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
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.”
Colby Cosh looks at the long road back for Saskatchewan’s NDP, which bestrode the province like a Colossus for a political eternity but is now a peripheral player:
These are hard times for the New Democratic Party in Saskatchewan — the party’s ancestral wellspring, the mecca it faces at prayer. Not so long ago, the NDP’s provincial leader was typically, by virtue of his office, the second-most prominent figure in the movement nationwide. Typically, that is, when he wasn’t in first place. And the New Democrats had the kind of sweet corner on Saskatchewan’s legislature that the Liberals had on the Dominion’s. From 1942 to 2009, every leader of the provincial party also served as premier at least once.
But the winner of the Saskatchewan NDP’s March 9 leadership tilt, Cam Broten, takes charge with the benefits and the burdens of low expectations. Broten now commands an Opposition of just nine members to the government’s 49, and Premier Brad Wall’s approval ratings are the envy of Confederation.
Broten, the 35-year-old MLA for Saskatoon-Massey Place, ran on a platform that was light on ideological tub-thumping and heavy on plans for rebuilding the NDP’s political institutions. Like the Progressive Conservatives in Alberta, the New Democrats had grown too dependent on the voters’ total psychological identification of the party with the government, and were perhaps not careful enough to ensure that the former could thrive if detached from the latter. Two years of drama at the Ottawa level of the NDP do not seem to have done Saskatchewan’s New Democrats any favours, and federal Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair’s views on resources and national unity have been — well, what’s the opposite of a favour?
In Maclean’s, staff optimist and all-around-softy Colby Cosh tries to make lemonade out of the sour Whatcott ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada:
The ruling was appalling in a number of ways, most notably in its dismissal of any possibility of a truth defence against human rights commissions who hunt “hate speech.” The court specifically insists that true statements arranged in certain ways can be officially “hateful,” conceding a total lack of interest in truth and basically handing its banner over to the commissions’ targets. For liberals who share the goals of these commissions, this is a moral disaster that can only multiply Bill Whatcotts ad infinitum. People of the Whatcott type already believe themselves to be in special possession of suppressed facts, and now the court has said explicitly that spreading falsehoods is no part of their offence.
But since we columnists are in the business of telling truth, whatever a court thinks, it ought to be admitted that, dead or alive, free speech in Canada was never in such good shape. The Supreme Court’s decision is an elaborate partial rescue of standing precedent; the constitutionality of hate policing by provincial commissions was established many years ago, and the unpleasant surprise is only that it wasn’t killed on this occasion.
[. . .]
For those of us who make a living in creative or intellectual expression, it is worth something to have the laws limiting it defined as clearly as possible while being compacted into a minimum volume. The Supreme Court has made the rules clearer, and this is not to be sneered at, even if its logic sometimes is — especially since the overall authority of human rights commissions has undergone net diminution in the process. It is just possible the chief justice wasn’t entirely asleep at the switch.
In the Ottawa Citizen, Karen Selick explains why the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision in the Whatcott case was so surprising:
For 22 years, free-speechers have cherished the hope that another case involving censorship and human rights legislation would come back before Chief Justice McLachlin. That’s because in 1990, before becoming chief justice, she wrote dissenting judgments in two cases, Taylor and Keegstra. Her opinion then was that the censorship sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) and the Criminal Code violated the Charter guarantee of freedom of expression, and that the violation was not justified in our free, democratic society. She therefore voted to strike down the censorship clauses as unconstitutional.
Justice McLachlin was outvoted in both Taylor and Keegstra by the narrowest of margins: 4-3. The majority of the 1990 court found both the CHRA and the Criminal Code provisions constitutional. However, Justice McLachlin penned a long and eloquent paean to freedom of expression, recounting its historical value as “an essential precondition of the search for truth,” a promoter of the “marketplace of ideas” and “an end in itself, a value essential to the sort of society we wish to preserve.”
Free-speechers hoped that, given another opportunity to exert her influence among an entirely different panel of SCC judges (she is the only member of the 1990 court still on the bench), she would be able to sway a majority to her 1990 views.
Instead, she herself has apparently abandoned those views, voting with a unanimous court (6-0) in the Whatcott case to uphold the main censorship clause of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.
The Supreme Court of Canada demonstrated a lack of belief in the value of free speech in yesterday’s Whatcott ruling:
The very first line in the Supreme Court’s calamitous decision in the case of Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v. Whatcott gives a clue to where it is going. “All rights guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” it declares, “are subject to reasonable limitations.”
This is a legal truism, but as always it is as important what the Court did not say. It did not choose to begin a ruling on an important freedom of speech case with a ringing affirmation of the importance of free speech, or what an extraordinary thing it is to place restrictions upon it.
Indeed, in its haste to get on with the limiting, it did not even pause to properly quote the section of the Charter that grants the state such authority. The Charter “guarantees” the rights set out in it, Section 1 declares, “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” The limits don’t just have to be reasonable. They have to be “demonstrably justified.”
Where the Court’s view of such limits is expansive and approving, the Charter is grudging (“only”) and cautious (“demonstrably”). That’s as it should be. If we accept the bedrock premise of a free society, that government is its servant and not its master, then it is up to the state, always, to ask the citizens’ permission before it intrudes on their liberty, and to prove its necessity: it is never the citizen’s obligation to show why he may remain unmolested. That spirit is lamentably absent from the Court’s reasoning.
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.)
Over the weekend, Colby Cosh posted this depressing box-and-whisker plot (aka “boxplot”) from statistical data on First Nations communities:
Why did I want to look at this information this way? Because Canada actually performed an inadvertent natural experiment with residential schools: in New Brunswick (and in Prince Edward Island) they did not exist. If the schools had major negative effects on social welfare flowing forward into the future we now inhabit, New Brunswick’s Indians would be expected to do better than those in other provinces. And that does turn out to be the case. You can see that the top three-quarters of New Brunswick Indian communities would all be above the median even in neighbouring Nova Scotia, whose FN communities might otherwise be expected to be quite comparable. (Remember that each community, however large, is just one point in these data. Toronto’s one point, with an index value of 84. So is Kasabonika Lake, estimated 2006 population 680, index value 47.)
On the other hand, and this is exactly the kind of thing boxplots are meant to help one notice, the big between-provinces difference between First Nations communities isn’t the difference between New Brunswick and everybody else. It’s the difference between the Prairie Provinces and everybody else including New Brunswick — to such a degree, in fact, that Canada probably should not be conceptually broken down into “settler” and “aboriginal” tiers, but into three tiers, with prairie Indians enjoying a distinct species of misery. (This shows up in other, less obvious ways in the boxplot diagram. You notice how many lower-side outliers there are in Saskatchewan? That dangling trail of dots turns out to consist of Indian and Métis towns in the province’s north — communities that are significantly or even mostly aboriginal, but that aren’t coded as “FN” in the dataset.)
I fear that the First Nations data for Alberta are of particular note here: on the right half of the diagram we can see that Alberta’s resource wealth (in 2006, remember) helped nudge the province ahead of Saskatchewan and Manitoba in overall social-development measures, but it doesn’t seem to have paid off very well for Indians. This isn’t a surprising outcome, mind you, if you live in Alberta; we have rich Indian bands and plenty of highly visible band-owned businesses, but the universities are not yet full of high-achieving members of those bands, and the downtown shelters in Edmonton, sad to say, still are.
Gregg Easterbrook’s annual post-draft column spends a bit of time excoriating the NCAA for its massively misplaced ethical priorities:
The draft had been in progress more than a day when the Sinners finally chose, having traded their first choice and lost their second in Sinnersgate. New Orleans’s first selection was Akiem Hicks, who played eight-game seasons at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, going there after the NCAA blackballed him for recruiting violations. Nakia Hogan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune describes the deeply shocking abuses of which Hicks was guilty:
“In 2009, Hicks transferred to LSU from Sacramento City Community College. … But Hicks was mired in a minor recruiting violation and never got to play at LSU. The school discovered potential violations associated with impermissible telephone calls to Hicks in the recruitment process, impermissible transportation before and after his arrival at LSU, impermissible housing and reduced-rent at an apartment complex in Baton Rouge in the three months before his enrollment at LSU, and the purchase of one meal by a football office student worker.”
Impermissible telephone calls! Three months of help with rent money! One free meal! Lock him up and throw away the key!
The description of Hicks’ blackballing sums up everything offensive about NCAA hypocrisy. Not only is it theater of the absurd that the NCAA punishes telephone calls. Not only do college kids always need help with the rent — if a kid from an upper-class family who was applying to LSU got trust fund money for his rent and meals, no one would blink. The real scandal is that the NCAA punishes phone calls but could not care less about graduation rates.
In the year Hicks tried to enter LSU, the federal graduation rate for the LSU football program was 42 percent, compared to 56 percent for the school as a whole. (Find any Division I sport program’s graduation statistics here.) The NCAA took no action on that.
College football players are creating hundreds of millions of dollars of value that goes to fund luxury living by coaches, college administrators and NCAA staff, but are not getting educations in return. Each passing day brings more evidence of the Taylor Branch “new plantation” analysis of big-college sports. As big-college coaches and NCAA administrators dine at four-star restaurants, one hungry kid gets one free meal — that must be punished! The horror, the horror!