Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Carbon Tax: Bad Idea

As the price of food and fuel steadily climb, the Liberals are “seriously considering” making things worse by introducing a regressive carbon tax. This is a terrible idea both politically and otherwise. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080428.DION28/TPStory/National
The Liberals are not going to win an election with a new tax as the cornerstone of their campaign. Stick with a cap and trade system.

There is no such thing as “revenue neutral” carbon tax and that is way Gordon Campbell, who despite what people in Toronto might think is only slightly more progressive than Mike Harris, likes it so much. (Gordan Campbell cut the minimum wage for Christ sakes people.) It is a way of shifting more of the tax burden onto lower income earners. Students, for example, do not pay much if anything in the way of income taxes. They are going to see there costs of living shoot up dramatically.

As for the Liberals most recent blather about the economy, it is nice to see them waking up to the fact that the Conservatives want to limit the ability of Federal government to expand social services. However, the Liberals need to offer an alternative vision, complete with concrete policies that will benefit all Canadians. The longer the Liberals go without re-embracing universality the more academic, hypothetical and distant such warnings become.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Conservative Out and Out In and Out Lies

1) The Conservatives claimed not have a copy of the warrant and then magically released the warrant they did not have to the selected media types before the warrant was released.

2) Although the Conservatives say they are only suing elections Canada for the 700,000 plus in rebates they are entitled to, one of the purposes of the suit is disguise the fact that 11 Conservative MPs and 6 failed Conservative candidates received $421,731.88 in rebates.


3) Some of the ads had no tag lines. So all the noise the Conservatives are making about what separates a national ad from a local ad is the tag line is a red herring.


4) Pierre Poilievre admitted that the Conservatives altered invoices. On Politics with Don Newman, Poilievre likened to situation to a party receiving a bill at a restaurant that is not separated into individual bills. What the Conservatives did he says was they teased out what each candidate owed, GST and all. Why Leblanc did not call him on this I do not know. It was not a “good analogy”. If I wanted to receive a tax deduction, it would be bad enough if I tried submit some scribbling on napkin as proof I had lunch at such and such a place. If I want to deduct it, I need to ask the server to print me off my own bill. This would not be a problem for an Earls server nor would it have been a problem for Retail Media. However, it would be damn right criminal if I faked the restaurants bill, letterhead and all, and presented this as the real thing and that is what the Conservatives did in at least one case. In number of other cases they submitted “invoices” that contained the same spelling mistake.

Friday, April 25, 2008

In and Out scandal: The Crux of The Matter

There is no clause that prohibits local ads from being identical to national ads. However, that is not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is whether the local candidates incurred the said expenses. Elections Canada, rightly, balked at the notion that money that was transferred to local ridings and then immediately transferred back constituted a local “expense”. After all, suppose my brother transferred money into my business account and I immediately transferred it back out. It would be a pretty neat trick if I was able to claim the act of transferring that money back into my brother’s account as legitimate business expense, but alas Revenue Canada would not kindly to such a ploy on behalf. Conservatives thought Elections Canada would be more gullible. As to the accusation of exceeding election spending limits, if my brother was to transfer money into my business account and then I immediately transferred the money out, I could not then declare the money transfer as a business expense even if my brother went on to spend that money on materials that if had I purchased myself I would have been able to deduct as business expense. I did not make the purchase. My brother’s business is not mine and neither is a national party’s business the business of the local candidate. The Elections Act treats the two as different.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

National Post on the “In and Out” Scheme

The National Post all but conceded that the Conservatives broke the election law, but they could not leave it at that.

“In the mean time, it needs to be said that this is a useless and undemocratic law. Like most of our campaign finance laws, it is based on the false premise that severely restricting how much politicians may raise and spend to get elected will take the influence of Big Money out of our elections and create a level playing field for all parties and candidates.

There is little evidence that such limits produce the benefits claimed for them. Indeed, in the United States, which has the most expensive elections in the world, for every free-spending campaign that wins thanks to its ability to saturate the airwaves there are almost two more that lose.”


Not only is this nonsense, the candidates that raise and spend the most money have a far better chance of winning, it is also irrelevant. The issue at hand is the influence of Big Money and whether there is a perfect correlation between a candidate outspending his opponent and winning. In the States the problem is both parties are heavily indebted to big money. A lack of party discipline, the ridiculously stupid bicameral system in the States partly explains why the US is the only Western country without universal health care or mandated vacation time and big money explains the rest.

“What is required to make elections "fair" is transparency -- letting voters see who is contributing to which campaigns, and how much."

Good one. The National Post wants one and all to believe that even though corporations are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each US election cycle that this buys them no influence.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Conservative Immigration Reforms Redundant

Putting quota on the number of refugee applications and on the number of grandparents and parents that can be sponsored, may free up some time to process skilled worker applications and in this respect the Conservative immigration “reforms” have been welcomed by some. However, as Guidy Mamann of the immigration law firm Mamann & Associates notes the immigration minister already has such powers to fast track. (HT Red Tory)

“In an interview last week with CTV’s Mike Duffy, Finley confirmed that our backlog now stands at about 925,000 applications. The government maintains that the Minister needs these powers to cherry pick applicants who are needed here on a priority basis. She was asked by Duffy, if under the present system, the department was able to fast track, say a welder who was desperately needed in Fort McMurray. Finley answered “The way the law stands now we have to process the oldest application first. If that person is number 600,000 in line we’ve got a lot of applications to get through before that”.

This is simply not true. Our current legislation states that the federal cabinet “may make any regulation ... relating to classes of permanent residents or foreign nationals” including “selection criteria, the weight, if any to be given to all or some of those criteria, the procedures to be followed in evaluating all or some of those criteria… the number of applications to be processed or approved in a year” etc. In fact, in the case of Vaziri v. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Federal Court held in September 2006 that our current legislation “authorize[s] the Minister to set target levels and to prioritize certain classes of PR applicants” without even a regulation being passed. Accordingly, Finley has more than enough power under our current legislation to make virtually any changes that she wants subject to the Charter.”

So what are the Conservatives really up to? The legislation is just a smoke screen. The evidence suggests that the Conservatives real aim is to allow more unskilled or semiskilled guest workers in inorder to do such things as undermine a burgeoning labour movement in the oil sands and for that they need cover. After all, it goes without saying that short sighted crony capitalism is recipe for disaster. There is ample evidence that armies of disenfranchised workers, whether they be illegal or guest, are a great way to, create an underclass, suppress wages, encourage black marketing, increase xenophobia and racism.

Rather than pandering to various immigrant groups and pretending that allowing someone to sponsor their grandparents or a criminal adult son (e.g., Robert Dziekanski) with no money, skills, education or ability to speak French or English is not ridiculously stupid policy that should scrapped ASAP, the Liberals need to sketch out a vision for what the party aims to accomplish by targeting skilled immigrants. The vision I hope that the Liberals would put forth is this. By allowing upwards 400,000 – 500,000 young, skilled, multi lingual, educated immigrants a year Canada hopes to 1) advert a looming demographic crunch and 2) come to posses the most educated, diverse and skilled workforce in the world. In order to make this vision a reality the following is likley necessary.

1) Only allow people to apply for refugee status while in Canada. Canada can search out refugees in times of crisis.

2) Limit family unification to spouses and dependents under 18

3) Re gig the points system so that more emphasis is placed on youth

4) Greatly increase the number of immigration officers in second world countries, such as Brazil, with large pools of young educated workers who speak English. (It is unacceptable that in a country of 185 million that interviews are only conduced in Brasilia and Sao Paulo and not in other cities, most notably Rio)

The Moral Majority is a Myth: The Liberals must not pander to Social Conservatives if they want to win

Thomas Frank has it ass backwards. What the Republican Party got right was not in convincing working class Americans to vote against their economic self interest. Rather it was in convincing the Democratic Party that it needed to “triangulate” itself into ideological no man’s land in order to win. As Princeton’s Larry Bartels has demonstrated, the white working class has not abandoned the Democratic Party. Indeed, they voted for Kerry in stronger numbers than they did JFK or Hubert Humphrey. Nor do the worker class voters place more attention to social issues than economic issues; the opposite it overwhelming true. Working class voters place far more of emphasis on economic issues than do any other segment of voters. Indeed, the higher up the economic ladder one goes the more emphasis voters place on social issues and the less on economic ones. In 2004 well to do placed 10 times as much importance on social issues than did the working class.

Little wonder then why white rural worker class voters overwhelmingly favor Clinton over Obama. She gives them a lot more meat and potatoes then he does. Conversely the much more socially liberal Obama plays much better with urban well off then she does. If the Democrats are going to win the next election, they need to combine the strength of both. They need to become more socially liberal and more fiscally liberal.

What holds true for the Democrats holds doubly true for the Liberals in Canada. There is not a large segment of affluent evangelicals standing in the Liberals way the way there is for the Democrats in the States. The Liberals need to return to 1968. They need to offer universal social programs (e.g., universal dental care and Pharmacare) and social liberalism (e.g., legalized marijuana, euthanasia and perhaps even prostitution) on steroids. This is what won them every province, save Alberta, in1968. They need to be reminded how wrong a cynical Liberal's forecast was when he said the Liberal slogan for the 1968 election should be the following. "For abortion, homosexuality and easy divorce - vote Liberal!"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Immigration: the Liberals lack Vision and Coherent Policy

I hope Liberals have the good sense not go to polls over changes to the Immigration and Refugee Act. The Liberals lack a compelling vision and their messaging is ineffective, ineffectual, scattered and times pathetic. The source of the problem is that Liberals deluded themselves into believing yet again that coherent policy is not needed. So long as a piece of legislation targets enough constituencies it is a political winner. Policy be damned.

The problem is that if you brining down the government on this issue you should have a compelling vision and policy that embodies the principles set forth in this vision. If the government is brought down over this it is not going to limited to immigrant community. Furthermore even to the extent that is issue mainly of issue to various ethnic groups, the Liberals do not have the resources, governmental or otherwise, to narrow cast. They are not going to be able to use the public purse, the way the Conservatives repeatedly and shamelessly do, to run an expensive ad campaign promoting something that has not become law yet.

The immigration issue is in a microcosm of what is wrong with the Liberal party. Gone is Trudeau’s grand liberal vision with its commitment to liberty equality and fraternity. It has been replaced strategy of targeting and feeding various component parts while letting the body politic starve for sustenance and substance. The history of Canada’s 39th government to date has been the story of Conservatives trying to undermine these Liberal networks and niche markets. This has turned the Liberals, once the champions of change, into the defenders of the status quo and the Conservatives into the agents of change. Needless to say, it is truly pathetic to see Canada’s so called Liberal party, in opposition no less, assumes such a role.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Stephen Taylor's aburd contention that the NRA champion Civil Rights

Look Stephen even in the US no one speaks about gun control as a civil rights issue. Whether it be the Civil Rights Act or what have you. Furthermore, “civil rights” are spoken of as having transcended national boundaries. They are part of the common heritage of the West. The Second amendment, however, is unique to the US. We in Canada do not have anything like it.

>>>> You falsely infer equivalency.

Really. Let me quote your own words back to you. “Heston is dwarfed by MLK as a civil rights leader, but a civil rights leader the NRA leader still was”

What would you put him on the same level as a Philip Randolph?

It is perverse to liken the fight to be able to drink from the same water fountain and the fight to be able to pack heat. But not only do you make such a perverse comparison you demand others make it as well. According to you, Canadian news agencies, and again there is no right to bare arms in this country, should accept the premises of the Michigan Militia, that gun laws are as discriminatory as Jim Crow.

Math for Laytonites

Last election the NDP took 7.5% of the popular vote in Quebec. Now polls consistently show the NDP at around 12% in Quebec. In other words, the NDP is up 4 to 5% in province with about a quarter of Canada’s voters. However, recent polls put the NDP below what they were in 2006 and hardly any poll since 2006 has showed the NDP rising above what the obtained in 2006. Ergo the NDP is bleeding voters elsewhere. This is certainly the case in greater Toronto. The NDP is loosing support both to the Liberals and the Greens there.

Toronto Center and Willowdale were not flukes; they are the future. The NDP is going to take it on the chin in the 905 and 416. If there was an election this spring chances are Layton might keep his seat, albeit barely, but Chow, Marston, Charlton and Nash will loose their seats.

The party needs to change focus.

1) The NDP party brass is delusional if they think they can A) utter the following and not be damaged by it and B) think it is actually a sound “gameplan”. “Damaging Harper and the Conservatives on ethical issues like the Cadman mess mainly helps the Grits, and that’s not in our gameplan.” It may be too late to do anything now but, if possible revive the Cadman thing in committee.

2) Stop talking about the economy. Does Layton honestly believe that Globe and Mail, and Can west global are going to give them a fair airing? I hope to god not and by the way this is not 1988.

3) Go back to its rural Western roots and focus on taking back voters that had abandoned them for the Reform Party in 1993 and then have gone on to vote Conservative. It still polls far better in BC and Sask than it ever has in Ontario, especially Toronto. They should also look to be fighting it out with the Conservatives to pick up the Liberal votes that have slowly been bleeding away over the years to both themselves and the Conservatives in Northern Ontario.

4) Look to Europe. The NDP used to try to import socially democratic ideas from Europe. What the hell happened? What little is left of that tradition is hardly stressed. Layton spends just as much time talking about the “weaponization of space”, as if foreign policy was somehow their bread and butter, as the party’s pharmacare plan.

Clarity of message and easy to understand policy is all important. 5 examples come readily to mind. Some are already part of the NDP platform.

A) National minimum wage

B) A national pharmacare program based upon the one currently available in the UK

C) 4 weeks paid vacation for all Canadians

D) dental care as part of health care

E) Universal Day Care for kids aged 1-5

5) Dump Layton; replace him with Muclair or even better Joe Comartin

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bill C-10 and Censorship

There is no better way of nipping would be Canadian productions in the bud. Without any objective standards as to what would contravene public decency, Canadian producers, who are already working on razor thin budgets will self censor or even not bother. After all, not only do they have to worry about catering to the whims of the current minister they have to worry about whims of future ministers. Tax credits may be retroactively taken away.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Stephen Taylor: Gun Rights and Civil Rights at Bottom it is all about Rights


Talk about a false sense of equivalency. Charlton, “from my cold dead hands”, Heston was no Martin Luther King. Plowing ahead with a NRA meeting in Denver shortly after the Columbine was affront to decency; it was no one’s dream. Describing such an action as "controversial" is being polite. It is about on par with saying thanks Charly I will take that now.

Layton's failed Toronto Plan

Layton can strut around and proclaim himself the second coming Christ all he wants. So long as Liberals refuse to bring down the government, the NDP’s vote is entirely academic and everyone knows that Jack’s act is nothing but fake bravado. Indeed, forget what Layton says his party’s record of voting against the government. Look at what the NDP are doing in committee and it clear that they focusing on the Liberals and not the Conservatives — just ask to the party strategists. “Damaging Harper and the Conservatives on ethical issues like the Cadman mess mainly helps the Grits, and that’s not in our gameplan.”

So how is the attack the Liberals first strategy working for the NDP? Not well. The NDP have lost their way. The NDP dreams of replacing the Liberals as the official opposition. Never mind the fact this goal is pie in the sky nonsense, the NDP have decided that best way achieving this goal is emulate, to a degree that would make Tommy Douglas role over in his grave, the sad sack Liberal party. The cause of social democracy de damned. In other words, a historical reversal has happened. Whereas the NDP used to be content to let the Liberals steal their policies, if it meant advancing the cause of social democracy, the NDP now seeks to copy the current Liberal party’s ideological incoherence.

Not surprisingly, NDP voters within the 416 and 905, the only region of the country in which NDP and Liberals actually compete, are moving back to the party that actually stands a chance of “getting results” for people during the next election. To make matters worse for the NDP, the emergence of the Green party has seen the urban environmental vote move from the NDP to the Green party. If there was an election this spring chances are Layton will keep his seat, albeit barely, but Chow, Marston, Charlton and Nash will loose their seats.

Of course, the NDP’s troubles are not limited to Toronto region. In BC Dawn Black, Penny and Bell would be in a world of hurt if there was an election called this spring.

It should be dawning on the NDP party brass that the party the best chance to grow the party is not in the 416 and 905. The NDP has to go back to its Western roots and focus on taking back voters that had abandoned them for the Reform Party in 1993 and then gone on to vote Conservative. It still polls far better in BC and Sask than it ever has in Ontario, especially Toronto. They should also look to be fighting it out with the Conservatives to pick up the Liberal votes that have slowly been bleeding away over the years to both themselves and the Conservatives in Northern Ontario. Lastly, they should be looking to pick up Bloc voters in Quebec. Yes Outremont was a Liberal seat, but it was Bloc vote that gave the NDP the victory and not erstwhile Liberal voters.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Immigration in Canada is a Success story the Conservatives Hope to End

Listening to the Conservatives you would think that past governments – Liberal ones anyway -- have horribly bungled the immigration issue. This is simply not true. Canada is rare among Western countries in that there is no large segment of society is calling on the government to close the doors to immigration. As a result, there is no Canadian Le Pen, Joerg Haider or SVP. Indeed, the main Conservative criticism thus far is that Canada is not processing the large number of people wanting to immigrate to Canada fast enough. Faced with a looming demographic crunch, European politicians must be asking themselves why they are not as lucky.

Still there are problems. Canada lets in far more refugees and humanitarian cases than it needs to and should, rules governing family unification are ridiculously stupid, the points system favors older immigrants over younger ones, the government needs to do a better job ensuring that foreign credentials are recognized and yes skilled worker applications need to be processed faster.

Conservative reforms might help, but no one really knows and that is the problem. Rather than tackling the more nettlesome issues head on the Conservatives have thrown out the rules and have instead said they make them up as the go along. It is hard to imagine a worse way of approaching the issue. The cure is promises to be far worse than what currently ails the patient.

Incidentally, the only thing that will speed up the rate at which current applications, some 926,000, are processed is to increase the number immigration officials and Conservatives have been cutting the number of officials and not adding more. Cherry picking a small segment of those already in line is hardly what your average Canadian imagines when they hear the Conservatives claim that they are going to reduce the current backlog, but that is all that Conservatives are doing.

Even more troublesome than the Conservative’s just trust us approach to immigration is their willingness to let in more guest workers. There is ample evidence that armies of disenfranchised workers, whether they be illegal or guest, are a recipe of disaster. It is great way to, create an underclass, suppress wages, encourage black marketing, increase xenophobia and racism.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Immigration and The Ghost of the Reform Party

Liberals trotted out the 1988 Reform Platform on immigration in attempt to tar the Conservatives.

So just what did the document say?

"Immigrants should possess the human capital necessary to adjust quickly and independently to the needs of Canadian society and the job market,"

The cruel irony of Canada’s immigration system is and has been for some time that while many immigrants have good enough educational and professional credentials get them admitted into the country in the first place, many professional bodies are much more discriminating. Canada’s immigrant communities are right to be mad about this. It is not unreasonable to believe that if someone is accepted into Canada because they are a doctor, say, that the path to them practicing medicine not be overly stringent and years in making. The government must to a better job of coordinating with various professional bodies.

"radically or suddenly alter the ethnic makeup of Canada, as it increasingly seems to be."

Oh yes the loathsome coded messages that Reform party used to send out.

"immigration should be essentially economic in nature."

Of course it should be. However, such is the fear of offending someone that no one, not even the Conservatives, dared point out the ridiculousness of Dalton McGuinty’s comments on immigration. No skills, no English or French, no money, no entry. It should be that simple and it is that simple for people applying as a skilled worker.

Alas far too much credence is given to “family unification” in Canada. Robert Dziekanski is a great case in point. Given that no body wants to speak ill of Dziekanski least it be misconstrued that they are saying that his death was anything other than tragic, the press has been loath to point out just how patently absurd it is that Robert Dziekanski was ever allowed to immigrant to Canada in the first place. Dziekanski had a violent criminal record, had spent time in jail, did not speak French or English, had a spotty job history, and had no accredited skills to speak of. It bad enough that in Canada one can sponsor one’s grandparents it mind blowing that one can sponsor a violent criminal.

Family unification process in Canada is political boondoggle and is something the Liberals should be embarrassed about.

All that being said, I do not think it fair to tar the Conservatives with the Reform brush. It is no longer 1988. However, the Conservatives have left themselves wide open to this line of attack and really deserve to take it on the chin. Allowing the Minister of Immigration to override the rules of game opens the system up to all kinds of abuse. Worse, it undermines what has made the whole points system such a success. Namely, the system allows would be immigrant to get a clear idea as to whether they qualify as a skilled immigrant and gives them confidence that should they score more than 67 points and pay their $550, a large amount a many countries, that they are in. Leaving open the possibility that they could meet all the necessary requirements, but still be denied is not going to help Canada attract the best of the best. These people have other options and are going to go where they are assured of getting in.

I should say this is in closing. Of course, it is all fine and dandy to say the Conservatives are anxious to let in people capable of filling various kinds of jobs. However, the fact that the Conservatives continue to cut the service and staff at Canadian embassies and consulates speaks louder. There needs to be a bigger presence in places such as Rio, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Cairo, Nairobi, Kiev, Mumbai etc. Furthermore, if Canada wants more nurses or oil workers or engineers, or what have you, it is going to have to go to the universities and training centers and go get them.