Quotulatiousness

January 18, 2017

The bilingual “rule” for prospective Canadian Prime Ministers

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh explains why unilingual Conservative party leadership hopefuls should just plunge right into those French lessons already:

There is clamour in the press right now about the “rule” that a federal Conservative party leader ought to be able to speak in both official languages. I could probably stop this column after the following statement: It’s not a rule. It’s just a very strong precondition for electoral success. Calling it a rule implies that there is some sense in arguing about the ethicality or the practicality of the principle — that it is an idea someone has the power to revoke after discussion of its philosophical merits. It invites verbal volleying over whether Canada is essentially a bilingual country, whether it is proper to exclude qualified unilingual leaders from the Prime Minister’s Office, etc., etc.

You get the normative questions mixed up with the factual ones awfully quickly. You start discussing whether a bilingualism requirement is right or wrong, just or unjust; and political reality stands off to the side, remaining intractable, utterly insensitive to the feelings of ambitious monoglots and their media advocates.

The various Conservative parties have proven that they can, very occasionally, win elections without Quebec. But francophone Canada is just a little bigger than Quebec, and a unilingual leader would now be compromised in campaigning and sidelined in television debate. If he had promised to learn French, which seems to be the hope of Conservative leadership candidates who don’t speak it well, he would be challenged on his skills every week for the remainder of his career. Every speech would be a tiny test, its contents overlooked.

And he would be excruciatingly vulnerable to the good faith and sense of his francophone MPs. When you take all the added challenges for a unilingual party leader into account, it might be easier to go ahead and just learn the damned language already. (One thing worth remembering is that Quebec’s representation in this Conservative leadership race, and probably in future ones, is proportional to its House of Commons delegation. It may be strategically possible to win a general election as a leader without Quebec, but you do have to win the leadership first.)

It was still feasible for unilingual candidates to win the Conservative leadership (back when they were the “Progressive Conservative” party) into the 1970s, but in practical terms it was nearly impossible to win a general election without substantial support from Quebec (which would not be given to a monolingual leader). At this late stage, I read any Conservative leadership hopeful who does not speak both official languages to be angling for a “Kingmaker” or power broker role rather than expecting to actually win.

January 17, 2017

Vice Chief of the Defence Staff relieved of duty

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Vice Admiral Mark Norman, former head of the Royal Canadian Navy, was relieved of duty as Vice Chief of the Defence Staff on Monday. Details are sketchy, but Robert Fife and Steven Chase report on the highly unusual activity for the Globe and Mail:

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman was relieved of his duties as the Canadian military’s second-highest-ranking officer over alleged leaks of highly classified information, The Globe and Mail has learned.

A source said General Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, ordered Mr. Norman’s removal after an investigation of “pretty high-level secret documents” that had allegedly been leaked.

The source would not provide further information on the nature of the sensitive leaks. It is unknown whether the alleged leaks were to journalists, business interests or another country.

The military is offering no explanation for this extreme measure which took place Monday morning.

Vice-Adm. Norman has served in the Forces for 36 years and was previously in charge of the Royal Canadian Navy. He commanded the Royal Canadian Navy for more than four-and-a-half years until General Vance appointed him as vice-chief in January 2016.

The use of the term “temporary” to describe Admiral Norman’s relief may indicate that further investigation is required (my speculation), but no official explanation has been provided yet.

January 16, 2017

QotD: The process of de facto legalization of marijuana in Vancouver

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Law, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Despite the fact that I don’t smoke pot — because if I do I will be asleep in approximately three minutes — I have long advocated complete legalization. Largely for libertarian reasons but also because the criminal law is essentially unenforceable. But the medical marijuana regulatory scheme interests me as a grand example of government getting something entirely wrong.

The original medical marijuana regulations allowed people to buy from a single supplier or grow their own or designate a grower. While the system was far from perfect, and found to be unconstitutional, it had the advantage of regulating with a very light hand. But, oh Heavens, there was “leakage”. Medical pot was not always only used by medical users. Yikes.

So Health Canada came up with a regulatory scheme which was going to licence grower/distributors and put the users and their growers out of business. Enter Big Green and a bunch of promoters who sold shares in publicly listed companies based on the new regulations. The promoters made a lot of money using a simple story: there were 45,000 medical pot users in Canada (projected to grow to 450,000 users in a decade) who each used about 3 grams a day and who would have no choice but to pay between $8 and $15 a gram for their “medicine”. You do the math.

To my not very great surprise, people used to paying $0 to $5.00 a gram did not rush to sign up. And, very quickly, at least in Vancouver, pot shops – for registered users only of course – began to spring up. Becoming a registered user was not tough. As the 5th Estate guy discovered, telling a naturopath a charming story about stress and sleep disturbance over Skype gets you your registration. At which point you are free to buy. (I note the 5th Estate did not ask the pot shop owners where they were getting their pot – which is a rather good question because it is certainly not from the licenced growers as they are not allowed to sell except by mail order.)

As anyone who has lived in Vancouver knows, the Vancouver Police Department has better things to do than bust dispensaries. Plus, given the injunction halting enforcement of the Health Canada regs, it is not obvious what they would bust the dispensaries for that would have a chance of getting past the Crown. But even if they did bust the dispensary and even if the Crown brought charges, it is pretty difficult to see how a judge could find a person guilty who was selling to a registered user.

The problem is that the boffins at Health Canada have not quite figured out that their regulations are assuming a world which does not exist. First, they assume that people want to smoke “legal pot”. That might be true if police forces were in the habit of kicking down doors to arrest people smoking pot at home but, I fear, that hasn’t happened in years. (It may occasionally occur as a means of harassment but the probable cause issue is usually sufficient to kick the charges.)

Jay Currie, “Gone to Pot”, Jay Currie, 2015-06-15.

January 15, 2017

Corporate sponsors should have no place at national memorial sites

Filed under: Cancon, Government, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ted Campbell reacts to the news that corporate logos will be included at the updated Vimy Ridge Centre:

I’m not faulting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nor Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr for starting this, but they can and should put a stop to it. The business of getting the private sector to “support” public projects is not new and, generally, the public, including me, approves of it: in almost all cases it is good to have commercial sponsorships … almost all. National memorials are different […]

The Welcome Centre of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France flying the Canadian Red Ensign ( 1868 – 1921 version ). This flag along with The Maple Leaf fly at national memorial as Canada was only using the Red Ensign at the time of the First World War Engagement.

I don’t doubt the generosity or patriotism of Bell Canada or WalMart are anyone else, but a few things have to be sacrosanct, and our national memorials honouring our war dead must be amongst them.

Let is be very clear: it is the visitors’ centre, not the memorial itself that is being rebuilt and I’m guessing that the officials close to the project can see a very big difference between the little visitors’ centre building and the memorial, proper, but I, and many others, do not and will not; If the see even an understated, dignified sign in the visitors’ centre they will likely conclude that a corporation is, now, responsible for the whole monument. From the very first moment one sets foot on the land which France ceded, in perpetuity, to Canada it is “our” place, honouring our war dead and, more broadly, the significance of our contribution to the Great War. It is a small, $10 million, project and I am sure that officials will say that they are only trying to make the best use of their budget so that they can devote more to providing much needed care to veterans by spending less on this little building … and I would, normally, applaud them, but not on this.

January 14, 2017

Mad Max for PM!

Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier gets an unusually even-handed profile from the CBC:

Bernier’s life is a moveable banquet of rubber chicken, and shaking grimy, anonymous hands, and pretending great interest in everyone, trying all the while to turn the discussion to Maxime Bernier. And perhaps asking for some money while he’s at it.

Actually, that’s unfair. What Bernier mostly turns the discussion to is his ideas.

He’s libertarian, to the extent that it’s possible to be a libertarian and seek high office in a country that was built on protectionism and entitlement and government being the answer to everything.

He advocates the end of quotas and supply management for dairy, poultry and eggs. Oh, and maple syrup. Most Canadian politicians — let alone MPs representing rural Canada like Bernier — prefer to leave such topics undiscussed.

He wants to abolish interprovincial trade barriers. Stopping companies from growing into other Canadian jurisdictions, or stopping workers from travelling between provinces, he characterizes as “foolish,” “doubly foolish” and “ridiculous.”

Go ahead and argue with that.

Bernier wants an end to what he calls “corporate welfare,” his term for governments using tax money to pick winners, such as Bombardier and General Motors, and letting losers struggle with market forces.

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, it’ll come as no surprise that Bernier is far and away my preferred choice for Tory leader.

January 11, 2017

Colby Cosh boldly speaks out for a tiny minority of Canadians

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Football, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

For some reason, Colby Cosh has decided to drag out Rocinante to defend the rights of Canadian broadcasters to continue substituting the same fricking commercials they play all year during the Super Bowl:

I am here today to speak for the voiceless. To embolden the powerless. To raise awareness of the nation that lives unseen among us. I am referring, of course, to the invisible SimSub race: Canadian Super Bowl viewers who may actually prefer to have Canadian commercials broadcast on TV along with the football game.

For years we have remained in the shadows while opponents of “simultaneous substitution” dominated the conversation. The antis won a great victory in 2015 when our federal broadcast regulator, the CRTC, ruled that the Super Bowl was a unique TV event — one in which the expensive ads on the originating American broadcast were conceptually inseparable from the rest of the show. The Super Bowl ads, the CRTC said, ought not to be obscured by boring, artless commercials for Canadian tire stores and investment accounts.

The first Super Bowl broadcast to be non-simsubbed by CRTC fiat is scheduled for Feb. 5. But Bell Media, which bought the Super Bowl TV rights expecting to be able to show bad Canadian commercials to Canadian viewers, is joining up with other threatened interests to ask the Liberal government for an extreme, last-minute ministerial intervention in favour of another year of simsubbing. I am trying very hard not to describe this as a “Hail Mary pass”, but, well, there is a reason that metaphor is popular. And Hail Mary passes sometimes work.

I am kidding about the existence of a pro-simsub constituency — kind of. The CRTC made its decision partly because everyone agrees that the substituted advertising is always disappointing. It gave the commission the opportunity to do something populist that would reverse its own political reputation as a force-feeder of dismal CanCon, a drearifier of Canadian media.

January 10, 2017

“The very concept of a moral absolute […] is alien to them”

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Law, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

David Warren calls for moral and ethical resistance against “assisted dying” being accepted in society:

Through the casual review of polls, over the years, I have become aware that the general public can itself be moved from approximately 80/20 to approximately 20/80 (four fingers and a thumb to four thumbs and a finger) by any specious argument, if it is repeated constantly, and the Left are able to impose a fait accompli through the courts. Among intellectuals, the swings may be wider and quicker. They are not pendular, however, for once various civilized taboo lines have been crossed, there is no inevitable return, and the only way back is through a field of carnage.

Today, unlike “yesterday” (i.e. a few short years ago) there is 80 percent support for what goes in Canada under the euphemism “assisted dying,” and everywhere under the older euphemism, “euthanasia.” As loyal Christians (or Jews, and many others) we must never surrender to public opinion of this kind. Yet we must recognize that it is pointless to argue with the great mass who, in Canada as in places like Nazi Germany, can so easily be persuaded that down is up, and that words now have new meanings. They simply haven’t the equipment to follow a thread longer than the short slogans in which progressives specialize. Not if their moral schooling was defective, leaving consciences deformed.

People can be “educated” or “catechized” or awakened only one by one, and with their own participation. There is always hope, for as Thomas Sowell says, though everyone is born ignorant, not everyone is born stupid. But in practice, they are retrieved from catastrophic error, only by catastrophe.

At this point in our societal degeneration, “the people” are obedient to what beloved Benedict XVI called the “dictatorship of relativism.” This is understandable because few were raised in anything else. The very concept of a moral absolute (e.g. “thou shalt do no murder”) is alien to them. At the gut level, they may still individually recoil against an evil, but only if they have watched, and found the spectacle “icky.”

January 8, 2017

Spy Networks – Public Opinion – Conscription I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 7 Jan 2017

Chair of Wisdom Time! Indy answers your questions about World War 1 and this week we talk about espionage, opinion polls and conscription.

January 5, 2017

Canada’s military-industrial complex

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Ted Campbell briefly outlines the three tiers of military logistics then discusses the most controversial tier, the national industrial base, in more detail:

Behind it all, unseen, misunderstood, unloved and, in fact, often actively disliked is the national defence industrial base.

There are a great many people, including many in uniform, who object to the cost ~ fiscal and political ~ of having a defence industrial base. Many people suggest that a free and open market should be sufficient to equip all friendly, and the neutral and even some not so friendly military forces.

They forget, first of all, that the defence industries of e.g. America, Britain, France, Germany and Israel are ALL heavily supported by their government and, equally, heavily regulated. It is not clear that we will always be in full political accord with those upon whom we rely for military hardware? What if one country wanted, just for example, to gain an advantage in a trade negotiation? Do you think they might not “decide” that since the government (a minister of the crown) has threatened to use military force against First Nations who protest against pipelines that they will not sell us certain much needed military hardware or licence its use in Canada?

It is always troubling when we see the costs of military hardware increase at double or even triple the general rate of inflation for, say, cars or TV sets or food and heating fuel, but that is not the fault of the Canadian defence industries … it is, in fact, the “fault” of too little competition in the global defence industry market: too few Australian, Brazilian Canadian and Danish defence producers, too many aerospace and defence contractors merged into too few conglomerates that control too much of the market. A robust Canadian defence industrial base, supported by extensive government R&D programmes and by a steady stream of Canadian contracts would help Canada and our allies.

[…]

I am opposed to government supported featherbedding by Canadian unions and companies but we do need to pay some price for having a functioning defence industrial base … the costs of our new warships, for example, are, without a doubt, higher than they would be if we had bought equivalent ships from certain foreign yards, but we need to be willing to pay some price for having Canadians yards that are ready and able to build modern warships when needed; ditto for aircraft, armoured vehicles, radio and electronics, rifles and machine guns, cargo trucks and boots and bullets and beans, too. AND, we need a government that will, aggressively, support that defence industrial base with well funded R&D programmes and by “selling” Canadian made military equipment around the world.

It’s one thing to accept that you’ll need to pay a premium over market cost for built-in-Canada equipment that can’t also be sold to other customers. What is disturbing is discovering that the premium can be up to 100% of the cost for equivalent non-domestic items. For example, this was reported in a CBC article in 2014:

Britain, for example, opted to build its four new naval supply ships much more cheaply, at the Daewoo shipyard in South Korea. The contract is for roughly $1.1 billion Cdn. That’s for all four. By contrast, Canada plans to build just two ships, in Vancouver, for $1.3 billion each. So Canada’s ships will be roughly five times more costly than the British ones.

But there’s a twist. Canada’s supply ships will also carry less fuel and other supplies, because they’ll be smaller — about 20,000 tonnes. The U.K. ships are nearly twice as big — 37,000 tonnes. Canadians will lay out a lot more cash for a lot less ship.

Everything is more expensive to build domestically if you don’t already have a competitive market for that item. The federal government’s long-standing habit of drawing out the procurement process makes the situation worse, as the costs increase over time (but the budget generally does not), so we end up with fewer ships, planes, tanks or other military hardware items that arrive much later than originally planned.

January 2, 2017

“Honest scientific discourse and debate is often rendered impossible in the face of the ‘new catastrophism'”

Filed under: Cancon, Environment, Media, Politics, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

It’s not your imagination — we really do seem to be careening from one ecological disaster to another, all caused by thoughtless human action … well, that’s what the activists are constantly saying:

What is patently obvious from reviewing Canada’s ancient history is that scientists still do not have an adequate understanding of Earth’s complex systems on which to base sound economic and environmental policy. From the upper reaches of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans onwards to the deep interior of the planet our knowledge of complex earth systems is still rather rudimentary. Huge areas of our planet are inaccessible and are little known scientifically. There is still also much to learn from reading the rock record of how our planet functioned in the past.

In so many areas, we simply don’t know enough of how our planet functions.

And yet……

Scarcely a day goes past without some group declaring the next global environmental crisis; we seemingly stagger from one widely proclaimed crisis to another each one (so we are told) with the potential to severely curtail or extinguish civilization as we know it. It’s an all too familiar story often told by scientists who cross over into advocacy and often with the scarcely-hidden sub-text that they are the only ones with the messianic foresight to see the problem and create a solution. Much of our science is what we would call ‘crisis-driven’ where funding, politics and the media are all intertwined and inseparable generating a corrupting and highly corrosive influence on the scientific method and its students. If it doesn’t bleed it doesn’t lead is the new yardstick with which to measure the overall significance of research.

Charles Darwin ushered in a new era of thinking where change was expected and necessary. Our species as are all others, is the product of ongoing environmental change and adaption to varying conditions; the constancy of change. In the last 15 years or so however, we have seemingly reverted to a pre-Darwinian mode of a fixed ‘immutable Earth’ where any change beyond some sort of ‘norm’ is seen in some quarters as unnatural, threatening and due to our activities, usually with the proviso of needing ‘to act now to save the planet.’ Honest scientific discourse and debate is often rendered impossible in the face of the ‘new catastrophism.’

Trained as geologists in the knowledge of Earth’s immensely long and complex history we appreciate that environmental change is normal. For example, rivers and coastlines are not static. Those coasts, in particular, that consist of sandy strand-plains and barrier-lagoon systems are continually evolving as sand is moved by the waves and tides. Cyclonic storms (hurricanes), a normal component of the weather in many parts of the world, are particularly likely to cause severe erosion. When recent events such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy cause catastrophic damage, and spring storms cause massive flooding in Calgary or down the Mississippi valley, and droughts and wildfires affect large areas of the American SW these events are blamed on a supposed increase in the severity of extreme weather events brought about by climate change. In fact, they just reflect the working of statistical probability and long term climate cyclicity. Such events have happened in the past as part of ongoing changes in climate but affected fewer people. That the costs of weather and climate-related damage today are far greater is not because of an increased frequency of severe weather but the result of humans insisting on congregating and living in places that, while attractive, such as floodplains, mountain sides and beautiful coastlines, are especially vulnerable to natural disasters. Promises of a more ‘stable future’ if we can only prevent climate change are hopelessly misguided and raise unnatural expectations by being willfully ignorant of the natural workings of the planet. Climate change is the major issue for which more geological input dealing with the history of past climates would contribute to a deeper understanding of the nature of change and what we might expect in the future. The past climate record suggests in fact that for much of the Earth’s surface future cooling is the norm. Without natural climate change Canada would be buried under ice 3 km thick; that is it normal state for most of the last 2.5 million years with 100,000 years-long ice ages alternating with brief, short-lived interglacials such as the present which is close to its end.

H/T to Kate at SDA for the link.

December 31, 2016

“[Canadian] Republicanism is a pathology, a reflection of insecurity and ignorance”

Filed under: Cancon — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

The polling firm Ipsos did a year-end survey for Global News to find out how Canadians feel about the monarchy. Colby Cosh looks at the weak attraction of the republican option:

If you’re a serious monarchist you are of two minds about this sort of thing. You recognize the necessity of occasionally taking the pulse of the institution, just as a human of great age will have their vital signs measured from time to time. You also know that to present the Canadian monarchy to the public as a free choice, a fashion we can discard when it suits us, has the effect of encouraging republican fantasies.

Republicanism is a pathology, a reflection of insecurity and ignorance. In the past it was fostered by newspapermen who had served for a spell in Washington (or Moscow or Tokyo), and who were used to being asked why the hell we have a “foreign” Queen on our money and whatnot. The educations of these men had often involved nothing more than early saturation in great quantities of ink and booze, and many were incapable of a half-decent answer grounded in global history.

So our press elite consisted of men who had suffered chronic humiliation by their big brothers, the Americans. The psychic dissolution of the Empire in the postwar period left us unable to regard Americans the way we once had as a matter of course — as errant, troubled children. Our journalistic teachers thus embraced, as a defence mechanism, the idea that Canada’s thousand-year-old inner constitution was “immature” or less than “adult.”

[…]

The pathological nature of Canadian republicanism is apparent from the Ipsos poll itself. Respondents were asked to indicate whether they agree or disagree with the statement “When Queen Elizabeth’s reign ends, Canada should end its formal ties to the British monarchy.” Fifty-three percent of the sample agreed; the figure was 73 per cent within Quebec, 46 per cent elsewhere.

But why would the death of the Queen be considered an appropriate moment for constitutional revision? Ipsos’s republican push-pollsters do not even have the guts to say out loud what they are talking about. Even as they contemplate a Canadian republic as something to be perpetrated like a theft, when the right distraction happens along, they instinctively avoid lèse-majesté. They know people like the Queen: their own poll finds that 81 per cent of Canadians think she has done a good job (leaving us to wonder what hallucinated grievances the other 19 per cent might have).

December 24, 2016

Smug Canada has been lucky … so far

Filed under: Cancon, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Chris Selley enumerates a few of the problems other western countries have been having with Islamic terrorism, and points out that Canada just been lucky not to have a greater share:

Here in Canada in 2016, meanwhile, we have endured … almost nothing. Aaron Driver hatched a plot to blow himself up in public somewhere, but police cornered him in his parents’ driveway, the bomb didn’t work and he’s dead now. I had forgotten his name.

Instead, some of us spent 2016 patting ourselves on the backs for accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees. It was a good thing to do. But heading into 2017, I think we might usefully recall demands to bring in five or 10 times that number, immediately, and perhaps finish their security screening on Canadian soil. European countries are struggling with failed asylum-seekers they can’t deport — to Tunisia, never mind Syria. Only someone from a decadently peaceful country like Canada would ever suggest running that risk voluntarily.

Some in my trade spent 2016 penning encomiums to Canada’s supposed new status as a beacon of sanity: while Europe and America devolve into simian nativism and xenophobia, here we are enlightened, welcoming, serene. Some of these pieces conceded that being protected from uncontrolled immigration by oceans to the east, west and north, and by 1,500 kilometres of a larger, warmer economy to the south, might help keep the peace. Heading into 2017, I think we might usefully ponder just how pampered we are by that geographic reality. Faced with the European situation — unstoppable flows of unknown people, regular acts of terror, frequent reports of young migrant men abusing women — would we really react with this patented Canadian equanimity?

December 19, 2016

Justin Trudeau’s actual role in the Trudeau Foundation

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ted Campbell finds an oddly charitable way to describe the Prime Minister’s efforts on behalf of the Trudeau Foundation, and a contrast with Hillary Clinton’s role in the Clinton Foundation’s work:

Let me be very, very clear: I do not doubt Prime Minister Trudeau’s personal honesty; nor so I actually think he is smart enough, devious enough to manage a “cash for access” scheme. The “cash for access” scandal is, as Professor Tom Flanagan says, something that all parties, Conservatives, too, both nationally and provincially, have always done. Prime Minister Trudeau is, rightfully, being hammered not for schmoozing with the wealthy, but, rather, for his own person hypocrisy about the issue. But the Trudeau foundation is a bit different and a bit more dangerous. I think the Trudeau Foundation was set up, using $125 Million of Canadian public (taxpayers’) money “donated” by then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, as a mechanism to perpetuate a Liberal icon and to provide a sinecure for Justin Trudeau and, thereby, to help him shelter some of his substantial family wealth from zealous tax collectors; and he is rather like an employee … something akin to a Disneyland Princess who gets trotted out to pose with the paying customers. But the warnings from Candice Malcolm and Tony Keller are valid and Prime Minister Trudeau should pay heed. Americans forgave Donald Trump for his great wealth and tax evasion and a hundred other faults because he spoke to them about their own fears. They did not forgive Mrs Clinton because, I think, she talked at them, not with them, and she talked about people and issues that working class Americans thought had already received enough attention and even special treatment.

Justin Trudeau is perceived, already, as a pampered, privileged “trust fund kid” who, despite the rhetoric, doesn’t really understand middle class, much less working class Canadians. Prime Minister Trudeau won, in 2015, in large measure because Canadian were tired of Prime Minister Harper, and because he is genuinely “nice,” but not because Canadians think he is, in any way, “one of them.” He could lose, as Hillary Clinton lost, if Canadians decide that he is using his high office to feather his own already substantial nest with “dirty” foreign money while he sells out Canadians’ interests. It may be unfair but the media have this bit between their teeth and they are not likely to just let it go away.

Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown and the “hidden agenda”

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

During the entire time Stephen Harper was Prime Minister, the opposition and the media kept frightening people about Harper’s “hidden agenda” that he was bound to implement at any moment. For a decade. It worked well enough that right up until the Liberals won the last federal election, the term “hidden agenda” worked to gin up fears about the “real” Harper plan for Canada. If it was bad for Harper it’s going to be much, much worse for Ontario’s PC party and their flexible leader Patrick Brown:

Any Tory leader would have this problem. Any Tory leader who was ever thought of as a social conservative would have it worse. Brown might have it worst of all: having bent like a palm tree in the wind on social issues, it will be easier than usual for the Liberals, New Democrats and media to portray any moderate stance he takes on anything as nothing more than a politically expedient façade on some kind of hidden agenda. For those who might support such an agenda, meanwhile, his record is an invitation to stay home: whatever he or one of his MPPs might promise them isn’t worth the sound waves that conveyed it. They might reasonably conclude he has no agenda at all, hidden or otherwise.

Stephen Harper had considerable trouble with his purported “hidden agenda,” despite the gymnastics that were necessary to pin it on him. Brown having inhabited every position imaginable on a perfectly reasonable sex-ed curriculum, he cannot inspire much confidence in anyone, on any side of any truly contentious social issue, that his stated positions during campaigns would bear any resemblance to his actions as premier.

Perhaps the Liberals are finally unpopular enough that they’ll lose in 2018 no matter whom they’re up against; perhaps Ontarians will deem Brown’s apparent lack of principles an acceptable replacement for the Liberals’ long-demonstrated lack of principles. But if I were Kathleen Wynne, I’d be considerably more confident than my 16 per cent approval rating suggested I should be.

December 13, 2016

“Canadian National was using Metrolinx as an automated teller machine”

Filed under: Cancon, Railways — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

The two big Canadian railway corporations have taken full advantage of the weak internal financial controls at Metrolinx:

For much of the past two decades Canadian National Railway Co. has been credited with revolutionizing the North American railroad industry.

The company’s former chief executive E. Hunter Harrison’s theory of “precision railroading” — a data-driven focus on charging customers a premium for superior on-time performance — made him an industry icon and his shareholders very happy.

But in railroading, as in life, how you get there matters.

Acting on a tip, the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation began investigating Canadian National in the fall of 2014. Here’s what our reporting uncovered:

  • For over 15 years Canadian National earned hundreds of millions of dollars in profit by marking up rail construction costs up more than 900 percent to a public-sector client.
  • Canadian National regularly engaged in questionable business practices like charging internal capital maintenance and expansion projects to the same taxpayer-funded client and billing millions of dollars for work that was never done.
  • A just-released auditor general investigation suggested a series of reforms that will reduce these profits.
  • For years, train yard personnel, under intense pressure from management, have intentionally misreported on-time performance, helping it boost revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars.

[…]

Long before the Ontario auditor general’s office began its investigation, Canadian National was using Metrolinx as an automated teller machine, albeit one with no deposits required. Over 15 years executive teams have come and gone at Canadian National but the one constant has been the river of profit that its Toronto construction unit has been able to reliably wring from Metrolinx.

Determining how much Canadian National has billed Metrolinx over the past two decades is difficult but since 2010, adding up four separate land sales, the Lakeshore West construction discussed below and ongoing maintenance contracts it’s at least $1.1 billion, the majority of which likely went straight to operating income. In other words, Metrolinx’s long-running failure to properly scrutinize Canadian National emboldened it to charge prices so high that many of the construction and maintenance contracts amounted to almost pure profit.

The most audacious episode occurred from 2004 to 2008 when Canadian National’s construction managers developed a billing scheme that reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in profits and benefits by wildly inflating the cost of construction, according to documents obtained by the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation and attached to ongoing litigation.

The project involved a track expansion project that Canadian National performed for Metrolinx’s Lakeshore West line, on a route that stretched about 40 miles from Hamilton, Ontario, to Toronto’s Union Station. The work was completed in 2012.

Windfall profits and bonus payouts weren’t the half of it. In numerous instances Canadian National billed Metrolinx for work that Canadian National did for its own capital maintenance and expansion projects, saving itself many millions of dollars in expenses.

From 2004 to 2008, Canadian National did track construction work for Metrolinx on a 4.5-mile stretch between the Burlington and Hamilton stations, referred to by Canadian National as Lakeshore West/West. On a separate stretch of the same track in late 2009, crews began adding track to the 9.1-mile stretch from the Port Credit station to Kerr Street, or the Lakeshore West/East line. (The Ontario auditor general’s annual report discussed an unnamed 9-mile track extension that cost $95 million to construct “on the Lakeshore West corridor” but did not identify the project’s location or its date of completion.)

The Lakeshore West/West project’s cost is unclear.

Based on this email, Metrolinx had originally approved a construction price tag of $45 million, but in short order the project’s chief engineer Daryl Barnett, in a bid to reduce costs, noted the price tag had quickly ballooned past $70 million. Metrolinx’s spokeswoman Aikins did not answer repeated questions on the matter but the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation obtained an April 2015 internal audit Metrolinx conducted at the auditor general’s request that put the final tab for Canadian National’s 2004 to 2008 work on that stretch at “over $200 million.”

GO Transit operates bus and rail service in the Greater Toronto Area as part of Metrolinx

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