Politics and its Discontents

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Reflections, Observations, and Analyses Pertaining to the Canadian Political Scene
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Honouring A Dead Woman's Wishes

jeu, 07/30/2015 - 05:19

By the newspaper's account, Catherine Finn was a lively, passionate and engaged woman. I think I would have liked her, as would many others.

Catherine died on July 9 of this year; it is her obituary, written by her sons but, they say, very much representative of her values, beliefs and opinions, that is getting such wide attention:
Catherine was born with a sharp wit and steely backbone that can only come from growing up as a woman in the Irish Catholic tradition of the middle 20th Century. She was a voracious reader, a lover of life, and a fearless defender of the world of ideas. She loved family, fine wine and good food, in that order, preferably shared over a candle-lit table with good music and excellent company.

In lieu of donations, Catherine would want you to do everything you can to drive Stephen Harper from office, right out of the country, and into the deep blue sea if possible. Also, she would like you to fix the CBC.According to her family, Catherine was a Canadian fully engaged in life, and had a particular interest in politics:
“I never had a phone call where she didn’t rail about Stephen Harper,” said Patrick [her son]. “That boldness of the statement was her. We were trying to channel her.”

Although she wasn’t a member of any political party, Finn was “somewhat vehemently opposed to Stephen Harper,” according to Jonathan. “It was that way from his rise to political stardom until the day she died.”Too bad she couldn't have stuck around til after the October election when, one hopes, many people can finally check the defeat of Harper and his regime off their bucket lists.Recommend this Post

The Signs Are Everywhere - Part 2

mer, 07/29/2015 - 11:52
You can access part one here.

Logical fallacies
The reason why there's a 97% consensus is because of the many lines of evidence that humans are causing global warming. Human fingerprints are being observed in heat escaping out to space, in the structure of the atmosphere and even in the changing seasons. Another denialist technique used to counter the weight of evidence is the logical fallacy.

The most common fallacious argument is that current climate change must be natural because climate has changed naturally in the past. This myth commits the logical fallacy of jumping to conclusions. It's like finding a dead body with a knife sticking out of its back, and arguing that the person must have died of natural causes because humans have died of natural causes in the past. The premise does not lead to the conclusion.
Recommend this Post

The Signs Are Everywhere

mer, 07/29/2015 - 06:50

It is only the ideologically blind who refuse to see the signs. Whether we live on the West Coast, Central Canada, or the East Coast, we are being affected by climate change, More protracted droughts. More wildfires. More oppressive heatwaves. Or unseasonably cool conditions.

Of protracted winters I will not even speak.

So what is to be done about the obdurate climate-change denier? Other than ignoring them, we can confront them with the facts they so willfully dismiss. We do that by first recognizing their sleazy and unscientific tactics. Here is how we do it:

One of the deniers' favorite strategies is to invoke fake experts.
Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming. This has been found independently in a number of studies, including surveys of Earth scientists, analysis of public statements about climate change and analysis of peer-reviewed scientific papers. How might one cast doubt on the overwhelming scientific consensus? One technique is the use of fake experts.

We see this in online petitions such as the Global Warming Petition Project, which features more than 31,000 scientists claiming humans aren't disrupting our climate. How can there be 97% consensus when 31,000 scientists disagree? It turns out 99.9% of the petition's signatories aren't climate scientists. They include computer scientists, mechanical engineers and medical scientists but few climate scientists. The Global Warming Petition Project is fake experts in bulk.

More to come.Recommend this Post

It May Be Dry Out West, But It's Raining Pork In Alberta

mar, 07/28/2015 - 06:59

Desperate times require desperate measures, and there is definitely a whiff of desperation coming from the Conservative camp these days. With the majority of polls showing their fortunes in decline, it would seem that Pierre Poilievre's giddy and fatuous Christmas in July's bribe stunt was but the opening salvo in preventing voters from falling into apostasy.

Targeting those whose vote can be easily bought may pick up some extra support going into the October election, but the Harper regime still knows that its base is its real strength, and one not to be taken lightly lest some choose not to vote, a real possibility given that their man has proven to have betrayed almost all the principles upon which he had campaigned when first vying for power: Senate reform, transparency, accountability, etc. etc.

Take the regime's efforts during its latest western foray.
In Calgary, Defence Minister Jason Kenney announced that the federal government would be funding Calgary’s light rail transit expansion to the tune of $1.53 billion. Yes … that’s billion.

Kenney, MP for Calgary Southeast, made sure to point out that the money was “the single largest federal infrastructure investment” in the history of Calgary.Disavowing any connection with the impending election, Kenney described the timing as 'coincidental.'
But Kent Hehr the Liberal candidate in Calgary Centre who according to some polls is running well ahead of Conservative MP Joan Crockatt, said the notion that the timing is a coincidence is “absurd” given how long Calgary has been asking for federal support for public transit.But wait! There's more! With citizen tax revenue at their disposal, money is no object:
The Conservatives were also showering money on local community groups. According to The Calgary Herald, qualifying associations had only a month to apply for a funding program that was part of a $46-million Western Diversification initiative.

And even though the money — such as the $45,000 given to the Lake Bonavista Community Association in Calgary for upgrading its suburban facility — won’t arrive until next year, Conservative MPs are busy making the announcements this summer.Lest those who live west of Alberta feel they were not worthy of the Tory touch, there was this moral support to the beleaguered and brave fighters of forest fires:

Infonews reported the following with this headline: Man in blue suit thanks firefighters
For a second straight day, firefighting efforts at the Westside Road fire were the backdrop for political photo ops.

Today, several federal politicians stood around waiting, occasionally wiping dirt from their clothing while sweaty, ash-covered, exhausted-looking firefighters surrounded them for the tightly controlled photo opportunity. Helicopters carrying empty buckets buzzed overhead and a steady stream of wildfire fighting aircraft circled prior to the event.

Provinces fund their own firefighting. It’s not a federal responsibility.

After more than an hour wait, the press conference was over after less than five minutes. The Prime Minister would not take questions about why he was there, how much time the photo opportunity took from firefighters or what resources were used in the photo effort.

A federal election is less than three months away.And it was with withering derision that the satirical site THE LAPINE treated the Harper entourage:

The selected firefighters were so tired and annoyed that they just silently watched Harper as he waved his arms around like a conductor and tried to get them to sing along with him in a rousing chorus of O Canada.

None of the group sang or even hummed along.

And none of them accepted the “Canada’s Better With Harper” t-shirts that the PM’s bodyguards were handing out.Said one fatigued smoke jumper with an honesty that rarely finds its way into print:
“Shit man, we’d all been out there for 12 hours or so and suddenly we’re hauled out, lined up in a parking lot, left standing for an hour, and then expected to sing O Canada so Harper can get a picture?” front-line firefighter Ted McKinley told local radio station AM 1150.

“That’s complete bullshit. Harper just wanted a picture as quickly as he could get one…he still smelled like garlic from whatever he had for lunch,” said the 37-year-old father of two.Yet the man in the blue suit proved indefatigable in his lyrical leanings:
Immediately following receiving the silent treatment from the firefighters, Harper over-compensated for the snub by waving wildly for the cameras and singing ‘The Maple Leaf Forever’ as he boarded a helicopter with Premier Clark to return to Kelowna for a scheduled beach-side fundraiser event.Contemptuous mockery. That is all Harper and his gang deserve until they meet their day of reckoning in October.
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The Sunday Scrum

lun, 07/27/2015 - 06:53
Harper's moratorium on Senate appointments (the program's start). The likelihood of a federal deficit (10 minute mark). The increased universal child-care benefit (13 minute mark). A possible NDP-Liberal coalition (15 minute mark). Maclean's Magazine's Martin Patriquin and The Chronicle Herald's Dan Leger discuss these issues on yesterday's Sunday Scrum. You can access each topic at the respective time marks indicated above in parentheses.

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More On Pharmacare

dim, 07/26/2015 - 08:25

The other day I wrote about an article in the Globe that called into question support for the notion of a national pharmacare program that would see drugs paid for by the government as a fitting and necessary complement to our universal healthcare. I examined the methodology and bias involved in the author's claims that people are not really keen on such a program.

In my view, what 'the people' want is rarely a consideration in public policy-making, unless there are crass political gains to be made. It is one of the reasons I like to read letters to the editor, which offer a more direct insight into people's views on issues. I am therefore reproducing three letters from today's Star on the topic of national drug coverage, two of which support the notions for economic, social and reasons:

Pharmacare to fill the gap, Editorial July 19
The demand for a national plan covering prescription drug costs in Canada has now turned into a flood – with our citizens’ backing for the pharmacare concept rising to over 90 per cent.

Studies published in leading journals indicate that medications save lives by keeping people healthy and that Canada would be saving around $9 billion annually by instituting a national pharmacare plan covering prescription drugs costs – and resorting to logical initiatives such as bulk-buying of drugs.

Despite the weight of evidence, and the push provided by provinces such as Ontario, bold federal leadership in this area has been lacking thus far. We are the only country globally that does not cover the cost of prescription medicine despite Canada’s well established and very successful universal health care system.

It is hoped that the upcoming federal elections will spur heated debates about the need for pharmacare to cover the cost of prescription medicine for Canadians, leading to healthy outcomes for patients and taxpayers alike.

It is time for our federal government to get started – as the key to success in this key health-care area is staring in Canada’s face. Stephen Harper would do well to heed Mark Twain’s sage advice: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Rudy Fernandes, Mississauga

Surely this study could have picked a better example than Lipitor at “more than $811 a year.” Generic forms of Lipitor and other statin drugs have been available for several years at about $125 for a year’s supply.

If this misrepresentation is the best example that the Pharmacare2020 study can find, what are we to make of the rest of its conclusions? If in fact there are further bulk discounts available, it would be best accomplished through provincial cooperation in the buying process, not by introducing another wasteful level of bureaucracy at the federal level.

This is just another veiled attempt to shake more dollars out of the federal government for something that is the responsibility of the provinces – the delivery of health care services.

Don Mustill, Markham

Thanks for drawing attention to yet another well researched study, Pharmacare 2020, that demonstrates that a national pharmacare plan covering drug costs for all Canadians is not only sorely needed but is economically feasible. All that remains is political will.

Perhaps if we all asked candidates who come knocking on our doors in the coming federal election what their party will do for the millions of Canadians who do not have their prescriptions dispensed for financial reasons, the message might get through.

Bill Wensley, CobourgRecommend this Post

Harper Under Seige

sam, 07/25/2015 - 06:04
Once more, editorial cartoonist Graeme MacKay scores a solid bullseye.

As does Corrigan over at The Star:

And let's not forget Star readers:
Since the post-2008 Great Recession, Stephen Harper’s primary focus on energy (oil/gas) economic action strategies have painted our economic flexibilities into a corner. Now we find our transnational economic drivers near exhausted.

Interest rates are now .05 per cent. We are on the precipice of falling financially/economically into quicksand recessionary territory.

In hindsight, consider what if we had developed multi-faceted strategies for dynamic, clean-energy manufacturing 21st century technologies in critical mass in construction, science, industry and commerce? Would we be so constrained now with lowest possible oil/gas commodity prices? Would our “loonie” be so vulnerable? Would our frivolousness with tax dollars tied to ineffective foreign policies be so committed to 20th century industrial, free market strategic imbecilities?

Harper’s single-minded chess tactics with much of what he mismanages is fast becoming an economically unmanoeuvreable position now on a precarious global stage. And now with Iran’s economic sanctions lifting as result of the deal with the Western powers, there’s no promise of recovery ever being tied to those “triple-digit” commodity prices that Canada’s oil producers followed our PM so recklessly on.

Brian McLaughlin, Saint John, NB

I’ll have to agree with Mr. Goodale’s take on Harper’s economic record. What’s Mr. Harper’s experience in economics, again? None in the private sector that I could find. I think Canadians know who is really in over their head.

Geoffrey Allen, MarkhamAnd one more reminder from MacKay of Mr. Harper's fiscal ineptitude:

Recommend this Post

A Tale To Frighten Children (And Uninformed Canadians)

ven, 07/24/2015 - 08:58

Well, the Globe and Mail is up to its usual agenda of promoting the neocon vision. Not content to let Canadians ruminate on ideas unimpeded by thinly-disguised corporate ideology and scaremongering, it is attempting to sow doubt about a plan that would potentially benefit all Canadians, national pharmacare, whose time has surely come.

For a small primer on the concept, you could check out a post I wrote about two years ago, or conduct a Google search, which will yield some compelling links, including this one:
Canada is the only industrialized country with universal health insurance that does not offer universal prescription drug coverage, and statistics show one in 10 Canadians cannot afford to pay for their medications.From an economic viewpoint, there is a compelling case to be made for pharmacare. Consider this report, entitled Pharmacare 2020 — The Future of Drug Coverage in Canada, an analysis of which conducted by The Star yielded these conclusions:
Not only would a national pharmacare program ensure that all Canadians have access to drugs they need, it would save billions of dollars. Authored by six health policy experts, the study was published by the Pharmaceutical Policy Research Collaboration at the University of British Columbia.
Pharmacare is the answer. Potential savings from bulk-buying through a single system are substantial. The study’s authors cited the example of Lipitor. A year’s supply of this brand name cholesterol-lowering drug costs at least $811 in Canada, according to the report. In New Zealand, where a public authority negotiates prices for the entire country, it’s $15. “In terms of drug prices, Canada’s multi-payer system is among the most expensive in the world,” they conclude.Because the arguments in favour of a universal drug plan are compelling, and because it is enjoying a certain momentum, the reactionary right is now starting a smear campaign to undermine enthusiasm, one based manipulative polling, lies, and half-truths.

Entitled The risks that come with a national pharmacare program, the author of this Globe article, Yanick Labrie (more about him shortly), refers to a recent Angus Reid poll which
found that 91 per cent of Canadians support “the concept of a national ‘pharmacare’ in Canada, that would provide universal access to prescription drugs ...” But they may not be ready to pick up the tab. The survey also found that 70 per cent are against increasing the GST to 6 per cent – from the current 5 per cent – to pay for the program. If you’re not willing to pay for something you want, that may be a sign you don’t really want it that badly.What Labrie omits here is also the finding that the majority would prefer that it be paid through an increase in corporate taxes, a not unreasonable preference, in my view.

Next, the writer warns of what we might be giving up if we embrace pharmacare:
Canadians should be wary of replacing our mixed system with something like what exists in the U.K. or New Zealand. Socializing a larger part of drug spending through a single-payer pharmacare plan would give more power to government and its bureaucrats to make decisions on behalf of the insured. Policies that restrict access to new medicines would be applied across the board and would penalize all Canadians in the same way.The implication that this would be tantamount to allowing a 'death-panel' bureaucrat to determine your fate is clearly there. What Labrie doesn't mention is that the decisions on adding new drugs to provincial drug formularies are already made for costly drugs, most of which are not covered by private plans anyway. The case of the cystic fibrosis drug Kalydeco is instructional in this regard. The final decision in that case saw Ontario deciding to fund it.

The above also demonstrates a strategy commonly used by the right: absolutism. There is absolutely nothing in any concept of pahrmacare that I have ever read that would preclude any of us from still carrying private insurance. Yet read the following assertion by Labrie:
According to a recent online survey conducted by Abacus Data for the Canadian Pharmacists Association, 80 per cent of respondents support the idea of a national prescription-drug program. But only 31 per cent favour replacing our current mixed public-private systems, managed by the provinces, with a national, government-run pharmacare monopoly.Monopoly? Who said anything about a monopoly? As well, take a look at the Abacus online survey he refers to.

A patently manipulative push poll commissioned by pharmacists, consider the biases built into the following questions:
While many Canadians want enhanced access to medications, many Canadians are also concerned about the cost of a national pharmacare program, losing their private drug plans, and the ability of governments to administrate drug plans effectively.

Which approach to pharmacare comes closest to your view?The result?
Overall, a plurality of Canadians believed that pharmacare should only cover those Canadians who are not currently covered through some other existing government or private plan. Here's another:
To what extent are you concerned about the following issues related to a national pharmacare program?

Replacing your current private prescription drug plan with a public plan that would have fewer choices

Increased cost to governments if patients use more prescription drugs than they do now

The ability of governments to administer the plan efficiently and effectivelyThe result?
Although Canadians were supportive of the proposed national pharmacare plan, most said they would be concerned if a national pharmacare program replaced their current plan with a public plan that had fewer options, if it increased costs to governments because patients use more prescription drugs than they do now, and of the ability of governments to administer the plan efficiently and effectively.I could go on, but I would encourage you to visit the poll results to see more of the questions asked that guarantee the results the pharmacists sought.

I promised at the start that I would say more about the author of this article, Yanick Labrie, who is described as an economist at the Montreal Economic Institute. A visit to the website will tell you all you need to know about its ideological economic leanings, as will as a list of present and former executive members, which includes former Harper favourite Maxime Bernier and right-wing commentator and analyst Tasha Kheiriddin. The vice president is currently Jasmin Guénette, former director of public affairs who came back after spending two years at the Institute for Humane Studies in Virginia, an organization that can most charitably be described as an American libertarian outfit.

By all means, let us have a national debate about pharmacare. But let it be an honest one that leaves aside the demagoguery and distortions that currently abound on this issue.Recommend this Post

The Harper Regime In One Easy-To-Understand Graphic!

jeu, 07/23/2015 - 06:36

H/t Boycott The Harper Conservatives

For those of you who are more text-oriented or want a comprehensive recounting of the depredations of the Harper years, I encourage you to check out and bookmark Rural's Harper History Series over at Democracy Under Fire.

Rural has taken on the unenviable and herculean but noble task of compiling the myriad abuses of and acts of contempt against democracy during King Stephen's reign; it is a lot to take in and can be depressing at times to see what we have lost, but if read in measured amounts is a very useful reminder of why it is paramount that we toss out this band of renegades in October.

I encourage you to visit his series regularly as we head into the election, and share with those who you think might benefit.Recommend this Post

Harper's Fingerprints Are All Over This One

mer, 07/22/2015 - 06:37

It is surely a mark of the times in which we live that a climate of fear, suspicion and mistrust permeates the ranks of those who work for the federal government. Stories abound of the muzzling of scientists, the termination of employees, the closing of research facilities. Having just completed Mark Bourrie's Kill The Messenger, an excoriating analysis of the Harper regime's vindictive and paranoid nature, there is no doubt in my mind that those stories are true, leading to the inevitable conclusion that freedom of expression is one of far too many democratic rights that have suffered tremendously under this government.

The recent termination of a Parks Canada employee, a smoking gun if there ever was one, offers ample illustration. Dr. John Wilmshurst, the science and resource conservation manager for Jasper National Park, was fired on June 11.

Mystery surrounds his termination, as no one will speak out, but the likely answer is found in something that happened last year.
In a 2014 story produced by the Canadian Press and picked up by the CBC, Huffington Post, McLean’s, and other major news outlets, Wilmshurst described research he and his colleagues were doing on the melting Athabasca Glacier. He predicted that the ice could be gone in his children’s lifetime, a statement supported by recently-published research out of the University of British Columbia.

“The information that we’re getting is pretty clear that climate is warming,” he told the camera. “[Climate change] is definitely something that’s happening and it’s happening because of our activities.”
You can see the 'error' Wilmshurst made here. He drew the clear and irrefutable connection between climate change and human activity, something that is anathema in Harperland, something that is deemed seditious in our imperiled democracy. Had he followed the expected protocol of applying for permission to speak to the media, a laboursome process that more often than not results in refusal, Wilmshurst pointed observations would not have seen the light of day. Here are a few cases that illustrate the roadblocks government scientists face: In 2010, Natural Resources Canada scientist Scott Dallimore was not allowed to talk about research into a flood in northern Canada 13,000 years ago without getting pre-approval from political staff in the office of then-Natural Resources minister Christian Paradis. Postmedia News said requests were only approved after reporters' deadlines had already passed.

In 2011, Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist Kristina Miller was blocked from speaking to the media about her research suggesting viral infections may be linked to higher salmon mortality.

Environment Canada's media office granted no interviews after a team published a paper in 2011 concluding that a 2 degree C increase in global temperatures may be unavoidable by 2100.

Postmedia science reporter Margaret Munro requested data from radiation monitors run by Health Canada following the earthquake and nuclear plant problems in Japan. Munro said Health Canada would not approve an interview with one of its experts responsible for the detectors.Unquestioning 'loyalty' to the regime is the only thing that matters, no matter how competent and respected individuals may be. The messages taped on Wilmshurst's former office door convey the sense of a man deeply respected and sorely missed: “Best manager I’ve had in 33 years,” one note read.

“A source of inspiration,” said another. “Still our Chief.”

“Forever our leader.”Such sentiments account for nothing in Harper's poisoned kingdom, and for that reason, Canada needs a powerful purgative; if we don't administer the necessary tough medicine in October, I fear all will be lost for the country that I have known and loved my entire life.
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Harper Edges Closer To His Goal

mar, 07/21/2015 - 09:20

That goal would be the destruction of the CBC, an ideological (i.e., publicly-funded) and political (Terry Milewski's fearless journalism) thorn in Dear Leader's side.
A Senate committee that spent 18 months studying the CBC and its place in the media landscape is recommending the public broadcaster explore alternative funding models, shake up its governance structure, be more transparent in its operations and air more amateur sports and high-quality arts.A closer examination reveals that it is, in fact, a blueprint for eradicating the public broadcaster:
The senators, who travelled to England to study the BBC’s funding models and programming strategy, suggested a so-called “external superfund” be created by setting aside a portion of the CBC’s funding to pay for Canadian content “such as Canadian history and nature documentaries and high-quality comedy and drama, which could then be broadcast on CBC/Radio-Canada.”

The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting watchdog group called that proposal part of “a thinly disguised cut to CBC’s parliamentary grant that could never be implemented without a major contraction of the services that our national public broadcaster offers to Canadians every day.”But it doesn't stop there. Another Trojan horse lurks in the report:
The Senate’s communications committee is also calling on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to find new ways to fund its operations in order to limit the amount of funding it receives from the federal government.

The committee rejected the idea of stable, multi-year funding for the Crown corporation, saying funding is based on “the fiscal demands of the federal government.”

Senators raised the possibility of using the PBS funding model — where viewers donate money or pay for sponsorships of programs — or charging a license fee to every home in the country with a television, which is how the BBC receives some of its funds.

“Even though it’s more subtle, this is proposing to cut CBC’s budget,” said Ian Morrison of the advocacy group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.To further erode public confidence in the broadcaster, the report seeks to sow dissension:
There were also testy exchanges between senators and CBC president Hubert Lacroix during his two appearances before the committee, and threats the committee would use its parliamentary powers to force the CBC to hand over the salaries of Mansbridge and others.And lest we forget,
The Senate report also refers to scandals involving former radio host Jian Ghomeshi and business correspondent Amanda Lang in calling for stricter policies to prevent problems rather than having to react when they become public.Senator Art Eggleton, whose recommendations were not included in the report, calls the report a missed opportunity,
blaming Conservative senators for spending “too much time denouncing the CBC and not enough on a way forward.”

Sen. Art Eggleton rejected some of the recommendations and says the government should increase funding to the CBC by almost one-fifth.

Eggleton said the government should spend about $40 per capita on the CBC, above the $33 per capita the report notes the broadcaster received in 2011, which would be half of what other industrialized nations spend on their public broadcaster.

He also said the funding should be adjusted to inflation and help the CBC eliminate commercial advertising.The CBC itself weighed in, expressing its disappointment with the report:
"Frankly, we were hoping for more," said spokeswoman Alexandra Fortier, manager of media relations and issues management.

"CBC/Radio-Canada provided senators with detailed information on audience patterns, broadcasting trends, budgets, and strategies for addressing the challenges of the future," Fortier said. "It explained what it does to maximize the efficiency of its operations, and its accountability to Canadians."

"This report fails to propose constructive suggestions to address any of the real challenges facing the broadcasting system," said Fortier, who until a few months ago worked as the director of communications to Conservative minister Jason Kenney.I suspect many Canadians will share the public broadcaster's disappointment.Recommend this Post

Anon Poses Some Questions

mar, 07/21/2015 - 06:21

I received the following as a comment in my previous post, but decided to feature it here, as I suspect the writer would like readers to offer their answers to the questions posed:

I have two questions and an observation:

I do not understand the statement that the Child Tax Benefit, benefits the rich more than the rest of us. For example, in families with a three old child, do the families not receive the same amount regardless of their income bracket? Is it because the benefit is tax free and there is no claw back?

I would like to understand why it is that when a private citizen has a mortgage taken out or the purchase of goods is made using their stolen identity, the police do nothing and say it is a private or a financial matter between the citizen and the bank or credit company.

Ashley Madison has its client accounts stolen and Anonymous threatens to reveal the names if they do not cease to operate. The police begin an immediate investigation. Is it because of the threatened demise of the legal corporate entity or do the clients have more political power or sway over the police?

Please "Square the Corners" for me.

Those are good questions, Anon, but I think I can answer the first one. A story in today's Star reveals that the child benefit payments are taxable and will, in fact, be clawed back from many of the recipients:
The benefit is taxable on the lower income earner in every household. Canadians who received the payments can expect to see some of it taxed next April unless their income is so low that they don’t pay income taxes.Of course, that begs the question of why the cheques are being sent out to everyone who has applied, no matter their income level. The answer, I fear, is too obvious - to get the most political bang for the buck three months from the election. Says David Macdonald, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives:
“You get a cheque and it’s tangible. You have no idea what you’re going to pay back at the end of the year”.At the end of the year - well after the election.

I invite readers to weigh in here.Recommend this Post

Is Secrecy The New Canadian Norm?

lun, 07/20/2015 - 06:39

The Harper regime is notorious for its virtual embargo on information. Muzzling of scientists, heavily-redacted Freedom of Information documents, regular obstruction of Parliamentary officers have become the norm. In light of these profoundly anti-democratic traits, one has to ask whether the paranoid control that obsesses the regime has filtered down to other levels of government and institutions?

'Privacy rights' have become the default position of far too many. The Harper regime uses it regularly whenever it wishes to avoid answering uncomfortable questions. One of the latest examples of this deplorable tactic is to be found in the case of Bashir Makhtal,
a 46-year-old who lived and worked in Toronto, [who] has been languishing in an Ethiopian jail in Addis Ababa since he was convicted of terrorism in 2009. He has always denied the charges.

Makhtal was arrested on the border of Kenya and Somalia in 2006 after fleeing Mogadishu and the fall of the Islamic Courts Union.Initially refusing a deal for a prison-transfer back to Canada because he claimed he was innocent, last year he accepted it, but the federal government has done nothing to faciliate that transfer, says his cousin.

The Canadian government response to these allegations?
François Lasalle, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, told the Star that “to protect the privacy of the individual concerned, further details on this case cannot be released.”

Similarly, Zarah Malik, a spokesperson for Public Safety Canada, told the Star that “the Privacy Act prevents federal government officials from discussing the specifics of an offender’s case.”Other institutions inspired by this 'sterling' example include the RCMP, which now is refusing to divulge the identities of car accident victims and other such tragedies, even homicides.

Says lawyer David Fraser,
"Not disclosing the information very likely makes their jobs easier, and not having to ask the next of kin or the family to disclose whether they can disclose this information, it's one less thing that they have to do," he said.

"It's always easier — we see this across government — to just point to the privacy legislation as a reason to not do something … to not provide information to the media."
This cone of silence is given critical scrutiny by The Toronto Star:
Until this year the RCMP released the names of victims with their consent or the permission of their surviving relatives. Now it says it must comply with Privacy Act, regardless of the wishes of bereaved families.

“I wanted people to know my sons,” said Mary Anne MacIntyre of Judique, a small Cape Breton Community where 19-year-old Morgan MacIntyre and his 17-year-old brother Jordan were killed in a car crash two years ago. “Being Victim A or Victim B is just, to me, feels so cold.”
So even with the family's permission, the RCMP is obdurately hiding behind the privacy justification.

The federal behaviour is now infecting local police forces as well. This past February, two men were shot and killed by an armed security guard in a Toronto McDonald's restaurant. And that is about all we are ever likely to know, since it was announced this week that the guard will not be charged.
“Investigators consulted Senior Crown Attorneys and provided an overview of the circumstances surrounding the deaths,” police said in a statement issued Wednesday. “It was determined that there would be no reasonable prospect of conviction, therefore no criminal charges would be laid.”Here is what columnist Edward Keenan had to say:
Two men were shot and killed, in public, in February. Police know who did it, but they will not tell us. They say no charges should be laid in the case, but they will not tell us why, or give us the information they uncovered in their investigation. Police have security-camera video of the incident, but they will not show it to us.

Two people are dead, and the Toronto Police Service’s response, after four months of investigation, boils down to: Nothing to see here. Trust us. Move along.This is police state stuff.Make no mistake about it; there are many unanswered question that call into question the administration of justice here:
Was it a clear-cut case of self-defence? I could imagine a hundred scenarios in which that’s possible, but we don’t know.

Why was this security guard armed in a restaurant? We don’t know. What kind of work was he doing nearby? We don’t know. Was his life in danger? Was he being robbed? Was he defending other people?

We don’t know.People who live in dictatorships are used to being kept in the dark. They have very low expectations. We still live in a democracy, albeit one under steady attack by repressive forces from within. As Canadians approach the October election, one of the many questions they will have to ask themselves is whether or not they are comfortable being treated as children excluded from the conversations at the 'adult table'. If they are not, they would be wise to choose a government that sets a tone of transparency, not obfuscation, for its citizens.Recommend this Post

Our Baby-In Chief Strikes Again

sam, 07/18/2015 - 06:24

It doesn't take a degree in psychology to know that Stephen Harper has, as they say, issues. His obsessive secrecy, reported emotional volatility, deep vindictiveness and completely ruthless dispatch of those who represent perspectives, policies and values differing from his own are all markers of a deeply disturbed individual. That he is Canada's prime minister is a national tragedy.

The latest instance of his lashing out, his puppet finance minister's public denunciation of Ontario's plan to establish its own Retirement Pension Plan, is yet another prime example of his unfitness to govern. Martin Regg Cohn writes,
People of goodwill can disagree. But why does a prime minister of ill will have to be so willfully disagreeable, so reflexively destructive, when playing electoral politics?

Stephen Harper’s pettiness in trying to sabotage Ontario’s legitimate efforts to create a public pension for middle-income workers sets a new low in gamesmanship. It will only take money out of the pockets of workers, taxpayers and employers who will be forced to pay higher fees because of the federal intransigence.The establishment of the plan, upon which Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne campaigned, is a response to the refusal of the federal government to expand the Canada Pension Plan, which most provinces desire to see happen.
Harper’s decision this week to stab Ontario in the back — and middle-class Ontarians in the front — may go down as one of the most offensive, retrograde and thoughtless blunders ever committed by a sitting prime minister plotting his re-election on the backs of prospective pensioners.

His Conservative government is toying with the futures of young people who face a lifetime of precarious employment without proper pension coverage. Ontario’s plan is being designed by some of Canada’s foremost pension experts as a cost-effective, low-fee program that parallels the successful Canada Pension Plan.Here's what minion Joe Oliver leaked to the public before sending to Ontario:
“The Ontario Government’s proposed ORPP would take money from workers and their families, kill jobs, and damage the economy,” Oliver writes with fatuous hyperbole in the undated letter leaked to the media before it was even transmitted to Queen’s Park.As Regg Cohn tartly observes, this rejection is conspicuously absent of any research or statistics to back up his shrill dismissal. And to compound the insult, the feds are refusing to make any legislative changes to facilitate the Ontario pension:
Astonishingly, the Harper government will refuse to collect pension deductions on Ontario’s behalf or provide any information to assist the plan — services for which it would have been fairly compensated by the province. In short, it’s not merely a hands-off attitude but a hands-to-the throat approach.

The result of the PM’s partisan tantrum? Higher accounting and compliance costs for business, and additional government funding made necessary by the same federal Tories who always claim to be reducing red tape and cutting waste.There appears to be only one solution for a prime minister who seems to have a temperament that never grew beyond the 'terrible twos' - isolate him from any further contact with the electorate by tossing him and his playmates out of their playpen in October.Recommend this Post

Change Is Coming To Cuba, Not All Of It Necessarily Good

ven, 07/17/2015 - 16:42
Readers of this blog will know that I have a special affection for Cuba, having visited it many times and gotten to know, to some extent, the 'real' Cuba. Yet it would be wrong for me or any other non-Cuban to pontificate about what is best for the country, given the changes that are coming due to its increasing normalization with the United States. The course of Cuba's future has to be decided by Cuba itself.

Nonetheless, one hopes that the ecological balance highlighted in the following will continue well into the future, despite what will undoubtedly be an onslaught of American tourism:

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Why Isn't This Getting Wider Coverage?

ven, 07/17/2015 - 05:31
While this story seems most timely and relevant, given the ongoing Council of the Federation meeting discussing pipeline growth, I couldn't even find a reference to it in this morning's Toronto Star. It should be front-page news.

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