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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Alberta’s energy sector could face more problems as Tories investigate Norway’s socialist approach to resource management

Finance and Enterprise Minister Iris Evans will be on a mission to Norway, the Netherlands, and Ireland from January 5 to 16.

Evans will be meeting with the finance communities in all three countries to look at “best practices” in sovereign and pension fund management, and to discuss recent events in world financial markets and their potential impact on Alberta’s growth.

“As we work to strengthen Alberta’s fiscal position, it is to our benefit to learn from others,” said Evans. “Norway and the Netherlands have experience in managing mature, resource-based economies.”

Norway’s experience, in particular, has been one of state ownership of resource companies with oil and gas royalties as much as five times higher than Alberta’s. In “The Norway Advantage” published in the Edmonton Journal in 2002, Mark Anielski writes:

In 2001-02 Norwegians may realize more than five times more revenue per barrel of oil and gas produced than Alberta: Cdn. $19.65 for every Norwegian barrel of oil and gas produced versus $3.88 per barrel of Alberta oil and gas produced. If Albertans received the Norwegian rate of return on their oilsands and natural gas production, $29.2 billion in oil and gas revenues would be flowing to government coffers in 2001-02 or $23.4 billion more than is budgeted.

Anielski likes the socialist Norway model because it shifts money from private hands to government coffers, which is precisely why Alberta should stay away from this approach to resource management. In the long run and on the whole, a bloated public sector destroys wealth and invariably encroaches on private enterprises across all industries.

Since introducing its New Royalty Framework tax increases in October 2007, perhaps inspired by “The Norway Advantage,” the Tories have been forced to overhaul the new tax scheme twice in order to undo the damage their government has caused to Alberta’s oil and gas economy...damage that might only be undone with a change of government and the restoration of investor confidence in the overall stability of Alberta’s tax environment.

Evan’s trip is expected to cost taxpayers a modest $35,000 -- but if the Alberta government intends to follow the socialist Norway model for resource management, the cost could be devastating to the working people and private investors who make up the province’s already struggling energy sector.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (16)

Prescriptions for an ailing economy: Peter Holle

In “Canada West Foundation provides political leaders with a Keynsian-lite economic stimulus strategy,” the Western Standard reports on the Calgary-based Canada West Foundation study outlining the organization’s ideas for stimulating the economy.

The report contains the consolidated thinking of 25 leading western Canadian economic analysts who were asked what the Government of Canada should do to address the current economic slowdown.  The resulting report, Taking Action on the Economy, is designed to ensure that western interests and perspectives are part of any national strategy to address Canada’s slowing economy.

While the views of the 25 economic analysts “varied considerably,” some consensus themes emerged. One theme was that government spending as an economic stimulus is needed:

An effective stimulus package should act quickly by working through automatic stabilizers (e.g. employment insurance) to strengthen the existing safety net and put money in the hands consumers.  In the interests of speed, the package should rely primarily on enhancements to existing programs (e.g. tax cuts) rather than on the creation of new programs.

This stimulus package, according to the report, should include infrastructure spending and some reluctant support for the Ontario auto sector, which we have now seen in a form of a $4 billion government bailout.

A dissenting viewpoint among the 25 economic analysts came from Frontier Centre for Public Policy President Peter Holle. In “Prescriptions for an ailing economy,” Holle writes:

The federal government should avoid the temptation to assist specific sectors of the economy, such as auto and forestry that must downsize in the face of permanent reductions in the demand for their products. To stimulate demand immediately and to encourage the economy to adjust to difficult market realities, the federal government should lower the taxes that suppress growth and encourage the Bank of Canada to lower interest rates. The public sector, which comprises about 40 per cent of our economy, must participate in this change process during this time of difficult private sector adjustment. Now is a good time to modernize federal transfer payment policy and to improve the productivity of public spending.

Holle's list of economic remedies can be found here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Canada is “seriously concerned” over raid of human rights advocate in Iran

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon expressed his concern today over the raid in Iran on the private office of Nobel Laureate and human rights advocate Shirin Ebadi:

“Canada is seriously concerned about yesterday’s raid and seizure of files and computers from the private office of Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi. This action follows the December 21 closing of the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Tehran, headed by Ms. Ebadi. Winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, Ms. Ebadi has a long and proud history as an advocate for human rights, and the raid appears to be part of an effort to impede the important work being done by her and other Iranian human rights defenders.

“Canada continues to urge Iran to fully respect all of its human rights obligations, both in law and in practice, and to end the apparent targeting of human rights advocates like Ms. Ebadi. Canada stands in solidarity with individuals such as Ms. Ebadi who courageously advocate for the human rights of the people of Iran.”

In her book, Iran Awakening, Ebadi provides some insight into her political and religious views:

In the last 23 years, from the day I was stripped of my judgeship to the years of doing battle in the revolutionary courts of Tehran, I had repeated one refrain: an interpretation of Islam that is in harmony with equality and democracy is an authentic expression of faith. It is not religion that binds women, but the selective dictates of those who wish them cloistered. That belief, along with the conviction that change in Iran must come peacefully and from within, has underpinned my work.

Ebadi now lectures law at the University of Tehran.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Looking back at 2009

It is traditional for me at the end of the year to write a blog post reviewing the year that had just passed (anything done twice is a tradition right?). As I look at 2009 I find this to be a particularly difficult year to summarize, but I will do my best.

First of all there is the economy. This year was a rough year for everyone, but the talks of depression and lost decade has been proven premature. As we enter 2010 there are already signs of the economy improving again. People that couldn’t find work before are suddenly discovering opportunities everywhere. This year served as a reminder that in any economy there are good times and bad times. We as individuals have to learn to plan for the bad times during the good times.

Sadly it is too late for Ukraine. The economy there did not recover fast enough and they were forced to let Russia bail them out. It is sad that after so much struggle and success Ukraine is once again in the grip of Russia.  

On the domestic political front; I wasn’t really surprised that Harper survived the budget early in the year. Ignatieff knew that the coalition was not sellable, a fact that was proven during the fall election. The talk of coalition ruined any chance the Liberals had of being elected. The bad economy on the other hand ruined Harper’s chance of getting a majority.

Politics in the states seems to be in transition. After a year in office a lot of the hardcore Obama fans are disappointed. This was best demonstrated by the thousands of protesters that threw their “I love Obama” t-shirts over the White House fence. At the same time the general public seems to support Obama’s moderate government. His approval ratings are in the mid to high 40s.

The Republicans have done the smart thing. They have done a lot of soul searching this year and have decided on a new direction. Under the leadership of men such as Jeff Flake the Republican Party is refocusing on core issues of smaller government and a humbler foreign policy.

I won’t tell you what 2009 will be remembered for. There was war, disastrous hurricanes, and that horrible incident with the Somali Pirates. All that I can say is that going into 2010 there seems to be optimism in the air.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on December 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (8)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Loyal to the Core: Stephen Harper, Me and the NCC

Freedom Press is already promising that Gerry Nicholls’ new book will be “the most explosive Canadian political book for 2009.”

Nicholls calls himself “one of the top five political minds in the country,” and is a freelance columnist who writes and blogs for the Western Standard and many other Canadian publications.

In its promotional literature, Freedom Press writes:

Without question, Nicholls is one of Canada’s most outspoken and articulate defenders of conservatism. For more than 20 years, Nicholls served as the political and communications strategist for the conservative organization, the National Citizens Coalition. For five of those years, he worked closely with the group’s president, a man who would go on to become Canada’s Prime Minister—Stephen Harper. Now, in his first book, Loyal to the Core, Nicholls reveals the story of how he went from being a friend and close ally of Harper’s, to one of his most fierce and unrelenting critics.

Nicholls provides a frank assessment of Stephen Harper the man, and Stephen Harper the leader, tracing his evolution from hardcore conservative ideologue to partisan, pragmatic politician. It is also a story of secret political meetings, clashing personalities and the lure of power.

In addition to the candid portrait of Harper, Nicholls offers an unauthorized history of the National Citizens Coalition, Canada’s largest independent, pro-free market organization. Who created this unique advocacy group and why? How did this organization, using political guerrilla warfare tactics, help change the face of Canada? We learn how the NCC fought to expose government waste and oppose arrogant politicians, how it battled both in the court of law and the court of public opinion to protect our most cherished individual freedoms.

The book is scheduled to be released in February, but you can order your copy now here at a discounted pre-release price.

In an interview about his new book, Nicholls has some sound advice for conservative activists: “resist the corrosive influence of partisan politics and focus on what matters: winning the war of ideas.” You can watch Nicholls' complete interview with Freedom Press here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Governor General announces 60 new appointments to the Order of Canada

Governor General Michaëlle Jean announced today 60 new appointments to the Order of Canada.

Singer Celine Dion and mining entrepreneur Peter Munk were among those promoted from within the Order to the highest rank of Companion.

Some stand-outs among the new appointments include the first black NHL player, Willie O'Ree and representatives from the business community including westerners David O’Brien from Calgary and Frank Lovsin, the founder of the Alberta independent grocery chain Freson Market in 1955.

From Ontario we got David Brown, a disappointing new addition to the Order. Brown was appointed for his work as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Securities Commission from 1998 to 2005. Brown is a corporate governance hawk who made doing business in Ontario difficult and costly and kept good public offerings out of reach of Ontario investors with the most onerous securities regulations in the country...regulations that may soon be the basis for a national securities regulator.

(The Western Standard reported that in April 2007, the Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day appointed David Brown to lead the $3 million RCMP pension fraud investigation.)

Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan was appointed for his leadership role in the Muslim community and his work as a journalist. A quick scan of his writings reveal his socialist, interventionist leanings with an equal commitment to religious tolerance and peace. He seems like a pretty typical Canadian journalist, but his appointment will be welcomed by moderate Canadian Muslims.

Here's the complete list:

Companions of the Order

• Céline Dion, Laval, Que. (promotion within the Order)
• Ben Heppner, Toronto (promotion within the Order)
• Stephen A. Jarislowsky, Montreal (promotion within the Order)
• Peter Munk, Toronto (promotion within the Order)

Officers of the Order

• Gary Birch, Vancouver
• Iona V. Campagnolo, Courtenay, B.C. (promotion within the Order)
• William J. Commanda, Maniwaki, Que.
• Nellie J. Cournoyea, Inuvik
• Paul E. Garfinkel, Toronto
• Dave Joe, West Vancouver
• Michael J. Kirby, Ottawa
• Arvind Koshal, Edmonton
• Claude R. Lamoureux, Toronto
• Louise Lecavalier, Montreal
• Allan J. MacEachen, Whycocomagh, N.S.
• David P. O'Brien, Calgary
• Ian C.P. Smith, Winnipeg
• Barry L. Strayer, Ottawa

Members of the Order

• Michael A. Baker, Toronto
• Joyce Barkhouse, Bridgewater, N.S.
• Elsa Bolam, Montreal
• David Bouchard, Victoria
• David A. Brown, Kettleby, Ont.
• Dinu Bumbaru, Montreal, Que.
• Fred Carmichael, Inuvik
• Douglas Cole, Port Sydney, Ont.
• Gail Cook-Bennett, Toronto, Ont.
• Max Cynader, West Vancouver
• James J. Douglas, West Vancouver
• Fred S. Fountain, Head of St. Margaret's Bay, N.S.
• Arlene Hache, Yellowknife
• Kenneth Kernaghan, Fenwick, Ont.
• M. Azhar Ali Khan, Ottawa
• LaVerne Kindree, Squamish, B.C.
• Suzanne Lapointe, Morin Heights, Que.
• John F. Lewis, St. John's
• Frank L. Lovsin, Peace River, Alta.
• David Matas, Winnipeg
• Gordon A. McBean, London, Ont.
• Barbara McInnes, Ottawa
• Don McKay, St. John's
• James H. Morrison, Halifax
• Alexander Nilsson, Creston, B.C.
• Allison D. O'Brien, Barrhead, Alta.
• Willie E. O'Ree, La Mesa, Calif., and Fredericton
• Lata Pada, Mississauga, Ont.
• Brian Paisley, Victoria
• Ross E. Petty, Vancouver
• Douglas Pollard, Cobalt, Ont.
• Victor M. Power, Timmins, Ont.
• Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, Kingston and St. John's
• Angela Rebeiro, Toronto
• Henry A. Regier, Elmira, Ont.
• Byron P. Rourke, Windsor, Ont.
• Herbert O. Sparrow, North Battleford, Sask.
• Donald W. Storch, Victoria
• David Thauberger, Regina
• Pierre Théroux, Montreal
• William J. Wall, London, Ont.
• Shirley Westeinde, Ottawa

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Governor General's ominous New Year message: “invent new ways of living together”

Governor General Michaëlle Jean’s New Year message contains the ominous suggestion that we “invent new ways of living together.” I’m not sure exactly what she means by that – or who she’s speaking for – but this kind of language reminds me of the rhetoric that always accompanies socialist and fascist schemes to engineer a better world:

As a new year dawns, we are filled with a renewed sense of hope. The days, weeks and months ahead may be whatever we imagine them to be and will be whatever we make of them.

But let us be realistic: the challenges are considerable and have caused a great deal of anxiety. This past year came to a close with the announcement of a global recession—one from which we are not immune—while an unprecedented political crisis shook the country. In December, the number of our soldiers killed in Afghanistan surpassed 100, and the entire country shares the pain of those tragic losses.

What these recent events bring to light is how important it is for us to work together—nations, governments, societies, businesses, organizations, individuals, side by side. The “fend for yourself” mentality has no place in an interdependent world, where the decisions of some have a profound impact on the lives of others; where our fates are inextricably linked. Today, I am calling for greater solidarity between us.

Given the magnitude of the challenges before us, the time has come for us to invent new ways of living together. It is up to us to seize that opportunity. It is in this spirit that my husband Jean-Daniel Lafond, our daughter Marie-Éden and our entire team join us in wishing everyone a year filled with promise and possibilities.

Again, I don’t know what exactly Jean means by the comment “invent new ways of living together,” but I feel safe in assuming that she shares Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s view that "unfettered capitalism" is part of a failed "fend for yourself" past and that the future belongs to some variation of statism and collectivism.

Rather than inventing a new way of living together, though, perhaps we need to return to an old way that was never fully implemented...a way defined by classical liberalism and embodied in the American constitution among other documents. This way is based on individual rights, liberty and laissez faire capitalism. Philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand captured this philosophy for social co-operation with what she called the Trader Principle

The symbol of all relationships among [rational] men, the moral symbol of respect for human beings, is the trader. We, who live by values, not by loot, are traders, both in matter and in spirit. A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. A trader does not ask to be paid for his failures, nor does he ask to be loved for his flaws. A trader does not squander his body as fodder or his soul as alms. Just as he does not give his work except in trade for material values, so he does not give the values of his spirit—his love, his friendship, his esteem—except in payment and in trade for human virtues, in payment for his own selfish pleasure, which he receives from men he can respect. The mystic parasites who have, throughout the ages, reviled the traders and held them in contempt, while honoring the beggars and the looters, have known the secret motive of their sneers: a trader is the entity they dread—a man of justice.

Rand is not to everyone’s taste. Her hostility to religion turns many away from her philosophy of Objectivism. But what everyone can take away from the Trader Principle is that we should deal with each other consensually and peacefully in personal and economic matters. All statist schemes – socialist and fascist – rely instead on coercion and violence on a mass scale in order to engineer bloody and unnatural outcomes.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (28)

A shameful display from Detroit

And no, I'm not even talking about the Lions. Their 0-16 season looks heroic compared to the pan-handling, rent-seeking, name-calling, self-pitying and grovelling coming from Detroit pundits, auto execs, union bosses and politicians. Some of the most ludicrous things are flying about day after day in defense of a massive money grab (aka: redistribution, theft) by the big three. Rather than realizing their tough situation, rolling up their sleeves and setting about the difficult task of righting their respective ships, they've chosen to blame others who are more successful, to whine, to grovel, and to plead before no-nothing pompous politicians. Have some dignity Detroit! At least Rod Marinelli didn't beg for money from Washington.

Karen De Coster writes about some of the crazier things coming out of Detroit of late:

"The Union is squaring off against the South again. This time it's Detroit's union — the UAW — partnering with the auto manufacturers, politicians, and media supporters of the domestic auto industry to wage warfare against the entire South.

"The problem here centers on certain southern states — Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and, in particular, Alabama — where certain bone-headed senators seem to have forgotten that the Civil War ended, with the appropriate outcome, almost 150 years ago.

What's more, these Alabama representatives argued that they and other southern states had plenty of automotive manufacturing capacity to take up the slack and keep the country's economy going if Detroit was to go belly up. Specifically, Alabama's Republican senator Richard Shelby called Detroit a 'dinosaur' and said bankruptcy was a better solution to the problems facing U.S. carmakers. The state's other senator, Jeff Sessions, also a Republican, said Detroit's collapse would "not be the end of the world. We have a very large and vibrant automobile sector in Alabama."

That's Detroit News columnist John McCormick, who labeled Southern politicians opposing the bailout "good old southern boys."

Detroiters continue to embarrass themselves by placing the auto industry collapse into an us-versus-them framework. In the midst of all the whining and begging for a bailout, the South has been declared the new enemy, along with the foreign-car manufacturers who are producing cars — in Southern plants — that consumers want to buy. The army of politicians and opinion columnists in Michigan who lay the groundwork for resuscitating this fading industry don't bother to acknowledge that it is in the best interests of any public company to maximize quality for its customers and efficiency of production and profits for its shareholders."


"Getting back to John McCormick's limp line of reasoning, he ends his column by implying that Michiganders should boycott Alabama — especially the retirees and warm-weather family vacationers. As always, the little guys are told to give up their way of life to preserve the high-paying jobs of corporate and union executives — along with the jobs of people who make cars no one wants to buy. But what's in it for them? National pride?"

I can't handle this shameful display of prideless whimpering and excuse-making for ineptitude any longer, I'm gonna go watch the Lions game on my DVR as a reprieve.

(Cross-posted on the SFEblog)

Posted by Isaac Morehouse on December 30, 2008 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (7)

Whither Democratic Peace Theory?

Many neoliberals and neoconservatives still promote the theory of a strong tendency of democracies to avoid war with each other as justification for aggressive foreign interventionism, democracy promotion, nation-building and grand projects like remaking the Middle East in the image of Western democracies.

The crude (and most popular) version of the Democratic Peace Theory dismisses the multitudes of countervailing historical episodes for various reasons and holds that no two democratic countries have ever gone to war with one another.

Perhaps more pressingly, it is this theory that stands behind the push for the NATO expansion which played a part in the provocation of this summer's Russo-Georgian War and misguided proposals like former presidential candidate John McCain's "League of Democracies" and the latest suggestion from the Progressive Policy Institute's Will Marshall to President-Elect Obama:

You should seize the opportunity to lead NATO's transformation from a North American-European pact into a global alliance of free nations. By opening its doors to Japan, Australia, India, Chile, and a handful of other stable democracies, NATO would augment both its human and financial resources. What is more, NATO would enhance its political legitimacy to operate on a global stage.

Another quirky variant of the theory was created by neoliberal New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, famed for his bestselling book The World is Flat, who wrote in 1999 that "no two countries that both had McDonald’s had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald’s.”

As this Inside Higher Ed article explains, Friedman's peculiar variant of the Democratic Peace Theory was defeated and its more conventional expressions were again thrown into doubt this summer when the democratically elected governments of Russia and Georgia entered into armed conflict.

In a throwaway line in his commentary on the present and ongoing violence in the Near East, Justin Raimondo observes that the bombing raids of Gaza (which threatens to become a ground war as Israel amasses troops) is, among many other things, a counterexample to the crude Democratic Peace Theory:

If nothing else, this fresh paroxysm of Israeli aggression ought to debunk, once and for all, the neocon talking point that democracies never go to war with each other. Yet here we have a country that styles itself an island of Western-style liberalism in a sea of Oriental despotism going to war with the only other democratically elected government in the immediate vicinity.

It didn't take this most recent ruptures of "democratic peace" in the Caucusus or Palestine for me to consider this old theory thoroughly debunked, but in recent months I have taken to calling Thomas Friedman and his neo-whatever ilk "flat-earthers."

Posted by Kalim Kassam on December 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (8)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Respect for the president elect?

Barack Obama was the winner of the November USA election to select the new President and will assume that position on 20 January 2009. As such he earned the respect of the people of the USA and the main stream media. George W. Bush won the two previous elections and was also entitled to that same respect. In the interest of fairness and consistency I wonder if Barack Obama will be  given the same respect from the mainstream media that they lavished on George W. Bush during his terms  as President?

Posted by Bob Wood on December 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Saskaboom: Saskatchewan has more drivers, more energy consumers, more real estate transactions and more employment

Saskatchewan’s crown corporations are booming. There are 36,000 more registered vehicles in Saskatchewan, 5,000 more SaskEnergy customers and 7,500 more SaskPower customers than a year ago according to year-end figures released today.

"Saskatchewan's positive momentum and economic growth resulted in record numbers of vehicles being registered and thousands of new hookups for power and natural gas throughout the province," Cheveldayoff said. "As well, we also saw SaskTel's high speed Internet and entertainment services experience strong growth."

More vehicles were registered in Saskatchewan over the past year than in any previous year on record. The increase in the number of insured vehicles with SGI over the last 12 months is nearly 52,000, comprised of 36,000 vehicles and 16,000 trailers. This is the biggest one-year increase in SGI's recent history.

In total, SGI has insured 975,000 vehicles in Saskatchewan over the past 12 months, compared with 923,000 for the previous 12 months.

SaskPower experienced record-setting numbers of new service requests in 2008, up 32 per cent over year end numbers for 2007. As of mid-December, SaskPower had processed 10,427 requests for new service in 2008, compared to year-end totals of 7,921 in 2007 and 5,681 in 2006. Requests for power line locates are also on the rise, with no signs of slowing down. The forecast shows demand for electricity in the province to grow more in the next 12 to 14 months than it has in the last 10 years.

SaskEnergy also experienced its strongest customer growth in more than a decade in 2008, adding more than 5,000 new residential and business customers to bring its customer base to its highest level ever at 341,000.

High real estate activity helped Information Services Corporation (ISC) mark its second straight year of record earnings, thanks in part to high volumes of transactions in the Land Registry. At the end of November 2008, ISC had processed over 10,000 more transactions than at the same time last year - on track to exceed the 232,000 total transactions processed in 2007. Despite that increase, ISC continues to deliver one of the fastest turnaround times in Canada for standard real estate transactions.

"New vehicle sales are up compared to this time last year, more people are moving to and working in Saskatchewan compared to one year ago, our population is growing and Saskatchewan continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in the country," Cheveldayoff said. "Factor in that more young people are returning to live and work in Saskatchewan, and we're seeing the results of all this good news in many ways."

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

The noose tightens on Alberta smokers

Beginning January 1st of the New Year, the sale of all tobacco products in pharmacies, stores that contain pharmacies, health-care facilities and public post-secondary institutions will be prohibited.

This is the government’s final step in implementing Alberta’s Tobacco Reduction Act. On January 1st of 2008, smoking was banned in all Alberta workplaces and public places. Smoking within five metres of a doorway, window or air intake of a public place or workplace is also prohibited. As of July 1, the retail display and advertising of tobacco products was banned in the province.

“The Tobacco Reduction Act is one of the key elements of our strategy to reduce tobacco use and the harmful effects of second-hand smoke,” said Dr. Raj Sherman, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health and Wellness. “The majority of Albertans support legislation to restrict tobacco sales and reduce tobacco consumption, especially among young people.”

“Our commitment is to creating a healthier province with a sustainable health-care system,” said Dr. Sherman. “As such we must take aggressive action to promote health and reduce the harm associated with tobacco use.”

Dr. Sherman, MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark, is helping to remind us that an unbearable cost of universal public healthcare is individual liberty, among other things.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (16)

Alberta imposes record penalties on businesses in 2008

A report released today reveals Alberta businesses received a record number of fines in 2008 for Occupational Health and Safety violations.

Penalties totalling more than $5 million against 22 companies surpassed the 2007 total of $1.72 million against 12 companies.

“This government will continue working with industry, labour and safety associations to ensure our workplaces remain healthy and safe,” said Hector Goudreau, Minister of Employment and Immigration. “However, when all else fails and the law is broken, the courts take over and send the ultimate message. These sentences should remind employers that there will be consequences when they don’t meet their safety responsibilities.”

The percentage of penalties collected as “creative sentences” has also increased. In 2007, 74 per cent of penalties were paid to safety organizations to provide training or to organizations that assist injured workers. To date in 2008, more than 88 per cent of the fines, nearly $4.5 million, are in creative sentences with the largest awards going to the University of Alberta Engineering Safety and Risk Management Program ($345,000), Lakeland College ($300,000) and the Red Deer College ($300,000). Money was also awarded to organizations including Easter Seals and Blue Ridge Voluntary Fire Department.

What is missing from this press release is data on whether or not these record penalties for businesses have actually reduced workplace accidents, or materially assisted injured workers. Or is punishing Alberta businesses somehow intrinsically valuable and worth celebrating?

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Today on Political Animals: We Talk Hamas and Israel with a former IDF Counter-Terror Instructor

Jay gets an insider picture of the Hamas conflict from former Counter-terror instructor and IDF advocate general Amos Guiorra Live from Israel. (See Guiora's Bio below) We will also discuss Obama's bold choice for pastoral prayer. Is Rick Warren the next Billy Graham and why are Gay Rights Advocates throwing donuts at him? www.wbgufm.com click on the player (we have had some difficulty with our webcast but it should be fixed) call in at 1-888-792-4836 (1-888-7-WBGUFM)

Professor Amos Guiora served for 19 years in the Israel Defense Forces Judge Advocate General’s Corps (Lt. Col. Ret.). He held a number of senior command positions, including Commander of the IDF School of Military Law, Judge Advocate for the Navy and Home Front Command, and the Legal Advisor to the Gaza Strip. Professor Guiora had command responsibility for the development of an interactive software program that teaches an eleven point code-of-conduct based on International Law, Israeli Law, and the IDF code. This internationally acclaimed program is used to teach IDF soldiers and commanders their obligations regarding a civilian population during an armed conflict. During his military service, Professor Guiora was involved in legal and policy-making issues, including the capture of the PLO weapons ship Karine A, implementation of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement, the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, and “Safe Passage” between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Posted by Jay Lafayette on December 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Caroline Kennedy of the Julii

Ck In the later days of the Roman Republic it became impossible to hold high office without being a member of, or being supported by, certain families. One of these families eventually decided to do away with the whole system and turned themselves into an Imperial family. It is with this in mind that I can’t help but roll my eyes at the prospect of Caroline Kennedy (daughter of you know who) becoming the new Senator from New York.

To be sure every country has their political families. This is only natural; after all being raised in a politically active household makes it more likely you will seek office. Yet the Martins and Mackays of Canada are rare and they have always had to prove themselves on their own merit. This will ultimately be true of even Justin Trudeau (son of you know who).

The scions of the presidential clans are far more fortunate in the United States. Apparently you can get yourself appointed to the US Senate with no experience at public office or being in the public spotlight. According to CNN the best thing she could say about herself is that she wrote a book. Even the President Elect never claimed that his books qualified him for public office. The polls indicate that she also doesn't have the popular support.

Truly I must ask, if this woman was not a Kennedy than would she be considered? Is she merely positioning herself to take over the position of her uncle as the head of her patrician family? Does anyone else here suddenly feel very uneasy?  

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on December 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (13)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Peter Schiff: Talkin' some more sense to the senseless

Peter Schiff, prescient Austrian economist and Ron Paul economic adviser, talking lots of sense in the Wall Street Journal:

It would be irresponsible in the extreme for an individual to forestall a personal recession by taking out newer, bigger loans when the old loans can't be repaid. However, this is precisely what we are planning on a national level.

I believe these ideas hold sway largely because they promise happy, pain-free solutions. They are the economic equivalent of miracle weight-loss programs that require no dieting or exercise. The theories permit economists to claim mystic wisdom, governments to pretend that they have the power to dispel hardship with the whir of a printing press, and voters to believe that they can have recovery without sacrifice.

As a follower of the Austrian School of economics I believe that market forces apply equally to people and nations. The problems we face collectively are no different from those we face individually. Belt tightening is required by all, including government.

Read the rest.

h/t LRC

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 27, 2008 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (2)

George W. Bush: magnanimous liberator

Nile Gardiner: “Much of the condemnation of his policies though is driven by a venomous hatred of Bush’s personality and leadership style, rather than an objective assessment of his achievements. Ten or twenty years from now, historians will view Bush’s actions on the world stage in a more favourable light. America’s 43rd president did after all directly liberate more people (over 60 million) from tyranny than any leader since Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

Jules Crittenden: "Maybe someday they’ll look back at that small footnote, Bush’s magnanimous handling of the not-so-friendly fire, as another sign of his great statesmanship."

Me: No, they won't.

h/t Instapundit

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 27, 2008 in U.S. politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Using free market language versus being a free marketeer

You just can't emphasize this enough: Never mind the words coming out of people's mouths, mind their actions. Because, uhm, I can say I'm a connoisseur of fine wines (here I'll prove it: "I'm a connoisseur of fine wines"), without being one (I'm not). Similarly, Republicans under Bush can (and have) said that they're small government, fiscal hawks, who love, love, love individual liberty, without actually doing anything to support those things.

So just how do we describe them? Do we focus on the words, or on the actions? When describing government under the Republican administration will we, like so many fools and idiots, call it a free market pro-liberty administration? Or will we, instead, focus on the growth in government and just call a kettle of rotten fish what it is? A putrid, rotting pile of fetid fish corpses? (Which is a metaphor for big government supporters, if you didn't catch that. Admittedly, it is hard to catch. But that's what I mean.)

The above is a prelude to this gem of a quote from Peter Klein, via Steve Horwitz (can you tell what I've spent the afternoon reading?):

"Bush and Paulson and Greenspan and their clique are “free marketeers” in the same way (to borrow from A. J. Jacobs) that Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant. They adopt the language, and some of the form, of market advocacy without any of the content."

I'm with Klein and Horwitz: The Republicans under Bush were a big kettle of rotting fish corpses. Now if only journalists and pundits would have the clear-sightedness to see that Republicans acted like big government Democrats during their turn as Kings of the Hill, we wouldn't have to put up with all this "deregulation and the free and open market caused the financial collapse" nonsense or the outrageous howler that "Bush's ideological commitment to markets prevented him from introducing regulations that would have staved off the worst in this market collapse" any more (Bush was to big government and new regulations what a fat kid is to Smarties).

Intellectual honesty: where did it go?

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 27, 2008 in U.S. politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

The problem with big government is Big Government

Speaking of Steve Horwitz and how much he gets it, here's yet another dead-on post by him in The Austrian Economists blog:

Bob [Higgs] points out that the real problem with big government is Big Government. What he means by that is that it's one thing for government to grow in scale, but when government grows in scope is when the real trouble starts. The key to Bob's ratchet effect argument is that crises lead not just to government "scaling up" but to it acquiring powers that it didn't have before, i.e., a change in the scope of its powers. The other part of the ratchet effect argument is that when the crisis passes, the government might reduce its exercise of these new powers, but not all the way back to the pre-crisis level. What people often miss is that this also means that those new powers lay dormant waiting for the next feasible situation in which they can quickly be activated. The long-run damage comes from the acquisition of those powers in the first place, not just their exercise in the specific crisis in which they are acquired.

And speaking of Robert Higgs, who is also, obviously, a member of the Sound and Solid Thinkers Club (we need a new moniker, that one is a bit clunky, don't you think?), here he is eviscerating some of the "fair weather" free market thinkers on the Liberty and Power group blog (via reason's Damon W. Root on Hit & Run):

It’s hardly a news flash that many people who are widely regarded as lions of the pro-market side have gone over to the dark side in recent months. I am not going to name any names; if you are one of the guilty parties, you know who you are; and the rest of us know, too, owing to your public expressions of anti-market sentiment in newspapers and on the World Wide Web. Why have so many notable economists and others jumped ship? [...]

It now appears, I am saddened to report, that these free-market experts were not so expert after all. Indeed, many of them seem to have failed to understand how markets work and how government actions can hobble or kill those workings. Many have talked as if they actually believe in vulgar Keynesianism or other crackpot ideas — about “systemic risk” where none exists or about “missing markets” for poor-quality assets that only a fool would try to sell privately when the alternative of a munificent government buyout shimmers on the horizon.

Despite the evidence of how counterproductive all of these frantic government actions have been, of how they have served above all to produce “regime uncertainty”about what the rules will be tomorrow or the next day, and thereby to paralyze private arrangements, the market’s fair weather friends are now clamoring for various species of government “stimulus” as soon as the Obama regime takes power. Of course, the Obamistas’ motives are purely political, as befits a pack of office holders and their lackeys, so it is pointless to indict them — a rattlesnake is not to be blamed if it strikes, because its nature impels it to do so. But why are well-known free-market economists going along with this nonsense?

Read the rest to get the message. And please notice the apt "rattlesnake" metaphor for politicians. Just notice it. Re-read it if you have to. And don't get confused about the meaning: It's not fundamentally about the pre-institutional character of people who pursue higher office, it's the built-in incentives and pressures of political office, and the recognition of what kind of character you have to have to get political office, that sharpen and bring out the worst in us. In short: It's the institutions, stupid!

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 27, 2008 in Libertarianism | Permalink | Comments (1)

Steve Horwitz, member in good standing, Sound and Solid Thinkers Club

Steve Horwitz, professor of economics at St. Lawrence University, and a man I've had the good fortune to eat Chinese food with, has a glorious fisking up of a blog post by Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning New York Times columnist who manages to regularly infuriate free market economists.

The discussion is about the Great Depression, and whether or not FDR managed to prolong the depression courtesy of his policies. Horwitz, an Austrian economist, is part of my Sound and Solid Thinkers Club (SSTC), membership requires radical pro-liberty positions on everything, plus a generalized distrust and aversion to anything and everything run via political, rather than market, incentives. (You, too, can join the club. Just read some Austrian economists to shore up your economic thinking, and some public choice economics to do away with your tight grip on the theory of politicians as a breed apart from the rest of us schmucks who are solely interested in the "public good." It'll remove that sacharin-sweet taste from your mouth just as soon as you do!)

Read the whole thing (of course) but here's a lovely taste:

So congratulations Professor Nobel Prize 2008, you have very successfully pushed over a strawman, making it abundantly clear you have no clue what people who you disagree with actually argue, and illustrated the fallacies of thinking in terms of "across-the-board solutions that have to be implemented." And you did it all in one short blog post. That might be a record for idiocy, even for you.

(Ha! "Professor Nobel Prize 2008." Just perfect.)

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 27, 2008 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (0)

The right stimulus plan: cut taxes

While some "pro-enterprise" and "pro-market" think tanks are calling on more government spending, and confusing everybody about the very meaning of those words, others are slowly speaking out about what would really work -- tax cuts. Now that's a pro-market position that I can endorse, and I'm glad to see that the demand for tax cuts, at least amongst certain members of the blogosphere, are gathering steam.

For example, Greg Mankiw, professor of economics at Harvard, is suggesting payroll tax cuts (albeit with increases in gasoline taxes, which I'm not keen on). He writes:

How about an immediate and permanent reduction in the payroll tax, financed by a gradual, permanent, and substantial increase in the gasoline tax? Make the two tax changes equal in present value, so while the package results in a short-run budget deficit, there is no long-term budget impact. Call it the create-jobs, save-the-environment, reduce-traffic-congestion, budget-neutral tax shift.

I'm on board with the former! (And against the latter).

Larry Lindsey has a nice payroll tax cut plan up on the Weekly Standard (which I came across via Mankiw). The snippet:

Permanent tax cuts offer a much better option. The incoming chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, has estimated that the macroeconomic benefits of tax cuts can be two to three times larger than common estimates of the benefits related to spending increases. The relative advantage of tax cuts over spending is even clearer when the recession is centered on the household balance sheet. Some relatively minor changes, like making the current 15 percent tax rate on dividends and capital gains permanent, would not only help household cash flow, but also put a floor under equity prices much as their introduction did in 2003. This would help protect against further wealth destruction and balance sheet deterioration.

But the centerpiece of any tax cut should be employment taxes: in particular, a permanent halving of the current 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax on the first $106,800 of wages, split evenly between workers and employers. The direct revenue effect of that would be a bit under $400 billion per year, roughly in line with the present quantitative needs of the economy.

There's more, of course, but this is enough, I hope, to whet your appetite, and give you, dear pro-free market, pro-small government devotee, just a little bit of reason for optimism. Because I'm looking high-and-low for reasons to feel optimistic.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 27, 2008 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Eric Posner: It's the institutions, stupid

Over at Volokh, Eric Posner has a nice post up where he lays the blame for the economic crisis on "bipartisan regulatory decisions going back decades and the Fed’s easy money policies..." and then goes on to analyze Bush's "ownership society" policies. (Those ownership society policies being privatization of social security, introduction of private health care accounts, and subsidization of home ownership.)

Roughly, the theory underpinning the "ownership society" policy planks is at least two-fold. For one, people who "own" something -- rather than rent it or lease it, or get to possess it (without title), or get to use it (again, without title) -- are more likely to take better care of it (when P owns x, P is invested in x; P cares more for x since he gets all the benefits and is stuck with all the burdens that might accrue as a result of something happening to or with x). As a direct result of the aforementioned we get, and for two, the outcome that individual owners make better decisions with respect to x.

Of course, point two is relative. Better decisions compared with some alternative decision-making device, like a government committee or some civil servants, regardless of whether or not they're "experts" in some particular field. So far, so good. That really is an important insight. Genuine, full-throated ownership does have these two outcomes of caring more and making, in general, wiser decisions.

But, as Posner points out, two out of the three policies didn't really amount to genuine "ownership" anyways, while the third was just dumb. Privatizing social security wouldn't mean citizens get to choose whether or not to make investments for their retirement, they'll have to do it, by law, but they'll get to pick investment vehicles (probably ones approved of by the state). Similarly with the private health care accounts. You have to make contributions, but at least you do have greater control over who you go to see, and you are at least motivated to compare prices.

As for the subsidy to get low income people out of their rental apartments and into a big old home? "Home ownership policy of the Bush and Clinton administrations was, in essence, an attempt to pay low-income people to make a risky investment that they would otherwise rationally avoid. I cannot understand why anyone would think that such a policy would be sensible. In some cases, these people will do well and enjoy the upside of their investment, but in other cases they will do poorly, with the result that they will be worse off than ever."

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 26, 2008 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Layton includes “Christmas” and “prayer” in holiday greeting; rock legend worship called off

Every year at this time we’re bombarded with ridiculous and sometimes disturbing stories about attempts to turn Christmas into a generic holiday with no specific religious history or meaning.

We’re told the greeting “merry Christmas” is being replaced with “season’s greetings” or “happy holidays” and that nativity scenes are being banned from the public square and public schools.

While many of these stories are sadly true, if you take a quick read of New Democrat Leader Jack Layton’s Christmas greeting you’ll still find the word “Christmas.” Layton even offers his “prayers” to Canadian soldiers serving away from home this holiday season.

Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, went further in his Christmas greeting, as you might expect, and mentioned “Christians.”

So if you are not quite ready to celebrate the not-so-immaculate conception and December 25th birth of music legends Shane MacGowan (born December 25, 1957) or Jimmy Buffett (born December 25, 1946), have no fear. Christmas still appears to be with us.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism

Jeremy Lott reviews the brand-new Encyclopedia of Libertarianism in the American Spectator here.

The upshot?:

This book will appeal to libertarians of all stripes, of course, and intellectual history buffs, as well as to anyone who has ever wondered, “I wonder what libertarians would think about X,” or even “Why would libertarians think that?” Though if you have, my friends, let me just warn you: it’s a slippery slope.

You can get the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism here.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 24, 2008 in Libertarianism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Scientists and federal law enforcement agencies

Law enforcement officials in the U.S. want to work more closely with scientists. But scientists aren't always receptive to those law enforcement officials. Scientists don't trust them as much as law enforcement agencies would like. Scientists are smart.

Read the Science Progress piece in its entirety here. Here, meanwhile, are the results of their poll on how scientists view various groups:


Sharing info2 Monitoring research 3h/t LRC

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Santa Claus is a Canadian citizen

Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration, and multiculturalism, has made Santa Claus a Canadian citizen:

“The Government of Canada wishes Santa the very best in his Christmas Eve duties and wants to let him know that, as a Canadian citizen, he has the automatic right to re-enter Canada once his trip around the world is complete,” Kenney said in an official statement.

Well, good, I guess. I wonder how many rules and regulations Santa has violated in the past by blowing by customs and immigration, failing to pay taxes on all those presents, failing to pay tariffs and duties, basically dropping off toys that haven't been inspected by the appropriate government agency, delivering drug paraphernelia like bongs and Cheech and Chong movies, and so on and so forth. Everybody relax. I'm just kidding. There is no such thing as government.

UPDATE: For U.S. government Santa-related shenanigans, see here.

h/t Bourque

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Saskatchewan lowers age of consent to 15

Saskatchewanians as young as 15 can now consent to trade their labour for money.

In the New Year, the Saskatchewan government will lower the minimum age for working in hotels, restaurants, educational institutions, hospitals and nursing homes from 16 to 15. (There is no official age restriction outside of these five sectors.)

"Every young person's education is the first priority and our government is taking steps to ensure a proper balance between work and school," said Advanced Education, Employment and Labour Minister Rob Norris. "Lowering the minimum age of employment gives Saskatchewan young people valuable opportunities to obtain work experience, while filling gaps in our labour market."

Fifteen-year-olds will not be allowed to work more than 16 hours per week and the government will also look at an absolute minimum age of employment in Saskatchewan and other employment standards to "protect the well-being of young people entering the workforce."

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Arianna Huffington: Laissez-faire capitalism should be as dead as Soviet Communism

Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, has an ascerbic piece in Real Clear Politics detailing why belief in laissez-faire capitalism should be as dead as belief in Soviet Communism.

It's time to drive the final nail into the coffin of laissez-faire capitalism by treating it like the discredited ideology it inarguably is. If not, the Dr. Frankensteins of the right will surely try to revive the monster and send it marauding through our economy once again.

I don't mind the criticism, really, even if I think it's false. I'm still hanging on tightly to what Huffington calls free market fundamentalism. I'm still convinced that the right explanation for the recent economic collapse has much less to do with the incentives and pressures operating in a free market than the incentives and pressures created by various and sundry regulations and government actions. Plenty of good analysis is out there from the free market perspective (Cato, for example, did some fine yeomens work here).

What I do mind, however, is silly criticism. Criticism like, for example, the thought that the George W. Bush administration was a free market administration. No, Arianna, Bush & co. were as free market as Pierre Elliott Trudeau was free market. Bush & co. were as much in favour of small government as Martin Luther was in favour of Roman Catholicism. (See here. And here)

And trotting out Alan Greenspan, the former Fed-in-Chief, as a man who has "seen the light" and become a newly-minted fan of government regulation is also a bit much. Of course Greenspan changed his mind when he got offered a fat salary and high priest status. It's hard not to decide that more government is the solution when you benefit a great deal from more government intrusion. If you're busy pulling the levers of power, it's hard not to decide that it's important for there to be more levers for you to pull. More levers is more power, and more power tickles our evolved psychology.

Still, Huffington's piece is well worth the read. It's a stark reminder that we shouldn't be dumb about who we support politically. Policy should be normative for casting our ballots; not character, personality, or stupid partisanship. Since Republicans are associated with free market, small government conservatism, it's free market, small government conservatism that suffers when Republicans grow the government, increase regulations, and act contrary to the principles of free markets and small government in general.

h/t Instapundit

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 24, 2008 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (5)

No Al & Mike Show this week, or next

Due to the holidays, we will not be having an Al & Mike Show either today or next week, since Wednesday falls on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve concurrently.  We will return on January 7th for a whole new year of Al & Mike at Western Standard Radio.

This downtime will allow us the time necessary to complete the technical upgrades to the A&MS studio which will be the springboard for a brand new show we'll be launching at WS Radio in the new year.  

For the technophiles/audiophiles: next week we are going to strip down the studio for rewiring, in order to expand the amount of mix-minus channels available to us, as we are maxed-out with the phone system taking up both available channels (1 for the guests, and 1 for the caller pool). In order to facilitate remote studio linkups, we need a third channel, so we're installing an outboard secondary mixer; a fairly expensive upgrade. But it should be worth it!

We'll keep you posted, as we head into what is going to be our best year yet!

Posted by Mike Brock on December 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Underwriter's Laboratories: Case study in the free market

The Christian Science Monitor has a great article on Underwriter's Laboratories, the private, all voluntary, non-profit product safety tester whose logo ("UL" in a cirlce) appears on most items.

Underwriter's Laboratories is to questions about the necessity of specifically government safety oversight, as lighthouses were to insistences that the free and open market would not produce public goods. (Did I do that right? I never can tell...)

When people insist we need some sort of government-run food or safety inspection service, I always point to UL as an example of a perfectly well-functioning non-governmental organization that takes care of it.

As for the lighthouses -- two economists, Ronald Coase and Paul Samuelson, were in an argument. Samuelson said lighthouses were a perfect example of a public good, a good that the free and open market could not provide. Coase looked through some history books and found that there were plenty of privately-run lighthouses in England pre-1836.

Underwriter's Laboratories is like lighthouses. Here's a nice excerpt from the story:

Every product they test is at the request, and the expense, of its manufacturer, who seeks out UL not because it has to – no federal law mandates safety tests for most items – but because it’s cheaper and easier than a product-injury lawsuit, Drengenberg says. In fact, most retailers won’t stock a product if it hasn’t been safety tested. But it’s all voluntary, a tidy case study of the free market at its best: bottom-line drivers of consumer good.

And all UL has is their reputation:

“We have one weapon in the factory…. The UL mark,” says Drengenberg. So UL guards it carefully, through a rigorous documentation process. Every product tested is photographed, all of its parts cataloged, and every test performed described in detail. If it passes, the manufacturer puts it on the assembly line – but at some point during production, a UL inspector will show up, unannounced, for a spot-check, making sure the company is using all the same parts UL saw on the prototype.

“I’ve gone to factories in the Far East and said, ‘Where is the circuit board soldered? I have to measure the temperature of the solder,’ ” Drengenberg remembers. “So they put me in a car, take me down the street, down some alleys, and we enter somebody’s house, and there in the living room is the little solder pot, and a man and a woman are soldering circuit boards.”

Neat. Read the rest here.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Hotties and naughties for 2008: BCCLA

The Western Standard has a made an effort to cover the work of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) in 2008.

The organization defends liberty – as they understand it – without compromise or prejudice. When it comes to protecting free speech, due process of law and other legal rights, or freedom of mobility, the BCCLA goes to the mat every time.

But this group of civil libertarians don’t always get it right. Missing from their vision of liberty is a complete understanding of property rights. In its mission statement, the organization states:

In today's democracy, our civil liberties may be threatened not only by the state, but also by powerful private organizations and employers. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association works to protect citizens from both government and private sector intrusions into our lives.

It seems like a pretty innocuous statement – and, of course, private organizations can violate our rights. But private organizations don’t – or shouldn’t -- have the same obligation as the state to treat everyone equally or fairly. 

A private business owner should be able to hire a family member instead of better qualified prospect, and live with the consequences of his poor hiring practices. A magazine publisher should be able to exclude viewpoints that conflict with his worldview even when his worldview is based on ignorance. A landlord should be able to refuse to rent to pot smokers, the Irish, pet owners, ex-cons or anyone else his prejudice or experience tells him might be a bad tenant.

Property rights -- not democracy -- provide a just foundation for authentic authority, and separate private affairs from public affairs, which is the legal basis for limited government and liberty.

That’s the way is see it, anyway.

If you want to know how the BCCLA see things, read its Hotties and Naughties list for 2008 below:



The Portland Hotel Society & the Vancouver Network of Drug Users

For bringing on the case that gave North America’s first legal supervised injection site constitutional protection from prosecution under narcotics laws.  

Peter Tinsley, Chair of the Military Police Complaint Commission 

For ordering a full hearing into the military transfer of Afghan detainees at risk of torture - the first hearing of its kind since the Somalia incident.  

Vancouver’s New City Council

For promising to give the heave-ho to Project Civil City and a bye-bye to public funding of private security guards in public space. 

Jack and Judy Aasen

Victims of an outrageous SLAPP suit, the Aasens defended themselves against a defamation claim by a private utilities owner who was involved in a dispute with several Vernon residents about utility rates.  The Aasens won at the initial hearing and then got re-SLAPPed with an appeal which found that statements made by Jack in his own home that were secretly recorded by a private detective hired by the utilities owner to entrap the Aasens were defamatory.  We salute the Aasens for fighting the good fight against libel chill (for who we do not salute, see “Naughty Number 2”).

Province of Manitoba

For instituting civilian investigation of police incidents in cases of in-custody death or serious injury.  Here’s hoping BC gets inspired. 

Victoria’s Tent City

For initiating the case that brought us the landmark legal ruling that struck down a bylaw preventing homeless people from erecting temporary shelters. 


The BC Government – Election Gag Laws

For trying to gag all the little people who might want to exercise their free speech rights during an election period.  Citizen-muzzling certainly quiets things down but it’s no way to run a democracy, folks. 

Wally Oppal, BC Attorney General 

Who says the government has no plans to change the laws to protect people like the Aasens against outrageous lawsuits designed to chill free speech on matters of public importance.  Shame on you. 

BC Transit Police

First, the tasering of fare-evaders and now, proposed police dogs on skytrains. Way to go winning those hearts and minds… 


For the appalling and unforgivable campaign of character assassination attempts against Polish immigrant, Robert Dziekanski, who died at YVR after being repeatedly tasered by RCMP officers. 


For the Mega-Bucks Censorship manoeuvre of purchasing all the outdoor advertising spaces in Vancouver for the duration of the Games so that no one can get out any anti-Olympics messaging.  Because speech isn’t free when you buy it all. 

The Federal Government

Trying to justify introducing invasive and sweeping police search practices under a secret “trade” agreement?  Continuing to transfer Afghan detainees to Afghan authorities despite the high probability of torture?  Trying to impose mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent drug offenders?  Failing to implement the recommendations of the Arar Commission? Oh gosh, it’s like a box of assorted chocolates:  so many choices and so hard to pick just one…

You can read Western Standard coverage of the BCCLA here, here, here and here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Christmas greetings from the Prime Minister

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (14)

Guinness & margaritas for the holidays?

If you're one of those people that isn't terribly religious, or who just doesn't like celebrating Christmas in the traditional ways, I have an idea for you. Maybe it's time for a holiday celebration centered on other icons...rock n' roll icons.

It turns out that there are two such individuals who hold an appropriate credential making them potentially worthy of holiday praise - both were born on Christmas day.  Shane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan (born December 25, 1957) and James William Buffett  (born December 25, 1946) hold that distinction and both are true rock n' roll icons who have a special place in the annals of music history.

Shane MacGowan, the maniacal, virtually toothless lead singer of the Pogues rose to prominence in the early 80s by single-handedly creating a then-new sound by merging punk and traditional Irish music into an infectious and irresistible groove that has been often imitated, but never duplicated.  While all of the Pogues' material and MacGowan's later solo material with the Popes is solid, it is perhaps the Pogues famous Christmas song - "Fairytale of New York" - that is MacGowan's crowning achievement (although it was co-written with band mate Jem Finer).  There are few better Christmas songs and few better songs in general.  As further proof that MacGowan is worthy of holiday praise, give "Christmas Lullaby" a listen.  It's a bit hard to find as it languishes on his solo 1996 "Christmas Party EP".  If you have a penchant for Irish music and aren't troubled by sometimes indecipherable lyrics that one critic attributed to a thick Irish accent, nearly complete loss of teeth and stupefying drunkenness,maybe this music, and this candidate for holiday-time birthday worship, is for you.

If not, maybe "Mr. Margaritaville" Jimmy Buffett is more your speed. While really a keen businessman (he makes somewhere in the tens of millions of dollars each year with his albums, best-selling books, plays, merchandise and chain of Margaritaville-themed restaurants), this Christmas birthday boy has written some of the finest fun-centered music of the past four decades. 

Give any of the early "A1A" or "Havana Daydreamin'", the mid-career "Floridays" or "Fruitcakes" or the more recent "Far Side of the World" or "License to Chill" a listen and you will be instantly transported from the dreary, freezing cold days of the 2008 Western Canadian winter and into a sunny, tropical place filled with crazy characters, beautiful people, "boat drinks" and cool breezes.  Truly a celebration of Buffett's birthday could bring about some relief from the cold, the typical year-end holiday celebrations and the rampant commercialism that tarnishes Christmas these days. 

So instead of eggnog, maybe crack a Guinness or whip yourself up a frosty margarita. Instead of a Santa Claus suit, throw on some novelty rotten teeth, or a tacky Hawaiian shirt or hula skirt (or both).  Instead of watching "Miracle On 34th Street", watch MacGowan test his acting chops in "Straight To Hell" this holiday season, or watch Buffett's cameo where he plays a one-armed heckler in "Ty Cobb." 

Just a thought......

Posted by Knox Harrington on December 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Most Canadians think an auto bailout is unwise: poll

Struggling North American automakers are looking for bailouts, and the U.S. and Canadian federal governments have committed $14 billion and $4 billion respectively so far.

But a new Ipsos Reid poll shows that a majority of Canadians (58%) think it's unwise for the federal government to provide this assistance because it would set a precedent for other protectionist measures and industry bailouts, and there is no guarantee the auto companies will survive even with this support.

Canadians are right to be skeptical, according to a recent report by the Fraser Institute:

“While corporate begging has become even more blatant this year, the fundamental truth has not changed. Business subsidies, bailouts, or loans are all forms of corporate welfare that transfer tax dollars and employment from healthy businesses to risky businesses,” said Mark Milke, author of the report, Corporate Welfare: Now a $182 Billion Addiction. “Government intervention only delays the day of reckoning and often at the expense of other businesses and a healthy industry and economy.”

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 23, 2008 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (8)

A look at the 18 new Senators and the Aboriginal Chief who didn't make the list

In “Tory fundraiser among those rumoured for Senate seats,” I wrote:

Brian Laghi with the Globe and Mail is reporting today that the Harper Conservatives are expected to appoint Irving Gerstein, the party’s chief fundraiser, to the Senate along with 17 other appointments the Prime Minister is expected to make as early as Monday.

Others rumoured for Senate appointments are former Canadian Alliance interim party leader John Reynolds, Ontario PC MPP Norm Sterling, former ski star Nancy Greene, former Nova Scotia premier John Hamm, and B.C. aboriginal Chief Clarence Louie.

In the list below of the 18 newly appointed Senators, you’ll find Gerstein and Green, but you won’t find Reynolds, Sterling, Hamm or Chief Louie. Two out of six isn’t bad as far as political rumours go.

I’m most disappointed not to see Chief Louie on the list. Louie believes that only tough love and economic development will rebuild native communities. This native leader was the subject of Ric Dolphin's article “All for benevolent dictatorship.” If Dolphin thinks he’s alright, that’s good enough for me.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Fabian Manning has dedicated his career to serving Newfoundlanders and Labradorians at all three levels of government.  A three term councilor in the town of St. Brides, Mr. Manning served as coordinator for the Cape Shore Area Development Association for three years.  Mr. Manning would go on to win three elections to the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly as the representative for Placentia – St. Mary’s.  Mr. Manning was subsequently elected as Member of Parliament in the federal constituency of Avalon in the 2006 Federal Election campaign.  Mr. Manning would go on to chair both the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans as well as the Conservative Government’s Atlantic caucus.

Nova Scotia

Fred Dickson, QC is both one of Nova Scotia’s most respected lawyers and one of Canada’s top legal experts on offshore resource development.  Mr. Dickson is counsel with the law firm of McInnes Cooper.  Mr. Dickson has advised the federal and provincial government’s on numerous resource and infrastructure projects, including serving as an advisor to the Government of Nova Scotia during the singing of the 1982 and 1985 Canada / Nova Scotia Offshore Oil and Gas Agreements.  Mr. Dickson remains active in these files as a Director of the Offshore / Onshore Technologies Association of Nova Scotia and Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships.

Stephen Greene has political and policy experience at both the federal and provincial levels.  Mr. Greene served as Chief of Staff in the Leader’s Office of the Reform Party of Canada from 1993 and 1996 during which he helped manage the opposition response to the national unity and fiscal issues of the day.  He went on to work as the Executive Director of the Insurance Brokers Association of Nova Scotia.  For the past two years he has served as Principal Secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff to Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald with wide responsibilities to help the Premier administer an effective government for all Nova Scotians.

Michael L. MacDonald is a Nova Scotia businessman who since 1988 has been the owner and President of Fleur de Lis Motel Ltd. Mr. MacDonald had previously served terms as executive assistant to two federal cabinet ministers and the premier of Nova Scotia.  A graduate of the University of King’s College and Dalhousie University, Mr. MacDonald has been an activist and volunteer with the federal and provincial Conservative parties since university, and is presently Vice-President of the Conservative Party of Canada and a two-term representative for Nova Scotia on the party’s national executive. A native of Louisbourg, Mr. MacDonald is a long-time resident of Dartmouth where he resides with his wife and two teenaged sons. 

Prince Edward Island

Michael Duffy is one of Canada's most well known and respected news personalities and the current host of CTV's daily program, Mike Duffy Live.  Mr. Duffy joined CBC Radio News in 1974, switched to CBC TV’s “The National” in 1978, and joined CTV in 1988.  He is a member of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.  Mr. Duffy is involved in a number of charitable activities both in Ottawa and in his home province, including the UPEI Building fund, and the current Holland College Foundation Fundraising campaign.  He has been a visiting fellow at Duke University; and has been twice nominated for the “Best in the Business” award by the Washington Journalism Review. Mr. Duffy has received many other awards and citations, and honourary degrees from the University of PEI; from Niagara University in Niagara Falls, NY; and from Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford.

New Brunswick

Percy Mockler has been a long-time MLA in the New Brunswick legislature since he was first elected in 1982. During his time in the provincial legislature, Mr. Mockler served in a number of portfolio's including Minister of Wellness, Culture and Sport, Solicitor General and Minister of Human Resources  Development and Housing. Mr. Mockler is a former advisory member for trade opportunities strategy with the federal Department of External Affairs. He has also been active in community affairs as treasurer of local fish and wildlife associations, a director of the caisse populaire, and as a member and chair of his local school board.

John D. Wallace was born in Rothesay, NB and had a distinguished law career in Saint John.  Most recently, he served for 7 years as Partner/Counsel at the law firm of Stewart McKelvey.  Previously he had been Corporate Counsel for Irving Oil Limited and a Partner at Palmer, O’Connell, Leger, Turnbull and Turnbull.  Mr. Wallace continued his community service after retiring from law.  He is a Member of the University of New Brunswick Board of Governors, the St. John Imperial Theatre Capital Campaign Cabinet and the New Brunswick Symphony Steering Committee. Mr. Wallace was the Telegraph-Journal Male Newsmaker of the Year in 2002 and became a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003.


Patrick Brazeau is a member of the Algonquin Nation and a citizen of the Indian reserve of Kitigan Zibi, near Maniwaki, Quebec.  A champion of the rights of Aboriginals, in 2006, he was chosen as the National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.  He used this forum to promote the economic and social development of Aboriginals, especially those who live off-reserve. Mr. Brazeau has a black belt in karate and was a member of the Naval Reserve on HMCS Carleton, in Ottawa.

Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis was born in Chicoutimi and studied at the École des Beaux-arts de Québec and at Laval University, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in visual arts and a certificate in college education. She was a teacher at the regional school board Louis-Fréchette. In 1981, she became the first woman to be elected to the Municipal Council of the City of Sainte-Foy. She became active in federal politics and was elected as the MP for the riding of Louis-Hébert from 1984 to 1993. Ms. Fortin-Duplessis has always been involved in the community. During her career, she was a member of the board of the Alzheimer Society and the Fondation de l’Opéra de Québec, and she is a member of the Laval hospital and the Saint-Sacrement hospital foundations. More recently, she was a volunteer for the International Eucharistic Congress.

Leo Housakos was born in Montreal and studied at Cégep Vanier and at McGill University, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in arts, with a major in political science and history. In 1993, he co-founded the Montreal Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and is currently a Director of Via Rail Canada.Throughout his business career he has held important management positions in several companies, including Quadvision Consultants and Terrau. Mr. Housakos is married and is the father of two children.

Michel Rivard studied in Quebec City and spent the most part of his professional life in public administration. He was President of the Corporation des maîtres entrepreneurs en réfrigération du Québec, then Mayor of Beauport from 1980 to 1984. Mr. Rivard was director of a number of organizations, and was President of the Executive Committee of the Communauté Urbaine de Québec. In 1994, he was elected at the Assemblée nationale as the MNA for Limoilou. He was Regional Delegate for the region of Quebec and parliamentary Assistant of the Minister responsible for the region of Quebec.


Nicole Eaton has devoted much of her life to serving her community in varying degrees through her participation and leadership in a number of charitable organizations, foundations and the arts. Presently she is Director and Vice-Chair of St. Michael's Hospital Foundation, Director and Vice-Chair the National Ballet of Canada and Chair of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. Previously, Ms Eaton has served in varying capacities on a number of other organizations, including the Royal Ontario Museum, the George R. Gardiner Museum, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and the Stratford Festival of Canada. Ms Eaton is also a columnist for the newspaper the National Post and is co-author of two publications.

Irving Gerstein, C.M., O. Ont is a businessman and corporate director.  A Member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario, Mr. Gerstein has been involved in politics for over 40 years, including service as Chair of the Conservative Fund Canada. He is an Honourary Director of Mount Sinai Hospital (Toronto), having previously served as Chairman of the Board, Chairman Emeritus, and a director over a period of twenty-five years.  He is a director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and a former Chairman of the Young Presidents Organization.  Mr. Gerstein graduated from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, University of Pennsylvania, and attended The London School of Economics.


Pamela Wallin, O.C., S.O.M is an award winning journalist whose career stretches back more than three decades.  Ms. Wallin is most recognized from her time at CTV where she co-hosted Canada AM and later served as CTV’s Ottawa Bureau chief.  Ms. Wallin would subsequently form her own production company Pamela Wallin Productions Inc.  Ms. Wallin has remained active in public life as Chancellor of the University of Guelph and Senior Advisor on Canada-US relations to the President of the Americas Society and the Council of the Americas.  In 2007, Prime Minister Harper appointed Ms. Wallin to the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan.  Ms. Wallin has agreed to step down as Senator and submit her name as a candidate when Saskatchewan holds its first legislated Senate election.

British Columbia

Nancy Greene Raine, O.C., OBC was Canada’s female athlete of the last century by the Canadian Press and Broadcast News.  She won gold and silver medals in alpine skiing at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics and overall World Cup titles in 1967 and 1968. Her total of 14 World Cup victories (including the Olympics) is still a Canadian record. During her nine-year career Nancy won a total of 17 Canadian Championship titles.  Since retiring from active competition, she has worked to promote the sport and was instrumental in the early development of the Whistler-Blackcomb Resort.  Since 1994 she has been Director of Skiing at Sun Peaks Resort and since 2005 she has been Chancellor of Thompson Rivers University.  Ms. Green Raine is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a member of both Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.

Yonah Martin has deep roots in both Korean and Canadian heritage and has spent her life building bridges between different cultural communities in BC.  Born in Seoul, South Korea, before immigrating to Canada 1972, Ms. Martin is the co-founder of the Corean Canadian Coactive (C3) society and has served on the Multicultural Advisory Council of BC, the Vancouver Korean Canadian Scholarship Foundation, the Kateslem After School Club and the Coquitlam Festival Planners Network.  Ms. Martin has also been active in political life as a candidate in the constituency of New Westminster-Coquitlam.  In 2004 Ms. Martin received ‘Spirit of Community’ award for her service in the Tri-Cities Area. 

Richard Neufeld has spent close to two decades in public service to the people of British Columbia.  First elected to represent the riding of Peace River North in 1991, Mr. Neufeld has been re-elected on three separate occasions.  Since 2001 Mr. Neufeld has served as British Columbia’s Minister of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources.  Mr. Neufeld has also served as the on the council of Fort Nelson, including five years as mayor.  Prior to his involvement in public life, Mr. Neufeld owned and operated his own business.

Hector Daniel Lang has made the Yukon his home for more than 50 years.  Born in 1948 in Dawson Creek, BC, he moved with his family to Whitehorse where he completed high school, and later attended the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.  First elected to the Yukon Legislative Assembly in 1974, Mr Lang served 5 consecutive terms, retiring from the legislature in 1992.  Over the course of his 18 years in elected office he was responsible for numerous Ministerial portfolios and later served in the opposition.  Since 1992, Mr. Lang has worked as a Sales Associate in the Yukon Real Estate industry.  Active in community affairs, he is currently the Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors for Yukon College. He has four children and three grandchildren, who reside in Whitehorse. Mr Lang presently lives in Whitehorse with his partner Valerie Hodgson, a local artist.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Esquire interviews libertarian Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood does not often sit down for interviews with anyone. But the latest interview with Esquire magazine reads like a series of aphorisms, and there's plenty of good ones. Take this one for example:

My father had a couple of kids at the beginning of the Depression. There was not much employment. Not much welfare. People barely got by. People were tougher then.

The sentiment doesn't differ much from that in the rest of the piece. Eastwood is convinced that people nowadays are softer, less self-reliant, and a bunch of pansies, to be blunt. For example:

We live in more of a pussy generation now, where everybody's become used to saying, "Well, how do we handle it psychologically?" In those days, you just punched the bully back and duked it out. Even if the guy was older and could push you around, at least you were respected for fighting back, and you'd be left alone from then on.[...]

I don't know if I can tell you exactly when the pussy generation started. Maybe when people started asking about the meaning of life.

But apart from the wussified psychology of the contemporary American, there are also the lawyers, and the modern-day obsession with safety:

I remember going to a huge waterfall on a glacier in Iceland. People were there on a rock-platform overlook to see it. They had their kids. There was a place that wasn't sealed off, but it had a cable that stopped anybody from going past a certain point. I said to myself, You know, in the States they'd have that hurricane-fenced off, because they're afraid somebody's gonna fall and some lawyer's going to appear. There, the mentality was like it was in America in the old days: If you fall, you're stupid.

You can't stop everything from happening. But we've gotten to a point where we're certainly trying. If a car doesn't have four hundred air bags in it, then it's no good.

Even so, there's still a world-wide yearning for the cowboys of the frontier days, as evidenced by the love affair everyone has for westerns:

People love westerns worldwide. There's something fantasylike about an individual fighting the elements. Or even bad guys and the elements. It's a simpler time. There's no organized laws and stuff.

In 1986, Eastwood ran for mayor of Carmel, California. He won. Here's his take on becoming mayor:

Winning the election is a good-news, bad-news kind of thing. Okay, now you're the mayor. The bad news is, now you're the mayor.

It's making sure that the words "public servant" are not forgotten. That's why I did it. 'Cause I thought, I don't need this. The fact that I didn't need it made me think I could do more. It's the people who need it that I'm suspect of.

I really like the picture that emerges of Clint Eastwood, and the style of the interview is an interesting format to pursue. Instead of the standard question-and-answer format, the interviewer culled lines that could stand on their own, and ran with them as a collection of thoughtful and interesting takes on random things by Eastwood. And Eastwood, it turns out, has learned a lot that's worth sharing.

Read the interview here.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Lemieux: A propaganda push

This week, Pierre Lemieux digs into the Quebec education system; although, in my experience, his remarks apply to public schools across Canada.

In Quebec, students must participate in an "Ethics and Religious Culture programme." Sounds good, right? Some background in ethics might counteract the tendency toward moral relativism one sees in these students once they get to college.

Unfortunately, the program is a sham. Examining an internal document on the program he was able to find on the Quebec government's website, Lemieux finds it to be "soft, New Age propaganda."

Each time “freedom” is mentioned in the stealth 79-page document, it is to show how vague the concept is: “there are many ways to consider freedom” and “its exercise implies constraints and obligations”. The big constraint is “the common good”, never defined but apparently meaning that we must obey all the fashionable “democratic” diktats like anti-sexism and smoking prohibitions.

So much for the "ethics" in the "Ethics and Religious Culture programme." What about culture? As Lemieux points out, the program offers none. Here, he makes an important point:

There is not much literature and history in Québec, but there is a lot in Western culture, especially in the two great traditions that have influenced us: the Anglo-American and the French. Instead of referring and deferring to them, the Québec state prefers to invoke a made-to-measure statist culture. It’s easy to understand why: the more young Quebecers are cut from universal traditions and trends, the more they will be dependent on the local tyrant.

Thus, perhaps Quebec's education program is weak at least partly by design.

Read the rest of Pierre Lemieux's column here.

Posted by Terrence Watson on December 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Kenney keeps Christ in Christmas in holiday greeting

I guess Jason Kenney didn't get the memo insisting on generic, secular greetings this "holiday season." The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and, yes, Multiculturalism, issued a statement today on Christmas that mentioned -- are you sitting down? -- "Christians":

“I am pleased to offer my very best wishes as the celebration of Christmas approaches.

“Christmas is a time of profound importance to Christians from every corner of the world who have come to Canada to help build our nation.

“We are very fortunate to live in a country that enjoys peace and stability, a country that embraces the many cultures of the world and finds great strength in the coming together of diverse cultures.

“During this season of hope and joy, we are also encouraged to act with compassion toward those less fortunate than ourselves.

“I wish you and your family a peaceful Christmas time, as we give thanks for the many gifts that we have in our own lives and share those gifts with our families and communities.

“As Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, I extend sincere and warm wishes for a merry Christmas and a productive New Year.”

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3)

A Liberal who can make a video

The Tories should be shaking in their little booties, this is no amateur effort. A "very merry Christmas" from Michael Ignatieff:

Posted by Kalim Kassam on December 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Why would Politicians support bailouts that a majority opposes?

I can't stand the corporate welfare that has exploded over the last few months. It seems like politicians don't understand the harm that bailouts or subsidies do to people. They are taking capital away from the economy and giving it companies that have already proven that they are failures. This strikes down any entrepreneurial spirit that Canada has; this stops new jobs from being created.

I am heartened to learn that a majority of Canadians understand this, or if not this same point exactly, then they have come to the same conclusion. According to the National Post 58% of Canadians are against giving public funds to the auto industry.

There are two details in this poll that are important to consider.

The first is that at no point did the surveyor use the term bailout. According to the Post they used the word 'assistance.' This indicates that people are likely to see through most of the Liberal-NDP spin. The people aren't stupid. You can fool them certainly but you can't fool them forever. These bailouts have been going on for at least 20 years. People know that they aren't working.

The second thing to consider is the regional differences in opinion. To be more exact you should consider the fact that Ontario is the only place that has majority support for giving money to auto companies.

I'll be surprised if anyone finds this surprising. Many an Ontarian would either directly benefit from a bailout or knows someone who will. This is a little less abstract for them. In this we find the problem; the reason that most politicians are supporting the bailouts. A majority of Canadians may oppose it, even the support in Ontario is pretty thin. But the people who want it cares more than the people that don't.

An autoworker who lost their job is almost guaranteed to vote for a party that will give the corporations the most money. Everyone else may be pissed about it, but they are not guaranteed to vote for the party that gives the least or even no money. That is the calculation that every politicians make, and that is why most of our elected officials support something that most people do not.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on December 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (15)

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Pimping" speeding cameras in Maryland and Australia

In Maryland, teens are using speeding cameras to "exact revenge." Here's the story from the Sentinel:

As a prank, students from local high schools have been taking advantage of the county's Speed Camera Program in order to exact revenge on people who they believe have wronged them in the past, including other students and even teachers.

Students from Richard Montgomery High School dubbed the prank the Speed Camera "Pimping" game, according to a parent of a student enrolled at one of the high schools.

Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.

Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.

"This game is very disturbing," the parent said. "Especially since unsuspecting parents will also be victimized through receipt of unwarranted photo speed tickets.

The parent said that "our civil rights are exploited," and the entire premise behind the Speed Camera Program is called into question as a result of the growing this fad among students.

U.S. teens are not the only ones to engage in this sort of mischief. Australian youngsters are also taking advantage of speeding cameras for a much more appropriate form of vengeance:

Australian trouble-makers

h/t LRC

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Steve Chapman: Inflation will save the economy

Published in reason magazine, Steve Chapman insists that what the U.S. economy needs now is some "modest" inflation:

...Most of our problems stem from the bursting of the housing bubble. That sent home prices plunging, which reduced the value of mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, which caused losses at banks, which forced a cutback in lending, which squelched consumer spending, which brought the economy to a halt. Which started the whole miserable cycle over again.

But if the crisis stems from declining real estate values, why not stop them from declining? A spell of inflation would arrest the slide by pushing up the price of everything. As home prices stabilize, mortgage-backed securities would regain value, banks would get financially stronger, and loan officers would stop hiding in the vault.

Anthony Gregory, over on the Lew Rockwell blog, takes issue with Chapman's analysis. Writes Gregory:

"Here we see the classic Keynesian argument that monetary policy is a balancing game between inflation and recession. But of course, we will have both, just like in the 1970s when the Keynesians were astonished to see that rising prices and rising unemployment are not mutually exclusive."

I happen to agree with Gregory and, in general, the Lew Rockwell crowd when it comes to economic policy.

But what I don't like is the manner in which the Lew Rockwell crowd has decided to deal with reason magazine. In particular, it's a lack of manners (and a bit of dishonesty). For example, the blog post criticizing Chapman is entitled "Reason: Inflation will save the economy, liberty" implying that it is the position of reason magazine, rather than Steven Chapman, that inflation would be a good idea right now. Of course, we can't conclude that from the article. All we can conclude is that reason saw fit to publish the piece in the magazine, possibly just for the sake of conversation and debate.

This is part of a broader trend on the Lew Rockwell blog that I'm not happy with -- a trend of purging reasonoids in particular, and Catoites and "beltway libertarians" (a pejorative expression for the libertarians in Washington D.C.) more generally, from the broader libertarian movement for publishing certain articles, or holding certain opinions, that don't mesh with the preferred libertarian doctrine (PLD).

Apostasy from PLD will not be tolerated, and all deviations from PLD will be chronicled (for example, take a look at this). I tend to think that this is unfair.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (8)

Ron Paul and Peter Schiff: They were right then, they are right now

During the Ron Paul for President campaign, several YouTubers put together some rousing videos for a man who wasn't particularly eloquent, who didn't appeal to the politics of identity, whose personality amounted to a quiet, grandfatherly figure who was busy lamenting the loss of liberty in the past, and the loss of liberty to come through a financial collapse. Ron Paul didn't win. But Ron Paul, with Peter Schiff as his economic adviser, was right about the collapse. Schiff and Paul were right about the housing bubble, the credit collapse, and (I suspect) they're right about the disaster the Keynesian bailout packages will prove to be.

More recently, Peter Schiff has become something of a YouTube star himself. His predictions, on various financial shows, are summarized in videos like these ones, and are receiving 10s of thousands of hits. Here's the most recent video someone has put together:

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on December 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Nancy Greene Raine and 17 others to the Senate

You might be wondering why Nancy Greene Raine was one of the18 Senate appointments announced today. Of course, she's one of the greatest athletes the country has ever produced. But she also possesses a fairly sharp political mind, one that tilts decidedly to the right.

I wrote a cover story on her back in the mid-1990s for BC Report, after she won the big "What I would do if I were Prime Minister" contest, sponsored annually by Magna International, Frank Stronach's company. The contest used to have two categories: one for student submissions, and one comprising 10 invited essay writers. Greene's common-sense conservative entry was judged to be the best of the invited ones.

The contest now seems to have morphed into a TV show called Canada's Next Great Prime Minister.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on December 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Former Libertarian leader Brisson wins his case against mandatory bilingual sign bylaw

Jean-serge-shadow150 On Friday, Jean-Serge Brisson, former Libertarian Party leader, won his court case against the mandatory bilingual sign bylaw in Russell, Ontario.

Brisson received a fine from the municipality of Russell for putting up a sign on his business in French-only in violation of a bylaw passed in June making it mandatory for all exterior signs to be in both official languages. The bylaw offended English rights advocates like those with Canadians for Language Fairness, and it also offended Brisson, a Francophone, who immediately set out to erect a French-only sign to challenge the bylaw.

Because of the some ambiguity in the bylaw with respect to the maintenance of existing signs, Brisson won his case on a technicality. That’s not, however, how Brisson wanted things to go down. When he attempted to challenge the absurdity of the law itself, the judge immediately said that he did not have the authority to deal with that particular matter and would not entertain Brisson’s argument.

In the end, a win is a win. Brisson thumbed his freedom-loving nose at the bad law and won.

“So now I’m hoping that the people who were waiting for this decision to come about will start calling the municipality of Russell and complain that I have a sign in one language only, French, and that it is infringing on the bylaw that makes it illegal to have a sign that does not have both official languages on it,” said Brisson.

Brisson is no stranger to civil disobedience. According to his Wikipedia page:

He spent twenty days in jail in 2000 after being convicted of driving while under suspension for not paying a seatbelt-related charge dating back to 1989, and was placed in solitary confinement after starting a hunger strike. At the time of his incarceration, his unpaid fines relating to seatbelt violations and driving while under suspension totalled over $12,000.

Brisson has also not submitted an income tax return since 1991, has never collected the federal Goods and Services Tax (GST), and has not collected the provincial sales tax since 1991.

Brisson resigned as Libertarian Party leader in May to focus on Ontario provincial politics with the Ontario Libertarian Party. He is currently serving a 90-day sentence on weekends for his ongoing refusal to wear a seatbelt.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 21, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink | Comments (6)

Prime Minister Harper and Ontario Premier McGuinty announce $4 billion in financial support for the auto industry

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced Saturday that Canadian automakers will $4 billion in loans.

The money will go to General Motors and Chrysler through Export Development Canada (EDC).

“This is a regrettable but necessary step to protect the Canadian economy,” said Prime Minister Harper. “Canadian taxpayers now expect their money will be used to restructure and renew the automotive industry in this country and ensure that Canada maintains our current production share of the North American market.”

“Here in Ontario, we’ve got thousands of people, and their families, who rely on the auto industry to be on firm ground, so they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. What the Prime Minister and I are saying is that those people and their jobs are worth fighting for," said Premier McGuinty.

The automotive industry in Canada directly represents 14 percent of the country’s manufacturing output, 23 percent of manufactured exports, and directly employs over 150,000 Canadians. It is the country’s largest industry within the manufacturing sector.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 21, 2008 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (21)

Canadian tab for corporate welfare exceeds $180 billion, not including $4 billion for automakers announced Saturday

While John Maynard Keynes – the ghost of economics past – haunts central planners and central bankers caught in the grip of stimulus mania, a new Fraser Institute report reveals that Canadian taxpayers have already spent $182 billion on corporate welfare between 1994 and 2006 – and they’re not getting much for their money.

$185 billion works out to $13,639 per taxpayer over that twelve-year period or $1,291 per taxpayer in 2006 alone.

“While corporate begging has become even more blatant this year, the fundamental truth has not changed. Business subsidies, bailouts, or loans are all forms of corporate welfare that transfer tax dollars and employment from healthy businesses to risky businesses,” said Mark Milke, author of the report, Corporate Welfare: Now a $182 Billion Addiction. “Government intervention only delays the day of reckoning and often at the expense of other businesses and a healthy industry and economy.”

With $4 billion in government loans committed on Saturday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty to the auto industry, Milke points out that since 2004 the federal and Ontario governments together gave $752 million to the automotive industry, including $200 million for Ford, $200 million for GM, and $125 million for Toyota. Will additional billions in corporate welfare really make a difference this time?

"Even though research does not support claims that corporate welfare contributes to widespread economic growth, governments continue to pursue these policies because they want to be seen to be doing something,” Milke said. “By subsidizing or bailing out failing businesses, politicians can tell voters they are saving jobs, or they can appeal to voters with interests in specific industries.”

Here are some highlights from Corporate Welfare: Now a $182 Billion Addiction:

• Between 1994 and 2006, the last year for which statistics are available, Canada’s federal, provincial, and local governments spent $182.4 billion on subsidies to business.

• In 2006 alone, Canada’s federal, provincial, and local governments spent $19.3 billion on corporate welfare, almost double the 1995 figure of $10.3 billion.

• The total corporate welfare bill (federal, provincial, and municipal) has ranged from a low of $9.9 billion in 1996 to a high of almost $20 billion in 2005. In 2006, it amounted to $19.3 billion.

• The cost to each taxpayer who paid income tax in 2006 was $1,291, which was 38% higher than the 1995 figure of $934.

• Over 12 years, the total cost per tax filer who paid tax amounted to $13,639 per person (all figures adjusted for inflation to 2008 dollars).

• Between 1994 and 2006, provincial governments spent $98.5 billion on corporate welfare, while the federal government spent $61.4 billion and municipal governments spent $22.5 billion.

• Among provincial governments, the province which disburses the most amount of public money to corporations is Quebec, with over $5.4 billion in corporate welfare in 2006. Quebec was followed by Ontario at $2.4 billion and Alberta at almost $1.5 billion, with British Columbia fourth at just under $950 million.

“With multiple companies lining up around the world for government-financed grants, loans and loan guarantees, bailouts for one company in trouble will merely make it more difficult for other healthy competitors in a tough economic environment,” Milke said.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 21, 2008 in Economic freedom | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saskatchewan now has more people and less unemployment; Alberta has marketing plan for “dirty oil” reputation

According to Statistic Canada data released yesterday, Saskatchewan continues to lead the nation with a 4.8 per cent drop in people receiving Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.

While the rest of the country averaged a 6.3 per cent increase in people receiving EI benefits, in Saskatchewan there were 8,300 people receiving EI benefits in October 2008 - a decrease of nearly five per cent from the same month one year ago. This is the largest drop in EI beneficiaries of all provinces.

"Saskatchewan's economy continues to be stable during this time of unrest," said Advanced Education, Employment and Labour Minister Rob Norris. "Our government is pleased to see positive numbers coming out each month, and we continue to take steps to ensure our economy remains strong and all Saskatchewan people benefit from it."

This strong economy is attracting people to the province in record numbers.

Saskatchewan's population continues to grow rapidly and has now topped 1,020,000 for the first time since 1989.

As of October 1, 2008, there were 1,020,847 people living in Saskatchewan. That's an increase of 4,862 since July 1, 2008 and an increase of 15,007 since October 1, 2007.

In the third quarter of 2008, Saskatchewan enjoyed net inter-provincial in-migration - number of people moving in minus number of people moving out - of 2,064 people.

Almost half of that increase came from Alberta, as Saskatchewan had net migration from Alberta of 1,016 people. Overall, Saskatchewan had the highest net migration of all the provinces.

"After many years of more people moving out of Saskatchewan, we now have a lot more people moving in," said Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. "It speaks to the relative strength of our economy and the tremendous number of opportunities now available in our province.”

Back in Alberta, instead of plan to improve Alberta’s energy sector suffering under massive new taxes and low commodity prices, Premier Ed Stelmach put on a show of fake indignation at a press conference last week over Alberta’s reputation among Greenpeace-types for producing “dirty oil.”

Stelmach’s plan for Alberta’s economy is to ignore the province’s increasingly hostile business tax and regulatory environment and to spend money on a marketing campaign to promote Alberta’s clean oil globally.

Perversely, Stelmach’s New Royalty Framework energy tax scheme is ensuring that Alberta will produce a lot less of this so-called dirty oil as major oil sands and conventional energy projects are put on hold.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (9)

Tory fundraiser among those rumoured for Senate seats

Brian Laghi with the Globe and Mail is reporting today that the Harper Conservatives are expected to appoint Irving Gerstein, the party’s chief fundraiser, to the Senate along with 17 other appointments the Prime Minister is expected to make as early as Monday.

Others rumoured for Senate appointments are former Canadian Alliance interim party leader John Reynolds, Ontario PC MPP Norm Sterling, former ski star Nancy Greene, former Nova Scotia premier John Hamm, and B.C. aboriginal Chief Clarence Louie.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3)

One man’s villain is another man’s freedom fighter: Democratic Talk Radio.com releases 2008 Villain & Hero Awards

Democratic Talk Radio.com, launched in 2004 by host Stephen Crockett to spread the message of the Democratic Party, has released its 2008 Villain & Hero Awards.

Knowing who left-wing statists like Crockett regard as villains might give those of us in the freedom movement some insight into who’s fighting the good fight on our side.

It’s been a particularly villainous year apparently as Crockett has selected three “Villains of 2008.”

His first choice is Fox News. The left loves to hate Fox News.

Less predictably, his second winner for political villain in 2008 is George McGovern. The former Democratic president has allied himself recently with anti-union forces.

Crockett’s third choice is Senate Republicans including Corker of Tennessee, Shelby of Alabama, McConnell of Kentucky, and Vitter of Louisiana for their opposition to auto sector subsidies and bailouts.

Fox News, George McGovern and Senate Republicans have clearly distinguished themselves in 2008.

Crockett’s 2008 Hero Award goes to Al Franken. The noisy Saturday Night Live comedian, Franken, is still trying to win the 2008 Minnesota Senate race against Republican opponent Norm Coleman. Franken and Coleman have been in a politically charged recount process since the November vote which originally gave the race to Coleman. A report today by the Weekly Standard suggests Franken may be trailing by as few as two votes.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on December 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)