Sunday, May 25, 2014

Contempt Of The Electorate?

Tom, a friend of mine, posted the following on Facebook yesterday:

Kind of tired of all the polemical posturing in the latest election. However, can anyone provide one instance in history -- at least, since the advent of the Industrial Revolution -- where, corporate or business tax cuts, the basis of trickle down economic policy, have been primarily responsible for an upsurge in hiring or the oxymoronic fictional concept of job creation.

I replied:

Tom, you are asking a question that the media refuse to ask. Considering who owns most of the media in this country, this is perhaps not so surprising.

To which Tom replied:

I think that's partially true, Lorne. However, how come politicians and supporters of those on the other side [of the] argument don't keep asking the question and insist upon an answer. I've been looking for such an historical antecedent and can't find anything.

I wrote back:

A good question. Perhaps it reflects their belief that the attention span of the average citizen is short, and boring them with facts is counter productive? Sound bites do seem to rule the day.

Tom makes an excellent point about the dearth of questions asked about the right's underlying premises. Indeed, the Liberals have only gone so far as to ridicule the accuracy of the job-creation numbers Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak claims will ensue from both his gutting of public service jobs and reduction in corporate tax rates. Nowhere is his philosophical foundation questioned.

Kim Campbell, in her short career as Canada's first woman prime minister, once infamously observed that political campaigns are not the time to discuss policy. She was much pilloried for that comment, but perhaps it was simply an oblique expression of disdain for the very people whose support politicians seek on their road to power. That contempt seems to be more and more the default position of those who lead us or aspire to.

In his column this morning, Martin Regg Cohn laments the fact that Tim Hudak will not be taking part in the Ontario leaders' debate in Thunder Bay, attributing crass political calculation to his boycott, and not the 'scheduling conflict' Team Hudak claims.

Cohn calls his decision a disrespect for democracy, and yet I have long given up on such debates, reflecting, as they do, the very contempt that is the subject of this post. Far too frequently, instead of engaging in the thrust and parry a real debate entails, politicos are all too content either to simply rework their stump speeches into their responses or answer the questions they wished had been asked, rather than the actual queries. Avoidance and obfuscation seem to rule the day, and the journalists moderating the panels rarely seem to hold them to account.

How we arrived at this sad state is not an easy question to answer, but undoubtedly the pernicious influence of the Harper regime and its worship of ignorance is a factor.

Two brief letters in today's Star make this point:

Gutting Statistics Canada is a pound-foolish strategy, Opinion May 19

Anyone with brains could see that gutting Statistics Canada would be a disaster for future governing of this country. To me, it represented one of the first major steps of Stephen Harper’s “secret agenda” of remaking this country into his little fiefdom of conservative domination into the future ruled by ideology not evidence-backed policies.

It will be the ruination of this once small but proud country.

Ann Goodin, Burlington

I don’t think money is the main motivator behind gutting StatsCan, although it’s a great excuse. It’s been obvious for years that the Conservatives don’t like pesky facts getting in the way of their ideology.

They’ve also figured out how to data mine us so they have info we’ll never see (those pesky facts again).

Ellen Bates, Toronto

That is not to see that any of us gets a free pass when it comes to embracing ignorance. Far too many have stopped taking the political process seriously, seeing it more as a source of soap-operish entertainment than as fundamental to the health of our country. Anyone who doubts that need only refer to the antics of a Rob Ford and the tenor of so many reactions to them. Or ask yourself this: What comes to mind when you think of Maxime Bernier and the misplaced government documents?

I will end what has been perhaps a bit of a meandering post with one final letter from today's Star. During this Ontario election campaign, both Mr. Hudak and Ms. Horwath have made much about our hydro rates. It is taken as undeniable that we pay some of the world's highest rates thanks to Liberal incompetence and corruption. Here are the facts:

Business shifts election focus to power prices, May 15

Most people realise that just because a politician (or party rep) says something, it doesn’t mean it’s true. The latest scuttlebutt is the “sky-high” prices we pay for electricity in Ontario making us uncompetitive and putting a strain on working families.

Let’s face it: nobody wants to pay more for anything, but before voting for political parties who are promising to lower your hydro rates, consider the fact that electricity prices in Ontario are actually not high at all.

Hydro Quebec routinely surveys electricity rates for consumers/small business and large industrial customers across North America. In 2013 it may surprise many people to know that at a kw/h price of $0.1248, Toronto has lower hydro rates than Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Halifax, Charlottetown, and St John’s. In addition, it has much lower rates than Boston (0.165), Detroit (0.1554), New York (0.2175), and San Francisco (0.2294).

If one looks further abroad, a 2011 comparison of electricity rates (all in U.S. dollars per kw/h) world wide indicates that after adjusting for relative purchasing power, Canada has the lowest rates in the entire world. Not adjusting for purchasing power, we have the fourth lowest rates in the world at $0.10, just above India and China at $0.08 each and tied with Mexico and South Africa.

The average price in the U.S. in 2011 was actually $0.12, more than we pay in Toronto. The top five? Denmark: $0.41, Germany: $0.35, Spain: $0.30, Australia: $0.29, and Italy: $0.28. Even Brazil has higher rates at $0.17.

Ontario has a massive electricity grid to maintain relative to its population. Part of this cost is offset by relatively cheap hydro electric power and the artificially low cost we pay for nuclear power, but maintenance on a system this large requires substantial and on-going investment.

Before voting for a party promising to cut prices, ask yourself this question: Who is going to pay for them?

Rob Graham, Toronto


  1. .. via Twitter.. I posted several questions regarding the 24,000,000,000.00 annually 'gifted' in subsidies to Big Energy & Carbon Corporatism. My Economics 101 question was what profit/deficit resulted from this growing annual gifting.. and on what page of a Harper/Flaherty Omnibus Bill one could find this Election Promise or Mandate..

    Mass Mainstream Media has not pinned The Harper Party Government down on this very basic Cost/Benefit Analysis .. or on what page the 'promise' was made or to whom?

    Of course Canadians need and deserve factual answers to simple questions like this. If we have had deficit budgets, are they in what part due to giving away 24 Billion to wealthy controlling energy entities?

    Do the energy entities then use the gift of millions and billions to act in lockstep with our federal government, to pummel us with propaganda.. or hire law firms to litigate against us or to defy the Supreme Court?

    Are taxpayer funds being given away by the Harper Party Government to help energy firms or foreign salmon farms extirpate caribou, wild salmon, boreal and coastal wolves, eagles, fresh water?

    1. All excellent questions, Salamander, ones that illustrate how lazy, unmotivated (controlled?) mainstream media practitioners are. The failure of the media is yet just another symptom of how sick our democracy really is.