The Shotgun Blog
Saturday, November 03, 2012
New International Trade Crossing: Bridge Math
Friday, October 12, 2012
Canada's Pipeline Insurgency Should Refine Its Friends
It’s a newly-buff pipeline industry that's stepping into the lion's den at the final hearings into the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline which will last through October into November.
Project proponent Enbridge served notice that the days of being a punching bag for eco-nuts is over. The company is coming on all aggressive, demanding that the Canadian front groups against the pipeline reveal their funding from American sources, whose ultimate goal is to shut down Canada's oil industry regardless of the damage it does to the country's economy and future prospects. It looks like a bruising month ahead.
But while the big battles are being fought in the public spotlight, there's a homegrown insurgency that's nipping at the heels of the pipelines that's gone pretty much unnoticed outside of Alberta.
It's a broad coalition of ranchers and farmers who have pipelines criss-crossing their land and who have become very disillusioned with their "partners" in land stewardship. They fluctuate between being very scared of the power of the pipeline industry and being very angry at getting pushed around.
They say they're not against oil pipelines, but while they talk the talk, they walk the other side of the street. There appears to be pretty much zero degrees of separation between them and their cheerleaders like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club.
And that's a shame because they have a point. Several, in fact.
There have been 3 newsmaking pipeline spills in Alberta this year which have shaken the public's trust in the oil industry:
* 800,000 litres of oil leaked into muskeg in May
* 475,000 litres of light sour crude leaked out of an unused pipeline into the Red Deer River in early June. The river is the drinking water source for many communities.
* 230,000 litres of heavy crude leaked from Enbridge's Athabasca pipeline later in June.
Landowners are scared for two reasons. First, is having all that gooey oil spilled on your land, contaminating your crops and your cows, and second, is the legitimate concern that changes to the National Energy Board Act this year might have made the cost of clean up of spills on abandoned lines the responsibility of the landowner. It's not clear if federal law trumps provincial law and nobody wants the expense of a court case to figure it out.
Other changes to the NEB Act force a farmer to get the pipeline owner's permission to cross a line with any vehicle. The landowners see that as losing control of their own property, backed up by extremely heavy fines if they fail to get that permission.
But how much of that fear is legitimate and how much is paranoia fed by their fellow travelers?
The Alberta government says the number of "incidents" involving pipelines has declined 27 percent in the four years from 2007 to 2011. And "incidents" includes everything from spills to simple contact with a pipeline. Sounds like progress, right?
Landowner associations don't care. They don't trust anything this or any government says. And that's a recipe for trouble.
Right now, the domestic landowners associations are a nuisance to the pipeline industry. But because they have some legitimate concerns the industry has to listen and talk to them.
However if they continue to cast their lot with the U.S. funded eco-nuts, they will cross an invisible line and go from nuisance to enemies of the industry.
Enbridge is flexing its muscles to deal with its American enemies. It knows that the Harper government intends to break the reliance on the U.S. as the sole customer for Canadian oil. A pipeline to the Pacific is inevitable. Oil is the future of Canada, not moo-moo cows or flowing fields of grain.
Once that war is won, the industry will turn to the homegrown insurgents. It can be as magnanimous victors, or as avenging magistrates.
The landowners associations should consider moving a few degrees closer to Kevin Bacon and a few degrees farther from Suzuki and friends.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Is the law too complex for lawmakers to understand?
At some point tomorrow, the Jaworski family will be heading to court to learn their fate. They're in trouble because of one person's interpretation of some local bylaws. Those out there who oppose them have been saying that it would be nothing for them to do their homework, navigate through those bylaws and go and get the proper permits.
But really, how easy is it for a business to stay within the letter of the law? There's always something out there you're missing. And it's not just businesses that have trouble navigating all of these laws, rules, regulations, bylaws - even parliamentarians can be tripped up by them.
As an example, let me point to Vancouver-Quadra MP, Joyce Murray. Ms Murray is not the kind of person you would think would have trouble figuring out the rules. For one, she's a former cabinet minister.
But visit her site, and you'll see a posting for an unpaid internship. One open to: "Students, full or part-time, as well as recent graduates" (emphasis added).
And there is the problem. Now I'm sure the majority of the readers of this blog would take no issue with an individual, in school or not, contracting to do an unpaid internship with a company. Both sides benefit, the intern gets a chance to break into an industry in which they're interested, the company benefits from skilled and motivated people who are willing to try anything.
Unfortunately the government doesn't see it that way. Here in BC, the Employment Standards Act (ESA) says of internships, that in order for them to be exempt from the ESA, and thus exempt from minimum wage rules, they must be - "“hands-on” training that is required by the curriculum, and will result in a certificate or diploma.". To quote York University employment law professor, Dr David Doorey "So that’s easy: if the internship is part of a higher education co-op program, then the Act does not apply."
I exchanged emails with Dr. Doorey on this over the weekend. He agreed that the issue is very complex, but added:
My sense is that there are a whole lot of employees in Canada being improperly labeled "interns" by their employers so that the employer can avoid employment law statutes.
Looking again at the definitions above*, a 'recent graduate' is not a student, and not a participant in a program of higher education. In which case an unpaid internship for them would not be permitted. According to the ESA's of both BC and Ontario, this potential intern would likely be considered an 'employee', and in that case would need to be paid at least minimum wage.
Go back to Ms Murray's internship description and you'll see that the intern will receive a $300 honourarium at the end of their placement. The placement is 12 weeks long, for a minimum of 8 hours per week, meaning that this potential 'employee' will expect to receive the equivalent of ... $3.12 per hour. BC's minimum wage is low - it's not that low though.
Now is paying an employee $3.12 per hour exploitation? A libertarian, naturally, would say 'no'. If you can find someone who will work for that, then great for both of you. But I would imagine a Liberal parliamentarian would see it differently. After all, as we have recently seen, Liberals aren't keen on libertarianism - it's just for 'Peter Pans' after all.
The point of this isn't to hurl insults at Joyce Murray. It is to point out how terribly complex the law is, how difficult it is to obey in full and how anyone, even a former cabinet minister / current Member of Parliament could get tripped up by it.
FYI: Joyce Murray's office got back to me with this:
"It is certainly not my intention, or Ms. Murray’s, to violate BC’s Employment Standards. Please see the modified link below: http://joycemurray.liberal.ca/uncategorized/joyce-murray-mp%E2%80%99s-internship-program/"
The link shows a change to their program to bring it within the letter of the law. If we have to have all of these obscure little rules, that's precisely how to deal with violations of them. No drama, no $50,000 fines, just say sorry, fix it, and promise to follow the rules next time. If it's good enough for parliamentarians ...
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Liberal Party to libertarians: You're a bunch of Peter Pans
With the new Parliamentary session now begun, there's a blog post out there by Liberal MP, Glen Pearson (London North Centre) that you need to pay some close attention to. In this post, widely circulated by Liberal MPs, Pearson explains what the Liberal Party stands for and what they are fighting against.
If you're in any doubt, look in a mirror, it's you:
What this session of Parliament should be all about is the open struggle between public and private life. Famed American author, Thomas Friedman, has described our current condition: “We have this tendency to extol consumption over hard work, investment and long-term thinking.” Friedman goes on to elaborate on how our concentration on ourselves as opposed to our country has led to the privatization of citizens.
... there is no need to take the common good into account because only individualism prevails. When Thatcher shockingly declared, “There is no such thing as society,” she could just as easily have been describing the current government’s outlook on Canada. And the way they’ll live it out will be a relentless attack on government itself as the only way to true prosperity and freedom to live as we wish.
Except it doesn’t work that way. It’s a kind of libertarianism that leads to the empowerment of the few over the many: the very condition that the lovers of freedom fought against two centuries ago in both Europe and North America. It’s the kind of ideology that imprisons us as citizens. Author Alan Wolfe describes it perfectly when he states: “Libertarianism is a political philosophy for Peter Pans, an outlook on the world premised on never growing up.” Well, this session of Parliament will be about whether Canadians decide it’s time to mature, or remain adolescent.
"Private" citizens - quelle horreur!
Every now and then here on the Western Standard, there's a debate on where libertarians belong. Is it the Tories, the Greens, the NDP, the Liberals? I don't have the full answer to that, but what I can say is that wherever we might think we belong, it ain't the Liberals.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Better for the registry to be saved?
Is it better for the registry to survive?
Tonight, the House debated a motion from the Public Safety Committee not to proceed with Candice Hoeppner's private members' bill to abolish the long-gun registry.
It was an interesting discussion, which Kady O'Malley pleasantly liveblogged. I will only share one moment from the debate that stood out for me. This was when Maria Mourani of the Bloc Quebecois took her turn to speak and tried to pull a stunt she used in Committee last spring. The reason this moment stood out to me is because I was in the committee room at the time.
Dr. Gary Mauser, an opponent of the registry, was called as a witness. His grasp of the facts and forthright manner were blisteringly refreshing, relative to the anecdotes and fearmongering coming from witnesses supporting the registry. Like other academics I have seen called before committees, he did not seem especially impressed to be in the company of a bunch of elected officials -- though that's not to say that he was exactly disrespectful, either. He just knew his stuff.
When it was her turn to ask questions, Mourani ignored the statistics Mauser had raised and simply brought out the following picture, in large and glossy format. It's one the Liberals now feature on their own website. Perhaps the NDP as well, but I'm too contemptuous to check.
Unless I'm mistaken, Dr. Mauser's finger is not on the trigger. In many places in the United States, that's the only kind of "gun control" the Americans will tolerate.
Mourani claimed the photograph was "scary." She also asked Mauser how many guns he owned -- a question that still seems as impertinent to me as it is irrelevant.
Garry Breitkreuz is the Chair of the Public Safety Committee. From what I gather, props are generally frowned upon in committee meetings, but it's up to the Chair to object to their use. My memory may be completely failing me, but I doubt it. Breitkreuz let Mourani go on, giant photograph in hand, without the slightest hint of protest.
Not tonight. Mourani brought out the same prop and was promptly shut down. Her speech was still inane, but at least she put the damn picture away.
Prior to Mourani, Mark Holland read a long list of names, the organizations that have come out in favor of the registry. He's good at being a fulminating showboater, carefully treading the well-worn line between slimy used car salesman and creepy fratboy.
That's about all I care to say about tonight's debate. Kady covers it much more sympathetically, and likely more objectively.
I have a few thoughts about the upcoming vote, though none of them are that profound. First, no matter how the vote comes down, it's going to be something of a victory for the Conservatives. If the Liberals with the help of the NDP manage to save the registry, it will finalize the narrative of the dreaded Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition. If that happens, expect the specter of the coalition to become a key -- maybe the key -- part of Conservative rhetoric until the next election and probably beyond. The Conservative base will be solidified and Team Blue's fundraising, already fantastic compared to the opposition, will improve still further.
I'm not convinced the Conservatives will be able to pick up some of those rural NDP ridings. It would be a different story if Layton had whipped the vote. I know that the latest polls show a drop in NDP support, but from what I can tell those supporters aren't going to the Liberals or the Conservatives; thus, I simply expect them to come back to the NDP and for the party's numbers to recover.
Still, if the registry is saved because of the opposition parties, I can't see it hurting the Conservatives much. They just need to make sure they loudly put responsibility where it belongs, and I'm certain they'll do just that.
There are "rumours on the Internets" that some Liberals plan to call in sick tomorrow. Whether this will happen, and whether it will be enough to change the outcome is anybody's guess. If it does happen, even if it doesn't change the outcome, it will devastate the credibility of Ignatieff's already shaky leadership. Don't forget that Iggy's had this problem before, with embarrassing results. Given the Liberal Party's lackluster poll numbers, I would be shocked if Bob Rae didn't use such a failure as an opportunity to pull out the knives.
If the registry goes -- unlikely, I think -- it should provide a boost of energy to Conservatives. This may not actually be a good thing. First, that energy will have to go some where, into some policy or program. While libertarians might wish for it to be directed toward the libertarian policies we still secretly hope the Prime Minister favours, it is probably too soon to move in that direction. The Overton Window has moved enough to accomodate the abolition of the gun registry, but only just. My worry is that, in this case, success now might lead to disaster later.
Finally, here is a bit of truly crazy speculation: suppose you were a Liberal with leadership ambition and no conscience. Suppose, also, you have a great deal of influence over other members of the caucus, and can credibly promise to reward them once you gain power.
If you were such a Liberal, then you might think it would be better for the gun registry to die. And you might, being devious, encourage your colleagues to call in sick and miss the crucial vote, thereby killing the registry and irreparably damaging the credibility of a leader few in the party are all that enthusiastic about anyway.
So, saying all that, does anyone know what Bob Rae has been up to lately?
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Petition to save the Liberty Summer Seminar
The National Post's editorial board urged the municipality of Clarington to drop the charges against my mother and father. They are being charged with running a "commercial conference centre" on land zoned Agricultural, for letting me host the Liberty Summer Seminar on their property.
Here's a little excerpt from their August 19th editorial entitled "Save the Liberty Summer Seminar":
This type of senseless bureaucratic incursion into people’s lives through over-broad regulation is simply not worthy of Canada. It fosters the type of culture the Jaworskis thought they had left behind in their native communist Poland, where businesses used the state to stamp out their rivals, and neighbours reported on each other’s alleged transgressions to curry favour with state officials. The charges against family should be dropped, and their summer freedom festival allowed to continue. In a country which prides itself on its Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we should defend liberty whenever it is threatened — and that starts in our own backyards.”
I have now put up a petition to Save the Liberty Summer Seminar. Please consider signing it (and spreading it).
UPDATE: Marven Whidden, a popular local blogger in Clarington, has signed the petition, and written about it on his blog. The post is entitled "It could happen to you." Here's an excerpt:
Picture this scenario. You and your neighbours are having a street party. This party will feature a live band, BBQ, games and whatever else goes into making a successful street party. To achieve this, everyone pitches in a certain amount of money to cover the cost of the food and band.
At the party everything is going great, until a bylaw officer comes in and charges the organizer with running a commercial enterprise on residential property, all because you collected money for your party. Think this can't happen? think again.
In a nutshell that is what happened to the Jaworski family in Orono.
Saturday, September 04, 2010
Michael Ignatieff on health care
Michael Ignatieff is smart guy. No matter what else you think of him or his policies, you cannot plausibly deny that he is extremely intelligent. So I am puzzled by his recent comments on health care reform.
Dr. Ignatieff says that he will make Health Care a priority for his hypothetical Liberal government. He also attacks Mr. Harper by saying, “"Four years of this Conservative government, we've really done nothing substantial on health care."
Maybe Dr. Ignatieff should take a second look at the Constitution Act. The federal government isn’t supposed to do anything on health care. That is a responsibility of the provinces. If he wants to make health care a priority maybe he should run to be premier not prime minister.
I find it bizarre that a leader of a liberal democracy is being attacked by the opposition for obeying the constitution.
I say again that Dr. Ignatieff is a smart man so I have to assume that he has some basic knowledge on how the Canadian federal system operates. This means that I have to also assume that his comments about health care are not really policy declarations but empty political rhetoric.
This assumption is reinforced by the nature of his proposals. Dr. Ignatieff starts off by saying the current system is unsustainable. Then he says that he won’t make any substantive change except for refocusing on preventative care. The idea being that it will lessen the health care demand which is straining the system.
Preventative care is good and all but it isn’t really a solution to the looming health care crisis. The population is aging and older people will always need more health care. How exactly do you prevent people from getting old? So with no power to reform health care and no real reforms being proposed, Dr. Ignatieff thinks he can win the next election on health care rhetoric alone.
I think the Canadian people are smarter than that.
Monday, August 02, 2010
Michael Ignatieff's Facebook wall
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Political video watch: Rob Ford claims he'll stop the gravy train in Toronto
I haven't been following the Toronto mayoralty campaign, so I haven't made up my mind about which of the candidates is best. However, this video from the Rob Ford camp is silly enough to warrant being posted here:
The message is good. But, Team Ford, Ford hasn't yet stopped any gravy train, he only promises to (if elected). I've heard promises like these before...
I'd be curious to hear which candidate is best, from a libertarian point of view (I don't care about electability, I'll worry about that after figuring out which candidate is best on the issues).
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Does Canada lead the world in Jedi knights?
It is difficult to argue with the claims of long-form census supporters that the long form of the census is really important and vital (although we've given it a shot -- see here for the latest in a series of posts entitled "WS on the census"). For example, how else can we find out how many people are Jedi knights?
According to the 2001 census, 21,000 Canadians listed "Jedi knight" as their religion. Dmitri Soudas, communications director for the prime minister's office, made prominent reference to this fact in an email to the press gallery:
21,000 Canadians registered Jedi knight as a religion in the 2001 census.
Religion is asked every 10 years.
We made the 40-page long form voluntary because government should not threaten prosecution or jail time to force Canadians to divulge unnecessary private and personal information.
Canadians don't want the government at their doorstep at 10 o'clock at night while they may be doing something in their bedroom, like reading, because government wants to know how many bedrooms they have.
The Ignatieff Liberals promise to force all Canadians to answer personal and intrusive questions about their private lives under threat of jail, fine, or both.
We're not sure if Canadians want the government to show up on someone's doorstep at 10 at night, but we are fairly certain that no government official wants to mess with a competent Jedi knight, especially if the knight has succumbed to the dark side of the force.
This is unfortunately the case for Canadian Hayden Christensen, whose Jedi name is Anakin Skywalker. Christensen is one of the three or four most significant adherents to Jedi knightry.
In spite of the significance of this Canadian to the faith, and in spite of Canada being, on January 12, 2009, the first country in the world to recognize the Order of the Jedi Inc. as a federally incorporated non-profit religious entity, Canada did not lead the world in Jedis.
According to 2001 census reports from the English-speaking world, England and Wales led the world in absolute terms, with over 390,000 (0.8%) Jedis. "The 2001 census reveals that 390,000 people across England and Wales are devoted followers of the Jedi 'faith,'" the BBC reported in 2003.
England also has the distinction of having elected a Jedi Member of Parliament. Jamie Reed, then-newly-elected Labour Party MP, commented on the proposed Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill by saying, "as the first Jedi Member of this place, I look forward to the protection under the law that will be provided to me by the Bill."
Canada also lagged behind Australia, with over 70,000 (0.37%) Jedis in 2001. In May of 2001, the Australian Board of Statistics released a press release to the media on the topic of Jedis. "If your belief system is "Jedi" then answer as such on the census form. But if you would normally answer Anglican or Jewish or Buddhist or something else to the question "what is your religion?" and for the census you answer "Jedi" then this may impact on social services provision if enough people do the same," read the press release.
The honour of most Jedis on a per capita basis goes to New Zealand, with over 53,000 adherents, making up 1.5 per cent of the population, second only to "Christian" at 58.9 per cent ("No Religion" accounted for 28.9 per cent, with 6.9 per cent objecting to the question).
Membership in the Jedi Church is not restricted to English-speaking humans from Earth. "The Jedi Church recognises that there is one all powerful force that binds all things in the universe together, and accepts all races and species from all over the universe as potential members of the religion," explains the official website of the Jedi Church.
The Conservative Party promises to make the long-form of the census voluntary, which may, according to census experts, make the results statistically non-robust, and therefore will not be as useful as earlier censuses have been at accurately capturing the total number of Jedis, and providing specific services tailored to the needs of Canadian Jedis.
More WS on the census (a.k.a. the "libertarian cavalry"): Pierre Lemieux, Mark D. Hughes, Karen Selick, Paul McKeever, Kalim Kassam, PUBLIUS, Hugh MacIntyre, Martin Masse, Terrence Watson, J.J. McCullough, Walter Block, and P.M. Jaworski.
UPDATE: This story appears on Fark. You can read Fark readers' comments on this story by clicking here. It's worth the trip.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
WS on the census: Paul McKeever "Optional long form census a blow to racism"
Canada's Conservative government has announced that completion of Canada's "long form" census will cease to be mandatory in 2011. Shrieks of condemnation can now be heard from a wide range of interests. None of them are justified. To the contrary, this is one step the Harper government has announced in recent history that is actually praiseworthy.
Pursuant to the instruction of Industry Minister Tony Clement, on June 28, 2010, Statistics Canada announced, in part, that:
The 2011 Census will consist of the same eight questions that appeared on the 2006 Census short-form questionnaire. It will be conducted in May 2011.
The information previously collected by the long-form census questionnaire will be collected as part of the new voluntary National Household Survey (NHS). This questionnaire will cover most of the same topics as the 2006 Census, but will exclude the question asking for consent to release personal census information after 92 years as this is only required by the census. The NHS questions will be made available by the end of July.
The National Household Survey will be conducted within four weeks of the May 2011 Census and will include approximately 4.5 million households. (emphasis added)
The government does not believe it is appropriate to force Canadians to divulge detailed personal information under threat of prosecution. For this reason, we have introduced changes for the 2011 Census.
The rationale for objecting to lifting the mandatory completion of the long form are numerous. According to the CBC, the long-form of the census includes questions about religious affiliation every 10 years (2011 being the next such year) and religious groups complain that they need the data to deliver programs and services and to track changes the "religious landscape". The Star reports that Canadian Medical Association journal needs long-form information for health care planning. In short, a good number of private associations like getting free data, and are quite happy to have the federal government threaten Canadians with fines and jail time in order to get it.
Others, not focusing upon the use to which census data is put, complain instead that taking a gun from the heads of those asked to fill out the long form will undermine the quality of the data. For example, the Ottawa Citizen's Dan Gardner, and a host of statisticians about whom he writes, express concern that:
...the switch from a mandatory to a voluntary form will bias the data in many ways and increasing the number of households that get the long form won't correct the biases. It will just produce more numbers. That are biased. And not comparable with past census data.
Toronto Dominion Bank senior economist Drummond has complained that if the long form is optional, white middle-class individuals will submit a greater percentage of the long-forms, leaving minorities, aboriginals and the very wealthy under-represented in the data. He says that, eventually, the data would be useless.
Implied in such complaints is an underlying belief that the data collected with the long form should be used by government. So, what exactly is the nature of the data that so many are clamouring for, and to what purposes can a government put such data?
In 2006 - the year in which the most recent long-form census was sent out to Canadians - talk radio host Robert Metz described in great and illuminating detail the questions set out in the 2006 long form, which he refused to file. Metz is the founder of the pro-free-market Freedom Party of Ontario and a long-time opponent of the census. In his account (which is a must-read for anyone weighing in on the issue of continuing to force people to fill out the long form), he explains that the long form of the census divides Canadians into discrete collectives distinguished by race and wealth:
None of the census questions relate to any proper function of government or of its proper relationship to the citizen: the administration of justice, maintenance of an objective court system, or the function of the military. They're all about genetic make-up and wealth redistribution.
Many opponents of the plan to make the long form optional take the position that the long form does not take too long to fill out. Others, like Liberal Party industry critique Marc Garneau argue that:
"...no one has gone to jail over the census, at least as far back as 1981. Only about 50-60 people are charged over each census, with about six having to pay fines".
Metz's account anticipates that argument, and responds as follows:
But again, fines and jail sentences are a secondary issue, particularly when rarely enforced. The real significance of Canada's Census lies not in the seemingly senseless questions being asked, nor in the threats of penalties directed against us, but in what we are being told about our collective future. Sadly, if the racists and other collectivists who design and administer the Canadian Census have their way, Canadians can expect a continued reversion from a productive society --- which survives by consensual trade in which wealth is earned by productivity --- towards an uncivilized jungle inhabited by warring tribes forced to segregate and divide themselves according to a genetic code.
Now, before the reader rebuts that Metz, an unflinching advocate for individual freedom and free markets, might be misrepresenting the purpose of the collection of such data, consider the statement issued last Tuesday by Armine Yalnizyan, an economist with the collectivist Canadian Centre for Policy Initiatives:
The long form is a critical tool that helps business, communities and governments decide where you need your money...
Without this information, we are all punching in the dark. Without this information, we cannot properly allocate our resources. The people who will pay most dearly are those who are already most vulnerable: the poor, aboriginal communities, recent immigrants and racial minorities.
Yalnizyan essentially agrees with Metz about the intended use of the data is to redistribute wealth to collectives distinguished by race. To conclude that those not getting "our" resources (i.e., government subsidies) thereby "pay", it is necessary first to assume that the money taxed out of the pockets of those who earn it is, in fact, money that is owned by, and owed to, Canadians collectively. Characterizing collectives of
individuals defined almost exclusively by race as those who "pay", Yalnizyan confirms Metz's summation that the collectives in question are racial collectives; that the census is a tool to impose and facilitate tribalism (a state of affairs in which government governs not individuals, but collectives distinguished by race, sex, nationality, et cetera).
Whether or not they realize it as explicitly as does Yalnizyan, the opponents of making the long-form optional are condemning not merely privacy and the freedom not to provide information, but also the individualism and free markets that the long form data is ultimately intended to undermine. Whether the opponents want unpaid-for data or consistent statistical history, their objections are in the service of the most vile form of collectivism - racism - and of that well-known toxin to any economy, central planning.
It would give me great comfort were I to believe, as Liberal Party industry critic Marc Garneau somehow does, that the Harper Conservatives are motivated by a desire to put an end to central planning:
"By attacking the census, this government is throwing us in the dark on immigration-related issues. They're doing the same for aboriginals, visible minorities and the disabled, and for those arguing for the need for pay equity...That's what the Conservatives' endgame is here -to permanently hobble the government's ability to enforce legislation and deliver social programs aimed at our most vulnerable."
To be sure, the economic case against the practicality of central planning is as damning as the moral case against it (the immoral being the impractical, such will always be the case, in the long term, as knowledge grows). But, alas, I do not share Garneau's belief that the Conservatives are using privacy concerns as a cover story for a secret agenda to end central planning. The painful evidence is everywhere about us that the Harper Conservatives have no particular affinity for free markets, and no particular opposition to central planning. Billions of dollars borrowed by the federal Conservatives to bail out or nationalize private companies (after having campaigned against such bail-outs and deficit spending); cuts to the rate of the inherently single-rate, less invasive GST instead of to the progressive rates of income taxes; soccer-mom hand-outs at taxpayer expense; quiet and countless transfers of billions across little community groups like Youth for Christ of Langley, BC: all stand as the best evidence that the Conservatives' only agenda is to do whatever it thinks it needs to do to stay in power.
Moreover, such Conservative actions have been backed also by Stephen Harper's unequivocal condemnation of free markets; a condemnation not made in public to lefties and righties alike, but to a closed-door conservatives-only audience in 2009 at the Manning Centre for Building Democracy. In that speech, he condemned liberals for thinking government to have a role in all economic decisions, and condemned "libertarians" for thinking government to have no role in economic decisions. Like so many on the left, his argument was founded upon the falsehood that the west's economies are free markets, and that it was the alleged free market - rather than fraud, credit inflation and government mandated loans to the uncreditworthy - that led to the current economic crisis. Playing second fiddle to no fellow Keynesian, Harper made it clear he thinks individuals are all irresponsible children that need governmental parenting from cradle to grave:
Now, I know the libertarian – and I am sure there are a few in this room that define themselves that way – the libertarian says, and it's a perspective that I have a lot of sympathy for, let individuals exercise full freedom and take full responsibility for their actions.
The problem with this notion is that conservatives know from experience that people who act irresponsibly in the name of freedom are almost never willing to take responsibility for their actions. I don't speak *just* of individuals who may have ruined their lives through drugs or crimes or whatever, but look at Wall Street, the great free-enterprise financial institutions who wanted so much freedom from government regulation. They were the first in line for government support when the recession hit. And now I read, I read yesterday, that now some of them are saying they don't like that this government money may limit their freedom.
These are not the words of a closet capitalist. They are the anti-capitalistic (i.e., anti-free-market) words of a man who, first and foremost, likes the Prime Minister's chair.
It is true, in my view, that the Conservatives do not at all care about the quality of the data collected in the long form of the Census. And I would quite agree with any leftist who said that the Harper Conservatives, in fact, have no real need or desire for census data: I sincerely doubt they will use it to identify spending priorities, and I suspect that the only reason they did not announce scrapping it altogether was to ensure that the various people wanting free data (including Conservative-friendly religious organizations) could not argue that they have been deprived of it (they are left, instead, making sleep-inducing technical arguments about statistical accuracy, and other things that few voters care about).
Though it pains me to say it, the decision to eliminate the mandatory completion of the long form is not founded upon a secret Conservative agenda to end central planning. It is, in reality, nothing more than an effort to feed a bit of red meat to that slender, politically homeless demographic that nowadays finds itself so uncomfortable associating itself with a Conservative Party so bent upon managing the economy, pandering to the more radical religious elements, and setting itself up as a hand of god that will deliver us from such 'evils' as the decision to smoke a bit of cannabis. For years, the Conservatives have dangled the carrot in front of that constituency, communicating by wink and smirk - but never by voice - a false promise to deliver a pro-free-market, pro-individualism revolution. The mandatory long-form is a long-term gripe of that constituency and making it optional - without eliminating it - is only the latest half-hearted attempt to maintain whatever party loyalty there remains among those who seek individual freedom and capitalism.
I do not think the Conservatives will gain or maintain much loyalty from that constituency, but neither do I think they have much to lose by taking the step they have taken (unless they commit the cardinal sin of, again, reversing themselves only to fend off the Liberals and other collectivists). Nonetheless, making the long form optional accomplishes something more important for Conservatives and non-Conservatives alike. I anticipate relatively few people will volunteer to spend their time filling out an optional long-form census and, if that ends up being the case, the Conservatives will at least unintentionally have struck a blow against that most destructive and dehumanizing form of collectivism: racism.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
G20 shenanigans: Forced vaccinations and no note-taking
CBC's Kady O'Malley tweets her surprise at a ruling by a Toronto justice of the peace that there will be no note-taking at bail hearing for G20 protesters. Susan Clairmont, of the Hamilton Spectator, expresses her outrage:
Everyone is allowed to take notes in court.
But the other day a Toronto justice of the peace decided to make up his own rules. He banned "note-taking" in his Etobicoke courtroom where bail hearings were being held for G20 protesters.
It was the latest -- and most ridiculous -- in a series of bizarre steps taken by court officials to build a big fat wall around the whole judicial process for accused demonstrators.
So much for an open and transparent court system. So much for accountability.
And speaking of Kady, did anyone else catch her account of what MP Maria Mourani of the Bloc claimed at committee on July 12th? Here's an excerpt from Kady's live-blog of the G8/G20 security inquiry at Public Safety (found at the 4:53 p.m. mark):
Huh. I think it's safe to say that Mourani's allegation that some detainees were vaccinated against their will managed to wake up the media table. For tuberculosis, apparently. Not heard that one before. Anyway, her party wants to see the committee begin its investigation this fall, and exhorts her colleagues to "shine a light on this."
Forced vaccinations? Against tuberculosis? This allegation is either crazy-talk, or outright crazy, if true. But I haven't seen or heard anyone repeat it, so I'm going to guess it's the former, until someone produces some evidence of the vaccinations.
In related news, we asked you on Tuesday whether or not you thought there should be an inquiry in the police actions during the G20.
With nearly 1,000 votes so far, the "No"s are leading three-to-one: 72% (672) say "No," with 28% (264) saying "Yes."
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
WS Poll: Should there be an inquiry into the actions of police during G20?
Here's a little (unscientific, but fun) poll related to, for example, this debate between Tim Hudak and Randy Hillier:
To see the map, that screws up our blog formatting, but is interesting to look at, check below the fold:
Friday, July 09, 2010
Friday Filibuster Funny: Canada's underclass
It's been a while since we posted J.J. McCullough's political cartoons (you can click on the comic above for the full size). While J.J. did take a break, he's been back delivering quality comics for his fans on his website for some time now (so the fault is ours, dear reader, not his). To help catch you up, we put together this little pictobrowser below, which will let you see some of the work we've missed:
Do check out J.J.'s website Filibuster Cartoons, and scroll through a few more of his cartoons. You'll be glad you did). Below the fold, J.J.'s commentary:
Stephen Harper announced his pick for Canada’s next governor general yesterday, and in a somewhat surprising pick, selected University of Waterloo president and longtime law professor David Johnston. Somewhat surprising, but not really. As you can see by consulting my handy governor generals chart, there has never been a governor general from British Columbia, despite the fact that it’s Canada’s third largest province, and an extremely influential part of the country, both culturally and economically. Prior to the Johnston announcement, the B.C. media was thus giddy with anticipation, assuming that this would finally be our year. But once again, it was not. Not even with a noted “friend of the west” like Harper as prime minister did B.C. get one of its own in Canada’s top job.
The major reason, once again, was apparently bilingualism, a cruel and inescapable expectation of all holders of high office in modern Canada. Almost no one in British Columbia speaks fluent French, not even people in extremely elite positions of society, simply because there is no real need to. B.C. is not a province with an ample French population, so important people tend to focus their educational time elsewhere, studying matters that may actual have some tangible relevance to their career.
But British Columbia is hardly unusual in this regard. According to the Government of Canada’s own statistics (PDF link) only a measly 8.8% of Canadian Anglos can speak French, meaning about 91% of Canada’s majority population can never hope to be governor general (or prime minister for that matter). As a result, the people who do get appointed to the office are either French-Canadians, who have a much more immediate interest in being bilingual, or strange lawyer-types like Mr. Johnston, who come from a very isolated, elite subculture in Eastern Canada, centered around the greater Ottawa-Montreal axis, in which functional bilingualism is common and practical.
At one time, right-wing politicians like Mr. Harper criticized official bilingualism for extracting such a high toll on Canada’s majority population in order to appease French Canadian resentment — which didn’t even seem to be lessening, by the way. Now, however, Harper seems perfectly keen to continue to prop up the system he once opposed, in his suddenly pressing pursuit of eastern votes. The substantial differences between Canada’s two political parties continue to lessen as a result, and unilingual are once again left wondering if anyone in the political system actually cares about their interests.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Meme that needs to be selected against: "Don't let the thugs determine where we host the G20!"
I'm beginning to hear a lot of people argue that we shouldn't allow the protestors, thugs, and sociopaths determine where or when we have events like the G20. Even Andrew Coyne -- the man I usually think of as rational in the economic sense -- is spreading this meme:
But this is irrational. The value of not allowing sociopaths to determine where we host these things is surely not worth $1 billion dollars plus property damage. If we could have hosted the G20 somewhere else, or kept the costs down in some other way, we should have. Hosting the G20 in Toronto, at such an enormous expense, is a mistake. There may be good reason to refuse to be rattled by goons and thugs, but whatever that reason is, it is surely dwarfed by the price.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
CBC reporter attacks CTF for owning a car
Chris Rand at the CBC wanted to take a shot at the Canadian Taxpayer Federation. He really did, you can sense a certain desperation to find something to take them to task with. The CTF was submitting a petition calling for an end to pensions for convicted criminals. Mr. Rand did not want to talk about the issue or take a stand on it. He wanted to talk about Derek Fildebrandt’s car.
Mr. Fildebrandt is the Research Director for the CTF and he owns a 1997 BMW. This car, according to the update in Mr. Rand’s post, was salvaged for $500 and has 250 000 km on it. For Mr Rand this represents “a certain cachet of new wealth and privilege in Canada.”
At first I thought that Mr. Rand should send an apology to Mr. Fildebrandt but then I realized that this was the highest compliment. If the best that the opponents of the CTF can do is complain about a 13 year old BMW, doesn’t that say something good about the CTF?
Saturday, April 03, 2010
In support of Representation by Population
The House of Commons in the Parliament of Canada was established on the
principle of representation by population. Every citizen of Canada would
have equal representation and an equal vote in the election. Right from
the beginning this principle was compromised with assurances towards
Quebec and a rule that there must never be fewer MPs than Senators
representing a province. Still, it is the Rep by Pop principle that
guides seat distribution in the House of Commons.
Despite this principle, over time, some provinces have become overrepresented and others have become underrepresented in the House of Commons. My former home riding of Trinity-Spadina had a larger population than the entire province of PEI, which has four MPs. Ontario and certain western provinces have rightly complained that the balance of power in the House of Commons does not represent the balance of population in Canada.
After decades of inaction the federal government is finally doing something about it, or at least they are once again trying to do something about it. The Conservative government is reintroducing their 2007 proposal to change the distribution formula and add more seats to the House of Commons to better reflect population. A consequence of doing this is that provinces that have not increased their population will have a smaller proportion of seats.
You can expect Quebec, or more specifically the BQ, to complain about this. They accuse the government of trying to weaken the voice of Quebec. This seems to be framed as some Lord Durham-like plot to assimilate French speakers, which is absurd.
Quebec nationalists are not the only ones complaining. Professor Donald Savoie is warning that Atlantic Canada is also going to lose out. He points out that the Maritimes has been losing representation since the time of Confederation (which makes sense considering that the population compared to the rest of the country has consistently declined). He even goes as far to say that maybe Joseph Howe was right and Confederation was a bad idea (not that Nova Scotia had much of a choice but that’s another story).
He continues by saying that Canada is a federal state and should thus have regional representation. This sort of thing is acceptable, according to Professor Savoie, in unitary states such as France but unacceptable in federal Canada. Actually the reverse is true, regional representation is not as big of a problem exactly because Canada is a federation.
In a unitary state (i.e. a state with no regional governments) there are still often regional differences. These differences have to be accommodated somehow or else there will be political discord. In the case of the United Kingdom pre-1999, Scottish distinctiveness was accommodated by over representation in the House of Commons. The idea was that if you give Scotland a strong voice they will be able to protect their interests and culture.
After the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, the number of Scottish MPs was reduced to be more in line with the population distribution in the UK. It was universally acknowledged that with devolved government the need for an over-represented Scotland no longer existed. Scotland could now carry out its own policies in key areas.
This argument can not only be applied to Canada, but it is even more applicable. The amount of autonomy that a Canadian province enjoys is the envy of Scottish nationalists. Canadian provinces don’t need special representation in the House of Commons because they have their own government. They have their own legislatures to create policies that they want. And if there is something happening in the federal government that interferes with Nova Scotia’s interests, they have their very own Premier to take on the Prime Minister.
Would it be in a region’s interests to have more representation in Ottawa? Certainly, but that becomes less vital because we are in a federation, not more vital. It is up to Donald Savoie and the BQ to demonstrate why people East of Ontario need more representation than everyone else. They can’t argue that it is because of distinctiveness because they already have their very own governments to represent that distinctiveness.
Equal representation is an important principle in democracy, and if that principle is going to be compromised than there has to be a good reason. Appealing to the narrow regional interests of a few is not reason good enough.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Monday, November 30, 2009
Double standard of student journalism
In the latest issue of the Dalhousie University student newspaper The Gazette, I came across this gem after seeing the name of a friend and fellow conservative writer Ben Wedge of The Campus Free Press.
Ben Wedge needs balance Ben Wedge is at it again. One of his latest articles, “How not to protest,” should cause concern among readers. His unprecedented far right bias is being allowed free rein in The Gazette, with no articles from a different perspective challenging his radical views. This letter is a modest attempt to correct that.
The Gazette is the perfect example of left-wing university newspaper. God forbid there's a conservative among their staff. I may be a student of Saint Mary's University, but I still read the Gazette and I come to expect issues obsessing over "sustainability" and an assortment of other stereotypical hippy garbage. Although I'm biased, I welcome the change of pace when it comes along every now and then. Guess it's just me.
In his article, Wedge argues that the fundamental issue surrounding recent protests against government inaction on climate change is not government inaction on climate change but the protesters themselves. Indeed, Wedge concludes that “we should all take the time to view the footage (of the protest), to research what really happened, and form our own opinions.”
He says that recent allegations of police brutality are exaggerated, and he hopes that the police can be vindicated and the protesters can be sent “a strong message that theatrics will not be tolerated in protests.”
The problem is not the catastrophic consequences of inaction on climate change, but an alleged affront to the reputation of the police.
Did your readers see how Wedge completely avoided engaging the issue of climate change? For Wedge, the problem is not climate change. It is protesters challenging the powers that be.
Uh, yeah - that is the whole point of the article. Hence why it's called "How not to protest" not "My opinion on climate change".
I will concede that Wedge has been consistent in his articles in this respect: at root, his articles are always a defence of the rich and powerful, and always critical of non-elite groups promoting change, particularly change that threatens the established order. His argument is inherently antidemocratic and authoritarian. The incipient catastrophe of climate change is of secondary importance for Wedge when police officers are allegedly being slandered – no doubt a greater threat to humanity.
If Wedge supports action against climate change but does not support the protesters, where are his positive suggestions for effective political activism? So far as I can tell by reading this article, it is nothing more than an attempt to admonish the protesters for their excessive behaviour. Is that contributing anything other than doublethink into the discourse of climate change?
Gazette readers beware. Opinions Contributor Ben Wedge is propagating a radical vision of the world that is not clear upon a glance at his articles. The Gazette should refuse to publish his opinions without a response from someone who is not a Conservative Party sycophant. – Kevin Johnston, second-year arts and history
Yikes. Apparently, if you are conservative, you must accompany your opinion articles with an opposing opinion, but if you're left-wing you're free to publish all the opinion articles you wish.
All conservatives I personally know enjoy and welcome debate - without insult. We're not afraid of outside opinion. If anything, the opposition strengthens our arguments. It's interesting seeing this trend of trying to stamp out right-of-centre individuals from journalism on campus. They will tell you they are not afraid, but if they are not, then they should welcome the article to flaunt all its supposed faults. Let the article speak for itself.
[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Free speech takes a hit in B.C.
Recently I was browsing through the Halifax Metro newspaper, and was disappointed to read this short little article:
What's beyond belief is that this is a news story to begin with. For one, it's sad that a B.C. chief is picking on a blogger. What's more sad is that his words are considered "inflammatory and discriminatory" to aboriginal people.
Apparently it's a "slap in the face of First Nations people" to list off some of the many things the Europeans brought to Canada. Let me be the first to support Rachel Marsden - for free speech, and for being right.
[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]
Friday, October 23, 2009
George Jonas: A bizarre twist in Canadian liberalism, from individual equality to parity for groups.
George Jonas' keynote address on democracy, freedom, rights and identity politics in Canada at The Canadian Constitution Foundation's 2009 law conference on "Race, Religion, Equality and Freedom" (delivered by CCF Executive Director John Carpay) followed by a Q&A with vir ipse:
After describing the political developments and degradation of values since his arrival in Canada 53 years ago, Jonas concludes his prepared remarks with his pessimistic take on liberalism: "anarcho-libertarians are optimists, they believe that the state is an unnecessary evil; classical liberals are pessimists, [we] think the state is a necessary evil."
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Find better things to attack Harper with
It's no surprise Stephen Harper thinks libertarians are naive; Brian Gardiner proves this like no other. Besides the horrible writing style and butchery of the english language, the post is riddled with mistakes:
After all, the Conservative Party just put much the same logo (sic) on the Olympic clothing to be worn by our athletes this year.
It doesn't take much effort to find out that the Conservatives had nothing to do with it:
Gary Lunn, the minister of state for sport, said any resemblance was purely coincidental.
"I can assure you that no one in the Government of Canada was involved in any way, shape or form in the design of any of the Olympic clothing. In fact the first time I saw it was (Wednesday)," Lunn said in the House of Commons. "The clothing was designed by the Hudson's Bay Company in consultations with the Canadian Olympic Committee and with an athletes' panel."
[The Liberal Party] is known as “Canada’s natural governing party,” and have branded themselves so well that Canada’s flag is Liberal red.
This was debunked by a simple comment by a reader:
Small correction: The Liberals never “branded themselves so well that Canada’s flag is Liberal red”.
During the Great Flag Debate, Mike Pearson’s proposed flag was a branch with three maple leaves (representing the English, French and Aboriginal founding nations) and bordered by two blue banners representing the two oceans. It was referred to as the Pearson Pennent.
In committee, the NDP, the Liberals, the Social Credit member of the committee and all of the Progressive Conservatives voted in favour of Gordon Stanley’s proposed flag, the one we have today (the maple leaf itself and the dimensions have changed somewhat).
Moreover, Stanley’s proposed flag had nothing to do with the Liberals. He got the idea from the flag of the Royal Military College of Canada.
Perhaps libertarians can gain more respect if they take more time to make their posts accurate rather than using a dead issue as ammunition to attack the Prime Minister (both sides of the political spectrum are against using partisan logos on government cheques). Though it should be obvious this wasn't a federal move and was not approved by Harper, measures have been taken by our leader to ensure fairness in the future:
Speaking in Edmonton at an unrelated announcement, Harper, criticized recently by his political opponents for mixing government and partisan advertising, said Keddy's move was a "mistake that is not going to be repeated."
To ensure the message got through to Conservative troops, a memo was emailed Wednesday to Conservative caucus members urging them, their staff and constituency workers not to cross the line.
[Gerald Keddy] has apologized for plastering a Conservative Party logo on a giant "prop cheque," admitting it was "inappropriate" to highlight a partisan connection to the expenditure of taxpayer funds.
Finally, I want to mention that Coca Cola is a corporation while the government is not. To compare the two (which Brian does twice in his post) doesn't make much of anything other than a pretty simile. Try comparing our government with, you know, an existing or former government - it may strengthen your case better than a pop company can.
[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Andrew Coyne is right, but Ignatieff is not the new hope
Andrew Coyne writes that Michael Ignatieff could come back from his political collapse with a serious and adult attack upon the deficit. If Mr. Ignatieff, argues Mr. Coyne, talks seriously about what can and should be done to combat the deficit, then he is likely to find a great deal more support. Indeed he can hearken back to the Chretien years of deficit fighting. You want a good fiscal manager? Vote Liberal!
Mr. Coyne is right. This would be a fantastic strategy and it would be great for the country. The sad thing is that it is already too late. The Liberals have taken weak pot shots at the budget and focused on how they would spend billions of dollars. Michael Ignatieff has already presented himself to the Canadian public as a big Liberal spender, and you can be sure the Conservatives will make that title stick.
I sympathize with Andrew Coyne. He and I have the same problem. We are both sports fans with no team to cheer for; dedicated fiscal conservatives with no party to put our hopes behind. The Conservative Party, once the great hope of conservatives, has betrayed itself.
But I would not hold my breath and hope that Michael Ignatieff will take up our cause.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Linda Frum Sokolowski, a new Senator, already drives liberals crazy
When the latest batch of new Conservative senators were announced recently, I thought to myself about one, “I knew this lady.”
A writer for the Hill Times, Parliament Hill’s newspaper, figures that he knows Linda Frum Sokolowski and his column sought to ridicule the new Senator into insignificance. He doesn’t know her, and I hope to show why. It’s another example, I suggest, of conservatives not being afforded a basic level of respect by the media.
She was targeted by liberals even before taking office. And, I say, good for her.
Linda Frum Sokolowski is probably best known to Canadians for her books and the years she spent conducting interviews for the National Post and Maclean’s. What brought her to Stephen Harper’s attention was probably the many years she has spent working, off and on, to help small-c conservative causes, as well as her work to raise funds for Toronto charities. (She and her current husband are well known and respected for this in Toronto’s Jewish community.)
Readers might think that the Senate appointment was a thank you merely for her work to raise funds for the Conservative party. Not so. And of all of The Shotgun bloggers, I am uniquely qualified to report that Linda Frum—as she was when I knew her—has been a bête noire in the eyes of the Canadian left since before Canadians had an idea who Stephen Harper was.
She made her debut in the public eye while a student at McGill in the 1980s. Frustrated by the leftism of the McGill Daily student newspaper, she started a monthly conservative student newspaper—eventually renamed The McGill Magazine. As it was one of the first such papers in Canada, it garnered her a little media attention. A sneering notice in This Magazine. And the animosity of some in the student press.
Linda Frum’s newspaper didn’t last long past her graduation. But I, as a would-be student journalist on the other side of the country, noticed that my elders and betters in Canada’s left-leaning student news service Canadian University Press (CUP) did not like Frum’s efforts and wanted you to feel the same way. Her conservatism threw them for a loop. So, in CUP’s internal “house organ” newsletter, I read all the negative notices about Frum that CUP staff could find, as well as the coverage in the McGill Daily’s two editions. To let you know how seriously they took her, CUP staff in their periodical gossip column printed a little notice that there was a rumor that staff at The Varsity—the main student newspaper at The University of Toronto—had typeset Frum’s newspaper for her. In the next house organ newsletter was an indignant letter from a Varsity editor, irate that CUP staff was reprinting an obviously false rumour to cause animosity between the McGill Daily and his newspaper.
Frum graduated, and a little later took a contract from Key Porter Books to write a book guide to Canadian universities. She was the cover subject of an issue of Influence, Peter Worthington’s short-lived magazine, in which she discussed the problems that she faced from McGill’s administration in publishing her newspaper.
Which is where I step into this tale, briefly. Frum visited the office of The Ubyssey, UBC’s student newspaper. She asked me questions for her book. I did a little story on her visit to UBC for the newspaper. We struck up a long-distance friendship that lasted during my university years. (And I would like to note that her kindness and encouragement helped me to persevere in my goal of becoming a reporter, for which I owe her thanks. I do think, however, that I would have noticed the things that I point out in this post without having known her. I hope that you agree.)
Her university guide was published. I realized that there was no way that she could see student press coverage of her book, or of the visits she made to several campuses to promote it, so, as a courtesy to my new friend, I passed along copies of what I saw about her in student newspapers. It was a bit mindboggling in tone, even for the student press, so much so that I compiled a file for myself for reference. (And I was as amazed as you are to realize that I had kept this file amongst my university papers. I am not working from memory.)
When reading coverage of her and her guide, you would expect an inability to see one’s own school as an outsider might. You’d expect her critiques of schools to be interpreted as personal. But the reaction to Frum’s work and opinions was nasty, and often visceral. Her family ties were constantly cited. There were barbs about her conservative politics as student journalists took their lead from their CUP mentors.
Sure, you’d expect “I hated the book”. But hatred of the author herself, as displayed in cartoons likening her to Godzilla? Yes, you might expect a story on her visit to a campus, but with accompanying photos shot up her nose and making fun of her teeth? You might expect a story on the book in another newspaper, but not with a “Japanese Bomb Pearl Harbour!” style headline, quoting the president of the university as saying to Frum “Who the hell do you think you are, young lady?!” Another cartoonist, following the 1987 stock market crash, had an explanation for it: “God is pouring out Revelation’s seven cups o’ wrath upon a civilization that has failed to wipe Linda Frum off th’ face of this earth.” (Such overblown rhetoric is not amusing when the same cartoonist—following a feature article by Frum in Saturday Night magazine the following year, which touched on several conservative ideas about academia—printed a cartoon on the front page of his newspaper labeled “Death to L. Frum”.)
Certainly you expect sophomores to be, well, sophomoric. But we see two things here that would never have happened to a liberal writing about Canada’s universities—a lack of basic courtesy and respect and an inability to treat what she says seriously enough to examine it properly.
Mrs. Frum Sokolowski certainly has outgrown this silliness directed at her. But it may be worth remembering in order to point out that she has probably been taking heat for being public about her views, and trying to advance them positively, since even before Stephen Harper was in the public eye. Certainly she wasn’t given her Senate post just for hosting a few Tory fundraisers. There is a long small-c conservative history here.
(“But she’s a big-c Conservative!” Not always. Mrs. Frum Sokolowski would probably be reluctant to mention to her colleagues who come from the “Progressive Conservative” wing of the party that she co-chaired a Toronto fundraiser for Stephen Harper’s party--in June 2003, when he was leader of the Canadian Alliance party which, at the time, was trying to supplant the Tories.)
The grown-up media, as the years went by, seemed to have a mental twitch when it came to Frum. She went on to write a biography of her mother, the late CBC broadcaster Barbara Frum. To promote the book, she wrote a feature for Elm Street magazine in which she cited evidence that her mom might have been more conservative than her liberal friends and co-workers in the media believed...which led to indignant remarks in the press.
In the late 1990s, she was appointed to serve on the board of the Ontario Arts Council. (One of the reasons for this, aside from the fact that she was starting to write on the arts, was possibly because she had direct experience here, sharing an award for co-producing the documentary Ms. Conceptions.) Her appointment, however, was greeted by a prominent Globe and Mail story targeting this “partisan” appointment.
Time passed, and she pursued a career working for the National Post and Maclean’s, devoted herself to charity work and remarried. The latest time that she made the news was when she was recently named a Senator.
One column marking her appointment, however, might have led Mrs. Frum Sokolowski to wonder whether she was back in the days of the student press trying to dump a rhetorical bucket of rotting fish on her head. Her critics might be older but are they more mature?
I’m referring to “This just in…another journalist comes to the Upper House in Ottawa”, a column by Tom Korski in the Sept. 7 Hill Times. (I apologize to my readers as I wanted to--and would have--posted on this faster, but I wanted my readers to be able to read the full column for themselves too. Now, thanks to this Google cache which I found, I can point you to the whole thing.
Mr. Korski’s piece tries to use contempt and ridicule—think of the “all honorable men” rhetorical device from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar—to state by implication that the Tories are not interested in Senate reform and that Mrs. Frum Sokolowski’s career was a sham and that she is incompetent to hold her office.
To begin, I am sure that a perusal of the Hill Times archives will show that it has made fun of Incompetent Liberal appointees to the Senate, or those it thought not qualified. Right? Also, said archives would reflect an ongoing drumbeat for Senate reform in the pages of the newspaper with relevant features and cover stories, throughout the years that the Liberals held power, correct? The Hill Times, I am sure, loves to make fun of Liberals, and can demonstrate this abundantly. Of that I am sure. Yes, of that I am sure.
Would I dispense with ridicule and contempt in the press? No. But I can imagine Hill Times readers here in the West and out in the Maritimes asking as they read the column, “Who is this lady?” You can make fun of a Harper or a Layton because you read reporting on them, straight news. Your readers need to know both the good and bad about a person in at least some detail before you pillory them. Is it fair to make fun of someone that your readers are clueless about?. (And Korski knows that his readers must be mystified, as he’s introducing Frum Sokolowski as he clobbers her.)
Proponents of Senate reform can get in line behind me as I want a Triple-E Senate five minutes ago. However, I do recognize that the best chance for same may well be with a majority of Tory-friendly Senators to help bring this about. In the current Canadian political culture, Senators may also be selected for the “community service” that they offer. So, in a Senate where you could see a former bandleader or a former hockey player, you understand why Frum Sokolowski , with her work in the media and her extensive charity work, was appointed. She has the sort of community background that would lead party officials to ask “Have you ever thought about being on school board? Being an alderman? Being an MLA? Can we help you run?”
(Of course, if Korski intended to suggest that a mere journalist shouldn’t be appointed to office, I wonder if he wrote an annoyed column when Adrienne Clarkson was made Governor-General. Perhaps he could re-run it in his newspaper.)
Senator Bert Brown tried to argue in another newspaper that more Tories were needed to reform the Senate, but Korski wasn’t buying “He [Brown] is Mr. Senate Reform,” Korski writes. “Why just this week he’ll draw a salary whether or not he shows up for work. Do you think that is easy?”
I am sure that Mr. Korski had made sure, before writing the column, to go to the accountants at his newspaper to make sure that he would never be given sick pay or vacation pay ever again.
He then turns to Linda Frum Sokolowski—“journalist, Senator, reformer”. He’s being ironic here. But is such irony justified until she votes against Senate reform legislation?
He addresses her background.
“Her father’s a developer. Her husband’s a developer. She lives in a big house on the Toronto district of Forest Hill, a hotbed of political reformers. Er, I mean developers.”
Perhaps Mr. Korski could have saved time and written that Mrs. Frum Sokolowski is not only a daughter of a kulak, she is also married to a kulak, comrades, er, I mean readers.
I think that my own readers would like to give Mrs. Frum Sokolowski a chance to be judged on her own merits. “Class analysis” I prefer to leave to Marxists, myself.
He turns to her career. Admittedly, she has specialized in interviews, but Mr. Korski tries to quote her opinions to make her look ditzy and superficial in her work. He cites ledes of hers that refer to her love of fashion—about a raccoon coat at Holt Renfrew or an expensive purse.
Well, I am sure that Korski is never informal in his writing.
Perhaps he might have a more valid beef with her assignment editors at the National Post, who might have asked her to write on such subjects. (Unless it is then fair to judge Mr. Korski’s entire career by his cub reporter days, when he was perhaps asked to interview the local beauty queen by his editor, to cite a hypothetical example.)
What would Linda Frum Sokolowski have put forward to show herself at her best? I am sure that Mr. Korski knows of her former website, as certainly I don’t have to do his work for him.
It cites her interviews of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bob Rae, Peter MacKay, and Elizabeth May, as well as pieces touching on such subjects as environmental science. All of which had handy date references to allow finding, citing and quoting. If Korski had wanted to do so. Why didn’t he? Because they would have shown that she was like any other interview-based columnist, with the desire to dig into issues as well as entertain. Which would drive a truck through Mr. Korski’s thesis.
One of the reasons that I cited Frum’s youthful background was due to what Korski cites next.
“At 24, she published Linda Frum’s Guide to Canadian Universities...” writes Korski, who then goes on to cite a negative review and a factual error in the first edition of the book.
It’s a surprise that a book that she wrote 22 years ago would play a part in wondering whether she should be a Senator now. But, if you want to go that far back...well, I tried to provide “the rest of the story” with reasons why conservatives might want to like her. Liberals are still upset with the book!?!
(Left unmentioned was a book that Frum edited, The Newsmakers. As long as you are citing older books, you could mention this book. The royalties from it went to a TV news cameraman that was severely injured on the job. However, this might lead Korski’s readers to think that she may be a nice person to have done that, so there’s no need to mention that either.)
Mr. Korski goes on to disclose that—can you believe it—this small-c conservative has some big-C Conservative friends and acquaintances. I’ll pause and quote this “….When she married in 2001, the wedding guests included…” And recall that earlier in the column he wrote “…Her husband’s a developer…”
What might be of interest is that Howard Sokolowski is Frum’s second husband. Did Korski know this? If he didn’t, that would be a kind of glaring mistake. The sort of mistake that he would have made fun of her for making. The sort of mistake that he would have used to imply that she was an incompetent journalist for making. To be exactly correct, references to a wedding should be “second wedding” and those to her husband should perhaps be “current” or “second” husband when painting an autobiographical picture.
Would I condemn her for being married twice? Not in the slightest. But it sort of ruins Korski’s developer...developer mantra to throw “filmmaker” in between.
She was briefly married to Toronto filmmaker Tim O’Brien, if my memory serves. She mentions her marriage to “Tim” in her biography of her mother. (Page 253 of the paperback edition of Barbara Frum, next to last paragraph) You’d think that Korski would have at least flipped through the book looking for autobiographical details about the daughter, right?
Why quibble, though? Well, because in that period of her life, she naturally became interested in the arts and filmmaking, which led to sharing an award and serving on a board. This is the sort of well-roundedness that is liked in an appointed Senator and is missing in Mr. Korski’s column’s description of her. Completely ignoring her first husband allows Mr. Korski to paint a one-dimensional picture of Mrs, Frum Sokolowski. If his readers are misled, so much the better for his argument, perhaps.
He then ends his column by referring to her coverage of Stephen Harper. It may well be that Mrs. Frum Sokolowski may be an acquaintance or friend of the Prime Minister, which would naturally lead to the sort of positive adjectives that Korski thinks are inappropriate.
Her editors at the National Post and Maclean’s may have thought about this and told Frum something like “As you know Harper, you can write the sort of personal, behind the scenes look at him and his family that might be of interest to our readers. We have other reporters to handle the critical coverage, but we think you can catch him in an informal setting, around his family, with his tie loosened, that sort of thing...”
Korski may then condemn the resulting Frum coverage of Harper as being perhaps gentle and soft, but if that is what her editors asked for, is it fair for him to condemn her for providing it? They were particular pieces designed to be written and read in certain ways
If we are to never cover politicians in an informal, behind-the scenes way, then the Hill Times should really do a column or editorial attacking the press for its recent coverage of Harper’s piano playing. If the Hill Times itself did a little story or ran a photo of Harper’s singing, then, to be fair, Korski should make fun of this too for playing into Harper’s hands. (And who knows, in her defense, Frum might have uncovered a “Stockwell Day rides a Jet ski” kind of moment for Korski and his fellows.)
I am sure that the new Senator will shrug Korski’s column off as well. But why, we can ask, would Korski target her, when he could have cited Jacques Demers—a former hockey coach who is only in recent years learning how to read? (Not that I would myself, but if you are looking for a “This person is a Senator?” target…)
Here’s a guess. What follows, if Korski’s critique might be ideologically driven?
The work of the Senate often involves committee work and investigations of various problems facing Canada. Frum Sokolowski is articulate. She knows how to probe incisively with a line of questioning as a former journalist. Also, she has been a small-c conservative in her way of thinking for a long time.
If you are of the left, how better to help the left, in the Senate, than to browbeat a new Senator from the right? Intimidate her into sitting quietly and not trying to do the best job that she can. If Frum Sokolowski were to be the most articulate and ideological of the new Senators, for argument’s sake, would you editorially assail other Senators who might need more time to grow into their work? No, you’d try to take out the earliest threat.
How will my former friend do as a Senator? I honestly don’t know. But, I do hope that small-c conservatives give her more of a chance to do well than Tom Korski has.
I do know that she is already proving adept at inducing liberal conniptions. Long may she continue to do so.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Taxation not my real worry for an Ignatieff government
There has been repeated jumping up and down saying Michael Ignatieff will raise taxes. There has been equal jumping up and down saying that he won't. Here and here are two (nearly identical) articles that illustrate the confusion.
While we are waiting for Mr. Ignatieff to say "read my lips no new taxes," let us consider that taxation is not what would make him a disastrous Prime Minister.
Mr. Ignatieff is a politician with a plan and, as Gerry Nicholls points out, a politician with a plan is something to be feared. He is a man who believes that the economy is a giant wealth making machine. He can pull a lever here and push a button there then boom! Economic prosperity for everyone.
The truth is either more complicated or more simple depending on how you look at it. The market is not an abstract force and economics isn't a game to be played like Civilization. It is reality. That is to say that the market is millions of interactions between individuals; it is society.
What Mr. Ignatieff proposes to do, indeed what most governments propose to do, is to use force to reshape reality.
In his speech a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Ignatieff said he will give hand outs of other people's money to regions and certain sectors that he chooses. He will decide who can buy what companies and for what reasons. In short Mr. Ignatieff will decide who wins and who loses. Not the millions of consumer choices that make up the real world, but the political whims of a central government.
That is the disaster of an Ignatieff government.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Harper & Palin
Although I didn't watch it, ThePolitic.com reported Mr. Harper saying this in Question Period recently:
“When I was a boy, my father used to say that I should work on things that I am good at. The NDP is not good at fighting taxes. The NDP has opposed cutting the federal sales tax. The NDP opposed reducing business taxes. It opposed our cuts to personal taxes. It opposed our cuts to seniors. The NDP never saw a tax it did not like and never saw a tax it did not want to hike. Everybody knows that.”
Mr. Harper isn't afraid of speaking his mind; he lets the facts speak for themselves. In the American political sphere, Sarah Palin is still a popular figure for a simple, similar reason: common-sense.
In an unrelated post by Unambiguously Ambidextrous (say that five times fast), it is explained why Palin's fifteen minutes of fame are extending indefinitely:
There are a lot of conservatives who don’t like Sarah Palin, and are probably quite right to do so. It’s true that her popularity is not derived from her wit, intelligence, or cerebral prowess in general. In fact, that’s what makes her so alluring to millions of Americans, and a fair share of Canadians, in the first place. She isn’t yet another summa cum laude graduate from Princeton like Sonia Sotomayor. She doesn’t strike anyone as being an academic, or even draw upon her education during interviews with the media in order to impress upon people of her knowledge and insights. And that again appeals to the ordinary people throughout the United States who embrace her.
Sarah Palin is a classic populist politician, but what makes her so popular isn’t that she deliberately juxtaposes “the people” with “the elites”, but that by her nature she accomplishes it. She is the definition of “grassroots”, a working mother who successfully entered politics at the municipal level of Wasilla, and worked her way up to the top of the governorship. She didn’t manage this by impressing upon people of her five different institutions of education, nor about how many books she had written on Russian foreign policy. No, she managed it because she inspired Americans who felt that Sarah was “one of them.”
I recommend reading the whole post, but the point is there; like Harper's populist history, Palin's version is popular below the border as well. New leaders such as Tim Hudak are also bringing back the message that common-sense policies are making a come back. All we need now is for Pat Buchanan and Preston Manning to get back into the game!
[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Hey Steve Ashton, you’re an idiot!
Hey Steve Ashton, you’re an idiot!
For making such a statement, Steve Ashton would have me put in jail.
Since Gary Doer has decided to step down as Premiere of Manitoba and as leader of the NDP Party, his replacement will automatically become the new Premiere of Manitoba. Regrettably, most voters get no say in who will run the Provincial Government, and the choice that NDP party members have is down to 2, Steve Ashton and Greg Selinger.
Ashton has said that if he becomes Premiere he will introduce one of the most disgusting, sick laws that I have ever seen.
NDP leadership candidate Steve Ashton wants to introduce a law that would make racist or other derogatory comments or behaviour an offence.
Ashton said "one of his first acts" if elected leader, and thus premier, would be to introduce what he calls the Dignity Act.
"I want to see Manitoba become a model for human rights," Ashton said. "We want a zero tolerance approach to racism and other forms of discrimination."
Ironically, Ashton wants to see Manitoba become a model for human rights, by violating human rights. Perhaps he is not familiar with the term “freedom of expression”. Here, I will remind him.
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
- (a) freedom of conscience and religion;
- (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
Yes, you are free to be a racist, because those are your thoughts in your own head, that cannot be taken away even by force. And yes, you are free to express your sick, racist thoughts in whatever communicative means you decide to use; the internet, protest, standing on the street corner, etc.
Not only speech will be targeted though, any perceived undesirable actions will be.
Tuesday, he said if becomes premier he will advance a "dignity bill" to combat racism.
The legislation would ensure governments, workplaces and public establishments worked toward zero tolerance for discriminatory, demeaning or racist actions.
I could think of a number of ways that those terms could be interpreted, they are vague. It could include writing a blog that criticizes First Nations leaders, joining certain organizations, speaking out against the government etc.
Zero tolerance of nearly anything is a bad idea, it allows you to shut off your brain and not use any critical thinking skills to judge individual actions and circumstances as they should be judged, individually.
Legislation often expands from its original intended purpose, and while it may have one purpose in the legislative, the enforcement branch of government might not interpret it the same way. There is no way to tell how invasive a “Dignity Law” like this would become.
Freedom of expression is not to be repressed by the government; that is in their own rules. This includes unpopular speech, which is what really needs protection, since many people won’t object to popular speech.
Steve Ashton is bad news, and I would not pay his fines that he would impose on me for saying what I want. And as a result, I would be taken off to jail, for expressing myself. Hello North Korea.
I welcome feedback and I ask for civility in the exchange of comments. Vulgarity is discouraged. Please express yourself creatively with other language. We discuss ideas here, attacks on a person are discouraged.
NDP political ads
The NDP have joined the game of pre-writ television spots:
This is the same guy that said he'll oppose the budget a month before it was released, but assuming Canadians forgot about that, this is not a bad ad. It is simple and it plays on perceptions that the Conservatives and Liberals are overly partisan.
The danger of this ad is that Canadians are getting tired of the election blame game. Every time there is a threat of an election, every party accuses the others of being responsible. Of course no political party wants to be blamed for doing something that would annoy the electorate, but I don't think the Canadian people care who triggered the election. At this point they aren't blaming any party but the whole system. If it is true that Canadians are tired of elections, then it is a pox on all parties.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The existential drama of Canadian communists
This post could also have been called, "How Canadian communists must come to terms with history", or even, "Why I have to re-post more pursuant to Gerry Nicholls' post". According to an article in Epoch Times, plans to construct a monument in Ottawa to honor the victims of communism are being obstructed by due regard to the feelings of Canadian communists.
The ever-industrious National Capital Commission (NCC) wants to change the name of the monument from “Memorial to the Victims of Totalitarian Communism” to something that does not demean or tarnish the self-esteem of card-carrying communists in Canada. Initially, the monument was going to be called the "Memorial to the Victims of Communism", but NCC board members found it to be polarizing, hence the addition of the term "totalitarian". Now it seems no one is completely certain about the monument, the emotional states of Canadian communists, the value of historical memory, or whether communism really deserves the bad rap it seems to have earned over the past few decades.
There are exceptions to this Canadian confusion over communism. Tribute to Liberty, one of the groups trying to get this monument built, probably never anticipated so much controversy and stalling in the naming phase. After all, one would be hard-pressed to find honest individuals arguing against naming a monument to the victims of Nazism or fascism qualifying this description with the obvious, namely, "totalitarian".
Of course governments ruled under the ideologies of Nazism, fascism, or communism are totalitarian-- in fact, "totalitarianism" (as opposed to freedom, rule of law, or human rights) might just be their original contribution to political history. Name one communist country in the history of the world which has not been totalitarian. In fact, adding the word "totalitarian" to qualify communism is not just ignorant--it is blatantly false and dangerous. The refusal of communists and their defenders to admit the nature of communism should not prevent the public square from being the place where a spade is called a spade and the victims of communism are duly honored.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
The Canadian Tradition
I'm currently part way through Brian Lee Crowley's latest book: Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values. So far so good. I hope to have a review up later in the week. The basic thesis is that Canada was founded as a classically liberal society, and then lost its way through a combination of changing intellectual trends and Quebec nationalism. It is the later that Crowley cites as vital in explaining Canada's higher than average level of statism compared to other English speaking nations. The Quiet Revolution, and its aftermath, sparked a bidding war for the loyalty--if that's the word--of the Quebecois. The thesis is not original, but Crowley brings a considerable weight of scholarship to bear on the issue. He also breaks the taboo among the Canadian intelligentsia of stating the obvious: In the main the Quebecois are not loyal to Canada. The book is endorsed by a dazzling array of Canadian conservatives: Conrad Black, Michael Bliss, William Gairdner, Barbara Kay, Tom Flanagan and David Frum. If we can speak of Canadian conservative establishment, the above is a Who's Who. From the National Post:
The state had been expanding on both sides of the border for years. When Stephen Leacock warned of the impending arrival of socialism in Canada in 1924, the state in Canada was spending 11% of GDP. By 1960, we were spending over 28%. Again, however, there was nothing in that that distinguished Canada; government was carving out a bigger role for itself everywhere. No one denies that the zeitgeist was there, no one denies that government in general and the social service state in particular were growing. What has to be explained is not the direction of change, but rather its speed and scope and timing.
And here the parallel social and economic developments of Canada and the United States over the previous century must be given their due weight. We were two societies with a similar intellectual, philosophical and institutional endowment. We Canadians thought of ourselves as the truer guardians of the British traditions of liberty and limited government, but the Americans fought a revolution in order to vindicate what they thought of as the rights and liberties of Englishmen. The spirit of the great liberal individualist John Locke presided over America's founding debates in the eighteenth century, just as he did over the Confederation debates of the nineteenth.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Re: Jack and Stephen sitting in a tree...
Gerry, look who was wearing an orange tie today:
(h/t Bill Curry)
Jack and Stephen sitting in a tree...
So it looks like the embryonic Liberal-Socialist-Separatist Coalition is about to suffer a premature death.
That's because the "Socialist" part of the troika, the NDP, seems ready to support the Conservatives thus ensuring the government survives.
This is quite surprising.
Who would have ever thought NDP leader Jack "Remember Me?" Layton and his gang of progressive, "we would rather bike than drive", oh so politically correct, defenders of the proletariat MPs would prop up the "left-wing fringe hating," hidden agenda harbouring, war-mongering, tar -sands-loving, Stephen Harper.
What a world!
I suppose we can next expect to see Hugo Chavez join the "Sarah Palin for President" Facebook page or perhaps Michael Moore's next documentary will be a homage to Ronald Reagan.
Ideology sure ain't what it used to be.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Tories withhold Afghan mission cost citing national security concerns
Yes, you read that headline correctly. Stephen Harper's Conservative Party, which has always won it's governing mandate on promises of government accountability and fiscal responsibility, has now decided to no longer disclose the costs of Canada's military to taxpayers:
In a significant policy shift, the Canadian government now believes that telling the country's taxpayers the future cost of the war in Afghanistan would be a threat to national security, Canwest News Service has learned.
The Defence Department cited a national security exemption when it censored a request under the Access to Information Act by the federal NDP for the military costs of Canada's military participation in the NATO-led, United Nations-sanctioned military mission to Afghanistan.
When the NDP asked for the identical figures last year, the military made them public. was able to disclose in April 2008 that the yearly incremental cost of the Afghan war would top $1-billion for the first time since Canada's military became involved in Afghanistan in 2002.
But this year, military censors cited Section 15 of the act in blocking out the figure.
In a June 3 letter to an NDP researcher, Julie Jansen, the director of the military's access branch, cited "the defence of Canada or any state allied" with it in justifying the withholding of the figures for the three next fiscal years.
Section 15 of the act allows the withholding of any "information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to be injurious to the conduct of international affairs, the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada or the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities."
Ms. Jansen also invoked a Section 21 exemption, which gives a government department the discretionary power to disclose records that include negotiationplans, deliberations or consultations, or "administrative plans that have not yet been put into operation."
In an identical request last year, the Defence Department released the estimates for the fiscal years leading up to 2011, the year that Parliament and the government has said Canada's current military mission in Afghanistan must end.
"In the face of more public interest in the ongoing cost of the war, it is surprising the DND would now take the attitude that now is the time that we will start pulling back on information and not be as transparent as before," NDP defence critic Jack Harris said.
Military commanders commonly cite the need to withhold information in order not to give an edge to the Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgency, which has gained strength in the Kandahar region in the past three years, driving up the Canadian Forces death toll to 120. Usually, the information blackouts cover the exact numbers of troops, tanks and other military assets. Any mention of future military operations is deemed strictly off limits, and embedded journalists who cover the war in Kandahar sign a waiver agreeing not to publish such information in advance when they learn of it.
The military's new secrecy comes after the financial cost of the mission became a major issue for several days during last fall's federal election campaign.
Read the rest.
Abstract perfection, practical defect
The Liberals' latest shenanigans concerning their promise to no longer support the Conservative government and their subsequent ads got me thinking of a particular quote by Edmund Burke: "Their abstract perfection is their practical defect."
In the context of the Liberal ads, "their abstract perfection" is the Liberals' new slogan proclaiming that we can do better. Who can do better? Better than what? How will it be better? There are endless questions, but as far as I can tell there are no answers. This generic, abstract approach is the Liberal Party's defect - among others.
...as the liberties and the restrictions vary with times and circumstances, and admit of infinite modifications, they cannot be settled upon any abstract rule; and nothing is so foolish as to discuss them upon that principle.
Although the abstract ideas of change, doing better, and progress sound like they are always steps forward, in reality what's going on now should determine the policies, ads, and slogans of a party hungry for power.
And that's exactly what the Liberals aren't doing. They are hoping the Canadian people will simply believe we need a new government because they tell us we do. What Canadians want are solid, particularly non-abstract policies that at least give the illusion they want to help Canada instead of praying off the unstable nature of our minority/majority system.
The Liberals are even trying to make the video of Harper look like some sort of scandal or a horrible political gaffe at best. If you ask me, it was a good move - all Harper did was voice the concerns of many, if not everyone in the Conservative government. He's correct in saying that we need a majority government when the next election is called. Unlike Ignatieff, however, Harper doesn't want that election to be now. Unfortunately it's not his decision at the moment.
[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]
Saturday, September 05, 2009
Bernier on Freedom and Responsibility
Conservative MP Maxime Bernier explains the concept of freedom:
The Greyhound Canada Fiasco
When I was in my 20's I lived in Southern Manitoba. I was single, working a few part-time jobs and paying rent, money was tight, I couldn't afford a car. I grew up in Northern Manitoba, so the way I would get back there to visit would be on the Greyhound bus. To drive to my home town by car would normally take about 6 hours, but taking the bus would increase that trip to 10-12 hours, because they made so many stops in small towns to pick up passengers or parcels.
Greyhound Canada announced on Thursday that it was discontinuing service in Manitoba and parts of Ontario because adhering to "government regulation" had become too costly. The regulation in question is the mandate that they are to provide bus services to unprofitable routes to small towns, which can no longer be subsidizes their their profit making revenue sources.
"Despite numerous attempts over the years to adjust this business model in order to gain a profitable footing, Greyhound Canada has now run out of options," (Greyhound Canada senior vice-president Stuart) Kendrick said Thursday.
Now Greyhound is asking for a $15-million subsidy from the provincial and federal governments so it can break even on these government-mandated routes.
Some people are suspect of Greyhounds true financial status, especially since they just built a new multi-million dollar bus terminal in Winnipeg.
Greyhound recently signed a 40-year lease on a brand new bus terminal by Winnipeg International Airport. Those aren't the actions of a company that had long-term reservations about doing business in the province, (Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton) suggested to CBC News.
The real problem is that the government got involved at all. I am not for government bail-outs or subsidizes, but in a situation where the government puts demands on a company to provide a service which causes them a loss, then perhaps they should be compensated by those people making the demands.
Yes, it's good that people have bus service to small towns, there is somewhat of a demand there. If those routes aren't profitable, then perhaps Greyhound should raise their prices to service those areas, but no doubt they would be accused of "gouging" and the government would step in at that point as well.
There are flight services to even the most remote of Northern Communities, business have found a way to make those trips profitable, but they aren't everyday and will cost you. In the absence of Greyhound going to every small town along a stop, perhaps another company could step in a fulfill the demand for that service, and adjust their rates accordingly, unless the government gets in the way.
I welcome feedback and I ask for civility in the exchange of comments. Vulgarity is discouraged. Please express yourself creatively with other language. We discuss ideas here, attacks on a person are discouraged.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Maclean's mentions the cover up
Although I hate beating a dead horse, the latest issue of Maclean's magazine happens to mention the very issue I have been discussing the last few days. Below is a scan from the "Mail Bag" section:
And a nice little photo with caption to go with it:
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Reducing the Size of the Federal Government
Jim Cotton over at Manitobapost.com recently took a look at the Canadian Constitution and what it says are the functions of the Federal Government.
I am what you might call a minarchist, I am for reducing the size of government to be very, very small. Part of the reason I feel this way is because I feel the evidence shows that when government involves itself in the lives and business of people that want to act on a voluntary basis (which is how most people interact) that it leads to undesirable results. Some of those undesired results are taxing your labour, spending that money on things you may disagree with and wouldn't fund voluntarily on your own, using that money to oppress people in their personal choices, and on and on.
So, when I looked at Jim Cottons summary of the roles of the Federal Government I see many, many things that the government has no legitimate role in being part of, and areas where the free market can provide that service in a superior way. If the scope of government is reduced, then less money would be used to run the government, which means more money stays in your pocket.
So I'm going to look at some of the items in the Canadian Constitution and give a brief response as to the free market solution for each. Keeping in mind that this is for the Federal Government only, Provincial and Municipal governments still involve themselves in your lives.
Keep in mind this is only one section of the Constitution (Powers of the Parliament), there is much more to it.
2. The Regulation of Trade and Commerce - regulation brings up the costs of doing business. The free market is capable of self-regulation.
2A. Unemployment insurance - there are all sorts of private insurance; fire, house, business, property, there could be a market for Employment Insurance.
3. The raising of Money by any Mode or System of Taxation - by any mode, great, they can legally come to my house and rob my piggy bank, legal theft.
5. Postal Service - there are already other postal services out there, competition in first class mail has been made illegal by the feds, lets break the government monopoly and open it up to competition.
6. The Census and Statistics - there are already private organizations that do this (Nielsen Media Research for TV statistics for example) and there would be a market for an organization to provide this service since it quite useful.
7. Militia, Military and Naval Service, and Defence - militias don't need to be government run, national defense seem to be a proper role of a national government. Though what the feds do today isn't defense, it's nation building and meddling in the affairs of other countries. We would resent it if it was done to us, and Canada shouldn't do it to other people.
9. Beacons, Buoys, Lighthouses, and Sable Island - seems to me that companies that use the sea and ports would have an interest in making sure that they had safe passage. They can fund their own infrastructure. Perhaps the Provincial governments of that area may have an involvement, doesn't seem that it would need to be a federal function.
10. Navigation and Shipping - see 9
11. Quarantine and the Establishment and Maintenance of Marine Hospitals - see 9
12. Sea Coast and Inland Fisheries - see 9
13. Ferries between a Province and any British or Foreign Country or between Two Provinces - see 9
14. Currency and Coinage - this may seem like a legitimate role but government being in charge of the money system leads to many of the economic problems we see in North America, such as inflation. There have been competing monetary systems in place in the U.S. (like the liberty dollar) but they have been shut down by the feds. Yes, there can even be competition in monetary systems and banks that issue the money.
15. Banking, Incorporation of Banks, and the Issue of Paper Money - see 14
16. Savings Banks - see 14
17. Weights and Measures - national standards are handy, but it amounts to the government telling business how to operate, rather than letting the business decide that on their own; a federal government is not needed to have standards. The electronics industry self-organizes to have common standards, with groups such as the Blue Ray Disc Association. Even with a seemingly benign federal duty such as this, it still requires a bureaucracy (Measurement Canada), paid bureaucrats, overhead, offices, etc, which raises the cost of running the government.
18. Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes - see 14
19. Interest - see 14
20. Legal Tender -see 14
21. Bankruptcy and Insolvency - legal protection for getting out of paying your debts; an abdication of personal responsibility, should be abolished.
22. Patents of Invention and Discovery - patents should be abolished, it is simply a monopoly on a concept and prevents other from using their own labour to produce.
23. Copyrights - copyright law is far too pervasive and complex, and has many lobbying groups trying to get their version of what they want protected put into law. Copyright can be handed simply the same as property laws.
24. Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians - the federal government has no business in running the lives of a particular ethnic group. The Indian Act should and the Reserve system should be scrapped.
25. Naturalization and Aliens - perhaps a legit role here, but getting in and out of Canada should be easy. Perhaps only violent criminals should be kept out.
26. Marriage and Divorce - government has no legit role in controlling marriages, that should be between the parties that wish to get married. It can be handled by simple contracts with the government having no say.
28. The Establishment, Maintenance, and Management of Penitentiaries - government-run penitentiaries? Yikes. This can be a private business that may be charitable or for profit, if it's a service people want then there is a market for it.
Every role that the government takes on requires bureaucracy, bureaucrats, budgets, overhead, paperwork, etc.; you pay for it whether you use those services or not, whether they are run efficiently or not, whether they are corrupt or not, whether you object to them morally or not.
If you want to keep more money in your pocket and have more personal freedom, then advocate reducing the government to a very small size, we will all be better off.
I welcome feedback and I ask for civility in the exchange of comments. Vulgarity is discouraged. Please express yourself creatively with other language. We discuss ideas here, attacks on a person are discouraged.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The Lard Laden Slippery Slope
First they came for the smokers:
The solutions to these problems are beyond the control of any individual. They involve a different sort of responsibility: civic — even political — responsibility. They depend on the kind of collective action that helped cut smoking rates nearly in half. Anyone who smoked in an elementary-school hallway today would be thrown out of the building. But if you served an obesity-inducing, federally financed meal to a kindergartner, you would fit right in. Taxes on tobacco, meanwhile, have skyrocketed. A modest tax on sodas — one of the few proposals in the various health-reform bills aimed at health, rather than health care — has struggled to get through Congress.
Cosgrove’s would-be approach may have its problems. The obvious one is its severity. The more important one is probably its narrowness: not even one of the nation’s most prestigious hospitals can do much to reduce obesity. The government, however, can. And that is the great virtue of Cosgrove’s idea. He is acknowledging that any effort to attack obesity will inevitably involve making value judgments and even limiting people’s choices. Most of the time, the government has no business doing such things. But there is really no other way to cure an epidemic.
Most of the time soon becomes all the time. Obama Care, whichever Tolstoy length version thereof you care to read, proposes to remove from the individual the responsibility to provide for their own health care. The alledged 47 million Americans without health care include several millions who could purchase health care if they choose. Being young or rich enough, they don't feel the need. It's a calculated risk rather than a lack of options. Smokers face the same choice. It's not that they're ignorant or even uninterested in being healthy. I know several who are careful with their diet and exercise regularly. Their body fat is well within reasonable bounds. Smoking is their indulgence. They're also taking a calculated risk.
The default assumption of the state is that those who smoke are addicted and need to be cured. Smokers aren't adults with different lifestyle choices, they're juveniles who need to be scolded and taxed into compliance with the state's definition of health. The fat, whatever the politically correct term, are the next target. Being fat hasn't been in fashion for sometime. The portly Edwardian gentleman, Edward VII himself being the finest example, was seen as an ideal. The never too rich or too thin ideal of beauty and success came a few decades later, when mere physical subsistence ceased to be a concern of the typical citizen of a liberal democracy. By the 1940s Sydney Greenstreet, the corrupt blackmarketter in Casablanca, was the New Fat. From a measure of success, fatness has become the hallmark of weak will and urban decadence. We no longer speak of someone lacking character and will. Instead fat becomes the catch all for moral condemnation.
The question isn't whether being fat is healthy. Being healthy is like being safe or happy. There is no platonic ideal. It would be far safer to impose highway speed limits of 60 km/h, the approximate speed most cars are crash tested to withstand while keeping the occupants alive. People prefer to go far faster. It's a calculated risk made by adults. The formula for losing weight is simple and well known. People choose to ignore it. Living longer and healthier is not as important as whatever pleasure they derive from making unwise food choices. In the past these calculated risks were borne mostly by the individual and his or her family. The more government intervenes to relieve people of the responsibility for day to day life, the more it socializes risk. You being fat is now everyone's problem. Charging the overweight higher health care premiums would be a matter of course, if a genuine free market for health insurance existed. Today such as course is legally fraught. If private individuals and organizations can't decide and negotiate on what the reasonable price for a service is, then a third party will set the terms. In the modern world that third party is usually the government.
Monday, July 27, 2009
The absurdity of ‘misconduct’ in politics
In any society, there are those in power and there is the opposition. It makes sense that the opposition will disagree with the governing power’s policies. And yet, many countries such as Canada have a strange system where even if the country fairly votes a particular leader in, the opposition can call an election at any time, assuming a majority government was not achieved. Majority governments are hard to make happen without the candidates shifting towards the centre to get all those “swing” votes. In reality “swing voters” are people who either know very little about politics or only care enough to vote but not enough to make an informed decision. These people call themselves “centrists” or “moderates” out of fear of having to defend their views if challenged (too much work). My point is that with minority governments, it’s hard to get things done effectively and efficiently. In most cases the matter takes longer than it should and is often watered down by the opposition trying to pull the policy a little bit more to their side of the political spectrum. It’s very annoying to have election after election gobbling up the public’s money, not to mention their political interest. If there’s a way to get bad voter turnout, it’s to have election after election in such short periods of time; the more one does something the less special it becomes each time. Finally, I believe giving the losers of elections continued employment in the public life ensures that they keep trying their clearly unpopular policies. What good is that? Where’s the incentive to scrap bad policies and adapt to what’s needed and wanted?
Interestingly enough, Edmunde Burke warned of this over three centuries ago: “No government could stand a moment, if it could be blown down with anythign so loose and indefinite as an opinion of ‘misconduct’”. The truth of this quote astounds me, and the image of the left-wing coalition that almost came into existence early this year immediatly pops into my head. In case you were hiding under a rock, the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois were considering banding together and voting down Harper’s budget in order to get in power. With this, Harper was forced to create a very Liberal budget – luckily for the Liberals, the Great Recession was just beginning and expansionary fiscal policy (which includes increased spending) had to be used anyway. The fact that Harper was forced to suspend Parliament in order to stay in power is embarressing. To me Harper was not trying to save his job but rather he was trying to save Canada from the greedy opposition that happened to be using a financial crises as leverage. It’s bad enough that they were trying to get into power on illegitimate terms, but they also took away a lot of time and effort that could have been concentrated on the recession. Burke explains that if something as subjective as ‘misconduct’ is officially considered, a competent, strong, healthy government cannot occur. For every opinion, even if it’s the majority opinion, there will be several opposing opinions. In other words, there will always be someone who disagrees.
The “progressive society” is based around the idea that all opinions are equal, and that all ideologies have merit. A communist in Canada has equal respect from your typical Canadian to say, a conservative. Of course this doesn’t apply for all places and people – there are exceptions, but I believe the extreme emphasis on everyone having an equal say on everything is harmful to having an efficient, policy driven government. When politics is about how to word a policy proposal propertly so the opposition doesn’t get offended by it (God forbid!), there are going to be problems. Finally, this idea makes political apathy and moderation something that’s encouraged by our leaders and authorities rather than frowned upon – intentional or not. And people wonder why no one votes anymore! When politics becomes even less exciting because of an abstract idea of ideological equality, the public interest will keep hitting record lows. Recall the hardline anti-communism in the 80’s, and the fact that no nuclear war ever erupted when it easily could have. Liberals will call it a coincidence; I say it has everything to do with the fact that Americans wanted to preserve their country and culture against the Communist virus that took over eastern Europe. People got fired up, got interested, and got angry. Today Canada has zero fear of an attack. It’s sad that politics is only of interest when facing crises, but I suppose it comes with being so darned friendly with those adorable totalitarian regimes – after all, their views are equal to ours right?
After posting the original draft on my website as I normally do, I regular reader asked me this:
Just a thought: would a two-party system go a long way to rescuing our government from paralysis and mediocrity?
I answered with the following, and although I repeat many of the same points, I believe it's worth adding to those who haven't already read the post:
No, of course not. The point of this post was not to denounce several parties running for office, but to denounce several parties running the country, allowed to pull the political rope their particular way (for certain policies over others, no less).
I argue that our system, in which policies are slapped around by all sorts of ideological parties, is inefficient and harms the public’s interest, not to mention their money that goes with costly elections. I welcome as many parties to give a go at winning over the public’s support – a system where only two parties are considered isn’t necessarily the one I want to adopt. Can we not have perhaps three or four equally popular parties, one of which gets to govern for four years? Maybe it’s just too simple and straight forward, or maybe human nature defies logic – something that’s not uncommon.
[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Canadians want a majority government: poll
Canadians are fed up with consecutive minority governments in the House of Commons, according a new poll conducted by Harris-Decima. The survey found that 64 per cent of respondents would prefer a majority government in the next election, up from 52 per cent a year ago. This is good news for the Liberals and Conservatives—the two parties that have a chance of winning the next election—and bad news for smaller parties, like the NDP, which could see a significant drop in support if enough Canadians choose to vote strategically in order to try and obtain a majority government.
It is not all good news for the Conservatives, however, as 44 per cent of respondents prefer a Liberal government (majority or minority) to another Conservative government (33 per cent). These numbers are a little skewed, since respondents were only given four options: Conservative majority or minority, or Liberal majority or minority. A similar study conducted by Angus Reid at the end of June found the Conservatives maintaining a slight lead with 32 per cent support, compared to 31 for the Liberals.
While I would not put too much stock in these numbers (considering the earliest the government could fall is the end of September, which is an eternity in politics) the numbers do show that Canadians are not happy with the consecutive minority governments that we've witnessed since 2004. And can you blame them? While 60 per cent of respondents said that these minority governments have accomplished about as much as they expected, they were also twice as likely to say they've accomplished less, rather than more, than expected.
This is, of course, all a matter of perspective. Many Canadians still seem to like the idea of big government, so it's no wonder they would be dissatisfied with the government's inability to pass numerous pieces of legislation. There are some of us, however, who don't like when government accomplishes things, because it usually means more government intervention in our lives and less freedom. A minority parliament does slow government down to some extent. For example, the Conservatives have so far been unable to enact major changes to Canada's copyright law, which would allow the government to be even more intrusive.
Yet, minority governments still do not provide enough checks and balances to appease those of us who favour small government. On the contrary, when it comes to government spending, minorities seem to provide an incentive for governments to waste taxpayer dollars. No wonder Canadians are unsatisfied. It doesn't matter if you favour big government or small government, a minority parliament will be of no help either way.
Let's face facts here. Despite what the politicians say after every election, electing a minority government is not a collective decision made by Canadians. I don't call up my friends in Ontario and tell them to vote Liberal because I'm voting Conservative in the West. The makeup of the House is a result of how votes are split down partisan lines and the relative success of smaller parties. The Conservatives have not been able to build a broad enough base of support to form a majority and many Canadians are still wary of the Liberals after many years mismanagement and corruption. If we truly want small and stable government, we need to consider real institutional reform.
Instead of continuing with the government's piecemeal approach to Senate reform, we should be trying to create a body that can act as a real check on the excesses of the House of Commons. Turning the Senate into an equal and effective body, whose members are elected using a system of proportional representation would provide a number of benefits. First, it would allow a greater diversity of parties to have representation in parliament. This would mean that votes that are currently wasted on smaller parties, such as the Greens, could go to support stable majorities in the House of Commons, while at the same time giving small parties a voice in the Senate. Second, it would provide a real check on the power of the Prime Minister and cabinet, who can run the country as though it were a dictatorship if they have a majority in the House. This would hopefully make it harder for parliament to pass legislation on a whim, meaning less intrusive government, while at the same time giving Canadians a greater say in the future of their country.
Friday, July 03, 2009
Senators Behaving Badly
Don't ya love politics?
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Ignatieff tries to win the west by demonizing Calgary
Michael Ignatieff has long been a proponent of the Liberal Party reaching out to western Canada. I remember in the first leadership race that he ran in, he would often say that the party should do more to bring westerners into the Liberal fold. In a recent Globe & Mail article Michael Ignatieff had this to say:
“The big issue for me is I don't want to be a party of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, which is what this party is,” Mr. Ignatieff said in an interview. “Because you can't be a good prime minister unless you represent all Canadians.”
This is true. The great weakness of the Liberal Party is that they have become the urban party. They even elected an urban intellectual elite as their leader (I hope to become an urban intellectual elite one day), though Mr.Ignatieff had a response to this:
“Frankly,” he said, “I think it's condescending to westerners that being a so-called intellectual is some big liability. People out here are as devoted to the life of the mind, and the life of culture, as anybody else in the country. So I don't think that's going to fly. It's just stupid.”
This at the very least shows that he doesn't think of all westerners as dumb rednecks. He sees that there is an intellectual life beyond Toronto and Montreal.
He is even willing to put down the anti-oil sands 'stick':
“I think sometimes we tried to establish our environmental bona fides by running against the oil sands,” he said. “And I just think: This is a national industry. It's pumping something like $8-billion into the federal treasury. So it's slightly bad faith to beat the goose that lays the golden egg over the head with a stick."
Then he said this:
“The alternative [Mr. Harper] is a politician formed and shaped in the radical conservative ideological world of Calgary and Calgary think tanks,” Mr. Ignatieff said.
I don't really understand the political strategy of trying to win over a region by bashing one of its major centres. Of course Calgary is not the be all and end all of all there is in western Canada, but as an outsider to the region is it really such a good idea to take such pot shots? He is demonizing Harper because he comes from a western city, is that really the way to gain new western support? It makes the rest of his fine words ring rather hollow.
Put this together with the recent Liberal activity to prevent a vote to abolish the gun registry. I think Mr. Ignatieff needs to realize that if the Liberal Party is going to have any success west of the Great Lakes he needs more than fine words. He needs to change his and his party's attitudes.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Harper, Ignatieff reach deal to stave off summer election
I sometimes get the feeling that Canadian politicians haven't quite figured out this minority government thing yet. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff brought the country to the brink this week in an attempt to gain some last minutes concessions from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
And why not? It's worked so well in the past. Our opposition parties started using this strategy—of extracting concessions from the government whenever a confidence vote is looming—after Jack Layton successfully pressured then Prime Minister Paul Martin into putting $4.6 billion worth of NDP demands into the budget. The NDP then ran on this success during the 2006 election, as it is the only thing the party has ever accomplished.
Harper was largely able to avoid this type of blackmail during his first term in office. He didn't take crap from the opposition and, for the most part, was able to run the country as though he had a majority. Yet, after last fall's coup attempt by the opposition parties, Harper realized that his minority government was in jeopardy of destabilizing, just weeks after the election. Ignatieff was able to use this apparent weakness to secure massive spending increases from what used to be a fiscally conservative government. This has since led to a projected $50 billion deficit, the largest in Canadian history. Are you starting to see a pattern here?
Ignatieff's latest attempt to score points at the government's expense should not have come as a surprise. Harper has shown that he is willing to sacrifice his principles in order to stay in power. Without a budget in the works, however, Ignatieff was forced to largely manufacture an issue by adopting an NDP plan to get more people on Employment Insurance (EI). Luckily, Harper stood his ground and the Liberals were forced to accept the creation of a committee that will review possible changes to EI over the summer. Yet, Ignatieff still got some movement on the EI issue and was able to secure another confidence vote at the end of September. The Liberals are likely to play a similar game in the fall and don't be surprised if they use the opportunity to force Canadians to go back to the polls.
It would appear as though Haper won this round by not caving into Liberal demands. The agreement, however, could lead to EI reforms that will place further burdens on Canadian taxpayers, or cause another election, which also does not come cheaply. While I am generally a fan of checks and balances, this minority government experiment does not seem to be working out so well.
The problem is that the opposition's real power in a minority parliament comes when there is a money bill on the line. So, despite the fact that the Conservatives were given a mandate to repeal the long-gun registry, we have seen very little action on this issue, while we have been forced to accept billions of dollars worth of budget increases. With Canada's national debt now sitting at just over $472 billion, I'm not sure we can afford another minority government. At least Harper was able to fend off the Liberals for the time being. If only he would reconnect with his inner-conservative, we might be able to get this country's financial situation back in order.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Why do we insist on turning our politicians into sheep?
I am old school enough to still subscribe to my local daily newspaper. Sure much of the news in it I have already picked up on twitter or by reading various blogs, but it still provides me with a good overview of the day’s (or yesterday’s) events and sometimes the layout itself reveals the dichotomies within our society.
For instance on June 11th I could not help but notice the juxtaposition of an editorial cartoon showing cabinet ministers being turned into sheep above that of a thoroughly unreasonable article calling for federal minister Lisa Raitt's resignation.
For those of you who may have missed the latest Ottawa tempest in a teapot, Ms. Raitt had the exceedingly bad luck to have a young staffer who was prone to leaving briefing papers and tape recordings of her minister where the media could find them. Worse yet, this same staffer also inadvertently taped a private conversation issue where Minister Raitt was discussing the shortage of medical isotopes as being a politically “sexy” issue.
Of course once this conversation was released by the media, it took only moments for a great wail of indignation and outrage to be vented over Raitt’s brazenly human remarks by the media, opposition politicians and anyone and everyone who has ever had cancer.
Such was the hysteria that Raitt’s remarks were even presented as meaning somehow the Minister thought cancer was sexy. This is of course a gross distortion of the truth. A politically sexy issue (for those of you who did not take Politics 101) is of course something that is politically salient and that the media is paying attention to. Thus the challenge and opportunity of solving a real problem that had national media attention was what Ms. Raitt found sexy.
I personally found that refreshing, as the inclination of an increasing number of politicians is to run away from real problem or try and delegate them to someone else. Raitt even took to task in a relatively mild manner in this same private conversation a colleague who was pursuing exactly that strategy.
As a former BC political chief of staff, I am appalled at the sheer incompetence of Ms. Raitt’s former political staff person. She has been fired and justly so. As a former staffer I can tell you that cabinet ministers can and do vent in private their frustrations about other people and situations just like every other human being I have ever met. And just like every other human being, politicians also say very concerned and caring things about other people in private as well.
What I found most troubling of all was that when Raitt received her public flogging, with the notable and commendable exception of Christie Blatchford in the Globe and Mail, not one other member of the media bothered to note the fact that Raitt's own brother died of cancer when he was only 37. Such is the heights of ignorance and hypocrisy our national sense of outrage towards any and all politicians has become.
The bottom line is this if we do not allow our politicians to be human, then they will have no choice but to act like sheep. They will be mild mannered sheep that will never cause offense while real leaders with their all too human foibles will either stay hidden in the backrooms or more likely far far away from politics all together.
A Canadian advocate for de-schooling: Matt Hern
If I lived in Canada, Matt Hern would be invited to play Exquisite Corpse for shots at my Freedom Salon. We might even hang out in the same homeschooling co-op. But I don't live in Canada, and the Freedom Salon is still in the "ideas" stage.
Hern's plans, on the other hand, have moved from the "ideas" stage to an active role in the world of ideas. In "De-Schooling Our Lives", Hern explains why he doesn't believe public education should be mandatory. In his words:
"If you think about the institutions that matter tremendously to us, and are the best of our common cultural life, most of think of libraries, museums or parks, or pools, or walkways, or bikeways. Even if you want to expand it to institutions like hospitals or bridges or roads, for example, those are good, but none of them are compulsory. None of them are required to go.
"I like libraries, but I would like them a whole lot less if people told me I had to go, when I had to go, what I had to do when I was there, and how to behave when I was in a library.
"So, the bulk of my argument, or at least the simplest part of the argument, is that I would like schools to look a whole lot more like actually public institutions--not mandatory, not compulsory, and not monopolizing institutions, but institutions that function in communities, for example, parks or libraries do."
You can watch Matt Hern share his thoughts on public education here, or you can purchase his book on the topic from Amazon. Alternately, you can start your own Freedom Salon and invite Mr. Hern in my stead...
The Liberal doth protest too much, methinks
Two days ago, the Chronicle Herald published a story in which they describe a taped conversation between Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt and her then aide Jasmine MacDonnell. The two women are heard discussing the issue of the radioactive isotope shortage that has resulted from the May 15th shutdown of a 52-year-old nuclear reactor (the reactor was shut down due to water leakage). Raitt says to MacDonnell that it is "good" that Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is avoiding media exposure over the isotope "crisis", because it will allow Raitt to take all of the credit when the crisis is resolved.
It is hard to deny her conclusion. We have not seen a lot of coverage involving Aglukkaq in the matter of the isotope shortage and, in the normal course, the ministerial politician appearing to do something will generally get the credit for problems resolved by the bureaucrats for whom she actually works.
Raitt proceeds to speak of the reactor/isotope issue as "...sexy...Radioactive leaks. Cancer.” Again, she is correct: the media are attracted to such issues, which is why we so recently have discovered that a Minister Lisa Raitt exists.
And so it is with much eye-rolling that I read about Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff's exchange with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Parliament yesterday:
Ignatieff said Raitt's comments are evidence of an insensitive minister and the government's "deep cynicism about the issues facing our country."
When Harper accused him of political opportunism, Ignatieff said: "The cheapest politics there is, is to call a crisis a career opportunity."
Please. Clearly, crises are career opportunities for politicians. Indeed, one cannot usually expect a sitting government to lose an election in the absence of a crisis, or recent crisis, of some sort. That is precisely why the daily political activity of opposition parties having nothing substantive to offer (i.e., of parties that routinely get elected) is comprised wholly of the exploitation (and exaggeration) of crises.
Ignatieff's exploitation of Ms Raitt's career crisis is no exception to this rule. He sees the exploitation of Ms Raitt's frankness - an honest and correct statement that the reactor/isotopes issue would attract media attention, that he who takes credit for resolving a crisis gets the credit for its resolution, and that such credit is good, for her, as a person whose career it is to resolve crises - as an opportunity to build his own career.
However, his hypocrisy explains his outrage. Note that Ignatieff expressed outrage not that Raitt had made a crisis a career opportunity, but that she had the gall to call it a career opportunity. For Ignatieff, it is okay to gain--to advance ones own career--by exploiting (even fostering) another's misfortune so long as you do not openly admit that you are doing it for personal gain. Anything else will do. The trick is to pretend that one is not participating in politics as a career at all. For example, one might choose to say that one left another country, and a great job at Harvard, not as a matter of personal gain but as a personal sacrifice for the benefit of Canada. Or duty...or whatever...so long as one does not admit that one has a desperate and obvious desire to see himself in a history book with his name preceded by the words "Prime Minister".
And that, dear reader, is why we can never expect Mr. Ignatieff to apologize to Ms. Raitt for using her ass as a box in which to plant his pole as he attempts to vault himself into the highest and most powerful office in the land...as a personal sacrifice, mind you. For him to apologize would be for him to admit that his participation in politics is very much a matter of career. For him, by admission, effectively to call his exploitation of Ms Raitt's crisis a "career opportunity" would be "the cheapest politics there is". Isn't that convenient?
How fortunate then, for him, that I have saved him the trouble.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Common sense perspectives on the Raitt-gate/Isotapes affair
After watching opposition members bashing Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt all day over some recently released tapes that feature the minister making some insensitive remarks, I was glad to see a common sense Western Canadian perspective on the issue from some of Canada's foremost talk radio hosts:
What surprises me is not that Ms. Raitt made the statements, but that people are actually surprised about it. This is politics folks. These people are all in it for themselves. A character in a Frank Herbert novel defined politics as "the art of appearing candid and completely open while concealing as much as possible." Ms. Raitt was caught on tape talking about using the isotopes crisis to further her political career. By attacking her for what she said in a private conversation, the opposition has also attempted to use this crisis to score political points. This is nothing more than political opportunism. This is politics at its finest.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Always follow up on what you blog
Gurmant Grewal, the former Reform and Tory MP from Surrey B.C., is no doubt pleased that the RCMP has decided to close its criminal investigation into donations made to the politician while he was in office. Yesterday, the B.C. Attorney-General ministry announced that charges would not be filed.
Someone who is no doubt unpleased is the author of the dormant weblog Buckets of Grewal, who for about two years delighted in reporting on the purported misadventures of Mr. Grewal, and became newsworthy in doing so.
It may well be that the Buckets of Grewal author has good cause to suspect that the RCMP has dropped the ball. If so, I would love to see an update to the blog explaining why this is the case. I hold no brief for Mr. Grewal at all, but I would like to suggest that good bloggers should always try to update and correct their work. (After all, if there is talk that with bloggers and the Internet, we don't need printed newspapers and newsmagazines any more--which I certainly don't think is the case--bloggers should be expected by their readers to abide by basic conventions of newsgathering. Follow-up items and corrections--if necessary--being two.)
I hope there is an update from Buckets of Grewal. But perhaps we will hear the sound of crickets chirping instead.
(Picture: Gurmant Grewal)
Monday, June 01, 2009
Governments nationalize GM: Where do we go from here?
Well, it's official: General Motors (GM) filed for bankruptcy protection in New York this morning. As part of its restructuring efforts, the company will take $10.5 billion from the federal and Ontario governments, representing about 16 per cent of the $59 billion bailout package. In return, Canada will get a 12 per cent share in the company, a seat on the board of directors, and will retain 16 per cent of the company's production. The American government is expected to own approximately 60 per cent of the company once the restructuring is complete.
What this all means is that North American governments have nationalized the auto industry. One could wonder whether or not they woke up this morning in the free world or post-war Czechoslovakia. It's just too bad the Canadian government sold off its stake in Petro Canada. We could have purchased our automobiles and gasoline from state owned companies.
So why did the Conservative government abandon its free market principles in favour of spending billions on corporate welfare? The move may not have been good economics, but it was politically expedient. "The government of the U.S. has made a decision it will engage in politically driven restructuring of GM," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "Either we participate or these companies which are big in the economy will simply be restructured out of Canada. That's not a reasonable alternative. We are committed to participating."
If Canada had not provided this bailout money, production would have shifted to the U.S. in order to take advantage of the subsidies that country is providing. This would have meant that even more Canadian jobs would be lost, which would have been political suicide for the Conservative government. It's quite apparent that all of the parties in the House of Commons would make have made same move if given the chance. The big problem is that we no longer have any parties calling for fiscal restraint.
Bailing out companies, even if they are "too big to fail," shows a complete disregard for free market principles. Markets work because they treat companies like children. If you screw up, you pay the price. Bailouts send the opposite signal: if you screw up, the state will save you. You won't, however, hear anyone in Parliament saying this, even as the country runs a historic deficit. As we discussed last week, the opposition parties are hammering the government about the deficit, while hypocritically advocating increases in government spending at the same time.
This leaves a void on the right side of the Canadian political spectrum. With an unstable minority government in Ottawa, are conservatives prepared for the government's eventual collapse?
Are there any parties worthy of the fiscal conservative vote in the next election? The Conservatives have moved to the centre, run up the largest deficit in Canadian history, and nationalized GM. The Liberals did a decent job of managing the economy in the 1990s, but this is the same party that stole millions of taxpayer dollars and, as recently as the last election, advocated a carbon tax that would have been devastating to the Canadian economy.
The logical alternative would be the Libertarian Party of Canada. However, the party has a lot to do if it hopes to win even a single seat in the next election. Despite being the perfect time for a "third-party" to scoop up a good chunk of the fiscally conservative vote, the party will not be taken seriously unless it improves its brand, reforms its policies, and runs a full slate of candidates.
First, the party needs to do a much better job of marketing itself. Many Canadians do not even know it exists and its website looks like something I might have put together circa 1995. The party would need to take advantage of new media technologies if it hopes to get its message out and build grassroots support among Canadians. Second, the party would have to reform some of its policies to make them more palatable to mainstream voters. I am not saying that libertarians should sacrifice their principles, only that they should be realistic and realize that a principled stand often comes into conflict with the realities of our democratic political system. Even a more moderate Libertarian Party would be better than the Conservatives.
Finally, it is essential that the party run candidates in every riding. This is a necessary element for a political party to be taken seriously and as we saw with the Green Party in the last election, it doesn't take much to be included in the leadership debate. This would mean that ordinary Canadians would need to step up to the plate and put their names on the ballot in the next election. I'm sure we can find 308 Canadians that believe in fiscal restraint. Do Canadian conservatives have what it takes to get a fiscally conservative party into the House of Commons? It certainly would not be an easy task, but for the sake of our economy and future generations of Canadians, it's one that is worth putting effort into.