Friday, March 22, 2019

A Very Pungent Odour

H/t Theo Moudakis

The source of that pervasive and rank smell bedeviling Ontario has been found. It is coming from an array of spineless politicians in the Ford government who, upon their election, checked any semblance of integrity they might have had at the doors of the legislature. Today's Star editorial captures their essence:
It’s been said that the shortest measurable span of time is from the instant the traffic light turns green until the driver behind honks the horn.

A close runner-up must surely be the time between a man or woman being elected to the Ontario legislature as a government backbencher and their having lost all self-respect and capacity for independent thought.

Standing ovations for Ford and his cabinet ministers have become mandatory for Progressive Conservatives in the legislature, turning the government side into a crowd of fawning applauders worthy of citizenship in North Korea.
His refusal to surrender independent thinking and “stand and applaud” Ford’s every utterance in Question Period appears to be one of the factors led to Randy Hillier expulsion from the Conservative caucus.
Hillier’s assertion that the clapping is a command performance is not difficult to believe, given that no set of adults would behave so obsequiously of their own free will.

To their feet they spring many times daily, furiously applauding dear leader, even as they furtively scan the chamber to ensure the premier’s ever-watchful staff has noted their fealty.

Simply put, this mindlessness is conduct unworthy of grown men and women, especially those who have been given the confidence of their constituents.

The orchestrated ovations are pathetic on the part of those who demand them, shameful on the part of those who meekly obey.
Prostitution has been called the world's oldest profession. For reasons that I hope are obvious, I beg to differ.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Is Resistance Always Futile?

If I ever had the chance to sit down and chat with Randy Hillier, I doubt I would have much to say to the libertarian Progressive Conservative MPP recently permanently ousted from his party's caucus for reasons that appear contrived. He is alleged to have said "yada yada yada" (the horror!) to a parent protesting the changes to the province's autism funding model. Hillier claims he was saying it to NDP member Monique Taylor.

Now it is beginning to look like that was mere pretext for removing a man guilty of a far greater Progressive Conservative Party sin: refusing to be a team player. Unlike the trained and docile seals Premier Doug Ford has surrounded himself with, Hillier dares to think for himself, refusing to go along to get along, kind of the anti-Caroline Mulroney.

It is experience in workplace bullying I would find to be the basis for discussion with the MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston. Having experienced and resisted it myself in my last few years of teaching, I know there is a cost to standing up for what one believes in.

What does Hillier believe in? A clue is to be found in the reason he alleges he was bounced from caucus:
“MPP Hillier alleges that his expulsion was an act of reprisal against him for ‘raising concerns of possible illegal and unregistered lobbying by close friends and advisers employed by Premier Ford’ ...
It is for this reason the NDP is calling for a (Taverner-less) OPP investigation.

Perhaps more damning of Hillier is his refusal to provide what all cult-of-personality dictators demand: absolute obeisance and subjugation of the will to 'Dear Leader'.
Hillier...says...he was given a list of what he called “questionable and childish grievances” by backroom operatives.

Among them, he alleges, were complaints that he didn’t clap enough in the House and wasn’t actively sharing posts about the government’s activities on social media.
Party apparatchiks are spreading the word about how toxic Hillier is. (Message to MPPs: avoid this man or suffer career consequences.)
Simon Jefferies, a spokesperson for the premier, said “everything Randy Hillier outlined in his letter is an outright lie. These fabrications are absurd and categorically false.

“This further shows Randy Hillier never wanted to be a true member of our PC team despite repeated attempts by Premier Ford to engage him as an important member of our caucus.

Jefferies also disputed Hillier’s claim that he was in trouble for not seeking permission to attend his brother’s funeral.
Judging by the abject, grovelling behaviour of most of his fellow caucus members (Amanda Simard being one exception, having left over Ford's downgrading of francophone services, a departure that earned her the insult of "little girl" by Brian Paper Bags of Money Mulroney while he simultaneously praised the efforts of his daughter, Caroline Ford-Puppet Mulroney) it is fair to assume Randy Hillier will not be leading a revolt against Mr. Ford's oppressive tactics and systematic dismantling of programs that seek to make life more equitable for the people of Ontario.

Only the people can do that, Unfortunately, with the next election years away, it is a safe bet that much more social and economic carnage is on the immediate horizon.

Monday, March 18, 2019

What Fair Taxation Could Achieve

From the print edition of the Toronto Star comes this response to a recent column by Linda McQuaig, a response that strikes me as eminently reasonable:
Re Debunking billionaire claims of heroic capitalism, McQuaig, March 14

Linda McQuaig is right on the money. Since1980, the top federal tax rate has been cut by almost 50 per cent. If the progressive tax system had not been changed, there would be no deficits and we’d have a surplus nationally.

Inequality is at an all-time high. There is a massive concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.

We don’t have a wealth-creation crisis; there is more wealth than ever before. We have a severe distribution-of-wealth crisis. This concentration of wealth in the hands of the few is simply not sustainable.

Conservatives are always claiming the deficit is a crisis, yet they continue to claim that tax cuts are good for everyone.

Trickle-down economics has been completely discredited. It is a ridiculous belief that when the wealthiest have crammed as much money as they can into their pockets from tax cuts, the rest of us will get the odd $20 bill that falls out.

In the upcoming election, where’s the promise to restore a progressive tax system, where everyone pays their fair share of taxes? Reversing tax cuts is not raising taxes, it’s restoring funding to build a civil, more just and equitable society.

If everyone was paying their fair share, no one would mind paying taxes.

Paul Kahnert, Markham
We have been persistently fed the line that a rising tide lifts all boats. Reality, however, suggests something quite, quite different.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A Different Kind Of Terrorism

While I have written extensively on Omar Khadr in the past, the former child combatant has not been much in the news of late, and so I assumed he had more or less settled down into a normal life. However, such an attempt, it would seem, is fated to be lined with obstacles. given his notoriety and the reflexive mouth-foaming of the rabid right-wing that apparently would like nothing more than see their delusion that he is a terrorist fulfilled. In their collective hysteria, they see Khadr as a clear and present danger to all that is sacred.

How else to explain this?
The tenants of a north-side strip mall in Edmonton say they’ve been subjected to growing harassment, both online and through phone calls, after news surfaced of Omar Khadr’s recent purchase of the property.

The commercial strip is home to a variety of businesses, including an auto shop, a daycare, and a travel agency — all of which have been serving the community for several years. Most of the Google reviews on those businesses have been positive, until reports emerged on Monday of Khadr’s ownership.
That this uproar is taking place in Albert is perhaps not surprising, but one hesitates to lump all inhabitants into the stereotype of that province: gun-toting, truck-driving good ol' boys. Yet there is clearly that element present, given the efforts to drive out of business all the enterprises that happen to be located in the strip mall:
“Don’t support this terrorist,” a Google review on Skyview International Travel and Tourism Inc.’s page reads. Bluesky Daycare, another long-standing business in the strip, has received several one-star reviews in the last two days.

The owner of Bluesky Daycare, who did not want to be named for fear of threats to them, said they knew of a change of ownership, but were not aware of the new owner and have not met Khadr either. They’ve owned the daycare for five years, and it has been operational out of the strip mall for almost 30 years in total.

“I’m receiving these reviews, and they’re kind of scary,” the owner said of the influx of negative reviews the daycare is receiving online. “ ... It’s going to damage my whole business.”
Few of those targeting the businesses will see the irony of their actions. In their zeal to see a 'terrorist' fail, they are engaging in their own form of economic terrorism, intimidation that serves no one well.

But then, when you are dealing with hysteria, common sense and logic rarely prevail.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The OECD Is Not Impressed

While many are trying to minimize the significance of allegations that the Trudeau government tried to subvert the course of justice in the SNC-Lavalin affair, there is one body that is taking them very seriously:
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development working group on bribery said in a statement Monday that it is "concerned" by accusations that Trudeau and staff in his office tried to get former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to let the Quebec engineering giant negotiate a remediation agreement rather than pursue the firm on criminal charges of bribery and fraud.

Canada is one of 44 nations that in 1999 signed the legally binding Anti-Bribery Convention, which established international standards to criminalize the bribery of foreign officials. The idea was that all signatories — including all 36 OECD nations as well as eight others such as Russia and Brazil — would punish their own citizens and companies for trying to undermine governments elsewhere.

The statement says Canada's commitment under the convention is to "prosecutorial independence in foreign bribery cases," and that political factors such as national economic interests and the identities of the company or individuals involved should have no influence on the prosecution.
Drago Kos, the chair of the OECD working group on bribery, elaborates:
“This is the point of our concern,” he told the Star in a telephone interview.

And Kos said the excuse used by Trudeau and others for their interventions — that they were concerned about jobs at SNC-Lavalin [a concern that seems less and less legitimate, by the way] — is not a legitimate justification.
Here is more on this development:

As in so much else, it appears Canada talks a good game on the international stage, just as it does on the domestic one. However, as a signatory to the legally-binding OECD pact, it has obligations that no amount of prime ministerial obfuscation and equivocation can lessen. And that is something even the most ardent of Mr. Trudeau's fans cannot deny.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Going Off Half-Cocked

In the best of circumstances, measured, critical thinking is hard work. And as the antics of the gun lobby group the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights amply demonstrate, thinking while foaming at the mouth is well-nigh impossible.
A Toronto trauma surgeon arguing for stricter gun control is being targeted by a national firearm lobby that has flooded Ontario’s physicians’ regulator with dozens of complaints about her.

Dr. Najma Ahmed, who was on call at St. Michael’s Hospital following the Danforth mass shooting, is co-chair of an advocacy group called Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns. The group of doctors came together in February to argue that guns are a public health issue, and to push for the passage of Bill C-71, a bill to reform Canada’s gun laws.
That the doctor has the right to express her opinion on a dire public-health threat is just too much for the gun enthusiasts:
The lobby group the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights last month posted a “call to action” urging members to flood the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario with complaints against Ahmed, even if they have never been her patient. The post provides a step-by-step guide on how to do this, complete with a link to the complaint form.

“I hate to say it, but stay in your lane, Doctor,” the post reads.
This extreme attempt at muting Dr. Amed's voice has thus far resulted in 70 complaints against her, complaints that must be investigated, but it is likely they will ultimately be tossed in the trash, where they clearly belong:
In a statement, Dr. Nancy Whitmore, registrar and CEO at The College, said its mandate is to focus on complaints around clinical care or professional behaviour.

“The CPSO’s role is not to resolve political disagreements when clinical care/outcomes or professional conduct is not in question. We recognize that physicians can play an important role by advocating for system-level change in a socially accountable manner,” she said.

Like all complaints, she said, the ones stemming from the gun group’s campaign are being reviewed by a committee that will determine whether they are frivolous and vexatious.
As a surgeon, Ahmed has witnessed first-hand the terrible damage bullets inflict:
Guns are “highly violent instruments that are intended to kill and maim animals and people,” she told the Star, adding she has seen the damage bullets can cause to the human body. “They act like small metal missiles, and they tear apart the organs and tissues and blood vessels and they do enormous harm.”
In the cartoon world, Yosemite Sam was depicted as a very aggressive gunslinging cowboy with a hair-trigger temper which usually resulted in a fair bit of gunplay. But in cartoons, the effects of violence and mayhem are always shortlived.

Would it were so in the real world.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Hysteria Surrounding Alleged SNC-Lavalin Job Losses

I was watching The National ((aka The Whore of Babylon among those who reflexively defend all things Liberal) last evening, and was surprised to learn that there seems to be no basis for the claim that 9,000 jobs could be lost should SNC-Lavalin register a criminal conviction that would bar it from bidding on federal contracts for 10 years. As you will see in the following report, the company is currently involved in a number of such projects worth billions that will take years to complete, and there is nothing in a criminal conviction that would prevent them from bidding on provincial contacts, many of which they are currently involved in.

Which leaves one to draw a tentative conclusion: that the alleged interventions to get Wilson-Raybould to grant SNC-Lavalin a DPA was prompted, not by economic, but rather political, concerns. Being a Quebec-based international company, like that perennial basket case Bombardier, the feds felt they had to run interference to maintain their support in La Belle Province.

Go to the 28-minute mark of the following to see the full story: