Friday, July 21, 2017

Open And Transparent, Eh, Justin?

While no one would argue that the government should conduct an open-house on their impending NAFTA renegotiation, the cone of silence that has characterized Mr. Trudeau's approach to the talks is disquieting, especially given his pre-election promises to conduct an open and transparent administration.
The Liberal-dominated House of Commons trade committee has quashed a move to invite the prime minister and other high-ranking cabinet members to answer questions about Canada’s NAFTA renegotiation priorities, as calls continue for more transparency about how the government plans to handle upcoming talks on the deal.

The committee, instead, approved a Liberal plan to hear from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is the lead member of cabinet for NAFTA and Canada-U.S. relations. She is slated to attend a meeting on Aug. 14, two days before negotiations are set to begin in Washington.

NDP MP Tracey “not happy” with the result of Friday’s meeting, especially after Trudeau said this week that he would be willing to share Canada’s strategy on NAFTA with the opposition.

“We’re not asking for the specifics on how they’re going to negotiate every item, but we can clearly see from the 18 pages of priorities with the U.S. that they’ve made public — we could do the exact same thing,” Ramsey said.

Like the secret study he has commissioned to study airport privatization, one must ask an unavoidable question: Exactly what is Mr. Trudeau hiding from the voters?

The Creep Of Corporatism

Responding to my post on the secret study conducted by the Trudeau government on privatizing our major airports to raise much-needed cash, BM offered the following, which I am featuring as a guest post today:

Well, this is the usual way corporatism works. Change a capital investment into an eternal loan with rent due sharpish at the beginning of each month, paid for by the citizens. When paper money is abolished in the next five to ten years (already started as an experiment in India by withdrawing low-denomination notes to see what happens - disaster - but who cares, they're brown people and not in the West; full story on the Indian site last fall, studiously unread by white men in the West of all political persuasions), we'll be well on the way to mere electronic representations of our paid-for labour. Every transaction under full surveillance by our masters, no under the table cheapy house-painting, no cash at the farmer's gate for decent veggies and real eggs, taxes paid in full, citizens in thrall, and so on. It'll be sold as the Bright New World, like a super-duper schmarty-phone. All will cheer at how advanced we are.

No wonder Bitcoin thrives.

But as Amazon flogs groceries online, takes over Wholefoods, ruins supermarkets, what happens to old people? I see it all the time when I run from my rural lair into Halifax, old ladies carrying full shopping bags miles. Halifax is a food desert city, bus routes are organized at right angles to where people live to get to a supermarket, that is, they are 100% utterly useless. These old folks don't have PCs or even mobile phones. They're screwed in our brave new world, slain on the fields of corporatism. I drive them if they'll accept a lift, those old gals still dressing up to look presentable, living on OAP and a supplement if they're lucky, trying to keep up appearances. Makes me weep in frustration. The destruction of civil society on the bed of profits and eff-you attitude.

Don't know if JT has the brains to understand the consequences of flogging off public property, or doing the Canadian internal equivalent of an ISDS governed free trade pact called the Infrastructure Bank, I really don't.

But Morneau does, look at that Economic Council of his, set up in February last year with all the corporate and university academic wannabe rich types "advising" him. Telling him, more like. A $1 a year each, such noble types donating their valuable time, reduced to eating sandwiches from the caff at their Ottawa meetings in order to do their bounden duty for Canada, chaired by a man from a big accounting firm. It was then that I knew we were truly effed, seduced by hair and a smile.

Nothing has occurred in the last 18 months to make me change my mind at the neoLiberal's canny backing of JT, the intellectual waif with an aw shucks um and an ah at public speaking events that makes people buckle at their knees in abject adoration. Behind his back, the people that matter are planning ways to pilfer our back pockets.


And we love it!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Canadians Are Outraged

The outrage is once again stoked by Omar Khadr, but, as I wrote the other day, it is Peter Kent's shameful performance that is earning their scorn. These two letter-writers reflect that scorn:
Re: Omar Khadr payout gains traction in U.S. media after Conservative MP’s op-ed, July 17

It seems that Conservatives and their base just don’t want to let this go. And now some of Canada’s politicians are taking to American media outlets to air out their beefs.

It’s bad enough that the Conservatives have made this an issue they are going to ride until the next election. But now, Thornhill MP Peter Kent has decided to go play partisan politics in the right-wing American media. Shameful, shameful, shameful!

I find it incredibly un-Canadian that Conservatives would go anywhere abroad and sell out their own government for the sake of pandering to their hateful, racist base. The right-wing media outlets down there are, of course, going to milk this for U.S. President Donald Trump’s own base. It seems that reporting facts has long been forgotten for the sake of partisan politics.

If Kent wants to continue making this an issue, he has a seat in Parliament where he can do as part of his job. It is disgusting that he chose to put down his own country through the American right-wing media.

Phil Marambio, Oakville

Peter Kent is following in his old boss’s pen prints with his opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

How is it he feels entitled as a representative of Canadian citizens to bring back his flawed journalist skills to disagree with the federal government, using an American newspaper?

How is this in the best interests of Canada, with NAFTA negotiations in full gear? Is he using his past journalist code of ethics? Did the good voters of Thornhill implore him to write it? Who paid him?

Mr. Kent is entitled to his opinion on any issue. But he is certainly not thinking about Canada, which pays him his salary.

J.L. Isopp, Nanaimo, B.C.

And speaking of village idiots, one from Alberta, Michelle Rempel, displayed her bona fides the other day on Fox. If you haven't seen the report, here is her stomach-churning Fox News debut:

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Justin's Secrecy

There will always be those unable to see beyond the obvious when it comes to Justin Trudeau. His sunny smile, his platitudinous assurances that we can have our pipelines and climate change remediation simultaneously, and his opaque insistence upon the necessity of an Infrastructure Bank seem to carry the day for some, apparently happy to suspend whatever critical-thinking capacities they may possess.

Unfortunately, this blanket belief in Trudeau's sincerity means that his neoliberal agenda is being under-scrutinized by the public. One of its most egregious manifestations is the secrecy around which the government has hired consultants to study the deliverance of our airports to private interests.

H/t trapdinawrpool for his twitter alert about the following:
A secretive project to generate billions of dollars from the sale of major Canadian airports is pushing ahead with the hiring of consultant firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The firm is to "act as a commercial adviser assisting with additional analytical work with respect to advancing a new governance framework for one or more Canadian airports."
The shield of secrecy was peeled back only due to a freedom-of-information request from the CBC, coupled with some stellar sleuthing. The very fact that this project was withheld from public eyes is the first red flag.

But wait! There's more!
The new contract follows a report delivered last fall by Credit Suisse Canada on how Ottawa might gain billion-dollar windfalls through the sale of its interests in Canada's Big Eight airports and 18 smaller airports. The eight are in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Halifax.

Credit Suisse was hired by CDEV, [Canada Development Investment Corp.] acting on behalf of Finance Canada, in a contract announced in a terse two-sentence release on Sept. 12.

The Crown corporation and Finance have since refused to release the Credit Suisse report, the contract terms or even the cost to taxpayers, despite requests by an opposition MP and by journalists.
And, again typical of the neoliberal orientation, private entities were given veto power over the release of information:
... the contracts with Credit Suisse and PwC contain clauses that give the firms vetoes over the public release of any information, including the cost of the work.
Why should any of us be bothered by any of this? There are many reasons, but Craig Richmond, the president and CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority, recently addressed one of them when he said,
... prices for airlines and passengers would only increase as for-profit entities seek to make back their investments.

[He understands] the attraction of a one-time big profit for Ottawa, but "that's like selling the furniture in your house to cover your credit card debts."
Mr. Trudeau's government euphemistically refers to this whole process as "asset recycling." Those less enamoured of the Prime Minister and his band of sunny men and women, I suspect, would call it something else entirely.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Canada's Ted Baxter

If you are old enough, you will likely have very fond memories of the Mary Tyler Show, you know, the one set in a TV newsroom staffed with an array of memorable characters. Perhaps most memorable was the station's newsman, Ted Baxter, played by the peerless Ted Knight. His antics, both on the air and off, fueled by a less than ample intellect, ensured continual amusement.

Whenever I see former newsman Peter Kent, I cannot help but think of Ted Baxter. Also of limited intellect and ability, Kent parlayed his genetic shortcomings into a post-news career in politics, where he shone dimly in the Harper government, reaching his nadir as anti-Minister of the Environment, championing as he did the development of Alberta tarsands.

Not content to rest on his 'achievements', Kent has now decided to do his civic duty to the U.S. by alerting them to the compensation awarded to Omar Khadhr via a Wall Street Journal article.
The item began with a description of Khadr killing an American army medic, Christopher Speer, when he was 15 years old and fighting alongside al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

It explained how Khadr won a court fight in Canada, was repatriated there, released on bail and then sued the Canadian government for $20 million.

The Conservative MP criticized the Trudeau government for settling with Khadr, while the victim's family got nothing.

By Monday afternoon the issue was the No. 1 story on the Fox News website.

The Fox News item quotes Kent's op-ed under the headline: "Gitmo Lottery: Canada makes millionaire out of terrorist who killed U.S. soldier."
As reported by The Globe, Kent's mischief had its intended effect:
“This story is repulsive,” said a Fox News host. To which former pizza entrepreneur and presidential candidate Herman Cain replied: “It is a pathetic interpretation of the law. Canada basically rewarded a murderer.”
The good folks at Fox, like the ravenous dogs they are, took Kent's bait, as you will see in the link.

Personally, I don't care what the Americans think of us. What I do care about is that a simpleton like Peter Kent feels compelled to try to fight a divisive issue in the U.S., where opinion and outrage seem to matter far more than the rule of law. In doing so, he is stoking more Canadian outrage, leading more and more people into some very, very dark waters.

Monday, July 17, 2017

UPDATED: I Become Increasingly Disappointed

Only a naif would believe the myth that Canada is a country with a proud tradition of openness and acceptance. Attempts at indigenous assimilation, the the despicable treatment of west coast Japanese and Italian-Canadians during the Second World War are but three examples attesting to our checkered past.

That being said, I have always taken pride in the fact that, relative to many parts of the world, we now do reasonably well in accommodating people from diverse lands and backgrounds. Now even that assumption is cast into doubt. Sadly, in Quebec, it would seem that the pure laine ethos is alive and well.
Residents in Saint-Apollinaire, Que., have rejected a proposal to open a Muslim-run cemetery in their town, dealing a setback to a Muslim community still recovering from a tragic mass shooting six months ago.

The fate of the contentious cemetery project rested in the hands of only 49 eligible voters, and in the end, only 36 turned out to cast ballots. In a referendum on a zoning change that would have allowed the burial ground, 16 people voted Yes and 19 voted No; one ballot was spoiled.

“Ignorance and misunderstanding have won the day,” Mohamed Labidi, president of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, said in an interview on Sunday night. “This is very disappointing. It was just a cemetery. How could we arrive at this result?”

Mr. Labidi said his group would consider going to court to challenge the case. “We are Canadian citizens just like everyone else. Why are we being treated differently? We’re now starting over at zero. We will fight.”
It appears that Mr Labidi is making a discouraging discovery. At least in Quebec, not all Canadian citizens are equal. I grow increasingly disappointed in my fellow-Canadians.

UPDATE: CBC offers the following report:
A far-right group in Quebec is being warned against further political meddling after it was tied to a referendum campaign that successfully managed to block the construction of a Muslim cemetery.

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume issued a stern rebuke Tuesday to La Meute, a secret Facebook group with more than 43,000 listed members that believes radical Islam is growing in influence in the province.

The group played an active role in the early stages of a campaign against a proposed Muslim cemetery in Saint-Apollinaire, Que., a town of 6,400 that's 35 kilometres southwest of Quebec City.

La Meute supported efforts by resident Sunny Létourneau to gather enough signatures to force the required zoning changes to be submitted to a referendum.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

But Are They Listening?

Unless we live in complete and willful ignorance, all of us are aware, on at least a minimal level, of the perils currently confronting and engulfing our world. Those perils, which some refer to as the sixth extinction, are real, and their magnitude is such that few seem willing or able to confront them in any meaningful way.

In response to yesterday's post about 'the new normal' in the age of Trump, The Mound of Sound wrote an assessment of our present situation and the steps necessary to mitigate the worst of what is overtaking our world. I am taking the liberty of reproducing those comments below:

I think the days of normal, as we experienced that in most of the post-war era, is over. We have embarked on a new era of instability and upheaval. Climate scientists now tell us that our only hope of surviving at least somewhat intact from what has already landed in our laps demands radical action. I'm so pleased, immensely pleased, that we're now hearing them incorporate all the threats. Not just climate change and greenhouse gas emissions but also overpopulation and our rapacious over-consumption of rapidly diminishing resources. Now, at last, they're speaking of the urgent and imperative need to abandon the neoliberal model of perpetual exponential growth, the orthodoxy that all Canadian political parties embrace.

Yet our government won't have this adult discussion with our people. It won't give us a candid assessment of what lies in store for Canada or how Canadians can best cope with it. Trudeau, and I fault him only because he's the sitting prime minister, believes that increasing economic activity is his foremost responsibility as leader. His arguments might have seemed plausible in the 80s but clinging to them now and into our near future could cause Canada irreparable harm.

The science types have written us a prescription and it entails sharp cuts in our standard of living, growing smaller. There is much in steady state economics that addresses how best to do this. The focus is on improving quality of life, enjoyment, while reducing consumption. Growth in knowledge, not consumption. Growth in the quality of what we need. Products that are repairable, upgradeable. I think of the last two stoves I had to send to the recycling yard, my use and enjoyment of them prematurely terminated as essential spare parts were nowhere to be found.

We, and by that I include the next generation and the one after that, must become our government's priority, not trade. Changing that core priority is going to demand big change and sacrifice from all of us whatever our station in life. You can't achieve that with a government that tolerates inequality. Fortunately we have a manual of principles that were established in the golden years of progressivism.

You can read more of The Mound's thoughts on this by clicking here.