Sunday, January 21, 2018

All The Better To Serve The Lord

That can be the only possible explanation for the purchase of a Gulfstream V jet that evangelist Kenneth Copeland (a.k.a Kenneth Copeland Ministries) bought with his donors' money.

The specs on the private jet, the type flown by celebs like John Travolta and Jim Carrey, are impressive:
It can travel up to 6,000 miles without refueling. It is also fast. But the speed and range come with a pricetag, the GV can start with a base price of $3,700,000, but custom upgrades cost in the tens of millions.

The most popular GV carries 14 passengers comfortably, that has club style seatingfor 4 in the front, 2 more club seats and a couch in the middle and then four more seats in a 'conference' set up in the rear of the plane.

This configuration also carries a crew of four.
But equally priceless is the glee with which Copeland received his bounty:



Rumours are that the inaugural flight featured that rousing spiritual, Nearer, My God, To Thee.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

What Trump Has Wrought

The divisiveness of the toddler-in-chief is never more evident than in this brief clip. As well, his supporters clearly will not tolerate a dissenting view as they react rather than reflect.

The following video might take a moment to load:


Friday, January 19, 2018

Now This Is Truly, Deeply Deplorable

I think most people have heard of the right-wing Fraser Institute, the 'non-partisan' think tank that receives charitable tax status while promoting a largely neoliberal agenda. Well, they now seem to have reached a new low in their propaganda efforts:

PressProgress reports that
the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board recently circulated materials promoting an “essay contest” organized by the right-wing Fraser Institute to principals and office administrators at high schools across Ottawa.

According to contest guidelines, high school students are being offered prizes up to $1,500 for essays exploring why “increasing the minimum wage” is a “bad policy”.
Lest you think this is an honest exploration of ideas, consider this:
The promotional document encourages students to visit StudentEssayContest.org where the Fraser Institute portrays “the idea of raising the minimum wage” as a “contentious topic” and claims minimum wage increases primarily harm “young people and immigrants.”

The Fraser Institute also supplies students with anti-minimum wage talking points from a discredited Fraser Institute report that falsely portrays minimum wage earners as “young adults,” who are mostly “living with their parents or other relatives.”
Typical of the 'facts' espoused by the Institute, the above information is erroneous:
Statistics Canada data shows that among Canadians earning less than $15 per hour – in other words, people who would see an immediate raise following a $15/hr minimum wage increase – the vast majority of low-wage workers (59%) are actually 25 years or older.
Today, more than ever, critical thinking is of paramount importance. school boards, which at least in theory are dedicated to the cultivation of such a crucial skill. Is it not a little ironic that they should be so easily hoodwinked by an egregious attempt, not to foster such thinking, but to reflect and inculcate corporate group-think and ideology?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Have You Signed Yet?



Despite all of his sanctimonious talk about tax fairness, there is little evidence thus far that Justin Trudeau is committed to anything more than indulging in his standard soaring rhetoric. Now, there is a a petition being circulated on Change.org. that seeks to change that.

As reported in today's Star, the petition
was launched by advocacy group Democracy Watch after the Star, in partnership with Corporate Knights magazine, published an investigation last month that showed how individuals pay three-and-a-half times more income tax than corporations.
An excerpt from the petition offers these disquieting statistics:
Canada's official corporate tax rate is now 26.6% but, on average, Canadian big businesses paid only 17.7% from 2011-2016 -- one of the lowest rates of all G7 countries.

Canada's Big Banks paid a tax rate of only 16% over the past 6 years -- lower than banks in other G7 countries. They are the biggest tax evaders of all Canadian big businesses and, not surprisingly, also the most profitable. They made a record $42.3 billion in profits in 2017.
And that lost tax money could have been used to accomplish so much good:
If Canada's big businesses and banks paid the official tax rate from 2011-2016, governments across Canada would have almost $64 billion more to spend on making hospitals, schools, housing, public transit and roads better, and on other things Canadians need.
Given the sociopathic nature of corporations, they will never pay any more than they have too. Their much vaunted 'fudiciary responsibility to shareholders' is the tenet by which they justify their efforts at tax avoidance and cheating others out of their rightful due.

Consider, for example, Sears Canada. Francine Kopun writes:
Handsome dividends paid to Sears Canada shareholders even as the company was faltering and its employee pension fund was running a deficit are being reviewed by the court-appointed monitor handling the company’s insolvency.

The transactions of interest, according to the monitor, include a dividend of $102 million paid to Sears Canada shareholders on Dec. 21, 2012, and $509 million paid on Dec. 6, 2013.
The problem is, Sears was already seriously bleeding cash when the dividend was issued, and guess who paid the price? The Sears pension plan.
The pension deficit was $307 million in 2010 and $133 million in 2013.

When the company sought creditor protection in June, the pension fund had a deficit of $270 million, potentially leaving retirees with reduced incomes.

“Certainly from our standpoint, we felt that the payments of dividends, when the company was not making money and there was no investment in the company and there was a debt to the pension plan, were inappropriate,” said Ken Eady, a spokesperson for Sears Canada retirees.
Companies will never act with integrity on their own. That is why the role of government is essential in moderating their greed.

Please give serious consideration to signing the petition at Change.org.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A New McCarthyism

We all knew them growing up - the kid who would do anything to curry favour with the teacher, the one we knew variously as 'the brown-noser,' the 'suck-up' or by any number of similarly unflattering terms. This kid did it, presumably, to curry favour, to gain some kind of imagined classroom status that his or her fevered mind craved.

Unfortunately, some kids never grow up.


In the above photo, the one on the left of the toddler-in-chief is Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House Majority Leader. He apparently learned his lessons well in boyhood. The following, I think, suggests the fulll measure of the boy-man:
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy were alone in the presidential suite on Air Force One, flying east toward Washington in early October, when the president reached for a handful of Starbursts, the fruit-flavored, box-shaped chewy candies.

But instead of unwrapping all of the treats, the president was careful to pluck out and eat two particular flavours: cherry and strawberry, McCarthy noticed.

“We’re there, having a little dessert, and he offers me some,” McCarthy recalled in an interview. “Just the red and the pink. A bit later, a couple of his aides saw me with those colours and told me, ‘Those are the president’s favourites.’ ”

Days later, the No. 2 Republican in the House — known for his relentless cultivation of political alliances — bought a plentiful supply of Starbursts and asked a staffer to sort through the pile, placing only those two flavours in a jar. McCarthy made sure his name was on the side of the gift, which was delivered to a grinning Trump, according to a White House official.
While the motivation for such obsequious behaviour would be obvious to normal people, Trump is, both literally and figuratively, eating it up:
Trump has showcased the relationship and appears to enjoy the fidelity of a high-ranking GOP leader. Before having dinner together Sunday at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., Trump took questions from reporters under the club portico’s ornate arches, with McCarthy standing beside him.
McCarthy seems to understand Trump's severe limitations:
While at Camp David earlier this month, McCarthy took up the task of explaining the obstacles facing Republicans ahead of the midterm elections in November, walking through the financial hurdles and bleak prospects in various races.

According to two people familiar with the presentation, Trump appreciated McCarthy’s use of pictures and charts rather than a memo.
So why is this at all important, other than as an illustration of gross sycophancy and political pandering?
Critics of McCarthy privately grouse that he is an operator who is most concerned with improving his standing in the House by aligning himself with the Republican base’s standard-bearer. There are worries, too, that McCarthy’s ingratiation could enable Trump rather than contain him.

“I don’t think being a Trump sycophant is going to do much in the long run for the party or holding the majority,” said Republican consultant Mike Murphy. “It doesn’t change Trump’s behaviour, which is imperiling the party, and we’re getting to a place where challenging him is an imperative.”
The Republican Party has been in a downward spiral for quite some time. With standard bearers like Kevin McCarthy, it is not difficult to understand why.

Thought For The Day

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Double Double, Toil And Trouble: Star Readers On Tim Hortons And The Minimum Wage Hike



As always, the letters from Star readers do not disappoint:
I am really finding it difficult to empathize with businesses like Tim Hortons crying over the minimum-wage increase. The fact that these businesses are paying minimum wage in the first place demonstrates a corporate greed that supersedes any dignity and respect for their employees that serve the coffee and make the sandwiches that generate billions in earnings. Tim Hortons is no longer Canadian and I feel we shouldn’t be as loyal to a brand that does not project Canadian values. Were businesses expecting the minimum wage to stay the same forever?

Brad Globe, Whitby

I would gladly pay more for my coffee and doughnut to make possible the continued care of Tim Hortons’ fine staff – as they have cared for me and my family and friends for so many years and in so many places.

I don’t want to leave Tim’s comfort and kindness for some cold and trendy café staffed by constantly changing temps. Tim’s is one of my homes, where I always feel welcome and safe.

Please find a way to reward these wonderful workers for their dedication and loyal service, and you can count on my continued and loyal patronage.

Susan McMaster, Ottawa

Pick a fight with me Mr. Joyce, not workers; and Small business owners are not the bullies here, Opinion, Jan. 7

We strongly disagree with Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, when he suggests the minimum-wage hike is about “election optics.”

Small businesses are the backbone of Ontario’s economy and therefore a powerful political base. Thus, if Premier Kathleen Wynne is indeed “shaming” small businesses, she is actually risking political suicide. We applaud her for courageously putting the quality of life of everyday Ontarians above the Liberals’ political gains.

As small business owners for 34 years, we have always paid our employees well above minimum wage. In profitable years, we have rewarded them with year-end bonuses. As Wynne aptly argues, “it’s the right thing to do.” Profiting from those who struggle to make ends meet is not good business, it is abuse.

For those small-business owners who truly cannot afford to pay a living wage, you have our sympathy. It takes courage to accept the risks inherent with starting a business. However, if your success depends on the failure of your employees to make ends meet, then you cannot be truly successful.

For those small-business owners who are financially able to but refuse to pay their employees a living wage, shame on you.

Mr. Kelly, as “courageous” business owners, we would indeed love to tell the premier what her $15 minimum-wage plan means for our future and the future of our employees: business as usual.

Gerald and Shelley Grieve, Gerald Grieve Landscape Group

Friday, January 12, 2018

Two Faces Of Appeasement




The first picture you will recognize as Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minster sufficiently deluded to believe that he had a deal with Adolph Hitler that could keep his country out of the war. The claim that the pact meant "Peace in our time" is consigned to the annals of history as highly ironic.

The second picture, of course, is that of Justin Trudeau who, you may think, has nothing in common with Chamberlain. In that assumption you would be quite wrong.

The rest of the world has issued condemnation of Donald Trump's most recent demonstration of his racism:




However, instead of taking the principled stand required, our prime minster, Justin the Gormless or, if you prefer, Justin the Lesser, had this to say:



Some would laud this as diplomatic.

I call it moral cowardice.




A Timely Message For Mr. Trump And His Fellow Travellers

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Trudeau Town Halls: Baubles Of Distraction, Not Questions Of Substance



Prime-Minister-For-A-Day Kim Campbell is probably best remembered for saying, “An election is no time to discuss serious issues.” She might just as well have been talking about town halls, particularly the kind our Prime Minister is currently in the midst of.

Justin Trudeau's meet-and-greet will undoubtedly constitute a public-relations success. That success, however, will be thanks to two things: Trudeau's ease in front of large crowds, and the profound colloquialism and ignorance of the people attending these sessions. It is the latter I wish to address today.

In theory, town halls, being somewhat unscripted, are an opportunity to put the convener on the hot seat. Unfortunately, the topics thus far brought up have been tritely predictable and easily defused, no doubt because they are exactly what the PMO has prepared Mr. Trudeau for. Consider, for example, what was asked at his Sackville gathering. While the questions may be important to the posers, they lack, shall I say, a certain concern for national and international issues that the government is, in my view, badly fumbling. Here are two examples:
Abdoul Abdi’s sister Fatouma Alyaan asked ‘Why are you deporting my brother?...My question to you is if it was your son, would you do anything to stop this?’
And this one:
Why do we have medical doctors who come here from different countries who are unable to integrate into the system?
To be sure, he was also asked about his visit to the Aga Khan's private island retreat, for which Trudeau has been rebuked by outgoing ethics watchdog Mary Dawson, but again, this was a predictable and easily-handled question for which I am sure the Prime Minster was well-prepared.

The questions at yesterday's session in Hamilton were similarly trite and predicable:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a woman heckling him about Omar Khadr during a town hall in Hamilton that he, too, is angry about the multimillion-dollar settlement the former Guantanamo Bay inmate received from the government.

“The anger that some people feel, and that a lot of people feel about the payment the government made to Omar Khadr is real and quite frankly — this might surprise you — but I share that anger and frustration,” he said.
Score another one for good preparation.

Yet I can't help but wonder how Mr. Trudeau would respond if truly important questions were asked of him. Questions like the following:

Why does your government insist on protecting the rights of multi-nationals to sue our government over legislation that might interfere with their profits?

Known as investor-state dispute settlement, it is a mainstay of NAFTA and eagerly sought for the TPP. So far, Canada has been sued five times under NAFTA provisions for trying to protect the environment.

Another question well-worth posing would pertain to the government's continuing support for the immoral Saudi arms deal, arms that have been shown, in contravention of the deal, to have been used against Saudi citizens.
In July, after The Globe and Mail's reporting of conflict in Awamiyah, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland issued a statement saying she was "deeply concerned" and announced a probe of the incident.

The Trudeau government has never released the results of this investigation nor has it explained to Canadians what happened.
These are the questions I would ask on this issue:

Why have you refused to release the report, and why is your government now trying to quash the most recent legal challenge to the deal, an attempt that a federal court judge has rejected?

Finally, I would ask about the Trudeau government' attitude toward tax cheats using offshore havens:
A dozen governments around the world say they've recovered a combined $500 million in unpaid taxes so far thanks to the Panama Papers leak of tax-haven financial records in 2016.

But not a penny of that is destined for Canadian government coffers. The Canada Revenue Agency maintains it will be at least another 2½ years before it will have an idea of how much it might recoup.
When other governments are enjoying considerable success in recovering tax money thanks to the Panama and Paradise papers, why is your government and the Canada Revenue Agency so reluctant to aggressively pursue them?

So those are some of the questions that will likely not be asked at the town halls. God forbid that this government should actually have to make an honest accounting of itself to the Canadian people.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Simply Horrifying

How many times do catastrophes like this have to happen before we cast aside our hubris and realize that we are nothing in the face of nature?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

UPDATED: Despite The Hysteria The Sky Will Not Fall



In an op-ed piece the other day, Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, wrote of the economic Armageddon awaiting Ontario businesses thanks to the recently-hiked Ontario hourly minimum wage to $14, to be increased to $15 next year.

While no one can fault Kelly for pandering to the interests of his constituents, his arguments apparently carry little weight with the larger public, who see nothing but good coming from paying a living wage to the people who make profits possible for our titans of business.

Star letter writer Tom Doris of Toronto offers his response:
Dan Kelly has the misguided attitude that any business creating jobs must be considered a successful business and be left alone by government despite poverty wages, denied tips and no job security for its workers.

Indeed, his arguments lead me to conclude that his membership has not the capability to create vibrant, living-wage jobs. As well, he appears to be insistent that workers in this province should be thankful for any position no matter the wage, treatment or security.

By contrast, jurisdictions throughout the western world have thriving small businesses that pay living wages (not just a sham attempt at such). He and his membership need to learn how to be successful without exploiting workers.
Meanwhile Ken Fitzsimmons of Toronto has a clear-headed suggestion that that could quell Mr. Kelly's rising hysteria:
Dan Kelly doesn’t get much sympathy from me.

His examples of businesses that are paying the price for the increase in the minimum wage are dry cleaners, coffee shops and mechanics. Seriously? That’s ridiculous. All these shops have to do to cover the increased expense is to raise their prices. Now, don’t try to tell me that this will make them uncompetitive. All their competitors are in the same situation and will have to raise their prices as well. The people that will actually bear the cost are the customers themselves and that is as it should be. It is a small burden to pay so that all employees can have at least a half-decent wage. The extra cost would be minimal as it is spread out among the general public, not the business owners.

Having said that, there are businesses that will suffer and I do feel sorry for them and they should be given some consideration. They are businesses such as retailers that compete with online business that don’t have the same employee expenses. It’s also tough to compete with low wages from other countries, but that doesn’t give employers the right to keep wages low in Ontario. There are other ways to combat unfair labour practices abroad.

Sure there are problems to be resolved, but this outcry from a lot of business groups that the sky is falling is mostly just nonsense.
One line from the above letter bears special emphasis: The people that will actually bear the cost are the customers themselves and that is as it should be. It is a small burden to pay so that all employees can have at least a half-decent wage.

Anyone taking issue with that sentiment should at least be honest enough with themselves to admit they prefer that some toil away in economic enslavement so they don't have to pay a little more for the things they want and need in life.

UPDATE: For those interested in making their voices heard over some of the despicable retaliatory practices being enacted by business, I just got this notice from LabourStart Canada:
SOLIDARITY RALLIES FOR ONTARIO TIM HORTON'S WORKERS ON WEDNESDAY

On the heels of the $15 and Fairness campaign victory in Ontario that saw the minimum wage rise to $14/hr a number of Tim Horton's shops are cutting worker benefits, breaks and other entitlements. Employers are preserving their profits by making workers pay for the increase.

But you know this because you read our news pages and follow our social media feeds. So let's cut to the chase.

If you live in Southern Ontario then on Wednesday you have 3 demos in support of the Timmy's workers to choose from (OK, there may be more by the time you read this so contact your local Labour Council. If there isn't one near you suggest it):

COBOURG: 5pm @ the Timmy's at 970 Division St, Cobourg, Ontario K9A 5Y5.

DUNDAS: 5pm @ the Timmy's at 38 York Road, Dundas. L9H 1L4

WEST TORONTO: 8am @ the Tim's at 1094 Bloor West M6H 1M5

If you are at the Cobourg demo look for me. I'll be wearing an Australian union toque and scarf. I'll buy you a coffee if we can find a place. :-)

Not an Ontario resident? Wish us luck because, unless you live in Alberta where the rate has already gone up, you'll be facing the same, soon. If we can win this it might just be a little easier for everyone else.

In Solidarity,

Derek Blackadder
LabourStart Canada

Monday, January 8, 2018

UPDATED: You Get What You Pay For


That fundamental truth is grasped by two small-scale entrepreneurs, much to the shame of much larger entities like Tim Hortons which, as widely reported, are taking out their outrage and venality on their employees.

Gilleen Witkowski, who operates a dog-walking business in Toronto, has this to say:
“I’m a millennial and my whole working life, the minimum wage was frozen or close to frozen. That’s my context,” says the 32-year-old co-founder of Walk My Dog.

“I’ve seen people attempt and fail to make a living on just minimum wage, and watched people struggle in the new economy to get good jobs with their degrees.”

Her decent work strategy, she says, has proved a success.

“I totally understand the concerns around cost because I am a small business now. But I think the benefits outweigh the cost. The loyalty I’ve seen from my staff is incredible.”

“It’s doing the right thing, but there are tangible benefits and that is my low turnover,” she added.
Those truths were something that took Damin Starr longer to discover. Originally employed by his hard-nosed father, who taught him that the bottom line is the only thing that really matters, Starr eventually started his own company, PreLine Processing, and retained his father's chief tenet,
leaning heavily on minimum wage temp agency workers.

The epiphany, he says, came when he returned from Toronto having secured a $40,000 contract, only to find $10,000 worth of mistakes on his shop floor in Lincoln, Ont.

“I was working all sorts of extra hours because I had inexperienced workers making mistakes,” he says. “I’m not blaming the workers. I blame myself. What a miserable environment I had.”
After sitting down with his permanent employees, Starr made some 'radical' changes:
... [H]e dumped temp agencies and ramped up wages. Together with his employees, he calculated a living wage for his region — which in 2012, he figured to be $15 an hour.

“We decided that you couldn’t work for us for less,” he said, noting his base rate is now more than $17 an hour.

“People were thrilled with the fact that there was a commitment to ensure that nobody wouldn’t be able to pay their bills at the end of the day,” he added.

“Something occurred during that time that made me proud of the business and proud of the staff.”
Change is never easy. However, despite the loud protestations of some businesses, it seems that treating one's workers with respect and dignity is not the money-losing proposition the reactionary right would have us believe.

UPDATE: Still not convinced? Take a look at what Ivan Gedz is doing in Ottawa for his restaurant employees:
A Centretown restaurant is boosting base wages for its kitchen crew to $16 an hour, a move that will affect half-a-dozen staff while making a “negligible” difference in prices for customers, its co-owner says.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Corporate Crocodile Tears: A Guest Post



In response to my post yesterday about CBC bias in its reporting on Ontario's minimum wage increase, the Mound wrote a detailed commentary that I am featuring today as a guest post. Following his piece I reproduce a letter from a Star reader pillorying corporate hypocrisy.
"Government should function on the expectation that corporations will act in their own economic self-interest." That point is inarguable. The corporate self-interest, however, has to be subordinated somewhat to the public interest. The political caste is elected to represent the public who voted them into power and those voters who preferred someone else. They are not elected to put corporate interests ahead of the public interest but to balance the conflicting needs of labour and capital recognizing, as Lincoln said, that "labour is by far the superior."

That principle, stated by Lincoln, is especially relevant today in this era of early-onset automation that is going to become a more dominant factor in our industrial economy. Galbraith addresses this in "The Predator State."

Ours is a consumer economy and there's really nothing else we can substitute for that. The corporate sector collapses without access to markets sufficiently large to purchase and consume their wares. Henry Ford knew that it was essential that his workers earned enough to be able to afford to buy his cars.

Commerce today engages in nihilistic pursuit of unsustainable profits at the expense of even its own mid- and long-term interests. Executive compensation is based on what the company takes in today, not how it may be positioned to fare in the next decade or the one after that.

A month before the Republican tax cuts were passed, corporations were gearing up for the anticipated windfall. They weren't hiring new employees or adding additional machinery, they were organizing share buy backs. They were using the newfound money to buy back outstanding shares sending share prices soaring, hence increasing executive compensation. And the US government is funding this nihilism with an additional 1.5 trillion in borrowings. Call it "the art of the deal."

In the era of globalism our neoliberal political caste thought they could finally wash their hands of responsibility for the balancing of public and private interests, delegating this fundamental responsibility to "the invisible hand of the marketplace." Only that hand no longer works as they fantasize.

We think fondly of the era of Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, the vision they brought to our country. That began to wane under Mulroney and Chretien but it was crushed under Harper and, sadly, now Trudeau the lesser. Now when we desperately need leaders of vision again, leaders who can navigate us through these enormous challenges of the day, that quality is no longer on offer.

And from Robert Bahlieda of Newmarket:
Starting salary for top CEOs? $2,489 an hour, Wells, Jan. 2

Kudos to Jennifer Wells for exposing the other side of the coin. The sadness of the headline is that we have all accepted and internalized the bizarre logic of capitalism and can see no way out. We read the article and then move on.

The logic of a free market is to convince everyone that extreme wealth is good and necessary, so extreme relative poverty must be its alternative. But even here, there is deception. This is reflected in the salaries of CEOs and of the minimum wage for workers. The $14 minimum wage is held out as either a pariah or a godsend.

The business community warns of job losses while it pays its CEOs handsome salaries and perks. But if paying a living wage is that critical, businesses that are stretched so thin should close their doors. The whole point of business is not to create wealth for the business but also a good quality of life for workers. If businesses cannot pay good living wages, health care, pensions and other basic aspects of daily living, they should not be in business. It’s a false capitalist logic to say we can only operate on minimum wages while profits are booming and the senior suite is golden.

CEO salaries are the same. They have increased every year for the past 40 years while workers’ wages have remained stagnant. Everyone knows this lie. The Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report (2016) noted that the top 1 per cent owned more than half of the worlds’ assets and the bottom half owned virtually nothing.

The real irony is that taxpayers are paying for the minimum wage and CEO increases. The federal government is cutting small-business taxes by 0.5 per cent immediately and another 1 per cent cut is coming. They have also modified the corporate tax penalty on small business to make it non-existent. Provincial governments have chipped in cash to ease the transition as well.

But still the wailing and gnashing of teeth goes on in the business community. So stop the whining and change the system.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

UPDATED: A CBC Bias?



I will be the first to admit that I get only modest amounts of my news from television. However, due to the severe cold we have been experiencing for too long here in Ontario, I have been doing very little walking, usually a mainstay of my daily routine. To compensate, I have been spending some time downstairs where I have a small treadmill and other exercise equipment. Because of exercise's intrinsically boring nature, I have taken to watching CBC News Network. Because I am not a regular viewer of such news sources, please bear in mind that the following is only my impression and may, in fact, be a distorted perception of what the network is offering.

My sense is that there is a real effort on the part of the network to placate the right-wing. Two stories, although perhaps too small a sampling to demonstrate a genuine pattern, suggest this. The first, an interview also placed on the CBC's website, examines the impact of minimum wage increases that took effect in Ontario on January 1.
Farmer Kevin Howe of Howe Family Farms in Aylmer, Ont., a small business that has been in operation for five generations, said he's already reducing the amount of crops he plans to plant this year, and fears he won't need as many workers because consumers won't be willing to pay the higher prices he'll have to charge to cover wage increases.

"Costs are always going up and we need to be able to pass these costs on to stay in business," he told CBC News in an interview Tuesday.

Some summers he hires up to 400 people to pick his strawberry crop, but this year there will be far fewer hours available as the farm has reduced its strawberry acreage by 30 per cent as a precaution. "It's definitely going to impact the amount of work available," he said. "It's going to make for shorter days [and is] definitely not going to be good for the community."


While Andrew Nichols certainly offered a sympathetic ear to young Kevin Howe, notably absent was any offer of a countervailing view by Nichols, for example, the fact that most economists seen the increase as ultimately yielding a net benefit to business because of the increased buying power customers will have. The host, instead, seemed content with feeding Howe leading questions that bolstered his position.

Not yet convinced that this is anything more than a particular host's handling of an issue? Then take a look at the following, in which Diane Buckner interviews Ian Lee, a professor at the Sprott School of Business. Start at about the 2:12mark, when they begin to duscuss the disgraceful behaviour of Coburg's Tim Hortons, bullying behaviour that now appears to be spreading.



You will note that while Buckner gamely sets up the story with a context that might provoke some anger at the franchisees' mean-spirited actions, and attempts to provide balance throughout the interview, Lee's sympathies clearly lie with the owners and their massive profits. For him, the costs entailed by labour seem to be one of those unfortunate and dirty realities to be lamented as loudly as possible. Indeed, he even goes so far as to claim, at the end of the piece, that the wage increase will result in 60,000 layoffs, an absolute misrepresentation of the Bank of Canada report. Clearly, the CBC knew what they were getting when they hired Ian Lee to occupy a pundit's perch.

My final evidence for CBC bias is an opinion piece by
Robyn Urback, a columnist for the National Post who was hired in 2016 to write and produce for the CBC's Opinion section. Entitled Of course businesses would act like businesses in wake of minimum wage hikes her view is also one of total sympathy for business owners.
Businesses exist to make money. Government should function on the expectation that corporations will act in their own economic self-interest. Instead, in the case of Ontario, officials feign shock and outrage when a business tries to maximize profits, and release silly statements like the one Premier Kathleen Wynne did Thursday afternoon, accusing one of the vacationing Tim Hortons heirs of being a "bully" for eliminating paid breaks and other benefits.

Sure, eliminating paid breaks is not very nice. But what, exactly, did the premier think was going to happen? Employers would just absorb the added costs? Dip into their own personal profits? OK, and maybe my prom dress still fits, too?
The article goes on in a similar vein for some time, but I imagine you get the flavour of it from that excerpt.

So is our national broadcaster providing fair and balanced coverage of a crucial social and economic issue? My guess would be it is not. For that, you may wish to go to this piece entitled Relax, Ontario’s minimum wage increase will not lead to massive job losses, found on the Vice website, or this thoughtful essay by Michael Coren entitled Why Tim Hortons doesn’t deserve your sympathy, on the TVO website.

UPDATED: The Hamilton Spectator's Deidre Pike also has an interesting reflection on minimum wage increases.

Friday, January 5, 2018

What Humanity Has Wrought

Only moronic literalists (a.k.a.Trump and those who are similarly incapacitated) will see this current deep freeze as a refutation of global warming. The rest will see it as part of an increasingly obvious pattern and, hopefully, weep.





Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Dirty Job

But Bill Nye is up for it as he continues his often thankless crusade against abysmal ignorance. Hmm, I wonder if the evangelicals, who generally fall into the latter category, are tempted to practice voodoo on him when he demonstrates that science trumps stupidity.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

An Object Lesson For Canada

Since the avowed aim of legalizing recreational cannabis is to keep the product out of the hands of kids by driving out the black market, our federal and provincial governments would do well not to get too high anticipating huge tax revenues from its sale. The trick, of course, is to find the sweet spot, one that the black market will have a hard time combating.
The country’s finance ministers have agreed on a marijuana excise tax of 10 per cent of the product price, or $1 per gram, whichever is higher.

Sales taxes, ranging from 5 per cent to 15 per cent across provinces, will also be applied. The federal government has agreed to hand over at least 75 per cent of excise tax revenue to provinces for the first two years after legalization.
Whether that is a reasonable level remains to be seen, but I doubt there can be too much disagreement about the massive mistake unfolding in California, where recreational cannabis became legal on January 1.



In today's Globe and Mail, Andre Picard breaks down California's taxation regime this way:
... the in-store price – about $50, similar to the street value – of an eighth-ounce (3.5 grams) of top-quality product will reach $65 after taxes. Canada is looking at a minimum price of $8 to $10 a gram, plus a $1 a gram excise tax and federal and provincial sales taxes.
Given that the black market has thrived for many years in California and elsewhere, it is likely the onerous tax regime imposed on California will have to be reduced; otherwise, it seems hard to believe the majority would choose to pay so much more for their pot simply because stores offer more convenient shopping opportunities.

Marijuana, I read, is not an addictive drug. Let's hope that in Canada, our governments do not become addicted to the tax profits legalization will provide.

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Year Offers New Opportunities

One of the reasons that a new year excites people, I suppose, is that it offers a psychological opportunity to start anew. Our personal world beckons with a fresh slate awaiting our new and improved imprint.

The truth, however, is that despite our seeming addiction to redefining ourselves through resolutions, the majority of them are quickly discarded as the realization dawns that we have either been too ambitious or insufficiently motivated to bring our goals to fruition. New diets and exercise regimens are often among the first causalities.

The city of Montreal, however, begins today with a law that shows what is possible when we have both the personal and the political will and the courage to act for the common good. Although it will barely put at dent in the worldwide scourge of plastic pollution, it is a good start and should inspire all of us.



Happy New Year.