Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Conveniently Ignoring History

While I am sure there are some interests within Canada who will applaud Justin Trudeau's latest effort at placating Donald Trump, I am not one of them. As history well demonstrates, policies of appeasement never work.

Trudeau's latest attempt at taming the insensate Toddler-in-Chief is to be found in his craven signing on to the United States' renewal of its demonstrably and profoundly-failed war on drugs, a war from which a Stanford University study drew the following conclusions:
By making drugs illegal, this country has:

1) Put half a million people in prison : $10 Billion a year

2) Spent billions annually for expanded law enforcement

3) Fomented violence and death (in gang turf wars, overdoses from uncontrolled drug potency & shared needles/AIDS)

4) Eroded civil rights (property can be confiscated from you BEFORE you are found guilty; search and wiretap authority has expanded.)

5) Enriched criminal organizations.
It is apparent that such facts don't seem to matter to our government if we examine what Trudeau has leapt to endorse:
The statement reiterates the primacy of international “narcotics control” efforts, with an emphasis on criminalization and the role of law enforcement. It does not contain the word “human rights”; advocates for harm reduction and against mass incarceration have been trying to inject a rights-focused approach into international drug policy.
That our naif-like prime minister chooses to embrace such a retrograde approach has resulted in some very appropriate jeering:
Canada was rebuked on Monday by a group of world leaders and experts on drug policy for endorsing a Trump-led declaration renewing the “war on drugs” and for passing up a critical moment to provide global leadership on drug regulation.

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark said she believed that both Canada and Mexico − which also signed the declaration even though president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has repeatedly said that the “war on drugs” has failed and he will pursue new policy − likely have signed on reluctantly, held hostage by the North American free-trade agreement talks in Washington, over which a critical deadline looms.
Fortunately, some countries held on to a modicum in integrity.
... 63 did not [sign]; the dissenters include major U.S. allies such as Germany, Norway and Spain.
The expedient nature of Canada's endorsement was not lost on Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister of Britain, who sees the decision as a
diplomatic, not a policy-based decision:
“I guess there was a judgment to be made, which from my days in government I can understand, why they did it – if you’re fighting lots of battles at once, you probably decide which battles to choose,” he said.
I am sure many others would argue that antagonizing Trump yields no benefit. But then, perhaps they choose to ignore history.

Does the name Neville Chamberlin ring a bell?

Monday, September 24, 2018

Pleasing Words Mean Nothing

Unless they are in the thrall of rabid partisanship, nice hair, sunny smiles or pleasing but empty rhetoric, most people, I suspect, would agree that the Trudeau government has been a massive disappointment. And while the list of its failure to live up to its promise is long, for me its greatest failure has been on climate change. Its purchase of an aging pipeline at public expense is a clear disavowal of climate-change integrity, as is its anemic carbon tax policy, one that likely has had the unfortunate result of convincing many that paying a little more for the fossil fuels they use will make a major dent in the peril that is quickly overtaking the world.

David Suzuki, for one, has called for Environment Minister Catherine Mckenna to resign.

Michael Harrris writes that, while Mckenna clearly will not resign, Suzuki's words have impact:
What the country’s leading environmentalist has done by calling out McKenna is call out the Trudeau government on its signal failure — the environment. And that could significantly alter the coalition that delivered a majority government to the Liberals in 2015.
The hopes raised by the government and then dashed are consequential:
In Trudeau’s case, the aspirational notion to move Canada toward a green economy has been eclipsed by policies worthy of a ‘fossil award.’ The only thing more dubious than the Trudeau government’s initial support of the Kinder Morgan pipeline was the unpardonable sin of buying it.

Publicly acquiring a leaky, decrepit pipeline for $4.5 billion and facing construction costs approaching $10 billion — all to carry the dirtiest fossil commodity of them all, bitumen, is hardly consistent with the greening of Canada or saving the planet.

But it is perfectly consistent with what Trudeau told an audience of oilmen in Houston who gave him a standing ovation.

“No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and leave them there,” he said.
Susuki is not the only one calling out the Trudeau government for its arrant hypocrisy:
In a recent study by U.S. advocacy group Oil Change International, the authors concluded: “There is no scenario in which tar sands production increases and the world achieves the Paris goals… If he [Trudeau] approves a pipeline, he will be the one to make the goals impossible to reach.”
Other actions by this government are equally damning:
Canada continues to spend the most per capita of any G7 country subsidizing oil and gas development — $3 billion in Canada and $10 billion through Export Development Canada in foreign countries.

Last February, Catherine McKenna approved permits for British Petroleum to drill as many as seven exploratory wells off the southwest coast of Nova Scotia. The water is up to twice as deep as the ocean where BP had its Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2010. Eight years on and people around the Gulf are still suffering the consequences.

Then just months later, McKenna approved the first actual deepwater well for BP 300 km off of Nova Scotia.
As well, the much-vaunted carbon tax is looking increasingly anemic, as Trudeau eases the burden of the worst polluters:
The carbon tax on the worst of them will now be triggered at higher levels of emissions.

The threshold at which the tax would kick in was moved from 70 per cent of an industry’s emissions all the way to 90 per cent in certain cases.

The explanation for abandoning his environmental post? Trudeau was worried that certain industries would lose their competitiveness.
Harris hopes that condemnations from people like Suzuki will lead people to realize that the Liberal Party is not the environment's friend, but rather what it always has been, the party of the economy. He ends his piece with this acerbic observation:
When it comes to the environment, the only growth industry in Ottawa these days is spin doctoring.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

On The Carbon Tax

Now that Ontario, under the thuggish leadership of Doug Ford, is in the process of withdrawing Ontario from its cap-and-trade alliance with Quebec and California, baring a failure of political will, next year will see Justin Trudeau imposing a carbon tax here and in other recalcitrant provinces. Despite the fact that Andrew Scheer is salivating at the prospect of making it a key issue in next year's federal election, John Ivison suggests it may not go according to the Conservative leader's plan:
The National Post obtained an advance copy of a paper to be released by Canadians for Clean Prosperity, a non-partisan group led by Mark Cameron, ex-policy director to Stephen Harper, that promotes putting a price on pollution and cutting taxes.

The Liberals’ Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act requires Ottawa to return tax revenue to the province where it was raised in cases where it has imposed a “backstop” carbon tax in the absence of a recognized provincial climate plan. Trudeau has indicated that, rather than sending a rebate to the governments of those provinces, he may choose to send the money directly to its households.
This plan will go a long way toward undermining the populist-right's claim that fighting the tax will mean less money in people's pocket. In fact, it seems the tax itself will be a net benefit to Canadians' bottom line, according to research done by Research by environmental economist Dave Sawyer of EnviroEconomics.
Sawyer’s research indicates that the carbon tax will cost consumers more when it comes to gasoline and home heating — at $20 a tonne,roughly 4.5¢ more per litre of gas.

...for example, in 2019 an Ontario household earning $60,000-$80,000 a year would pay an average of $165 more in increased direct carbon costs for energy, while in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where there is more coal-fired electricity, that figure would rise to $249 and $259 respectively.

However, the study estimates the rebate per household would be $350 in Ontario in 2019, rising to $836 in 2022; $868 in Alberta in 2019, rising to $1,890; and $1075 in Saskatchewan, rising to $2,394. If this scenario plays out, in five years the net benefit per household at that income bracket would be $328 in Ontario, $1,231 in Alberta and $1,711 in Saskatchewan.
And there is a solid reason for these numbers:
Carbon taxes will be collected not only from households but also from business and industrial emitters, and Sawyer’s modelling assumes that while the federal government would return some industrial revenues to large emitters, most would be rebated directly to households.
The trued-and-true fiscal scaremongering tactics of the right-wing, it would appear, will have limited efficacy with the voters. Who doesn't like receiving cheques in the mail?

While I am of the view that our current climate peril means carbon taxes will be as effective as using a dust-pan to clean up after an elephant, it will at least quite possibly raise some awareness about the situation we are in, however late in the game that may be.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Manipulation 101

It is to state the obvious that politicians and their party apparatchiks are practiced manipulators. They target their demographic, employ experts to craft messages to that demographic and, sadly, seem to expend a disproportionate amount of time on the art of politicking at the expense of true democratic representation. Managing optics, not formulating principled policy, has become the raison d'être for far too many.

Combine this with an increasingly credulous and partisan populace, and you have a recipe for a decidedly unhealthy democracy. It is one in which increasing numbers of voters are forsaking critical thinking and the kind of challenge and critical analysis offered by traditional media for the much easier task of cheering on their favourite 'team' while embracing the animus directed at their opponents, skillfully cultivated by hired talent who see politics as a game to be strategized, with nary a thought for the public good. There are only Winners and Losers in this world of black and white, and the biggest loser is, of course, democracy's health and vitality.

Start at the seven-minute mark of the following news report, and you will see that the base art of manipulation is alive and well in Canada.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Who's Her Daddy?

Notwithstanding efforts at misdirection by Ontario's Progressive Conservative government, it's clear that she (Caroline Mulroney) is Daddy's (Doug the Thug) girl:

H/t Theo Moudakis

Monday, September 17, 2018

Just Who Is Protecting Who?

If you have never seen it, I highly recommend the Netflix documentary series Dirty Money. Of particular interest is the one detailing the massive fraud perpetrated by Volkswagen, in which the auto giant employed a diesel 'defeat device' allowing their cars to bypass environmental controls and thereby emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while claiming environmental rectitude. It was nothing less than a crime against humanity.

And they have paid a heavy price for their criminal fraud, except in Canada:
In the three years since the Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal was uncovered, governments in the U.S., Germany and elsewhere have fined the company billions of dollars and sent some of its top executives to jail for breaking environmental laws — but not in Canada.

“There has been nothing done,” said David Boyd, the United Nations’ newly appointed human rights and environment watchdog.
Given Canada's less-than-aggressive pursuit of offshore tax evaders who were exposed in the Panama Papers, this does not surprise me, but I am nonetheless appalled by my government's timidity in going after major criminals.
While the company said in a statement it settled a $2.1-billion class action lawsuit in 2017 with customers who purchased one of roughly 125,000 affected diesel vehicles sold in Canada — as it did elsewhere in the world — Volkswagen hasn’t faced any charges under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act so far.

There is concern among some observers that the federal government may not act, continuing what Boyd said is a longtime trend of leniency.

“Three years have gone by and Canada has a track record of not enforcing environmental laws,” he said.
To put government timidity into perspective, consider the following:
In 2004, Petro-Canada was fined $290,000 for the spill that saw 1,000 barrels of oil flow into the Atlantic Ocean from the Terra Nova offshore production vessel. By comparison, Brazil’s petroleum regulator fined Chevron $17.3 million (U.S.) for a 3,600-barrel oil spill in 2011, and the company also agreed to pay $150 million to settle civil lawsuits related to the case, according to Reuters.
Or how about this?
Boyd said Canada levied $2.47 million (Canadian) in fines for environmental infractions under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act between 1988 and 2010 — less than the $3.65 million the Toronto Public Library collected in overdue book fines in 2012.

In contrast, the U.S. — where Boyd said enforcement of environmental laws has been “much more aggressive” — the Environment Protection Agency levied $204 million (U.S.) in civil fines and won court cases securing another $44 million in criminal fines from environmental lawbreakers in 2012 alone.
While Canada continues to investigate Volkswagen, the company has paid very substantial penalties in other jurisdictions.
Volkswagen paid the equivalent of $1.5 billion (Canadian) in fines in Germany and $12 billion in the U.S., according to an analysis by Environmental Defence, which is launching a public campaign this month to pressure Ottawa to take action against the company.

In the U.S. case, Volkswagen also agreed not to contradict anything outlined in the plea agreement or statement of facts in other jurisdictions.
This sorry dilatory approach to criminal enforcement should offend every Canadian, given that it conveys a wholly inappropriate message of weakness to the corporate criminals of the world, one best summed up by David Boyd:
“It’s just indicative of how absolutely scandalous Canada’s failure to enforce environmental laws has been over the past 25 years”.
Clearly, this is not the kind of business Canada should be open for.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Ontario's Ongoing Shame

Ontarians are responsible for the election of this buffoon. Ontarians will have to wear this shame for the next four years.

H/t The Toronto Star