Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Canada’s Weird and Less then Wonderful Immigration System

Canada’s immigration system is a mess. The country allows in too many refugees, and the rules that guide who one can sponsor outside of one’s immediate family are puzzling to say the least. For example, one can sponsor one’s parents or absurdly grandparents but a not an adult sibling or adult child. All in all, the ability to sponsor older adults is far too easy.

The skilled worker category is equally puzzling. It is weighted, accidently I am sure, in such a way as to favor older applicants over younger ones. A premium is placed on experience, being married is advantageous and age is not penalized much at all. For example, a 49 year old is given the same number of points for age as a 21 year old. All this is completely at odds with the stated aim of using immigration to mediate some of the stresses of having a low birth rate, a shrinking supply of labour and a graying population. Canada needs immigrants and probably needs more than we are already letting in. However, the average age of immigrant to Canada is 37; this is the same age of the average native born Canadian resident.

Now, in order to get at appreciation for some of the short comings of the current points system consider this. Under the current formula, a single 28 year old who has just completed a PHD in Canada, and who speaks perfect English, but who lacks relevant work experience and is not proficient in French would likely not qualify. Indeed, assuming no family ties and no relevant work experience, they would score 56 out of 100. In other words, if they were not able to quickly secure a job in one of the relevant fields, they would be heading back to their country of origin in short order. Even, if that same applicant spoke perfect French and English they would still not qualify. They would score 64 out of 100.

By contrast a 49 year old who has never set foot in the country and speaks no French but has a BA, 3 years experience, moderate English skills a spouse with a 1 year diploma, and a cousin in distant Canadian city would score 67! This is absurd.

That is why I say that instead of offering just 5 points for completing a graduate degree in Canada an applicant should be given 16 points. Taking a graduate degree in Canada should place a foreigner on the road to becoming a Canadian citizen.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The CBC’s At Issue Panel Nails It: The Liberal Party is a Mess and Dion Has Been a Disaster So Far

The CBC’s At Issue panel nailed it on Thursday. http://www.cbc.ca/national/blog/video/politicseconomy/at_issue_whither_the_liberals.html

Andrew Coyne: “I am not sure anybody knows [what the Liberal party stands for] least of all the Liberals.”

Gordan Gibson: “They [The Liberal Party] have got to develop policy and they haven’t.”

Russo: “What the Liberal party has become is a party of nostalgia.”

Hebert: “Sometimes a rebirth [the 2006 Liberal leadership convention] is a stillbirth.”

The Liberal Party is a party without a soul, without courage, without direction, and without policy. Above all else, the party is hopelessly conservative.

The center point on the political spectrum is not achieved by splitting the difference between what the NDP say and the Conservatives say. What lies between the two is not fertile ground, but rather a desolate no mans land. The Liberal party brass does not seem to realize this. They love pasting together Conservative and NDP talking points to create a shit mix. Afghanistan is a great case in point. Talking points are not starting points. They are an end points. They must flow from a coherent position

Worse, the Liberals approach is entirely passive when it should be active. They should not seek to occupy the political center but to define what is central to being Canadian and let the Conservatives position themselves on the right of that vision and the NDP on the left. This is a daunting task, but it has done before. What we think of Canada is really the Liberal vision of the country under Trudeau and Pearson.

The Liberals need to again duplicate Trudeau and Pearson approach circa 63 through 68. They have to attract those on the left by proposing universal social programs and they need to bring libertarians under their tent by pursuing socially liberal ends. Finally, they have to tie this too approaches together using pragmatic Red Tory language.

The $64,000 question is what polices to pursue.


Legalize Euthanasia
Legalize marijuana
Long term legalize prostitution

Social Democrats

Universal Pharmacare program
4 weeks vacation for all Canadians
Universal dental care
Universal Child care

Long term preconditions for success

Deal with under representation of the cities in the House of Commons

Introduce mandatory voting; As long as seniors vote in much greater numbers than young people, Canadian politics will be stuck in the past

Abandon special interest politics

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Many Americans Can not Afford Fruits and Veggies

This is depressing. I wonder what the numbers are like for Canada. Anyway, this should give personal responsibility crowd food for thought. The problem is more complex that saying that people should get more excersize and eat more fruits and veggies. That takes time and money and that is luxury many of the poor do not have. http://news.yahoo.com/s/hsn/20071122/hl_hsn/manyamericanscantaffordtoeatright

Monday, November 19, 2007

Harper Screws Ontario’s 905

There are currently 4 plus million living in the 905 and there are currently 32 seats for an average of just over 127,000 people per riding. There are 6 ridings with over a 140,000 people in the 905, Bramalea - Gore - Malton (152,698) Brampton West (170,422) Halton (151,943), Mississauga - Erindale (143,361) Oak Ridges - Markham (169,642) and Vaughan (154,206). By contrast there are 4.5 million people in Sask, Man, NWT, Nuv, Yuk, PEI, NS, NFLD, and NB and there are 62 seats for an average of 72,000 people per riding. Morever, there is but one riding, Selkirk Interlake (90,807), with over 90,000 people. Given current growth trends, there will be more people in the 905 than the aforementioned provinces and territories by 2011 and by 2011 there will be nearly 145,000 people per 905 riding. The growth rate in the 905 is a staggering 13.5%; the growth rate for the other is virtually non existent. The population Canadians 6 smallest provinces and its 3 territories increased by a mere 25,000 between 2001 and 2006; in other words, given current growth rates there will be half as many people per riding as in the 905. Is this fair? Of course not. And it is ridiculous to think that a mere 10 seats for all of Ontario will not come close to solving the problem.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ontario Deserves 67 More Seats

Some believe that the regions need more say and an “effective” and “elected” senate is the best way of achieving a balance between population centers in Eastern Canada and the rest of us. Harper seems to be of that mind.

The problem is two fold. First such an argument rests on a false contrast; seats in the House of Commons are supposed to be assigned on basis of population, but in actuality that is not the case. For example, PEI has a population of 135,851 and has 4 MPs and people in the Federal riding of Oak Ridges Markham has a population of 169, 642 obviously only has 1 MP. In other words, a vote in Oak Ridges Markham has less the 5th the value of a vote cast in riding of Charlottetown. Harper’s planned increase in the number of seats does not go nearly far enough. The government would have to add a lot more than just 22 seats to insure that no province is overrepresented and no province underrepresented.

Of course no government would ever dare take away seats from a particular province or region and even if they were so bold there are constitutional hurdles. For example no province can have less MPs than senators. This means that it more or less impossible for PEI and the territories to be anything other than outliers. They would still be over represented.

However, if the government would commit to an MP for every 70,000 people, things would be more or less equal everywhere else. Such a commitment to fairness would see Ontario gain 67 seats, Quebec 32, BC 23, Alberta 19, and Manitoba, Nova Scotia 2 each. All told, 145 seats should be added, most of those in urban areas and nearly half in Ontario.

However, even if Ontario, BC and Alberta and Quebec were to given their proper allotment of House of Commons Seats, there is still no need for the Senate. Whatever regional concerns a population of a lesser populated province might have are taken care of by the very fact that live in a such a province. This becomes readily apparent when instead of looking at what province has more clout, as if that makes any sense whatsoever, one instead compares how much clout various populations have. Indeed, the 135,851 in PEI have, for example, a million times the political clout of the 169, 642 people in the Federal riding of Oak Ridges Markham. Indeed, not only do the 135,581 people in PEI have the power to determine everything under provincial jurisdiction, and provincial representation, but they have also have 4 MPs to Oak Ridges Markham one MP. Giving the 135,851 people in PEI the same number of “effective” senators, as per the Triple E Senate model for instance, as 12.1 million Ontarians is grossly undemocratic.

All told, what should happen is the government should add those 145 extra seats. Fairness requires it. The government should then seek to abolish the Senate to pay for such an expansion. The current senate serves no purpose and reformed senate is an affront to democracy. The provinces abolished their senates. Federal government should follow in their footsteps. Let Canada would then join the club unicameral states. Canada would be in good company. New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Israel, Sweden, Iceland, Liechtenstein, South Korea and Portugal are all unicameral.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Marijuana: RCMP Think of the Children

Vancouver Province looked at marijuana legalization this weekend. They printed and interview with Larry Campbell (Pro legalization) http://www.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=cdf9aed6-718c-4991-8328-2475bfda76e6&k=66062&p=3 and the RCMP’s Scott Rintoul (Drug warrior) http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/story.html?id=289e097f-b282-426f-bec1-5c265c7f8024&p=2

Campbell’s opinions are well known, Rintoul’s plain stupid.

Province: Sgt. Scott Rintoul mans the RCMP's drug-awareness bureau in B.C. Well-acquainted with the arguments for legalizing marijuana, he challenges the legal-pot advocates to consider one important point -- our children.

"It has to be our priority. They're our future," Rintoul says.

Yes, let us think of the children, i.e., teenagers. Tell them just what just Rintoul said. Those that do not burst out laughing, will certainly roll their eyes. I am dead serious. Walk into, for example, a grade 11 or 12 law class and try out that line on them.

"The majority does not smoke marijuana [or] drink [or] use

Granted Vancouver is not Moscow or Prague, but to suggest there are more people who do not drink then who do is ridiculous. There are more vegetarians than teetolers.

"Marijuana is an addictive drug.

Yeah what are the symptoms? Be specific. Maybe a headache and irritability for chronic users, but that would be grounds for banning caffeine tobacco too.

We do have people in the city of Vancouver who are suffering a dependency on cannabis [who] are going through treatment, yet you never hear that. Ten or 20 per cent of marijuana users have a problem with cannabis.

Oh yes “psychological dependency”. Anything where routine and repetition are involved could lead to “psychological dependency”. There are people with obsessive compulsive disorder who are psychologically dependent on hand soap, but that is hardly a reason to bane hand soap. Many scholars have argued that the term is politically motivated and was designed to obscure the fact that marijuana is not physically addictive the way, say alcohol and heroin can be. Whatever the term’s origins, it is certainly employed by the drug warriors to serve political ends.

Indeed, the number of people seeking treatment for marijuana dependence in the States is indeed decently large, but the vast majority according to most studies (70% and above) are there because they were given a choice when charged with possession: “Treatment” or jail. In true Orwellian fashion, the US government turns around and uses the number of people it forces in “treatment” as proof of the dangers of marijuana.

As for Canada, the numbers are not large, but of the 6300 people in Ontario (population 12.1 million and anywhere from 1.5 to 2 million users) seeking help for marijuana dependency in 2005, most reported being coerced into treatment and not being there of their own violation. Most were male single, under age 20 and in high school. Legal system involvement and school- or family-based pressure to enter treatment were the commonly reported cause of their seeking treatment. It should also be noted that only 13% of people seeking help drug treatment in Ontario in 2005 were marijuana users even though the number of marijuana users dwarfs the number of heroin and cocaine users. In other words, the figures Rintoul sites are utter fiction.

"[Pot advocates] are trying to legitimize something for perhaps an adult or a young professional -- and I think that's wrong at the expense of young people."

Translated: Rintoul is saying that he can not offer any kind of argument for why an “adult” or “young professional” should not be allowed to consume marijuana, but my god think of the children. Listening to Rintoul you would think that the senate committee, that recommended legalization, said that they saw no reason why children as young as 6 be permitted to purchase marijuana.

Rintoul also argues that a black market in marijuana would still exist if it were legal, since growers would try to avoid paying tax on it.

Yeah and there is a huge black market in home made wine and moonshine. Look, people will still grow it for their own consumption and there will still be smuggling so long as it is illegal in the States. However, no one is going to be buying pot from the local hood when they could go purchase it legally from a liquor store. The main reason is quality control. If it was legal and regulated, people would know exactly what they were getting, they would know that it was not laced with anything and just how strong it is etc.

Friday, November 09, 2007

No Quotation Marks No Quote: Steve, Hack, Janke it is just that Simple

This was the Toronto Star's headline today. "PM to Cities: Drop Dead"

As Red Tory pointed out the above was in reference to a 1975 headline. http://redtory.blogspot.com/2007/11/leave-it-to-beaver.html#links Just to note, Red did get a little carried away though. Half the blogsphere was not born in 1975.

"Any barely sentient person should be aware that the deliberately provocative headline in the Toronto Star (and faithfully repurposed for the web by the good folks at National Newswatch) was quite obviously a direct knock-off of the infamous headline “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD” that was run by the Daily News in 1975 regarding the bankruptcy of New York City government and the refusal of President Gerald Ford to provide financial assistance."

Naturally Tory Hack Angry, and what Conservative is not?, in the great White North lost his pretty little head. http://stevejanke.com/archives/246088.php

"Actually, attributing words to someone that we never actually said could be grounds for legal action if those words cast that person in a poor light."

This was the headline: PM to Cities: Drop Dead http://www.members.shaw.ca/nspector4/clip_image2001.jpg
Do you see quotes? I do not see any quotes. Therefore the Star was not attributing any specific words to Harper. It is just that simple. If they were attributing a quote to Harper this is how it would have read: PM to Cities: "Drop Dead"

A Triple E Senate is a Intellectual and undemocratic Abortion

The name of Britain’s two houses, the House of Lords and the House of Commons, reveal one of the reasons why we have a senate in the first place. The purpose of having a House of Lords was to check and balance out the will of common people. One of the main purposes of the Canadian senate and the US senate, which were both modeled after the British system, was to do the same.

The other purpose of the senate in both the US and Canada, of course, was to provide regional representation. Smaller states and Provinces wanted their interests protected before agreeing to form a Federation. For example, the Southern States wanted to make sure the Northern States, were most Americans lived in and live now, would not be able to abolish slavery. Yes the US senate has done a lot of good over the years.

Some believe that the regions need more say and an “equal” “effective” and “elected” senate is the best way of achieving a balance between population centers in Eastern Canada and the rest of us. The problem is two fold. First such an argument rests on a false contrast; seats in the House of Commons are supposed to be assigned on basis of population, but in actuality that is not the case. For example, PEI has a population of 135,851 and has 4 MPs and people in the riding of Oak Ridges Markham has a population of 169, 642 obviously only has 1 MP. In other words, a vote in Oak Ridges Markham has less the 5th the value of a vote cast in Charlottetown. Assuming that no government would ever dare take away seats from a particular province or region, the government would have to add a ton more seats to make it have way equal. If the government would commit to an MP for every 70,000 people the new numbers would break down as follows. Ontario would gain 67 seats, Quebec 32, BC 23, Alberta 19, and Manitoba, Nova Scotia 2 each. All total, a 145 seats should be added, most of those in urban areas. Even then there would still be outliers. PEI, and the territories would still be over represented. The second reason is that comparing province to province is a perverse misnomer. It is comparing apples to oranges. The people living in Canada’s less populated provinces (hello again PEI) have a mechanism assure that regional concerns are addressed; it is called province jurisdiction and provincial representation. By the very nature of living in a province with a small population, the 135,851 people in PEI have plenty of ways of addressing regional concerns that are not available to, for example, the 169, 642 residents of Oak Ridges Markham. All in all, comparing province to province is a perverse misnomer. A province is no more or less than the people that make up that province. Giving the 135,851 in PEI the power to determine everything under provincial jurisdiction, provincial representation and 4 MPs well all the while given 169, 642 Oak Ridges Markham one MP is bad enough as it is. Giving the 135,851 people in PEI the same number of “effective” senators, as per the American Triple E Senate model, as 12.1 million Ontarians is beyond stupid and grossly undemocratic.

Needless to say, if push comes to shove, abolishing the senate is far more preferable to senate Reform. No province has a second chamber, most abolished them, and they are doing just fine. Furthermore there are numerous examples of unicameral nation states. New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Israel, Sweden, Iceland, Liechtenstein, South Korea and Portugal are all unicameral.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Harper's Belgium Today

The mind boggles if Harper was to ever get a majority. This is man once said that Belgium should serve as a model for Canada. http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/1098202831918_93612031/?hub=Canada It is hard to think Harper was uninformed when he made the comment. One thing Harper is not is uninformed. His priorities and values are just out of whack. Before the 1995 referendum Harper made his feelings felt about how much he thinks of united and strong Canada.

“Whether Canada ends up as one national government or two national governments or several national governments, or some other kind of arrangement is, quite frankly, secondary in my opinion.”

Anyway, this is Belgium today.


I would love to see the Senate Abolished, but ...

I would love to see the senate abolished. However, despite the fact that the Bloc favor the senate’s abolition, Quebec is showing every sign that it is willing to use the issue to hold the rest of the country to ransom. I believe I speak for most “western” Canadians in saying that if Quebec thinks they can extract special concessions in return of abolishing an “ineffective” institution they are 1) sadly mistaken and 2) they can go fuck themselves. As for NDP's Musclair, if he wants to see the NDP loose every seat West of Winnipeg, save Vancouver East, he should keep on musing how Quebec should be guaranteed 25% of the seats in the House of Commons in return for abolishing the senate.

However that is not the worst of it. I am afraid with the help of a soulless Liberal party the Conservatives may succeed in reforming the senate. That would be the worst of all possible words.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

US Dollar

If the US dollar continues to tank against other major currencies, things could real bad real soon. Oil is traded in US dollars. That is the main reason why Oil will soon reach $100 a barrel. It is not that oil has become that much more expensive over the last couple of months, it is just that the US dollar is tanking. At some point in time, the world’s major oil producers will insist on being paid in Euros and not dollars. If and when that happens, the value of the US currency will plummet and the cost of Canadian goods will skyrocket.


Thomas Walkom, one of Canada's best columnists, has a good article on the dollars decline. http://www.thestar.com/Business/article/274630

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Senate Question

It is becoming clear that there will be showdown over the senate. The NDP want the issue put to a referendum and Conservatives are going to make that a reality. Moreover, the choice will not between abolishing the senate and keeping as is but rather abolishing the senate and “reforming” it. In other words, implicit in the very wording of the question will the current senate’s illegitimacy. Politically, there will be nothing the hapless Liberals to do to overturn this binary logic.

Having established the illegitimacy of current senate in the form of the referendum question, Harper will thereafter argue that he is justified in going ahead with his plan to reform the senate in a piece meal fashion – senate reform being one of two acceptable options.

Just to recall, under the Conservative plan, new senators would be elected and would be limited to serving out an 8 year term. The problem is people already in the senate would be free to serve until the age of 75. The result the of such nonsense should such a bill reach the senate and pass would be either to transform an unelected political body with no power into a largely unelected political body with real political power or commit Canadians to the farcical and expensive act of electing people to office who hold no real power.

So the issue will stand heading into the referendum. The question will be Reform Harper's mess or cut bait and abolish the senate. The obvious reluctance of the provinces to do anything right now will not matter. If Harper wins the next election and there is no reason to believe the hapless Dion will be able to beat him, the Provinces will have no choice but tackle the issue of senate Reform. As Harper likes to say, God bless Canada. We will need all the help we can get.

Liberals Need to Start Rolling Out Policy

The Liberals have been in a state of policy paralysis ever since they lost the last election. This would be bad enough if the party was united, ably led and doing well financially and at the polls, but the party has been stuck at 30% for almost two years, Conservatives have raised five times as much money as the Liberals this year and Dion lacks charisma, struggles with English and maintaining party discipline, and has proved to be tactical neophyte prone to gaffes (e.g., musing about raising the GST). That said, the fact that the Liberals are in such disarray at least garners the party some press. There is certainly nothing else worth writing about.

So what do? The Liberals need to start rolling out policy and may even have to go as far as calling a policy convention. Until they start rolling out some new policies the media will continue to write about Dion’s many short comings, the Liberals lack of unity, the party will remain stuck in the polls and the fund raising numbers will remain poor.

If the Liberals hold such a convention and it is as dull and unproductive as the last, I will be the first one calling for Dion’s ouster.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Harper, Warner and the 2006 AIDS Conference in Toronto

“Conservative officials have been actively resisting Warner's emphasis on housing, health care and cities issues, he said, even blocking him from participating in a Star forum on poverty earlier this year and pointedly removing from his campaign literature a reference to the 2006 international conference on AIDS in Toronto – which Warner attended but Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not. ....

Plett [Conservative party president] didn't argue with Warner's characterization of the dispute.”


This is the offending passage

“and am proud to have been a delegate to the XVIth International AIDS Conference held in Toronto in August 2006.”

Why would the Conservatives ask Warner to remove this passage? Well one could argue that the Conservatives did not want to draw attention to the fact that Stephen Harper did not attend. Of course that would not be much of an explanation because such a response would only beg the question as to why Harper did not attend in the first place.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Harper is no Red Tory and the Mark Warner Case Proves It

The reasons why Harper rejected Mark Warner http://www.thestar.com/News/Canada/article/272579 are spelled out in June 2003 paper, entitled Rediscovering the Right Agenda.

“conservative parties simply cannot shy away from values questions. On a wide range of public-policy questions, including foreign affairs and defence, criminal justice and corrections, family and child care, and healthcare and social services, social values are increasingly the really big issues. Take taxation, for example. There are real limits to tax-cutting if conservatives cannot dispute anything about how or why a government actually does what it does. If conservatives accept all legislated social liberalism with balanced budgets and corporate grants - as do some in the business community - then there really are no differences between a conservative and a Paul


Third, rebalancing means there will be changes to the composition of the conservative coalition. We may not have all the same people we have had in the past. The new liberal corporatist agenda will appeal to some in the business community. We may lose some old "conservatives," Red Tories like the David Orchards or the Joe Clarks. This is not all bad. A more coherent coalition can take strong positions it
wouldn't otherwise be able to take - as the Alliance alone was able to do during
the Iraq war.”


As for Warner's processed roots in the Progressive Conservative party, Harper was always quite clear that he regarded the Progressive Conservative party as a “second Liberal Party”.

As to Warner's attempts to address issues relating to social housing, access to education and issues related to poverty, make no mistake Harper has no time for such issues and is not afraid to say so. To wit:

"These [federal government] proposals included cries for billions of new money for social assistance in the name of 'child poverty' and for more business subsidies in the name of 'cultural identity'. In both cases I was sought out as a rare public figure to oppose such projects. ..."


Harper’s unwillingness to attend the AIDS conference in Toronto is a pretty good sign that he regards such conferences and Warner's interest in them as so much “social liberalism” and he wants nothing to do with them.

The case of Mark Warner should serve as a wake up call to chattering classes. Harper is no Red Tory. There is not one policy proposal in the Rediscovering the Right agenda that Harper has not adopted and he is only dropped one, viz., ssm, and that was only after a three year loosing battle.