Quotulatiousness

July 29, 2014

Will Alberta lead the way on legalization?

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 14:28

In Maclean’s, Paul Wells discusses the (rather amazing) fact that support for marijuana legalization in Alberta just went over 50%:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been hitting hard at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s advocacy of marijuana legalization for about a year now. Really hard: I don’t think the extent of the radio, TV and paper campaign against Trudeau and pot has yet been tallied. Here’s one early effort of mine to provide a partial accounting. The Conservative case against today’s Liberals, in fact, can be summed up as a general argument that they lack judgment and their leader lacks more than most; and a specific case that he’s high and wants to get your children high, too.

My own hunch, discussed at length in this column from last September, was that Harper was onto something. Advocates of pot legalization are a loud and self-impressed bunch, I wrote, but they’re balanced by other people in other parts of the country who still greatly fear the demon weed — and outnumbered by many others who don’t care about the disposition of the law and won’t vote for a party just because of its views on pot.

But views change. One suggestion that they’re changing in Canada comes from Faron Ellis at Lethbridge College, who’s done several waves of public-opinion polling in Alberta on social issues. In 2013, for the first time, Ellis and his colleagues found majority support [PDF] in Alberta for decriminalization of marijuana for recreational use. Support for liberalized laws on recreational pot had grown by more than 10 points in only two years. In Alberta.

[...]

I’m not sure how marijuana will play in a general election, or whether it’s salient enough to make any real difference. A year’s polling on political party preferences suggests it hasn’t exactly been a magic bullet against the Trudeau Liberals. Opposition to same-sex marriage was a strong incentive to form a united Conservative party more than a decade ago and, now, that issue has just about vanished as a differentiator among political parties. That sort of thing could happen again on another issue, and Harper must worry that it is.

I’m suspecting that marijuana will turn out to be a big issue in the next federal election — if only because Harper isn’t likely to give up what he thinks is a great weapon against Justin Trudeau. However, if the trend in popular opinion toward legalization continues, that weapon might well turn in his hand.

As Colby Cosh said a few weeks back:

The consciously libertarian vote in this country is not large, but there is a larger, less intellectually coherent “leave me alone” vote — a fraction of the public that is equally tired of drug laws, overpriced cheese, green boondoggles, housing-market fiddling and all the other familiar species of unkillable state intervention. Feeding and watering the Ron Paul-ish voters would be light work for Conservatives if they weren’t so strategically devoted to exploiting soccer-mom fear of drug dealers and other baddies. Paul himself spent 30 years as a tolerated totem, almost a sort of licensed royal jester, within the Republican party.

When Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced his party’s backing for marijuana legalization, we were told by newspapermen, almost with one voice, that he would rue his radicalism. The pundits all know he is in the right on pot, but they do not trust him to articulate the right position. This might be fair, but his espousal of legalization doesn’t seem to have hurt him in the polls yet. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that is taking an awfully long while to fulfill itself.

I’m not all that pleased to see the rise of Justin Trudeau: I suspect his actual policy positions should he become PM would be informed by the “we know better than you” nanny-staters, do-gooders, and earnest interventionists. His sensible position on marijuana may indicate a latent libertarian streak, but is more likely to be a variant of the stopped-clock phenomenon.

March 21, 2014

Calgary mayor trolls reporter

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:14

Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi was asked for his reaction to the resignation of Alberta Premier Alison Redford. The conversation went in odd directions, according to the Calgary Herald‘s Jason Markusoff:

Let’s start this transcript of Calgary’s mayor reacting to Alison Redford’s resignation with the last question I threw to him, as a just-in-case query: Will you run for Alberta PC leadership?

We didn’t get the pat “no” I expected. We got Naheed Nenshi talking about “Albertans,” even though three-quarters of [them] aren’t in his jurisidiction:

    “Seriously? There will be lots and lots and lots of opportunities to talk about lots and lots and lots of different people. I can tell you regardless of whatever role I’m in personally, I will take a very serious part in this next election, always fighting for the interests of Calgarians and Albertans.”

Let’s rewind, then, to the beginning of his statement.

    Obviously what has happened tonight will be covered as a political story, and it is a political story. But I also want to remind everyone that this is also a human story.

    It’s about a real person, a good person, a person who loves this province and and has worked and made incredible sacrifices… And it’s the story of a system that takes someone like that and chews them up and spits them out. And I think that’s what we really need to remember today. Alison Redford is a good person. A good person who has tried to do great things for this province, who has had amazing dreams and amazing ideas for what we can do together as a community.

    Every one of us who goes into public service knows that it can be a tough job. Every one of us knows you’ve got to have a thick skin, sometimes people say really cruel things about you on the Internet. But I think all of us as Albertans need to really think about what has happened over the last several weeks. And what that means to how we get great people to be politicians, how we get great people to enter into public service.

    The partisanship under that dome in Edmonton is what leads to this. And I hope that whoever the new premier will think hard about how we make sure that what happens under that dome isn’t just for party and caucus, as we heard over and over again in the premier’s statement today, but it’s about people. It’s about Albertans. It’s about how we do the best for all citizens of this great province.

A follow-up post the next day indicated that perhaps Nenshi wasn’t quite ready to make a play for the premiership:

Dave Taylor of Newstalk 770 got the third kick at this question, when Nenshi made his monthly appearance on the AM station’s afternoon call-in show. I think most reasonable people will take this as a “No” from a mayor who enjoys pestering this reporter.

    I mean look. What’s real here is let’s not get into the handicapping of who’s who and what’s what. It’s way too, way too early. We’re going to have over the next months – You know what I’ve always said about party politics.

    Plus as I always say I’ve got the best job in the world at the moment, certainly in Canada. And I just got reelected to it so let’s see ow I do at it. I really don’t like by-elections. I don’t think that one should force that on people. And I got lots of work to do. Is that coy enough? I figure I have to be coy otherwise poor Jason Markusoff’s head won’t explode.

March 20, 2014

Alberta Premier resigns (just ahead of the party lynch mob)

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:36

Colby Cosh on the resignation of Alberta’s Alison Redford:

It was a tearful surrender for Alison Redford Wednesday night as she gave a curiously backward resignation speech, grocery-listing the accomplishments of her government’s two years in power before announcing that she will step aside as Premier of Alberta on Sunday. Among these accomplishments, Redford trumpeted a “fully balanced” 2014 budget, which is “balanced” in an unusual sense of that term meaning “expenditures far exceed revenues, but in a nice way.”

That sort of cynical language was, it must be said, part of her problem with voters. The Alberta budget became more cryptic under Redford, and the usual accounting fictions have been stressed to the breaking point, with revenues assigned hugger-mugger to “operating” and “capital” purposes with no very clear line of demarcation between. If you think Albertans don’t pay attention to that sort of thing, you don’t know us too well.

There will be a temptation to sum up Redford’s ouster by citing her clownishly expensive December trip to South Africa to attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela. Redford, in truth, had almost literally every kind of problem you can imagine a Westminsterian political leader having, all of them chronically. Her relationship with her caucus was dire, as became obvious to the news-reading public in the last fortnight. Any defenders she might have had were keeping pretty quiet, and no one seemed to expend much effort reading from an orchestral score of talking points. Few MLAs ventured beyond muttering “She needs to make some changes.” From some of these, it was pretty obvious that the change they had in mind was the one that happened tonight.

[...]

Redford’s resignation completes the transition of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party from unstoppable electoral force to the Sick Man of Canadian Politics. Sick men have risen from their deathbeds before, and the opposition Wildrose Party may not be ready to complete a journey to power that is following the Reform Party model. (You will recall that this involved negotiating quite a few twists and turns and a couple of avalanches and volcanos.)

March 6, 2014

Elect Tim Moen – “I want gay married couples to be able to protect their marijuana plants with guns”

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:46

The Libertarian Party of Canada has risen from the dead (again). Here’s the federal candidate for the Alberta riding of Fort McMurray-Athabasca:

LPC poster for Fort McMurray-Athabasca

Vincent McDermott reports for Fort McMurray Today:

Libertarian party candidate Tim Moen wants gay married couples to have the right to protect their personal marijuana plants with guns.

That’s one of the many slogans Moen, a captain with the Fort McMurray Fire Department and freelance videographer, is posting online as a federal byelection in the region approaches.

“To me, that meme is the message of classical liberalism and the philosophy of liberty,” he says.

“People should be allowed to marry whoever they want, put what they want into their bodies as long as no one is hurt, and protect themselves and their property.”

Moen is the first federal Libertarian candidate to run in the Fort McMurray-Athabasca riding.

The party advocates a platform of no government interference in Canada’s internal social and economic affairs, on the grounds that doing so violates personal liberties and freedoms.

The Libertarian Party of Canada was formed in Toronto in 1973, but has not elected a single member to the House of Commons, nor has it ever gained higher than 0.25% of the popular vote.

[...]

Late last week, the RCMP classified the CZ 858 and the Swiss Arms Classic Green rifle as “prohibited,” meaning gun owners without the proper licensing will now have to surrender the two firearms to local police without compensation.

“Now these people are criminals just because of the property they own,” says Moen.

“Gun control is not about protection, so much as it is about control. We’ve seen what happens in countries that allow these liberties to be eroded and it’s not pretty.”

It also means the party is firmly supportive of LGBTQ rights, open immigration, the legalization of drugs and prostitution — so long as it’s between consenting adults. It also views pollution as a violation of property rights.

“The memes show we care about issues the left likes and issues associated with the right. It doesn’t have to be one or the other,” says Moen. “You don’t have to stay in one group. It’s not about left versus right. It’s about bringing a message of hope.”

Moen’s platform can be viewed at votemoen.ca, or on his Facebook page, Tim Moen for Parliament.

Full disclosure: I was active in both the LPC and the Ontario Libertarian Party through the late 70s and mid-80s.

H/T to Nick Gillespie for the link.

February 12, 2014

The Beer Store’s pre-emptive strike against a competitive market in Ontario

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Government, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:22

Yesterday I got a robo-call from someone representing The Beer Store (what used to be known as the Brewer’s Retail … for my American readers, think of your local DMV crossed with a Cold War-era Soviet department store). The call was to alert me to the possibility that the Ontario government might do something to destroy the worker’s paradise we live in today and allow the total anarchy of private sales of beer, wine, and liquor. I was invited to take part in some sort of “town hall” meeting where all the interested parties would be represented … if you consider only those who are afraid of this change being introduced as being all of the interested parties.

As we all know, the Ontario government isn’t comfortable with the idea of letting go of their own vast-profit-generating booze sales machine (the LCBO), and I doubt that the current Premier and her party are actually going to break the foreign-owned oligopoly that currently controls the sale of beer in the province. In spite of that, the Beer Store and their “stakeholders” are mounting a rather hysterical counter-offensive to preserve the current status quo. As Colby Cosh points out, their success or failure will probably hinge on keeping Ontarians innocent of how a non-monopolized market works in other jurisdictions … particularly in Alberta:

It is encouraging to see so much ridicule being flung at the Beer Store’s “study” defending its role in the Soviet-flavoured Ontario liquor retailing system. The effectiveness of the Beer Store’s white paper depends on its Ontario audience knowing no practical details of freer retail schemes, particularly Alberta’s: yet, by an amusing paradox, the ur-source for the report appears to be Alberta. No one was willing to attach his name to the report itself, but it comes with a foreword by the Parkland Institute’s Greg Flanagan, who deems it a “valuable contribution”—one that, on an unrelated note, makes heavy use of Flanagan’s own past polemics against liquor privatization. What a terrible shame nobody took credit for this excellent document!

What Colby is missing is that Ontario is a unique, precious snowflake of a province, whose residents are unable to handle this so-called “freedom of choice”. Our loving government is protecting our vulnerable, weak-willed selves from the evils of a callous, uncaring, exploitative sector of the economy that ruthlessly wants to sell us more of their intoxicating poisons at lower prices. This is why we must stand firm against “free markets” and rally our shrinking moral forces!

He even admits that the destruction of Alberta’s proud, noble, and much-loved liquor monopoly has brought untold misery and ruin to literally tens, possibly even hundreds, of Albertans:

The effect of liquor-retail privatization in Alberta was to put liquor stores in many small towns that did not have them before and on darn near every block in the big cities. Most, by design, are small stores with large markups. Before privatization you had a handful of stores in the entire province, all offering strongly regulated uniform prices. But you might have to travel a long way to get the advantage of these prices; you might have to leave work early to show up before closing, particularly if you intended to load up for a weekend or a party; and you might have to stand in a queue when you arrived. (Ah, memories.) And if you didn’t compute your needs accurately and you ran out of booze at the wrong moment, you were out of luck.

After privatization, there are stores everywhere, open all the time, on every day but Christmas; and you might be charged an extra buck on a 12-pack. Go on: ask 10 Albertans who are old enough to remember the old system if they would like to go back. I’ve actually performed this exercise, and I usually get ten “hell no”s. But if you make your sample a hundred, you will certainly find a person or two in one of two categories: (1) socialists nostalgic for the days when ALCB employees were duly organized, and could shut down all liquor sales in the province by striking; (2) geriatric grouches who really don’t enjoy alcohol and don’t like its ready availability and what’s with those goddamn kids these days with the reefer and the XBox and the hey hey hey.

See? He even admits that prices went up! Proof that market failure is smeared all over Alberta! And queues are a good thing: they allow you to meet your neighbours and have long, pleasant conversations about all kinds of things! Albertans have been wantonly deprived of this wonderful balm of human contact and interaction!

No, Ontarians are not ready — and may never be ready — for the additional burden of free choice and wider selections at lower prices. We must set our hearts and minds to work against this tradition-destroying innovation and keep our booze prices high and variety minimal!

December 14, 2013

Canada edges ahead of the US in economic freedoms

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:12

Last week, the Fraser Institute published Economic Freedom of North America 2013 which illustrates the relative changes in economic freedom among US states and Canadian provinces:

Click to go to the full document

Click to go to the full document

Reason‘s J.D. Tuccille says of the report, “Canadian Provinces Suck Slightly Less Than U.S. States at Economic Freedom”:

For readers of Reason, Fraser’s definition of economic freedom is unlikely to be controversial. Fundamentally, the report says, “Individuals have economic freedom when (a) property they acquire without the use of force, fraud, or theft is protected from physical invasions by others and (b) they are free to use, exchange, or give their property as long as their actions do not violate the identical rights of others.”

The report includes two rankings of economic freedom — one just comparing state and provincial policies, and the other incorporating the effects of national legal systems and property rights protections. Since people are subject to all aspects of the environment in which they operate, and not just locally decided rules and regulations, it’s that “world-adjusted all-government” score that matters most, and it has a big effect — especially since “gaps have widened between the scores of Canada and the United States in these areas.” The result is is that:

    [I]n the world-adjusted index the top two jurisdictions are Canadian, with Alberta in first place and Saskatchewan in second. In fact, four of the top seven jurisdictions are Canadian, with the province of Newfoundland & Labrador in sixth and British Columbia in seventh. Delaware, in third spot, is the highest ranked US state, followed by Texas and Nevada. Nonetheless, Canadian jurisdictions, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, still land in the bottom two spots, just behind New Mexico at 58th and West Virginia at 57th.

Before you assume that the nice folks at Fraser are gloating, or that you should pack your bags for a northern relocation, the authors caution that things aren’t necessarily getting better north of the border. Instead, “their economic freedom is declining more slowly than in the US states.”

July 5, 2013

Dudley Do-Wrong

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:32

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have a great PR image in the rest of the world … for many people, the image of the scarlet-coated Mountie is synonymous with Canada. But for Canadians, there’s a growing unease about the RCMP:

Canadians have mixed views of our national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We seem to admire the RCMP as an institution but are increasingly suspicious of the actions of individual Mounties and of the force’s brass — its senior officers and policymakers.

Our attitudes are further complicated by the fact that we seem to see the officers in our local detachments as good guys — they play on our men’s league hockey teams, help out with community charities, take their kids to school like the rest of us — yet we are beginning to see more bad apples elsewhere.

According to an Abacus Data poll of 1,000 Canadians conducted in late June, the Mounties remain one of our most trusted national institutions. A symbol of the country, the RCMP ranks right up there (69%) with the maple leaf (83%) and universal health care (78%).

Yet a majority of Canadians believe officers have used excess force (51%) and that sexism is rampant (54%) within the RCMP. Significant pluralities are also convinced problems within the force are “widespread” (43%) and are not being exaggerated (42%).

[. . .]

But I would guess, the biggest strains on the Mounties’ credibility, particularly in rural Canada and the West, have been over guns. And the warrantless seizure of hundreds of firearms from the homes of evacuees following the flooding in High River, two weeks ago — in which Mounties broke open doors and removed private property arbitrarily — will only widen the existing trust gap.

June 28, 2013

Edmonton and Calgary – united by mutual dislike

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:51

When the flooding hit Calgary, some of the first responders to the scene from outside the city were soldiers from Edmonton. There were several jokes on Twitter about the war of words between the two cities, and a few “invasion” hints, but for those of us outside Alberta local politics, we just didn’t know:

Calgary and Edmonton mutual dislike

I think we have a new meme.

June 27, 2013

Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi gets praise from unexpected source

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:23

The Calgary Sun gets all gushy and enthusiastic over the mayor they usually like to beat up:

No one goes after the mayor of this city harder than we do.

We don’t apologize for that. It’s our job and we like to think we do it louder than most.

But it’s never personal.

So, with that as background, we would like to take this space today to commend Mayor Naheed Nenshi for his amazing leadership under the most trying of circumstances.

He has been a beacon of strength, support and optimism as Calgary battles the affects of the single-biggest disaster to hit our city.

The mayor, as always, has been a great communicator.

Through social media, traditional media and constant briefings, Nenshi has made it his personal undertaking to deliver the most up-to-date information to all Calgarians through all mediums.

June 22, 2013

Three deaths reported in Calgary flooding

Filed under: Cancon, Environment — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:13

680News rounds up the reports from Calgary, where the Bow River flooded significant portions of the city yesterday:

Officials are now blaming the devastating flooding in southern Alberta for at least three deaths in the province.

An estimated 100,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, with little information available on when they’ll be able to return.

“I’m not in a position right now to be able to give you timings on neighbourhoods that are along the Bow River and when people may be able to return to those homes, but we are slowly getting there,” said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

Many also have no idea whether they’ll have a livable home to return to once the floodwaters finally recede.

Experts say that in some areas, that could still be days.

‘Stunning’ is how Prime Minister Stephen Harper described the flooding in southern Alberta, after he boarded a military helicopter in Calgary to get an aerial view.

Calgary has been one of the hardest hit areas in the western province, and the city was something of a ghost-town Saturday.

There was some positive news for those who have been evacuated, with people in at least one Calgary neighbourhood being allowed to return home Saturday.

During the intial reporting, several Edmontonians were poking fun at Calgary’s plight, but the tone changed quickly once the seriousness of the situation became clear:

The traditional Edmonton-Calgary rivalry went by the wayside, with the provincial capital city promising to send 100 of its police officers to help out where needed.

A total of 1,200 Canadian troops and eight military helicopters have been sent to the city to help local emergency crews with evacuations and sandbagging.

Emergency crews from Ontario, meanwhile, were planning to head out as soon as possible.

“The Ontario Red Cross is at this time mobilizing supplies to help shelter thousands of people in Calgary,” the agency’s Mike Morton said.

The power is off in much of the downtown core in Calgary still, with some of the outages done as a precaution, while others as a direct result of the flooding.

Officials say it could be the middle of next week before all of the lights are back on.

The Calgary Sun‘s front page:

Calgary Sun front page flooding

June 21, 2013

Calgary flooding

Filed under: Cancon, Environment — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:23

March 31, 2013

Ralph Klein, RIP

Filed under: Cancon, History, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:47

In Maclean’s, Colby Cosh talks about the late former premier of Alberta:

Ralph Klein, the former premier of Alberta, has died at 70. He shall not now ever be able to collect on the vast debt of apologies he is owed by calumniators, false chroniclers, lazy pundits, and political enemies. The misunderstandings of Ralph have been copious and mostly deliberate. He is still routinely characterized as an anti-gay social conservative in league with sinister theocratic forces, even though he was personally about as churchy as an alley cat. More importantly, he took a diamond-hard line against the use of the “notwithstanding” clause after the Supreme Court wrote sexual orientation into Alberta’s discrimination law in the Vriend decision; and he insisted the public accept the court’s verdict.

He is accused of failing to maximize the public benefits of Alberta’s resource wealth and “save” oil and gas funds for the future, although government resource revenues grew more than fourfold in his 14 years as premier and the net financial position of the province improved by $43 billion. Both promptly collapsed under his bamboozled successor Ed Stelmach, and have not yet recovered to Ralphian levels. Klein is also charged with failing to pay enough conscious attention to economic diversification, a concept that served as the pretext for a hundred costly boondoggles under earlier Conservative regimes; yet somehow he succeeded in presiding over an Alberta economy whose GDP moved sharply away from energy-dependence, and which saw the emergence of previously unimaginable non-energy businesses like software maker Matrikon and game manufacturer BioWare. Whether or not you care to give an iota of credit to Klein, his rule coincided with Alberta becoming a place young technicians and entrepreneurs don’t have to be stupid not to leave.

[. . .]

There is a basic failure among diehard enemies of the Klein government to accept the evidence that his energy, privatization, and flat-tax policies increased the Alberta government’s capacity to spend and provide services — that the more we got of Klein, the safer and more lavish their cherished government entitlements appeared to be. They are not at all safe now; the profoundest irony of Klein’s demise is that it has arrived at a moment in which present premier Alison Redford faces choices like those Klein confronted when he captured the Progressive Conservative leadership in 1992.

Indeed, when Redford’s heavily obfuscated budget plans are translated into English, one sees that the next few years in Alberta must inevitably resemble the early days of Kleinism. Premier Redford is trying to protect spending on infrastructure to prevent a “deficit” in upkeep on buildings and transport, of the sort that materialized after Klein’s initial austerities. But operational spending, particularly on personnel expenses, is bound to be slashed, Klein-fashion. And the slashes will have to be all the deeper if the bridges are going to get painted. A fierce fight with the public sector (whose unfunded pension liabilities grew 80% between Klein’s last budget and Stelmach’s second) is already taking shape, with teachers, doctors, and pharmacists on the verge of all-out war over their pay envelopes. Haven’t the Klein-haters who fell over themselves to vote for internationalist, socially concerned Alison seen this movie before?

February 23, 2013

Provincial budgets range from less-than-accurate to verging on financial fraud

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:43

Andrew Coyne, after a short diatribe about our first-past-the-post electoral system (he’s agin’ it), gets down to brass tacks about provincial finances:

As bad as the federal government is, the provinces are worse. And as horrendous as the provinces are generally, the record in some provinces borders on the fraudulent. Saskatchewan and Alberta, for instance, have overspent their budgets in the past decade by an average — an average — of nearly 5%. And since each year’s overshoot becomes the baseline for next year’s budget, the cumulative impact is to produce spending, in the fiscal year just ended, vastly larger than was ever specifically authorized in advance: in Saskatchewan’s case, nearly 40% larger.

That’s as best the [C. D. Howe Institute] can make out. Provincial accounting is notoriously haphazard and inconsistent. Not only does each province use its own rules and procedures, making it impossible to compare the public accounts from one province to another with any confidence, but in several provinces — Newfoundland and Quebec are the worst offenders — the public accounts are not even stated on the same basis as the budget.

And while the public accounts must ultimately prevail, efforts to reconcile the two sets of figures, and to explain the discrepancies, remain spotty. In some provinces — Quebec, Saskatchewan, British Columbia — auditors have refused, repeatedly, to sign off on the books without attaching reservations.

So not only can voters have little confidence that governments will spend what they said they would, they can have little ability even to reckon how much they overspent, or to compare their own province’s performance with the others’. All in all, a thoroughly disgraceful performance. (Honourable exceptions: Ontario and Nova Scotia, though voters in both provinces have other reasons to doubt their governments’ fiscal candour.)

February 18, 2013

Reason.tv: 3 reasons to build the Keystone XL pipeline

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Environment, Government, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:30

Few energy projects have inspired the level of vitriol surrounding the Keystone XL Pipeline, that would run 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada through the United States to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil sands of Alberta are estimated to hold 170 million 170 billon barrels of petroleum, the largest reservoir of black gold outside of Saudi Arabia.

Because the pipeline crosses an international boundary, President Barack Obama has the final say over whether to give the project a green light.

February 15, 2013

No wonder many Canadians skip jury duty

Filed under: Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:18

I’ve only ever been summoned for jury duty once, and that was about 20 years ago (I was lucky to not be in the pool for the Homolka case, which was in the courts at that time). I showed up on Monday morning, sat around reading my book for a couple of hours, then was dismissed. Repeat on Tuesday and Wednesday, then we were told our services wouldn’t be needed for the rest of the week. I was lucky not to lose any pay for performing my “civic duty” thanks to my employer-of-the-time, but most people are not so fortunate:

Let’s talk about jury duty. That much-despised civic responsibility in which we are asked to play a role in one of the world’s best justice systems.

Being summoned is viewed by many as an unwelcome interruption of their daily lives and, often, a punishing financial burden. It is ignored by hundreds, if not thousands, of Canadian every year.

And why? Well, most suggest a mix of lost wages and low compensation plays a role in it. Not to mention the hassle of having to listen to people talk all day long. But is it really worth chasing and punishing those who refuse to serve? And if so, shouldn’t something be done to make serving less punishing?

How bad is the pay? Pretty bad indeed:

Those selected to serve on jury duty have no protection from lost wages, although their employer is legally mandated to give them time off. And the compensation they receive is minimal.

So how much do jurors get paid? It is not a lot.

In Nova Scotia, jurors receive $40 a day plus mileage. Ontario pays jurors $40 a day once they have served more than 10 days, and $100 for every day over 49.

Alberta provides $50 per day of service, as well as travel expenses and possibly accommodations. The Northwest Territories gratefully pays $80 per day.

Quebec jury members get a much more generous deal:

Quebec residents called to participate in jury selection receive the cost of public transit or mileage and parking costs. They can also receive more than $45 for meals and as much as $138 to cover overnight accommodations.

Those selected to be a juror receive $103 for every day of the hearing and deliberations. That amount increases to $160 on the 57th day of service.

There are bonuses for working into the night and for Sundays and holidays, childcare allowances and psychological therapy after the trial.

H/T to Bob Tarantino for the link.

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