Quotulatiousness

October 20, 2017

Justin Trudeau’s government at the two-year mark

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Paul Wells nicely lists all the good things the Trudeau government has managed to do during the first two years of its mandate, then gets down to the other side of the balance sheet:

The worse continues to pile up. I see no way the rushed and timid legalization of cannabis will drain the black market and, in hardening more penalties than it relaxes, it seems certain to provide busywork for police who have been asking only to be freed up to tackle more serious problems. (An internal Ontario government memo reaches the same conclusions.)

Since it’s impossible to find anyone in the government who’s conspicuous for saying no to any proposed spending spree, it’s a near dead-lock certainty that Canada will become a nursery for white elephants — and, unless this generation of public administrators is luckier than any previous generation, for corruption, somewhere in the system.

The government’s appointments system is, as one former staffer told me this week, “just a little f–ked,” with backlogs as far as the eye can see. There’s a serious bottleneck for important decisions, with the choke point in the Prime Minister’s Office. Rookie ministers, which is most of them, are held close. Those who don’t perform are sent new staffers from the PMO: career growth comes from the centre, not the bottom.

A cabinet full of political neophytes — and there is nothing Trudeau could have done to avoid that, given how few seats he had before 2015 — has been trained to cling for dear life to talking points. The result is unsettling: most of the cabinet simply ignores any specific question and charges ahead with the day’s message, conveying the unmistakable impression they are not as bright as — given their achievements before politics — they must surely be. Or that they think their audience isn’t. I doubt this is what anyone intends, but by now it’s deeply baked into the learned reflexes of this government.

Then there is this tax mess. I’m agnostic on the policy question: in my own life I’ve been spectacularly unimaginative in organizing my finances for minimal taxation. I put all the book money into RRSPs, called my condo an office for the two years I used it as one, and that was the end of that. But the summer tax adventure has left the Liberals with their hair on fire, for two broad reasons. One is that Bill Morneau’s personal financial arrangements are becoming surreal. The other is the way the project — and especially the life stories of its stewards, Trudeau and Morneau — undermined the Liberals’ claim to be champions of the middle class.

Wells very kindly doesn’t mention the ongoing flustercluck that is our military procurement “system” (which to be fair, the Liberals did inherit from the Harper Conservatives), which has gotten worse rather than better — and only part of that is due to Trudeau’s trumpeted “No F-35s” election pledge. The Royal Canadian Navy seem no closer to getting the new ships they so desperately need (aside from the Project Resolve supply ship, which the government had to be arm-twisted into accepting), and the government hasn’t yet narrowed down the surface combatant requirements enough to select a design.

Quebec’s niqab ban

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Chris Selley on the Quebec provincial government’s latest anti-Muslim legislation:

It’s mostly about the Quiet Revolution. That’s what we’ve been assured by wise owl pundits about all this intolerant-looking rigmarole in Quebec. When polls show far more Quebecers than other Canadians hesitant to vote for a turban-wearing Sikh like NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, the owls exhort us to contextualize: Quebecers’ rejection of the Catholic Church’s outsized role in their society left them suspicious of all public displays of religiosity (except Catholic ones, weirdly). This explains higher levels of antipathy toward other religious symbols as well, we are told: kippas, kirpans and hijabs. Hijabs specifically are antithetical to a uniquely French brand of feminism, the owls explain. We must understand that French Canadians, like the French, simply do not believe in multiculturalism; other cultures must adapt to and exist within the dominant one. Without understanding all this, we cannot comprehend what’s really happening.

Well, here’s what really happened Wednesday: after years of dithering, the Liberal government in Quebec City made it illegal to provide or receive government services with one’s face covered — which is to say no niqabs on university campuses, no niqabs at the police station, no niqabs on the bus or on the Métro. Not even the Parti Québécois’ much-loathed values charter proposed the latter. So what are we to make of this, owls? Was the Quiet Revolution, this proud rejection of church influence over the state, really about bestowing upon the state the power to tell religious people what they can and cannot wear on buses and trains? Shall we sing Gens du Pays?

How stupid do the Liberals think people are? How stupid do they think Canadian judges are? Stupid enough, apparently, to believe that this isn’t really about niqabs, but about a general outbreak of people riding public transit without their faces showing. Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée said the rule applied equally to niqabs, balaclavas, dark sunglasses and anything else that might obscure all or part of the face. It’s a simple matter of “security, communication and identification.”

October 19, 2017

Richard Florida oversold his “creative class”

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

Rick McGinnis reviews the latest book by the much-celebrated Richard Florida … which walks back a lot of what his last book pushed:

With his new book, The New Urban Crisis, Florida concedes that he might – just might – have overstated his case. The gaps between the rich and poor have increased, particularly in the case study cities that Florida described and, later, championed as an advocate of his pet theory. The so-called creative class has transformed cities, mostly by colonizing the most attractive districts, aggregating most of the wealth around them, and increasing house prices exponentially, driving the less fortunate classes – Florida’s “service class” and an equally distinct and diminishing working class – into insalubrious neighbourhoods, often at the city’s fringes.

To be fair, it was a case well sold, and it made Florida a star in his field, ultimately landing him at the head of something called the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. The idea of some sort of vaguely defined creative class as a benign invasion, reviving run-down areas once home to workers or industry with their peculiar and mysterious social, cultural and economic alchemy, had a lot of appeal to the sorts of people who run cities – politicians, developers and realtors, mostly.

The vagueness of what constituted the “creative class” no doubt helped sell Florida as an urban visionary – it could be stretched to include everyone from gallery owners, photographers, and art directors to claims adjusters, funeral directors, and tax collectors. In Florida’s theory, as one critic noted, “distinctive spatial and political proclivities are bunched together, purely on the basis of educational attainment, and with little demonstrable relationship to creativity.” Much of the good press was probably helped by the fact that journalists had pride of place in the creative class.

[…]

There’s a sleight of hand at work with Florida’s theory, as the middle class that he bemoans as disappearing has actually been largely absorbed by him into the very elastic borders of the creative class, where vast armies of white collar workers find their home alongside tiny numbers of arts bureaucrats and musicians. His fetish for IT workers in particular seems curious, since many of the jobs being done in vast, architecturally praised tech campuses are, in basic function indistinguishable from the sort of grinding desk labour done on vast office floors in skyscrapers by men in gray flannel suits, 60 years ago.

October 15, 2017

David Suzuki’s (incomplete) economic understanding

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Environment — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Several years ago in the Literary Review of Canada, Joseph Heath explained how he tried “being green” and in the process discovered that Canada’s secular environmental saint David Suzuki literally didn’t have a clue about economics:

David Suzuki’s most recent, The Legacy: An Elder’s Vision for Our Sustainable Future, is billed as an attempt by “one of the planet’s preeminent elders” to “sum up in one last lecture all that he has learned over his lifetime.” Suzuki is, of course, one of the most influential public intellectuals in this country. Like most Canadians of my generation, I grew up watching The Nature of Things, and so tend to think of Suzuki as a constant in the universe.

Suzuki was also an environmentalist long before it was cool to be an environmentalist. Perhaps because of this passionate commitment to the cause, it is startling to discover that Suzuki is oblivious to the logic of collective action. What’s worse, he does not even know what an externality is, and seems unwilling to learn. In The Legacy, he repeats the same incorrect definition that he has been using for years (he equates externalities with anything that is not part of, and hence external to, an economic model, and then claims, on that basis, that economists ignore them). Elsewhere, he even provides a detailed account of where the misunderstanding arose. It was apparently based upon something that the instructor said to him, on the first day of an economics class, which he evidently misinterpreted and never bothered to double check.

It is worth pausing for a moment to reflect upon this. It means that Suzuki does not know the first thing about environmental economics. It means that in 38 years as a university professor, public intellectual and environmental activist, he did not once take the time to find out what social scientists have to say about the problem of global warming. It means that he has never even glanced at the Wikipedia page on environmental economics.

Because of this, Suzuki winds up committing the core fallacy of environmental activism. He thinks that if people only understood the consequences that their actions were having on the environment, they would each be motivated to change their behaviour. And so, to the extent that we are not changing our behaviour, it must be because we do not understand, or that we have not been telling ourselves the right “story.” Yet this is manifestly not the case. My wife understands the science of global warming perfectly well. But she also does not like dandelions growing by the side of the road. And when push comes to shove, the desire to kill dandelions wins over environmental peccadilloes. It is not particularly mysterious. It is called free riding; people do it all the time.

Thus when Suzuki writes “we say we are intelligent, but what intelligent creature, knowing that water is a sacred, life-giving element, would use water as a toxic dump?” he seems genuinely not to know. The answer is easy: we are intelligent creatures who care just slightly more about ourselves than we do about other people. For example, like most residents of Toronto I do not use the water on my land as a toxic dump; I use Lake Ontario for that purpose. Saying that “we are water, and whatever we do to water, we do to ourselves” sounds very nice, but all the “we” talk actually encourages a very serious confusion. What I do to water, I primarily do to other people, not to myself, which is why I care about it just ever-so-slightly less.

In the end, and somewhat contrary to all expectations, Suzuki winds up coming off as a science chauvinist. There are basically two bodies of knowledge that he respects. There is physical science — genetics, biology, the stuff that he studies — and there is what he calls “traditional knowledge” — by which he means the wisdom of aboriginal and indigenous peoples. Conspicuously absent is any interest in what social scientists might have to say about how human beings work, about the political process, about the economy and about how societies mobilize to address collective action problems. As a result, he knows a lot more about the nature of things than he does about the nature of people.

H/T to Andrew Potter, via Stephen Gordon for the link.

October 14, 2017

It’s not the actual dollar amount wasted, it’s what it reveals about the federal government

Filed under: Cancon, Government — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh, giving full credit for the scoop to Tom Korski, on the minor-but-revealing way the federal government treats taxpayer money:

Even as I summarize this news, I can see the potential for various kinds of carping from ad men or illustrators who don’t want their oxen gored. “Sigh, this is just business as usual.” Like hell it is: under the Conservatives the finance department used plain covers or inexpensive stock photos for the budget. This is exclusively Liberal tomfoolery.

“Okay, but the cost is perfectly reasonable for what we got!” Two hundred thou for one document, huh? Try that one out on a newspaper art director. Try it out on anyone who ever worked for a magazine, particularly one with newsstand sales that actually depended on a fancy cover.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Even if it’s a bit ridiculous, it’s ONLY $200,000 against a background of billions.” But is it? To me this is the most intriguing part of all. Blacklock’s quotes an e-mail (“It’s fresh. I love where this is going”) from someone who has the title “senior marketing advisor for the finance department”.

Am I the only one left asking, “Why the hell does the federal finance department need a marketing advisor?” The “senior” part denotes a six-figure salary, none of which is included in the cheque that was written to the nice creatives at McCann. Is the finance department a business whose revenues depend on effective advertising? Does Canada’s federal government have several finance departments contending with each other for market share?

[…]

This is the sort of use of public funds for essentially partisan purposes that we can’t throw anybody in jail for, except in my daydreams. Blacklock’s uncovered e-mails make this positively explicit: in arguing over the 2016 budget cover someone observed that, “Justin Trudeau’s election mantra was all about positivity, change, and optimism for the future. We want this budget cover to illustrate that feeling.” I would say this utterance is not quite in the tradition of our public service, except for my fear that it is a perfect expression of the real tradition.

October 12, 2017

That Time Canada Tried to Make a Literal “Gaydar”

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

Today I Found Out
Published on 10 Oct 2017

Never run out of things to say at the water cooler with TodayIFoundOut! Brand new videos 7 days a week!

In this video:

We are all familiar with the colloquialism “gaydar” which refers to a person’s intuitive, and often wildly inaccurate, ability to assess the sexual orientation of another person. In the 1960s, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) attempted to use a slightly more scientific, though equally flawed, approach- a machine to detect if a person was gay or not. This was in an attempt to eliminate homosexuals from the Canadian military, police and civil service. The specific machine, dubbed the “Fruit Machine”, was invented by Dr. Robert Wake, a Carelton University Psychology professor.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/06/when-the-canadian-government-used-gay-detectors-to-try-to-get-rid-of-homosexual-government-employees/

October 9, 2017

QotD: The fall and rise of the “liberal” label in Canada

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

The word “liberal” began to encounter a well-known crisis starting in about 1980. Liberalism had become equated with feeble criminal justice, Cold War slackness, large public deficits, high taxes, squirrelly currency … the mix of outrages varied from place to place and from time to time, but the common theme was weakness. To be a liberal was to be spongy and soft-headed about Darwinian imperatives of life, foreign policy and economics.

Our federal Liberal party has, given time, addressed some of these perceptions head-on and simply outlasted others. The capital-L Liberal brand has benefited from a whole range of phenomena, from Paul Martin’s curtailment of the federal public service to Justin Trudeau beating the crap out of a Conservative senator on television and looking good doing it. Trudeau took pains to stress the presence of “liberty” in the name “Liberal,” which had become almost a forgotten secret, a coincidence of etymology. That deprived the Conservatives of some of the energy that socially liberal and libertarian fellow-travellers might have brought to the contest.

Perhaps the secret of recent history in the provinces is that conservatives are not addressing psycho-semantic problems with the term “conservative.” How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m a social liberal but a conservative on economics”? This is the default political position of most adults now, is it not? Liberalism, which is to say pluralism, has won the argument in the “social” realm of government. What once was liberalism in economics, the dirigisme that my generation was taught to think of as the “mixed economy,” has largely lost; but the people who call themselves Liberals have succeeded at extricating themselves from the reputational burden.

Colby Cosh, “Is conservatism on the way out?”, National Post, 2015-11-10.

October 6, 2017

New NDP leader Jagmeet Singh even gets the thumbs up from crusty old conservative fogey

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

That is, Singh is seen as a much bigger threat to Justin Trudeau than to “stodgy” Andrew Scheer … which, in electoral terms, might leave the Liberals and NDP fighting it out for second place in the polls and the Conservatives up near majority territory. He’s certainly teh new hotness as far as the newspapers are concerned:

The media is buzzing about Jagmeet Singh being a game changer. Campbell Clark, writing in the Globe and Mail, says that “The NDP once picked stalwarts to fight the good fight as leader. Now, they have chosen someone who might disrupt Canadian politics. Don’t underestimate the potential for Jagmeet Singh to shake things up.” Chantal Hébert, writing in the Toronto Star, says “[Andrew] Scheer has to be hoping that Singh will give Trudeau more of a run for his money, for it usually takes a divided progressive vote for the Conservatives to win power.” And Lorne Gunter, writing in the Edmonton Sun, says that “Trudeau is a paper “progressive” – a poser – compared to Singh … [and] … unlike Thomas Mulcair, Singh’s predecessor as NDP leader, Singh won’t lose core social democrat voters by running to the right of the Liberals in the next federal election the way Mulcair did in 2015 … [thus, and] … In short, Singh is a headache the Liberals never imagined having. Compared to Trudeau, he is younger (38 rather than 45), smarter, at least as well-dressed and even more of a trendy, politically correct symbol.“

“But,” Mr Gunter says, while Jagmeet’s Singh’s selection is bad news for the Liberals, it “should be good for the Tories … [because] … It should revive vote-splitting on the left. And it should allow Tory Leader Andrew Scheer, while dull, to appear as the only clear alternative to the two Big Government leaders.”

Singh isn’t likely to draw a lot of votes from the Tories, but he’s a major threat to Trudeau in exactly those mediagenic qualities that Trudeau used to such great effect in the last federal election. Justin is in danger of being out-cooled by the new guy. A lot will depend on how long the media allows Singh’s political honeymoon to last, as they will be the primary channel for the “cool duel” to play out.

October 3, 2017

Jagmeet Singh wins the federal NDP leadership race

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The NDP have finally selected a leader who may be able to recapture some of the “lightning in a bottle” phenomenon of the late Jack Layton’s time as party leader (and bring back some former NDP voters who plumped for Justin last time around). Jay Currie is enthusiastic about the new guy:

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh taking part in a Pride Parade in June 2017 (during the leadership campaign).
Photo via Wikimedia.

… I was cheered to see the rollover victory of Jagmeet Singh for the NDP leadership. Singh seems to be from the pragmatic end of the NDP and will be relatively immune from identitarian and intersectional attack simply because he’s brown and wears brilliant turbans. He’s intelligent, well spoken and has a bit of charisma. And he is just going to kill Justin Trudeau in places Trudeau needs to win.

It is simplistic to say that the Sikh community in Canada will universally support one of its own, there will certainly be a temptation to defect from Trudeau to Singh. While that might have some effect in Tory ridings, it will be felt most strongly in seats which have traditionally swung from Liberal to New Democrat and back again.

I am not sure, however, that Singh’s ethnicity is his biggest threat to Trudeau. By 2019 the emptiness of much of the Liberal’s program will be apparent to all. The broken promises, the tepid policy initiatives and, above all, the fiscal incompetence on the revenue side and on expenditures will be pretty apparent. For small business owners and consumers with half a clue, the combination of the lunatic small business tax measures and the expensive, but pointless, carbon tax will pour votes into the Conservative column. But with Canada’s first past the post system, that may not be enough.

Singh’s real threat to Trudeau is in marginal seats where the Libs beat the Conservatives by a few thousand votes in the last election because a) people had had enough of Harper, b) Justin seemed bright and shiny. People who would have voted NDP in the past were so eager to get rid of Harper they voted for Trudeau. Mulclair simply lacked the appeal to keep the faithful in the pews. At a guess, the rank and file NDP voters, as well as the multi-culti virtue signallers, will be much more inclined to give Singh a go. Which means he has the capacity to bleed off Liberal voters in significant numbers.

Viking warrior women?

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

ESR posted a link to this article by Julia Dent on the much ballyhoo’d “discovery” of the grave of a Viking woman warrior:

You may have heard of L’Anse aux Meadows, the discovered Viking site in Canada (because I repeat, Vikings actually settled in North America, even if it didn’t last long), but did you know that they uncovered another Viking site only last year? If you listen to Dan Snow’s History Hit podcast (which I highly recommend), you may have heard about it, but I only saw a couple of articles about the discovery. This finding is further proof that Leif Eriksson and his fellow Vikings actually settled in North America years before Christopher Columbus was even born, so it isn’t insignificant in the least.

But Leif Eriksson was overshadowed once again—this time by an unknown woman’s grave. However, there’s more to the story than meets the eye. I’ve written about the danger of people leaping to conclusions before, and it appears that it’s happened again. While there may have been female Viking warriors, there isn’t strong evidence that this Viking woman was actually a “high-ranking officer” or even a warrior. University of Nottingham professor of Viking studies Judith Jesch burst everyone’s bubbles with an article going through the “evidence” from the grave site and contesting it all. I highly encourage you to read her analysis in full, but here’s a quick summary of some of her points about the authors who published the “evidence” that the grave site was for a female Viking military officer:

    The authors listed on the article don’t include a language specialist, even though it starts with referencing “’narratives about fierce female Vikings fighting alongside men’, and concludes with a quotation from an Eddic poem in translation.” The authors even referenced one of Jesch’s books but not the book where she actually writes about women. The authors also make a lot of references to “historical records” without specifying which ones they’re talking about.

    The authors pretty much decide that this Viking woman is a high-ranking officer based on what she was buried with. The grave contained “’a full set of gaming pieces’ which apparently ‘indicates knowledge of tactics and strategy’” and “’the exclusive grave goods and two horses are worthy of an individual with responsibilities concerning strategy and battle tactics.’” There isn’t even any conclusive evidence that men buried with those items were military leaders.

    This gravesite was actually excavated over a century ago and things weren’t labeled well, so the female Viking bones may not have even been buried with all those items. Someone even commented on Jesch’s article that there was a third femur found with this woman’s bones, but the authors just ignored it. There were also no signs of harm to the bones, which means she was either one heck of a warrior who never got injured, or that she wasn’t a warrior at all.

So the authors assumed this female Viking was a military leader without any actual evidence and they ignored evidence that didn’t go along with their theory. Like many people today, they leapt to conclusions, and everyone was eager to agree that this woman was definitely a military leader because that suited a contemporary narrative, not a historical fact. This doesn’t mean that people in the future won’t find hard evidence that female Vikings could be military leaders, but you can’t “confirm” that this Viking was a military leader quite yet. Even if there weren’t female Viking warriors, women in Viking times were actually well-respected and enjoyed many rights and freedoms; they could divorce their husbands, own land, and could even have government representation. Women like Freydis and Gudrun had a significant impact on their societies, even if they didn’t lead troops into battle.

ESR also commented on the more direct physiological arguments against the “warrior woman” theory:

Accessible treatment of why to be skeptical of the recent media buzz about female Viking warriors.

My wife Cathy and I are subject-matter experts on this. We’ve trained to use period weapons and have studied both the archeological and saga evidence. And we can tell there’s a lot of PC horse exhaust being emitted on this topic.

On average, men are so much faster and stronger than women that what would happen to women using using lethal contact weapons on a pre-modern battlefield is highly predictable. They’d die. They’d die quickly.

The mean difference in physical ability (especially at burst exertion and upper-body strength) is so great that it takes a woman way over in the right tail of the Gaussian to stand against an average male. My wife is one of those exceptions, but we don’t fool ourselves that this is the typical case.

See also the U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team being defeated by a squad of 15-year-old boys. That is what’s normal for humans.

September 30, 2017

Area poet exposes big-name poet for plagiarism

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

Bancroft is a quiet place (queue the joke about spending a week there one afternoon), and hardly the kind of place that you’d expect to be in the news for the investigative activity of a local poet:

A local Bancroft area poet has garnered international attention after inadvertently discovering and reporting alleged plagiarism by Canada’s former parliamentary poet laureate and Governor General Award-winning poet Pierre DesRuisseaux, now deceased.

“I was looking at Canada’s national poet laureate website, and I saw that some of the former poet laureate [DesRuisseaux’s] material was listed there,” Kathy Figueroa told Bancroft This Week. “I read the translation from the French for the poem J’Avance, and I was completely astounded … it was derived from Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise … I recognized it immediately. I was shocked … dismayed … incredulous.”

Figueroa then contacted the Office of the Poet Laureate to report her discovery. She noticed the poem was pulled immediately from the website. She also reported the information to Plagiarism Alert where a British investigator and poet Ira Lightman subsequently determined that other poems attributed to DesRuisseaux had plagiarized well-known poets such as Dylan Thomas and Tupac Shakur, according to CBC News. He reported his findings to the British Guardian newspaper, giving Figueroa credit for her critical part in the discovery.

As a poet herself, plagiarism is not something new. In fact, Figueroa has suffered from theft of her work on several occasions in the past.

“This is not trivial,” she said. “It is very dismaying when your work has been taken by someone else … and especially if that person has a respected name. There is a feeling of helplessness, and it impacts negatively on the person’s creativity. It can leave you disenchanted … you don’t feel like writing anymore.”

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

Kathleen Wynne’s “War on Economics” is going great!

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

Giving people “free” stuff will always get you support from people who don’t understand TANSTAAFL (including the leader of the opposition), as Chris Selley explains:

Polls suggest Premier Kathleen Wynne’s ongoing war on economists is paying dividends. Fifty-three per cent approve of her Liberal government extending rent control to units built after 1991, according to a Forum Research poll conducted in May; only 25 per cent disapproved. In June, Forum found 53 per cent of Ontarians supported jacking up the minimum wage to $15 from $11.40 by Jan. 1, 2019, versus 38 per cent opposed. The move was hugely popular among Liberal voters (79 per cent) and NDP voters (28 per cent). Wynne’s approval rating is staggering back up toward, um, 20 per cent. But a Campaign Research poll released Sept. 13 had the Tories just five points ahead of the Liberals. That’s pretty great news for this beleaguered tribe.

The boffins still aren’t playing along, though.

Earlier this month, Queen’s Park’s Financial Accountability Office projected the hike would “result in a loss of approximately 50,000 jobs … with job losses concentrated among teens, young adults, and recent immigrants.” And it could be higher, the FAO cautioned, because there’s very little precedent for, and thus little evidence on which to judge, a hike as rapid as the one the Liberals propose — 32 per cent per cent in less than two years.

This week, TD Economics weighed in with a higher number: “a net reduction in jobs of about 80,000 to 90,000 positions by the end of the decade.” And the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis paints the grimmest picture: “We (expect) that the Act will, over two years, put 185,000 jobs at risk” — that’s jobs that already exist or that would otherwise have been created.

It’s easy to see why raising the minimum wage is popular. Governments like it because it doesn’t show up in the budget. We in the media can pretty easily find victims of an $11.40 minimum wage, and reasonably compassionate people quite rightly sympathize. Forty hours a week at $11.40 an hour for 50 weeks a year is $22,800. You can’t live on that.

Of course, these Liberal policies are flying in the face of mainstream economic theory, so you’d expect the Ontario Progressive Conservatives to have lots of arrows in the quiver to fight … oh, wait. Tory leader Patrick “I’m really a Liberal” Brown supports both the rent control and the minimum wage hike, just not quite as much at Wynne does. There’s Canadian “conservatism” in a nutshell for you: we also want to get on the express to Venezuelan economic conditions, just not quite as fast as the government wants. There’s a reason Kathleen Wynne isn’t as worried about getting re-elected as she used to be…

September 23, 2017

The end of Andrew Scheer’s brief political honeymoon

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

Being the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition isn’t quite the easy job some people seem to think it is. Paul Wells explains why Andrew Scheer’s brief time in office is already becoming much more of a grind than he may have anticipated:

There comes a time in every new opposition leader’s career when he discovers it’s a horrible job. This usually happens early.

The reasons why it seems like it shouldn’t be a horrible job are: (a) all you have to do is make fun of the government; (b) being an opposition leader, and therefore hating the government to your bones already, for reasons of ideology or team allegiance or both, it seems to you that everyone in the country will want to join you in making fun of the government; (c) it’s a nice job in general, with a suite of offices and an excellent seat in the House of Commons.

The reasons why it turns out to be a bad job anyway are: (a) you’re probably in opposition because your party has lost an election, and many Canadians haven’t yet forgotten why they wanted that to happen; (b) the rotten press corps will insist on poking and prodding the opposition’s behaviour, rather than focussing its wrath entirely on the government; (c) the job carries all of the perils of government — gaffes, caucus management, infighting — with none of the institutional clout.

And so hello to Andrew Scheer, who’s having a bit of a week.

Scheer (and his supporters) may have thought that just being not-Harper would be enough. It’s clearly not enough:

I don’t think Scheer’s performance on these files is determined solely by his temperament, either. It’s also structural. He sold himself to his party as a specific kind of cure to Harperism. It’s not clear he has the luxury to be that kind of cure.

By the time Scheer became Conservative leader, many Conservatives, probably most, were heartily sick of the Harper party’s oppressive message-control mechanisms. The forms you had to fill out, the layers of approval. Opinions diverged on whether the party needed to change its policy direction, but in its day-to-day communications and caucus management, the overwhelming consensus was that it needed a lighter touch.

Scheer’s selling proposition to Conservatives was that he could appeal to moderates by being a nicer guy than Harper, but that he could mollify the activist base by letting it act up a bit, without fear of reprisal. Blow off some steam. Have a few debates. The driving assumption seems to be that Harper brought the hammer down on his own people because Harper is the kind of guy who enjoys bringing the hammer down. And there’s some truth to that!

But there’s also the absolutely brutal purgatory the Canadian Alliance went through for two years before Harper became that party’s leader. Plummeting in the polls. Constant MP defections from caucus. Mockery in the news coverage. To some extent, this continued through the 2004 election, which Harper believed he lost because he could not trust his own candidates not to sound crazy. That’s why he clamped down.

Scheer will soon have to decide whether he can afford to let his caucus members say what they want. Until he does, the emerging pattern of his management style — laissez faire, followed by hasty backtracking — will come to define him.

September 21, 2017

TV and Parliament

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

It’s an old visual joke: two photos of Parliament (Canadian, British, Australian, etc.) or Congress, one showing the attendance for debate on a bill the poster believes to be of utmost importance … with a bare dozen or so on either side of the aisle contrasted with a photo of a jam-packed chamber said to be a debate on politicians’ salaries. The joke works because very few of us have ever been (or wanted to be) in the visitor’s gallery during a session. Our impressions of what actually happens in Parliament are informed by the still photos in the newspapers and the incredibly misleading snippets of TV coverage on TV or on Youtube. In the National Post, Andrew Coyne calls for the TV camera to be allowed to record a non-stage-managed version of what actually happens in the chamber:

A great many things have contributed to Parliament’s decline, but I wonder if it is entirely coincidental that the age in which the Commons mattered, when a good speech could turn a debate and debates were of consequence and giants walked the Earth, predates its televisation.

Look at it from the point of view of a member of Parliament asking a question or giving a speech in the Commons. Before the television cameras were introduced in 1977, who was your audience? Who were you trying to persuade, or impress? Who graded you on your performance? It was the people within its walls — your fellow MPs, mostly, plus the press. That was your world: people who were committed to Parliament, and knowledgeable about its traditions, and who themselves believed in its importance. For it was their world, too.

Perhaps they were wrong to believe this. Perhaps it was no more important, objectively, than it is now. Except that they believed it was, and believing it to be so, acted accordingly. And as it was important to its participants, so that importance was communicated to the country, which after all had no evidence to the contrary. If it was a delusion, it was a shared delusion.

[…]

Worse, the world outside is not even watching. It would be one thing if there were millions of Canadians tuning in. But as in fact the audience is largely limited to journalists and other shut-ins, the effect is simply to reinforce the sense of pointlessness and insignificance. All of that posturing for the cameras, all that canned outrage, and for what? Maybe a few hundred views on YouTube, if you’re lucky.

But of course no one’s watching. Have you watched Parliament? It would be unexciting enough, without the help of the rules governing the parliamentary television service, which allow only a single, fixed camera on a speaker at a time — no cutaways or reaction shots. Not only does this drain the proceedings of any drama, but it presents a stilted, distorted version of what goes on. Witness the little charade wherein a platoon of a speaker’s colleagues are assigned to occupy what would otherwise be the empty chairs around him. The public has been given the pretence of a direct, unfiltered view of Parliament, one that is vastly less interesting than the real thing.

Should you decide to watch the bear pit live, you are not allowed to use a camera or recording device of any kind, and you’re explicitly not allowed to take notes during the session. Those privileges are reserved to the official representatives of the media alone (see the “Live Debates” section of the Parliamentary website.

September 19, 2017

Ontario is getting exactly what they deserve in legalized marijuana

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Pessimists, you can collect your winnings at the till. Optimists? Haven’t you learned yet? You expected a vibrant, dynamic free market in pot where your favourite budtender would be able to offer you a wide selection of high quality product to choose from? Forget it, Jake, it’s Ontario. Chris Selley explains why the pessimists got it right in the betting on how Ontario would choose to implement the legal marijuana market in 2018:

For nearly 15 years, I and other free market lunatics have been trying to impress upon Ontarians just how insane our liquor retail system is. Yet we still hear the same ludicrous arguments in its favour. “The LCBO makes tons of money for the province.” (Alberta makes tons of money from liquor sales too, without owning a single store.) “Public employees can be trusted to keep booze out of children’s hands.” (The Beer Store isn’t public. Nor are the scores of privately run “agency stores” in rural areas across Ontario.) “The LCBO provides good jobs.” (Not to real product experts it doesn’t — they would be far better off in a free market jurisdiction. And if the government’s role is to make good retail jobs, why not nationalize groceries?) “LCBO stores are pleasant. Liquor stores in the U.S. are gross.” (Nope! You’re just going to the wrong liquor stores.)

This hopeless mess is the foundation for Ontario’s new marijuana plan — and we’re hearing the same arguments in its favour. Last week, two columnists in the Toronto Star and one in the Globe and Mail spoke approvingly of the fact it would create “good unionized jobs.” The two Star columnists also mentioned the money that would accrue to the treasury.

“I’m fine with the profits going to the public purse instead of private businesspeople,” wrote one.

“Why wouldn’t the government seek to maximize revenues in the same way that it profits from alcohol and tobacco sales?” asked the other.

Even after all these years, it makes me want to tear my hair out: for the love of heaven, the “high-paying jobs” motive and the “profit” motive are at odds with each other. You cannot claim both as priorities. One way or the other, the government will take its cut on marijuana sales. The overhead costs of running its own stores, paying its own employees government wages, will simply eat into that cut.

If you can live with Ontario’s liquor situation, but you think your favourite budtender should be able to get a government licence to keep her “dispensary” up and running after legalization kicks in, my sympathy is non-existent. You either support consumer choice or you don’t. Ontario doesn’t, and that will never change until tipplers and tokers take up arms together.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress