Posts from our progressive community

welcome to the world, sophia

we move to canada - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 14:00

This beautiful little girl is the newest member of our family, the first of the next generation. Meet Sophia, brand new baby daughter of one of my nephews and nieces(-in-law).

My brother and sister-in-law are thrilled to be grandparents, and my mom the great-grandma is over the moon.

We hope to meet Sophia in person early next year, as part of a Big Trip we are planning. Stay tuned.

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 07:43
Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Frances Woolley reminds us of some of the hidden advantages of the rich, and suggests that they point toward the fairness of taxing wealth in addition to consumption:
The greatest freedom money offers is the freedom to walk away. Your bank doesn't offer you unlimited everything with no monthly fees? Walk away. There's always someone else who wants your money. Your phone plan is too expensive? Walk away (o.k., that may not be the best example).

People with money have alternatives, which makes their demand for goods and services elastic. Food may or may not cost more in poor areas. But a rich person can shop at Value Village if he chooses. A poor person may not be able to afford expensive purchases which save money in the long run, like bread machines or high efficiency appliances or pressure cookers. Consumption taxes aim to tax the amount of stuff people actually consume. But if poor people pay a higher price for their stuff than rich people, is a system that taxes only consumption spending, without taking into account the ability to command consumption wealth conveys, fair?
Some might argue that taxing consumption taxes capital - once that capital is spent. But wealth generates benefits for the holder even if the holder never spends a cent. Canada has relatively low taxes on capital - we do not have an inheritance tax, do not tax capital gains on principal residences, provide dividend tax credits to offset corporate tax paid, and provide room for tax-free savings within pension plans and tax free savings accounts.

The noted economist Tony Atkinson has recently made the case for introducing an annual tax on wealth. His argument is that taxing wealth would reduce inequality.

Even those who find Atkinson's argument for wealth taxation on purely distributive grounds unconvincing, and believe that consumption is the most equitable basis for taxation, should still be open to the idea of wealth taxes - because such a tax would recognize the comforts of being comfortably off.- Meanwhile, Jameson Parker points out how one tycoon's excess wealth is being used to suppress scientific research which shows how fracking causes earthquakes. Rita Celli exposes both the appalling secrecy surrounding Ontario's resource royalties, and the pitifully low loyalty revenue amount which managed to leak out. And Samantha Page discusses the damage the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements could do to our climate.

- Garry Leech points out that we're far too willing to accept corporatist terminology such as the language of entrepreneurship to describe activity which should be seen in social terms.

- Ethan Cox discusses the Cons' strategy in trying to limit and control the leadership debates in this fall's election.

- Finally, Dave Cournoyer weighs in on the frivolity of the Alberta right's attacks on NDP MLA Deborah Drever for having been young in the social media era.

Richler On Stephen Harper

Northern Reflections - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 05:45


The late Mordecai Richler saw through the phoneys who inhabited the Canadian landscape. He had no patience for narrow nationalism -- whether English or French. He particularly loathed French Canadian nationalism, which he believed was rooted in old totems and religious sophistry. His son Noah has inherited his father's sensibilities.

For Noah Richler, Stephen Harper's narrow fear mongering has the same smell as  Maurice Duplessis' paranoia of two generations ago. He writes in The New Statesman:

Fear of Islam – not just Islamic State or “Islamism” – has bridged even the chasm of the country’s “two solitudes”: English- and French-speaking Canada. Recent polls suggest that Quebec sovereigntists, historically loath to support the Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, have come round with alacrity to his agitated views about security and the Muslim other.

Just over a year ago, the indépendantiste Parti Québécois (PQ) was defeated in the provincial election after pledging to bar citizens from wearing religious headscarves, turbans or “ostentatious” pendants while in government employment. But where the PQ’s “secular charter” failed, Harper appears determined to succeed. Since 22 October 2014, when the prime minister hid in a closet as a gunman rampaged through the Canadian House of Commons, Harper has shown himself to be a born-again version of his old acrimonious self. In no time at all, he used the hastily dubbed “terrorist” attack in Ottawa – in which a mentally ill vagrant named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a soldier at the capital’s National War Memorial before storming the House of Commons and being shot dead – to foment the sort of fear and political division that has served the Conservative government so well since it took office in 2006.

“The international jihadist movement [has] declared war . . . on any country, like ourselves, that values freedom, openness and tolerance,” Harper said after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January. The following month – and not coincidentally in Quebec – Harper pledged to overturn a law allowing prospective Canadians to wear the niqab during citizenship ceremonies. (In reality, any applicant must affirm her identity and remove her niqab before a magistrate privately, prior to the public ceremony.) Then, in March, the prime minister told parliament that the niqab was “rooted in a culture that is anti-women”.
A year ago, Quebecers wisely chose to reject Duplessis' revived navel gazing. But Stephen Harper is attempting to make navel gazing a national past time. Hardly surprising, really, for the Narcissist-in-Chief.

A Tireless Voice

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 05:37
A tireless voice for Canada and all of its iconic values, Maude Barlow urges us not to lose heart.

Her reminders of the terrible things the Harper regime has done to undermine civil society through funding cuts and tax audit witch hunts is truly sobering, and we should all be outraged, but her words should also galvanize us to stand up, defend, and fight for everything that makes Canada the unique and enviable country it is.

Otherwise, the barbarians will have won.

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Stephen Harper and the Revolt of the Scientists

Montreal Simon - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 04:55

In his almost ten years in power Stephen Harper has done so much to diminish our once proud country and shame it in the eyes of the world.

And few things are more deeply disturbing and more disgusting than his Great War on Science.

For without truth there can be no democracy. Just a broken country stumbling blindly into the future.

But now at last I'm glad to report, the scientists are revolting.
Read more »

Robert Fisk: Why Harper's Blind Support of Israel is Dangerous

Montreal Simon - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 03:11

Last week I wrote that Stephen Harper's threat to use hate laws against Canadians who peacefully protest the actions of Israel's brutish Netanyahu regime, was the first shadow of a police state. 

Now Robert Fisk, the distinguished Middle East correspondent, has taken that criticism a step further.

By calling Harper's blind support of Israel both crazy AND dangerous.
Read more »

Ireland and the Amazing and Historic Struggle for Marriage Equality

Montreal Simon - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 00:39

A wonderful thing may be about to happen in Ireland in just a few days.

Millions of people are preparing to take on the power of the Catholic Church, and some of the nastiest bigots you can imagine.

And make that country the first in the world to vote to approve same-sex marriage. 
Read more »

Sunday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 05/17/2015 - 12:11
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Brad Delong discusses the two strains of neoliberalism which dominate far too much political discussion - and the reason why the left-oriented version doesn't offer any plausible analysis of where we stand:
(Bill) Clintonian left-neoliberalism makes two twin arguments.

The first is addressed to the left: it is that market mechanisms–properly-regulated market mechanisms–are more likely than not a better road to social democratic ends than command-and-control mechanisms.

The second is addressed to the right: it is that social democracy is the only political system that can in the long run underpin a market economy that preserves a space for private property and private enterprise. Therefore the right had better shut up and try to make social democracy work, or else.

The true underlying problem with left-neoliberalism, I think, is that with the Brezhnevite stagnation of the Soviet Union the second claim addressed to the right was no longer convincing. Hence the right went into its dismantle-social-democracy mode. And once the right was committed to dismantling social democracy, the ability to construct and maintain the proper regulations needed to make market mechanisms tools to achieve social democratic ends fell apart as well.- Andrew Jackson discusses how the need for equity between and within generations should lead us to make investments in what matters for future development, rather than doing nothing for anybody as demanded by the austerians:
There has been a great deal of recent media commentary on inter-generational unfairness, much of which misleadingly argues that affluent older Canadians are benefiting from current economic and social arrangements at the expense of youth.

Not to be misunderstood, young adults today are getting a raw deal when it comes to high levels of student debt, their immediate job market prospects compared to those of the baby boomers, and high housing prices.

The transition from education to stable and well-paid employment is much more prolonged and problematic than used to be the case due to the ongoing increase in insecure and low-paid jobs.

But that does not mean that all seniors and those who are about to enter their retirement years are flourishing. There are huge inequities within different generations that far outweigh inequities between generations.
Again, inequity within generations is a more important issue than inequity between generations.

The inter-generational fairness theme is often used to justify public spending cuts to reduce the “debt burden” on future generations. This ignores Canada's very low level of public debt, and the fact that experts such as the Parliamentary Budget Officer see federal finances as sustainable, meaning that tax increases will not be required to fund future spending.

More importantly, this argument gets in the way of the public investments we need to make today to secure a better future for today's youth and future generations. We could and should be investing more in the education and skills of youth, in research and development, and in the measures needed to ensure environmental sustainability. - Meanwhile, Brent Patterson laments the Harper Cons' willingness to leave an environmental disaster for future generations to clean up. And Thomas Walkom points out that Kathleen Wynne is following in the Cons' footsteps in trashing public wealth without any reasonable basis for doing so.

- Fred Joseph Ernst writes that the primary effect of C-51 is to legalize the "dirty tricks" against civilians which represent a regular feature of repressive states. And Andrew Mitrovica comments that even some of Stephen Harper's usual core supporters are rightly fighting back against that choice.

- Finally, Stephen Maher points out how the Cons' vote suppression tactics figure to cause serious problems for citizens seeking to vote this fall. And Bruce Johnstone makes the case to put first past the post behind us.

we movie to canada: wmtc annual movie awards, 2014-15 edition

we move to canada - Sun, 05/17/2015 - 12:00
Thanks to everything-on-demand media, and no thanks to my schedule that doesn't permit me nearly enough time for baseball, Movie Season now runs all year, at least marginally. These annual awards now document the movies and TV series we've seen from Opening Day to Opening Day.

To recap my silly rating systems:
- Canadian musicians and comedians (2006-07 and 2007-08)
- my beverage of choice (2008-09)
- famous people who died during the past year (2009-10)
- where I'd like to be (2010-11)
- vegetables (2011-12) (I was out of ideas!)
- Big Life Events in a year full of Big Life Changes (2012-13),
- and last year (2013-14), cheese!

This year's ratings revolve around my favourite pastime, the moments I live for: travel. We can loosely call this theme types of holidays and vacations.

I have always dreamed of traveling for an extended periods of time - life on the road. My dream of extended travel probably dates back to reading Travels with Charley when I was 12. But ever since Allan and I traveled by RV in Alaska in 1996, my desire to pack up our family for life on wheels has captured my imagination, sometimes obsessively so.

This is the best life I can dream of. And these are the best movies and series we saw this year.

-- This marvel of film making is utterly absorbing, a tour de force of directing and acting. Truly an experience.

Blue is the Warmest Colour
-- Another lengthy coming-of-age journey, and well worth the ride. Rarely do I feel directors have enough to say to justify lengthy films, but these first two have opened my eyes. Plus gorgeous, frank, and extended lesbian sex. (Naturally this led to a firestorm of criticism, but I disagree.)

True Detective
-- Creepy, scary, suspenseful, weird, excellent.

Justified, final season
-- In it's sixth and final season, this show returned to greatness. At times the suspense was almost unbearable. Plus a perfect ending.

Obvious Child
-- Finally, a fictional movie depiction of abortion without apology, as a normal and positive need in a woman's life. The movie itself is a solid wmtc "3" - above average, very well done - but this film scores the highest honour for its politics.

-- The documentary about Edward Snowden, one of the great heroes of our age, should be mandatory viewing.

Show Me Love (Fucking Amal) (1998; re-watch #1)
-- I fell in love with this film when it came out in 1998, and I was so pleased to love it just as much today. As beautiful a film about teenage life and love you'll ever see.

I love to fly, because it means I'm going somewhere good - or maybe best of all, someplace new. Despite cramped quarters, the indignities of airport security, and everything else most people complain about, for me flying is a pleasure. Only one thing makes this kind of vacation imperfect: I miss my dogs. These films are ever so slightly less than perfect.

Of Gods and Men
-- When you're in the mood for something quiet and contemplative, this film is moving and very satisfying.

-- This depiction of a real-life Stanford Prison Experiment is almost too disturbing to watch, and almost too shocking to be true. But it is true. And you should watch it.

12 Years a Slave
-- After all the hype, I didn't expect much from this. I was wrong. It is gripping, moving, and beautifully made.

-- Part period piece, part biopic, part poetry. I love all things Allen Ginsburg and this was no exception.

Route Irish
-- Ken Loach and Paul Laverty turn their keen gaze on the Iraq War, and its deadly legacy at home. Gripping and disturbing in all the right ways.

Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?
-- This totally engaging, entertaining doc examines art and authenticity from all angles. A joy to watch, and so well done.

After Tiller
-- An important film for everyone who cares about reproductive rights, and about justice. If you are inspired by moral courage, here you go.

The Wire, Season 3
-- Three seasons on, this great show keeps getting better. It's perfection.

Finding Vivian Maier
-- An obsession, a legacy, an enigma. As fine a documentary as you'll see. Really on the cusp between the RV and the plane travel.

Broadchurch, Season 1
-- A gripping, suspenseful murder mystery, with more than its share of complex characters, and full of compassion, humanity, and difficult truths. Absolutely excellent.

Bill Cunningham New York
-- A beautifully made film about a unique, obsessive genius, plus a view of New York you're unlikely to see anywhere else. A must-see.

The Trials of Muhammad Ali
-- This excellent documentary about the political life of the great Ali would be in the RV category but for one complaint. The filmmakers depict almost nothing of the political and social context of Ali's struggles; watching this, you would never know that an entire movement of Vietnam War resisters existed. Still an excellent film and a must-see for lovers of history and of peace.

Oslo August 31st
-- A day in the life of a man struggling with addiction. Quiet, dark, and moving.

The Normal Heart
-- Larry Kramer brings us to 1980s New York City, the birth of the AIDS crisis, and of the first organized response to it. Love, loss, rage, resistance, identity.

Say Anything (1989) (1989; re-watch #2) an
-- This quirky, funny, sweet, authentic story of teenage love holds up perfectly. It was a great film then, and it's a great film now. Sadly, a scene that was once achingly beautiful is now a tired internet meme. That's not the movie's fault.

On the road! It's not green but I love it. If our travel plans include a long road trip, I'm happy. If you see these films, you'll be glad you did.

Stories We Tell
-- This film by Canadian Sarah Polley unfolds and surprises, and raises interesting questions about the interplay of past and present. I got a little tired of the visuals - it almost works better as an audio documentary - but it was very well done.

Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle
-- This PBS doc looks at the dawn and evolution of the comic book hero. Terrific.

The Guard
-- Brendon Gleeson stars in this very dark, very Irish comedy by John Michael McDonagh. Not your usual cop-buddy movie. Really really good.

-- Brendon Gleeson inhabits another film by John Michael McDonagh. This one is very nearly plane travel. It's an odd, moving film, and Gleeson's performance is off the charts.

-- A documentary about a 14-year-old girl trying to sail around the world? Sign me up! I dare you not to fall in love with Laura Dekker, at least a little.

-- A quiet, sad redemption story. Very good.

The Immigrant
-- A vivid, melodramatic redemption story. Also very good.

We Are the Best!
-- Lukas Moodysson ("Show Me Love", above) directs this fun, smart film about a girl punk band.

-- I expected a cliche about the hazards of over-reliance on technology. Instead I got a complex meditation on human relationships. Funny, sad, and profound. Great discussion fodder.

Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and 'To Kill a Mockingbird'
-- An examination of the book, the movie, its cultural context, and what we can know about Harper Lee. Won't knock your socks off, but an interesting view into the creation of one of the most enduring novels of all time.

-- An older woman, on her own, making peace with herself and her alone-ness. Nice movie. Many points for non-beautified older-person sex.

-- Addiction, recovery, and relationships. Often funny, not too heavy, very honest. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is amazing.

-- A nice film about family and redemption. Overrated, in my opinion, but still worth seeing.

The Spectacular Now
-- After reading this youth novel, I wondered how badly it would be botched. Surely no one will make a movie for teenagers with such a bleak, hopeless ending. But the film was good, and the ending, although considerably softened, was still ambiguous and realistic.

Enough Said
-- A second-time-around older person's romantic comedy. Good acting, some truly nice moments, and less hokey than I expected.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Word
-- Total fun and entertainment.

Star Trek Into Darkness
-- I could have lived without the overt 9/11 references, but at least the message was about choosing peace over revenge. Fun and entertaining.

The Rise and Fall of Penn Station (PBS American Experience)
-- A solid documentary about the building of the first rail lines to Manhattan. Not really about Penn Station, the building that died so that others might live.

District 9
-- A little heavy-handed and obvious for my tastes, but a good sci-fi look at bigotry and xenophobia.

It Might Get Loud
-- A cynic might see this as a marketing ploy to capture three demographics. A more generous review might see an exploration of music and musicians across generations. I'm somewhere in between. Worth seeing and some great music.

The Fall, Season 2
-- Not the incredibly suspenseful and scary excitement of Season 1, but very good.

The Best of Men
-- This biopic of Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, a pioneer of spinal cord injury treatment and rehabilitation, chronicles an important piece of disability (and veterans') history. A made-for-TV feel, but still worth seeing.

Faded Gigolo
-- John Turturro makes a Woody Allen film. Nice.

-- This Danny Boyle crime thriller is at times clunky and non-credible, but it's still suspenseful and fun to watch.

West of Memphis
-- A solid documentary about a modern-day witch hunt, and the banality of injustice.

Hateship Loveship
-- A small, quiet, lovely film that explores the complexities of human relationships. Sweet and romantic, but thoroughly unsentimental and unpredictable. Kristin Wiig turns in an amazing performance. The whole cast is excellent. Really worth seeing.

The Importance of Being Earnest
-- If you like Oscar Wilde, you'll enjoy this. If you don't, what is wrong with you?!

The Ides of March
-- Money, politics, scandal. It won't shock you (unless you live in a cave) but it's a decent movie. Plus PSH.

-- The Search for Michael Rockefeller
This doc about the search for the young, disappeared Rockefeller leaves you with more questions than answers. Worth a look.

-- Heathers (1988; re-watch #3)
I remembered how funny this was, but not how dark. Such a good movie.

One word away from David Foster Wallace, here's a supposedly fun thing I'll never do. I can think of few things less appealing than taking a vacation on one of these things. But if I did, I'd probably find some redeeming value, like swimming in a nice pool, or a chance to read a lot. These films had some shred of saving quality that kept them from the scrap heap.

The Golden Compass
-- After reading the book, I thought I should see the movie. It was all right.

Inside Llewyn Davis
-- A passable period piece about a mediocre musician and the 1961 New York music scene. One of the most over-rated films I've ever seen.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball
-- This is a great story, and I really wanted to like the film, but the 20th time you hear someone say the same thing...

Abandoned America
-- A one-episode version of the "Forgotten Planet" documentary. Overheated narration with no context.

Broadchurch, Season 2
-- A huge disappointment! They should have stopped after Season 1.

Laurence Anyways
-- I want to support every trans story out there, but a bad film is a bad film. A confused mess.

The Art of the Steal
-- A crime and con caper about art thieves. Sounded great. Was not.

But I'm a Cheerleader
-- Maybe this was good when it came out in 1999. Won't kill you, but for satirical fun and gay romance, you can do much better than this.

Blue Jasmine
-- How sad to dislike a Woody Allen movie so much. Despite some very fine performances, this film was tedious and annoying.

Silence of Love
-- Perhaps much of this movie, about a man coming to terms with the loss of his wife, was lost in translation. It was a hodge-podge. A mess. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt by keeping it out of the bottom category.

The Secret in their Eyes
-- A failed attempt to make peace with the past, in a movie that started strong and ended with a splat.

I'm So Excited
-- How it pains me to put not one, but two films by Almodovar in the bottom categories! This lame attempt at campy fun is occasionally fun to look at. Otherwise it is dreadful.

Fever Pitch (1997)
-- Sports part good. Romance part bad.

They Call It Myanmar
-- You might glean some interesting facts and views of Burma/Myanmar from this bad documentary, but then again, you could clean out a closet and feel like you accomplished something.

-- With Alan Rickman as Hilly Kristal, this film had a lot of promise. Yet it was a tedious bore. Some nice-ish moments.

A Fantastic Fear of Everything
-- Sadly, the presence of Simon Pegg does not guarantee a good movie. One or two chuckles.

The Interrupters
-- This doc has great credentials: Steve James, who made "Hoop Dreams" and Alex Kotlowitz, who has chronicled inner-city America in books such as There Are No Children Here, make a movie about activists trying to staunch the violence in their community. Despite this and great reviews, I found little more than a series of cliches strung together without context.

We Cause Scenes
-- Maybe one day someone will make a good movie showing all the funny and clever things that Improv Everywhere does. Unfortunately, in this movie, Improv Everywhere tells you how great Improv Everywhere is.

The Monuments Men
-- So this is what star-studded, over-produced, manipulative, obvious Hollywood movies look like. Plus some artwork.

Museum Hours
-- Two people develop an unlikely friendship in Vienna. Boring, but with artwork.

The Inbetweeners Movie
-- Loved the show. Movie, no.

The Princess Bride (1987; re-watch #4)
-- It's kind of cool to see the origins of an internet meme, but other than that, I couldn't remember why everyone loves this movie. Saved from the bottom category by an all-star cast.

Yes, that's right, I'd rather go on a commercial cruise than go camping. I love nature, but I need to sleep in a bed and take a hot shower in the morning. I hated camping even before I was too old to sleep on the ground. Camping sucks and so do these movies.

The Skin I Live In
-- Almodovar, how could you? Multiple rapes, torture, mustache-twirling villains, and completely non-credible plot twists. Absolutely awful.

The Devil's Knot
-- Do yourself a favour: see "West of Memphis," and skip this dreadful fictional version.

-- This was like a bad off-off-off-Broadway play. Luckily I could turn it off.

Stranger by the Lake
-- Once you know your lover is a serial killer, why do you continue to hook up with him? I sure as hell don't know. Close-up gay sex, full of penises, might rescue this for some people. But it's a really bad movie.

* * * *

This year's solo binge watching:
Farscape (finishing from last year)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The Good Wife (watching now)
Murdoch Mysteries, more seasons

This year's binge watching that didn't work:
Doc Martin
The Gilmore Girls

Future potential binge watches:
Brothers and Sisters

This year's comedies:
Parks and Recreation, more seasons
The Vicar of Dibley (re-watch)
The Mindy Project
Bojack Horseman
Brooklyn 9-9
The Inbetweeners
30 Rock (watching now)

Why Would the Opposition Take Debate?

Left Over - Sun, 05/17/2015 - 08:06
Federal election 2015: Conservative move on election debates raises questions Forget philosophical battles over free-market democracy – how, exactly, is this going to work?

By Kady O’Malley, Janyce McGregor, CBC News Posted: May 17, 2015 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: May 17, 2015 5:00 AM ET


Big one watches anyway, and Harper is so paranoid that he’s not gonna deal with anything real..the other leaders will, and should, refuse to ‘join’ his march to the bottom, and that leaves him all kinds of time to spew his rhetoric, undaunted by any actual debate..and few if any actual  viewers, or voters…after all,  this is so  obviously a desperation ploy to counteract the ineffective 24/7  lack of interest in his YouTube perambulations…
Let’s get real, here, no one watches the debates anyway;   okay, what few people do watch are usually decided voters, so really, what does Harper accomplish except looking foolish (as usual…) and I just cant see the Opposition kowtowing to this stupidity..well, maybe Junior T, he seems to enjoy riding the coattails of Harper….
The MSM tries to make a long, drawn-out meal of the debates for no other reason than the owners are almost without exception Harper supporters, so this should keep them droning on and on for weeks…no one cares….

On the transformation of Michael Coren

Trapped In a Whirlpool - Sun, 05/17/2015 - 07:01
Today I posted  to Twitter a Toronto Star column by Coren wherein he laments the vicious attacks he has faced from the congregation of what he coins the Church of Nasty since first  announcing his transition from vile homophobe to human being.
Read more »

Stephen Harper and The Canada Revenue Agency: The Unholy Alliance Continues

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 05/17/2015 - 06:45

I have written many times about the unholy partnership between Stephen Harper and the Canada Revenue Agency that takes the form of an auditing witch hunt of those charities that in any way offer criticism of Dear Leader's policies. The latest news offers further proof that official avowals of impartiality in selecting who will be audited are absolute lies.

The laest story involves the actions of the much-reviled and detested former premier of Ontario, Mike Harris:
A fundraising letter written by Fraser Institute senior fellow and former premier Mike Harris criticizing the Ontario government highlights a double standard in the way the Canada Revenue Agency audits charities, critics charge.

The letter takes swipes at the province for lacking a “credible plan” to balance the provincial budget within two years, and goes on to criticize Ontario’s debt and the province’s unemployment rate.Especially troubling are the Institute's assertions that it doesn't engage in political activities, and that the Harris letter is not political.

Says its president, Niels Veldhuis:
“It’s written by a long time senior fellow of the Fraser Institute, Mike Harris. All of the data in the letter is based on Fraser Institute research..."Progressive charities that have fallen victim to CRA audits disagree:
“It’s definitely political,”’ says Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, referring to the Fraser Institute letter.

“The Fraser Institute is clearly doing public policy work in the political sphere,” says Gray, whose environmental group is being audited by the CRA — a probe that began in 2011.

“They (Fraser Institute) should be reporting that (to Canada Revenue) and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be audited based on their compliance with that 10 per cent (political activities rule),” Gray says.

Gray adds that if they’re not being audited, then that raises the question — why not?Two brief highlights from Harris' letter underscore the political nature of the missive (bolded areas mine):
“Credit rating agencies have further downgraded the province’s credit rating, primarily because it’s very unlikely that this government will reverse course and enact a credible plan to balance the budget within the next two years.’’

“Ontario has experienced reckless overspending by government, ballooning public sector salaries, increased red tape and more union-friendly labour laws.”Environmental Defence director Gray asks why the Fraser Institute is not being audited. The answer, sadly, is all too obvious for anyone willing to see the pattern, and to understand the deep contempt with which the Harper regime regards anyone with the temerity to challenge its agenda.

The October election cannot come soon enough.

Recommend this Post

A Sad State of Affairs

Northern Reflections - Sun, 05/17/2015 - 04:48


Susan Delacourt writes that the Conservative proposal for leaders debates is a shining example of what she calls Harperology 101:

He likes rules, as long as he’s making them, not so much when others do. (See Supreme Court of Canada rulings, independent watchdogs, etc.) His Conservative candidates have been no-shows at election debates in their ridings for years now, through several elections. And of course, Harper is famously and proudly dismissive of the mainstream media. Add that all up, and what other outcome would we expect when confronted with the mainstream, broadcast media making the rules for the TV debates?
For ten years he has been making the rules about communicating with Canadian voters. And, so far, his formula has been successful. Jeffrey Simpson writes:

The Conservatives are focused not on broadening their base but activating the base they have. With perhaps one exception. Conservative support seems to have widened in Quebec, where the issues of terrorism and identity politics around Muslim women’s head coverings, and the recruiting of several high-profile candidates, have helped.
The Conservatives need about 40 per cent of the national electorate to win. They benefit hugely from a split vote between the Liberals and New Democrats, a split that is not disappearing as the NDP gains ground in polling data and by winning the government in Alberta.
Split opposition is exactly what a party with a dedicated and motivated core vote needs. The party with such a core doesn’t even think much about the other 60 per cent of the electorate. It wants its own hard core to coalesce by fearing some of the 60 per cent (the other parties return the favour by scaring their supporters with the thought of another Conservative government): social liberals, secularists, tax-and-spenders, Big Government lovers, CBC-watchers, “elites” of all kinds.
The Conservatives know how to craft a message. Keep it simple. Keep it short. Reinforce everything all the time. Make the party’s four themes lock together: balanced budget, low taxes, smaller government, personal security. Mix in a little patriotism and Stephen Harper as a tried and trusted leader, and you have the Conservative campaign long before the election is called. All parties try tight messaging; the Conservatives do it best.
It's a supremely cynical approach to politics. By appealing to Canadian stupidity, he wins -- a truly sad state of affairs.

The Real Reason Stephen Harper Wants To Sabotage the Election Debates

Montreal Simon - Sun, 05/17/2015 - 02:06

A couple of days ago I wrote a post about Stephen Harper's plan to torpedo the party leader debates, or shrink them until he can drown them in a bath tub.

And I said how shocked I was to see many in the MSM, and even some progressives, swallow the Con line hook, line and sinker.

And proclaim that this move was good for democracy, diversity blah blah blah.

When in fact it's a monstrous assault on our democracy, it's not good for diversity, and it's just another grubby Con scam.
Read more »

Valcourt unsure about details when questioned by MPs on First Nations children, youth

Metaneos - Sat, 05/16/2015 - 17:05
APTN National News
This is a government that just doesn't care about First Nations.
When it came to detailed questions about First Nations children and youth, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt drew blanks.When it came to detailed questions, Valcourt demonstrated he didn't care, at all, to learn about the people he's supposedly responsible for, to act as a representative for. He's supposed to be a conduit, a liaison between two nations.
I don't know an awful lot of these answers offhand, but I'd sure as hell learn them good if need be.
And Valcourt needs to learn this, doubly fast.

Saturday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 05/16/2015 - 13:19
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne writes that the great Canadian revenue debate is well underway, with far more leaders willing to push for needed taxes than in recent years:
There is new political space to talk corporate taxes again, to talk about raising them. Rachel Notley, the new NDP premier of Alberta, won on a platform that promised fair taxation, raising corporate taxes, and getting a fair share of resources for citizens.

Newfoundland and Labrador must have the same conversation and review of resource royalties.

Even the federal Liberals have realized that the tide is turning and have been forced to talk tax fairness — or their version of it. They recently released their so-called middle class tax cut coupled with a promise to cancel some of the Harper government’s tax breaks to the wealthiest. The federal NDP has also been firmly on record about tax reform and tax fairness.

The conversation is started. Let’s keep it going. The kind of Canada we want for our kids depends on it.- Scott Santens looks at the trucking industry as a prime example of how there's plenty more automation yet to come in our economy - and how we need to ensure people can make ends meet without menial jobs which can be shed in favour of machines.

- Scott Klinger discusses the tendency of U.S. conservatives - like their Canadian cousins - to hand out free money to the wealthy while simultaneously decrying the standard of living of people who are scraping to get by.

- Tavia Grant and Janet McFarland report on the problems with payday lenders - and the efforts some cities are making to at least reduce the damage they cause to citizens. And Gillian White points out the connection between underfunded transit in poorer areas and the inaccessibility of needed services. But on the brighter side, Jim Silver and Carolyn Young observe that Winnipeg's Lord Selkirk Park housing complex offers a needed example as to how to turn neglected buildings into an again-thriving community.

- Finally, APTN reports that Bernard Valcourt knows nothing about his responsibilities for First Nations, other than that he thinks he has none. And PressProgress provides the video evidence.

On complexities

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 05/16/2015 - 09:47
Bruce Anderson writes that as some of us have long suspected, a true three-party federal race is developing which will create some new complications for the Cons and Libs alike. But it's worth pointing out one area where the Cons are in much worse shape than they've ever been.

Before the 2008 and 2011 elections, the Cons managed to render Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff radioactive with voters - with those leaders' approval ratings running far below the Libs' party polling results. And over the course of the campaign, an expected convergence between those numbers led to a natural decline for the Libs, while Jack Layton's personal popularity couldn't make up the gap for the NDP.

But now, while the NDP and the Libs are on an equal starting point in terms of popular support, their leaders are also well ahead of Harper (with Mulcair rating as very much liked and Trudeau roughly neutral) - meaning that the inevitable campaign focus on leadership will work to the Cons' disadvantage this time.

Put another way, to the extent the Cons have normally relied on a desperately unpopular Lib leader to lower his party's support level throughout a campaign, Trudeau isn't quite the punching bag his predecessors were. If priority one for the Cons has been to turn Trudeau into Dion or Ignatieff, that job isn't yet done.

Yet to the extent the Cons have counted on the NDP to face an insurmountable deficit in voter support which can't be made up by the public's favourite leader, that's no longer a plausible assumption either. (On that front, note that not only is the NDP higher in the polls than at the start of any recent election campaign, but Mulcair is also far more popular now than Layton ever was at the same point in any election cycle.)

So the public's appetite for change is large enough for the Cons to face serious challenges from two parties and leaders with more appeal than their own. And it doesn't look like there's anything the Cons can do to undermine either of the plausible alternatives without substantially benefitting the other: a more pointed attack against Mulcair and the NDP will only help Trudeau and the Libs, and vice versa.

Based on that conundrum, I'd think the Cons might be best off taking their chances with something truly novel for the Harper cadre: a campaign primarily oriented toward a positive case for more of the same to expand their own voter universe (however slightly) and working toward favourable splits, rather than the usual plan based on relentless attacks against a single perceived opponent. But it doesn't look like the formula which has worked in the past is going to have the same results this time.

[Update: fixed wording.]


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