Quotulatiousness

November 17, 2017

Canada is back in peacekeeping … sorta

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

Ted Campbell is not happy with the government’s “decision” on peacekeeping:

It appears that today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced just about the “best thing” for him and his Liberals in the long, long, long run up to the 2019 election campaign; but it’s pretty much the worst thing he could do for Canada and the Canadian Forces and the UN. In fact: it appears to involve a handful of “penny packet” commitments ~ a “grab bag” one journalist said, none of which will do much good ~ being too small to even been noticed amongst the 75,000+ UN soldiers in Africa ~ and none of which will contribute materially to the Trudeau Liberal’s quest for a second class, temporary, powerless seat on the worthless UN Security Council.

Let’s be very clear: Canada is not “back” ~ this is a far cry from the sort of traditional UN peacekeeping that Canada did in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s and that Justin Trudeau and many, many Canadians imagined in 2015, and it is a far cry from what Canada could do if the government really wanted to help.

[…] I suspect that too many non-military voices in too many special interest groups argued for the “penny packet” and “let the UN help decide” approach. My suspicion is that the UN simply doesn’t know how to organize or manage a complex, logistical and/or air transport mission, and the “civil society” special interests that want Canada “back” in UN peacekeeping have no idea at all about military matters or how to get the most bang for the buck.

The good news for the Liberals is that it will the autumn of 2018, at the earliest, when “negotiations” with the UN come to some sort of conclusion and, probably, early 2019 before Canada actually sends anyone into anything like harm’s way … just in time for a campaign photo-op with the PM waving good-by to some female RCAF members in baby blue berets as they board a plane bound for somewhere. And, so long as the UN doesn’t send any home in caskets the Trudeau government campaign team will be happy. But it will give Team Trudeau another chance to smugly proclaim that “Canada’s back,” and that’s all that really matters in official Ottawa late in this decade.

October 26, 2017

Bonus quote-of-the-day

Filed under: Africa, Cancon, Media, Military, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In an article in the Globe and Mail, Lee Berthiaume (Canadian Press) reports that “The Trudeau Liberals may have promised to ramp up Canada’s role in peacekeeping, but new UN figures show there were fewer Canadian peacekeepers in the field last month than at any point in recent memory … [and] … The revelation comes as Canada prepares to host a major peacekeeping summit in Vancouver next month, raising fears the country will be badly embarrassed unless the numbers start rising – and fast … [because] … The intervening year [since the Liberals promised 600+ blue beret wearing peacekeepers] has instead seen a steady decrease in the number of Canadian blue helmets and blue berets deployed around the world, from 112 peacekeepers in August 2016 to 68 last month.

This is risky for Canadian soldiers because the Trudeau regime is not exactly famous for making sound, well though out, carefully crafted plans ~ witness the small business tax fiasco and democratic reform, just for examples. It is possible, even probable, that rather than be embarrassed in public the Liberals will react, as cornered rats often do, and commit troops to a dangerous, hopeless, worthless mission just to avoid yet another political humiliation. Canadian soldiers may soon find themselves in some rotten hellhole with orders to not, under any circumstances, shoot at a child soldier, not even in self defence, or do any harm to a person of colour … because the Liberals know that the media will be watching ~ platoons of journalists will be deployed, each more anxious than the next to win some prize by being the first to report on a Canadian killing a black child.

Ted Campbell, “Cornered?”, Ted Campbell’s Point of View, 2017-10-25.

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.

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 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.

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.

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