Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tory Policy-Making: The Dangers Of Simplistic Thinking

Fallacies of reasoning are easy traps to fall into. Whether it is absolutist thinking, straw man arguments or any number of other errors of thought, we are all prone to them, and I am sure that I am no exception. Our best defense against such faulty thinking is to try to cultivate our critical faculties as much as we can; one of the best ways of doing so is to read widely and deeply. There is no alternative, unless wants to make a virtue of simplistic and lazy cognition.

The latter, of course, is what the Harper regime has excelled at since it was first elected. Most issues have been reduced to an either/or option; perhaps the most infamous was the facile and inflammatory statement Vic Toews made over those who opposed his failed Internet surveillance bill, namely that people “can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”

The Tory propensity for reducing issues to their simplest forms has done a grave disservice to the people of Canada, who have essentially been told time and again that they need not think deeply and engage vigorously with issues of public policy, but rather let an autocratic majority government decide instead what is best for them. People increasingly seem more and more passive when told, for example, that now is not the time to improve the CPP, OAS must be delayed to age 67, or home mail delivery must end, all due to cost constraints.

And yet, with critical thinking, there is always room for alternative approaches to public policy. One such instance can be found in Canada Post. Although a crown corporation with an ostensible degree of independence from government influence, the recent decision to end home mail delivery and raise stamps to $1 each has all the earmarks of a government bent on the erosion and ultimate dismantling of public programs and institutions. No compromises were seriously entertained, for example moving to three-day a week delivery to cut costs. It is a classically absolutist policy decision that will ultimately see the end of Canada Post.

In his column in Saturday's Star, Thomas Walkom introduces a notion that could, in fact, make Canada Post very profitable and facilitate the retention of delivery services: a postal savings bank, an idea that has been advocated by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

Arguing that Canada Post has the technology and infrastructure to make such a venture both possible and highly profitable, Walkom points to New Zealand, France, Italy and Britain as successful examples of the concept:

New Zealand’s postal banking system, which was re-invigorated just eight years ago, now accounts for 70 per cent of the profit earned by that country’s post office. The comparable figure for Italy is 67 per cent.

France’s postal savings bank accounts for 36 per cent of its postal service’s pre-tax earnings. Britain is privatizing mail delivery. But it is not privatizing its system of post offices and postal savings banks. They’re too lucrative.

Indeed, as Walkom points out, former Canada Post CEO Moya Greene, who was hired away by Britain's Royal Mail, was an advocate of postal banking:

Speaking to a Senate committee three months before taking up her Royal Mail job, Greene said Canada Post was seriously considering the idea of offering full financial services.

“We . . . need to diversify the revenue stream and be in wholly different businesses than we are today,” she told the committee. “I note, for example, that many postal administrations have made a success of banking.”

Another compelling and potentially gratifying reason to offer such service resides in the conservative nature of our chartered banks which, many feel, should be shaken up a bit by competition. It is their conservative nature that is partly responsible for the fact that upwards of 15 per cent of Canadians are estimated to have no bank accounts at all, making them easy prey to the payday loan operations whose rates in Ontario can exceed 540 per cent.

So again, some reflection, analysis and good policy-making could solve two problems: the end of home delivery and the usurious interest rates that the poor without bank accounts must contend with.

But the Harper cabal is one that cares neither for nuance nor cerebration. After all, the solutions to problems are simple, reflected in just these mantras: privatization good, public ownership bad, and long live the 'free' market.


  1. .. Well said ..

    Its clear Canada has a Harper Political enterprise of Party, Caucus, PMO and Unelected Operatives that have no intention of representing the interests of the country or the population.. or their own shallow election promises.

    Stephen Harper's ethical and moral veneer is indeed transparent. His 'values' are unique to him - narcissistic, situational, entitled.. yet he employs or directs thousands who truly are disgusting, sellout faux 'canadians'.

    A simplistic and continuous campaign via mail-out, internet, media to correctly portray how disastrous a vote for this increasingly dirty, deceitful party and government is.. could send this rogue government spinning into permanent oblivion

    I'll outline examples of how this campaign could work, in the very near future.

    1. The thought of 'this rogue government spinning into permanent oblivion' is an especially appealing one, Salamander. I look forward to reading your thoughts on how this campaign would work. Remember, my guest post door is always open!

  2. In what you say above, parallels exist with other populations which fell sway to demagogues. In those cases, let's say in the 1930's, it was an individual but with this particular political machine known as the CON Phalanx of Collective Dumbing-Down & Absolute Reductionist Reasoning (whew) it is the state.

    You, or should I say I, am hearing the word RESIST used in more discussions on Canada's current political morasse.

    Still, I feel the ruling party will find yet another dishonest trick to steal at least another minority in 2015.

    Your thoughts?

    Anonymous A

    1. I can't help but agree, Anon, that the next election will likely be fraught with all kinds of nastiness from the Harper cabal and its many enablers. The question that haunts me is whether or not discontent is sufficiently widespread to make the ouster of this hateful regime a real possibility in 2015.

      One of the things that needs to happen is for the opposition parties to articulate a compelling and credible alternative and not fall into the trap of presenting themselves as simply 'Tory lites.' So far I have heard little from either the Liberals or the NDP to suggest otherwise.