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This Gift From Montreal Simon

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 11:31
I have to admit I was feeling rather discouraged the other day when I read this CBC report in which an EKOS Research poll found that only 27 percent of respondents were familiar with the 'Fair' Elections Act. Then I read Montreal Simon's post this morning and felt a little better.

Here is the short video he posted that beautifully and very succinctly shows why voting is so important. Enjoy and send it to whomever you think might benefit:

Recommend this Post

Abortion in New Brunswick: It's Time

Dammit Janet - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 10:19
By now you've heard that the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton (one of only two abortion clinics east of Montreal!) is closing. CBC report and Al Jazeera report with photos and tweets.

What I hadn't realized is that New Brunswick is the original home of the TRAP law. TRAP (Targetted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws are increasingly common in the abortion wars in the US.

But New Brunswick blazed a trail, legislating against ONE SPECIFIC CLINIC.

From the press release by the clinic:
From the moment Dr. Morgentaler announced his intention to open an abortion clinic in Fredericton, the provincial government planned to thwart his efforts.  The premier at the time, Frank McKenna, stated that: “if Mr. Morgentaler tries to open a clinic in the province of New Brunswick, he’s going to get the fight of his life.”

Subsequent New Brunswick governments have continued to block access to abortion services in New Brunswick.

Dr. Morgentaler was immune to their threats.  He had already survived jail, threats against his life and the bombing of his Toronto clinic.  The actions of the N.B. government only served to strengthen his resolve to ensure that New Brunswick women would have access to safe abortion care in his clinic and that no woman would be turned away regardless of her ability to pay.  The Morgentaler Clinic opened in June, 1994 and since then has provided abortion services to more than 10,000 women in a non-judgmental, evidence based, and professional environment.

The main obstacle the New Brunswick government created for New Brunswick women who needed to access abortions was, and still is, Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2(a.1). It states that an abortion will only be covered by Medicare if:
1. It is performed in a hospital by a specialist in the field of obstetrics or gynaecology and that
2. Two doctors have certified in writing that the procedure is ‘medically necessary’.(Note that NB has never bothered to define "medically necessary." Read the whole press release for the history of their struggles and the heroic contributions of Dr Morgentaler. Also, DJ! has been covering the clinic's travails for years.)

So. Hats off to the innovative fetus fetishists of New Brunswick!

The deranged anti-choicers, rather than celebrating, are suspicious. They think the closure announcement is a stunt. Well, they don't want to dry up all those tasty donations, do they?

While it's idiotic to think of this desperate measure as a stunt, I think it will have serious unintended consequences that both the governments of NB and PEI (10% of abortions done at the Fredericton clinic are for women from PEI, where abortions are simply NOT DONE) will have to deal with.

The Morgentaler Clinic acted as a safety valve. For women who could afford it and arrange the travel, time off work, child care etc, the clinic provided an "out" for these two governments.

Fine, they could say, you want a "non-medical" abortion? Go to Morgentaler's and pay for it yourself.

Not anymore.

So what will the governments of NB and PEI say to women now?

Will this be the wake-up call for women and their allies previously shamed into silence? Will this be the rallying point for pro-choicers across the country to demand that ALL Canadian women get equal access to health care?

I hope so.

Now for the public service part of this blog post.

Here's a petition to sign. Now at over 6400 signatures, when I signed yesterday, it was just over 3000.

Next, here's a list of NB legislators with email addresses for letter writing.

And here's a blogpost by a former clinic worker, Pedgehog, with her own insights and suggestions.

It's time. Let's drag New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island into the 21st century.

UPDATE: There's an election in NB this year. Looks like Liberal Leader is "softening" support for government 2-doctor policy without actually coming out in support of repeal of the regulations.

A Most Opportune Death

Dammit Janet - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 09:36



well, it wasn't for Flaherty but it most certainly is for Harper.

We will all die.  Every one of us.

But let us consider Flaherty's CONvenient demise and how Harper will play it out.

All in all, Flaherty's sudden death after dumping Harper and his party, is awfully CONvenient for PMSHithead - if he needs to strike fear in his partisans.

Paul Wells, a most rigorous and understated political reporter, gives us an insight into the internal gears of Harper's CPC that are grinding Canadians down as well as a portrait of a corporate conservative, here.

Flaherty's death offers Harper's Politburo glorious, flashy opportunities to display him in a *good* light which is a tactic that PMSHithead badly needs to deploy right now.

So, let's watch how Harper plays the Canadian and international media in order to exploit Flaherty's death for his own purpose.  It can be his new sweater-and-kittens schtick!

Will Harper insist that Flaherty receive a state funeral, with all the pomp and protocol, and the attendant bells and whistles? I bet he does exactly that. PMSHithead's government needs a MASSIVE sparkly diversions from all the attention the lies, the fraud and the corruption that Harper has facilitated.

As tweeter @dexterdyne asked: The Harper government has cut programs and funding for our veterans, scientists, health care, unemployed, the CBC, the public service.  So what exactly are they spending it on? 

In order to evade such probing questions, Harper's Politburo in currently in full War Room mode.  Right now its richly-paid communication flunkies are spinning tactics to best exploit Flaherty's death for maximum benefit: to make PMSHithead look *good* to voters and to the media.

They are probably looking to North Korea, as they did when they wrote the *Fair* Elections Act, for inspiration on how to shine up Harper's image.

Perhaps Harper's Politburo will claim C23 was Flaherty's brainchild; thus any critic of any word of the Elections Reform Act could be smeared (or worse?) for "disrespecting" his memory.

I suggest instead of listening and watching a week of disgusting and crass CPC Con glurge, Canadians might view _Angel Heart_ or any film that explores what happens when someone sells their soul to the devil.

Once you start thinking of Harper in THAT light... 

They are incapable of Governing

Rusty Idols - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 08:25
At what point does the fact that the Conservative government is just not competent enough at the process of government to produce laws that don't violate our guaranteed Charter rights and are therefore stuck down by the courts constitute political malpractice?

Are they just deliberately batting foul balls to have something to shout about judicial activism to their mouth breathing base over?

The Conservative government’s tough-on-crime agenda has suffered another major blow at the Supreme Court of Canada. The court blocked the government’s attempt to stop judges from routinely giving extra credit to offenders for time served in jail before sentencing.
The 7-0 ruling continues the losing streak of the Harper government in major cases at the Supreme Court over the past month.The unanimous ruling is even written by one of Harper's own appointees! They were repeatedly warned this would happen and deliberately pissed away MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars to pass a law that anyone with even a child's understanding of the charter and existing sentencing law could and did tell them would be overturned by the courts. This is incompetence and wastefulness on a truly breathtaking scale.

Frankly it disqualifies them for governance.sdnxry5z7g

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 07:01
Assorted content to end your week.

- Linda McQuaig responds to the CCCE's tax spin by pointing out what's likely motivating the false attempt to be seen to contribute to society at large:
Seemingly out of the blue this week, the head honchos of Canada's biggest companies, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, put out a media release insisting that their taxes are not too low.

This defensive posture -- who mentioned murder? -- reveals they fear others may be slowly catching on to the massive transfer of wealth to the richest Canadians that's been going on for the past 14 years due to the systematic cutting of corporate tax rates.

If Canada's corporate tax rate was the same today as it was in 2000, we'd be collecting roughly an extra $20 billion a year in taxes -- enough to fund national child care, free university tuition, children's dental care or other programs that have long existed in other advanced countries but that no one here, in these lean and mean times, dares to be caught dreaming about anymore, let alone advocating out loud.
...
(T)he CBC's interview with Howlett sparked gasps of rage from the bowels of the business press, notably Terence Corcoran in the National Post -- even though a detailed description of the Cameco case and other tax avoidance schemes had just appeared in a special issue of Canadian Business under the cover headline: How to pay no taxes -- Many of Canada's largest companies pay almost no tax: What's their secret?

Of course, that report, directed towards a business audience, is seen as harmless. It's quite another matter when that information is used by the likes of Howlett to wake up the Canadian public to this wealth grab by some of our biggest corporations -- companies which pushed governments to slash taxes and then largely avoided even those lower rates by shifting their profits offshore.- David McKie reports on the PBO's latest study - which shows that the federal government has once again been underestimating the cost of cleaning up contaminated sites by billions of dollars (which will have to be funded out of the public purse).

- Dr. Dawg discusses the Fort Chipewyan cancer cluster - and the even more cancerous attitude on the part of the Alberta government which is looking to silence the victims rather than acknowledge any health problems which might be caused by the tar sands. And David Climenhaga wonders what comes next now that we know about both the cluster and the province's disdain for those affected.

- Jason Markusoff reports on Calgary's work in figuring out the costs and benefits of new construction - which lead to the conclusion that newly-developed suburban neighbourhoods tend to be a cost sink for at least 11 years, with the cost of repaying the resulting debt eating up any tax revenues for another ensuing decade.

- Finally, Andrew Coyne weighs in again on the Cons' combined refusal to try to justify anything within the Unfair Elections Act, along with their choice to instead declare war on Elections Canada as a diversion from the bill. Anita Vandenbeld describes the bill and its ramming through Parliament as global disgraces. Lawrence Martin notes that the Cons' attacks on Marc Mayrand are mostly a matter of fear that the truth about 2011 electoral fraud is about to be revealed. And Adam Bunch nicely summarizes what's at stake as the Unfair Elections Act is considered by Parliament.

On public priorities

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 06:34
I'm not sure whether last week's column played a role, but there have been an awful lot of attacks on Saskatchewan's Crowns since then at a time when the parties don't seem to be highlighting the issue. So let's sum up the arguments being made to undermine the public enterprises that are serving Saskatchewan so well.

Shorter Will Chabun:
Sure, actual people may be better off because of Crown competition in the wireless sector. But won't somebody think of the rent-seekers? And shorter Star-Phoenix editorial board:
The Wall Saskatchewan Party has no coherent or sensible policy when it comes to the Crowns. So let's eliminate the only legal barrier to a wholesale sell-off and see what happens.

On Harper's Destructive Government

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 05:55



I am feeling somewhat uninspired this morning, so for now I simply offer two reasonably good missives from Globe and Mail readers on Mr. Harper's demonstrably destructive impact on our democracy:

Re Tories On The Attack As Fair Elections Act Faces Critics (April 10): Deceive, deny, demonize: Pierre Poilievre’s contemptuous 3D Harper-government attitude to any critic of this legislation is without compare – and utterly contemptible.

John Partridge, Lakefield, Ont.

.........

Re New Book Describes Harper As Controlling, ‘Nixonian’ Leader (April 10): Democracy depends upon a general endorsement of principles, backed up by rules and regulations.

When a government has abandoned these principles – or failed to understand them or never had them in the first place – and operates only according to the letter of the law, then that government has damaged our parliamentary democracy, perhaps irrevocably as it now controls the rules.

Doug James, CalgaryRecommend this Post

They're Getting Worried

Northern Reflections - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 05:38


This week, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives put out a media release in which they insisted that their taxes were not too low. Linda McQuaig writes:

This defensive posture — who mentioned murder? — reveals they fear others may be slowly catching on to the massive transfer of wealth to the richest Canadians that’s been going on for the past 14 years due to the systematic cutting of corporate tax rates. 
After all, if corporate taxes were where they were fourteen years ago,

we’d be collecting roughly an extra $20 billion a year in taxes — enough to fund national child care, free university tuition, children’s dental care or other programs that have long existed in other advanced countries but that no one here, in these lean and mean times, dares to be caught dreaming about anymore, let alone advocating out loud.
During those fourteen years, corporations controlled the debate -- and the government:

For years now, all the oxygen in public commentary about taxes has been sucked up by a rabid anti-tax movement, funded by corporate and wealthy interests. Organizations like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the National Citizens Coalition have been allowed to hold court in the media as if they were simply disinterested outfits representing ordinary people. Their huge anti-tax bullhorn has been amplified by in-house commentators from the business press and then reiterated by Harper government spokespeople, all within the closed echo chamber known as “public debate.”
But now the public mood seems to be shifting with news that Canadian corporations have been shifting profits to international jurisdictions with lower tax regimes. Consider the case of Cameco:

which sold uranium at very low prices to its Swiss-based subsidiary, which then sold the uranium to customers at much higher prices, thereby accumulating huge profits — $4.3 billion in six years — in the subsidiary, located in a particularly low-taw tax district in Switzerland.

Because of this, Cameco may have deprived the Canadian and Saskatchewan governments of some $850 million in taxes, obliging other taxpayers to make up the difference or governments to cut programs.
Those Tim Horton types -- who the Harper government claims is its base -- don't get that kind of consideration. Revolt is in the air. And the rich are getting nervous.


Just a few words about Jim Flaherty. I was never a fan. He promoted and implemented the kinds of policies McQuaig excoriates. And his proposed solution to homelessness -- sweeping the homeless off the streets and carting them off to jail -- struck me as a particularly stupid solution to a problem. Nonetheless, he died too soon. The days ahead will be difficult for Christine Elliott and their sons. They deserve our kind thoughts and deep sympathy.



Are We Losing the Battle to Kill the Unfair Elections Act?

Montreal Simon - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 02:09


I thought we were making good progress in our struggle to try to force the Cons to change or kill their foul so-called Fair Elections Act.

But it turns out I may have been a bit too optimistic. 

For while we have made progress, it seems far too many Canadians are still too ignorant or too complacent. 
Read more »

Mic check, oh you glittering twitterati!

Creekside - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 21:59

72 year old Ted Musson is walking the 5,000 kilometers from Victoria BC to Ottawa to protest election fraud, both in the 2011 federal election and now the Fair Elections Act. 

Two years ago, he gave up his subsidized apartment, bought a 1979 RV for $2000 and set out for Ottawa with a hand-painted sign on his back : 
Walking to Ottawa. Protesting illegal government.  

Health issues stalled him out in Lethbridge for the winter, but now he's back on the road, aiming for 15K a day on his pedometer and then doubling back to pick up the RV.

At this rate it will be a 10,000K hike to Ottawa. 


And this is where you come in.

His twitter account from Nov. 2012 has exactly 3 tweets and 1 follower.

If Mr Musson is to get drivers for his RV so he doesn't have to double back 15K on top of the 15K he's already logged for the day, you twitterati and facebookies between Lethbridge and Ottawa are going to have to work your magic and get the word out for him.

As he says on his woefully under-publicized blog, ElectionFraud2011
"Please help me raise awareness by either driving my RV for whatever length of time you would like, or by donating a small amount to keep me fed and watered…If you want to help, send me an email to electionfraud2011 *at* gmail.com to let me know when and where you are available." And there's a donation button.

"The ultimate goal is just to make the protest and be as loud and as obnoxious as I can going across the country,” Musson told the Lethbridge Herald last week.
“It occurred to me in about March of 2012, that the 2011 (election) was a fraud. The robocalls; the financial fraud. Harper will say anything knowing that he’s not going to do what he says. It’s an illegal government and there’s just no rational sense, in my mind, to believe that they’re anything other than an illegal government.”
So there's the challenge, you glittering twitterati and feisty facebookers.
How "loud and obnoxious" can you get on behalf of some guy with arthritis threatening to walk clear across the country while 40% of the rest of us don't even vote. 

Friend him, drive him, donate to him, spread the word, bug Anna Maria Tremonti at CBC to do a piece or any local CBC along the way for that matter. . .
You know how to do this.

Thank you for reading.

h/t Toe in comments for the heads up.
.

Jim Flaherty: The Man and the Legacy

Montreal Simon - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 21:31


I think it's fair to say that he was a better person at the end of his political career than he was at the beginning.

He did reinvent himself from a pit bull to something vaguely resembling a pragmatist. 

He did become more human.

And I'm sorry he died before he could spend more time with his family, or on the golf course, as he well deserved. 

But it also must be said that he was a prominent member of  the worst government in Canadian history, and this is part of his legacy. 
Read more »

Woody's Last Wank

Dammit Janet - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 17:14
Stephen Woodworth has blown his last wad.

He needed unanimous consent in Parliament today to move his "worth and dignity", aka "Women Are Mere Vessels for the Worth and Dignity of Blobs of Tissue" gambit forward.

He did not get it.

Stephen Woodworth, Member of Parliament for Kitchener Centre, today asked Members of Parliament to unanimously agree that every Canadian law must be interpreted in a manner which recognizes the equal worth and dignity of everyone who is in fact a human being. Woodworth asked the House of Commons, “Who here wants to deny the equal worth and dignity of any fellow human being?”

During routine procedures at 10:00 AM Eastern time, some Members of Parliament voted “nay” when MP Woodworth asked for unanimous consent.And that's it.

We at DAMMIT JANET! have been following this wingnut for months (years?) now and now declare his much extended 15 minutes of fame over.

We're done with him.

As, we sincerely hope, will be the good people of Kitchener Centre in the next election.

Haven’t posted two entries on the same day for a while.

Trashy's World - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 16:52
… For quite a while. But I had to say something to a wider audience than FB. I am SICKENED by some of the comments I’m seeing on the news stories about Jim Flaherty’s sudden death. Shit, peeps, really? This is just the depth that som conservatives sunk to when Layton died. I’m as partisan […]

So, yeah, climate change is just not happening, is it?

Trashy's World - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 09:41
A few interesting graphics forwarded to me by a colleague. (2) Trashy, Ottawa, Ontario

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 07:35
Here, on the distance Canada has yet to travel in meeting even the basic needs of our fellow citizens - as well as the promise that Housing First and other new models may help to bridge that gap.

For further reading...
- Michael Green commented on the Social Progress Index here, while Canada's results can be found here.
- By way of comparison to the Social Progress Index, see my earlier post and linked column on other means of going beyond GDP in measuring development, with particular emphasis on the Canadian Index of Wellbeing.
- And CTV reported on the success of Housing First here, while the Mental Health Commission of Canada's summary and detailed report (PDF) are both available for review.

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 07:26
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Paul Krugman's review of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century includes his commentary on our new gilded age:
Still, today’s economic elite is very different from that of the nineteenth century, isn’t it? Back then, great wealth tended to be inherited; aren’t today’s economic elite people who earned their position? Well, Piketty tells us that this isn’t as true as you think, and that in any case this state of affairs may prove no more durable than the middle-class society that flourished for a generation after World War II. The big idea of Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that we haven’t just gone back to nineteenth-century levels of income inequality, we’re also on a path back to “patrimonial capitalism,” in which the commanding heights of the economy are controlled not by talented individuals but by family dynasties.

It’s a remarkable claim—and precisely because it’s so remarkable, it needs to be examined carefully and critically.
...
(I)t turns out that Vautrin was right: being in the top one percent of nineteenth-century heirs and simply living off your inherited wealth gave you around two and a half times the standard of living you could achieve by clawing your way into the top one percent of paid workers.

You might be tempted to say that modern society is nothing like that. In fact, however, both capital income and inherited wealth, though less important than they were in the Belle Époque, are still powerful drivers of inequality—and their importance is growing. In France, Piketty shows, the inherited share of total wealth dropped sharply during the era of wars and postwar fast growth; circa 1970 it was less than 50 percent. But it’s now back up to 70 percent, and rising. Correspondingly, there has been a fall and then a rise in the importance of inheritance in conferring elite status: the living standard of the top one percent of heirs fell below that of the top one percent of earners between 1910 and 1950, but began rising again after 1970. It’s not all the way back to Rasti-gnac levels, but once again it’s generally more valuable to have the right parents (or to marry into having the right in-laws) than to have the right job.

And this may only be the beginning. Figure 1 on this page shows Piketty’s estimates of global r and g over the long haul, suggesting that the era of equalization now lies behind us, and that the conditions are now ripe for the reestablishment of patrimonial capitalism.- Meanwhile, Sam Ro interviews Gerald Minack about the long-term damage to business as wages get pushed downward in the name of temporary profits. And Don Cayo is the latest to expose the CCCE's dishonest tax contribution spin.

- Tim Harford discusses the corrosive effects of long-term unemployment, noting that people who have been unemployed for six months or more are effectively shut out of the job market afterwards. Kate McInturff points out the continued gender imbalance in hiring both between and within professions. And Armine Yalnizyan highlights what the federal government could do to help younger workers get a foot in the door if it was actually interested in reducing youth unemployment.

- But there's plenty of reason for concern that the needs and preferences of the public aren't generally finding their way into law - as Larry Bartels writes in comparing the relative influence of public opinion and different types of pressure groups:
forthcoming article in Perspectives on Politics by (my former colleague) Martin Gilens and (my sometime collaborator) Benjamin Page marks a notable step in that process. Drawing on the same extensive evidence employed by Gilens in his landmark book “Affluence and Influence,” Gilens and Page analyze 1,779 policy outcomes over a period of more than 20 years. They conclude that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

Average citizens have “little or no independent influence” on the policy-making process? This must be an overstatement of Gilens’s and Page’s findings, no?

Alas, no. In their primary statistical analysis, the collective preferences of ordinary citizens had only a negligible estimated effect on policy outcomes, while the collective preferences of “economic elites” (roughly proxied by citizens at the 90th percentile of the income distribution) were 15 times as important. “Mass-based interest groups” mattered, too, but only about half as much as business interest groups — and the preferences of those public interest groups were only weakly correlated (.12) with the preferences of the public as measured in opinion surveys.- Finally, Paul Adams asks whether Stephen Harper is done for as a political force.

Time To Shut This Show Down

Northern Reflections - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 06:15


It was a remarkable display of arrogance. In yesterday's question period, Thomas Mulcair asked Stephen Harper if he would apologize for Pierre Poilivere's "cowardly and baseless attack" on Marc Mayrand. The prime minister rose, congratulated Philippe Couillard on his electoral victory and then sat down. And the barking seals honked and applauded.

It's clear that Mr. Harper believes he need not answer any questions -- from the Leader of the Opposition or any of the "self styled experts" who have criticized his so called "Fair" Elections Act.  Andrew Coyne writes:

Unable to answer its critics’ objections, the government has lately shifted into attacking their character. Mr. Poilievre told a Senate committee Tuesday the CEO, Marc Mayrand, is motivated by nothing but a desire for “more power, a bigger budget and less accountability.” The former Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, other government members hinted, was on the take: hadn’t she accepted payment to sit as co-chair of Elections Canada’s Advisory Board? The board’s other members, among them some of the country’s most widely respected political and legal figures, were dismissed by a Tory senator as “celebrities.” The provincial chief electoral officers, political scientists, law professors and other specialists who have denounced the bill were derided as “self-styled” experts. The only people, it would seem, with the integrity or the expertise to comment on the bill are the people who have drafted it to their own advantage.

There’s precedent for this, sadly. It is of a piece with the government’s previous attacks on the former parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, and the current Auditor General, Michael Ferguson. Like the CEO, their criticisms were dismissed as incompetent at best, partisan at worst — though, like the CEO, both were appointed by this government. This is more than a baseless smear on three conscientious public servants. It is an assault on their independence and authority as officers of Parliament.
Stephen Harper came to Ottawa to wreak vengeance -- first on the Liberal Party, then on civil servants, and finally on government itself. Even Mr. Harper's former director of communications, Geoff Norquay, has suggested that Mr. Harper is getting even for the "In and Out Affair."

Stephen Harper and his trained seals have been singing the same songs since opening night. Clearly, the time has come to shut this show down.


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