Quotulatiousness

August 1, 2017

Justin Trudeau and “the uncritical puffery that is passing for political journalism”

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

In the Washington Post, Jen Gerson says that the hero worship from the US media is making it harder to hold the Prime Minister to account for his actions:

As a Canadian, I’m not surprised that the American news media and the Internet are saturated by swooning profiles. The Rolling Stone cover story “Why Can’t He Be Our President” was only the most recent example. Shortly after Trudeau was elected, Vogue fawned: “The New Young Face of Canadian Politics” — despite the fact that he was neither new nor particularly young. Business Insider noted that he looked like a “Disney prince.” Vanity Fair seems to have a Trudeau vertical. US Weekly: “Canada’s New Prime Minister is Super Hot.” He even inspired the quintessential BuzzFeed piece: “Literally Just 27 Really Hot Photos of Justin Trudeau.” CNN’s headline sums up the trend: “Justin Trudeau, ‘the anti-Trump,’ shows U.S. Canada’s progressive, diverse face,” which was a particularly impressive take, considering Trudeau is a white man and the son of a previous Canadian prime minister — making him pretty close to the embodiment of a nascent hereditary political establishment in Canada.

Please stop.

Although Trudeau has proved to be a powerful public relations coup for my country, the political erotica now streaming from the southern border is embarrassing, shallow and largely misses the mark. Trudeau is not the blue-eyed lefty Jesus, and the global affection for him — and for the progressive politics that he and this country seem to represent — presents a puerile and distorted vision of Canada and its political culture. Worse, the uncritical puffery that is passing for political journalism only makes it harder to hold the man to account.

[…]

The most stinging truth about Trudeau is that he hasn’t done much at all. He came into power an avatar of youthful Canadian optimism and has squandered one of the most extraordinary honeymoon periods any politician has had in recent memory. The best that can be said of his accomplishments is that he has tripled his promised deficits, promised deferred tax increases on the wealthy and almost legalized marijuana — although it will be up to the provinces to sort out that mess.

Trudeau promised Camelot and delivered, well, Ottawa.

Ottawa is okay. It’s better than some places and worse than others. Next to the swamp of Washington, the Rideau Canal is idyllic. But let’s not valorize the man who happens to preside over it during a time of national embarrassment for the United States. Canadians have rewarded Trudeau with mediocre poll numbers, typically hovering at between a 50 percent and 60 percent approval rating.

Yes, he’s the poster boy for Brand Canada, and a good one. Perhaps someone who is charming and affable is precisely what Canada needs as key alliances and treaties such as NATO and NAFTA come under threat. But his real talent lies not in government but in showmanship. At least on that front, that Trump and Trudeau have something in common.

July 29, 2017

“By the standards of foreign Trudeau profiles, though, Rodrick’s effort isn’t notably weak”

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

Sad, yes. Pathetic, also yes. But not “weak“:

What a tetchy neighbour Americans have in Canadians. When they ignore us, we mope. And when they notice us, they had better get everything right. We do not suffer errors gladly. Stephen Rodrick’s complimentary profile of Justin Trudeau, in the current issue of Rolling Stone, is a classic example — and some of the complaints, coming not least from Canadian journalists, are certainly well earned.

The “Royal Canadian Mountain Police”? The “Liberty Party”? Those are alarmingly basic errors (though God knows Rolling Stone has published worse). “For Trudeau,” Rodrick ventures, “listening is seducing.” What on earth? “For Trudeau, running is swimming,” he might as well have written. “Cooking is yellow.”

By the standards of foreign Trudeau profiles, though, Rodrick’s effort isn’t notably weak. It at least contains a memorable anecdote: the PM’s motorcade jogs onto a dirt road so he can throw an unwanted ice cream cone out the window without being caught littering on camera. Only … you know … there was a reporter in the car. Did no one have a garbage bag?

Much of the online reaction seems to be less about the article itself and more about the very notion of fawning over this guy at this point in his career. That makes good sense. Non-partisan Canadians who pay attention know that Trudeau isn’t half the change agent he said he was. Key transformational platform items have been abandoned (electoral reform) or are in significant peril (everything to do with First Nations). At this point it’s a stretch to call Trudeau a huge change from Stephen Harper, let alone (per Rolling Stone’s headline) the “free world’s best hope.”

The thing is, though, that was always a ridiculous notion. Rodrick’s piece isn’t so much different from what Canadian journalists have written, as it is late to the party.

Much more of this and I’ll be forced to add a new tag for sycophancy.

June 22, 2017

The Netflix tax is dead (again) – “This thing was a turkey, and Trudeau was right to wring its neck.”

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

Chris Selley rejoices in the demise of the so-called “Netflix tax” proposal, but also pours scorn on yet another proposal to prop up Canadian print media organizations:

Justin Trudeau wasted little time last week rubbishing the Heritage Committee’s so-called “Netflix tax,” and no wonder. If you’re determined to raid people’s wallets to fund journalism they’d rather not pay for and Can-con programming they’d rather not watch, you’re far better off doing it shadily than with a shiny new tax on something people love. The sound bytes winging around in the idea’s favour were, in a word, pathetic: “it’s not a new tax, but an expanded levy!”; “we already tax cable, why not Internet?”; “we already subsidize magazines, why not newspapers?”

Good God, why any of it? This thing was a turkey, and Trudeau was right to wring its neck.

Newspaper publishers and union bosses remain undaunted in pursuit of unearned public funds, however. “Canada’s newspaper industry unites to advocate for Canadian Journalism Fund,” proclaimed a headline at News Media Canada, the publishers’ lobby group. They’re savvy enough to propose tying subsidies to employed journalists’ salaries — 35 per cent to a maximum of $30,000 per head — rather than just cutting cheques. That might fend off Executive Bonus Rage, but it won’t fend off sticker shock: the suggested eventual cost is a whopping $350 million a year.

As a taxpayer I would much rather subsidize Canada’s journalists than Canada’s legacy media companies — but I would sure as hell rather subsidize neither. The more beholden to government a country’s journalists, the less free its press. Magazine writers in this country know their publications get a top-up from Ottawa in the form of the Canadian Periodical Fund. That’s not ideal. But under News Media Canada’s proposal, we would know our jobs literally depended on government largesse. I’ll take a hard pass on that.

Publishers’ and union bosses’ claims of unanimous support notwithstanding, many unionized journalists, and many of your non-unionized friends here at the National Post, hate the idea. It risks narrowing Canada’s already remarkably narrow spectrum of acceptable ideas and arguments. It risks — no, guarantees — alienating the very consumers we need to attract. In the case of some legacy media outlets it would simply extend the runway for business models that everyone knows will never fly again. In any event, the sums being bandied about wouldn’t solve the crisis as a whole unless the solution was permanent and ever-greater government dependency. I’m amazed to see how many journalists, including some very nearly pensionable ones, support the idea.

June 20, 2017

The Guardian turns on Justin

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

Last week, Martin Lukacs savaged Justin Trudeau by way of contrast with British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the pages of The Guardian, which must count as one of the most unexpected sources of criticism for our mediagenic PM:

Their depiction in the international media couldn’t be more different.

You know Justin Trudeau from the Buzzfeed photo-spread or the BBC viral video: the feminist prime minister of Canada who hugs refugees, pandas, and his yoga-mat. He looks like he canoed straight from the lake to the stage of the nearest TED Talk – an inclusive, nature-loving do-gooder who must assuredly be loved by his people.

Then there’s what the columns of trans-Atlantic punditry told you about Jeremy Corbyn: the rumpled, charmless leader of UK’s Labour party whose supporters are fringe lunatics and his stances out-of-date utopianism. If he dared run an election with his political program, he would just as assuredly be rejected by the electorate.

So far, so conventional … and then the gloves come off:

Trudeau’s coronation as a champion of everything fair and decent, after all, has much to do with shrewd and calculated public relations. I call it the Trudeau two-step.

First, he makes a sweeping proclamation pitched abroad – a bold pledge to tackle austerity or climate change, or to ensure the rights of refugees or Indigenous peoples. The fawning international coverage bolsters his domestic credibility.

What follows next are not policies to ambitiously fulfill these pledges: it is ploys to quietly evacuate them of any meaning. The success of this maneuver – as well as its sheer cynicism – has been astonishing.

In this manner, Trudeau has basically continued, and in some cases exceeded, the economic agenda of Conservative Stephen Harper: approved mega fossil fuel projects, sought parliamentary power grabs, cut-back healthcare funding and attacked public pensions, kept up the dispossession of Indigenous peoples, undermined the prospect of universal childcare, maintained tax loopholes for the richest, and detained and deported thousands of migrants.

Out of breath? He has also broken an electoral reform promise, initiated a privatization scheme that is a massive corporate handout, left un-repealed a Tory political spy bill, launched air strikes in Iraq and Syria despite pledging a withdrawal, and inked the largest-ever weapons deal with the brutal, misogynistic Saudi Arabian regime.

Not exactly what those who voted for “real change” were expecting? Before you answer, here’s something titillating to distract and disarm you: Justin and Barack Obama rekindling their progressive bromance at an uber-cool Montreal diner. Jeremy Corbyn has shown us the meaning of a politics of genuine hope: what Trudeau has deployed has only ever been a politics of hype.

Trudeau’s latest progressive posturing is over foreign policy. Last week his government announced, to wide-spread acclaim, a brave course for their military that is independent of the reviled US administration. Except they will boost wasteful military spending by more than $60bn, a shocking seventy percent budgetary increase, and are already entertaining new Nato missions — exactly as Donald Trump has demanded. The doublespeak seems to have escaped the navel-gazing pundits: this is utter deference masquerading as defiance.

I don’t think Justin’s fans on the left need to be too worried about all that mucho-macho military posturing … until the promised spending is actually in the budget, it’s just politico-military theatre for our American allies than anything that will make a material difference to the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces. Once Trump is satisfied that Justin is doing his bidding, it can all be allowed to quietly go away (like the last government’s promises to beef up the armed forces and live up to our NATO commitments).

H/T to Ted Campbell for the link.

June 7, 2017

“To rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella would make us a client state”

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:56

That’s Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland with a statement that would cause the late Liberal PM Pierre Trudeau to throw her out of cabinet … because Canada has been relying solely on the US security umbrella since shortly after the elder Trudeau became Prime Minister in 1968. The interesting thing is that the federal government is reportedly going to announce significant new funds for the Canadian Forces in the wake of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency:

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Ottawa will forge its own path on the world stage because Canada can no longer rely on Washington for global leadership.

In a major speech setting the stage for Wednesday’s release of a new multibillion-dollar blueprint for the Canadian Armed Forces, Ms. Freeland rejected Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy and its dismissal of free trade, global warming and the value of Western alliances in countering Russian adventurism and the Islamic State.

While she did not mention the U.S. President by name, Ms. Freeland expressed deep concern about the desire of many American voters to “shrug off the burden of world leadership.”

[…]

Ms. Freeland said Canada has been able to count on the powerful U.S. military to provide a protective shield since the end of the Second World War, but the United States’ turn inwards requires a new Canadian approach to defend liberal democracies.

“To rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella would make us a client state,” she said. “To put it plainly: Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes require the backing of hard power.”

Giving Canada’s military “hard power” will allow it to meet global challenges, she said, listing North Korea, the civil war in Syria, the Islamic State, Russian aggression in the Ukraine and Baltic states and climate change as major threats to the world order.

“We will make the necessary investments in our military, to not only address years of neglect and underfunding, but also to place the Canadian Armed Forces on a new footing – with new equipment, training, resources and consistent and predictable funding,” she said.

Wednesday’s defence-policy review is expected to lay out the military’s priorities for future overseas deployments, and outline Ottawa’s 20-year plan for spending billions of dollars to upgrade warships and fighter jets, among other things.

Amazing. I didn’t think it would fall to Freeland to announce that we’re planning to stop being freeloaders on the US military…

May 3, 2017

Reforming Canada’s parliament

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

In the National Post, Andrew Coyne pours scorn on the “reforms” being put forward by Justin Trudeau’s government and suggests some alternatives that might help make the institution more democratic and less like the Prime Minister’s personal court, by scaling back the power of the PM and other party leaders in the house:

What would a package of reforms look like that was genuinely intended to make the government more accountable to Parliament? It would start, reasonably enough, by reducing the powers of the government over Parliament. Rather than allow government to decide when debate had gone on long enough, for example, it would assign that power to the Speaker — as the Speaker, in the best of the government’s current proposals, would be empowered to divide omnibus bills into separate parts, to be voted on separately. (Perhaps it will be applied to the current such exercise, the budget bill.)

Rather than give the government sole power to decide when to prorogue the House, it would make such decisions subject to a vote of the Commons, with a supermajority required to ensure bipartisan support. (The current proposal is merely that the government should be required to declare its reasons.) A similar constraint might be imposed on its power to dissolve the House. We might also place limits on the confidence convention, under which the government can designate any bill it likes as a confidence measure — the gun at the head by which governments ultimately ensure compliance.

I say government, but of course I mean the prime minister, whose control over any government is near absolute. So a genuine reform plan would also reduce some of his personal prerogatives, beginning with the number and range of offices that are his sole purview to appoint, to be doled out as rewards for obedience: notably, it would halve the size of the cabinet, and with it the number of parliamentary secretaries assigned to each minister.

It would likewise seek to reduce the powers of party leaders over ordinary MPs: by restoring the convention that leaders are elected by caucus, and removable by them; by eliminating the power of the leader (or “designate”) to veto the nominations of party candidates, in favour perhaps of a vote of the caucus or riding association presidents. MPs thus liberated, it would be possible to have more genuinely free votes — on everything. (There would still be confidence votes, of course, but MPs are capable of deciding for themselves whether a matter is worth the fall of the government; MPs who go back on a platform promise can likewise answer to their constituents, not the party whip.)

April 15, 2017

Federal marijuana bill “is about as good a framework as we had any right to expect”

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Chris Selley looks at the Trudeau government’s marijuana legalization framework, as revealed on Thursday:

The fact is, though, this is about as good a framework as we had any right to expect from the Canadian government. The feds will insist upon a safe and controlled supply chain, with licenses and inspections; you may keep four plants at home — an indulgence I would have bet against; promotional materials will be severely restricted in much the same way as for tobacco; the minimum age will be 18; and the maximum limit on the amount of dried flower you can carry around in public will be 30 grams — same as it is in Washington state and Colorado.

Retail and all the questions that go with it are the provinces’ problem, just as they should be. (In theory, a buzz-kill province could set the legal age at 105 and the public possession limit at zero, though the government says mail order would be available in provinces that don’t have a retail sector.)

The feds will balance out all this wanton permissiveness with tough talk of putting “organized crime” out of business and protecting our children from weed. (The maximum sentence for giving marijuana to a minor is 14 years in prison!)

And now we see whether it actually happens — by summer 2018, or at all.

The news Thursday was full of worries and concerns and potential reasons why it might not. They range from legitimate-but-surmountable to downright silly.

Yes, the science of THC impairment behind the wheel is inexact. So I guess pot-consuming car-drivers had better take that under advisement. THC-impaired driving is already illegal, after all.

There is the bewilderingly persistent supposed issue of Canada’s obligation to prohibit drugs under UN conventions on narcotic and psychotropic substances. This week, the University of Ottawa’s Global Strategy Lab released a 27-page paper explaining “how Canada can remain party to the conventions without either withdrawing … or amending them.” It’s all very interesting, but why not just withdraw from the damn things?

[…]

Frankly, I’m amazed the Liberals have come even this far at a time when they’re walking on eggshells around the Trump administration. To the extent it has articulated a pot policy, it has been the opposite of the relatively laissez-faire approach the Obama administration took toward states that decided to legalize. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions talks about marijuana the way General Ripper in Dr. Strangelove talks about communists.

That will make legalization all the more impressive an achievement if the Liberals pull it off — and all the more damaging a self-inflicted wound if they don’t.

April 6, 2017

On legalization the feds are headed the wrong way

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

Libertarian Party of Canada leader Tim Moen looks at the public safety aspects of Justin Trudeau’s marijuana legalization plans:

If we are concerned about public safety we need to make it more attractive for people to grow, distribute and consume cannabis legally than illegally so that there is engagement with public safety mechanisms. Right now it is far more attractive for people to grow and consume illegally. Cannabis is easy to produce, you just need seeds and dirt, and there is a high demand for it. A regime that restricts legal supply through onerous licensing and prohibitions will drive up illegal supply to meet the demand.

We were seeing a trend towards improved public safety. Storefronts offered customers a safe place to buy cannabis from businesses that had a vested interest in developing a reputation for quality and safety. Small- to medium-sized growers have been operating in the sunlight where public safety officials like me could inspect and educate. Cannabis was emerging from the shadows and the problems associated with illicit activity were fading away.

All the Trudeau government had to do was notice what was going on and end the rules that made it difficult for public safety to emerge. Instead, over the past month we have seen a hard crackdown on storefront cannabis dispensaries. Coordinated raids have occurred across the country and some business owners are facing financial ruination and life in prison at the same time the Trudeau government has announced legalization by the summer of 2018. The message to the cannabis industry is loud and clear, “Fall in line with the regime, or else.”

The federal government is poised to adopt the report of The Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation as the way forward and this is cause for serious concern from a public safety perspective. The Task Force recommends a requirement for a federal license to grow cannabis commercially. If you’re one of the hundreds of small- to medium-sized dispensaries currently operating in the sunlight your days are numbered. If you are a customer of one of these dispensaries you will be faced with a choice of big government-approved corporation or local black market dealer.

It’s not clear why customers would choose the low quality, limited access, unreliable cannabis that a few big government-approved corporations would provide over locally grown craft cannabis. Imagine if growing tomatoes required a federal license and there was a coordinated effort to raid local growers and sellers who did not have a federal license. Would people stop putting tomato seeds in dirt? Would people drive past an unlicensed farmer selling big, fresh, juicy tomatoes from a roadside stand on their way to a licensed grocery store which may have some small, pale, nearly-spoiled tomatoes in stock? It is naive to imagine people are going to follow stupid rules that they can easily avoid following, yet this naivety has permeated cannabis prohibitionism and continues to permeate the thinking of cannabis legislators.

March 29, 2017

The long political road to a legalized marijuana market

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

Chris Selley discusses the federal government’s much-hinted-at full legalization plan which is expected to be implemented in time for Canada Day next year, and what it means for the existing quasi-legal market:

In any event, the legislation will have the benefit of forcing the provinces finally to come to grips with their policy preferences.

[…]

The others will soon have to follow suit. And they should be considering what to do if legalization doesn’t happen, as well. Tabling the legislation and any associated boosterism is only going to energize the open black market that has flourished in Canadian cities’ storefronts under the polite fiction of “dispensaries,” making a hollow mockery of the law.

The cries of injustice when police bust these businesses have been silly. Policing marijuana isn’t a great use of resources at any time, if you ask me, but a Liberal campaign promise isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on; it’s certainly not a legal defence. If you’re a “budtender” working for minimum wage in a “dispensary,” now would be a good time to realize that, under the law, you’re a minimum wage drug dealer.

In Toronto, it has been instructive, if not surprising, to see that the dispensary model works. People value the expertise, the variety of retail environments, the fact it’s not some dodgy dude on a bike who wants to hang out for an hour. The only things wrong with the model are byproducts of prohibition: lots of cash on hand makes them a target for robberies, for example, which often go unreported.

Across the country, people are happily buying marijuana the way people in jurisdictions all over the world (though certainly not in Ontario) buy their other intoxicants of choice.

That’s a lesson for Canadian jurisdictions to learn if the Liberals legalize marijuana: the private sector can handle it. And it’s a lesson if it stays illegal, too. The law is the law, but if Ottawa’s going to encourage people to break it, the ensuing mess doesn’t have to be the provinces’ problem.

Instead of enforcing it very sporadically, they could just not enforce it at all. Better yet, under such a policy, they could try to remedy some of the problems that prohibition creates in the storefront market.

February 16, 2017

The handshake

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

Victor sent me this. I had to share:

Justin Trudeau is prepared for this. He has spent hours of watching videos of foreign dignitaries having their knucks busted by Diamond Donnie. He and a crack team of advisors have been studying them and analyzing every move. He has been overclocking it at the gym to get his forearms swole. Anytime he is off camera he is clenching and unclenching a gripmaster. He is endlessly clenching and unclenching his anus to build focus. Shaking hands with Donald Trump is really a contest of wills and Justin Trudeau will not fail. He is an aristocrat and he was bred by his father in all the fine arts of modern statecraft like clasping claws with thugs. Donald Trump is a trumped up peasant and Justin Trudeau is the heir and defender of the North American dream. This was the only thing discussed in that motorcade to the White House. Forget softwood lumber and dairy supply management and the attempt to leverage Ivanka for a roundtable on women in the workplace that sounds like a summit they would have held back in the silent era of film.

The whole trip was all handshake game plan. Every possible move, every possible contingency, from proper foot stance to recognizing Trump’s sloppy attempts at any one of 32 possible Masonic hand ciphers.

The car door opens. This is it. It’s go time. Trudeau steps out of the car and glides into Trump’s outstretched hand. He quickly braces himself on the president’s shoulder, establishing an indomitable centre of gravity. He is going fucking Super Saiyan on this handshake. But Trump will not be deterred. He ratchets up the pressure and tries to pull this punk kid in. There is a tug of war. Trudeau is not moving. His hand is too strong. Their forearms are jerking around with electrical power and neither of them were ready for this to happen.

He can barely believe it himself and he has to look down at his own hands to make sure that this is really happening that, yes, he is not broken. He raises his head again to meet Trump’s gaze with blazing eyes that scream SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS but also AINSI TOUJOURS AUX TYRANS because bilingualism. Utterly destroyed but wanting to be cool about it, Trump gestures at the cameras before leading Justin into his den of lies. He cannot hide the look of absolute mystification on his face.

February 8, 2017

Seeing the elephant (economic edition)

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

Stephen Gordon says it’s a dangerous fantasy to think that the Canadian economy could cope with a Prime Minister who tries to “get tough” over Il Donalduce‘s trade concerns:

Pierre Trudeau once described the Canadian relationship with the United States as “like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered the beast … one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” It is now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bad luck – and ours – to be bunking down with a surly and irascible elephant.

It’s worth dwelling on just how asymmetric the economic relationship is between Canada and the United States. It’s sometimes pointed out that Canada is the largest market for U.S. exports, and that’s true as far as it goes. But U.S. dependence on the Canadian export market is an order of magnitude smaller than Canadian dependence on exports to the U.S. Exports of goods and services to the U.S. accounted for 22.8 per cent of Canadian GDP in 2015; U.S. exports to Canada were only 1.9 per cent of U.S. GDP.

There’s not much that could or should have been done to reduce this dependence on the U.S. market. All the factors that determine the volume of trade flows — physical proximity, market size, linguistic and cultural ties, similar legal systems and so forth — all point to the U.S. It’s always been a good idea to promote trade links with other countries, but the U.S. would still be our dominant export market even in a world in which the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership were already in place.

So it really doesn’t make sense to think that a Canadian Prime Minister can “stand up” and “fight back” against U.S. sanctions, or that Canada’s bargaining position would be somehow strengthened if another person were running the government. The trade numbers would still be the same.

February 4, 2017

Trudeau’s promise to reform the election system: “It had ‘face-melting political blowback’ written all over it”

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

My headline distorts Chris Selley‘s message a bit, but he does correctly point out that Justin Trudeau’s promise was a cynical ploy to attact NDP votes to Liberal candidates, not a genuine commitment to move away from FPTP in our federal election system:

So far as I can tell, the publicly stated evidence that senior members of the Liberal party had any interest in changing the electoral system amounted to Justin Trudeau’s single expression of interest in ranked ballots. There was no evidence at all to suggest any senior party members thought FPTP was the worst electoral system imaginable for Canada — the only interpretation of the platform promise. That being the case, the promise was far too conveniently enticing to New Democrat voters to take at face value.

As to referendums: ample Canadian precedent holds that electoral reform is contingent upon them. And a cursory glance at public opinion made plain that nothing justified breaking that precedent. An Abacus Data poll for the Broadbent Institute, published shortly after the 2015 election, asked respondents to rank their preferences among the current system, mixed-member PR (MMP), pure PR and ranked ballots. The most popular first choice by far, at 43 per cent, was the current system; it was also the second-most popular second choice. The most popular alternative, MMP, was the first choice of only 27 per cent.

No consultative process could fashion a referendum-free consensus from that. It had “face-melting political blowback” written all over it.

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.

December 9, 2016

The Trudeau government’s bad times

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

Chris Selley on the (largely self-inflicted) hard times of Justin Trudeau’s government recently:

It has been one hell of a couple of weeks for the Liberal Party of Canada: first Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bizarre encomium to dearly departed Fidel; then the approval of two pipelines projects, dashing the oil-free dreams of people who hadn’t been paying attention and producing thousands of barrels of fake outrage; and then, the inevitable collapse of the government’s electoral reform agenda.

It was always going to look bad. The Liberals were always going to break their promise to make 2015 the last first-past-the-post election. Perhaps they had even contemplated their members on the electoral reform committee recommending they break it, by adopting a go-slower approach. But no one, surely, anticipated Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef accusing the committee as a whole of not doing the job she had set out for them, which they had; mocking the Gallagher Index, an easily explicable formula for measuring proportionality in election results; and justifying herself with shameless bafflegab that would make Paul Calandra blush.

[…]

Monsef later apologized for accusing committee members of slacking, Manon Cornellier notes in Le Devoir, but not for misrepresenting their mandate, mocking mathematics — as an emissary of the party of “evidence-based policy,” no less — and generally behaving like a buffoon.

“(Monsef’s) beef with the Gallagher Index isn’t that it only measures proportionality. Her beef with the Gallagher Index is that it’s math, with its sums of squares and square roots and symbols that are literally Greek,” Fine fumes. It’s a worrying outburst of idiocy, she argues. Monsef and her ilk talk constantly of “engagement,” but that’s a very difficult thing to measure. “At the intersection of ‘affinity for engagement’ and ‘contempt for metrics’ is fertile breeding ground for leaders who wish to make up their own rules,” Fine trenchantly observes.

December 3, 2016

Trudeau government to approach legalizing marijuana as an explicitly crony capitalist exercise

Jay Currie was woken up at an ungodly early hour to talk on a radio show about the leaked portions of the Canada Marijuana Task Force Report. It’s apparently not good news for consumers but really great news for the existing favoured “legal” producers:

The leak itself is interesting and more than a little outrageous. The Report clearly favours Health Canada Licenced Medical Marijuana growers and many of those corporate grow shows are publically traded companies. Allowing the report to come out in dribs and drabs (because “translation”) could cause deep uncertainty in the public markets. The government should release the report, in toto, immediately.

Substantively, the Report apparently recommends that legalization efforts be directed at “getting rid of the $7-billion-a year black market. Sources familiar with the report, which is expected to be made public Dec. 21, say all the other recommendations flow from that guiding principle.”

It is not clear whether that “black market” includes the grey market of dispensaries and pot shops which has grown up in Canada and which continues to expand.

Using “legalization” as a weapon against the “black market” is pretty much the level of restrictive thinking I expected from the Task Force. Rather than seeing legalization as an opportunity to regularize the marijuana market, the language suggests a resumption of the war on drugs by other means.

The Task Force is apparently suggesting that the 40 Health Canada approved licencees remain the only legal source of marijuana and proposes that recreational pot, like medicinal pot, continue to be delivered by Canada Post. A nostalgic bow to the mail and a suggestion pretty certain to keep dispensaries and “Bob on the corner” in business for the foreseeable future. Here is a free clue for the Liberal government: recreational pot users are impulse buyers. As I say in my book, “The most common triggers for the decision is that, by their lights, a customer is running low on pot, has run out of pot or has been out of pot for some time but only now has the money to buy more pot.” In short, not likely to wait a week for Canada Post to deliver.

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