Wednesday, April 24, 2024

An Intergenerational Battle


A battle is brewing between Canada's generations. Max Fawcett writes:

Young Canadians can be forgiven for being a bit confused by the latest federal budget. For the first time in their lives, they’re looking at a budget that explicitly tries to cater to their needs and interests — and listening to politicians fighting for their votes. If their growing political power wasn’t apparent to them before, it should be now.

As Generation Squeeze noted in its analysis, “Never before has the Government of Canada formally acknowledged that hard work isn’t paying off for younger Canadians today the way it did for previous generations. Budget 2024 labels this sad reality as the starting point for a new economic framework to achieve ‘Fairness for Every Generation.’” At long last, young Canadians are getting their moment in the political sun.

The problem is that the budget doesn't do enough:

While the Liberal budget does more to address intergenerational inequality for younger people than any in Canadian history, it still doesn’t do nearly enough. According to Generation Squeeze, Budget 2024 increases spending for Old Age Security by $31 billion and sends an additional $17 billion toward health care, which is used disproportionately by those over 65. But it only allocates $2 billion towards housing, with an additional $8 billion for measures aimed at building a clean economy. The intergenerational balance is still badly skewed, in other words.

It may yet get worse, too. As more boomers exit the workforce and the ratio of working-age residents to retirees continues to decline from the high of seven-to-one in the 1970s to just three-to-one today, the pressure on today’s taxpayers will only continue to grow. Young Canadians are paying the price for the failure of previous generations to properly plan for this demographic inevitability, and it’s one the Conservative Party of Canada seems determined to ignore. As Generation Squeeze’s analysis concluded, “Any party promising to balance the budget easily without tax increases or gutting spending on retirees ignores this hard truth.”

The result seems to be that no one is happy:

Derek Holt, the vice-president and head of capital markets at Scotiabank, went even further than that. “[Justin] Trudeau and [Chrystia] Freeland are ripping off Canada’s youth who will be the ones left to face the bills for many years to come,” he wrote in a recent column in the Globe and Mail, one of many he’s written of late attacking the government. “It’s an insult to portray such a budget as being in the best interests of Canada’s youth who have fled from the Liberals in droves.”

The bigger insult, though, is older Canadians using the supposed long-term well-being of young people as a stalking horse for their own near-term self-interest. Conservatives have been doing this for decades, of course, talking up the risks associated with deficits and debts while studiously ignoring the ever-expanding price tag associated with climate change.

How will this be resolved? I confess I don't know.

Image: Quote Fancy

Sunday, April 21, 2024

It's About Over-Extraction

The Liberals say that their budget is about restoring generational fairness. Some economists say that the problem is over-extraction. Evan Dyer writes:

"Income matters less than it used to. Access to secure housing matters so much more," said Paul Kershaw, a professor at the UBC School of Population and Public Health and founder of the group Generation Squeeze, which lobbies for what it calls "intergenerational equity."

Kershaw said his own Vancouver home is an example of how real estate consolidates wealth.

"I've gained about a million and a half in wealth in the last 20 years while I've been watching TV, cleaning in the kitchen and sleeping," he said. "And that's coming at the expense of a younger person being able to be just as smart as me, just as hardworking as me, but who now can't live where I do."

Kershaw said he's seen his students struggle "to get the degrees that are necessary to compete for jobs that don't pay as much as in the past. And then they face home prices that are up to a staggering level, which means they have to pay more for rent because they're locked out of ownership.

Kershaw said the housing shortage is just one example of "over-extraction" by the boomer generation.

"Climate change reflects the over-extraction of the atmosphere's ability to absorb carbon," he said. "We've done that over the last many decades. Now the legacy is extreme weather for those who follow in our footsteps."

Many young people are despondent about environmental degradation and climate change. Those fears are compounded by anxiety about their own economic futures.

"The third example of over-extraction," Kershaw told CBC News "is over-extraction of the revenue produced from economic growth.

"The fastest-growing part of the federal budget is spending on Old Age Security. The second-fastest part is the Canada Health Transfer, half of which goes to the 20 per cent of the population that's over 65."

Back in the 1950's Ayn Rand wrote a little book entitled Selfishness As A Virtue. By the early 1980's policy makers began to build in economic incentives based on her ideas. We are living in a world Rand helped to create. It will take a while to reverse what has happened over the last forty years.

But one thing is for certain: If the young buy what Pierre Poilievre is selling, they'll get more of the same.

Image: Radio Canada

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

In The Gutter

Craig Wallace writes that you can't run a country on outrage and insults. But that, apparently, is what Pierre Poilievre intends to do. Wallace writes:

If recent polls remain the same, sometime between now and October 2025 Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) Leader Pierre Poilievre will become Canada’s next prime minister.

If the CPC does take power, it will be interesting to see what type of government they will be.

Certainly it is hard to tell, as to date they appear to have no plan as to how they will govern. They have released no policies on climate change outside of opposing the current carbon tax and vowing to eliminate it. What would they replace it with, or do they even believe in climate change? The CPC won’t say. They denounce the current state of the Canadian military, however they refuse to outline their own plan on how to rebuild our armed forces. What will they do with taxes? Who knows?

One area we know a CPC government will continue to embrace is anger and an utter lack of class and decorum. For example, on April 4 veteran New Democratic Party MP Charlie Angus announced he will not seek re-election in the next federal election after more than 20 years in Parliament. For the record, I rarely agreed with Mr. Angus’s politics, but I greatly admired his support for the First Nations and his outstanding ability to represent his constituents. (In 2006 the Toronto Star selected him as one of the 10 top opposition MPs and in 2012 Macleans magazine voted him as one of the 25 most influential Canadians.)

So how did Poilievre react to this news? On X (previously known as Twitter) Poilievre tweeted, “Charlie Angus jumps ship rather than face voters after he voted to hike the carbon tax and ban the hunting rifles of Northern Ontarians. Common sense Conservatives will axe the tax, build the homes, fix the budget, stop the crime — and let you keep your hunting rifle.”

That's Poilievre in a nutshell: no class and no grace. But he's not the only one:

Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie commented “I’d like to thank the member for Timmins-James Bay for relieving us of our misery and announcing his resignation. Thank you so much; I truly appreciate that. You know, we’re all gonna really miss him on this side of the House. Not!”

Conservative leaders used to be statesmen:

Conservative leaders were not always this crass. Here in Ontario in the last 70 years we saw highly successful, dignified premiers in Leslie Frost, John Robarts and Bill Davis. All of them were policy driven, made decisions based on objective evidence and logic and behaved in classy, dignified ways.

Federally in my life time, while not as successful as the Ontario premiers, Conservative Party leaders Robert Stanfield and Joe Clark stood out for their decency and well thought out detailed policy alternatives. Recently deceased Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney was renowned for his kindness and class. People from all over the political spectrum spoke about how Mulroney reached out to them when they were in a time of need. One wonders why Poilievre and his party feel it is necessary to behave as uncouth boors so much of the time.

Today's Conservatives live in the gutter.

Image: Justin Tang/Canadian Press

Monday, April 15, 2024

Today's The Day

Today's the day Donald Trump goes to criminal court. Jennifer Rubin writes:

The day has finally arrived for the historic trial in Manhattan of Donald Trump on charges of falsifying business documents. The case concerns Trump’s scheme to conceal embarrassing information from voters in the 2016 election. Derided as a “rump” case, or “trivial,” it actually may be the most consequential of the four criminal cases facing the former president.

“This is the case that reflects the efforts Trump went through to influence the 2016 election — and it worked. He won the election,” says Karen Friedman Agnifilo, who worked for decades in the Manhattan district attorney’s office. “And he only won by a slim margin of fewer than 80,000 votes in three swing states.” Trump sought to buy off two women who said they had sexual encounters with him (Trump denies that) because he not unreasonably feared he would lose if, in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape, these allegations came out.

Some people claim that the case is a storm in a teacup. Not so, writes Rubin:

If you doubt the importance of this case, consider an alternate history: Trump never silenced these women, Hillary Clinton won, three right-wing justices did not get appointed, Roe v. Wade remained law, and Trump never had the chance to attempt a coup in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Much depended on the facts set out in the indictment.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has not changed his theory of the case. What’s changed is the slow realization among commentators that the case revolves around allegations that, if proven true in court, will amount to Trump’s first — and only successful attempt — to use deception and illegal means to gain power.

To begin, we can never prove that “but for” the payoff scheme Trump would have lost. Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe tells me, “It’s inherent in the nature of things and the limits of human knowledge that one can never demonstrate with certainty how history would have unfolded had one or another pivotal event, including an obviously crucial deception of tens of millions of people who hadn’t yet come to expect the worst of Mr. Trump, not occurred.”

But if any crime in pursuit of office would be deemed the decisive event in 2016 and beyond, Tribe said, “the felonies charged by Alvin Bragg in the New York prosecution that is about to unfold in real time qualify for that designation.”

In sum, the case that begins today is not frivolous, minor or particularly prurient. To the contrary, the first trial of a former president has grave importance as a means of holding Trump accountable for the scheme that lifted him to power. It marks the first instance of Trump maneuvering to win an election through deception. To boot, a multi-count felony conviction might result in prison time. That may explain why Trump has been so desperate to delay it.

Exactly. This is the case that set the whole sad saga off. We await a decision.

Image: The Washington Post

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Idiocy -- Pure And Simple

Arizona women are now living with an anti-abortion law that was passed in 1864, before they had the right to vote. Dana Milbank writes:

Trump accurately boasts that “I was able to kill Roe v. Wade” and “I was proudly the person responsible.” As a result of his achievement, conservatives on Arizona’s Supreme Court, freed by Roe’s demise, resurrected on Tuesday an 1864 law that bans nearly all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, from the moment of conception. Trump invited just such Wild West jurisprudence the day before when he said abortion policy should be left “up to the states.” Now, Arizona has restored women’s health care to an era when bloodletting and mercury pills were the standard of care and patients had limbs sawed off without anesthesia.

During the same week Trump took credit for what happened in Arizona, he compared himself to Nelson Mandela:

After all, the similarities are uncanny!

Mandela led the African National Congress. Trump led white nationalists to attack Congress.

Mandela did 18 years of hard labor on Robben Island. Trump made the hard decisions for 14 seasons on “The Apprentice.”

Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize with F.W. de Klerk for abolishing apartheid. Trump won both the Club Championship trophy and Senior Club Championship trophy at Trump International Golf Club.

Mandela built the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to heal South Africa. Trump built Truth Social after he got kicked off of Twitter.

You get the point. This is sheer idiocy.

Image: CBC

Thursday, April 11, 2024

The Dumbest

 Max Fawcett writes that Doug Ford is dumbing down Ontario:

At an announcement for a new medical school at York University, Ford suggested that he wanted to get rid of all the province’s international post-secondary students. It does not appear to have occurred to Ford that those students currently make up 18 per cent of the student body at Ontario’s colleges and universities or that they’ve helped keep these institutions afloat after Ford’s government cut tuition by 10 per cent in 2019 and kept it frozen there ever since. “I’m not being mean, but I’m taking care of our students, our kids first,” he said. “I want 100 per cent of Ontario students going to these universities.”

This is the sort of narrow-minded parochialism you might expect from Quebec’s government, not Ontario’s. But then, even describing Ford’s remarks as parochial gives them credit they don’t deserve since it presumes he’s at least thought about the issues at play for more than a few seconds. As The Canadian Press reported, “Ford then lamented the fact that some kids and parents have said some Ontario students study abroad and then do not return home after they meet someone.”

That’s right: Ford is willing to risk bankrupting his province’s post-secondary institutions because sometimes people leave Ontario to study and don’t return. And while Ford will walk this back in due course, it’s just the latest demonstration of his monumental intellectual shortcomings that are turning the province he governs into a second-rate echo of its former self.

Ford takes the same position when it comes to housing:

Nowhere is that more apparent than on the housing front, where Ford’s enthusiasm for building housing quickly evaporated after it became clear he couldn’t use it to enrich developers and other friends and donors. First, he made it clear he wasn’t about to allow municipalities to build fourplexes as a right, in part because he doesn’t even seem to understand what a fourplex is. “You go in the little communities and start putting up four-storey, six-storey, eight-storey buildings right deep into the communities, there's going to be a lot of shouting and screaming. That's a massive mistake.”

An even bigger mistake would be turning down the federal government’s new offer of billions of dollars for housing simply because you don’t want to meet their conditions, but that’s exactly what Ford sounds like he'll do. Ford has tried to defend this indefensible decision on the basis that he won’t tell local governments what to do, but as David Moscrop pointed out in a piece for TVO, his government has done just that in issuing almost 10 times as many MZOs (minister’s zoning orders) since 2019 as the previous Liberal government did during its 15 years in power.

“The government has no problem meddling in municipal planning,” Moscrop wrote. “Its problem is that it hates urban density, preferring single-family homes and the occasional townhouse.” This is the height of self-defeating stupidity when you’re in the midst of a housing crisis, and it’s even dumber when the federal government is offering you billions of dollars to do the things your own housing affordability task force already recommended.

This week the Ford government announced that it would include nursing home rooms as new houses when counting the number of homes built. I don't know who is Canada's worst premier. But Ford gets my vote as the dumbest. 

Image: Toronto Life

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

A Weird, Weird World

Fifty years ago, Louis Armstrong had a big hit singing "What A Wonderful World." That song doesn't characterize the world we live in. Susan Riley writes:

Anyone looking for evidence that we live in a post-policy, post-fact, increasingly incoherent political moment only needs to look at the war against the federal carbon tax. It isn’t just that it appears to be succeeding; worse, it is drowning out serious conversations about climate change and other urgent issues.

It is a case study in how politics works now: how ambitious attempts—or claims, if you prefer—to improve the economy and life of Canadians become a bludgeon, or an albatross, in a war for political power.

Facts support the tax:

Fact one: the tax, as has been amply documented, contributes less than one per cent to the national inflation rate, which itself has been steadily declining. It is expected to reach the Bank of Canada’s preferred two per cent level this year. And, as is repeatedly noted, some 80 per cent of households that pay the carbon tax get a quarterly rebate—the Canada carbon rebate—which more than compensates for increased costs at the pump or for home heating.

Less well-advertised fact: according to one recent study from the independent Canada Climate Institute, the carbon tax on individual consumption will lower greenhouse gas emissions from eight to 14 per cent in coming years—a modest gain, especially compared to the less visible levy on big industrial polluters. That one will be responsible for 20 to 48 per cent of reductions by 2030. However, the same report says both measures—and others, including levies on methane pollution, and a long-awaited cap on oilsands emissions—are required to reach a desired 50 per cent reduction by the end of the decade.

And, for those wondering, the institute says emissions have been on a downward trend since 2005, with a slight uptick last year. According to its analysis, Canada is on track to meet 90 cent of the current government’s emissions reduction target by 2030—which should be a useful fact to exploit. But why isn’t Justin Trudeau and his cabinet letting Canadians in on the secret?

Unfortunately, the Liberals have bungled the messaging:

The delivery of federal climate measures has been so bungled, so half-hearted, that the fact-free enemies of climate action—various conservative premiers, federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre—are winning the communications war. Poilievre’s schoolyard chants (Axe the Tax/Spike the Hike) drown out the clear-eyed consensus of some 300 “so-called experts”—prominent economists of all persuasions—who explained recently that the hated carbon tax is the least costly, most effective, way of pricing pollution, and, by extension, of moving consumers away from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives.

Initially, Ottawa hid the rebate in annual tax filings. Then it deposited it directly into bank accounts as the Canada Climate Initiative Payment—which probably left as many recipients puzzled as pleased. It finally hit upon the more accurate Canada Carbon Rebate, delivered at regular intervals, but it may be too late to penetrate the mesh of lies surrounding the mostly innocuous carbon tax.

No one wants facts. They spoil a good protest. 

Pierre Poilievre isn't the only one piling on the carbon tax:

While Poilievre has preferred rhyming couplets to impartial analysis, many premiers and other actors are feeding the bonfire of inanities so successfully stroked by Poilievre. They have bought into the lie, too—even though some, including Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, are on record as once touting a consumer carbon tax as the most effective way of reducing emissions. But public opinion has shifted, and so, apparently, have the facts. 

Not all premiers reject climate action outright; Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Manitoba are talking about producing their own climate plans that probably will not include a consumer tax—but, in the meantime, climate progress could be hard to discern through the wildfire smoke. 

That said, the federal Liberals cannot be accused—like the Conservatives—of not having a climate policy. They have one. It has several elements, all too wordy for an election placard: financial help for purchasers of new electric cars (which remain too expensive for many), some relief for those switching from oil and gas to heat pumps for home heating, public transit funding, and other niche offerings. But you need to act quickly while supplies last.

A popular green home-retrofit program, for example, which offered grants and low-cost loans to anyone intrepid enough to navigate the paperwork, was so popular it was halted last December. A new version, tailored to low-and-middle income earners, is in the works, but, meanwhile, installers and homeowners have been left dangling.

The outlook isn't good -- for Canada and the planet.

Image: One Accounting

Saturday, April 06, 2024

Here Come The Nutbars

InfoWars nutbar Alex Jones has endorsed Pierre Poilievre. Emily Leedham writes:

Pierre Poilievre has earned a new admirer — conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Jones, who regularly promotes conspiracy theories and hateful rhetoric through his website InfoWars, took time during a recent broadcast to heap praise on Canada’s newly elected Conservative leader.

During an interview with John Birch Society Program Director Robert Owens, Jones identified Poilievre as one of the leaders of a “rising” global far-right movement that is challenging the “New World Order.”

According to Jones, those far-right leaders include Canada’s new Conservative leader as well as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Italian President Georgia Meloni.

“As negative as things are, we got Bolsonaro, we got Georgia Meloni in Italy, we got the new Canadian leader who’s set to beat Trudeau — who is totally anti-New World Order,” Jones said on his September 30 broadcast.

“You look all over the world, we are rising right now.”

Just what the world needs. Ask the Sandy Hook parents of the kids who were gunned down there. They are still chasing Jones to pay up on the judgment they were awarded for the lies he told about what happened there. 

Caveat emptor.

Image: Press Progress

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Climate Fools

Max Fawcett writes that Conservative climate policy is a joke:

There’s a growing irony in the carbon tax increase falling on April Fools’ Day every year, since it now offers an annual reminder of just what a joke the Conservative Party of Canada’s approach to climate change has become. As if to really underscore that point, former CPC environment and climate change critic Dan Albas shared a piece from a retired economics professor named Steve Ambler that seemed to question the science behind climate change. "If greenhouse gases are a problem,” it reads, “they’re a global problem. Canada can do nothing by itself to solve it.”

That “if” is a massive tell, but it’s hardly the only one in the piece. It also suggested, bizarrely, that a recent study shows “we should be subsidizing rather than taxing the use of fossil fuels” and trades in the obvious straw man that Canada is supposed to solve climate change on its own. What’s worse than these sloppy arguments is the fact they were published in The Hub, an online publication that’s generally regarded as the home of serious and sophisticated conservative thought in Canada. Its willingness to endorse what amounts to warmed over climate change denialism speaks to just how far the Conservative movement it supports has slipped since 2022 when Pierre Poilievre took over as leader.

Poilievre is a master of the glib phrase that fits well on a bumper sticker. But he's a threat to the planet as well as Canada:

We should instead be talking about what a Poilievre government would do here and what that could mean for our future. Might it eliminate the entire carbon pricing infrastructure, including the industrial pricing system that long predated the federal carbon tax and will do the heaviest lifting on Canada’s emissions? Might it even pressure provincial governments in Alberta and Ontario to repeal their own industrial carbon pricing systems?

That’s a very real possibility. And while it would thrill those within the Conservative base who helped elect Poilievre as leader, it would also put Canada at odds with the vast majority of our major trading partners at the very moment when they will be accelerating their investments in clean energy and decarbonization. In the process, we would surrender whatever control we might have had over the energy transition’s impact on our export-oriented economy. As University of Alberta economics professor Andrew Leach noted in his recent book, “There is no option for business-as-before. Our choice will increasingly become whether to act responsibly on our own initiative or have standards imposed on us by the rest of the world.”

One has to ask what planet are the Conservatives living on? And just how bright are they? Stupidity is a social disease. It spreads like syphilis and it eats human brains.

Image: National Observer

Monday, April 01, 2024

Holy, Holy, Holy


Donald Trump is hawking Bibles. Michael Harris writes:

It wasn’t cologne.  

It wasn’t those $399 Never Surrender gold high-top running shoes. 

It wasn’t a T-shirt featuring Teflon Don’s mugshot.  

It wasn’t even dubious steaks, or third-rate wine.  

It was the Bible. And Pastor Trump was making it available in Holy Week.

I doubt Mr. Trump has spent much time in its pages. But Donald's legal bills are piling up. And now that his daughter-in-large is in charge at the Republican National Committee, she's made it clear that any funds the organization raises will go first to pay those bills. But that will not be enough:

The quadruple-indicted presidential candidate, facing 88 felony counts, has exhibited his endlessly imaginative financial genius yet again. He has figured out a way to monetize God.  

Only one thing was missing from his greasy sales pitch. Anyone who really wants a Bible can go online and get one for free. Mind you, it won’t be endorsed by Pastor Trump.

No one should be surprised at Trump’s latest display of scuzzy fundraising for his favourite cause: himself.  

This is the guy who dipped into his own charity for personal expenditures, including money to buy his own portrait. The Donald J. Trump Foundation was closed down by court order in 2018. A year later, Trump was fined $2-million for misusing charitable donations.

This is the guy who had to fork over big bucks in damages after the Trump University fiasco. Trump University promised to teach students the “secrets of success” in real estate. Instead, the students were fleeced. A federal court finalized a cash award to the students of $25-million. Trump University is now defunct.

This is the guy who solicited money for his official legal defence fund after losing the 2020 election. It turned out that the fund never existed. But that didn’t stop his Save America political action committee from raking in millions of dollars by “hitting up” what Amanda Carpenter of the called Trump’s “gullible admirers.”

Mark Twain knew a lot about con men. He knew that the most successful among them posed as men of the cloth -- and that they became rich because, as he wrote in Huckleberry Finn, "the fools are the majority in any town."

Image: The Hill Times

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Lies Can Get You A Long Way

Pierre Poilievre keeps repeating a lie. Bruce Arthur writes:

The top issue facing Canadians right now, if you ask Canadians, is affordability. Inflation rose, and is falling to a new, higher floor. Housing costs are the end of the fuse on a time bomb. It's tough out there for a lot of people. Look around.

So governments must find solutions, or at least be seen to try, and the number one topic has somehow become the carbon tax. Axe the tax, the opposing Conservatives say. They say "Trudeau's carbon tax has forced Canadians to choose between heating their home and putting food on the table." Which, uh, isn’t true.

Nevertheless, the Conservatives have hammered this message. In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford has also linked it to affordability, and Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie has run from the idea of a carbon tax in response. Several provinces are opposing the April 1 increase, and the PM is firing back. (Rebates rise with the price, though in fairness, paying up front and having to wait for your money back in April can pinch, in harder times.)

But Pierre Poilievre's party is driving this exhaust-spewing bus. Affordability. Axe the tax. It's largely opportunistic nonsense, unfortunately.

Lots of people who understand the problem have popped that balloon:

"That (idea) that the Conservatives are fighting for the working class on this: I mean, you're not,” says Andrew Leach, a professor of law and economics, and the co-director of the Institute for Public Economics at the University of Alberta. "You're fighting for the people who have a material benefit from the removal of carbon pricing, which are people above that 70 per cent or 80 per cent income line. For the middle, it's a rounding error. To the bottom, (removing the carbon tax) is a big loss.

"And they're getting away with saying we're doing this for the poor. And it's insanity."

One professor? Pfft, you might say. We can find economics professors who say the carbon tax isn't worth the cost, and who write op-eds whose argument boils down to, uh, CO2 is good for plants.

Well, what about more than 200 Canadian economists? Because that's how many signed a letter this week addressing the main arguments against carbon pricing. That it doesn't affect emissions, for instance. (It does, according to at least two reports, at a lower cost than alternative approaches.) The letter also counters the arguments that the tax drives up the cost of living as a big factor in inflation, that it doesn't make sense to offer both carbon pricing and rebates, that it harms Canadian business competitiveness, and that carbon pricing isn't necessary at all.

The letter reads, "Healthy public debate is good, but it should be based on sound evidence and facts."

"Any attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is going to reduce economic activity," says Stephen Gordon of the Université de Laval, who, like Leach, is a signatory. "The thing about the carbon tax is it has the least bad effect on economic activity."

What Poilievre is selling is a lie. But lies will get you a long way these days.

Image: Steve Russell/Toronto Star

Monday, March 25, 2024

A Contrary View

If the polls are to be believed, we are headed for a Conservative juggernaut. Susan Riley isn't so sure:

Lurking somewhere between despair and denial, you can spot tiny glimmers of hope for non-Conservative voters in this country—in what is, admittedly, an otherwise dire and discouraging political landscape. These glimmers may not shine brightly enough yet to stop the righteous armies of vengeance, the daily cavalcade of distortion and insult, the seemingly inevitable decline of a well-meaning—but flawed—prime minister, who has outstayed his welcome.

But, if everyone gives up, we may as well hand over the keys to Rideau Cottage immediately—and resign ourselves to accelerating climate chaos and increasing economic inequality. 

She cautions that we should look outside Ottawa:

The election of Wab Kinew, the first modern-day Indigenous premier of Manitoba, signals a welcome departure from the usual fed-prov scenario: premiers fighting Ottawa over every bland federal attempt at helping their citizens. In his first months, the new NDP premier has cheerfully accepted $664-million in federal money for health care, and also welcomed the recent federal mini-pharmacare plan.

And, while Kinew has not defended the federal carbon tax—and the controversial three-cent-per-litre hike coming next month—he has not trashed it, or the prime minister, like some of his provincial counterparts have. Instead, he has talked about devising a made-in-Manitoba climate plan, and, in the meantime—in the name of affordability—dropped the 14 cent provincial tax on gasoline and frozen electricity rates. 

There are promising rumbles coming from Atlantic Canada, too. New Brunswick Liberals have an energetic, articulate and bilingual new leader in Susan Holt, a mid-40s businesswoman from Fredericton. Since assuming the leadership last year, Holt has been travelling the province, meeting with health-care workers, new candidates and municipal officials—and posting her adventures on X. 

Her main focus is affordability, protecting the province’s bilingual status, and fixing the lamentably inadequate health care system. Like other provincial leaders, she is calling for a pause on the April 1 carbon tax hike; she also proposes cancelling a clean fuel tax and the provincial tax on electricity bills. While hardly the actions of a climate leader, Holt promises a New Brunswick environmental plan, and, unlike Premier Higgs, to date hasn’t joined Poilievre’s Axe the Tax rallies. (The truth is that most New Brunswick families now receive more than they pay on fuel taxes through the federal carbon tax rebate— a reality that prompted the province to drop its own tax and embrace the federal system last year.)

Meanwhile, Higgs, arguably the grumpiest of premiers, kick-started a specious campaign against trans kids last year, under the guise of protecting parental rights. While his position plays well to right-wing sentiment in the province, it provoked an open rebellion in his caucus and reportedly irritated pragmatic New Brunswickers more concerned with the cost of living that esoteric moral crusades.

According to one recent poll, Higgs’ Conservatives are now trailing the Liberals 34 to 40 per cent, and Holt is the preferred choice as premier among 31 per cent of those polled, compared to 25 per cent for Higgs. If those soundings hold until the October provincial election, Higgs could be off to involuntary retirement with the electoral map of eastern Canada changed once again.

And then there is Alberta:

Arguably, more impactful changes are looming in Alberta, with a competitive race to succeed retiring provincial NDP leader Rachel Notley. Along with four certifiably-sane former Notley cabinet ministers (all women), a prominent provincial labour leader and former Calgary mayor, Naheed Nenshi, have entered the race.

The fact that Nenshi, an avowed non-partisan as mayor, is joining the NDP makes him either an interloper and opportunist, or—for some progressive voters—evidence of the party’s potential to reach beyond its base and regain power. That said, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has proven to be a wily operator, a skilled communicator and an attentive servant of her right-wing rural base. Despite her widely unpopular campaign to quit the Canada Pension Plan, her push for a provincially-financed police force to replace the RCMP, and her apparent hostility to clean tech investors, her UPC party continues to lead the NDP by around 7 points in most polls.

According to early intelligence, Nenshi, more than the other candidates, could challenge that lead. Under his leadership, the NDP would likely become an even more pragmatic, centrist party, that could sever ties with the unpopular federal NDP—or leave it to party members to join one, or both, branches of the party. A Nenshi victory could also open the door to genuine federal-provincial co-operation on climate change, instead of serving—as Smith’s government does—as an unpaid cheerleader for the booming fossil fuel sector. 

We'll see what the future holds.

Image: Psychology Today

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Wisdom That Will Be Missed

On the day of Brian Mulroney's state funeral, Catherine McKenna writes that Brian Mulroney was wise in a way that today's Conservatives aren't:

In 1987, U.S. president Ronald Reagan and prime minister Brian Mulroney stood side by side to announce the Montreal Protocol, one of the world’s most successful treaties, which would cut the use of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons. Four years later, Mulroney would stand next to Reagan’s successor, president George H.W. Bush, to announce the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement, which would dramatically reduce the toxic air pollution that was causing acid rain.

In each instance, scientists had sounded the alarm, environmentalists had taken up the cause and public concern in Canada was growing. Satellite images showed a gaping wound in the ozone layer over the Antarctic. Rivers and lakes many hundreds of kilometres from any factory had died from acidification.

What happened next changed everything: conservative leaders listened and then they led.

It wasn't easy. Big Money complained loudly. And there were Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and George Bush to be dealt with:

Well-funded industry lobbyists denied the science, and Mulroney had to cajole his American counterparts more than once, reminding them of the cost of inaction. The result was two agreements, based on science, that were smart for both the environment and the economy. According to Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz, the president saw the Montreal Protocol as an insurance policy. To him, it wasn’t ideological. It was prudent.

How did they do it? True to their conservatism and belief in free markets, Mulroney and Bush used the market to tackle acid rain: a cap-and-trade system in the U.S. coupled with targets and regulations in Canada. It proved far cheaper and worked much faster than almost anyone expected.

But it was Shultz, whom I met several times, who persuasively argued for the most conservative approach of all. He believed that to be effective and publicly accepted, carbon pricing should be revenue neutral, with all the money transparently refunded to people. Ironically, it was conservatives who helped me as we designed the basic principles for what would be a signature policy of our Liberal government.

All of this was 180 degrees from today's Conservatives:

None of this draws a flattering comparison to today’s conservatives. Pierre Poilievre, Doug Ford, Scott Moe and Danielle Smith profess to love markets but fight tooth and nail to sabotage carbon pricing — one of the most effective mechanisms that their predecessors devised to protect the planet. Rather than fight for the planet, they fight climate action.

They disregard not only science but Canada’s future competitiveness by ignoring the trillion-dollar opportunity of the clean transition, penalizing renewable energy in favour of oil and gas, and refusing to build the industries of tomorrow. It would be comical if it wasn’t so consequential.

Today's Conservatives can be counted among the Fatally Stupid.


Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The Carbon Tax: In Memorium

Max Fawcett writes that the carbon tax is dead:

How did the Trudeau government’s signature climate policy turn into a political albatross? As Ernest Hemingway might say: gradually, then suddenly.

Pierre Poilievre’s pledge to “axe the tax” has helped him open up an increasingly massive lead in the polls, while almost every provincial premier — including the last remaining Liberal one, Newfoundland’s Andrew Furey — is now calling for the carbon tax to be paused. Even progressive heavyweights and potential future premiers like Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie and Alberta NDP leadership contender Rakhi Pancholi have announced climate plans that don’t include a consumer carbon tax, presumably guided by the assumption that the federal carbon tax won’t be around much longer. If the Trudeau Liberals don’t cut this increasingly heavy political anchor loose, it’s going to drag them even further underwater.

That ground is now lost. Continuing to wax rhapsodic about the intellectual virtues of carbon pricing isn’t going to help the Liberals recover any of it. Neither will trying to point out the hypocrisy in the Conservative attacks on it and their implicit preference for regulations, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did recently. Instead, it’s time for a full strategic retreat — ironically, to the very political territory Trudeau was accusing the Conservatives of occupying.

Pierre Poilievre will continue to crow. But that doesn't mean that climate policy is dead. Trudeau can:

scrap the consumer portion of the carbon tax and focus instead on the programs and incentives that can help consumers reduce their emissions. It should maintain the industrial carbon tax and proceed with policies like the oil and gas sector emissions cap and clean electricity regulations that put the onus on heavy emitters. It should invite Poilievre and the conservative premiers backing him to protect the oil and gas industry from paying for its pollution. And it should challenge the Conservative Party of Canada to finally come up with its own plan that goes beyond mere slogans and achieves some measure of substance.

He can tie Poilievre’s CPC to Danielle Smith and Scott Moe and use their ongoing fealty to oil and gas industry executives and hostility towards climate policy and clean energy as a different kind of political anchor. And he can deprive Poilievre of his favourite political weapon and dull his broader attack around affordability issues.

If he has one last trick in his political bag that can fundamentally change the political mood the way his pledge to run deficits did in 2015, this is probably it. Kill the carbon tax and live to fight another day. If he plays this card right, Canadians might still get the climate change election we deserve — and his party desperately needs — in 2025.

But don't count on it. We live in an age that has been marked by the rise of the Fatally Stupid.

Image: VOCM

Monday, March 18, 2024

No Bosom Buddies

You might think that, if Pierre Poilievre becomes prime minister, Doug Ford would be ecstatic. Martin Regg Cohn writes that such is not the case:

By rights, these two right-wingers should be soul mates.

Yet they are anything but.

Premier Doug Ford and federal Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre barely know each other. Nor are they in a hurry to get better acquainted.

They have no private conversations to speak of. Nor any public interactions to take stock of.

Helming the Progressive Conservative government at Queen’s Park, Ford is Canada’s most powerful Tory. As leader of the federal Conservatives, Poilievre is putatively Canada’s prime minister in waiting.

By tradition, these two top Tories should be as one. Yet it is hard to fathom two fellow travellers moving in such different directions — keeping their political distance when in close proximity.

What evidence is there that Poilievre and Ford are not bosom buddies?

The best evidence of that avoidance came last weekend, when Poilievre convened a mass political rally in Ford’s home riding of Etobicoke North. Poilievre’s call went out to all true believers to stand together against the federal carbon tax, but Ford sent word out to caucus that he'd sit it out.

Despite their shared antipathy to taxes and hostility to government meddling, they clearly feel no mutual felicity. In truth, they have no time for each other, never having attempted a meeting of minds in the 18 months since Poilievre became federal party leader and the six years since Ford took over the provincial Tories.

What’s keeping these two conservatives so far apart? Why can’t they be friends and allies, if not comrades-in-arms?

From talking to those in the know, it’s apparent that the differences are as much personal as political, more stylistic than substantive.

Poilievre is a lifetime politician who never went to charm school. Ford had a life before politics, capable of turning on the charm to make a sale for the family business.

Where Poilievre is constantly chippy, Ford is alternately chipper to get his way. Where the federal leader is cantankerous, the premier can be gregarious when the mood moves him.

While Poilievre disdains Ottawa, he embodies the bubble of the federal capital — right down to the riding he represents. By contrast, Ford projects an everyman persona, cultivating the salty language of working folks while downplaying his privileged upbringing.

But there is a bigger divide:

Canada’s Conservatives are anchored in Western regional alienation, oblivious to the instinct for accommodation in Ontario. As premier, Ford is more mindful of the province’s propensity for centrism and compromise, no matter his initial impulse for conflict and upheaval.

Paradoxically, the premier sees his true counterpart as Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. While the two leaders are far from soul mates, they are at least simpatico — breezily cutting cheques and cutting ribbons for new factories or shared programs.

We'll see what the future holds.

Image: Toronto Sun

Thursday, March 14, 2024

The Bond Is Breaking

David Ignatius writes that the relationship between Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu is pretty tense:

As the war in Gaza grinds on, President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are locked in a public quarrel about military strategy, political leadership and even casualty numbers. Like past disputes in the relationship, this one will probably be resolved short of an open break — but it’s a tense moment.

The most visible disagreement has been about Netanyahu’s plan to attack Hamas’s remaining stronghold in Rafah along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. Netanyahu and a broad range of other Israeli officials believe that destroying the four Hamas battalions there, with about 3,000 fighters, is essential to break its military control in the territory.

Biden said in an interview with MSNBC this past weekend that Rafah was a “red line,” but it wasn’t clear just what that meant. Last month, Biden said Israel shouldn’t attack Rafah until it had a “credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety” of more than 1 million Palestinian refugees who have been driven there by the fighting, according to a White House summary of the conversation. Administration officials say they still haven’t seen such a plan.

“We’ll go there,” Netanyahu shot back on Sunday, adding: “You know, I have a red line. You know what the red line is? That October 7 doesn’t happen again. Never happens again.” A senior Israeli official underlined that position in an interview on Wednesday. “If the administration says, ‘Never do Rafah,’ that won’t work. … You can’t do 80 percent of the job.”

But it will happen again. That's the history of the Israel and Palestine. And, now, the Netanyahu coalition is falling apart:

A deeper disagreement is about whether Netanyahu and his right-wing government really have united the country behind a clear endgame for the conflict. U.S. intelligence analysts were openly skeptical of Netanyahu’s leadership prospects in their annual threat assessment, delivered to Congress this week.

“Netanyahu’s viability as a leader as well as his governing coalition of far-right and ultraorthodox parties that pursued hardline policies on Palestinian and security issues may be in jeopardy,” the threat assessment noted. “Distrust of Netanyahu’s ability to rule has deepened and broadened. … A different, more moderate government is a possibility.”

That’s unusually blunt language for a public intelligence report, and Israeli officials protested what they saw as an effort to meddle in Israeli internal politics by, in effect, “weaponizing” the intelligence reporting. Netanyahu’s team was already peeved about what it saw as an attempt by Vice President Harris to drive a wedge into Israeli politics when she said on CBS News on Sunday: “It’s important to distinguish and to not conflate the Israeli government with the Israeli people.”

An important distinction to keep in mind.

Image: The NewArab

Monday, March 11, 2024

The War In Gaza

Protests against the war in Gaza are growing. Michael Harris writes:

Political leaders who can no longer hear the people are usually on their way to defeat.

That is one of the takeaways from the recently cancelled event featuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and visiting Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni in Toronto. 

A crowd of 400 protesters against the Gaza War—passionate and fractious—blocked the entrances to the Ontario Art Gallery. The prime minister was called “Genocide Justin” and a “liar.” Attendees were stopped from entering the building. 

Trudeau cabinet minister Ahmed Hussen hoofed it for two blocks trying to find an unblocked entrance to the venue. He could have saved the shoe leather. Even though the police said they could provide secure access to the art gallery, the prime minister’s staff decided not to proceed. 

Liberal MP Marco Mendicino expressed his view of the protesters in no uncertain terms: “You break the law, you should be arrested, charged, and prosecuted. … These thugs think they scored a victory last night, but all they did was lose public support, and embarrass themselves. Time for the madness to stop.”

Indeed. What the MP totally missed is that’s why the protesters were there in the first place: to stop the madness. It is not madness to protest the mass slaughter of 30,000 Palestinians in a war of misguided retribution. And there is the prospect of even greater casualties to come if a ceasefire and hostage agreement can’t be worked out before Ramadan. 

Trudeau's -- and the world's -- problem is how to deal with Benjamin Netanyahu:

In that case, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already committed to an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) invasion of Rafah. The fate of a million and a half civilians sheltering there in dreadful conditions hangs in the balance. 

The overwhelming majority of those killed were not Hamas fighters. U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was asked during congressional hearings how many women and children have been killed in the conflict. “It is over 25,000,” he replied. The Pentagon disputed that number, saying they could not confirm it. 

So far, the Trudeau government has played the moral lightweight in this ongoing humanitarian catastrophe. The prime minister did belatedly call for a ceasefire, and for that he deserves some credit. 

But there has been no follow through from Trudeau, no public pressure on Netanyahu to call off the dogs of war. Once again, Trudeau practising the uninspiring art of political gesturing. 

And that is what has enraged ordinary people around the world: the lackadaisical approach by so many governments to a humanitarian disaster so dire that it requires deeds—not words—to stop the wanton death and destruction. 

Until Trudeau -- and other world leaders -- get deadly serious with Netanyahu, the war will continue.

Image: The National Post

Friday, March 08, 2024

Caveat Emptor

Groucho Marx used to quip, "Who you gonna believe -- me or your own eyes?" These days, believing what you see with your own eyes can be problematic. Consider this story from The Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — At first glance, images circulating online showing former President Donald Trump surrounded by groups of Black people smiling and laughing seem nothing out of the ordinary, but a look closer is telling.

Odd lighting and too−perfect details provide clues to the fact they were all generated using artificial intelligence. The photos, which have not been linked to the Trump campaign, emerged as Trump seeks to win over Black voters who polls show remain loyal to President Joe Biden.

The fabricated images, highlighted in a recent BBC investigation, provide further evidence to support warnings that the use of AI−generated imagery will only increase as the November general election approaches. Experts said they highlight the danger that any group — Latinos, women, older male voters — could be targeted with lifelike images meant to mislead and confuse as well as demonstrate the need for regulation around the technology.

In a report published this week, researchers at the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate used several popular AI programs to show how easy it is to create realistic deepfakes that can fool voters. The researchers were able to generate images of Trump meeting with Russian operatives, Biden stuffing a ballot box and armed militia members at polling places, even though many of these AI programs say they have rules to prohibit this kind of content.

The center analyzed some of the recent deepfakes of Trump and Black voters and determined that at least one was originally created as satire but was now being shared by Trump supporters as evidence of his support among Blacks.

Another reminder of something that has always been true: What really matters is the sources we choose for our information.

Image: The Daily Beast

Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Easy Marks

Millennials, we're told, are shifting their votes to Pierre Poilievre. Max Fawcett writes that Poilievre is playing them for fools:

Credit where it’s due: Pierre Poilievre has talked a good game about housing ever since he was elected leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Sure, he keeps fibbing about being the Harper government’s housing minister (no such role existed) and continues to pretend the problem magically started when the Trudeau Liberals were elected, but he’s effectively drawn attention to an issue that’s been overlooked for too long. The huge surge in Conservative support among millennial voters, who now outnumber baby boomers, helps explain why his party is so far ahead in recent polls.

Housing-hungry millennials might want to look a little more closely at what he’s actually saying about the issue, though. Yes, Poilievre has been very good at feeling their pain and harnessing it to his own political ambitions. But if anyone’s expecting him to heal it as prime minister, his recent behaviour suggests they’re setting themselves up for some pretty major disappointment.

It's wise to concentrate on what Poilievre does and not on what he says:

He has, for example, decided to make an enemy out of NDP Premier David Eby, who he recently suggested has “probably the worst housing record of any politician on Earth.” Eby, of course, has been premier of British Columbia for just over a year now. In that time, he’s transformed the housing market in his province, implementing a raft of hugely ambitious and aggressive reforms that target everything from short-term rentals and restrictive local zoning bylaws to design-oriented regulations that can unlock more supply. Leo Spalteholz, a pro-supply housing activist in B.C., described the changes as “transformational.”

Poilievre is apparently counting on Canadians to ignore that progress or the context in which it’s taken place. “Look at the prices,” he said in a video that was clipped and shared by Canada Proud. “Vancouver is now the third most expensive housing market in the world, comparing median income to median house prices. Check it on for yourself.”

Well, I did. Despite the dead link Poilievre tried to direct people to — it’s — the data doesn’t tell the story he might like to pretend. Back in 2015, for example, Demographia’s annual study of housing affordability revealed that Vancouver was the second most expensive city in the world on those same criteria. Maybe, just maybe, it’s about something other than Justin Trudeau and Eby.

Curiously, while Poilievre is happy to blame Eby for the high housing prices that long predate his entry into provincial politics, he’s conspicuously silent about Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s track record. Prices and rents there have soared since his Progressive Conservatives took power in 2018, and most of his government’s legislative efforts on this file have revolved around trying to enrich Ford-friendly developers and exacerbate the province’s existing problems with sprawl. The Ontario PCs have repeatedly ignored the recommendations of their own Housing Affordability Task Force and in some cases, actively opposed them.

As a result, while housing starts were up 11 per cent in Eby’s B.C. in 2023, they dropped 36 per cent in Ford’s Ontario. As The Hub’s Steve Lafleur noted, federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser has been leading the charge for better housing policies in Ontario. “He’s getting municipal governments to make tough reforms the premier hasn’t thus far been willing to impose. Indeed, many of these reforms are straight out of the Housing Affordability Task Force report. The premier doesn’t have to drive the bus, but he really shouldn’t stand in front of it.”

As a New York City official once said of Donald Trump, "I wouldn't believe a word he says -- even if his tongue were notarized."

Image: DiJones

Saturday, March 02, 2024

Brian Mulroney


I never voted for Brian Mulroney. The Neo-Conservative Era -- which he ushered in with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan -- to me always seemed wrong-headed. I agreed with John Kenneth Galbraith. "Trickle Down," he said, "is what comes out of the back end of a cow." 

That said, Mulroney accomplished some remarkable things. He helped end Apartheid in South Africa. The Montreal Protocol, which put an end to acid rain, was a world-changing agreement. And he had the eminent good sense to appoint Stephen Lewis as Canada's ambassador to the U.N.

For those of us who have Irish blood in our veins, the blarney was easy to spot. And for those of us who grew up in the Two Solitudes, Mulroney's attempt to bridge the gulf between the two was easy to support. Meech Lake failed. Bridging those differences remains Canada's essential problem.

Mulroney -- like all of us -- was a flawed human being. But history will be kind to him. May he rest in peace.

Image: Times Colonist

Thursday, February 29, 2024

The Question

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Donald Trump's claim for complete immunity. What's important, Jennifer Rubin writes, is how the court has framed the question:

The court determined that the only question to be addressed is whether a former president enjoys absolute “immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.” The language is telling in a number of respects.

Had the court entertained the possibility the answer would be yes (e.g., yes, he can order Seal Team Six to kill his enemies; yes, he can exile his opponent in his reelection bid), it would have had to address subsidiary questions such as “Was the president engaged in an official act?” or “What is the ambit of an official Furthermore, if the court’s order is limited to considering official acts, then special counsel Jack Smith almost certainly could effectively argue that Trump’s attempt to overthrow an election for which he has no constitutional role must be deemed “unofficial” at the tact?” Only if the answer is “no” — that is, affirming Judge Tanya S. Chutkan and the D.C. Circuit’s unanimous ruling — would there be no need for further inquiry. The presence of the single question tells us where the court is heading.

Furthermore, if the court’s order is limited to considering official acts, then special counsel Jack Smith almost certainly could effectively argue that Trump’s attempt to overthrow an election for which he has no constitutional role must be deemed “unofficial” at the trial court level. That would allow Smith to proceed to trial. In other words, if the Supreme Court wanted to spare Trump, it simply would have asked, “Is a president immune from criminal prosecution?”

The problem is with the court's timing:

Whether a trial could begin and finish before Election Day, we most certainly will have a decision addressing what is essentially his only defense: “I cannot be punished for official acts. Interfering with my own election was an official act. Therefore, I go free!” At the very least, if my analysis is correct, heading into an election, voters will know that this cannot possibly be the law. Voting for him would amount to allowing someone going to trial (or already on trial) for serious crimes to waltz into the White House.

Let's hope American voters can see that distinction. H.L. Menken would tell you that they can't.

Image: Supreme Court

Monday, February 26, 2024

Time For A Walk In The Snow?

Michael Harris has supported Justin Trudeau pretty consistently. Now, he writes, it's time for Trudeau to go:

Nothing is clearer in Canadian politics than that the next federal election is Pierre Poilievre’s to lose.

According to the latest Nanos poll, the Conservative Party of Canada has a 13-point lead over the governing Liberals. Poilievre has a 10-point lead over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the choice for PM, though according to the polls, neither man is the rage.

There is no mystery about why Canadians are unhappy with the current government. Times are undeniably tough. Canadians still have a COVID hangover, feel angry about affordability issues on everything from homes to groceries and worry about the stalling economy.

A lot have also developed a visceral dislike of Trudeau. There are a variety of reasons for that, from deficits stretching out to a distant fiscal horizon, to his occasional lapses of personal judgment. You don’t feast on caviar when a lot of your fellow citizens are staring into stone soup.

So what about the alternative? He's big on grievance but short on details:

Poilievre is currently mopping the floor with his political opponents. And he will keep doing that until they come up with a better approach to dealing with his relentless and consequential attacks.

The Conservative leader has a daunting list of grievances. And they resonate profoundly with Canadians. But he remains decidedly thin on solutions.

Poilievre’s greatest vulnerability is on how, or even if, he would fight climate change. He might rage against carbon pricing, but he has so far declined to flesh out the Conservatives’ policy, promising to release details later.

That is textbook opposition politics. The longer you delay revealing your policies, the less time your opponents have to pick them apart.

What the Liberals need is change. And Harris suggests that change should start at the top with a leader who can pick Poilievre apart.

Image:  Sean Kilpatrick, the Canadian Press.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

A Fraud


Pierre Poilievre is a piece of work. Linda McQuaig writes:

So let me get this straight. Pierre Poilievre is going to make life more affordable for Canadians. Yet he’s going to ramp up our military spending wildly, as demanded by Donald Trump.

Trump isn’t even yet the Republican nominee (and still faces 91 criminal charges) but already our putative future prime minister is bending to his will.

Last week, Poilievre indicated support for boosting Canada’s military spending to 2 per cent of GDP, right after Trump told a rally he’d encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to any NATO country that doesn’t meet NATO’s 2 per cent target.

Of course, bowing and scraping to the MAGA boss-man isn’t the image Poilievre wants to project to Canadians. He wants us to see him as a scrappy tough guy who fights to make our lives more affordable.

The problem is he doesn’t come up with any ideas that would actually make our lives more affordable. Sure, he talks about “axing the tax” (very scrappy) but always leaves out the kicker: eliminating the carbon tax would also mean eliminating the rebate that leaves most Canadians better off (not so scrappy).

Consider the nonsense he's peddling:

Axing the tax certainly appeals to Big Oil boosters who want to keep us hooked on fossil fuels, but it won’t help with affordability.

Meanwhile, raising our military spending to 2 per cent of GDP — from its current level of 1.39 per cent — would cost us an extra $25 billion a year, according to Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Office. That would please Trump (at least for a moment). But such a massive spending hike would inevitably result in spending cuts to things we really need — like health care, transit, housing — making our lives worse and less affordable.

Poilievre takes his cues from the Magnetic Moron to the South. Americans may re-elect that moron. We should steer clear of our own frauds.

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, February 19, 2024

More Damage

The damage from the ArriveCan debacle is spreading. Once again, the Trudeau government is paying the price. Michael Harris writes:

Apart from the Canadian public, the obvious loser in the ArriveCan scandal is the Trudeau government.  

After all, it takes a special kind of incompetence to turn an $80,000 project into a $60-million boondoggle of epic proportions.   

Thanking the Auditor General for writing what could be your political epitaph isn’t fooling anyone. Neither is the promise to accept her recommendations. Or protestations that you are committed to handling taxpayers’ money responsibly. In the light of the AG’s findings, that is all nonsense.

But the Liberals are not the only ones paying a price:

There is a second victim in this hot mess: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Singh placed a high-stakes bet that his supply-and-confidence agreement with the Liberals, which would allow the Liberals to remain in place until 2025, would benefit the NDP in the long run.

In return for keeping the government in power, the Liberals pledged to give special attention to the NDP’s policy priorities. And in the case of a public dental care program—or at least the baby steps towards one—that is what happened.  

Pharmacare is another matter. The Liberals have already missed one deadline in doing something about this NDP priority.  

The new deadline is now March. But the government has already made clear that whatever it might come up with, it will be far short of a single payer, universal program. That, government ministers have said, is far too expensive. 

Parsing that response, the Liberals will try to substitute a “framework” for pharmacare, rather than legislation that would actually create it. 

Things are falling apart. Governments defeat themselves.

Image: AZ Quotes

Thursday, February 15, 2024


Danielle Smith believes that the future is in oil. Max Fawcett writes that she is misinformed: 

Alberta’s UCP government may like to pretend it sees the world differently than Saudi Arabia but when it comes to their biggest industry, they speak the same language. Both have said the International Energy Agency’s predictions about the imminent arrival of peak oil demand are massively overblown and that consumption will remain strong for decades to come. That’s why the kingdom’s recent announcement to abandon plans to increase its maximum sustained production capacity should have gotten Danielle Smith’s attention. The explanation that Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman offered at a recent industry conference, meanwhile, should have stopped her cold.

“I think we postponed the investment simply because … we’re transitioning,” bin Salman said. “And transitioning means that even our oil company, which used to be an oil company, became a hydrocarbon company. Now it’s becoming an energy company.” They might not ring a bell at the top of a market, as the saying goes, but his statement is about as close as it’s going to get for fossil fuels.

So far, Smith has refused to reckon with this reality. In a world where global demand for oil is in the process of starting to roll over, she actually seems to think Alberta can double its production by 2050. As she told Tucker Carlson (during his brief stopover in Alberta en route to his date with Vladimir Putin in Moscow), “I think we should just double down and decide we’re going to double our oil and gas production because truly, where else does America want to get its oil from?”

And she's selling that idea to the Americans:

She tried to play this card again during her recent visit to the United States, where she met with some of the most notoriously retrograde Republican senators in an apparent attempt to drum up business for Alberta. “Serious question for America,” she posed on Twitter. “Would you rather get your energy from Iran and Venezuela or your friends in Canada?” Here’s one serious answer: America currently imports almost no oil from Venezuela and has only registered imports from Iran in six months over the last 32 years. There is, in other words, almost nothing for Canada to replace here.

This wasn’t the only aspect of America’s energy system she doesn’t seem to understand. In a video posted to social media, Smith suggests the United States is actually behind Canada when it comes to climate policy, and we should avoid getting too far ahead. “I know that there are often proposals for what decarbonizing might look like on a number of fronts,” she said, “but I’m not seeing that America is moving as quick as Canada. That’s one thing I’m hoping we can bring in sync.”

She's not the sharpest tool in the shed. But, like the guy to the South, ignorance does not slow her down.

Image: CBC

Monday, February 12, 2024

They're Shafting Ukraine


American Republicans and Canadian Conservatives are shafting Ukraine. Michael Harris writes:

The politicians whom the Ukrainian president trusted to have his back in his country’s existential struggle against Russian invaders have betrayed him.  

While European countries have ponied up 54-billion euros for beleaguered Ukraine, the dysfunctional United States Congress is withholding $60-billion.  

In what should be an all-hands-on-deck moment in the West, the Republicans are instead wallowing in a twisted version of domestic politics. While Vladimir Putin pounds Ukrainian cities, killing civilians and destroying the country’s infrastructure, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is complaining about border security. 

The Republicans’ bottom line? No border security, no money for Ukraine. The consequence? No money for Ukraine, no Ukraine—at least not as a democracy, rather than a vassal state.

It’s worse than it looks.  

The Conservatives are no better:

Here in Canada, though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remains steadfast in his support of Ukraine, not everyone agrees. The Conservatives recently voted against the refurbished free-trade deal with Ukraine.  

Far more troubling is the recent Angus Reid poll that shows that amongst Conservative voters, support has plummeted for supporting Ukraine two years into the invasion. 

Those Conservatives are not only losing interest in the conflict, but they also believe that Canada is doing “too much” to assist Ukraine. Coincidentally, similar polling results are showing up in the America. Republican voters are also showing attention fatigue with the Ukraine War.

They're paper tigers -- full of hot air and nothing more.

Image: The Hill Times