Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Harper Reign Of Terror Continues

The Harper reign of terror, a.k.a, the CRA witch hunts, continues apace, the latest victim the Sierra Club Canada Foundation.

Describing it as part of an "intimidation campaign",
John Bennett, the foundation's national program director ... has been asked to produce a list of all the politicians he met in 2012 and 2013, among other documentation.
"Clearly, the governing party is targeting groups it sees as its political enemies and is using the taxpayer's money and a government enforcement agency to do it," Bennett said in a recent fundraising letter.

"It is an intimidation campaign designed to harass and distract organizations from doing the charitable work their donors want them to do … it is an abuse of power."

The foundation reported revenues of about $700,000 in its 2013 filing with Canada Revenue Agency. Bennett is the only full-time employee in the Ottawa office, with two part-time staff and a summer student.
National Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay continues to insult the intelligence of Canadians; she consistently holds to the fiction that there is no political bias in the groups chosen for audits,
saying CRA officials make their own independent decisions without political input.
One of course is entitled to question this assertion, given that an audit was conducted on the Sierra Club in 2011, which it passed.

And then, there is this:
As of March 31, the Canada Revenue Agency had completed 21 political-activity audits, with 28 still under way and 11 still to begin. So far, five charities have received notices of the agency's intention to revoke their charitable status.
None of those audits, by the way, were of groups supportive of the Harper regime's neoliberal agenda. Infer what you will from that.

A Warning For Our American Cousins

I had a busy morning and so was unable to put up anything on the blog earlier, but thankfully, the pace of the day has slowed sufficiently for me to post this warning from Pastor Pat about what happens to a country when it loses "pure, undefiled religion."

I pray that it is not too late for the the land of the free and home of the brave:

Click here if you would like to read about other augeries portending doom.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Putting Things Into Perspective

H/t The Chronicle Herald

It Grows Slowly, This Revenue Loss

...but it grows unavoidably and becomes very large over time.

So says the author of a study on the effects of TFSAs (tax-free savings accounts), Rhys Kessselman, a School of Public Policy professor at Simon Fraser University. As the money accruing in those accounts grows, the revenue losses to both federal and provincial coffers grow commensurately over time. You will find other facts of interest here as well:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Is There A Poltician In Canada Who Will Simply Speak The Truth?"

That is the question Don Graves asks in his hard-hitting lead letter printed in this morning's Star. Enjoy.
I look out my window and see sunshine and vibrant signs of approaching spring. There’s even a Toronto sports franchise winning games.

But when I turn to the news media I read or hear about a glass half empty, half full, a glass smashed, a glass we can no longer afford because we are in so much provincial/federal debt and not to forget the growing number of Canadians who can no longer afford to buy a glass, full, half empty – or even chipped.

The Star last week carried these stories: A doctor who can’t get details about a drug for his pregnant patient; Ontario hospitals woefully unprepared to deal with a growing aging population; a federal government buying votes with our money and then telling us how lucky we are; and a fire sale of Ontario Hydro created by a consultant with no public service record and, gasp, a one cent increase on a bottle of beer.

This litany merely piles on the abuse mountain of veterans’ rights, a federal government that cannot deliver fresh water to our native Canadian population, a festering core of Ontario workers ready to strike and a quickly growing underbelly of people who simply cannot balance their books and play Russian roulette with rent, food, debt, education loan arrears.

And a pox on all the parties: opposition parties who offer nothing better than scare tactics instead of reasoned alternatives. Governing parties whose only true focus is maintaining a majority with a four-year formula of cut+cut+cut+buy votes. Repeat as long as you can con the voter.

Seems like I’m convincing myself that we have no glass but a mirage of political cracked mirrors. All of which has created one senior voter who wonders why it’s worth bothering to read about it or vote. The Star and other media don’t make the news. You do a good job of exposing the reality that our Emperors really don’t have any clothes.

Which leads to a simple question: somewhere, anywhere, at any level is there a politician in Canada who will simply speak the truth?

Don Graves, Burlington

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sidelining The Youth Vote

The potential of the youth vote, about which I have written several times on this blog, is, without question, great. The fact that only a low number of young people turn out to vote should be a source of grave concern for all those who desire real change in Canada.

Sadly, those low numbers are a cause for celebration among our main political parties, their occasional rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding.

The math is simple. If a group does not vote, their concerns can be ignored. And the more their concerns are ignored, the less appealing the act of voting becomes to them. Case closed. Cue the status quo.

Consider the latest budget, as examined in a Globe and Mail editorial:
Much has been made of the fact that the new federal budget is craftily geared by the Harper government to appeal to specific segments of the voting population. Seniors are getting all kinds of goodies, some designed specifically for their age group and others that are available to all, but which will (nudge nudge wink wink) benefit them the most. Two-income couples with children under 18 are big winners, too, as are small-business owners.

Left off the gravy train are young people. Why? Because they are way less likely to cast a vote than older people are, and they don’t make up as large a share of the population as they used to. By being disengaged, they have now become conveniently ignorable, not just by the government but by the opposition parties, too.
Such is not good for the health of a democracy.
A 2013 Parliament of Canada study concluded that more young voters than ever are dropping out of electoral participation at all levels of government. Worse still, their apathy is permanent. They don’t start voting as they get older, which is one of the key reasons the average participation rate in Canada is dropping. A country where, a generation ago, more than 75 per cent of the population routinely voted in major elections is now lucky to have a 61 per cent turnout.
In this situation, those who do vote are courted by the parties, with resulting lopsided budgets like this last one that pander to select groups rather than promote a vision for the country. Of course, it is subsequent generations who will bear the brunt of ever-diminishing national programs, health care money, government pensions, etc.

It would be easy and preferable if we could simply blame the Harper regime, which has raised to high art vote-targeting. But that would not be the whole truth:
In the 2011 federal election, all three major parties focused on the middle class and on families. They made few direct references to youth. When they did, it was more often about “youth crime” or “at-risk youth” than it was about youth unemployment or university tuition. The parties are doing the same in this election, all led by the Harper government’s pro-senior, pro-family budget.
All are complicit in the erosion of our once healthy and dynamic democracy.
Is there a way to get young Canadians back in the game? Not in this election, unfortunately. The apathy of young voters has caused politicians to tune out. Politicians tuning them out has made young voters more apathetic. The vicious circle goes round and round. And we’re losing a generation of voters.
Our current crop of 'leaders' have much to answer for.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Contemptible, Arrogant Martinet

The other day I wrote a post about the resurrection of Bill C-377, the Harper backed private member's bill that would wage war against unions in Canada. Toward the end of the post I made reference to Senator Don Plett's arrogant dismissal of witness Paul Cavalluzzo during Senate hearings on the bill after the latter suggested Conservative senators are probably the last people who should be lecturing anyone about corruption and transparency.

Plett insulted the witness by telling him he considered “your time and my time to have been wasted with you here today not answering my questions.”

Press Progress offers this video of the exchange:

As you can see, the pompous and arrogant Plett sanctimoniously offers himself and the Senate as exemplars of fiscal rectitude and transparency. To this, Press Progress responds:
The Senate is transparent? The Senate isn't corrupt? Really, Senator Plett?

Last year, Conservative Senators reportedly tried to whitewash an audit of Mike Duffy's expenses, deleting paragraphs detailing Senator Duffy's attempt to dodge auditors and hide his expenses.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson is slated to release what is expected to be a damning report on Senate expenses. At least 40 current and former senators recently received letters from Ferguson asking them to account for questionable expense claims. Several senators are said to have expensed over $100,000 with one reportedly billing taxpayers to the tune of $250,000.

Senator Plett himself appears to be among the Senate's highest rollers -- a CBC investigation in 2014 found Plett had the second highest expenses in the Senate, billing taxpayers over $12,000 (mainly for first-class air travel) during one five-week period in 2012 while the Senate was debating suspending Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau.
Arrogance in public servants is always profoundly distasteful. When it is practised by pompous and contemptible martinets like Plett, it is intolerable.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Meanwhile, Back At Campaign Central

Hate campaign, that is. True to form, the Harper regime wasted no time in denouncing the decision to release Omar Khadr on bail pending his appeal. And in addition to playing to their rabid base, they took the opportunity to excoriate both Trudeau and Mulcair with some verbal prestidigitation:

Meanwhile, Thomas Walkom offers a good analysis of the government's strategy:
Conservative Roxanne James, [seen in the above video] the government’s designated spokesperson, said Ottawa opposes Khadr’s release because he has been convicted of “heinous crimes.”

What she should have said is that, in the lead-up to this fall’s election, the Conservatives hope to use the Khadr affair as a political wedge issue.
A polarizing figure since his arrest in Afghanistan, the former child soldier is viewed in rather absolutist terms by the Canadian public. There are those who believe he is an inveterate terrorist who deserves no mercy, while others see him as a victim of his parents' jihadist zeal and a political football very useful when governments want to vent their demagogic spleen and manipulate the masses.
He is, in short, a perfect political vehicle for a Conservative prime minister hoping to use crime and national security as defining elements in the election campaign.
Khadr's political usefulness began with the Americans:
The Americans, meanwhile, were desperate to have their much-maligned military tribunal system score a judicial victory. Khadr seemed to fit the bill. The U.S. had already decided to ignore the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan. Instead, captives like Khadr would be labelled “unlawful combatants” and accorded none of the usual rights of soldiers at war.
Not far behind, the Canadian government picked up the ball:
... by then, Harper had discovered Khadr’s political usefulness. The organizations that the Conservative base loves to hate — including human rights groups, liberal churches and lawyers — were all clamouring for Ottawa to bring Khadr home, where he could have a chance at parole.

So the prime minister resisted. The more the critics clamoured, the more strident his resistance became.

Last year, the Conservatives castigated Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for suggesting that Khadr be treated fairly.
Clearly, in contrast to the take-no-prisoners approach the Conservatives usually employ in their politicking for the hearts of Canadians, they are making an exception for Omar Khadr.

Turnabout Is Fair Play

Thanks to Ed Tanas for bringing the following to my attention:

Taking its cue from the Conservative Party, the Liberals Party is attempting to turn the tables on reckless, unjustified and overtly partisan political ads masquerading simply as useful public information (meted out to the public at taxpayer expense, of course).

The Liberals said people are angry about what they view as wasteful government spending, and they wanted to remind Canadians how much the Tories have spent since 2006.

“After 10 years, Stephen Harper thinks he owns the government — he doesn’t. The people of Canada do,” Liberal party spokesman Olivier Duchesneau said.

The party would not disclose how much they are spending on the limited Stanley Cup playoff ad buy.

As usual, the government is showing its egregious contempt for the intelligence of the public:
The Conservative government defended the spending.

“Advertising is a key way for the government to inform Canadians about important issues such as tax credits and public health issues," said Stephanie Rea, spokeswoman for Treasury Board President Tony Clement.
Let's hope the above whopper sets everyone's spider sense tingling.

Friday, April 24, 2015

This Deserves To Be Watched Regularly Until October

Journalist Michael Harris (Party of One) recently appeared on Steve Paikin's TVO show, The Agenda. People should watch this on a regular basis to be reminded regularly of Stephen Harper's anti-democratic and contemptuous ways.

A Cudgel Resurrected

To the red-meat crowd (a.k.a. the Harper base et alia), few things can seem more gratifying than an attack on unions. Viewed as the enemy of all that is good and holy (i.e., unfettered profits), unions, we are often told, have had their day and really shouldn't be disrupting our lives anymore. Anything that restrains them can only redound to the public good.

While critical thinkers can see this for the propaganda it is, critical thinkers are not the ones being courted by the Harper regime. And so, in search of yet another divisive and polarizing issue, Tim Harper writes that Bill C-377,
first introduced by British Columbia Conservative backbencher Russ Hiebertin December 2011, has been revived by a Senate committee and there was Hiebert this week, again staking his claim to some type of Conservative medal as the man who has most doggedly pursued his boss’s agenda.

Hiebert is still flogging what must be considered the most fundamentally flawed piece of legislation to come from this majority government, a punitive assault on labour unions which would tip the collective bargaining process in the country to the employer, violate privacy and freedom of association rights of union leaders and tie up unions up with unnecessary, trivial, insulting paper work.
While Harper lapdog Hiebert extols the bill as one providing accountability and transparency,
Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff calls it “an unwarranted, unconstitutional, venal and indefensible bill that is inherently flawed and must be withdrawn.”
Designed to hobble unions with paperwork and make it easier to decertify them, while simultaneously making union membership more difficult, would force unions to publicize their budgets, their expenditures, how much they would be able to pay workers in the event of a strike and what type of money they would have to promote their cause in the case of a breakdown of a collective agreement.

Employers would not be compelled to disclose any of that.
A particular incident is instructive of the obdurate mindset of the bill's backers:
Manitoba Conservative Don Plett showered praise on Hiebert for his hard work and announced it was time to make this bill law.

But when he clashed with Paul Cavalluzzo, a constitutional and labour lawyer with more than four decades of experience, the bombastic Plett insulted the witness by telling him he considered “your time and my time to have been wasted with you here today not answering my questions.”
I suspect that what Plett really meant was that Cavalluzzo did not provide the answers that he wanted to hear.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Less Than Meets The Eye

So much for fiscal prudence. So long credibility.

Those words, written By Scott Clark and Peter DeVries, succinctly summarize the illusions, misdirection and magical thinking that Joe Oliver's budget is based on.

As the authors point out, six 'rabbits' that Oliver pulled out of his hat on Tuesday conceal some disquieting truths:
First, the government changed the methodology the Finance Department uses to forecast oil prices. Oliver is now forecasting that oil prices will increase in the coming years, averaging $54 a barrel in 2015, $67 in 2016, $75 in 2017 and $78 a barrel in 2018 and 2019.
According to projections by the World Bank, this is quite an optimistic forecast.
The second rabbit was the selling off of capital assets to cover one-time spending. In the budget, asset sales amounted to an incremental $1 billion in 2015-16, resulting from the sales of the government’s GM shares. These shares were sold at a steep loss solely to achieve a political commitment — a balanced budget in 2015-16
The next feat of prestidigitation is found in the contingency fund:
In previous budgets, Finance included a contingency reserve of $3 billion per year. The contingency reserve is also there as a buffer in the event that economic results do not turn out as expected. The contingency reserve was cut to bone Tuesday — to just $1 billion in each of the next three years.
Given the precarious financial outlook for the world, this cut can only be seen as foolish, reckless, and overtly political.
The fourth rabbit was an increase in the “lapse” — the amount of funds appropriated to departments and agencies by Parliament but not spent during the course of the year. The lapse for 2015-16 and the next two fiscal years has been increased...
The consequences of such 'lapses' cannot be underestimated. Here is but one example:

The fifth rabbit was the government’s decision to continue to assume higher-than-required Employment insurance (EI) premium rates. This generated an additional $1.8 billion in 2015-16.
And, as Thomas Walkom points out,
The finance minister managed to win his surplus this year largely by taking $3.4 billion from the employment insurance account...
The final rabbit — certainly not the least controversial — is government’s forecast of $900 million in 2015-16 resulting from legislating “a modernized disability and sick leave management system” on public sector unions in the budget bill yet to be tabled.
Since negotiations are ongoing, bargaining in bad faith is not too strong an accusation to level against the government which, in fact, may relish a battle with the unions going into the election, given public antipathy toward those who do well in unionized environments. Nevertheless, counting on almost $1 billion being extracted from public servants does appear to be a tad wishful.

All in all, once the surface of this budget is scratched, the alleged economic prowess of Stephen Harper is once again exposed for the myth that it is.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Harper Dynasty?

That's what the leaden-tongued Finance Minister seemed to be suggesting last night in discussing his budget. Either that, or the message was "Screw future generations."

You decide:

On Our Diversions

This is one of those days when I haven't felt like writing anything. And George Orwell said just about everything better, anyway.

H/t Mint Press News

Under Harper's Economic 'Stewardship'

H/t Stephen Lautens

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Canada's Outlier Status

Well, this is bauble budget day, the day the Harper regime makes its big pre-election push to convince us that all is right with the world, and that our natural selfishness is something we should revel in, not revolt against. It is a day in which further plundering of the federal coffers is presented as a triumph of respect for all "hardworking Canadians" who deserve to keep more of their "hard-earned money." It is a day in which the collective needs of the country and the world are ignored.

Fortunately, not everyone is so easily distracted by the promise of shiny new things. One such individual is Omar Aziz, who, writing about climate change, says that Canada, under Stephen Harper,
is an international pariah. Among rich world countries, Canada is the largest per-capita emitter of GHGs, according to the World Resources Institute. The advocacy group Climate Action Network ranks Canada’s climate strategy as the fourth-worst in the world, ahead of only Iran, Kazakhstan, and Saudi Arabia.
There seems to be no prospect of improvement on this sorry record:
Ottawa will fail to meet the emission targets it pledged at the Copenhagen conference in 2009, just as it failed to meet the UN’s March 31 deadline to submit its emission targets ahead of the upcoming climate change conference in December.
Increasingly, our country is becoming an international pariah:
Having met U.S. President Barack Obama’s Envoy for Climate Change, I am certain that Washington is taking the Paris negotiations very seriously. Canada, meanwhile, looks like it will show up to the Paris conference with almost nothing to offer but talking points, despite the fact that Canadians consume more energy per capita than Indians, Chinese or Americans. This is both a shame and a sham.
Compounding Canada's inexcusable inaction is the heavy hand of Harper censorship:
Ninety per cent of government scientists feel that they are not allowed to speak to the media about their research; almost as many fear retaliation if they do. If you are wondering why climate change reporting in Canada has been so vacuous over the last few years, it is because new rules put in place by Stephen Harper in 2007 limit what Environment Canada scientists can say. The position of National Science Advisor was eliminated in 2008. It should come as no surprise then that media coverage of climate change has been reduced by 80 per cent. If the brilliant government scientists working on this issue are muzzled, the public has little access to the very people it should be hearing from.
Mind you, that hardly excuses the ignorance that many embrace on this subject, given the wealth of information that is available literally at our fingertips. If we are oblivious to the coming peril, it is by our own choice.

The heavy lifting being done by other provinces and countries puts the Harper inaction to shame:
British Columbia has put in place a carbon tax, Quebec has a cap-and-trade system, Ontario announced a similar policy earlier this month, and Alberta has an imperfect but necessary regulatory scheme. The European Union has an ambitious emissions trading program and the United States and China signed a major climate accord last year. China is also piloting seven cap-and-trade programs, including one in Shanghai.
Aziz notes the irony of a federal regime so obsessed with security that it ignores the threats posed by climate change:
Climate change is not simply an environmental concern; it is a national security concern, which is precisely what the Pentagon now calls it.
The effects of climate change will permanently damage wildlife, agriculture, oceans, coastal inhabitants, transportation systems, disease prevention efforts, food and water supplies, public health, and nearly every facet of modern life. The poor and disadvantaged will face the harshest consequences, both in rich countries and in developing ones.
Back in 2009, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called climate change the greatest challenge facing the world. Nothing has changed in the intervening six years other than even more egregious contempt for action from a federal government locked in an ideology for which we, our children and our grandchildren will pay a very grievous price.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Blue Ocean Event: Much Worse Than Predicted By The Models

Although I gladly yield expertise on the environmental and climate change files to my fellow blogger, The Disaffected Lib, who has been doing exemplary work these past several years, every so often I come across something that is a screaming indictment of world leaders who have been content to whistle past the graveyard while we plunge headlong toward irreversible climate change, change that will make life very difficult, if not impossible, for many of our children and grandchildren.

One of the blessings and, in some ways, curses, of using the Internet to seek out information that the mainstream media either declines to pursue or pays scant attention to is to feel a little like Cassandra, who was given the power of prophecy but destined to never be believed. I suspect the people who appear in the following presentation feel much like her as well.

What follows is the first press briefing of the Arctic Emergency Methane Group(AMEG) held on Dec. 4, 2014 at the 20th annual Conference of the Parties (COP 20) for the United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Lima, Peru. You do not have to watch the entire video to appreciate the gravity of the situation as they discuss the accelerating pace of Arctic sea ice melting, and the consequences of that melt. In the words of presenter John Nissen, "All hell will break loose". His solution, however, may not sit well with everyone:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

For Those Who Value Democracy

After watching Pierre Polievre make the Sunday rounds extolling his government's achievements, it would be easy for the politically disengaged and ignorant to conclude that the Harper regime is the greatest thing since the proverbial sliced bread. By Polievre's account, his government has put more money into the pockets of 'hardworking Canadians' than any other in Canada's history. What's not to like about TFSAs (a leg up for both working and retired seniors, according to trickster Pierre), income-splitting and new pending budget measures for seniors. All is well with the world.

Except that it is not. Scratch beneath the surface of such self-serving rhetoric and you will find a profoundly anti-democratic regime with barely concealed contempt for those who hold differing views, that latter considered one of the most important elements of any society that deems itself healthy and dynamic. The regime has used every trick at its disposal to demonize those dissenting voices as it extols a consumer-driven politics meant to turn us into a people who embrace mediocrity and absence of bold vision.

Although I have written about it many times, the Harper-directed CRA witch hunts make for a good illustration of the profoundly intolerant and anti-democratic nature of the Harper regime.

Steven Zhou writes:
If a democratic system thrives on participation from a civil society free to express itself without state intervention, then Canadian democracy could use some help these days.

Citizens who band together into groups that push politicians to engage a problem should, in theory, be a vital aspect of democratic decision-making. Yet the Harper administration, in its infinite political wisdom, has devoted millions of taxpayer dollars via Canada Revenue Agency, formerly Revenue Canada, to, in effect, target groups that are critical of federal policies.
The statistics paint a damning picture:
The CRA launched a series of 60 audits in 2012, and, tellingly, the targeted organizations all seem to espouse views that don't fit so well with the Harper agenda.

These 'political-activity audits' have primarily targeted environmental groups, human rights organizations, and labour-backed think tanks like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Meanwhile, more conservative-minded groups like the Manning Foundation or the Fraser Institute have not faced such aggression from the CRA. Many of them have also, like their leftist counterparts, participated in 'political activities.'
And this pattern holds true for the CRA's latest target:
[T]he latest charity to be targeted in a significant way is the United Steelworkers' Humanity Fund, a labour-backed organization that has supported food banks and disaster relief initiatives for over 30 years.

It has donated about two per cent of its annual revenue to the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA), an umbrella organization that advocates for more accountability in the Canadian mining sector, among other things.

This support for the CNCA, an organization that hasn't shied away from its political purposes, is apparently what the CRA is zeroing in on. The fund has often butted heads with the Harper administration over labour issues, and wants more oversight of Canadian mining practices abroad, which, according to its president Ken Neumann, is primarily why the CRA began auditing the group's finances last year.
The intended purposes of such audits, of course, are to provoke both fear and self-censorship:
Such audits can certainly disrupt an organization's day-to-day operations significantly, but this kind of trouble isn't the main reason why these intrusions are bad for Canadian democracy in the long run. Targeted organizations that are forced to go through the lengthy auditing process can, whether the government intends it or not, become examples of what not to say or do in the Harper era.
One can hardly blame other charities if they decide to interpret the current inquisitorial atmosphere as being politically motivated. This means that if they want to keep their charitable status, practicing a degree of self-censorship may end up being totally rational. This is an anti-democratic development almost by definition, and it hardly matters whether a particular agenda is behind it all, though the available evidence suggests that Revenue Canada's choices aren't exactly politically neutral.
Will such practices, profoundly inimical to democracy, be noted by average Canadians, or will their vision be blinded by budget baubles designed to cultivate the selfish part of their natures?

I don't know the answer, but I do fear it.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Peek Behind the Curtain

As usual, Star readers get it:

Re: Doubling is troubling, April 11
Eleven million people with TFSAs seems like a lot of lost tax revenue. It is simply another way to avoid taxes and should be stopped, not increased. Of course under Harper it will only increase and continue to decimate our social programs.

The opposition must be united in campaigning against this blatant tax cut and revenue loss.

Elaine Purdie, Toronto

The Conservative government seems to think they are doing such a great service to Canadian families by providing its Universal Child Care Benefit and by increasing the TFSA contributions to $11,000.

Social Development Minister Candice Bergen actually thinks that the Child Care Benefit gives families an equal choice. And Finance Minister Joe Oliver believes that the TFSA is somehow equally beneficial to all.

Are they deliberately blind to the plight of middle and lower income families? Do they not understand the situation of single parent families? What percentage of families have a stay-at-home parent? Who can afford a properly licensed daycare facility? Who has the disposable income to put away $5,000 a year let alone $11,000?

It’s obvious that Oliver, Bergen and company do not know or care to know the real financial situation for the vast majority of Canadian families and they certainly do not want to hear what the experts are saying. They might have had a better understanding had they not cancelled the long-form census, but why bother with data when you can make policies out of ideology?

It really is time to unseat this incredible bunch of no-nothing ideologues.

Stephen L. Bloom, Toronto

There is an underlying aspect to the various tax cuts the Harper Conservatives have implemented or will be implementing – increased TFSA contributions, GST cuts, income splitting, etc. – that has fallen below the radar. The commitments Joe Oliver is talking about are ways to destroy the federal government’s ability to raise revenues for generations to come and impede the ability of progressive future governments to repair the social safety net Stephen Harper has been slashing since 2006.

What voters fail to see is that for every 50 cents of tax breaks they get from Harper, they face a dollar in increased fees or lost coverage at every level of government because federal transfers are disappearing.

The extra cup of Timmy’s they can now buy every week means fewer meat inspectors, transportation safety checks, fiery tank-car derailments, or uninvestigated chemical spills in our lakes and rivers.

Sure, the rich will benefit more now, but in the end, everybody loses.

Mark Jessop, Barrie

Given that the doubling of the TFSA maximum will cost future governments billions in revenue, any measure that ties governments hands regarding running any deficit would inevitably result in massive cuts to programming, which could prove politically toxic.

It remains to be seen how firm the “no deficits” language will be, but if the current government really does intend to tie the hands of future governments, one has to assume that the Conservatives are thinking that those future governments will not be Conservative.

Let’s not disappoint them.

Steve Soloman, Toronto

Friday, April 17, 2015

What Are The Limits?

Humans, and other primates, it appears, have an innate sense of fairness. We expect, for example, in times requiring sacrifice, that no member of society will be exempted. When we are part of a long queue, for example, we expect everyone to bide their time and wait as well; someone attempting to jump the queue is rightfully deeply resented and scorned.

Of course, rules and expectations of fairness and equality are broken everyday by those with the means. If you are willing to pay for the privilege, you can buy into express lines, such as those that exist at Universal Express and Disney World FASTPASS. If you are in need of a new kidney fast, there are brokers who can arrange such transactions with dispatch.

Are there things that money cannot or should not be able to buy? That was the central question Michael J. Sandel posed in a book I read several months ago called What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. A very thought-provoking work, it explores the fundamentally alienating effects that some purchases can have, as in the above-mentioned kidney transactions, that leave us with less regard for our fellow-travellers in life. Indeed, there are some cases that really reduce them to mere commodities.

I couldn't help but think of such things this morning as I read about how some people are circumventing the tough water-rationing measures recently imposed in California, a state now in its fourth year of extreme drought.
Gardens stayed lush and lawns verdant as citizens paid tanker trucks to deliver thousands of gallons to homes in the seaside suburb of Santa Barbara. They drilled in back yards, driving the county’s tally of new wells to a record. Some simply paid fines for exceeding allocations, padding the water district’s budget by more than $2 million.

“People feel strongly about their landscaping and want to keep their homes beautiful,” said Patrick Nesbitt, who drilled a well to hydrate parts of his 70-acre estate but let his polo field go dry. “Why should anybody object?”
Actually, there are many reasons to object. One is the fact that money is being used here to opt out of good citizenship, which a healthy society requires. Why should certain parties be exempt from turf-removing initiatives that others are following as they substitute drought-tolerant plants for thirsty lawns?

Paying tanker trucks to bring in water simply postpones dealing with the drought, and one can't help but wonder where that water is coming from. Are other jurisdictions selling water for short-term profit? And what about this statistic from wealthy Montecito, California?
The top three users for Montecito in 2012/13 guzzled close to 30 million gallons alone... enough water to provide the needs of a small town
Even the drilling of wells that the well-heeled can afford are acts of massive disrespect of the greater good. The aquifers, quite frankly, cannot take it:
Measurements of water levels in wells throughout the state show that aquifers are being significantly depleted in many areas as more water is drained out than seeps back into the ground.

An analysis of groundwater data provided by the U.S. Geological Survey and two other agencies has found that, of 3,394 wells across the state, water levels declined in about 62 percent of the wells between 2000 and 2013.

As noted by Dennis Dimick in National Geographic
As drought worsens groundwater depletion, water supplies for people and farming shrink.
I am not offering any fresh insights here about the contradictory impulses of human nature; the fact that "some animals are more equal than others" was noted a long time ago by George Orwell and many others. But given the times in which we live, such behaviour does merit increased scrutiny and perhaps even condemnation.

Lest all of the above prove too dispiriting to readers, allow me to leave you with something that should leave us all feeling a mixture of both shame and hope, a captive orangutan sharing its treats with other primates:

Thursday, April 16, 2015


It seems that a candidate for Alberta's Wildrose party, Rick Strankman, has made a bit of a faux pas, one that he blames, as politicians are wont to do, on a volunteer:
A Wildrose candidate was forced to apologize and retract a poster Thursday that called on party supporters to bring their wives’ pies to a meet-and-greet.

The poster encouraged constituents in Drumheller-Stettler to attend an “old fashioned pie auction” next week and “BYWP (Bring Your Wife’s Pie!!)”

Meanwhile, rumours abound that Strankman has hired a new campaign manager:

Must Be His Eton Background

In the lead-up the May 7 British election, Prime Minister David Cameron, I guess, thought it was time to masquerade as 'one of the people.' He was photographed at a barbecue eating a hot dog:

His mode of consumption elicited a flurry of responses from some Twitter wags:
Hahhaa, David Cameron eating a hot dog with a knife and fork. Silver service only for the privileged!" was typical of the comments on Twitter Tuesday, 30 days ahead of Britain's general election.

"What kind of monster eats a hot dog with a knife and fork?" asked another.
Cameron eating a hot dog with knife & fork has echoes of when rich Mr Pitt did same with a Snickers bar in Seinfeld:

Unlike Mr. Pitt, I somehow doubt that Mr. Cameron will be establishing any new consumption trends in the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pastor David Berzins Is A Disappointed Man

It seems that one of Berzins' fellow pastors does not hold with putting LGBT people to death, a fate another right-wing crazed evangelical named Steve Anderson enthusiastically advocates.
The pastor in question asked to have his congregation’s listing removed from Anderson’s church directory, a decision which Pastor David Berzins of Word of Truth Baptist Church condemned as the act of a traitor to his faith, even though the offending clergyman is a personal friend of his.

Here is Berzins in full rhetorical fury:

And Speaking Of Fanatics

While right-wing religious zealots like Pat Robertson and Gordon Klingenschmitt are the two crazed evangelicals I most frequently highlight in my blog, we would all be very naive to believe we lack home grown examples of the corrupting influence the bully pulpit can bestow. Here in Ontario, for example, the 'Rev.' Charles McVety is a leading exemplar of such madness.

Yesterday, McVety was in his glory at a rally held outside of the Ontario legislature to protest the revamped Ontario sex-ed curriculum which, despite widespread consultation, doesn't sit well with some.

Many of the protesters were new Canadians, some obviously from very conservative societies in which sex is not openly discussed nor countenanced. While they have every right to protest, of course, they and everyone else have to understand that living in a society such as ours entails ongoing compromises; there is always a tension between individual sentiments and the state's laws, but that is one of the things that makes a healthy democracy dynamic.

Parenthetically I must confess, however, that when some of the protesters aver that they will remove their kids from school over the issue, I don't know where they will go other than to be schooled at home. Some said they would send them to private schools, but they seem unaware of the fact that private schools are not exempted from fulfilling curriculum requirements either.

Against this background, there are the self-aggrandizers like McVety who only add fuel to the fire in order to promote their peculiar religious doctrines of hatred, exclusion and condemnation. Deeply homophobic, the crazed evangelical sees dark motives behind the new curriculum, given that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is gay. In a thinly veiled allusion to Wynne, he talks, as you will see, of her not having a right to 'force [her] idea of sexuality' on two million children.

Fortunately, enjoying a majority, the Ontario government has no intention of caving in to such extremists.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Why Do I Mock Pat Robertson And His Kindred Brethren?

This is why. I have to say, I've never seen the old fella go on such a protracted tear before:

Thought Of The Day

H/t Boycott The Harper Conservatives

The Vindication Of Thomas Mulcair

Some will remember the abuse heaped upon NDP leader Thomas Mulcair back in 2012 when he said that Canada was suffering from the same Dutch disease that afflicted the Netherlands after natural gas fields boosting that nation's currency reduced the competitiveness of its exports back in the 1970s. The culprit in Canada was the unrestrained exploitation of its oil fields, leading at one point to our dollar being valued higher than the American one. Exports suffered, manufacturing continued to decline, and the Harper regime gleefully denigrated the NDP leader for an inconvenient truth.

It would seem that Mulcair's analysis has been validated by both statistics and analysis.

Says Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Emanuella Enenajor,
"The currency's appreciation of almost 60 per cent over the last 15 years has really hurt the manufacturing sector".
The fact that oil prices have now dropped is not having the salutary effects one might hope for:
Just because low oil prices are reducing transportation and energy costs, and the floundering loonie is making Canadian exports attractive again — it doesn't mean the sector will bounce back immediately.

You can't just turn the lights back on in the factory and start sending the widgets out the door again.

When the energy sector started to lose steam, the old stalwarts of the economy weren't there to pick up the slack.

"The Dutch disease that Canada has experienced has been more than a decade in the making, and I think it has really hurt business confidence," added Enenajor.
Of course, with an election in the offing, expect the Harper regime to give no quarter, evidenced by party stalwarts like the redoubtable, predictable and hyper partisan Pierre Poilivre:
"The leader of the NDP calls [the natural resources] sector a disease!" Pierre Poilievre sneered at Mulcair across the floor of the House of Commons last week.

Here is the interview with Emanuella Enenajor:

Monday, April 13, 2015

Truer Words.....

Can't disagree with this:

H/t The Knowledge Movement

Attention, Young People: Here Is Why You Should Vote

This brief but powerful video should be viewed by all those who are politically disengaged, especially our young citizens:

H/t OperationMaple

Oil Spills And The Harper Brand

Time for a brief follow-up to Elizabeth May's fine dissection of how Harper environmental cuts contributed to the slow response to Vancouver's English Bay oil spill. In today's Star, Tim Harper repeats and reflects upon the facts May addressed.

Denunciations are flying fast and furiously from the likes of May, B.C. Premier Christie Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. Of course, predictable denials of culpability are coming from the likes of Industry Minister James Moore (“Politicians piling on by spreading misinformation is unhelpful,’’) and Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford (“I won’t engage in speculation,’’ “it’s not helpful to finger point,” “I think we should all concentrate on the cleanup").

Here are the facts that set the rhetoric into perspective:
The Conservatives closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.

The city of Vancouver says it was not informed of the leak until 12 hours after it was detected, but the federal government disputes that.
It took six hours for the Coast Guard to get booms in place in response to the leak, but a former commander of the closed station, Fred Moxey, told the Vancouver Sun the response would have been six minutes if the station was still open.

The closed station was within hailing distance of this leak, something that should have been so easily contained, occurring in calm waters in an urban area.
Conservatives also closed the Vancouver Environment Canada station of Environmental Emergencies and the Marine Mammal Contaminants Program within the department of fisheries and oceans.

Conservatives also closed regional offices of the emergency in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Dartmouth, N.S., and St. John’s. It has been replaced by a 1-800 number which rings in Gatineau, Que., and Montreal, says Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
We can, of course, look forward to a full-court press from the Harper regime in order contain the damage to its brand the anemic and belated response is causing.

One can only assume that will take the usual form: vilification of all Harper critics, the only strategy this hateful regime seems to know.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Got An Oil Spill? Call This 1-800 Quebec Number

Every time I hear Elizabeth May speak, my respect for her deepens. Watch as she explains how the response time to Wednesday's oil spill in English Bay was hampered by Harper cuts and that fact that cleanups has been privatized.

Stephen Harper Is A Real Man

At least someone from this Hour Has 22 Minutes thinks so:

Hope Dear Leader appreciates having such unbridled adoration.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Amanda Lang Interviews Ed Broadbent

If you have as low an opinion of the CBC's disgraced chief business correspondent, Amanda Lang, as I do, watch the following video. I think you will find that, with her absolutist questions typical of the extreme right and the intellectually deficient, she does not exceed expectations.

For Broadbent's thoughts on how Harper has failed this country, click here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

And Speaking Of Harper's Former Friends and Appointees....

Another one sends his greetings from jail in Panama. The disgraced Arthur Porter, the Harper-appointed former Chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee of Canada and alleged fraudster, has a message for his former good buddy:
Porter told The Canadian Press in a recent phone interview from La Joya prison that he wouldn’t mind a visit from Harper while the prime minister is in the region this weekend for the Summit of the Americas.

“If he wishes, he is most welcome to come and see the conditions that I live in now,” Porter said of Harper during the conversation, which was drowned out at times by the shouts of other inmates in the background.

“The [prison] air is the same, the infections are the same, the difficulties in finding water and food are the same. You know, some days are better than others.”

Porter has been detained since May, 2013, in the Central American country as he fights extradition to Canada. He faces fraud charges in Canada related to a $1.3-billion hospital project in Montreal.
Alth0ugh the Prime Minister will likely pass on the invitation, I can't help but think he would find that prison air, shall we say, bracing.

Tells You All You Need To Know, Doesn't It

It is a mental picture I hope all Canadians carry to the polls this October:

“To Duff, a great journalist and a great senator, thanks for being one of my best, hardest-working appointments ever,” reads a photo signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper entered as an exhibit Thursday.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Just A Reminder Of Some Upcoming Events

And who says there's nothing to look forward to?

Is A Carbon Tax More Effective Than Cap And Trade?

Truthfully, I don't know the answer to that question, although some might say that any action is better than none on the climate-change file. In any event, a Star reader offers his thoughts on the matter:

Provinces can lead the way on global warming, April 7
The fact that the Ontario government’s decision to endorse cap and trade was leaked to Canada’s leading business newspaper confirms my worst fears. This decision is a victory of Bay Street over Main Street.

Clearly, we need a system of carbon pricing if we’re serious about making the polluters pay. Cap and trade offers many benefits for corporations, lawyers and consultants, but there is no evidence that it has been successful at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, whereas there is clear evidence that the carbon tax in B.C. has already resulted in a 10 per cent reduction in GHGs.

Cap and trade is an excuse for inaction that appeals only to those sectors of the corporate community that profit from pollution. It is losing its appeal to the insurance companies and enlightened business leaders who have to pay the price of inaction on climate change.

It has no appeal to the rising number of environmentally conscious Canadians who want to see our government regain respect in the world community.
Even those who invented the cap and trade system prefer a carbon tax for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Cap and trade works in theory but not in practice — the United Nations says it has worked badly or not at all. It is complex and difficult to co-ordinate across different jurisdictions; it requires constant tinkering, constant political will and a large bureaucracy. It creates synthetic, government-backed assets that are vulnerable to manipulation and speculation. In short, it is a highly indirect, economically inefficient and expensive way of curbing GHGs.

We need a carbon tax. It could be spun as a fee and dividend system in order to gain political support, if done with two caveats.

1) A portion of the revenues should be invested in a climate change fund that would finance mitigation and adaptation. For example, 40 per cent might be invested in renewable energy, rapid transit and energy efficient housing; and another 10 per cent devoted to disaster management — not only here in Ontario but in those countries where climate change will be most disastrous.

2) Rather than give each citizen an equal share of the revenues, with a half-share for children, we need to take special steps to lessen the impact of a carbon tax or fee on low-income households and on rural and remote communities. We can do this via tax credits or lump sum payments that are indexed to match increasing carbon levies.
Opting for cap and trade will clearly be putting Bay Street ahead of Main Street.

David Langille, Toronto

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Great Thing About the Extreme Right Wing

... is that their egregious stupidity is self-evident:

What A Cynic Might Say

A cynic might say that Joe Oliver's thinly-concealed plan to double the contribution limits of the Tax-Free Savings Account to $11,000, despite the fact that it will benefit only the affluent, will ensure the re-election of the Harper regime. After all, this is a government that has made a virtual art of appealing to the narrow self-interests of people over any concern for the collective.

A cynic might say that even though the majority of people will not benefit, they will think it's a good idea since so many regard themselves, as John Steinbeck so wryly put it, as "temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

A cynic might say that the Liberals and the NDP will offer only anemic objection to the plan as they cautiously hedge their bets for the October contest.

A cynic might also say that since the young don't vote, Harper and the others are strategically correct in tailoring their policies to those who do: the older and more affluent, or, as all three major party leaders like to call them, 'the middle class.' The young, so the story goes, are engaged in their own world of social media, technology and social life and hence can be dismissed.

While the cynic may be correct in all of the above, it is this last contention that, in the larger scheme of things, perhaps merits the most attention.

In the 2011 election, about 60% of eligible voters turned out at the poll. Among voters under 30, under 40% bothered to cast a vote. Research undertaken last year by Nik Nanos and former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page uncovered some very interesting data guided by this question:
What if 60 per cent of young people had voted?

His answer: Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives likely wouldn't have won a majority.

More importantly, he says the political debate would have been more hopeful and would have revolved around a broader range of issues if young people had been more engaged in the process.
The potential strength of the young vote lies in the fact that their priorities are different from the those of the majority who vote:
"What we find is that their concerns are much more diverse than older Canadians who are fixated on jobs and health care," Nanos said in an interview. "So if you're a younger Canadian, you're twice as likely to say that the environment is a top national issue of concern. You're twice as likely to say that education is a top national issue of concern."

His analysis also suggests older Canadians "are very cynical, they have less confidence in finding solutions" whereas younger people "are actually much more hopeful, have a higher level of confidence in finding solutions."
So why aren't they turning out?

A recent article in The Tyee offers some useful insights. A profile of Julie Van de Valk, a 20-year-old third-year geological engineering student at the University of British Columbia, reveals a young woman passionate about a number of issues, the environment and climate change at the top of her priorities. While she will vote in the upcoming election, she has little enthusiasm for any of the parties:
None of them, in her opinion, "are addressing climate change with the type of leadership that people who understand the issue want to see."

Harper's Conservatives have warned climate action could be "job-killing." But the Liberals and NDP haven't offered Van de Valk a very inspiring alternative. Neither party has clearly articulated to her how it would drastically reduce carbon emissions and shift Canada to clean energy. Meanwhile, both have offered qualified support to the oilsands. "That doesn't do it for me," she said.
So it almost becomes a chicken-or-egg question. Young people are disaffected because their priorities aren't represented by the major parties, and the major parties pay little heed to those priorities because young do not vote in sufficient numbers to command the attention and respect of the parties.

Brigette DePape and others like her are trying to change all that.

The former parliamentary page, you will recall, caused quite a stir in 2011 when she held up a sign in the Senate while David Johnson was delivering the throne speech:

With no regrets about what she did, and with no illusions that such acts change the world, she articulates a vision that will resonate with most progressives:
She wants a government that reflects the values of her generation and future generations. She wants an agenda that includes an equitable, compassionate society; treats the environment as a priceless public asset; addresses youth unemployment and student debt; respects the views of women, workers, indigenous peoples and racial minorities; and brings the nation together.
To those ends, DePape
was in Toronto last week as part of a five-city tour by the Council of Canadians to get out the youth vote. “I understand why most (young people) see voting as futile,” she told her first audience in Winnipeg. “In the 2011 election when I was a University of Ottawa student, someone asked me to go door-knocking. But I really didn’t see the point.

“Since then, I’ve had a change of heart. After four years under the current government (nine counting Harper’s two previous terms), I want to do everything in my power to see a government that reflects our values.”
She offers some sobering statistics to convey the power of the vote:
The Tories won nine of their seats by a margin of less than 1,000 votes. They captured Nipissing-Timiskaming, for example, by just 18 votes. Most of the 5,300 students at Nipissing University stayed home. They won Etobicoke Centre by just 26 votes. Had a few more students from the University of Toronto, York, Ryerson or Humber College showed up at the polls, they could have tipped the balance.
Working with groups such as Shit Harper Did, DePape is intent on changing things by convincing enough young people to make the difference she knows they can make.
DePape’s goal over the spring and summer is to build a team of youth leaders and collect 2,000 vote pledges in strategic ridings. In the fall, she and her associates will pull out the stops to collect on those pledges.
“We’re at a turning point,” she tells audiences. “We can be game-changers.”
For all of our sakes, let us all hope that she is sufficiently successful to convince people of that truth.

Monday, April 6, 2015

UPDATED: The Next System Project: A Practical Example

Yesterday's post revolved around The Next System Project, an initiative committed to exploring replacements for the traditional institutions that are failing our world so badly. One major focus of the project is on expanding business models that grant company ownership to workers.

That goal put me in mind of a documentary I saw a few years back detailing the struggle to achieve worker ownership and control of a bankrupt auto-parts factory in Argentina.

Here is a synopsis of the film:
In suburban Buenos Aires, thirty unemployed auto-parts workers walk into their idle factory, roll out sleeping mats and refuse to leave.

All they want is to re-start the silent machines. But this simple act - The Take - has the power to turn the globalization debate on its head.

In the wake of Argentina's dramatic economic collapse in 2001, Latin America's most prosperous middle class finds itself in a ghost town of abandoned factories and mass unemployment. The Forja auto plant lies dormant until its former employees take action. They're part of a daring new movement of workers who are occupying bankrupt businesses and creating jobs in the ruins of the failed system.

But Freddy, the president of the new worker's co-operative, and Lalo, the political powerhouse from the Movement of Recovered Companies, know that their success is far from secure. Like every workplace occupation, they have to run the gauntlet of courts, cops and politicians who can either give their project legal protection or violently evict them from the factory.

The story of the workers' struggle is set against the dramatic backdrop of a crucial presidential election in Argentina, in which the architect of the economic collapse, Carlos Menem, is the front-runner. His cronies, the former owners, are circling: if he wins, they'll take back the companies that the movement has worked so hard to revive.

Armed only with slingshots and an abiding faith in shop-floor democracy, the workers face off against the bosses, bankers and a whole system that sees their beloved factories as nothing more than scrap metal for sale.

With The Take, director Avi Lewis, one of Canada's most outspoken journalists, and writer Naomi Klein, author of the international bestseller No Logo, champion a radical economic manifesto for the 21st century. But what shines through in the film is the simple drama of workers' lives and their struggle: the demand for dignity and the searing injustice of dignity denied.
A heartening witness to a persistent group of people dedicated to preserving their human and economic dignity, the film embodies what is possible when we shake off the conditioned thinking that our current model of broken capitalism has inculcated in us.

Here is a trailer for the film:

If that interests you, here is the full documentary

Until and unless we become bold and critical in our thinking, what the film depicts will remain but a rare exception to the status quo that currently serves the interests of only a small but very powerful minority.

UPDATE: Thanks go to B Caldwell for providing this link offering an update to Argentina's workers' co-operatives:
During 2012, the number of worker co-ops in Argentina increased by 239 per cent.

According to a study conducted by La Nacion, 6,024 new co-operatives were created throughout 2012. This represents an increase of 239 per cent on 2011.

Although most of these new co-ops are in the capital Buenos Aires, other areas have also witnessed an increase in the number of co-operatives, with 367 new co-operatives in José C. Paz, 63 in Córdoba, 110 in Santa Fe, 58 in Mendoza and 125 in Capital.

The same publication mentions that the increase was primarily determined by the support co-operatives have received from the government, particularly from Alicia Kirchner, the Minister for Social Development.
it would appear that good ideas can be suppressed for only so long.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Next System Project

Bloggers far more skilled and knowledgeable that I have written extensively about how our societal systems are broken. Whether we look at the current model of rapacious capitalism, environmental non-regulation, fraying medical and social support programs, it is obvious that almost everything is largely rigged in favour of the few, not the many, with the profit motive being one of the few arbiters of 'the public good.' One quick example is the record profits that corporations are enjoying, while the standard of living of the average person continues its downward trajectory.

A new initiative has arisen to begin to address these massive inequities. Called The Next System Project, it seeks to disrupt or replace our traditional institutions for creating progressive change.

Brentin Mock writes that historian and political economist Gar Alperovitz
is hoping to shepherd discussions around what new systems and institutions can be created to help heal what political and corporate systems have desecrated. He also seeks to elevate the new systems that are already in place but could use some scaling up.

One major focus of the project is on expanding business models that grant company ownership to workers. It’s actually similar to the kind of thinking behind what Jay-Z is seeking for Tidal: granting musical artists the opportunity to help generate more wealth for themselves, rather than companies, when we stream their music online. It’s a sign that people aren’t only waking up, but are also trying to do something about the fact that current business models aren’t empowering laborers.

If millionaires like Jay-Z are the wrong example for this, then consider instead what Cesar Chavez sought to achieve for farmworkers: more rights, better compensation, ownership. These are the kinds of discussions Alperovitz wants to build upon through the Next System.

The Next System Project has signed on some impressive individuals and organizations. The following video will give you a sense of what they are about:

Although this is an American-based initiative, we would be indeed naive not to realize it seeks to address world-wide issues. Time for a revolution in thinking and doing, perhaps?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Jesse Brown Was Right: The CBC Did Cave

A week ago I wrote a post based on a report by Canadaland's Jesse Brown asserting that pressure had been exerted by the Keilburger organization over a documentary from the CBC's Doc Zone exploring the dark side of 'voluntourism.' Originally scheduled to air in March, it was pulled from the lineup due to what the Corporation called 'copyright issues.' It was Brown's contention that a Keilburger threat to sue CBC led to the some self-censorship.

Last night an edited version of Volunteers Unleashed aired, minus any critical references to 'Me to We,' the Keilberger movement that has blossomed into a very profitable industry.

Here is one of the original clips that was subsequently doctored:

I can only describe the revised version, as the show doesn't not seem to be play on the Doc Zone website. The above clip cuts out the appearance of the Keilburgers onstage, showing only, from a high angle, and without identification, an electronically blurred-out figure onstage that one would only know is Keilburger if one saw the original clip. As well, the narration adds that Pippa Biddle, (originally disdainful of Me to We,) says that Biddle is critical of some voluntourism organizations, but not Me to We.

Here is the second clip from the original version:

In the censored version from last night's show, the reference to the fact that the young people depicted "are about the 40th group from Me to We to arrive in Quito this summer" was removed.

So why is any of this important? First of all, let me say that I have nothing against organizations that try to motivate young people to rise from their quotidian and often selfish concerns to recognize and embrace the larger world. The problem is that excursions promoted as voluntourism, of which Me to We is a big part, often cause more harm than good to the people such volunteers are supposed to be helping. Last night's program made that abundantly clear.

However, by removing the Keilburger organization from that critical view, the CBC succumbed to threats from an entity what has become a huge machine, and has therefore betrayed both the public trust and the public good. While the same has happened with private broadcasters, I, and I'm sure countless other Canadians, expect more spine and integrity from the national broadcaster.

Finally, the kind of alleged bald threats wielded by the Keilbergers suggests to me that they are more interested in protecting and promoting their 'brand' than they are in achieving philanthropic goals.

That's my view. Anyone else care to weigh in?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Details, Details, Details

Details. It seems that Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy finds them irksome impediments to action.

Details like objections to violations of our Charter Rights:
During the final day of parliamentary hearings into the government's controversial anti-terrorism bill, Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy used air quotes to dismiss an amendment, first proposed by the Canadian Bar Association, that would have put into writing that Canadian judges can't authorize violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

The arrogance of the Harper regime seemingly knows no bounds. Can you imagine what Canada will become if they win another election?

A Very Sobering Message

A friend sent this to me yesterday. I am not using any tags for this post in order to conceal the true subject matter. Please make sure you watch the video to the very end so as not to miss a very sobering message.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hither And Thither

For a government whose every policy seems to be concocted with an eye to re-election, it is not surprising that Finance Minister Joe Oliver has not yet firmed up a date for this year's budget. After all, he and the rest of the cabal need to know how effective their war on Canadian peace-of-mind is going first.

Have they, for example, succeeded, via Bill -C-51, in diverting the masses away from what heretofore has been their biggest concern, the economy, now forecast to have a rough year ahead thanks largely to the sharp drop in oil prices? Are lavish tax cuts and credits having their intended effect? Is appealing to Canadians' self-interest at the expense of the collective still working?

A new poll might prove instructional for 'Uncle Joe' et al.
The economy trumps terrorism by a massive margin as a priority for Canadian voters, according to a new poll, even as the Conservative government turns its attention to national security in preparation for this fall’s election.

Canadians are also far more likely to favour infrastructure spending over tax cuts as the best way to give the economy a boost.
Apparently, Harper is in need of something spectacular to move some recently-awoken citizens:
A Nanos survey conducted for The Globe and Mail found 90 per cent of respondents said the party or leader with the best plan for the Canadian economy will be more important in determining who wins than the party with the best plan to fight terrorists. Only 4 per cent said fighting terrorism is more important than the economy.
Only 4 per cent place fighting terrorism above the economy? Such results are enough to make the most ardent of war propagandists blush.

These findings come despite all of the time being spent on entering unwinnable wars and trying to convince Canadians that the only thing standing between them and ISIS is Dear Leader and legislation that would weaken our Charter Rights.

And there is even more indication that Canadians are willing to think outside of their own immediate interests, despite the best efforts of the regime:
When asked by the polling firm what the government should do with a budget surplus, building infrastructure, at 32 per cent, was the most popular response. Paying down the national debt was the second-most popular response at 30 per cent, followed by 23 per cent who said the government should invest in social programs and 14 per cent who wanted tax cuts.
These are surely encouraging signs for progressives, but such obvious failures of the well-oiled propaganda machine cannot be comforting for the Harper government.

Surely heads will roll.