Friday, March 31, 2023

It's On

Yesterday, a grand jury in Manhattan indicted Donald Trump. Trump called the indictment "unthinkable." Apparently not. Jennifer Rubin writes:

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg made history on Thursday, indicting a former U.S. president for the first time. The indictment is under seal. From all indications, however, former president Donald Trump was indicted for falsification of business records (a crime regularly prosecuted under New York law), beginning before the 2016 election. (The hush-money payments continued during his presidency.) If news reports are correct that Trump was indicted for a felony, Bragg will have cited another crime that Trump allegedly furthered through bookkeeping shenanigans.

Former prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Trump, told me, “This is the first step in true legal accountability. But it will be important to remember that the rule of law requires us to presume him innocent now that he is a criminal defendant.”

Contrary to some commentators’ argument that New York law might be preempted by federal law, a Just Security report makes clear that plenty of state laws are not preempted, including “a limitation on corporate contributions to federal campaigns; a violation of consumer protection laws … and fraudulent transfers of donations from PACs ostensibly founded to support presidential campaigns.” Bragg has a strong case that Trump’s attempt to conceal hush money is precisely the sort of skulduggery that states can pursue.

No one knows what is contained in the indictment. Rumour has it that Trump faces indictment on over thirty counts. Republican reaction has been predictable. They have fallen behind Trump and aped his outrage.

Rubin writes that justice has been served. We'll have to wait to see if it is done.


Thursday, March 30, 2023

The Right To Repair

Susan Delacourt writes that buried in the Trudeau government's budget is something called "the right to repair." What does that mean?

It is intended to give Canadians another alternative when faced with broken appliances, electronics or machinery. Too often, the government says, people “are pushed to buy new products rather than repairing the ones they have.”

This new right to repair, to be launched after the usual round of consultations and establishment of frameworks and so on, is far from a marquee item in the 2023 budget unveiled on Tuesday.

But it is a tiny, fitting symbol of a larger message that Justin Trudeau’s government is keen to underline in its eighth year in power and definitely in this year’s budget: Canada is not broken. There’s no need to buy something new.

The Right To Repair is Trudeau's counter to Pierre Polievre's claim that "everything is broken" in Canada:

Trudeau’s government will never concede that the nation is broken or breaking, but it could not deliver a budget in 2023 without at least offering some large reassurances that the nation can still function for its citizens.

So amid all of the heady talk of optimism for the future — fully intended to match U.S. President Joe Biden’s rhetoric in Parliament last week — this is a budget aimed at connecting, or maybe reconnecting, with a jaded citizenry, and open to the idea that things feel broken.

Health-care spending is obviously the biggest-ticket item on this front, with billions headed to the provinces and the establishment of a new dental-care program. Everyone has a right to repair, and that includes bodies and teeth.

But that right extends beyond big-ticket items:

There is $7 million sprinkled over five years to improve service at airports and collect data on what’s going right and wrong. There is $156 million to improve services for veterans. Faster service is promised on passports and immigration backlogs; money will be spent to investigate overpayments of COVID-19 relief. More than $17 million will be spent to up the game of 1-800 government information lines.

All of it speaks to a government that feels the need to tell Canadians that the system still works for ordinary people, despite what Poilievre or those so-called “Freedom Convoy” people have been talking about. The Conservative leader was still saying after Tuesday’s budget release that the Liberals are keeping Canada divided into “have-nots and have yachts.”

Conservatives these days are trying to sell the notion that it's better to burn it down and start all over again. Progressives think they have a better idea.

Image: The Toronto Star

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

A Vast Empty Space

Marjorie Taylor Greene claims that Canada is helping Mexicans invade the United States. Alex Panetta reports:

Here's an attention-grabbing charge: the idea that Canada might be assisting an invasion of the United States by the other country on the continent.

Even more surprising? The comment came from a member of the United States Congress during a congressional hearing in Washington.

That member was Marjorie Taylor Greene, the controversy-courting Republican best known as a gleeful flinger of partisan bombs.

It came during a hearing organized by Republicans titled: "Biden's Growing Border Crisis: Death, Drugs, and Disorder on the Northern Border."

Ms. Greene pointed to the number of apprehensions at the Canada-U.S. border:

She alluded to an increase in Mexicans being stopped trying to enter the U.S. between ports of entry, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials reporting 1,604 such incidents at the northern border in the first four months of this fiscal year compared with 882 for all of last year.

"It's extremely concerning, and dangerous to the United States of America's national security, that Canada's immigration policy allows Mexicans to travel, to Canada, without a visa," Taylor Greene said. 

"It seems that Canada wants to participate in Mexico's invasion of the United States.... They end up coming into the United States."

Those numbers should be placed in context:

The number of apprehensions is indeed up significantly from the last few years. But even at the current pace, Border Patrol Agents would stop fewer than 9,000 people coming from Canada this year; that's less than in the early 2000s, and a rounding error compared to the more than two million on the Mexican border. 

Several Republicans, other than Taylor Greene, went out of their way to point out that their issue wasn't with Canada. The chair of the hearing, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, said: "They're friends — not anything other than that." 

The problem, several Republicans said, was that the northern border is severely understaffed. Barely 10 per cent of U.S. Border Patrol Agents are stationed along the vast Canadian frontier, and even among that limited pool many are seconded for stints at the busier Mexican border.

The head of the U.S. Border Patrol Agents' union, Brandon Judd, said: "It's impossible to patrol the [northern] border." He said there's only one agent every 30 miles (48 kilometres).

Those kinds of details escape Ms. Greene. Americans are proud of their vast empty spaces. One of those spaces sits on Ms. Greene's shoulders.

Image: NY1

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

A Society That ignores Its Young

Today is budget day. Lots of people have tried to capture Chrystia Freeland's ear. But the young don't have any representation in the budget process. Max Fawcett writes:

They are, after all, getting hosed on any number of fronts right now. That begins with housing, where massively overpriced markets in big cities like Toronto and Vancouver have recently been joined by increasingly unaffordable rental options across the country. And while rising interest rates have taken a bit of froth out of house prices, they’ve also made it far more difficult for new buyers to afford them in the first place.

This has any number of negative knock-on effects, from smaller family sizes and delayed saving for retirement to people being forced to leave places like Toronto and Vancouver for more affordable markets. As the recent net migration data shows, that’s already happening. And while there’s nothing wrong with living somewhere like Edmonton or Regina, there’s a certain unfairness in Canada’s biggest cities effectively pricing out an entire generation.

Then, of course, there’s climate change, where the federal government has simultaneously done more than any before it and not nearly enough for the governments that will come after. As the IPCC’s recent report showed, we’re not moving nearly fast enough to head off the worst potential outcomes from a rapidly warming planet that will be visited almost exclusively on young people and their children. Their anger over our collective indifference to the threat of climate change is both inevitable and understandable, and it’s only going to build with the passage of time.

Folks like me have fared pretty well:

Seniors, on the other hand — and yes, that means you now, baby boomers — continue to get help they probably don’t need. Old Age Security benefits are generous to a fault, with the full amount available to those with incomes as high as $81,000 and partial payouts still made to people making $130,000 a year. In the last budget, the federal government threw in a one-time $500 bonus for anyone over 75 who’s eligible for OAS because … well, why not?

Unlike the Canada Pension Plan, which is funded by both past and present contributions, Old Age Security is paid for by today’s taxpayers. “That means today’s retirees, when they were working, supported a much lower level of elderly benefits compared with today’s workers,” the Globe and Mail’s editorial board wrote in a recent op-ed. “And today’s retirees enjoyed much lower costs for education and housing compared with today’s younger people.”

Today's young people could use that kind of help. A society that ignores its young has no future.

Image: AZ Quotes

Monday, March 27, 2023

Beware Netanyahu

The United States is not the only democracy where the rule of law is under attack. Michael Harris writes:

In Israel, the government is run by a prime minister under indictment for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, offences that could carry a sentence of more than a decade in prison if they are proven.  

Benjamin Netanyahu became the first PM in Israeli history to be indicted while in office. But it is not his alleged crimes that have recently put him on the front pages of newspapers around the world. After all, he has pled not guilty to all the charges brought against him in 2019, and remains cloaked in the presumption of innocence unless a court finds otherwise.

And Israelis have taken to the streets:

Why have hundreds of thousands of Israelis taken to the streets for weeks to protest against their prime minister and his extreme, right-wing coalition government? Why have some women shown up at these rallies dressed in long, red gowns, like handmaidens from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel?  Why have Israeli opposition members draped themselves in Israel flags during debates in the Knesset?  

It is because their worst fear of what might happen if an indicted person became prime minister has been realized. Netanyahu, himself before the courts, has introduced legislation that would destroy the balance of power between the legislative and judicial branches of government. If Netanyahu gets his way, politicians may soon hold the whip hand over judges in Israel, as they do in autocracies.

That’s because under Netanyahu’s judicial reforms, a simple majority vote in the Knesset would be all that is needed to overturn rulings by Israel’s Supreme Court; so much for the independence of the judiciary. It’s not a bad card to hold if you happen to be under indictment. Perhaps that’s why former Israeli prime minister and current opposition leader Yair Lapid has called Netanyahu’s proposed legislation a “corrupt, personalized law,” in which the current PM is “looking out for himself.”
American Republicans have their eyes on Netanyahu:

While Netanyahu has triggered mass civil disobedience in the streets of Jerusalem, with his frontal assault on the independence of the judiciary, the GOP in the United States is veering toward the same outcome. The implications of what Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans are doing is every bit as drastic, extreme, and wildly undemocratic as what the Likud party is doing in Israel.

Consider the stunning developments in U.S. politics in reaction to the multiple criminal investigations into former president—and now presidential candidate—Donald Trump. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is as hopelessly captive to Team Crazy within his own caucus as Netanyahu is to the raging right-wing extremists who made him PM. They want to “investigate” the investigators looking into the Stormy Daniels Affair. Sorry, alleged affair.

Think about that. What McCarthy has ordered, and what has been supported by three GOP committee chairpeople, is dragging the district attorney of the southern district of Manhattan before Congress to answer questions about an ongoing criminal investigation! Think of it as a kind of official obstruction of justice. 

Netanyahu lived and was educated in the United States. You have to wonder if there's something in the water there.

Image: The Hill Times

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Poor Donald

Yesterday, we got a preview of what Donald Trump will be talking about for the next year. The New York Times reports that:

Former President Donald J. Trump spent much of his first major political rally of the 2024 campaign portraying his expected indictment by a New York grand jury as a result of what he claimed was a Democratic conspiracy to persecute him, arguing wildly that the United States was turning into a “banana republic.”

As a crowd in Waco, Texas, waved red-and-white signs with the words “Witch Hunt” behind him, Mr. Trump devoted long stretches of his speech to his own legal jeopardy rather than his vision for a second term, casting himself as a victim of “weaponization” of the justice system.

“The abuses of power that we’re currently witnessing at all levels of government will go down as among the most shameful, corrupt and depraved chapters in all of American history,” he said.

The speech underscored how Mr. Trump tends to frame the nation’s broader political stakes heavily around whatever issues personally affect him the most. Last year, he sought to make his lies about fraud in his 2020 election defeat the most pressing issue of the midterms. On Saturday, he called the “weaponization of our justice system” the “central issue of our time.” 
Trump insists -- always has insisted -- that he is the central issue of our times. And he intends to keep himself at the centre of his nation's consciousness proclaiming that he is a victim:
Lamenting all the investigations he has faced in the last eight years that have — to date — not resulted in charges, Mr. Trump claimed that his legal predicament “probably makes me the most innocent man in the history of our country.”
We haven't heard the last of Donald. What we will hear is a repeat of what he's been saying for almost a decade. And that looped message simply emphasizes how loopy -- and dangerous -- he is. 

 Image: The New York Times

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Biden's Visit

Joe Biden's visit to Ottawa gave Justin Trudeau a boost -- precisely when he needed one. Susan Delacourt writes:

The entire Biden visit, awash in cross-border warmth, doesn’t rescue the prime minister from his domestic political troubles — the ongoing furor over foreign election meddling, for instance. But it is a reminder that Trudeau, more so than many other prime ministers, will have a legacy forged by his relationship with three presidents: Obama, Trump and now Biden. The ways in which those relationships have changed are a reflection of bigger changes in the world, and in the leaders’ own jobs.

It isn’t just Trudeau’s future that hinges on his relationship with the United States either — it’s Canada’s. In a world roiling with war in Ukraine, climate change and the spread of authoritarianism, nationalism and disinformation, Canada and the U.S. will probably have to cling even closer to each other.

Biden has known three generations of Trudeaus:

Fifty-one years ago, when Biden’s daughter and his first wife tragically died in a car accident, he received a call of condolence from then prime minister Pierre Trudeau — a gesture he’s never forgotten, the president told Justin Trudeau in one of their early meetings.

Biden definitely is a politician more of the elder Trudeau’s vintage, and there is a temptation to see their relationship in terms of father and son, or “mentor to mentee,” as former U.S. ambassador Gordon Giffin said in a television interview on Friday.

But the tumultuous events of the past few years have often turned that dynamic upside down, with Trudeau finding himself in the role of explainer to the chief — specifically, filling in Biden on how much the world changed during the four years he was out of the White House.

One of Biden’s last trips as vice-president, the one that has been much recalled this week, was his December 2016 visit to Ottawa, when he famously asked Trudeau to carry the torch of progressive values into the world as the Obama era was ending and the Trump years were just beginning.

Trudeau made specific reference to that visit at his news conference on Friday and to the “sometimes challenging times” the two men have faced since then.

New polling from Abacus Data, out this week, show that Trudeau still can boast that things are going mostly right on this big thing. In a poll of nearly 2,000 Canadians conducted last weekend, a full 61 per cent responded that Trudeau had managed the U.S. relationship as well or better than could be expected.

That’s certainly a more positive poll result than many others the PM has faced in recent days and may even surprise his most staunch critics. But that’s become a defining feature of Trudeau’s years in power — presidents, whether foes like Trump or friends like Biden and Obama — have given him a boost.

Sometimes people are in the right place at the right time.

Image: The Toronto Star

Friday, March 24, 2023

Beware The Madness

In Ottawa, politicians are working themselves into a lather over China. It's the kind of thing that's been going on in the United States for almost a decade. Glen Pearson writes:

There are those occasions when scandals appeal to citizens and institutions alike. The clearest example has been occurring 24/7 south of the border.  Fixation with Donald Trump’s activities is the stuff of water coolers, coffee shops, board rooms, law offices, and political hallways.  And in Canada, there is an increasing likelihood that the scandal swirling around China’s election interference will dominate the political agenda for the foreseeable future.

The circus atmosphere around Trump is akin to a feeding frenzy across the country – polls show it, and media empires bank on it.  Yet north of the border, coverage of Chinese political intrigue is landing with a thud.  While the Trump story has been unfolding for years, reaching every part of the country, Canadians view the election meddling by the Chinese government with a “meh” mentality.  It’s fairly recent.  It’s beyond much of our understanding.  And it’s not getting the purchase in this country that media and political elites had hoped.

Why the difference?

This week, a cross-party grouping of Ontario MPPs gathered at Queen’s Park to hear stories of how the province’s food banks are at the breaking point.  Politicians of all stripes sat in silence as they heard moving stories of long-term disability clients considering ending their lives following a decade of having their support payments frozen.  Food bank leaders spoke of being close to going under and that if the political class didn’t act urgently, the bottom would fall out on hunger and homelessness.  But how will that happen when partisanship runs so strong?  In my city of London, Ontario, all three provincial members are NDP, while the provincial government is Conservative and its federal cousin Liberal.  What are the chances they will collaborate to stave off what will be a crisis?

Broaden that reality a little further and you hear of millions of Canadians experiencing difficulty facing accommodation costs.  Concerns over high food prices are now endemic.  Lack of access to institutional healthcare continues to be near the top of polling about what Canadians are most worried about.

These are the daily realities and hurdles faced by average Canadian families.  In their struggle to overcome these economic challenges, they have little time to dedicate to an electoral scandal perpetuated from the other side of the world.  Are they concerned?  Yes.  But is it a priority, given all the economic pressures just listed?  No.  They just aren’t that into China, especially following years of growing disinterest in elections and political shenanigans.

Politicians are disconnected from their voters. We should beware of China. But, more than that, we should beware of the madness that would have us eat our own.

Image: Lightbringers

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Profiting From Experience

Joe Biden will arrive in Ottawa this afternoon. He and Justin Trudeau will have a lot to talk about during his short visit. Linda McQuaig hopes that Biden will offer Justin some good advice on how to tax the wealthy:

Joe Biden is proposing a number of measures, including an ambitious minimum tax on the wealthiest Americans — in the first big tax grab on the wealthy since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980.

A fierce fight over taxing the wealthy looms in the U.S. The Democrats came close to passing a version of Biden’s minimum tax last year and could succeed if they regain control of Congress in 2024.

This trail-blazing by Biden, a centrist Democrat, should stiffen the spine of Canada’s strikingly timid “progressive” politicians. (While polls show more than 80 per cent of Canadians support a wealth tax, support is particularly strong among progressives.)

A wealth tax, aimed exclusively at Canadians with net assets above $10 million, could raise $28 billion a year — enough to seriously enhance key social welfare programs, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Those trying to avoid it would face a steep exit tax.

Yet, among major parties, the NDP alone advocates a wealth tax and leader Jagmeet Singh doesn’t talk much about it. Why didn’t he insist it be part of the NDP accord with the Liberals?

The central problem is that the super-rich tie up their wealth in legal tax shelters:

That’s because their wealth is largely held in corporate stock and, unless they sell stock and trigger a capital gain, no income tax applies.

So, rather than sell stock, the superrich can finance their lavish lifestyles by borrowing from banks, which happily lend them ample funds at very low rates — an option not available to those without a fortune to serve as collateral.

Biden's solution is to impose a minimum tax:

Biden’s minimum tax would close this gaping loophole by taxing the superrich on how much their shares appreciate in value, whether cashed in or not. This could add millions — even billions — of dollars a year to the tax bill of an ultra-wealthy American. (By comparison, Canada’s luxury tax might add thousands of dollars to the tax bill of an ultra-wealthy Canadian.)

Our prime minister lacks the boldness of mild-mannered Biden, so does nothing to grab a share of the immense wealth going straight to the top as Canada’s billionaires — and there are dozens of them, including some mega-billionaires — have seen their wealth grow by an astonishing 51 per cent since the pandemic began.

Biden will have a tough time getting his plan through Congress. But he spent decades there. He knows how things work. Justin could profit from Biden's experience.

Image: CTV News

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Getting It Wrong

Things are not going well for Canada's oil advocates. Max Fawcett writes:

Timing, as they say, is everything. And the timing right now for opponents of the federal government’s much-maligned Impact Assessment Act couldn’t be much worse. Arguments around the constitutionality of the act, which has been widely branded as the “no more pipelines” law by conservative politicians and premiers, are being heard by the Supreme Court of Canada this week. And Russell Brown, the justice most likely to side with the provinces, is sidelined after reports of a recent punch-up at a resort in Arizona.

Imperial Oil’s tailings pond leak at its Kearl facility, one that underscores the weakness of Alberta’s regulatory environment and the need for federal involvement, is still making news. It also speaks to the need for something like the Impact Assessment Act, one that might just hold proponents to a higher standard than they’d like. The law will ensure national concerns around climate change and environmental protection are included in decisions around major economic projects. And it will mean new projects with national impacts will have to be in the national interest.

And the powers that be in Alberta are not happy:

Veteran Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid took a swipe at the bill, suggesting that it’s “a slippery thing. It claims to operate in federal lands but then refers to projects ‘in Canada.’ It also assumes power over projects with environmental effects ‘outside Canada.’ It promises co-ordination with provinces, but no province is reassured.”

The federal government’s abiding interest in things like climate change and environmental impacts is unnecessary, Braid writes, because provinces like Alberta already take them seriously. As evidence, he cites the existence of a page on the Government of Alberta website detailing the scientific reality of climate change — one, it should be noted, that was created back in 2016 by its predecessor NDP government and has barely been updated since.

That it isn’t actively denying the scientific reality of climate change is, I suppose, worth noting. But so, too, is the absence of an actual climate plan, one that’s been missing ever since the United Conservative Party scrapped the NDP’s Climate Leadership Plan in 2019. And in the years since, the regulator charged with protecting the public interest has allowed hundreds of millions in rural property taxes to go unpaid, the number of unreclaimed and orphan wells to skyrocket and oilsands leaks to go unreported to nearby Indigenous communities.

Worse, perhaps, is the sort of cronyism that’s rampant at the Alberta Energy Regulator. Former premier Jason Kenney’s campaign manager, an outspoken skeptic of anthropogenic climate change, is the vice-president of its science and innovation branch, while CEO Laurie Pushor is a former Saskatchewan Party political adviser who was involved in a land deal scandal. A regulator marbled with conservative ex-politicos can hardly be counted on to uphold the public’s interest — unless that interest is defined as being in lockstep with the oil and gas industry.

I wrote yesterday about Justin's unpopularity in Alberta and Saskatchewan. You get the idea.

Image: The Conference Board Of Canada

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Why They Hate Trudeau

There are lots of Canadians who have a viscerally negative reaction to the name Trudeau -- father and son. Susan Delacourt writes:

Justin Trudeau has now said it twice — there are Canadians, he admits, who won’t believe him, no matter what he says.

Who are these Canadians? They are obviously not Liberal supporters, the prime minister says. “No matter what I say, people are going to wonder — if they didn’t vote for me — whether or not they can trust me,” Trudeau told reporters on Friday.

They are also disproportionally men.

What's going on?

“So 36 per cent of men in Canada, over one in three, have a very negative view of the prime minister,” says Abacus CEO David Coletto. “They really, really don’t like him.” Women who reported “very negative” views, on the other hand, numbered around 26 per cent. “Men tend to dislike the prime minister more than women,” Coletto says. 

“I mean, Stephen Harper wasn’t beloved or loved at any point when he was in office, and people didn’t really like him,” Coletto says, “But it wasn’t as deeply emotional … They usually didn’t like him because they fundamentally disagreed on policy, whereas these people disagree with Trudeau on policies but it goes far deeper — they don’t like him as a person.”

It’s new for Canada too, Coletto argues, more similar to the kind of hostility shown in the United States to former president Barack Obama and former presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

When Coletto focused in on the demographic details of this 36 per cent of male voters, some of his findings were not a huge surprise. A strong current of negativity is linked to geography, demography and politics. If you’re a man who despises Trudeau, you’re more likely to be over 45 and from Alberta or Saskatchewan.

Half of this group places itself on the right of the political spectrum, 38 per cent in the centre and nine per cent on the left. About 60 per cent of them voted Conservative in the last election, 13 per cent voted for the People’s Party of Canada, seven per cent for the NDP and just three per cent for the Liberals. Again, no surprise.

Sociologically, they couldn’t be described as comfortable, either with Canada at present or their own lives. They’re less happy in their general outlook, which Coletto found interesting; on a 10-point scale, men with very negative views of Trudeau place themselves around the 5.9 mark, compared to 6.9 per cent for men with milder views. “That’s a big difference,” Coletto says.

In this poll, Abacus asked the negative voters what it was about Trudeau they disliked, and what words they would use to describe him. Some of the most common were “idiot,” “phoney,” “arrogant,” “liar” and “corrupt.”

The dislike, in other words, is intensely personal. When Coletto asked which Trudeau policies ticked off the men who have very harsh views, they cited his handling of the pandemic and budgets, corruption and wasteful spending. Coletto says it’s unlikely Trudeau could reverse these people’s views with different policies; they’re not going to view him positively, as the prime minister himself admits, “no matter what he says.”

Trudeau knows who hates him and why. And he knows there is nothing he can do about it.

Image: Western Standard

Monday, March 20, 2023

A Very Bad Place

Michael Harris writes that populism is destroying our politics:

Opposition politics has always been the process of casting the appropriate lights and shadows over the other guy’s record—and the facts.

No surprise there.  

The job of opposition is to oppose, so the characterization of incumbent governments has almost never been what might be called “good-faith” criticism. There is little credit for the good things a government does, and a hyperbolic focus on its clunkers. That’s fair enough: politics isn’t Sunday school.

But things have changed:

Something fundamental, and dangerous, has happened to the normally partisan world of politics, with all its warts. Populism has arrived like an 18-wheeler crashing into a bridge abutment, scattering its ugly cargo of racism, xenophobia, and trumped up distrust of government and government institutions all over the road.

Now incumbent governments are not just incompetent boobs who are mucking things up and ought to be shown the door. They are now the “enemy,” who must not only be replaced, but wiped out. Now the frontal attack on incumbent government is not simply a matter of offering voters a skewed version of its record. Now it is about whipping people into a frenzy of hatred and distrust of the status quo—and of individual politicians. It is rage set to political slogans, it’s anger on steroids.  

Donald Trump invented what could be called the “everything-is-broken” narrative, which has been picked up in this country by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.  

Poilievre has characterized Justin Trudeau as the foppish son of privilege, who has led the country into massive decline across the board, from the economy and national unity, to the loss of personal freedoms.  

There is no mention of Trudeau’s considerable successes as one of the longest serving leaders in the 37-country Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development; no mention of the government’s landmark national deal on funding for health care that even Alberta endorsed; no mention of the government’s $10-a-day national childcare initiative; no reference to Canada’s stalwart support of Ukraine in its life and death struggle with Russian invaders; and not a word about the Investing in Canada Plan, which will pump billions of dollars into infrastructure over the next decade.  

In Canada, there is a stubborn problem with Poilievre’s patently false claim that everything is broken. It is called the facts. 

Here’s one of them. Every year, U.S. News and World Report assesses 78 nations and comes up with a Best Countries list. They clearly didn’t get the Poilievre memo. Canada was rated the No. 1 country in 2021, and the third best in 2022. The assessment is based on quality of life and social purpose, a good job market, concern for human rights, and non-corrupt governance.

Modern populism eschews facts and replaces them with anger:

Despite its obvious and massive intellectual dishonesty, populist politics persists. Sadly, it even prospers. That’s because many political operatives see it as an effective tool for winning power. At the recent Progress Summit at the Broadbent Institute, the former campaign manager for Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid had some advice for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Capitalize on the righteous anger of working class people.

According to one academic who attended the conference, it was a call to “speak a common language about what resonates” with regular Canadians. That’s one way of putting it. But it sounds to me a lot like  telling them what they want to hear. Go after the same people they are angry at. Fan the flames of their grievances. Make it emotional, not rational.

That's what it's all about -- emotion over reason. That path has been trodden before and it leads to a very bad place.


Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Same Man The Same Danger

Donald Trump is doing it again. He's summoning the mob. The Washington Post reports:

Former president Donald Trump called for protests Saturday in response to what he claimed would be his imminent arrest in a Manhattan criminal investigation, even as his advisers said Trump’s team does not have specific knowledge about the timing of any indictment.

Writing from his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, Trump surprised his advisers by posting an all-caps message on his Truth Social platform Saturday morning that declared he “WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK. PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” His language, along with a fundraising pitch sent out by his 2024 presidential campaign, echoed rhetoric that Trump used in advance of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by his supporters.

People around Trump said he has no idea when the indictment will come down. But those kinds of details have never bothered Trump:

Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said Saturday morning there had been no “notification” of an indictment. Instead, he said Trump’s supporters should attend a campaign rally he is holding next week in Texas.

Susan Necheles, a lawyer for Trump, said his remark about the timing of his arrest was gleaned from media reports Friday about local and federal law enforcement officials expecting to convene early next week to discuss security and logistics related to Trump’s expected indictment.

Two people close to the former president who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations said they did not know exactly when or if he would be indicted. They said advisers and lawyers on his team had warned Trump in recent days that an indictment could come early next week, including the possibility of Tuesday, but did not know why he singled out that day in his post.

None of this matters to Trump. He gets to play the victim and tell his followers, "If they can do this to me, they can do this to you." We'll see if his followers are disappearing. But he's still the same man and the same danger.

Image: NBC News

Saturday, March 18, 2023

The Problem With Boomers

I referred to a column by Paul Kershaw a while back. His subject was the financial burden we baby boomers are leaving on the young. He returns to that topic in today's Globe and Mail:

Boomers came of age as adults around 1976, when total government debt was approximately $39-billion. When this debt is divided by the 17 million residents under the age of 45 in that year, and adjusted for inflation, the data show that the debt per younger person in that era was equal to $10,500 today.

Compare that with 2021, the most recent year for which there are complete data. Total government debt is $1.1-trillion. When you divide this figure by the 21 million residents under 45, debt per younger person is now $53,000. That’s a fivefold increase over the past 45 years.

Just as the debt inherited by boomers was shaped by multiple generations alive at the time, so the debt inherited by younger people today reflects the influences of multiple generations. Still, for much of the past 45 years, boomers were the largest generation driving economic and political trends. As a result, much (but not all) of the responsibility for today’s larger debt rests with them.

There are a lot of sweeping generalizations made about the boomers. And, as is the case with all sweeping generalizations, they're simply not true. For instance, we ran up a lot of debt recently dealing with COVID -- which did not choose between generations:

The pandemic years weren’t business as usual for government spending. Emergency response measures added an outsized amount to our debt. Fair enough, so let’s exclude the pandemic years. In 2019, debt per person under 45 was $43,000 – four times higher than in 1976.

Another potential caveat is that the figures I report above don’t account for our economy being more affluent today than in 1976. Back then, gross domestic product per capita was approximately $40,000 when adjusted for inflation. Now it is 65-per-cent higher, at $66,000.

If we adjusted debt levels in 1976 for the economic growth that Canada has enjoyed since then, the debt per young boomer would be $17,395 (not $10,500). Even by this charitable approach, there’s no getting around that boomers were involved in racking up government debts on their watch that are around three times larger than what they inherited. That doesn’t sound like “living within our means” to me.

Debt per se isn't the problem. It all depends on how that debt is invested:

Had debt tripled because governments made historic investments to fix housing unaffordability, or decarbonize the economy to reduce climate risks, young Canadians might cheer. But those aren’t the primary reasons that debt has grown. The last decade may be especially concerning, because – as I’ve written before – the largest increases to government spending have been on income support and medical care for retirees.

The cost of servicing the debt on boomers’ unpaid government bills has real implications for younger people today. For example, the British Columbia government just tabled its 2023 budget. Interest payments on provincial debt will be $1.4-billion higher as of 2025-26. That’s 23 per cent more than B.C. will add to spending on kindergarten-to-Grade 12 education over the same period.

Just imagine how much more quickly governments could scale up $10-a- day child care, improve parental leave benefits, reduce university tuition, or invest in climate adaptation if they were only paying interest on the amount of debt boomers inherited – not the much larger debt they now leave behind.

Something to think about.

Image: Bradford Today

Friday, March 17, 2023

Complete Insanity

Republicans have been threatening to default on the national debt. Developments this week underscore how insane that idea is. Catherine Rempel writes:

Recent financial-market turmoil — in regional U.S. banks, as well as some of the larger European institutions — suggests there might be much more fragility in the financial system than previously understood. In a sane world, politicians might respond to this new information constructively.

They might, for instance, figure out what they could do to ensure that financial regulators detect vulnerabilities at significantly sized banks sooner.

Politicians might also take some modest actions to combat inflation themselves, so that less of the burden of dampening demand falls on the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate increases — which are part of the reason we’re seeing stresses in the financial system today.

Unfortunately, that sane world does not appear to be the one we live in.

Democrats blame the failures on Donald Trump's repeal of the Dodd-Frank bill. Republicans blame those failures on "wokeness:"

Some have instead blamed bank “wokeness,” a thoroughly incoherent (and yet very funny!) theory of the case. Hardcore Trumpers such as Peter Thiel patronized Silicon Valley Bank, so it’s hard to imagine the bank’s problems lay in too much emphasis on, say, critical race theory. We shouldn’t be surprised if Republicans start scapegoating drag queens soon, too.

After a scare like this, the next few months would normally be consumed with fights about what happened and how lawmakers should best address unexpected new weaknesses in the financial sector. But things have so devolved into petty demagoguing that the biggest new risk is that demagoguing about SVB’s problems will dovetail with the other crisis that has been looming for months.

Since at least last fall, Republican lawmakers have been threatening to not raise the debt ceiling, the statutory limit on how much the federal government can borrow to pay off bills that Congress has already committed to. They have laid out a mathematically impossible set of conditions they say must be met before they would consider raising the government’s borrowing authority.

There is never a good time to toy with the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, or otherwise question the validity of U.S. public debt. (Fun fact: According to the Constitution, it’s actually always forbidden.) But doing so right now seems especially unwise.

But, if there is one word that defines the Republican party, it is "unwise."

Image: ABC News

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Johnston's Appointment

David Johnston has been appointed special rapporteur to look into the question of whether or not China interfered in our elections. Susan Delacourt writes:

His task now is to look at all that’s being alleged about China’s attempts to meddle in Canada’s political process, and to assess whether an inquiry is needed and what form that inquiry will take if it does happen.

It’s not a small task. Essentially, Johnston first has to airlift this whole foreign-interference story out of the partisan mess where it now resides. The sooner the better. Conservatives were piling on to Johnston’s appointment in the immediate aftermath of the announcement, raising doubts about this statesman’s legitimacy in the same way they’ve been sowing doubts about everything from the prime minister’s loyalty to the results of the last two elections. If nothing else, that knee-jerk reaction demonstrated exactly why this controversy needs some adult supervision, now.

Conservatives conveniently forget that it was Stephen Harper who appointed him Governor-General:

Johnston was an excellent governor general from 2010 to 2017 — appointed by then-prime minister Stephen Harper — and then went on to head up the commission that oversaw federal election debates in 2019 and 2021. Trudeau’s government clearly sees him as uniquely qualified to be a non-partisan referee in a polarized political world — so unique, one wonders, that there are no others like him?

Johnston has also done a job like this before. In 2007, Harper asked him to sort out how to handle an inquiry into financial dealings between German businessman Karlheinz-Schreiber and former prime minister Brian Mulroney. That, too, for those who have forgotten, was a controversy with its own shades of alleged foreign interference, so that counts as experience on Johnston’s CV.

Five years ago, Johnston published a book with the simple title, Trust, in which he wrote:

“An important distinction must be made between manipulation and persuasion. The worst leaders manipulate by failing to disclose vital information or by disclosing only the information that supports their views, decisions and actions. The best leaders persuade in great part by being open about their motives and goals.” 

Words to live by.

Image: Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

When You Buy A Government

The oil industry is its own worst enemy. Max Fawcett writes:

For as long as I’ve lived in Alberta and covered the oil and gas industry — more than a decade now — I’ve been hearing about its supposedly high ethical standard. This is the heart of Ezra Levant’s “ethical oil” argument that has become an incredibly popular mantra among people working in the oil and gas industry and those outside it who just don’t want to confront the reality of Alberta’s role in climate change.

As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, this is an inherently — and inescapably — flawed argument. It compares Canada to countries like Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia, a far lower standard than most Canadians hold themselves to. It ignores the existence of Norway, a major oil producer with far lower greenhouse gas emissions and far higher taxes on production. And it pretends the oil and gas industry is in some way responsible for Canada’s progressive attitude towards LGBTQ rights, its treatment of women and minorities, and its comparatively robust regulatory environment.

But the biggest problem is that the industry constantly undermines its argument with its own behaviour. The latest example of this, and one of the worst I’ve seen in a long time, is the leak coming from an Imperial Oil tailings pond — one that’s leached millions of litres of toxic water into the ground. This is water that has things like arsenic and dissolved metals in it, and it’s been leaking since last May. But the public only just learned about it, and worse, so did communities directly downstream of the leak, like the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. The Alberta government also failed to notify its peers in the Northwest Territories, which is further downstream and would stand to be affected by any release of toxic chemicals.

Unfortunately, the government of Alberta is on Oil's side:

It’s more proof — as if more was even needed — of why the United Conservative Party government’s efforts to chase down the industry’s supposed enemies in the environmental community are so futile. The tens of millions of public dollars it spent on the War Room only resulted in a bunch of bad press and an embarrassing fight with a cartoon Bigfoot movie, while the public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns served up a big fat nothing burger.

Hypocrisy rules the roost. 

Image: Reuters

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

A Black Hole

Republicans are hell-bent on investigating Hunter Biden's laptop. Jennifer Rubin writes:

Right-wing House Republicans have left little doubt that they want to spend the bulk of their time and energy investigating phony conspiracies and made-up scandals. Their main obsession appears to be Hunter Biden, whose very name has become a buzzword in right-wing media. The contents of one of his laptops, revealed in 2020, have inspired a fantastical conspiracy theory that has been comprehensively debunked by, among others, Asha Rangappa, a senior lecturer at Yale University’s Jackson School of Global Affairs and former FBI agent.

Obviously, there is no legitimate basis for congressional “oversight” of the matter. And that brings us to the current faceoff between the Republican chairmen of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, on one side, and 50 or so former intelligence officials, on the other.

In October 2020, these officials crafted a statement that appeared in Politico alleging that appearance of the laptop and emails purporting to relate to Hunter Biden’s time on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” 

Perhaps Republicans imagine the former intelligence officials were put up to signing the statement pointing the finger at Russia as part of a Democrat plot to mislead voters. (Talk about projection!) Whatever the reason for this GOP fishing expedition, it would be a dangerous threat to the First Amendment if Congress could haul in for questioning any private citizen (as the former officials were at the time) to explain an op-ed or open letter.

And, ironically, it would be an illegitimate and inappropriate use of congressional power — a weaponization of government — if every president’s family members and their associates and defenders could be summoned to testify about a made-up controversy.

None of this, however, bothers the Republicans. Their party has become a black hole. Lots of people and things are sucked into it and into oblivion. And nothing good comes out of it.

Image: Popular Mechanics

Monday, March 13, 2023

Signs Of Hope

Democracy has been under persistent attack around the world. The man who began the trend -- Donald Trump --  is still leading the attack. Michael Harris writes:

Trump . . . cozied up to democracy-wreckers outside the United States, all of whom were charter members of the Live Dictators’ Society: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Aliza Al Saud; North Korea’s Kim Jong-un; Brazil’s Jair Bolsinaro; Turkey’s Recep Erdogan; and Viktor Orban in Hungary. These were Trump’s kind of people and he was theirs. With Trump providing the blueprint, many of these current and former leaders began using the phrase “fake news” whenever they were criticized. 

That lie led to major consequences. The first one was the deadly riot at the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, in which five people died and 140 police officers were injured. Next came Trump’s impeachment for turning the Capitol Riot into no more than an afternoon’s entertainment in the White House. While Rome burned, this modern-day Nero watched TV. 

But there are signs that Trump won't get away with all of this:

There is a ray or two of sunshine breaking through the gloom. There are a number of signs that the extreme right-wing politics of anger and aggrievement, of authoritarianism and lies, is waning.  

The Republicans flopped in the recent mid-terms, where a number of celebrity election-deniers like Dr. Oz and Herschel Walker were defeated. Trump was the star of the show at the recent Conservative Policy Action Conference, but the event was sparsely attended, and actively boycotted by senior Republican figures.  

Former vice-president Mike Pence, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Florida’s Ron DeSantis found other places to be, while Trump was telling Team Crazy that he was their “warrior,” their “justice,” and their “retribution”.

Although Fox “News” continues to shill for the former president, the network’s stars have been outed as serial liars. It is hard to imagine that Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham will continue to front Fox’s slime time.  

But the most hopeful sign that Trump is headed for con-man oblivion is from the American justice system he tried so diligently to manipulate. Trump is facing multiple criminal investigations, including illegally retaining classified documents, inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, riot, election interference in the Georgia election, and paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels for her silence about their alleged affair.

Last week, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg did something that legal experts believe signals Trump may soon become the first U.S. president to be indicted; Bragg invited Trump to testify, without a subpoena, before the New York grand jury. That is usually a sign that prosecutors have finished their case and are about to lay charges.  

All pie in the sky? We'll see.

Image: The Guardian

Sunday, March 12, 2023

How Long Will It Last?

 Jagmeet Singh is not happy with Justin Trudeau. Althia Raj writes:

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh had tough words for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week.

“It seems like the prime minister is more interested in protecting himself than protecting the electoral system,” he charged in question period.

But, so far, Singh has not pulled the plug on his agreement with Trudeau:

A year after Singh and Trudeau signed a confidence agreement that is scheduled to continue until June 2025, the NDP leader faces, once again, calls to draw a line in the sand — to force the Liberals to announce an inquiry to shed light about who knew what when and what they did about it.

But Singh is unwilling to threaten to pull the plug — at least, not yet.

What's going on?

“Our goal is to get results, so we’re not looking for an excuse to go to an election. We genuinely just want to see things happen,” he said.

There is still a lot left on Singh’s 27-point to-do list. Last fall, the Liberals moved forward on implementing a promise they’d made to the NDP: dental care for children under 12. The program, for low- and middle-income Canadians, is slowly being phased in and won’t be fully implemented until 2025.

At the moment, it remains a stopgap measure, an interim benefit that offers parents a lump sum of up to $650, rather than a full-fledged program.

A cornerstone of the deal, Singh mentioned it 16 times at his news conference on March 22, 2022. “We are doing (the agreement) to get dental care, to get pharmacare, to get important action on the housing crisis, on the climate crisis, and to make sure people get the help they need,” he said.

Singh still hasn't got a lot of what he wanted.

We'll see how long the marriage will last.

Image: The Toronto Star

Saturday, March 11, 2023

A Fatal Disease

Ignorance is a curse. Willful ignorance is a fatal disease. Kevin McCarthy has succumbed to the disease. Dana Milbank writes:

Not since the Know-Nothing Party disappeared in the 1850s has a public figure boasted about his ignorance with as much gusto as Kevin McCarthy does.

It doesn’t seem to matter what you ask the speaker of the House. He hasn’t read it, seen it or heard about it.

The explosive documents from the Dominion case showing Fox News hosts privately said Donald Trump’s election lies were hokum but promoted the lies on air anyway?

“I didn’t read all that. I didn’t see all that,” McCarthy told The Post.

The way Fox News’s Tucker Carlson (predictably) manipulated the Jan. 6, 2021, security footage McCarthy (foolishly) gave the propagandist, giving the false appearance that the bloody insurrection was “mostly peaceful”?

“I didn’t see what was aired,” McCarthy asserted.

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, in an implicit rebuke of McCarthy, blasting the Carlson propaganda while holding up a statement from the Capitol Police chief denouncing Fox News’s “outrageous,” “false” and “offensive” portrayal of the insurrection?

You guessed it. McCarthy “didn’t see” McConnell do that.

The benighted McCarthy has been amassing this impressive body of obtuseness for some time. If ignorance is bliss, the California Republican has been in nirvana for years now.

At first, McCarthy's devotion to Ignorance might seem funny. But there comes a point when it's far from funny:

This week, McCarthy’s see-no-evil approach was just plain evil.

After Carlson aired his phony portrayal of the insurrection, several Republicans finally spoke up about Fox News’s lies: “Inexcusable and bull----” (Sen. Thom Tillis, N.C.), “whitewashing” (Sen. Lindsey Graham, S.C.), “dangerous and disgusting” (Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah).

Then there was McCarthy, questioned by reporters just outside the speaker’s office, which the supposedly “peaceful” insurrectionists had ransacked that terrible day.

“Do you regret giving him this footage so he could whitewash the events of that day?” asked CNN’s Manu Raju.

“No,” McCarthy replied, adding some gibberish about “transparency” (which is the very opposite of Carlson’s fabrication).

“Do you agree with his portrayal of what happened that day?” Raju pressed.

“Look,” McCarthy said. “Each person can come up with their own conclusion.”

That was exactly the position millions took when Jews were packed into cattle cars and shipped off to Auschwitz.

Image:  Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Friday, March 10, 2023

Dark And Ugly

For the last two decades, we have watched American politics get dark and ugly. The ill wind that emanates from there has blown across our border. Susan Delacourt writes:

The fight between Justin Trudeau and Pierre Poilievre was never going to be pretty, but this week both politicians fired off some words that could define not just their own fates, but the state of future Canadian political debate.

Poilievre, the Conservative leader, has gone where few, if any, opposition leaders have gone before, accusing the prime minister and his government of collaborating with a hostile foreign power — China, in this case.

“They must be very worried about how the prime minister is working against the interests of his own country and his own people,” Poilievre said Tuesday. “They’ve been warning him for years about this, and what has he done? He’s covered it up, even encouraged it to continue. And so, they (CSIS) are so concerned about how the prime minister is acting against Canada’s interest and in favour of a foreign dictatorship’s interest that they are actually releasing this information publicly.”

Poilievre's accusations appear to be picking up traction:

A new poll from Abacus Data, shared with the Star in advance of its wider release on Friday, shows that some doubt is flickering out there — not huge, but there nonetheless.

About 13 per cent of respondents believe Chinese interference changed the outcome of the 2021 election; another 12 per cent were unsure. That’s one in four Canadians who are open to the idea that Poilievre and his Conservatives are feeding — that Trudeau and the Liberals owe their power to Beijing.

To be clear, no evidence has surfaced that any collusion happened or that interference had an impact on the outcome of either the 2019 or 2021 votes. But public trust is a fragile thing, and these Abacus results show how the mere unproven suggestion can damage the body politic.

The poll was conducted among 2,600 respondents last weekend — before Trudeau announced measures Monday to address the escalating questions, and before Poilievre was throwing darts directly at the prime minister’s loyalty. The results are considered accurate within two percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

With all the oxygen being pumped into the debate this week, there’s a real danger the next election campaign will be fought on the grounds of democratic legitimacy itself, with Conservatives and Liberals trading accusations about which is more un-Canadian. There was some flavour of that in the great free-trade debate of the 1988 campaign, with Brian Mulroney accused of selling out to the Americans.

If we let this genie out of the bottle, we will be in real trouble.

Image: Quotefancy

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Picking Up Our Tab

There are a lot of us aging baby boomers around. Unfortunately, the young are being left to pick up our tab. Paul Kershaw points to the recent healthcare deal between Ottawa and the provinces:

Federal and provincial leaders just agreed Ottawa would increase its spending on medical care by $196-billion over the next decade. No mention was made of a plan to pay for this new investment, nor was there any consideration of its financial implications for different generations.

So I ran calculations from my lab in UBC’s School of Population Health. Here are the main take-aways: The new health money is a win for the personal finances of retirees. But it’s a different story for younger residents, who must pay an ever-growing amount in taxes for the medical needs of our aging population by comparison with what baby boomers paid for retirees when they were younger.

These divergent generational impacts require more attention from elected officials – something more likely to be forthcoming if governments appoint high-ranking officials responsible for generational fairness.

Such an official could draw attention to the fact that over the 10-year period, the $196-billion will pay for an extra $12,000 in medical services for every Canadian over 65, $4,400 for every resident 45 to 64 and $2,900 for every person under 45.

This information is readily available, because the Canadian Institute of Health Information annually publishes data about how medical spending per capita breaks down by age. When multiplied by Statistics Canada data showing the number of Canadians in each age group, it reveals that seniors receive 45 per cent of medical spending, even though they represent 19 per cent of the population. Retirees consume three times more medical spending than do those 45 to 64, and four times more than those under 45.

The demand for healthcare among the elderly shouldn't be surprising. Getting old isn't easy. We simply don't function the way we used to. The problem is that we have not replaced ourselves as readily as we once did:

As birth rates dropped after the baby boom, everyone knew that the ratio of retirees relative to workers would eventually grow, and dramatically so.

And that’s exactly what has happened. There are now fewer than four workers for every retiree. Without dramatic increases to immigration, soon there will be fewer than three.

This is a big deal for the personal finances of younger Canadians. They now must pay 10 per cent of their total taxes for a retiree’s medical care – twice the percentage boomers paid.

It also has real implications for their wallets. A young person with an annual income around $25,000 pays about $200 more per year in income taxes for retirees’ medical care by comparison with taxes paid by a young boomer with the same income (after adjusting for inflation). A middle earner with income around $50,000 pays $650 more. A young worker earning in the top quartile (around $75,000) pays approximately $1,400 more. A worker in the top 1 per cent of her generation (earning over $200,000) pays approximately $7,000 more for retirees’ medical care by comparison with the boomer who was in the top 1 per cent when young.

Alas, young people’s additional tax payments often aren’t enough to balance government budgets. No party in the last federal election promised to balance the budget in a first term in office. Nor did any party in Ontario’s last election.

It's a question of fairness -- a question that our political leaders are making no attempt to answer:

The absence of any real discussion about how to raise revenue fairly between generations is a primary reason that governments routinely run deficits when our economies are not in recessions. This is especially so when political dialogue steers clear of asking affluent members of the aging population to pay a fair share for the additional public investment in their generation’s medical care.

They won't answer the question unless those of us who put them in power force them to answer it.

Image: You Tube

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Who Wants The Job?

Justin Trudeau is looking for someone willing to do a very tough job. Susan Delacourt writes:

A new job has opened up. Wanted: someone who can restore people’s faith in democracy against a surge of partisan cynicism rarely seen before in this country.

Justin Trudeau has handed out hard tasks before, but whatever person answers the call for a “special rapporteur” on foreign election interference could well find it to be mission impossible.

And we’re not talking here of the entertaining kind of mission impossible from spy movies, but rather the hard, grinding work of keeping Canada’s democracy spy-free.

So who might volunteer for the job?

[John] Manley’s name is not among those in the mix, as far as I’ve heard. Former governor-general David Johnston, who was also asked to oversee election debates, is one person that seems to be on all kinds of informal wish lists this week. Some names of old, Brian Mulroney-era Conservatives were also floating about, but Poilievre made clear during his leadership bid against Jean Charest what he thinks of most of them. (Hint: they’re really Liberal.)

Pierre Poilievre responded to the proposition in typical Poilievre fashion: 

Poilievre said in the Commons during question period, the word dripping with sarcasm. “Does it come with a costume? Maybe a cape and a sword? Is the best that they can come up with — a fake position doing fake work?”

He really is a vile little man.

Image: The Toronto Star

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

We Know Who He Is

Pierre Poilievre is following what by now is a well-worn path. He's attacking the experts. Max Fawcett writes:

Take his most recent attempt to portray experts as some sort of enemy of the people, a view he deliberately highlighted in a tweet over the weekend. “Liberals say common people should shut up and do what the ‘experts’ tell them,” he said. “Here’s the thing: the common people are the experts.”

This is a pretty obvious nod at the more conspiratorial elements in his coalition, who would love nothing more than to re-litigate the science around the COVID-19 pandemic and commiserate about the evils of the World Economic Forum. It’s also self-evident nonsense, given that experts are by definition uncommon, at least in their specific area of expertise. Then there’s the reality that, by and large, we probably should do what the experts tell us. I mean, yes, you could fix that plumbing or electrical problem in your house yourself, and I suppose you could try performing the surgery you need if you’re really feeling brave. But there, as with most things, it’s probably best to just let the experts handle it.

That's because the experts are not impressed by what he presents as solutions:

Poilievre’s personal animus towards experts is somewhat understandable, given how often they clap back at his policies and proposals. His attacks on the Bank of Canada and deliberate misrepresentation of the carbon tax’s role in driving inflation have been criticized by any number of economists and academics, while his poorly timed promotion of cryptocurrency remains a popular source of mockery for people who actually understand financial markets. His ongoing campaign against safe injection sites has been rejected by any number of actual experts in the field, including Benjamin Perrin, the former justice and public safety adviser to Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.

But Poilievre's disdain for experts is an obvious red flag:

As the leader of the official Opposition and the person most likely to become Canada’s next prime minister, his disdain for experts — and let’s be clear: he means the highly educated ones — is a problem. It’s the same anti-intellectual pablum that populists around the world, from Donald Trump (“I love the poorly educated”) to Boris Johnson, have been feeding their supporters for years. Indeed, as American historian (and former adviser to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush) Bruce Bartlett wrote back in 2020, it’s been getting served up by conservative politicians for decades now. “Since time immemorial, pseudo-populist demagogues and right-wingers have pandered to the uneducated and least sophisticated members of society. They know that a quality education will tend to make people dismiss the wrong-headedness and excessive simplicity of the conservative worldview, because education encourages critical thinking, open-mindedness, and truth-seeking.”

If we want to know where this might lead, we need only look across the Atlantic to Great Britain. In an interview a few weeks before the fateful Brexit vote in 2016, then-secretary of state for justice and lord chancellor Michael Gove told Sky News: “I think the people of this country have had enough of experts with organizations with acronyms saying they know what is best.” And in some respects, he was right. The British people narrowly voted in favour of leaving the European Union, a decision cheered on by Canadian conservatives like Poilievre, former Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer and former Alberta premier Jason Kenney.

We know who Poilievre is.

Image: The National Observer

Monday, March 06, 2023

Let's Not Get Paranoid

A lot of ink has been spilled recently on the subject of potential Chinese interference in Canadian elections. Michael Harris writes:

A lot of people are in a lather over alleged Chinese interference in Canadian elections. I am not one of them. Am I concerned? Of course. Would I like to know more about what happened in certain ridings? Absolutely. 

But is my blood pressure going through the roof like the editorial board over at The Globe and Mail, which is howling for a public inquiry? It is not, and here’s why.

For starters, Canadians already know that whatever the Chinese did or didn’t do, it did not affect the outcome of elections in either 2019 or 2021. Just read the report by former deputy minister of foreign affairs Morris Rosenberg for the details. Even Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who is leading the hue and cry for a public inquiry, acknowledges that.  

So there is no question that the results of the election were in any way corrupted. Certainly not the whole story, but an important part of it. The federal Liberal government is as legitimate now as it was before this curious story was broken. Thank heaven for that. At least this has not turned into a saga of election denial, or the nonsense spouted by former CPC leader Erin O’Toole who claimed that Chinese interference cost the party eight or nine seats in the 2021 election.  

However, the matter must be investigated. The question is what is the best way to do it?

In tandem with investigations by a parliamentary committee, the commissioner could theoretically complete the work in a more timely manner than a full-fledged public inquiry, which could take years. If there is truly an emergency here, why delay addressing it? I think most people would agree that it would be beneficial to have findings and recommendations concerning alleged foreign interference in our politics before the next federal election.  

There are some advantages, of course, to a public inquiry, particularly when it comes to the scope of evidence gathering. But since this particular situation is steeped in serious national security issues, how public would such an inquiry be? My guess is that a lot of evidence would have to be heard in-camera. And if there are documents, they would have to be seriously redacted. The old sources and methods dilemma might end up hiding more than it could potentially reveal.  

And would such a public inquiry settle disturbing doubts about a potentially dangerous vulnerability in our democratic elections? It might, but I doubt it.  

In the present circumstances, it should be noted that the Conservative Party of Canada hasn’t always been so sanguine about ferreting out potential interference in our elections. It did not, for example, ask for a public inquiry into the Robocall Affair of 2011, in which 31,000 Canadians in 247 out of 308 federal ridings complained of false and misleading calls aimed at suppressing their votes. 

In subsequent court actions involving the Council of Canadians, Justice Richard Mosely found that the “most likely source of information used to make the misleading calls” across the country, and in seven close ridings won by the Conservatives was the CIMS database. That database was controlled and maintained by the Conservative Party of Canada.  

Although the CPC denied any knowledge of the fraudulent use of its data, it never asked for an investigation into how CIMS had been compromised, or provided investigators with a list of authorized users of the party’s database in the days leading up to the election. Strange, that.  

There will be a lot of sound and fury about this. But let's not get paranoid.

Image: Brookings