Posts from our progressive community

The Unfair Elections Act and the Republican Connection

Montreal Simon - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 04:45

He has always been more of an American style politician than a Canadian one.

The closest thing to Richard Nixon and his dirty trick Republicans this country has ever seen.

He brought their disgusting attack ads to Canada.

And his foul Unfair Elections Act is right out of the Republican playbook.
Read more »

Stephen Harper and the Great Kitimat Rebellion

Montreal Simon - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 03:01

When historians assess the legacy of Stephen Harper fifty years from now, the many scandals of his corrupt regime will probably merit only a few paragraphs.

But what they will say of him without a doubt, is that at a critical point in human history he failed his country and his planet.

For at a time when scientists were warning that time was running out for climate change action. 

The disconnect couldn't be greater. 
Read more »

Ron Liepert, Conservative Nom For Calgary-Signal Hill, Tells Jason Kenney Where to Go

Sister Sages Musings - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 11:21

Well, boys n girls,  I share Dr. Dawg’s sentiments regarding the end of Robbie Anders career: “Good Riddance”! Rob Anders, a man seen much of the time sleeping his way through Question Period. A man who believes Nelson Mandela is basically a communist terrorist.  Anders, who got himself kicked off the Veterans’ Committee for . . . → Read More: Ron Liepert, Conservative Nom For Calgary-Signal Hill, Tells Jason Kenney Where to Go

Kevin O'Leary made a fool of himself again

LeDaro - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 10:04
This guy is a moron.

military propaganda at sports events reaches new extremes: continuous recruitment ads at baseball games

we move to canada - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 08:30
I've recently returned from a lovely trip to Boston, filled with so many of my favourite things: friends, family, books, and baseball.

I love Fenway Park, and I'm always happy to be there. On this trip, we saw three great games, two of them wins, so I was thrilled. The games were marred by only one thing: nearly constant propaganda for the US military. This is not an exaggeration.

Throughout Fenway Park, as in many sports venues, there are monitors showing a TV feed of the action on the field. Right now, between innings, the Fenway Park monitors show a continuous feed of advertising for the United States Army. During the game, the ads continue on a sidebar beside the action.

Let that sink in a moment. The constant advertising crammed into every moment of the ballgame, and the constant linking of sports and the military, are now joined in this doubly offensive development.

There is something particularly Orwellian about watching a baseball game while a constant stream of silent images of war and military run in your peripheral vision.

I gathered from the brief branding displays that the ad feed is supplied by Access Sports Media. According to its website, Access Sports Media
provides advertisers cross-platform solutions engaging passionate fans in sports venues nationwide through digital out of home, social media, mobile, and in-venue sponsorships. Access Sports reaches more than 110 million viewers annually through a national footprint of 200 sports properties and a digital network of over 20,000 screens across professional, minor league and college sports.Its list of clients includes many major corporations, a few specific products, and - listed first - the US Army.

The Army ads themselves stem from a campaign written about here in The New York Times, called a "reality" theme without a trace of irony. Of course, it bears little resemblance to reality. There are no bombings, no destroyed villages, no torture prisons. No amputations, no traumatic brain injury, no alcoholism, no domestic violence, no suicides.

The ads are built around the slogan "Army Strong": "There's strong, then there's Army Strong". This is a particularly good sell for a Boston-area audience: after the Boston Marathon bombing, the city rallied to a cry of "Boston Strong". The Times article notes that the ads are
an example of what is known on Madison Avenue as a program-length commercial or infomercial. Once the province of gadgets peddled with hard-sales entreaties like, “But wait, there’s more,” such longer spiels have been embraced by well-known brands like AT&T, Bing, Chase and Teleflora, along with a number of automakers.

Program-length commercials are becoming more popular as part of a trend known as content marketing, sponsored content or branded entertainment. The trend is meant to counter the growing habit — particularly among younger consumers, like the target audience for the Army, ages 18 to 24 — of ignoring traditional forms of advertising.The "Army Strong" ads at Fenway are a barrage of quick-cut images emphasizing camaraderie and bonding, toughness and strength, dirt and grit, and stirring patriotism. Men (I saw no female soldiers in the ads, although there might be one somewhere) worked hard and played hard, always together, often dirty, but always serious and strong. In a world where career choices often involve life behind a desk or tethered to a computer, the men in these ads were running across rugby fields, rappelling down snow-covered mountainsides, parachuting out of airplanes, and using lots of exciting-looking equipment.

Only two quick images gave any hint as to why so many men are running, rappelling, shooting, and seeing the world through night-vision goggles. In one image, a woman in a hijab slides a slip of paper in a ballot box. In another, a group of soldiers sit in a circle in a tent, listening to a traditionally-dressed Afghan man (or, I should say, an actor dressed as one). What's the caption here? "How many weddings did we bomb today?" "You take the oil, we'll keep the heroin"? Or maybe just "Me smokem peace pipe."

As both Allan and I have written about before (here, here, and here, for example), there is already a huge amount of military propaganda inappropriately linked to sports events. The Boston Red Sox and the many other teams that contract with Access Sports Media - a list is here - now take the trend to new extremes.

I wrote this to the Boston Red Sox. If you are a sports fan who finds this advertising offensive, I hope you will speak up to your team's management, too.
I am a Red Sox fan who lives out of town. I am able to enjoy games at Fenway about every-other year, at best. I love Fenway Park, and thus, when I attended three games against the Texas Rangers last week, I was extremely disheartened to be subjected to continous military recruitment advertisements.

Many young people, especially those from low-income families, believe what they see in the United States Army's ads and enlist, only to find the reality gravely different. Of course, who would ever sign up if the ads showed the truth? Amputations, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder; rampant alcoholism and domestic violence, skyrocketing suicide rates.

By partnering with Access Sports Media to show these deceptive ads at Fenway Park, the Red Sox are complicit in that deception.

The Red Sox Foundation promotes the "Run to Home Base," which raises money to "provide much needed services to local veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan... with combat stress disorders and/or traumatic brain injuries". At the same time, the Red Sox are helping to ensure that more healthy young men and women will eventually need those services.

The constant showing of military propaganda during a baseball game is inappropriate and offensive. I hope the Boston Red Sox will reconsider the decision to run Access Sports Media's US Army recruitment ads during games.

Jim Flaherty, RIP

The Winnipeg RAG Review - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 08:30
Jim Flaherty, Canada's 37th Finance Minister.

Image Source: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press
In the upcoming weeks this blog will look at the new Finance Minister, how they fit within the broader context of the Harper Government, and what this means for Canada. Before moving towards discussions of the future, however, it is important to acknowledge a very recent and very tragic event: the death of former Finance minister Jim Flaherty.

Flaherty was involved in Ontario provincial politics as a Progressive Conservative before his career at the Federal level, serving in a number of cabinet portfolios. Rising to Ottawa as an Whitby-Oshawa MP,  Jim Flaherty served as federal finance minister within Harper's first year as Prime Minister. He continued as finance minister until March of this year, resigning from cabinet and federal politics due to health reasons.

As a member of the Conservative Party of Canada Flaherty pursued the Prime Minister's agenda, which included spending cuts and slashing corporate taxes While generally a team player, Flaherty got into conflicts with others in the Conservative Caucus over family friend Rob Ford and income-splitting, a tax policy benefiting the wealthy he didn't support.  

On most matters, though, the Whitby-Oshawa MP worked tirelessly to forward Harper's Conservative policy agenda. While I strongly disagree with most of Flaherty's agenda (with the admission that there were some good pieces borne of his more pragmatic instincts), it is utterly sad to know a fellow human being is dead. The deceased Ontarian will be deeply missed by friends and family, including the many politicians he worked with and debated with.

Former Winnipeg blogger and prolific Winnipeg tweeter Scott MacNeil puts it best:

Guilty of oft attacking policy choices of Flaherty the politician; my sincere condolences to the family of Jim Flaherty the man. #Cdnpoli
— Scott MacNeil (@WinnipegFatArse) April 10, 2014

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 08:24
Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Will Hutton writes about Thomas Piketty's rebuttal to the false claim that inequality has to be encouraged in the name of development - and the reality that we have a public policy choice whether to privilege returns on capital or broad-based growth:
It is a startling thesis and one extraordinarily unwelcome to those who think capitalism and inequality need each other. Capitalism requires inequality of wealth, runs this right-of-centre argument, to stimulate risk-taking and effort; governments trying to stem it with taxes on wealth, capital, inheritance and property kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Thus Messrs Cameron and Osborne faithfully champion lower inheritance taxes, refuse to reshape the council tax and boast about the business-friendly low capital gains and corporation tax regime.

Piketty deploys 200 years of data to prove them wrong. Capital, he argues, is blind. Once its returns – investing in anything from buy-to-let property to a new car factory – exceed the real growth of wages and output, as historically they always have done (excepting a few periods such as 1910 to 1950), then inevitably the stock of capital will rise disproportionately faster within the overall pattern of output. Wealth inequality rises exponentially.

The process is made worse by inheritance and, in the US and UK, by the rise of extravagantly paid "super managers". High executive pay has nothing to do with real merit, writes Piketty – it is much lower, for example, in mainland Europe and Japan. Rather, it has become an Anglo-Saxon social norm permitted by the ideology of "meritocratic extremism", in essence, self-serving greed to keep up with the other rich. This is an important element in Piketty's thinking: rising inequality of wealth is not immutable. Societies can indulge it or they can challenge it.
The lesson of the past is that societies try to protect themselves: they close their borders or have revolutions – or end up going to war. Piketty fears a repeat. His critics argue that with higher living standards resentment of the ultra-rich may no longer be as great – and his data is under intense scrutiny for mistakes. So far it has all held up.

Nor does it seem likely that human beings' inherent sense of justice has been suspended. Of course the reaction plays out differently in different eras: I suspect some of the energy behind Scottish nationalism is the desire to build a country where toxic wealth inequalities are less indulged than in England.

The solutions – a top income tax rate of up to 80%, effective inheritance tax, proper property taxes and, because the issue is global, a global wealth tax – are currently inconceivable.

But as Piketty says, the task of economists is to make them more conceivable. Capital certainly does that.- And Paul Krugman takes a look at the gross amount of wealth - by Gabriel Zucman's estimate up to 8% of all the wealth on the planet - which has been funneled to tax havens in order to be isolated from any contribution to the social good.

- Of course, any public response to the continued distortion of political systems in favour of the wealth will require a massive amount of citizen activism. And Alexandra Bradbury and Jane Slaughter discuss how to build an enduring movement.

- Meanwhile, Kitimat's plebiscite rejecting the Northern Gateway pipeline should serve as an important demonstration that even the best-funded corporate propaganda campaign won't necessarily win out against a strong community.

- But it's a much more difficult task to achieve a change in general policies. And there's plenty of reason to focus on the Cons' continued refusal to regulate the oil industry which now represents Canada's largest source of CO2 pollution - particularly as the rest of the world starts to notice that renewable alternatives are well within reach.

- Finally, Marianne Lenabat wonders how Canada has been turned into one of the most reactionary actors on the global scene in recent years even when public opinion is still generally favourable toward social democracy.

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out

Cathie from Canada - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 08:14
It couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy:
despite endorsements of Anders by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Calgary cabinet heavyweight Jason Kenney, Liepert’s message that the area deserved a better MP resonated with Conservative voters weary of Anders’ shoot from the lip style.
"He can’t point to one damn thing he can take credit for accomplishing in this riding.” A fitting epitaph for the creepy, undead Rob Anders.
— Dr.Dawg (@DrDawg) April 13, 2014
When Rob Anders wakes up from his nap he'll be pissed. #cdnpoli

— Steve V (@FarAndWide) April 13, 2014

Now Rob Anders has more time to follow his true passion: finding and fighting the ghost of Nelson Mandela.

— Charles Demers (@charliedemers) April 13, 2014

When his staffers finally succeeded in waking Anders to give him the bad news he was heard to exclaim but Mandela IS a terrorist

— trapdinawrpool (@trapdinawrpool) April 13, 2014

Good riddance

Dawg's Blawg - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 08:10
Even within the benighted ranks of the Conservative Party of Canada, Rob Anders stood out: a walking nullity, his every word spoken as though by rote, a person for whom “convictions” were a sign, not of moral strength, but of... Dr.Dawg

Jim Flaherty’s Death Does Not Warrant the Hero Worship he Has Been Receiving

Sister Sages Musings - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 07:05

I shouldn’t have to open this post with I’m sorry for Flaherty’s family’s loss. That is a given.  In fact, I can empathize. I have lost people recently.  I really hope Flaherty’s family finds the strength to continue with their lives.  It’s one reason why I haven’t really spoken of it on Thursday on . . . → Read More: Jim Flaherty’s Death Does Not Warrant the Hero Worship he Has Been Receiving

A Prematurely Old Man

Northern Reflections - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 06:40

Stephen Harper likes to boast that seniors are his most loyal supporters. You'll notice that he has very little to say about the young. That's because he really isn't concerned about them. Take job creation -- something for which the prime minister claims a special talent. Carol Goar writes:

A government bent on lowering the living standard of Canada’s next generation couldn’t do a much better job than Stephen Harper and his colleagues have done.

The Prime Minister and his high-octane employment minister, Jason Kenney , have thrown one barrier after the next in front of young job seekers. Canada’s youth unemployment rate (15-24 years of age, both sexes) was 12.2 per cent when the Conservatives took power in 2006. Today, it is 13.6 per cent . But the numbers tell only part of the story. Hundreds of thousands of young people have given up their job search and gone back to school. Others have simply disappeared from the head count.
It's true that the millennial generation has faced a number of obstacles -- globalization among them. But Harper's policy response has been to sacrifice the young to the trends they face:
First there was the massive expansion of the once-modest foreign temporary workers program. When the Conservatives took power, it was a stopgap designed to address isolated labour shortages in the oilpatch and allow employers to hire highly specialized workers with skills no Canadian could offer. Eight years later, it has become a high-speed causeway into the Canadian job market. Hundreds of thousands of workers — most of them low-skilled — pour into the country every year bypassing young Canadians. In the past 12 months, there have been several high-profile cases of employers turning away Canadian applicants and bringing foreign workers whose immigration status is dependent on their job performance. Whenever one of these embarrassments makes headlines, Kenney vows to crack down. “Our message to employers is clear and unequivocal: Canadians must always be first in line for available jobs,” Kenney affirmed this week after CBC reported that a McDonald’s franchise in Victoria was bringing in workers from the Philippines and cutting the hours of its Canadian staff.Second, there was the government’s single-minded crackdown on young offenders. Former public safety minister Vic Toews, with the full backing of his boss, spent $5 billion (on top of the existing $15 billion) on law enforcement. The provinces, who handle most drug offences, were required to ante up an additional $14.8 billion. If even half that money had gone to providing young people who stayed in school with marketable skills, they wouldn’t be stuck in minimum-wage retail and fast food jobs. Moreover, they wouldn’t be tarred with an unfair reputation.
No, Stephen Harper is no friend of the young. He's a prematurely old man.

I Come Not To Praise Flaherty

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 06:36

I have thus far avoided writing about Jim Flaherty's passing for a very simple reason; it is difficult, if not impossible to keep separate his family's personal loss with the man's record as a politician. Yet two pieces I read in yesterday's Star convinced me otherwise, and they allow me to offer my own views without disrespect for the dead.

The first, a fine piece of writing by Jim Coyle, is entitled Jim Flaherty gave up so much to serve us. His thesis is this:

...our politics would ... improve mightily if the Canadian public saw politicians as human beings much like themselves, often making very large sacrifices, rather than as contemptible cartoon figures of vanity, greed and corruption.

His column goes on to describe the tremendous sacrifices Flaherty made in his 25 years of service: forgone remuneration, which would have been likely totaled in the millions given the lucrative law practice he left upon entering politics, and more importantly, the precious time with his family that was never to be recovered.

Coyle states:

But let’s be honest. A life in politics, and especially in its higher reaches, is inherently incompatible with the everydayness and unpredictable crises of family life.

The job, more than most, is all-consuming. By necessity, it demands living away from home part of most weeks. Even when not in Ottawa, the travelling through ridings, the out-and-abouting, the constituency work is unrelenting.

But his piece, which ultimately is an effort to remind us of how politics can still be seen as a noble calling despite the widespread public cynicsm that currently prevails, omits something crucial to any evaluation of Jim Flaherty in particular, and politicians in general. The sacrifices Coyle discusses, while no doubt real ones, become tainted, cheapened and debased when they are made in service to a dark lord. And Flaherty had two such masters: the hideous former Ontario Premier Mike Harris, who did more than any other Canadian politician in memory to disseminate dissension, disunity and class hatred, all of which Flaherty was a willing part.

His second dark master was, of course, Stephen Harper, whose myriad measures to unravel our social, economic and political frameworks need no recounting here.

So without question, Coyle is right in reminding us that Flaherty sacrificed much to be a part of public life. But surely an honest evaluation of that life cannot be made separate from his and his masters' records.

Which brings me to the second piece I read yesterday, by Thomas Walkom, entitled CBC cuts show other side of Jim Flaherty. While acknowledging the grievous loss suffered by his family and friends, the writer makes this key assertion:

... it was under Flaherty’s watch as finance minister that the latest cutbacks in federal government funding to CBC occurred. ....he was also an integral part of a government determined to smash or cripple much of what makes Canada a livable country.

His death is a reminder that good people can do bad things for the best of motives.

Walkom broadens his perspectives beyond those cuts that will untimately destroy the CBC:

Flaherty’s various budgets have called for more than $5 billion in annual spending cuts. Successive parliamentary budget officers have noted that the vast majority of these cuts are to come from as yet unspecified public services.

On top of these, the federal government has decided to dramatically scale back spending on medicare.

Those health-care transfer cuts, announced by Flaherty in 2011, won’t kick in until well after the next election.

The cutbacks in employment insurance, the decision to raise the age of eligibility for old-age security, the reductions in transfer payments to Ontario, the lessening of environmental enforcement — all were collective decisions of the Harper cabinet.

All ministers bear responsibility for them.

But to forget that the former finance minister was a critical part of this ministry is to do him no favours.

And surely, it does no favours to Canada if we bury Flaherty's questionable record along with his earthly remains.

Recommend this Post

Rob Anders: The Con Loon Finally Bites the Dust

Montreal Simon - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 04:31

He tried every dirty trick in the book to try to win his nomination battle.

He smeared his opponents as closet Liberals. He used misleading robocalls against them. 

He called on his rabid religious base to save him.

But nothing could stop the Con loon Rob Anders from facing his own personal Armageddon. 
Read more »

The Unfair Elections Act and the Madness of Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 02:26

I never can decide which famous story Harperland reminds me of the most.

The Emperor's New Clothes or Lord of the Flies.

Or answer the questions historians will ask.

Did he really think he could get away with it? Why were so many so silent for so long? Or failed to understand the nature of the monster?

But I'm glad to see that even Andrew Coyne now understands that maybe the Unfair Elections Act is just CRAZY. 
Read more »

Great line of the day

Cathie from Canada - Sat, 04/12/2014 - 10:24
From Thomas Walkom's column about Jim Flaherty and the CBC cuts -- CBC cuts show other side of Jim Flaherty:
Those who knew him say he was hard-working, loyal to his family and possessed of an engaging personality.
There is no evidence that I know of to suggest that his motives were anything but public-spirited.
But he was also an integral part of a government determined to smash or cripple much of what makes Canada a livable country.
His death is a reminder that good people can do bad things for the best of motives...
Flaherty was also a willing and active participant in Harper’s dark experiment to remake Canada along Conservative lines. The omnibus budget bills that, to the dismay of the opposition, allowed this experiment to proceed were his. Yes, that pretty much sums up how I feel.

Canadians will forever be indebted because of Jim...

The Ranting Canadian - Sat, 04/12/2014 - 09:01

Canadians will forever be indebted because of Jim Flaherty.

Regardless of what one thinks of the recently deceased man on a personal level, if one uses objective, non-emotional criteria, it is clear that he was probably the worst finance minister in Canadian history. Unfortunately for us, his replacement, Joe Oliver, will likely be much worse. 

Almost immediately after Flaherty’s death became public, the fawning political praise and sickening historical revisionism flooded in like oil from an Enbridge pipeline spill. Over-the-top accolades for the small callous man have been stomach-churning, and is an insult to his many victims. It is very easy for comfortable politicians and pundits to overlook the damage he has caused to so many lives.

Crediting Flaherty for his supposed “steady hand on the tiller” during the recent recession (which still lingers today) is outrageous nonsense. The fact that Canada’s economy didn’t collapse as much as some of the other economies is in spite of Flaherty and the Conservatives, not because of them. The previous Liberal government left the Conservatives with a budget surplus, a somewhat-regulated banking sector, and certain protections for other economic sectors.

Before the worldwide financial meltdown hit, the Conservatives had been screaming for years to deregulate the financial sector and other key sectors. If they had gotten their way back then, the recent economic collapse in Canada would be much worse. With all the reckless and treasonous economic policies that Flaherty has helped bring in during his federal tenure, Canada will be hit much harder in the next big downturn.  B-b-b-baby, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Applauding Flaherty for gradually reining in his annual federal deficits and reversing some of his other misguided fiscal policies is like treating a child like a hero for slowly, yet only partially, cleaning up a mess he created in the first place!

Flaherty’s financial mismanagement started well before the 2008 recession hit. Then, when it became obvious to most that Canada was going into recession, Flaherty he kept insisting that the country would be magically spared, until he had no choice but to admit the truth (without admitting he had been wrong). A man with integrity would have resigned after being caught in lies so big. Later, Flaherty kept bragging that he would stay on as federal finance minister until he got the annual federal budget balanced again. Another Conservative promise broken.

Praising Flaherty for his years of “public service” is horseshit. He wasn’t an unpaid intern, minimum wage worker or a frontline soldier. The Canadian taxpayers paid him very well, and gave him a lifestyle of comfort and luxury beyond the wildest dreams of most working-class Canadians. No wonder he seemed happy-go-lucky much of the time. He got his. Flaherty had no loyalty to Canadians; he served his political party and the multinational corporations, not the general public.

As for the boldly dishonest Globe and Mail headline claiming that Flaherty “always fought for the little guy”, you have to be fucking kidding me! Flaherty was an enemy in the class war. He was a traitor to his family’s humble roots. He showed no sympathy for those who were down on their luck and couldn’t catch a break. Instead of helping the little guy up, he kicked that guy while he was down, spit in his face and added verbal insults to those injuries. Flaherty was no friend of the poor and disadvantaged. They were beneath him.

Here are some of the lowlights in Flaherty’s horrible political career:

● As the finance minister in Ontario’s Mike Harris government, he severely cut social assistance, housing, healthcare, education, water testing and other valuable programs, leading to increased homelessness, poverty, hopelessness, medical suffering and deaths.

● Also as the Ontario finance minister, Flaherty played a key role in rushing through the 99-year lease of Highway 407 (built with tax dollars) to a sleazy and/or incompetent Spanish corporation that has ripped off drivers, either by mistake or by design. That foreign corporation got an extremely generous deal and Ontarians got the shaft. Flaherty used that deal and other shady backroom sales of public assets to make his financial books look good. Short-term gain for long-term pain.

● Near the end of his provincial career – by then the Minister of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation – Flaherty was complicit in the Progressive Conservatives’ fraudulent claim that they had of an annual budget surplus, which the incoming Ontario Liberal government later confirmed to be a $5.6 billion deficit. In a just world, there would have been criminal convictions.

● In his early days of being the federal finance minister, Flaherty irrationally and viciously declared to the world that businesses should not invest in Ontario. His treasonous dig was petty-minded revenge against Ontarians for voting Liberal in the 2003 provincial election.

● Flaherty financially screwed over retirees by suddenly taxing income trusts after explicitly promising not to.

● He and the Conservatives massively increased the federal debt, which one source says is almost $620 billion and another source says is almost $680 billion (as of April 12, 2014). That is up from $481.5 billion in 2006, when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives took over from the Paul Martin Liberals. That means approximately 22 to 29 per cent of Canada’s federal debt was racked up under Flaherty’s watch. That’s right; between 20 and 30 per cent of Canada’s entire federal debt, spanning almost 150 years of government, was racked up in just eight years. The federal debt would be even bigger if the federal government had not downloaded many of its financial liabilities to the lower levels of government. Note that the federal Liberals were guilty of downloading too, but the Harper Conservatives never reversed that.

● Flaherty implemented a “starve the beast” strategy:

1)Waste money on non-priorities such as pork-barrel projects, irresponsible tax cuts, luxuries for his fellow politicians, the useless G20 and G8 conferences, the aggressive occupation of Afghanistan,  expensive political propaganda, and no-strings-attached subsidies for big corporations (especially tarsands corporations).

2) Claim that we can no longer afford the services and regulations that Canadians depend on.

3) Slash those cherished services and regulations under the guise of balancing the budget.

4) Repeat.

● He enacted policies that resulted in increased unemployment and underemployment (especially for younger Canadians), lower wage rates, less stability, reduced benefits, shrunk pensions,  intensified economic inequality and the race to the bottom.

● Flaherty increased payroll taxes, which disproportionately hurts people who acquire most of their income by working for wages, instead of living off investments.

● He and his Conservative colleagues actively contributed to the preventable crisis of jobs being sent out of the country while submissive “temporary” foreign workers are imported to  replace qualified Canadian workers. This is a recipe for disaster.

● Flaherty enabled wealthy insiders to evade taxes and refused to give Canada Revenue Agency the resources needed to crack down on major tax cheats.

● He pushed the HST (Harper Sales Tax) onto Ontario and British Columbia (with the cooperation of their provincial governments). In Ontario, the provincial Liberals and federal Conservatives promised that the HST – which added sales tax to many basic goods and services that were tax-free before – would create thousands of jobs and cause businesses to lower their prices. Neither has happened.

● Flaherty allowed Harper to transform federal budget bills into gigantic omnibus bills with more non-budget items than actual budget items. Their size (hundreds of pages) and purpose (to sneak through extreme changes without proper examination or debate) have been unprecedented in Canada.

● He added to the problem of the overheated Canadian housing market, which has led to insanely high prices for houses and condos, especially in major urban areas. This has mostly benefitted the banksters and those who work in the real estate industry, at the expense of everyone else.

● He used his influence and connections to help the Ford crime family get elected to Toronto city council, and he hurled insults at those who dared criticize Rob the crackhead mayor.


This is the stuff of his legacy. Oh, but he smiled a lot and he was friendly to opposition politicians.

One could argue that Flaherty wasn’t all to blame, and that he was merely a puppet of Harris, Harper and their corporate masters. That theory does not make Flaherty look any better. It makes him look spineless, opportunistic and selfish. Blaming his failed federal record on the global recession is also a cop-out, an excuse that his fellow Cons would never accept if it came from another political party

Politics isn’t an abstract game or a debating club. This is real life, and real people have been harmed (and continue to be harmed) by Flaherty’s actions and inactions. People have actually died because of his punitive policies. Canada is worse off because of what Flaherty did in office, and the nation may never recover, even if the NDP or Liberals win the next election.

I understand it’s an emotional time for some and it’s hard to not empathize with Flaherty’s family and friends, but please show at least a minimum level of human decency and think about his victims. Grieve the fact that Flaherty spent his adult life on the wrong side of righteousness and he lost his opportunity to right his wrongs. Above all else, please restrain the urge to re-write history. The lies and distortions are too much to bear, so spare us.

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 04/12/2014 - 08:52
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Ezra Klein comments on the U.S.' doom loop of oligarchy - as accumulated wealth is spent to buy policy intended to benefit nobody other than those who have already accumulated wealth:
On Thursday, the House passed Paul Ryan's 2015 budget. In order to get near balance, the budget contains $5.1 trillion in spending cuts — roughly two-thirds of which come from programs for poor Americans. Those cuts need to be so deep because Ryan has pledged not to raise even a dollar in taxes.

As a very simple rule, rich people pay more in taxes and poor people benefit more from services. So if you pledge to balance the budget without raising taxes, you're going to end up making the rich richer and the poor poorer. But Ryan goes further than that: he actually cuts taxes on the rich.
Wealthy people will be even better poised to influence the 2014 and 2016 elections than they were to influence the 2010 and 2012 elections. Now, wealthy people are not a single voting bloc, but most wealthy people would like to continue being wealthy. And so you see bipartisan movement towards policies that protect their wealth, most recently with the Democratic legislature in Maryland voting to eliminate the state's estate tax.

Over time, a political system that gives the wealthy more power is a political system that is going to do more to protect the interests of the wealthy. It's the Doom Loop of Oligarchy, and we're seeing it daily.- Meanwhile, Jim Stanford documents Canada's own descent into neoliberalism. And Carol Goar highlights how the Cons are doing their utmost to eliminate opportunities for young workers.

- The National Post's editorial board points out the absurdity of the Cons attacking their own appointed Chief Electoral Officer. Andrew Coyne calls out the Cons for turning what should be wholly unobjectionable principles - such as an accurate census and a fair electoral system - into their own political firing line. And Tabatha Southey duly mocks the assertion that Elections Canada is the new Illuminati.

- But then, a party merrily engaged in systemic illegality - such as, say, interference with access to information - figures to have little choice but to try to shout down any investigation which might reveal what it's actually up to.

- Finally, Thomas Walkom reminds us about some of Jim Flaherty's deliberate cuts to important public services including the CBC. And PressProgress charts how Lib and Con governments alike have slashed Canada's public broadcaster over the past three decades.

You Know Things Are Really Bad

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 04/12/2014 - 08:44

...when even The Globe and Mail takes issue with its party of choice. In a blistering editorial entitled Harper Tories undermining democracy, to their own peril, the Globe attacks the 'Fair Elections Act and the attitude and deceit behind it, on a number of fronts. I hope you will take a few moments to read the entire piece. I will try to whet your appetite with the following excerpt:

...Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre this week told senators that Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand has been so critical of the Fair Elections Act because “he wants more power, a bigger budget and less accountability.” Yes, that is surely the reason.

It cannot be because the bill’s change to voter-identification rules threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

Or that the bill introduces a campaign-spending loophole that eviscerates spending limits, and benefits the Conservative Party.

It could not be because the bill gives the winning party in each riding the power to name some of the officials who will oversee the next election.

It must not be the way the bill meddles with Elections Canada’s role in investigating or reporting on electoral irregularities.

It cannot be because, as a group of academics put it last month, the bill will “undermine the integrity of the Canadian electoral process, diminish the effectiveness of Elections Canada, reduce voting rights, expand the role of money in politics and foster partisan bias in election administration.”

No, the criticism must derive from the fact that the man charged with running fair and free elections is as partial, biased and self-interested as Mr. Poilievre.

The universal consensus of the bill, outside of the Conservative party and its supporters?

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Hudak vows to cancel full day Kindergarten

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As a volunteer on a not-for-profit childcare centre Board, I can say with some authority that the FDK horse has left the barn. There has been some bumps on the road to implementation, but it has overall been a success. Furthermore, cancelling it now in its final stage of implementation would not only throw Ontario […]

The Vapid Party

Northern Reflections - Sat, 04/12/2014 - 06:39

 Conservatives, Andrew Coyne writes, believe in absolutes and reject moral relativism:

Conservatives at their best disdain the lazy moral relativism that passes for sophistication in some corners of the left. There are such things as right and wrong, they insist, not right for some and wrong for others. Some absolutes remain.
And, in a democracy, there  are still a few absolutes:

Ideas previously accepted as axiomatic — that everyone has a right to vote, that those who don’t vote should be encouraged to, that public confidence in elections should not be undermined nor the integrity of their administrators lightly impugned — are now in play. The people who uphold these ideas — experts in election law, present and former elections officials, people with long experience in the legal and political worlds who have earned reputations for sound judgment — now find themselves dismissed as biased, or even bought. Because there are now “sides” to this question.
The Harperites believe there are only two sides -- their side and everybody else. Everybody else is wrong.  That is their only absolute. And, because every calculation is political, everything else is relative:

The most disturbing expression of this government’s relativism is what one might call its relativization of knowledge. That it could casually dismiss the unanimous expert opposition to the bill, without bothering to offer a rebuttal, shows contempt not just for those involved but for the whole concept of expertise. Experts can sometimes get it wrong, of course, even where they are agreed. But the insinuation here is that they are wrong because they are experts, of which their very unanimity is further proof.
And so, the Harper Party has become the party of glorified ignorance. It smugly assumes that it is right in all matters and its critics are stupid. In other words, it is an absolutely vapid organization.


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