of the Harper government at the time.

It’s much easier to falsely claim this is a “punishing tax on working people for buying pickup trucks,” as Kenney asserted it to be, or that the federal government is looking to “slap thousands in new taxes on anyone who buys a truck,” as Poilievre tweeted.

In its most charitable interpretation, the folks who have been peddling the “truck tax” nonsense are merely too vacuous to understand the difference between an independent advisory body making non-binding recommendations to the federal government, and official government policy. Though it’s hard fathom that applies to politicians who have been in office for as long as Kenney and Poilievre.

Something to remember in all the outrage.


Sunday, April 24, 2022

How A Trudeau Wins

Pierre Poilievre sounds a lot like Donald Trump. But, Chantal Hebert writes, if you look at how Poilievre's campaign is organized and executed, the model looks less like Donald Trump and more like Justin Trudeau:

It is undeniable that there are Trumpian undertones to his anti-elite rhetoric and his dismissive treatment of the competition.

But it is not necessary to look south of the border for parallels between his campaign and a relatively recent leadership bid. In many non-Trumpian regards, the dynamics of Poilievre’s bid mirror Justin Trudeau’s own path to the leadership of the Liberal party a decade ago.

He too drew uncommonly large crowds, including in regions where voters have never elected a Liberal candidate. On a brief visit to Red Deer, deep in Tory blue territory, in the fall of 2012, I remember being told by my hosts of the lineups for selfies that had attended a Trudeau event just a few days before my arrival.

Like Poilievre, Trudeau enjoyed a social media presence that totally dwarfed those of his rivals. That presence, combined with the status of political rock star, went a long way to turn his leadership bid into a coronation in all but name.

Again, like Poilievre, Trudeau’s connection to voters was more grounded in emotion than in intellectual appeal. Those who flocked to his events were not inspired by his political or managerial track records. He did not have much of either.

The name Trudeau sends Conservatives into fits of rage. But, this time around, it appears that they've taken a good look at how a Trudeau wins.


Saturday, April 23, 2022

The Upcoming Election

There are a little more than five weeks to go until Ontario's election. And, if you believe the polls, Doug Ford might just win it. Bob Hepburn writes:

Ford’s laughing because his Progressive Conservatives appear headed for a second straight majority victory — and the NDP and Liberals seem incapable of stopping them.

With the June 2 election less than 50 days away, latest polls indicate the PCs are backed by 38 per cent of decided voters, the NDP and Liberals by 25 to 27 per cent, and the Greens 5 per cent.

Indeed, vote splitting between the NDP, Liberals and Greens could result in progressive voters, who comprise more than 60 per cent of the electorate, seeing their worst nightmare come true — a second Ford victory in which his Tories match or exceed the 76 seats they won in 2018. A total of 63 seats are needed to form a majority government.

That’s why a growing number of progressive voters are urging strategic voting. They believe such a strategy solves the problem of vote splitting by voting for one candidate in each riding to allow the progressive majority to win the seat.

Importantly, they also believe — or fear — that it may be the only way to defeat Ford, or at least limit him to a minority.

There's no talk of a deal between the NDP and the Liberals:

Both NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca say they aren’t at all interested in working together in individual ridings to defeat Ford. “You aren’t going to hear me talk about strategic voting,” Del Duca told reporters last week.

While rejecting any deal with the Liberals, Horwath is urging voters to vote strategically for the NDP. “I’m asking folks who may have decided in the past to vote Liberal to keep Conservatives out to recognize that this time that’s not the strategy,” she said last week. “This time, that strategy will split the vote and cause Doug Ford to come up the middle.”

Meanwhile, Ford keeps announcing billions of dollars in giveaways. Clearly, he believes he can buy his way into a second term.

As in the last two federal elections, progressive voters will have to vote strategically -- and force the Liberals and the Dippers to work together.


Friday, April 22, 2022

Marie LePen

This weekend, there is a run-off election in France. Marie LePen is challenging Emmanuel Macron. And her two major weaknesses are painfully apparent. Jennifer Rubin writes:

The weaknesses of far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen were on full display on Wednesday in her nearly three-hour debate with French President Emmanuel Macron. Two issues in particular show how difficult it is for Le Pen to be a mainstream candidate: her close ties to Russia and her disdain for religious liberty for minority groups.

Her most glaring weakness is her alliance with Vladimir Putin:

Macron was ferocious on the issue, attacking Le Pen for attempting to soften her pro-Russian tendencies. He said Le Pen’s positions today are contrary to her party’s “historical positions” and noted her refusal to condemn the annexation of Crimea in 2014. On her outstanding loan, he went for the jugular: “When you talk to Russia, you’re talking to your banker.” He added, “As soon as there are important and courageous decisions that need to be made, neither you nor your leaders are there.”

Her other glaring flaw is her position on religious freedom:

Le Pen also tripped herself up while promoting her proposal to ban Muslim women from wearing hijabs in public, falsely declaring that any woman wearing the headscarf does so against her will. Among the many problems with such an edict is that it would ban all such religious garb in public. The Times of Israel reported that “her plans to curtail religious freedoms to counteract the presence of Islam in French society would mean a ban on wearing headscarves and kippahs worn by Jews, she has acknowledged. She invited French Jews to make that ‘sacrifice’ for their country.”

Unsurprisingly, that caused a furor in the French Jewish community. The Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, which lobbies the government on issues of concern to France’s small Jewish population, endorsed Macron. That move divided the Jewish community, which includes some Le Pen supporters. (She has tried to appeal to them with her virulent anti-Muslim positions.)

Le Pen has made a lot of hay by appealing to her countrymen's darker angels. On Sunday we'll know how ultimately successful she has been.


Thursday, April 21, 2022

When Politics Becomes War

The polarization that has upended American politics has seeped across the border. Susan Delacourt writes:

The Steam Whistle brewery in Toronto is not a politics-free zone.

Back in 2013, a guy named Justin Trudeau held one of his final big social events there before he became Liberal leader. A decade earlier, Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay held an event for his supporters at Steam Whistle too. In 2014, new Liberal MP Adam Vaughan celebrated his byelection victory at the brewery — with Trudeau at his side.

But, this week, things changed:

It wasn’t until this week that Steam Whistle’s management felt it had to draw a line between the brewery and the political company it was keeping. In this case, it was Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre and one of the large rallies that is quickly becoming his trademark.

“Steam Whistle is in no way affiliated with Pierre Poilievre, does not endorse his political views, nor did the brewery sponsor the event,” read the statement handed out to event attendees on Tuesday night.

Predictably, Poilievre and his supporters went ballistic:

Poilievre’s supporters were bristling at Steam Whistle’s disclaimer on Tuesday night, eager to see it as another example of “cancel culture” and Conservatives being punished once again for being politically incorrect. But Poilievre has been whipping up the polarizing rhetoric himself at his big rallies, presenting Canadian politics as a simple battleground between the “gatekeepers” and those who want to storm the gates.

 Things are getting nasty:

This is how polarization creeps out of politics and starts infiltrating the ordinary lives of citizens. It stretches beyond mere ideological differences and starts influencing how people organize their social and business contacts. Hanging around with the wrong political crowd, whether that’s at a brewery or an ice cream shop, can be damaging to one’s livelihood.

In the United States, where polarization is rampant and much tracked in recent decades, political differences have fused with identity and community to an extent where Republicans and Democrats increasingly form their own insular worlds among the like-minded. Red and blue sides consume their own media — Fox for Republicans, CNN and MSNBC for the Democrats — and build friendships and business contacts among those who share their own view of the world. The danger isn’t just that they don’t mingle with diverse views; it’s that they see the other side as a sworn enemy.

In a Pew Research Center report on America’s “exceptional” state of polarization in late 2020, authors Michael Dimock and Richard Wike wrote: “What’s unique about this moment — and particularly acute in America — is that these divisions have collapsed onto a singular axis where we find no toehold for common cause or collective national identity.”

When political parties become tribes, politics becomes war.

Image: The Toronto Star

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The Great Sidestep

For decades, successive governments have ignored the central problem at the heart of the Canadian economy.  Bruce Campbell writes:

In response to the brutal inequality of the 1920s and the Great Depression, and under widespread political pressure after World War II, Canadian and other western governments brought in major reductions in income and wealth inequality through tax and transfer policies.

It was an era of full employment, high taxes on the wealthy, universal Medicare, expanded unemployment insurance, Old Age Security and CPP/QPP pension systems, and other transfers, which significantly reduced inequality.

Canadian society, for the most part, shared in the economic prosperity of the era.

Then Milton Friedman won the Nobel Prize in economics. His mission to return to classical economics became gospel:

That changed in the late-1970s, with the advent of laissez-faire capitalism (neoliberalism), led by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. According to this ideology, the market was no longer in embedded in society, but society became subservient to the whims of the market and its beneficiaries.

Corporations and wealthy elites were back in the driver's seat. Over the next four decades, income and wealth inequality skyrocketed.

Over subsequent decades, the 1971 highest income tax bracket of 80% dropped by more than half, to 29%. Taxes on capital gains were slashed and tax loopholes were created to facilitate tax avoidance and evasion via an archipelago of tax havens.

Corporate tax rates dropped from 40% in 1980 to 15% in the following decades. Median worker earnings stagnated or fell. Labour’s share of Canada’s GDP declined in relation to capital’s share.

For the top 1%, as a whole, average market income doubled between 1982 and 2018. For the top 0.01%, it soared by 189% during this period. The income of the bottom 50% failed to keep up with inflation.

In the wake of the 2008-09 recession, from 2010 to 2019, only the top 1% increased their share of total wealth, while it fell for everyone else.

The number of Canadian billionaires and their wealth more than doubled. Canada’s club of 100 billionaires now has as much wealth as the 12 million poorest Canadians. The Parliamentary Budget Office projects that, in the second quarter of 2021, there were approximately 161,700 families in the top 1% and they each had a net wealth of at least $7.3 million.

According to the latest Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives figures, Canada’s average top CEO pay was 191 times greater than the earnings of the average worker in 2020.

The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates Canada’s top 1% hold almost 26% of the country’s total wealth. Its share has jumped by five percentage points over the last two decades. In contrast, the bottom 40% of Canadians hold only 1.2% of total wealth.

The richest 1% hold 15% of national income—almost as much as the bottom 50% of the Canadian population. Since 1981, the gain in income share of Canada’s top 1% has been more than 10 times larger than that of the middle 20%.

The federal budget continues the trend:

There is still no wealth tax on the super-rich.

No increase in the top income tax bracket, beyond the 33% tax bracket implemented in its 2016 budget.

No general corporate income tax increase.

No elimination of the tax break for capital gains and dividends.

No estate or inheritance tax on assets over $2 million to limit family dynasties’ ability to pass down exorbitant wealth to their descendants.

No minimum 15% effective tax rate on the top 1%, as previously promised.

No surtax on Canadian billionaires profiteering from the pandemic.

What Campbell calls "the great sidestep" continues.

Image: Liquipedia

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Something to Hate

J.D. Vance wrote a compelling account of what has happened to poor white people in the United States. He has now hitched his wagon to Donald Trump's star. Paul Krugman writes:

The thing about Vance is that while these days he gives cynical opportunism a bad name, he didn’t always seem that way. In fact, not that long ago he seemed to offer some intellectual and maybe even moral heft. His 2016 memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy,” drew widespread and respectful attention, because it offered a personal take on a real and important problem: The unraveling of society in Appalachia and more broadly for a significant segment of the white working class.

What can be done? Progressives want to see more social spending, especially on families with children; this would do a lot to improve people’s lives, although it’s less clear whether it would help revive declining communities.

Back in 2016 Trump offered a different answer: protectionist trade policies that, he claimed, would revive industrial employment. The arithmetic on this claim never worked, and in practice Trump’s trade wars appear to have reduced the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs. But back then Trump was at least pretending to address a real issue.

From pretending to conspiracy. That's the path the Republicans have chosen:

I’d say that G.O.P. campaigning in 2022 is all culture war, all the time, except that this would be giving Republicans too much credit. They aren’t fighting a real culture war, a conflict between rival views of what our society should look like; they’re riling up the base against phantasms, threats that don’t even exist.

This isn’t hyperbole. I’m not just talking about things like the panic over critical race theory, although this has come to mean just about any mention of the role that slavery and discrimination have played in U.S. history. Florida is even rejecting many math textbooks, claiming that they include prohibited topics.

That’s bad. But we’re seeing a growing focus on even more bizarre conspiracy theories, with frantic attacks on woke Disney, etc. And roughly half of self-identified Republicans believe that “top Democrats are involved in elite child sex-trafficking rings.”

Vance has jumped into the madness with both feet. Like Trump, he is giving Ohioans something to hate. And he knows better.


Monday, April 18, 2022

Stephen's Ghost

The Conservatives are stuck. That's the lesson behind Pierre Poilievre's quest for the leadership of the party. Michael Harris writes:

Poilievre’s camp is hitching his alleged vaulting popularity to the notion that size matters. They’re coming to his rally in droves—by the hundreds. And the usual suspects in the media are parroting this codswallop in their sweaty exertions to turn a partisan and political hit man into an estimable national figure. He’s the guy who thinks bitcoin is our salvation, and nastiness is a synonym for opposition. Poilievre-mania is as manufactured as a Walmart greeter’s smile.

But Poilievre is not without political insight. He knows that the shortest route to winning the leadership is to pass the Conservative purity test—in other words, to sanctify everything his former boss Stephen Harper ever did.

That’s why he spit venom at leadership rival Patrick Brown, who dared to criticize the Harper government for its anti-immigrant policies—no face coverings at citizenship investitures, and a snitch-line for so-called barbaric practices. You know, Peter MacKay’s “stinking albatross” problem. Brown was dead on.

Poilievre responded with cobra-strike venom. Brown was nothing but a liar. According to PP, he lied a lot. It was sacrilege to criticize Steve. And a lot of core Conservatives believe that, at least the ones who applauded the hostile takeover of the old Progressive Conservative Party, and the Harperism that replaced it. So the not-so-fabulous Pierre makes a connection here.

But  all of that won't open the door to the prime minister's office:

Winning the political mud-wrestling contest of the party leadership is a universe away from winning a general election. It depends more on swallowing the old Harper model, hook, line, and sinker, than on appealing to voters in a country that doesn’t like to look at aspirant leaders and see an after-market version of Donald Trump. Fanning a sense of aggrievement, blaming political and media elites, personally attacking opponents, doesn’t work here. Canada is not Texas or Florida, at least not yet.

Poilievre is betting that Canada will soon be Texas or Florida. But anyone who takes a careful look at the country wouldn't back that bet:

Every time the CPC has reached back into the Harper era for a “new” leader, it has lost at the box-office. Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole played to and won the same crowd as Poilievre is courting; won the party leadership by running as Harper loyalists; and face-planted in the federal elections they contested because they badly misread the country.

Andrew Scheer mimicked Harper, even though as Speaker of the House, he was not involved in the government’s record the way Erin O’Toole was. But O’Toole tried something different. He sucked up to the Conservative base when seeking the party leadership, then underwent a strategic sea-change in the federal election. He took a giant step toward the political centre. Voters didn’t buy his conversion on the road to electability.

The Conservatives have a chance to move into the present:

With Jean Charest and Patrick Brown in the race, the CPC has yet another chance to get out from under Stephen Harper’s shadow.  Each has their own baggage, to be sure. But neither of them has genuflected to a political approach that Canadians have now rejected for three elections in a row. The party may yearn for the Harper years, but the record shows that the country does not.

At the moment, however, Stephen's ghost continues to haunt the party.

Image: CTV News Calgary

Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Conservatives' Biggest Problem

Lawrence Martin writes that the Conservatives have a problem that continues to haunt them through decades:

It is their record against Pierre and Justin Trudeau. In the eight elections in which the Conservatives have faced a Trudeau, they’ve lost no fewer than seven of them. The only time they haven’t served as a punching bag for Pierre or Justin was in 1979, when Joe Clark won a minority against the elder. The relief didn’t even last a year before the Liberals won a majority back.

Pierre and Justin Trudeau have vanquished five different Conservative leaders, enabling them to rule Canada for 21 years thus far. The number will likely extend to 24 and maybe more should Justin Trudeau decide to run again.

In addition to Mr. Clark, Pierre Trudeau beat the respected Robert Stanfield, an old-style centrist Tory, three times. Later, the Trudeau brand took down the core-right version of the party. Stephen Harper’s worst nightmare was losing to a Trudeau; he was thumped by Justin Trudeau in 2015. The Trudeau Liberals then went on to beat Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole.

The name Trudeau drives Conservatives -- particularly in Western Canada -- crazy:

Leadership contestant Pierre Poilievre is tapping into that resentment now with his populist “freedom” campaign that is attracting huge crowds.

The crowds are almost all white in a Canada that is now almost 25 per cent non-white. But a candidate with stirring platform appeal has been something sorely lacking and very costly for the party.

The charisma quotient has been central to the success of the Trudeaus. It played an enormous role in Pierre Trudeau’s triumph in 1968 when the dour Mr. Stanfield was no match for his appeal, and a big role in Justin Trudeau’s breakthrough when the sour Mr. Harper was no match for his son.

Pierre Trudeau brought an intellectual flair to politics at a time when it wasn’t frowned upon to be erudite, unlike in today’s more populist environment. Trudeaumania was no exaggeration. Justin Trudeau didn’t possess his father’s cerebral strength, but telegenic looks and a youthful persona connected with voters at the hustings.

A critical element in the Trudeaus’ success has been good fortune. Horseshoes. Luck with a capital L. Pierre Trudeau was finished after his 1979 loss. He had retired from politics. But the Tories’ incomprehensible torpedoing of their own minority government brought him back from the dead. It was a pivotal moment in our political history, enabling him to defeat the separatists in the 1980 Quebec referendum, to bring in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to make his brand legendary – one that could catapult his son to the leadership of the Liberals decades later.

There was another big reason each Trudeau kept beating their rivals: They were culturally the right fit for their times. They were in the vanguard, leaders whose forward-looking agendas made their Conservative opponents look out of date.

I suspect that, as long as Justin is on the scene, he will continue to drive the Conservatives crazy.

Image: You Tube

Wednesday, April 13, 2022


West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has been visiting Alberta. The Calgary Herald reports that:

This week, Kenney hosted U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia who chairs the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Both spoke Tuesday of the hope to create a North American energy alliance to become less dependent on oil and gas from other parts of the world.

“This visit of Sen. Manchin is a huge, I think, confirmation for us that we have friends in the United States who understand the important role that we play in American energy security,” said Kenney.

The visit comes amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has spurred calls across the Western world to move away from Russian oil. Manchin spent Monday and Tuesday in the province on a trip that included a tour of the oilsands near Fort McMurray and roundtable meetings with energy officials in Calgary. Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage also took part.

Has anybody told Manchin that the oil sands produce bitumen? And that a good portion of Fort McMurray was eliminated in a wildfire just a few years ago?

Millions of us cheered when Texas Senator Ted Cruz -- who was born in Alberta -- renounced his Canadian citizenship. Manchin has made millions from West Virginia coal. Perhaps he's considering applying for Canadian citizenship.


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Ship Of Fools

Andrew Nikiforuk writes that we are living through the Great Pandemic Denial. Consider the case of Boris Johnson:

Last July U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who partied freely during two COVID lockdowns caused by his own inaction, decreed “Freedom Day” from the pandemic.

So he lifted all protections including masks and told his people to move on and live with a nasty novel virus — a policy that favours the rich, dooms the poor and makes a mockery of reality.

Here’s what that kind of “freedom” from COVID actually looks like — because it is coming to a province near you. Canada, too, is in political retreat from reality, feeding and strengthening a sixth wave of COVID propelled by the highly infectious variant: BA2.

The virus has mutated once again. And it's dangerous because it's more transmissible than previous iterations of the bug:

How infectious is BA2? Forty per cent more than its relative Omicron, already one of the world’s most contagious viruses.

Since Johnson’s gleeful declaration of freedom last year more than 35,000 U.K. citizens have died. Last week alone more than 1,000 people there perished from a pandemic that most Conservative politicians officially pretend is over. One in 13 people are now infected. Approximately 16,000 people occupy the nation’s exhausted hospitals. Every day U.K. health-care workers struggle to perform treatments for other diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

The rates of long COVID among U.K. health-care workers and teachers have reached their highest number, which means fewer qualified people working in their hospitals and schools.

The number of U.K. children with long COVID, now 120,000, has tripled since Freedom Day.

And we in Canada have decided to follow in JoJo's footsteps. The truckers scared our politicians. They now believe that people are fed up and simply will not follow public health advice. Perhaps they're right.

If that's true, we are sailing on a ship of fools.

Image: Ship Of Fools

Monday, April 11, 2022

Toward The Abyss

Susan Riley is as mad as hell. The Trudeau government says it will fight climate change with carbon capture -- even as it approves another mega oil project:

According to the not-so-subtle Liberal communications plan, the few progressive and chewy morsels in last week’s federal budget should overshadow Justin Trudeau’s most brazen betrayal since 2015—far graver than his reversal on proportional representation and other, less consequential, broken promises.

That betrayal also happened last week, just a day before what turned out to be a low-key budget: Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault’s decision to permit a new oil development—the Bay du Nord deep-sea project, located in the North Atlantic, some 500 kilometres north east of St. John’s, N.L. That permission was granted in the direct wake of another dire climate change report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and a warning from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to all governments that investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is “moral and economic madness.”

It’s the sort of thing Guilbeault, once a prominent Quebec environmentalist, used to say—in fact, when it first appeared he called the IPCC report “sobering.” Among other things, the Bay du Nord decision represents the complete and total capture of another high-minded environment minister by a powerful industry and its political protectors. Every dedicated federal environment minister—from Charles Caccia, David Anderson and Jim Prentice, through to Stéphane Dion and Catherine McKenna—has been eventually undercut by the prime minister of the day, irrespective of party affiliation.

This, along with an unbroken national record of failing to meet international emissions reduction goals, suggests a systemic problem that transcends partisanship. No national political leader has found the conviction and courage to stand up to the fossil fuel sector, and its fierce political enablers in Alberta, and force it to accept responsibility for the destruction of our planet. Or, at least, for its share.

It's clear that in Canada -- and the rest of the world -- the fossil fuel industry calls the tune:

The Trudeau government is only the latest manifestation of this trend. While emissions continue to rise, and oil enjoys a hopefully brief revival, the climate consequences—from flooding in British Columbia and elsewhere, to devastating wild-fires, to heat waves at the poles—become more dire, more intimate, and harder to ignore.

So the Trudeau government can’t ignore them. Instead, it promises to address rising emissions—including the 26 per cent that come from Alberta’s oil sands—but always sometime down the road, 2030, say, or 2035, but definitely 2050. The government’s latest Emissions Reduction Plan, for instance, also released before the budget, calls for a 45 per cent reduction in oilsands emissions from 2005 by 2030.

That goal sounds steep—Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley calls it “fantasy”—but Guilbeault points to “plans to develop guidance” to require new oil and gas projects to have “best-in-class” emissions control leading to the “cleanest oil and gas” on offer. But, not before extensive consultation with the industry, provinces, indigenous leaders—and, wait, haven’t we heard this before? Anyone remember Stephen Harper’s “sector by sector” consultations with large emitters in 2008? Suffice it to say, they ended inconclusively and emissions are higher than ever.

The problem is painfully obvious in the Ukrainian war. Oil represents forty percent of Russia's economy. A worldwide ban on Russian oil would immediately bring Russia and Vladimir Putin to their knees. But Europe relies on Russian oil.

We keep marching to the abyss.

Image: NPR

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Making Things Worse

In Ontario, we're living in a make-believe world. Bruce Arthur writes:

About a month after the province announced masking was no longer mandatory, Omicron is everywhere. With testing limited and hobbled, wastewater data shows there is more COVID in circulation than there was at the peak of the January Omicron wave. According to Dr. Peter Jüni, the scientific director of the province’s independent volunteer science table, Ontario is seeing an estimated 100,000 COVID infections per day right now, give or take. That number will continue to grow. But what happens next is hard to say.

“It’s very difficult to tell right now,” said Jüni. “We’re not completely sure what the amount of immunity we have in the population, how much waning (of immunity) is happening right now.

“The (last Omicron) wave was broken — it was not the natural behaviour of the wave. Natural behaviour of the wave would have resulted in probably at least twice as many people in the hospital at the peak. So the question is now will (this wave) peak in a week from now, a bit earlier, or only two weeks from now. And this makes a tremendous difference.”

The range of realistic outcomes has shifted upwards, though. Jüni says the worst-case scenario — a two-week rise or so — could see a concurrent hospitalization burden similar to the last wave, which peaked just over 4,000. Human behaviour, as ever, will make a difference, and there are some signals in recent wastewater data that could indicate potential deceleration, which is probably behaviour-based.

But giving permission to doff masks in shared spaces was a powerful signal of more than permission — it was a signal from government that it is safe to do so, that you have no responsibility to protect others, that a mask is only a personal decision, with no other complications. Some people kept masks on, and lots didn’t. People are tired of the pandemic — literally everyone, at this point — and the knock-on effects of that are an incredible behavioural driver, here and in so many countries. Masks don’t solve everything. But they help, and societally they cost almost nothing.

The bottom line? When Doug Ford speaks, things get worse.

Image: CUPE Ontario

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Page On The Budget

Former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has weighed in on the budget:

Budget 2022 is surprisingly measured, modest and responsible.

Many budget observers had early expectations and concerns about a big- spending budget financed largely through higher deficits. These expectations were fueled by the recent Liberal-NDP agreement on priorities and policies, as well as pressures to increase defence spending towards NATO targets. In the current environment, more deficit spending focused on boosting consumption (demand) versus investment (supply) would add to inflation.

Business leaders raised concerns that the Liberal Party did not give enough focus to a growth agenda in its 2021 election platform. The economy needs to grow to raise revenues to pay for improved social supports.

To give credit where credit is due, the Liberal government put together a fiscal strategy that largely addresses these concerns. Planned budgetary deficits and the debt-to-GDP ratio are reduced relative to the Fall 2021 Economic and Fiscal Update. New spending is limited. Efforts to address growth and affordability are more focused on the medium-term, with policies aimed at increasing supply (e.g. housing stock) and longer term growth (e.g., innovation, green economy).

Households and businesses looking for significant new short-term relief on recent and expected rising cost pressures will largely be disappointed. Fiscal responsibility is not politically easy.

The fiscal contours of Budget 2022 are measured and in proportion. From above, they look deliberately shaped as a tailor would cut cloth for a suit or dress.

These are trying and uncertain times. Events could render this budget a pipe dream. But, for the moment, Page believes it fits the bill.


Friday, April 08, 2022

This Isn't Tax And Spend

The Conservatives will attack yesterday's budget as a big-spending plan on things we don't need. Heather Scoffield writes that it's not that -- at all:

The finance department figures we need investment of between $125 billion and $140 billion every year — yes, every year — to get to a net-zero economy by 2050. Right now, we see between $15 billion and $25 billion.

“No one government can close that gap,” the budget document states.

But the budget does pick its targets and places bets on them:

The biggest piece of the experiment is a hefty tax credit for carbon capture and storage — $2.6-billion in writeoffs for the oil and gas sector to encourage it to develop more capacity to store underground the carbon dioxide emissions that come from extracting energy.

Canada is making its name around the world for leaning hard on this technology, and the budget bets big that the tax credit will allow the country’s fossil fuel sector to produce and sell cleaner oil and gas as we all transition to a low-carbon economy.

The second bet is on $4 billion for critical minerals. Over eight years, the government will provide a tax credit to find and mine the metals the world desperately wants for the production of greener and more digitally advanced phones, computers and cars. Canada has lots of these minerals, and the budget envisions the country’s capital markets, manufacturers and workers alike piling into this zone to compete against the likes of China.

The move plays to our history as a mining power, but will require the full participation of Indigenous communities and a yet-to-be-established supply chain to connect the raw materials with the companies that want them.

And the third bet is on bureaucracy — two new agencies that will operate at arm’s length from government, but use government money to partner with the private sector. The Canada Growth Fund will be a $15-billion financial institution that takes on risk for investors who are hesitant to put their money in Canada in case we change direction on carbon pricing or project approvals. And the Canadian Innovation and Investment Agency will use its $1 billion to finance fresh new ideas from Canadian businesses, adding to the plethora of government programs that support research and development.

But the model here is the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which has been far from the success it was touted to be in terms of leveraging private sector investment. The agencies are still very much in the design stage, so we can hope — but certainly can’t assume — they’ll be more focused on moving quickly, delivering returns and persuading the private sector to jump in with both feet.

Time will tell just what kind of a poker player Ms. Freeland is.


Thursday, April 07, 2022

So Much For A Harvard Education

J.D. Vance is a graduate of Harvard Law. He is also the author of Hillbilly Elegy, an account of what it's like to grow up poor in Appalachia. Ron Howard turned the book into a movie. These days, Vance -- an enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump -- is running for the Senate in Ohio. He has been saying some pretty vile things. Greg Sergeant writes:

J.D. Vance wants you to know that only one invasion should overwhelmingly preoccupy your attention right now. It’s not the invasion of Ukraine, where war crimes are mounting and we’re seeing horrifying imagery of murdered civilians littering the streets.

No, you must not get distracted by that distant skirmish between foreigners. The invasion that truly matters is occurring at our southern border. You see, President Biden is permitting desperate adult migrants to apply for refuge again, after using a bogus public health rationale to keep them out. That’s the real emergency.

Vance introduced a new version of this idea at a debate among Ohio Republican Senate candidates on Tuesday night. Vance declared opposition to a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which he’s correct about, but then sank into some absurdly tendentious claims.

“However tragic we find these images of what’s going on in Ukraine, this is not our fight,” Vance said. He insisted Ukraine is a “massive distraction” from domestic problems, ranting that the U.S. media “spends way more time on Ukraine than it does on the southern border.”

Vance is spouting white replacement theory:

The claim that migrants represent “Democrat voters” is a form of “great replacement theory” rhetoric. This idea, which posits a nefarious elite scheme to replace native-born Americans with outsiders via migration-enhanced demographic change, comes in various forms.

One version is explicitly race based, envisioning “white genocide,” which Vance isn’t necessarily employing. Another version is more overtly partisan: It posits that immigration is really a plot by liberal and Democratic elites to replace conservative voters with “more obedient voters from the Third World,” as Fox News’s Tucker Carlson heinously puts it.

Vance’s formulation is in line with Carlson’s, albeit with a twist: He suggests “Democrat voters” in the form of migrants are one factor “killing Ohioans.” That’s partly a reference to drugs crossing the border, but the hint at an apocalyptic demographic threat is obvious.

“He’s clearly saying migrants will vote Democratic and will be the functional equivalent of toxic drugs,” David Neiwert, author of numerous books about the right, told me.

“This is fundamentally the same thing that White nationalists pushing the great replacement theory have argued,” Neiwert continued. “Vance clearly is now regurgitating this theory.”

So much for a Harvard education.


Wednesday, April 06, 2022


Susan Delacourt writes that there are similarities between Pierre Poilievre and Justin Trudeau:

There’s something oddly familiar about Pierre Poilievre’s campaign in the early days of the Conservative leadership race. Intentionally or not, it bears some of the hallmarks of Justin Trudeau’s leadership campaign nearly a decade ago.

Ten years ago, Trudeau talked of how he made Conservatives “nutty.” Meanwhile, former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole famously said Poilievre makes Liberals “quiver” — a boast that drew scoffs from Trudeau’s side of the House. But there’s no question that Poilievre can get on the nerves of the Liberals in a way that most other Conservatives don’t.

Poilievre’s campaign is hooked on data collection and selfies, just as Trudeau’s was. “Every rally features a photo line, giving people a chance to get a shot with Poilievre and often his wife Ana as well,” Levitz noted after attending a huge event last week in Ottawa.

There are differences:

It’s true that they both came to their leadership campaigns after spending a lifetime around politics, but the 42-year-old Poilievre’s experience is a career politician, an MP since he was 24.

Trudeau was also in his early 40s, with a young family, when he embarked on his quest for the top job, but he didn’t enter elected politics until he was in his late 30s. Also unlike Poilievre, Trudeau has never been fond of the theatrics in the House of Commons.

Liberals would also be quick to point out that Trudeau would never align himself with the “Freedom Convoy” types who are filling up Poilievre’s events.

Still, it's hard not to notice the similarities:

Their leadership campaigns, although a decade apart, have many of the trademarks of a front-runner’s romp to victory: big crowds, lots of curiosity and lots of selfies. And they’re similar in one other important way, too: their rivals are incredulous that these are the men the parties would choose to chart a path out of opposition wilderness.

Perhaps they're cousins -- from different sides of the track.

Image: You Tube

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Fading Away

Ontario is in its sixth wave of COVID. And, Bruce Arthur writes, the province's chief medical health officer has disappeared:

Where is Dr. Kieran Moore? Ontario’s chief medical officer of health hasn’t been seen in public since St. Patrick’s Day, a week after his final regular pandemic briefing, four days before masks became optional, right around the time the wastewater signal started to really rise, and two-and-a-half weeks before COVID was sloshing around everywhere. An interview request for Moore to the Ministry of Health Monday was politely shuffled into oblivion. The doctor, publicly, is out.

The answer, of course, is that why would you trot out the province’s top public health official if you didn’t think there was a public health crisis, or even the prospect of one? Premier Doug Ford keeps using an imaginary number of 3,000 ICU beds, when ICU staff availability determines the real number, and Monday called this “a little spike” that the province can manage. Maybe, even without almost any meaningful public health interventions, it can.

The evidence speaks for itself:

Hospitalizations are up 30 per cent in a week, though the ICU is relatively steady. There were no COVID deaths reported Monday, which is terrific, but enough cases and the virus will find the vulnerable. This wave may be smaller than the previous Omicron wave due to more vaccination and more post-infection antibodies, but the prospect of quick reinfection may complicate that. As ever, the vulnerable will suffer most.

It’s a trade: the removal of a mild inconvenience before it’s necessary in exchange for the lives and health of some of society’s most vulnerable citizens. That’s all.

Dr. Moore has disappeared. And Christine Elliott, Ford's Minister of Health, won't be running in the next election. That's the way things go in Ontario.

If you're a lawyer who works for Donald Trump, you get disbarred. If you're a medical health officer who works for Doug Ford, you fade away.

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, April 04, 2022

Where's Justice?

During his time in office, Donald Trump dismantled the American Justice Department. Michael Harris writes:

One of the trademarks of Trump’s trip through the sewers of business and politics has been the weaponization of the justice system. He has changed it from a means of getting to the truth, to an effective way of smothering information detrimental to his interests. That is exactly what he and the rotten peach Republicans who support him are trying to do here.

Garland seems obsessed with the fear that if he acts on the criminal contempt referrals sent to him by the Jan. 6 committee, regarding Trump lackeys like Steve Brannon and Mark Meadows, the integrity of the court will be called into question.

 Under Joe Biden, the department is still limping along:

So far, nobody on the right has had to face the consequences of their decisions. And that includes Alex Jones, the grand guru of conspiracy, who didn’t even bother to show up in court for a required deposition in the Sandy Hook lawsuit. Although he faces fines, he has not yet been arrested.

Attorney General Garland has four criminal referrals from Congress against Trump accolytes and has brought no charges. There is a seven-hour-plus gap in then president Trump’s phone logs on Jan. 6, 2021. An 18.5-minute gap in the Nixon tapes, led to his presidential resignation.

Garland is now investigating Biden's son, Hunter:

Everyone knows the story. While his father was vice-president under Barack Obama, Joe Biden had the responsibility for Ukraine. At the same time, Hunter Biden landed a job in Ukraine for which he had dubious qualifications. It paid him the princely sum of $50,000 a month. Tax evasion may be involved. It was, at the minimum, conflict of interest in neon.

If, after grand jury testimony, which is ongoing, Hunter Biden is indicted, the Trump conspiracy machine will be jump-started into overdrive. Trump has, incredibly enough, already publicly asked Vladimir Putin to dish the dirt on Hunter Biden; siding against his own country in a time of surrogate war for purely personal political advantage. Stunning actually. He is asking a killer for favours.

And what about Trump himself? He appears to be evading Justice -- just as he has done his whole life.

Image: The Los Angeles Times

Sunday, April 03, 2022

The Policy Challenge

Canada, Robin Sears writes, faces enormous policy challenges:

Canada faces policy challenges today that are broader and more complex than perhaps ever in our history. Several are well-known: climate, health care and the next contagion, sliding productivity and widening inequality. Each will be expensive to tackle, and all will require great creativity to address.

Each of our three major political parties has think tanks to help them develop policy. On the Right there are two major think tanks: The Manning Institute -- now the Canada Strong And Free Network -- and the Fraser Institute:

Canadian conservatives desperately need a bold centre for testing policy if they are to return to being a party of government. It has long failed to elaborate a credible conservative agenda for action on any of the tough issues. Ken Boessenkool’s Conservatives for Clean Growth may be a valuable new player on climate, perhaps one that will inspire new groups on other priorities.

The New Democrats have created three major think tanks:

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives was created by New Democrats and labour more than 40 years ago, and regularly serves up new progressive policy proposals. The Douglas Coldwell Layton Foundation, recently revived under former Jack Layton staffers Karl Belanger and Josh Bizjak, is plunging into new policy research. But it is the youngest of the three that shows the greatest strength and communications skill.

The Broadbent Institute is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. It staged its Progress Summit this week, returning to its regular cycle of policy conferences, training sessions and research. Alone among any of the big institutes, it also runs its own media business, Press Progress. Key to its success has been finding the right balance between being a forum for new and often dissenting progressive voices, and for party loyalty. New executive director Jen Hassum brings a formidable reputation as an organizer and communications strategist.

The Liberals have the C.D. Howe Institute. But curiously:

the Liberal party has several times failed in its efforts to create a similar centre to feed its need for creative new centrist thinking. The gap is evident in areas such as security policy, wealth inequality and growth through innovation. The obstacle maybe the number of Liberal thinkers who are parked in the academy or in non-partisan centres such as the Institute for Research on Public Policy, who don’t fancy a new competitor.

All of the think tanks are having trouble creating new ideas:

Our governments today need broader and richer sources of policy innovation than ever before. The academy is curiously weak in experts who bring creative thinking combined with an understanding of tough political realities. Too many of the civil society organizations who do sponsor research promote only their own agenda. Many of the health charities are especially guilty of this.

We -- and they --  must do better.

Image: best

Saturday, April 02, 2022

When Opponents Become Enemies

Rhetoric in the House of Commons is getting pretty rancid. Gary Mason writes:

Something rather remarkable happened in the House of Commons earlier this week: A sitting MP accused this country’s Prime Minister of running a jackboot dictatorship.

And in his next breath, he referenced Russian President Vladimir Putin, a dictator currently unleashing death and destruction on a peaceful democratic neighbour.

Yes, federal Conservative MP Brad Redekopp (Saskatoon West) really did compare Ottawa’s use of the Emergencies Act to help end the so-called “freedom convoy” occupation of Ottawa to what Mr. Putin is doing to Ukraine.

It gets worse.

When Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen got up to complain about the language Mr. Redekopp used, Conservative MP Rachael Thomas (Lethbridge) jumped to her colleague’s defence.

“Mr. Speaker,” she began. “I just did a quick review in the dictionary. According to the Oxford dictionary, a dictator is a ‘ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has obtained control by force.’

“There are many Canadians who would hold the view that this applies to Mr. Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada.”

This is what passes for parliamentary debate in this country in 2022.

This nastiness has a geographical centre:

It likely isn’t coincidence that Ms. Thomas and Mr. Redekopp are from the Prairies. Alberta and Saskatchewan represent the epicentre of anti-Trudeau rage in Canada. That same rage was at the heart of the Ottawa protest and related border blockades. Vaccine mandates were just a proxy, the cover used to give the insurgency some vague credibility. We can’t forget that organizers had drawn up a manifesto that included the demand that the current government, and Mr. Trudeau in particular, be removed from office.

But the nastiness is not limited to politicians from the prairies:

Politics in this country have changed a lot over the last number of years. Civility can still be found when you look hard enough but it can also feel like an endangered species. Ideological differences shouldn’t be fuelled by the demonization of those you disagree with. And yet that happens all the time, especially with this Prime Minister.

When political opponents become enemies, we're in trouble.

Image: Linked In

Friday, April 01, 2022

Ford And Profit

When it comes to COVID, Doug Ford says he's opening up Ontario. When it comes to health-care, Bob Hepburn writes, Ford is opening up our health-care system to  privatization:

Since assuming power in 2018, Ford and his Conservative government have increased the role of private health-care companies in everything from diagnostic testing clinics, long-term care homes and home-care service providers.

And now the government is even suggesting it’s about to open the door for more private hospitals in Ontario.

Importantly, all these moves could ultimately undermine our current public health-care system, which is based on the principle that medically necessary health care should be allocated on the basis of medical need, not on the ability to pay.

Ford claims he's a big supporter of medicare. But his actions suggest otherwise:

While Ford and his cabinet ministers insist they are still strong backers of public health care and point to increased spending on hospitals and slightly higher pay for nurses to back up their case, the evidence actually points to a deliberate and concerted move by Ford to allow more for-profit health care in Ontario.

Most worrisome is a clear desire by Ford to bring in private hospitals, which cater to rich patients who want to jump the queue when it comes to non-emergency care and which do little or nothing to ease the demands on public hospitals.

During a speech in February promoting the reopening of health-care services as the COVID-19 pandemic eased, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the Ford government was “opening up pediatric surgeries, cancer screenings, making sure that we can let independent health facilities operate private hospitals, all of those things are possible.” Elliott has subsequently announced she won’t seek re-election.

Private hospitals have been banned in Ontario since 1973. Private hospitals operating at that time, such as the Shouldice Hernia Hospital in Toronto, were allowed to remain open.

On long-term care homes, Ford is in the process of handing out new 30-year licences to for-profit companies that will result in 18,000 more long-term care beds in the province. The move comes despite proof during the current pandemic that private long-term care facilities had twice as high average death rates among residents, had fewer staff on duty and paid lower wages than public facilities.

On home care, the government is moving to privatize what remains of this critical sector, which is already dominated by private service providers. Private firms win government contracts by offering the cheapest service rates possible — all at the expense of patients in need and front-line staff who deserve more pay.

On private labs, Ford has severely restricted access to publicly funded PCR tests for COVID, thus bolstering private testing clinics that often charge patients more than $200 for the vital tests once provided by the government.

In Mr. Ford's experience, profit makes the world go round. There is an election coming in two months. 

Image: reddit