Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Late night



Great message.

Update (11:55 p.m.): Also a great message.

Update (Thursday 6:20 p.m.): For more context on this issue, there is a good post at Xtra that provides all the nuances and what the issue is exactly. The wording of the proposed bill is being interpreted by the president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association as permitting Catholic schools to prevent the terminology choice by students of "gay-straight alliance." Laurel Broten, Ontario Education Minister specifically denies that is the intent of the legislation.
Education minister Laurel Broten tells Xtra there is “no more debate” on GSAs. “If students want a GSA, it must be provided.”

Until now, most Ontario Catholic schools have banned GSAs. Broten says Bill 13 will require school boards to allow students to start queer support groups and name them whatever they wish, including, "gay-straight alliance,” Broten vows. A “general equity group,” which is what some Catholic schools have offered students, is not sufficient, she says.

“I’m confident our Catholic schools will work with students on this,” she says. “’Gay-straight alliance’ is language and terminology we all understand and support. Students will call the groups what they want.”
This is the provision that has caused the controversy with its inclusion of "or another name" at the end of subsection (d):
303.1 Every board shall support pupils who want to establish and lead,

(a) activities or organizations that promote gender equity;

(b) activities or organizations that promote anti-racism;

(c) activities or organizations that promote the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people with disabilities; or

(d) activities or organizations that promote the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including organizations with the name gay-straight alliance or another name.
Broten's words indicate the intent of the legislation is to require the gay-straight alliance name and that's what the statute says.

Update (Sunday a.m.): One last update here. I may have overstated in my last sentence above on Broten's words and what they meant. Re-reading what she said in combination with s. 303.1, it's the club that is required by the statute, first and foremost, not the name. But, I don't see how the schools can get away with denying the students their name choice. The statute is mandatory in its language, requiring that "Every board shall support pupils" who want to establish and lead organizations including those that have the gay-straight alliance name choice. The government's intent is clear as to what they want to see the schools do, i.e., work with and let the students have the group that they want, including under whatever name they choose.

Canadians support carbon tax

That's what a new Environics poll finds, well-timed as a backdrop for the Durban climate change conference: "Support for climate action still strong in Canada, poll finds." See near the end, 57% of British Columbians support the carbon tax, where they actually have one, which is important. The poll finds majority support for a carbon tax in the rest of Canada as well. It shows that there is opportunity to pitch a carbon tax, if parties decide to be bold, as economically beneficial in a time of economic uncertainty as well.

I would take issue with the way the Globe frames their reporting of this poll though. This part in particular which suggests Canadians are aligned with the government on their environmental views:
Mr. Kent insists Ottawa would support a new treaty that includes commitments from the United States and large emerging countries such as China and India to reduce emissions. However, negotiators have failed to make much progress on a new deal. And emerging economies and poorer ones want Kyoto principles to form the basis of any successor treaty.

While critics say the Harper government is retrograde in its climate change policy, the Conservatives have balanced their opposition to Kyoto and backing for the emissions-intensive oil sands with support for a new global deal and promised regulatory action at home.

It’s an approach that appears to resonate with Canadians, Mr. Neuman said.

“It is not clear to Canadians what the right treaty is or what the right approach is, but they want something done,” he said in an interview.
That latter point is the key. Canadians want something done. They want leadership. It's not that surprising on an issue like this that they don't know what the right treaty is or what the right approach is. That's where a government that is committed to getting something done steps in.

What's not clear here is whether the notion of doing little to nothing for years while you wait for the big emitters to sign on to a new global deal is acceptable to Canadians. Presumably not if they "want something done" and are expressing support for mechanisms like a carbon tax which has been, ahem, highly controversial in our recent past. So to say Canadians are aligned with the government is not necessarily the case. There may be agreement with the apple pie goals, but not how the government is going about doing it.

At least the strong support for action on climate change that appears to be in this poll is a good counter to the Harper government's intransigence on the file and their international retreat. That's the strong takeaway that is well-timed.

Update (7:40 p.m.): I should clarify one part of this post. I take issue with the way the pollster frames the results of the poll, more so than the Globe.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Harperized

Canadian Press follows up on its ongoing reporting of the use of the "Harper Government" moniker in government communications. The government is shown to have lied about its denials that a formal directive on the use of "Harper Government" existed.
Industry Canada's emails and edited releases from autumn 2010 make a mockery of Conservative government denials offered when The Canadian Press first published reports of the name-change orders last March.

"The directive we have from the (director general's office) is that if PCO adds the Harper Government reference, then we leave it in," says an email to communications officials at Industry, dated Oct. 5, 2010. "Please proceed with this approach. Sorry — it is what PCO has instructed."

An editor responded: "Given this directive, and with mild distress, I have reinstalled the phrasing."

"French release harperized and good to go," quipped another.
Excellent reporting from Canadian Press, must read. Civil servants have objected and are apparently still objecting to this bizarre, egomaniacal, blatantly wrong re-branding of the government. This practice is in breach of "both communications policy and the civil service ethics policy." So who will stop it? Anyone?

Lawrence Martin has more on this theme today as well.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday night



Missed last night's music, so here it is, Chris Lake's "Sundown."

Have a good night!

Housing bubble for Canada?

The Economist thinks Canada is vulnerable:
To assess the risks of a further slump, we track two measures of valuation. The first is the price-to-income ratio, a gauge of affordability. The second is the price-to-rent ratio, which is a bit like the price-to-earnings ratio used to value companies. Just as the value of a share should reflect future profits that a company is expected to earn, house prices should reflect the expected benefits from home ownership: namely the rents earned by property investors (or those saved by owner-occupiers). If both of these measures are well above their long-term average, which we have calculated since 1975 for most countries, this could signal that property is overvalued.

Based on the average of the two measures, home prices are overvalued by about 25% or more in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, New Zealand, Britain, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden (see table). Indeed, in the first four of those countries housing looks more overvalued than it was in America at the peak of its bubble.
...
American prices fell sharply, even though homes were less overvalued than they were in many other countries, because high-risk mortgages and a surge in unemployment caused distressed sales. In most other countries, lenders avoided the worst excesses of subprime lending, and unemployment rose by less, so there were fewer forced sales dragging prices down. America is also unusual in having non-recourse mortgages that let borrowers walk away with no liability.

An optimist could therefore argue that our gauges overstate the extent to which house prices are overvalued, and that if markets are only a bit too expensive they can adjust gradually without a sharp fall. It is important to remember, however, that lower interest rates and rising populations were used to justify higher prices in America and Ireland before their bubbles burst so spectacularly.

Another concern is that Australia, Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and Sweden all have even higher household-debt burdens in relation to income than America did at the peak of its bubble. Overvalued prices and large debts leave households vulnerable to a rise in unemployment or higher mortgage rates. A credit crunch or recession could cause house prices to tumble in many more countries.
In other financial news this week, Jim Flaherty imposed new requirements on the banks, saying it was just prudential and part of a normal review, which caught the banks totally by surprise. "Move to have more power over banks ‘prudential:’ Flaherty": "Under the proposed legislation, any bank or insurance company that increased its consolidated assets by more than 10 per cent through an acquisition outside Canada would need the minister’s approval." "Flaherty sets updates to financial laws": "As well, the government proposes to increase the threshold that requires large banks to be widely held to $12 billion in equity from $8 billion." Pretty big moves for a normal or "prudential" review, no?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November 22, 1963

Yesterday was the anniversary of JFK's assassination. This short video by acclaimed film maker Errol Morris is at the New York Times' site as part of their commemoration of the day: "The Umbrella Man." It's the story behind the man holding the black umbrella on that sunny fateful day in Dallas. A great little history lesson that also makes a good point about speculation.

(h/t)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Infighting

A rare occasion where I'll agree with John Ibbitson today. He goes at both Liberals and NDP, so I'll just point out the Liberal part I agree with:
Someone should tell these malcontents that the one thing the Liberals absolutely cannot afford is a divisive, faction-ridden convention in January. Either the third-place party unites, or it dies.
Fair enough. I don't know if it's come to Jesus time yet or not, but it's a good phrase to keep in mind.

Hey, we're not overtaxed


Came across this chart posted on Henry Blodget's blog as he made a comparative point to Americans that their tax revenues could stand to be raised. As Harper et al. push their tax cutting philosophy to the nation, it's helpful to see exactly where Canada ranks among western nations in terms of the taxes we pay as a percentage of our GDP. The U.S. is at just over 20% while we are at just over 30%. Look up the row above us and you'll see the U.K., Germany, France. Look below and you'll see some of those problem nations, Spain, Greece, Ireland and then, again, the U.S.

Facts to note for austerity and tax debates to come. And you go, Denmark. Woot.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Worth noting

A view on Liberal renewal from Andrew Coyne:
How then to carve out a distinctive case for the Grits?

The answer will lie as much in the way the party develops policies as in the policies it ultimately adopts. On both scores, it will need to capitalize on its own misfortune—to seize the opportunity that defeat affords. Parties that are in close contention for power tend to have little room for dissent, or for that matter democracy. The Liberals, being nowhere near power, have an opportunity to build a truly grassroots, democratic party, one that holds its leaders closely to account, and to let its own example serve as a model of democratic reform for the country.
With emphasis on the last clause of the last sentence in particular.

The dollar costs of lawful access

"Surveillance law could close small ISPs: Lawyer." The ISP operators of the nation are concerned about the impact of the coming Harper government lawful access legislation. Most are assuming it will be similar to previous iterations and we shall see. Here are some of the latest comments from those in the industry. Small and large operators are worried about the costs:
Assuming it will be the same act introduced in the last Parliament, “this isn’t going to be sustainable,” Chris Tacit, who acts for the Canadian Network Operators Consortium (CNOC), said Wednesday during a regulatory panel discussion at a conference in Toronto for independent ISPs.

“If a smaller ISP has to make major network changes it could be game over.”
...
Jonathan Daniels, vice-president of regulatory law at BCE Inc., which owns Bell Canada [TSX, NYSE: BCE], said the carrier wants to see the final act and the accompanying regulations, which might outline government compensation for complying with the act. Regulations weren’t published when the proposed act was introduced in the last parliament.

“We have big concerns about the capital requirements” for equipment, Daniels, said as well for possible high annual operating costs of maintaining a real-time data surveillance system across the country.
Lawful access is not just bad for privacy right violations reasons, it's bad for business too.

The HGRCMP

A new public relations protocol comes into being for the RCMP and it is leaked to the Toronto Star: "Government puts tighter leash on RCMP public statements." So what are the Harper government inappropriately up to with the RCMP? A lengthy excerpt but warranted:
The Star obtained a copy of a new communications protocol that requires the RCMP to flag anything that might “garner national media attention” to Public Safety Canada.

Everything from “media advisories, news releases, background info, media lines and talking points for spokespersons and senior officials/members” must be vetted.

Statements by RCMP members who appear before parliamentary committees would likely be massaged by the federal government beforehand, as the document clearly defines a “major event” as “an incident, event, announcement, and/or speaking engagement likely to garner national media attention.”

Signed Sept. 20 and effective immediately, the policy says the Mounties must consult and get approval from Public Safety for communications regarding non-operational matters “PRIOR (emphasis in original) to public use” for almost everything.

On “major operational events,” all communications need to be shared with Public Safety Canada officials “for information only” prior to public use.

According to the document, the goal is to ensure advance notice of “communications activities,” “consistent” interdepartmental co-ordination, better “strategic” communications planning, and more “integrated Government of Canada messaging.”

“The circulation of the information provided will be treated with sensitivity and, as appropriate, will be limited to a select few senior officials at Public Safety Canada.”
So there seem to be two strains of communications dealt with in this wonderful new policy, RCMP communications on "major operational events" and RCMP communications on non-operational matters. In the case of the major operational events, the government will be tipped off in advance by the RCMP, albeit for "information only" purposes before any public communications take place. In the case of non-operational events, the government will be vetting everything! Imagine. The government is overreaching here and should not be inserting itself into police communications in any respect.

For one thing, in democratic countries, the police are independent entities from government, albeit subject to proper civilian oversight. But proper civilian oversight is carefully limited. It surely does not involve the elected branch of government writing federal police communications. Yet that's what it looks like the Public Safety department will be doing in all the instances cited above on non-operational matters. Correction, have been doing, since this has been in effect since late September.

This will detract from the RCMP's credibility as it speaks to the public. Not what that embattled agency needs to begin with, but adding this political element of communications vetting is not going to help at all. It'll be as if the government is speaking.

Now how might these rules apply to a situation where the government itself is being investigated? I assume such an event would be a major operational matter. If such situations arise, and they do, why should the government be tipped off by the RCMP "for information only" prior to the public being alerted? Their rationalization seems to be that it's for a strategic communications purpose. But how are we going to know what information is passed on to the government, internally? How are we to be assured that this information passing won't compromise the investigation? 

There also seems to be the opportunity here for the government to pursue their tough on crime political agenda by capitalizing on police investigations as they are announced. It's as if the business of government, policing included, is one giant public relations opportunity for this government.

The principal point here is that policing matters, operational or non-operational, are not political matters. The government should be keeping their nose and hands out of all of it.

No wonder someone has leaked the policy and various RCMP officials are anonymously speaking to the media. There are red flags here and it is something the public needs to know about. During a majority government, public opinion and media are key countervailing checks on such blatantly wrong developments.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The #OWS bat signal



This was one of the best things of the week, the projection that was done on to the Verizon building in New York City on Thursday night while Occupy Wall Street protesters were crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. This was the message flashed over the span of a few minutes:
"99% / MIC CHECK! / LOOK AROUND / YOU ARE A PART / OF A GLOBAL UPRISING / WE ARE A CRY / FROM THE HEART / OF THE WORLD / WE ARE UNSTOPPABLE / ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE / HAPPY BIRTHDAY / #OCCUPY MOVEMENT / OCCUPY WALL STREET / list of cities, states and countries / OCCUPY EARTH / WE ARE WINNING / IT IS THE BEGINNING OF THE BEGINNING / DO NOT BE AFRAID / LOVE."
A few great pics and an interview with the creator of the bat signal message at BoingBoing.

Really stunning and memorable. Technology is enabling creative and impactful forms of political action that we have not seen before.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday night



To make up for having missed music posting time last night. Going with another Deadmau5 because funnily enough, my mother emailed me after I last posted one of his tracks to say that she really liked it. My mother the hipster! She was sick this week with the flu so I thought I'd post another one to see if she'll like this one too. I think this is one of his best, I hear Mozart when I listen to this! That's right, not kidding.

Have a good night.

Update: The verdict is in, Mom liked this one too. Said it reminded her of "Yanni at the Acropolis." Yikes.

Elizabeth Warren and leaderitis

A very intelligent piece in the NY Times on Elizabeth Warren's run for Senate and in particular the expectations that are being placed on her: "Heaven Is a Place Called Elizabeth Warren." I liked this part at the end that is a fair description of an affliction that happens in politics, too much investment in one person and not enough in the surrounding political structures:
Having the right person in the room can mean something. It just doesn’t change everything.

It’s not that Warren’s supporters shouldn’t get lathered up about her. Staid appreciation for competent candidates has never made ballot boxes burst, and political dedication by its nature requires a degree of magical thinking: a privileging of optimism over lived experience.

But many of the people looking to Warren, as they did to Obama before her, are expecting material things — like readable credit-card pitches or safe bridges or jobs or a vote on a bill to create jobs — that are, at the moment, figments as imaginative as dragons and their slayers. And that’s dangerous, because when the person we decided was going to fix it all isn’t able to change much, it’s not just that we get blue but also that we give up. We mistake the errors of our own overblown estimations for broken promises. And instead of learning, reasonably, that one person can’t do everything, we persuade ourselves that no person can do anything.

The key is not just emotional investment in election-year saviors but also an engagement with policy. A commitment to organized expressions of political desire — like those that have been harnessed so effectively in recent years on the right — have been absent for far too long in Democratic politics. Now, with labor protests, campaigns to block voter suppression and personhood measures and the occupations of cities around the nation, there seem to be some small signs that liberals are remembering that politics requires more of them, that they need movements, not just messiahs. But their engagement must deepen, broaden and persist beyond last week’s elections and well beyond next year’s elections if there is any chance for politicians like Warren to succeed.

Because while she might provide her supporters and her constituents a voice that, if properly tuned, will rattle doors that are now gummed shut, what Elizabeth Warren cannot do is fix this mess herself.
This was her ad released this week, to counter the Karl Rove guided attack on her candidacy:



(h/t)

Speech of the week



A must see speech from the European parliament, November 16th. It's Nigel Farage a member of the UK Independence Party who holds nothing back. It's entertaining, sure, but they're not laughing much in the EU these days.

It is a good point that he raises, about the democratic legitimacy of the successors installed in both Greece and Italy. Will they have support in coming months as austerity measures start to really hurt? Can professors run a government? That will be an interesting experiment in Italy, for sure.

(h/t)

Optimistic enthusiasm

Optimistic enthusiasm as a form of realism:
How does your organization respond to new opportunities?

Most companies launch new things, try out new initiatives, brainstorm new approaches. The internal response (or reaction) to these ventures is a cultural choice, one that often turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If your organization is both pessimistic and operationally focused, then every new idea is a threat. It represents more work, something that could go wrong, a chance for disaster. People work to protect against the downside, to insulate against the market, to be sure that they won't get blamed for anything that challenges the system. In organizations like this, a new idea has to be proven to be better than the current status quo in all situations before it gets launched.

On the other hand, an organization filled with people who are rewarded for shaking things up and generating game-changing products and services just might discover that outcomes they are dreaming of are in fact what happen. The enthusiasm that comes from believing that this one might just resonate with the market is precisely the ingredient that's required to make something resonate.

One more thing: outsiders are way more likely to approach your organization with fabulous projects if they think they're likely to both get a good reception and succeed when they get to market.
Does business guru advice apply to the political world? It's possible.

Friday, November 18, 2011

More Mustard please

Dalton McGuinty on Fraser Mustard:
Dr. Fraser Mustard’s impassioned campaign calling attention to the crucial first years of life — and how brain development during that time sets the stage for health and wellbeing — inspired economists, educators and politicians around the globe.

Closer to home, the Ontario government’s recent move to full-day kindergarten can also be traced to his influence.

Mustard died at home Wednesday night after battling cancer. He was 84.

Premier Dalton McGuinty called Mustard a “personal hero” and said his death is a major loss to the education community in Ontario and abroad.

“He was such a strong, articulate champion on behalf of children and early childhood education,” said McGuinty, who first met Mustard in 1996.

“He was one of the first ones to make the connection, if we make the early years right, a child is set for life. If we get them wrong, it takes a lot of investment to turn them around,” McGuinty said.

“He was ahead of his time.”
What a great Canadian life.

And on the political aspect of this story, it's a good example of the way government in Canada should be going about its policy enactment: from places of expertise and empathy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A day - and era - for Dummies

Couldn't let this one pass: "MPs hit new low in Question Period "for Dummies." The Harper government has taken us to new lows, yes. But the "for Dummies" characterization is not the stuff to galvanize the Canadian imagination. Imagine the eye rolling across the country on reading this stuff in the Taber column and sighs emitting. I plead guilty to this kind of fun on occasion too. But hey, I am not a national platform person in either the media or in parliament. Some of us have to use certain characterizations to garner attention to certain activities or events or statements being made. That MPs are doing so suggests they are feeling that need to be heard to an ever increasing degree as well. It all can get lost in the noise of the 24/7 news cycle of news, blogs, twitter, facebook, and so on.

In all, this week's events, just another symptom of life in Harper majorityland where our democratic deficit is ever increasing. Frances Russell quoted a number of scholars on the issue, yesterday:
"Canada's Parliament," according to the director of the Constitution Unit at University College, London, "is more dysfunctional than any of the other Westminster parliaments," he continues. "No prime minister in any Commonwealth country with a governor general, until Harper, has ever sought prorogation to avoid a vote of confidence. Only in Canada has a government secured the prorogation of Parliament to save itself from political defeat and only in Canada has the governor general been party to it."

University of Manitoba professor emeritus of political studies Paul Thomas says Harper has "extended and deepened" existing trends "toward more concentration of power and more techniques to protect the reputation of the prime minister and the standing of the government." He warns that "degrees matter in these things."
...
"Harper seems to want to have a sort of all-pervasive unification and direction of policy-making so nothing gets announced without prior knowledge and approval from the centre," Thomas continued in an interview. "There is the emergence of this new political class that occupies a kind of constitutional twilight zone. They're not accounted for in our constitutional order."
The fraying of Ottawa's civility and commitment to inclusionary democracy continues. The question, as always, what are we going to do about it. We will continue to kvetch, sure. What will be interesting in coming years is how roadblocked Ottawa will be challenged from within and without.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Late night

There is a free mini-album download by the Canadian group, First Rate People at this link. Their song that is recommended by the Guardian is "Someone Else Can Make a Work of Art," the one above, which is a goodie.

Apologies for light posting, it's a busy week.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday reading

Jeffrey Sachs on a new force in the U.S. that has begun with Occupy Wall Street: "The New Progressive Movement." After reviewing the influence of Reagan on the modern era, historical pendulum swings and the present day U.S. state of affairs, he ends with a focus on what needs to be done. This is how he believes the agenda will be enacted:
Finally, the new progressive era will need a fresh and gutsy generation of candidates to seek election victories not through wealthy campaign financiers but through free social media. A new generation of politicians will prove that they can win on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and blog sites, rather than with corporate-financed TV ads. By lowering the cost of political campaigning, the free social media can liberate Washington from the current state of endemic corruption. And the candidates that turn down large campaign checks, political action committees, Super PACs and bundlers will be well positioned to call out their opponents who are on the corporate take.

Those who think that the cold weather will end the protests should think again. A new generation of leaders is just getting started. The new progressive age has begun.
That might be a little on the optimistic side of things as campaigns stand now with the heavy influence of TV in the U.S. But in coming years, he just might be right.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Every leader gets their day

Mr. Berlusconi is departing as leader of Italy and the citizenry reacts:



From the New York Times' coverage:
“This is the most dramatic moment of our recent history,” Ferruccio de Bortoli, the editor of the Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, said earlier on national television.

The streets of Rome pulsed with a sense of historic change. Many cheered Mr. Berlusconi’s exit. Outside the Palazzo del Quirinale, the presidential palace, a choir and orchestra performed Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus.
An economist, Mario Monti, is thought to be his successor but he has the appearance of the market approved candidate and it looks like there is going to be a struggle over that. You go, Italians.

Also of interest today on this, Nouriel Roubini predicted Italy's fate in 2006.

Meanwhile, our economist is in Hawaii, at APEC, hoping for scraps off Obama's table. Or something like that.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday night



I go with Avicii's Levels this week. Huge song this year.

Also recommend this and this, good ones from the week.

Have a good night!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Renewal: Liberal primaries

The idea of a primary style system being adopted by Liberals for the next leadership selection is the focus of John Ibbitson's column today. An excerpt:
The party executive will unveil a series of proposed reforms in a report later this week, to be decided upon at the party’s January convention. One of those proposals is for the Liberals to adapt the American system of political primaries to a Canadian setting when the party chooses a new leader in 2013.

“We need to give an opportunity to Canadians to have a voice in choosing who our next leader is,” Interim Leader Bob Rae said Monday in an interview. “We want to break the mould a little bit.”
While the exact proposals are to come, I have to admit to being a little excited on reading this. It could really be a major development in Canadian politics.

Coincidentally, the New York Times did a series yesterday on the issue of mandatory voting. Some of what was covered in the various contributions speaks to the rationale behind the primary idea raised above in the context of the Liberal situation. Law professor Richard Pildes said no to mandatory voting and instead made the point that instead you have to make elections more competitive. He said a few interesting things:
If we care about increasing voter turnout, we ought to care about enhancing political competition.

Increasing competition has other benefits as well. Competitive pressures keep elected officials more accountable and responsive to the average voter; these pressures moderate extremist tendencies in politics and governance; and competition generates more information and discussion among voters about issues and candidates. While presidential elections are typically competitive, the majority of other races, including Congressional, are not.
So beyond what this idea might mean for Liberals, it could have a wider impact on the Canadian political system as well. There might be a cascading effect. Turnout is not exactly setting records in this country and could use some shaking up. At the federal level, Harper and his tactics, including unprecedented year round negative advertising, indicate a tendency more toward voter suppression rather than encouraging voting. This might be a way of countering that tendency.

Back to Pildes, he also voiced support for the primary system itself in calling for what I guess what be a greater expansion of an open or semi-open primary system in the U.S. to the states:
Second, states should consider open or semi-open political primaries, in which voters not registered with a political party can vote in the primary of their choice. Broadening the primary electorate by opening participation to independent voters generates more centrist candidates and helps make general elections more competitive.
That is another angle that would become apparent if there were to be a Liberal primary, the types of candidates who might enter a less closed off system.

One of the other questions that might arise is covered in one of the other contributions in the Times, where political scientist Andrew Gelman writes about understanding nonvoters and what way they might lean if they actually voted. There are a few studies cited there that are worth a look. It would be something people would wonder about if a whole new pool of non-Liberals could vote in a primary, what kind of orientation would they have, what type of candidate would they be inclined to support, etc.

Anyway, interesting coincidence that all that material presented itself as a backdrop to possible primary proposals being in the Liberal mix for discussion. We'll see what they are and it should be an interesting debate.

See also: "Liberal Party executive at last proposes substantive change."

Monday, November 07, 2011

Consistency on merit based appointments

In the news this past week, we have seen that Senator Leo Housakos is not thrilled with the Auditor General appointment: "Tory senator remains critical of unilingual AG appointment." He's against the unilingual appointment, fair enough, the job requirement was not met and he joins many in that criticism.

But the Senator doesn't exactly come from a place of high credibility on the matter of government appointments: "Conservative Senator Leo Housakos has been in the upper chamber for only two years, but in that time a half-dozen of his friends and former associates have turned up in government posts -- including the No. 2 job at the CRTC." Defending this raft of appointments that coincidentally have links to him hasn't exactly been believable. For example, Housakos applied for his friend, Pentefountas to become CRTC vice-chair and yet Pentefountas' qualifications for that post at a highly specialized tribunal were panned at the time.

Maybe if Senator Housakos pushed for a fully reformed appointments process, his comments on the Auditor General might be more interesting. Otherwise, you might think he's just doing damage control for Conservatives in Quebec by being the Conservative Senator tapped to fly the bilingualism flag during the fallout from that appointment.

It's well past time that government appointments be made solely on the basis of merit. It's the way the rest of the world operates and the fact that Ottawa continues to be in the business of avoiding such professionalism helps to undermine our politics. Not that some of us really expect the Harper government at this point to act much differently. But it always deserves to be pointed out.

The "new politics"

This doesn't feel new at all:
Scrapping the long-gun registry has been a particularly controversial issue for Ashton as MP for a northern Manitoba riding, one that has a heavy aboriginal population. She has sided with the government before and voted to abolish the registry when a private member's bill on it was before the House of Commons. But she has since changed her mind and on the government's new bill to eliminate the registry she voted last week with her party and against the government.

Ashton addressed the flip-flop Monday.

"I support the fact that Quebec wants a registry, that it is very important that the federal government be there to support Quebec and other regions that want a registry. That is why I voted the way I did last week in the House of Commons. Prior to that it has also been very important for me to bring forward the fact that regions and people, such as northern and aboriginal people have real concerns with the registry," she said.
She said as she launched her campaign in Quebec.

Oh, I know, all parties and members have their flip flops from time to time. But if you're going to claim to be all about the new politics, your glaring record that speaks the opposite is not exactly helpful.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Friday night



I go with new Deadmau5 tonight. If you need your Kaskade fix, llove this one this week.

Have a good night!

Shortsighted

This may come back to bite: "Harper says no Canadian money for European bailout." Pay some now or will we be paying much more later? We'll see.

Great photo accompanying that story too. That look on Obama's face as he interacts with Harper is priceless.

An alliance for useful evidence

You can't speak a much plainer truth than Jeffrey Simpson does today on the Harper government's criminal justice policies that are not rationally connected to the facts and are commandeering disproportionate and unwarranted sums of dollars: "There is no crime epidemic."
Without any of these measures, almost all crime rates in Canada are falling, and not just homicide. The way to keep them falling is not only to insist on excellent police work but also to target policies at troubled areas and to work on the causes of crime, causes often rooted in social dislocation, mental illness and economic conditions.

Canada doesn’t have an epidemic of crime, no matter how much the media play up criminal acts and how often the government talks up the peril. Canada has a challenge of crime, the response to which from this government is almost completely counterproductive.
Well said. In the UK this week, there was an interesting launch that speaks to this very situation of a government making decisions that are disconnected from the evidence staring them in the face:
A drive to ensure that scarce public money is spent only on policies that produce measurable results has been launched by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, a think-tank headed by the former No 10 policy adviser Geoff Mulgan.

It is establishing the UK Alliance for Useful Evidence, in collaboration with the Economic and Social Research Council, to act as a catalyst to both generate and promote use of evidence on interventions that work and those that don’t, as policymakers struggle to squeeze maximum value from a shrinking public purse.
...
“If you are in charge of money in the public sector [and] if you aren’t aware of the evidence base in your field you aren’t doing your job.“
You could add to that quote something to the effect that willfully ignoring the evidence also means that you're not doing your job. Particularly in this era where supposed leaders preach austerity.

That Alliance sounds useful, doesn't it? It is intended to be a global organization. Maybe we could use a branch here in Canada over the coming years to lend a hand. Somebody send a bat signal or something.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

It's that time again

It's G20 time, that is. Here is POTUS' G20 Schedule for the day. They're very forthcoming, the Americans about such things. Us, not so much. So what can we say about what to expect?

We'll probably see another nation showing us that it really doesn't cost that much to host one of these shindigs.

If you read POTUS' schedule, you will note that the G20 "family" photo takes place at 4:05 CET. Always a bit of intrigue surrounding Harper and those photos.

Harper will hold forth to the other nations
:
-He will implore the Euro-peans to end months, if not years, of economic foot-dragging and to finally make some tough decisions. He says they must realize that it will involve "pain;"

--He will remind all G20 part-ners, most notably the United States, of the need to make good on their commitment to reach targets for deficit and debt reduction;

--To the emerging economic powerhouse of China, he will not back away from a message that has fallen on deaf ears - it's time for that country to pull away from its fixed currency so that the global economic trading imbalance can be resolved.

--He will urge all countries to implement financial-sector reforms agreed to in previous summits; and finally

--He will emphasize the im-portance of resisting protectionist trade measures.
It's a very serious meeting, actually. But we certainly seem to always be the ones pointing fingers at others these days, not so much in the boat rowing along with them.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Late night



R.E.M. called it quits but they have a new song on a forthcoming retrospective album thingy. Accompanying video above is the effect of a camera on Kirsten Dunst for three plus minutes. That's it. The alternate version, totally different reaction. Not a bad song either.

Leadership fundraising rules a changin' again - but just for some

Updated 11:30 p.m. below.

The Conservatives love to change the rules surrounding financing of leadership contests while their opponents are ensconced in them. They did it in 2006 to trip up the Liberal leadership candidates then, putting a squeeze on their future fundraising abilities by drastically dialling back the amounts candidates could raise (to a one-time $1,100 amount). This time, however, they're being lenient to the NDP and the new rules will not affect their race. My, isn't that interesting. "Conservative bill will limit loans to political candidates."
The Conservative government introduced new legislation Wednesday that establishes tougher rules around political loans, treating them similar to political donations.
...
The Political Loans Accountability Act will ban unions and corporations from making loans to political parties, associations, candidates and contestants. They are already banned from making donations. The new legislation also limits total loans individuals can make to $1,100 — the same maximum amount that individuals are allowed to make in annual donations. Only financial institutions and political entities, such as parties or associations, can make loans beyond that amount.

In addition, the bill establishes a strict reporting regime for loans given, and puts the onus on riding associations or parties to repay loans taken out by candidates if they fail to pay them. It also alters the contribution limits for leadership contestants from a per-event basis to a per-year basis.
...
The bill will come into force six months after the it receives royal assent. It will not be retroactive, which means it will not apply to the current NDP leadership race. But Uppal urged the candidates to “follow through on the spirit of this bill” anyway.

The new rules are expected to apply to the Liberal leadership race, which will occur sometime in 2013.
The NDP critic doesn't see anything wrong with the legislation, not a surprise. But he should. This is unnecessarily restrictive and in a system which is transparent and rigorous, $1,100 loan limits are ridiculous and the narrowing of the sources to finance leadership campaigns is also excessive.

So the limits will apply to Liberals down the road. The decision to put off the Liberal leadership was one that the party agreed upon in order to engage in renewal and it was one that had a good deal of consensus behind it. And there is still plenty of upside to the decision and taking the time to engage in that renewal process. There are some good candidates coming forth for the national executive positions to be decided at the convention in January who are and will be speaking to that process.

Obviously, events occurred in the last six months that were not foreseen at the time of the decision making to put off leadership, let's not kid ourselves. There's nothing to be done about that now. And irrespective of when Liberals would have held their leadership, this loan legislation would have been forthcoming. The NDP is quite fortunate Liberals aren't having theirs now. Otherwise, you can bet this loan legislation would have been fast and furious and applicable to them as well.

Update (11:30 p.m.): Greg points out that the donations to leadership candidates - not loans - will indeed be changed from a one-time global $1,100 donation to $1,100 per year for leadership candidates. As the above excerpt does mention. Which change is somewhat helpful (Update: after many Liberal leadership candidates struggled under the $1,100 one time amount repayment limit for years now, thanks). But I don't think there's much disputing that the new $1,100 limit on loans by individuals (financial institutions and political entities can make loans > than $1,100) and the narrowing of loan sources will indeed be ground shifting.

Update (11:40 p.m.): CBC item on the 2006 changes versus the 2011 changes.

Final update of the night: If the NDP has been in support of these loan principles for years, I don't see why they wouldn't live up to those principles right now.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Expectations

"Peggy Nash: a Thatcher for the left?"

Between this and the Diebel piece, her opponents must be wondering what the heck is going on. Or, who knows, maybe they like it.

By the way, she's 2 for 4 in Parkdale-High Park. Lost 2004. Won 2006. Lost 2008. Won in 2011 after having been nominated in January 2010 and running for well over a year in advance of the May 2011 campaign.

Expectations are a tricky thing...