Thursday, June 30, 2011

More on the AECL farce

From the smart folks at Enviralment:
Montreal-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin has begrudgingly stepped up to buy the commercial arm of the crown corporation. The firm is no stranger to CANDU technology, having worked closely with AECL in the past, helping to construct and refurbish CANDU reactors. The sale has been in the works for several years, with many bidders stepping up to the plate but ultimately passing on the deal. Earlier this year, in perhaps one final attempt to kill the commercial arm of the company, the federal government slashed nearly 85% its funding, from $696 million in 2010 to $102 million dollars in 2011. Some 900 layoffs are expected in the wake of the sale, including many scientists and engineers. AECL is a huge asset to Canada, currently employing about 5000 people in highly scientific and advanced engineering roles.

The sale to SNC-Lavalin also puts the future of nuclear power in Ontario into doubt. The province had been planning to purchase two new CANDU reactors from AECL for installation at its Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, but that proposition is now full of uncertainty. The Darlington project would have been a huge windfall for AECL, once again making it a viable player in the nuclear reactor business. Instead, the company received years of neglect and disinterest from the feds, followed by a swift kick in the ass out the door.

By selling the crown corporation, the federal government is not only gambling with Canada’s energy security, but it is literally throwing away one of our nation’s most significant scientific endeavours. Naturally the federal government is only too happy to collect the royalties for future use of CANDU technology, but from now on the nuclear business in Canada is somebody else’s problem. Tax payers get the short end of the stick by not seeing a return on their investment, provinces are left holding the bag for much needed new infrastructure, high-tech workers will leave Canada for better opportunities elsewhere, and the private sector is now saddled with something it doesn’t want and may not be able to effectively run. It’s a simple equation: nobody wins when you sacrifice a vital national industry on the altar of cost-cutting.
Well said.

Ritz on the Wheat Board plebiscite



It's quick, you'll get it in the first ten seconds. More here, "Ritz takes swipe at CWB; says plebiscite irrelevant," and in this piece which quotes Oberg, the Wheat Board Chair with details on the summer's plebiscite. The result will be in before the fall parliamentary session during which the Harper government will seek to end the Wheat Board's single desk system with new legislation. If the 60 to 70,000 farmers eligible to vote indicate that they support retaining the single desk, you'd like to think that in a democratic nation that would count for something.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Late night



Are you tired of Glastonbury yet? I'm not. Yes, Beyonce with her all girl band it is tonight. She was quite awesome on Sunday, closed it out. This fan video is not bad actually, it sounds good even though it's a bit jumpy visually.

You have to be American to pull off that outfit, by the way.

$15 million for AECL

"Ottawa sells AECL to SNC-Lavalin."
The federal government is selling Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s Candu division for $15-million and future royalties, after pouring billions of dollars into the troubled nuclear company to get it ready for privatization.
$15 million. Jaw dropping. Just wow. A Harper legacy for the ages. This sale was troubled way before the Japan situation. See Teneycke, Kory, for just one example.

Looks like job losses in the works, SNC is keeping 1,200 of the 2,000 AECL commercial employees, according to the report.

Most significantly, there doesn't seem to be any word on what the federal government is prepared to do in terms of financial guarantees on Ontario's plans to add to the Darlington nuclear plant, which both the Liberal government and the provincial PCs support (the NDP are taking a "not right now" stance on that although they seem to hedge as well in their platform). Sounds like SNC wants nothing to do with such guarantees and that's not surprising, they don't have that capability. Looks like it's going to be an issue in Ontario in the coming electorally significant months and its notable that it's been left out of the equation at the moment.

Update (6:40 p.m.): On the job situation, from Canadian Press: "...SNC-Lavalin is creating a new division called Candu Energy that will house AECL's three former business lines. About 1,200 AECL employees will move to Candu Energy, less than a quarter of the 5,000 workers the Crown company employs."

Further, this is attributed to the Natural Resources minister, on the prospective Ontario nuclear purchases: "Oliver said Ottawa won't be responsible for any cost overruns if Ontario moves ahead with new nuclear power stations." Huge for Ontario.

Wednesday drive-by blogging

From some American links that caught the eye and offer a mirror to things Canadian in their own respective ways...

First, a brilliant post, "Democracy and Gay Marriage" by Ta-Nehisi Coates. On what turned one New York Senator to vote yes to gay marriage, his personal family fallout when the gay nephew of the woman he was living with cut off contact with the senator/family due to his anti-gay marriage stance. Coates writes about that and has some thoughts on democracy and liberalism:
Coming out to your family is a specific trauma that doesn't really translate directly to other groups who've the felt the boot on their neck. If there's a parallel experience, it doesn't occur to me. As indicated here, it's often the source of great pain. But it is also the source of great political power. People who seek to ostracize gays must always countenance the potential for disappearing their very family members. It's not like red-lining black people into ghettos. Homophobes must always face the prospect of condemning their own flesh and blood.

Surely there are those, who, with depressing regularity, rise to the occasion. But democracy in America is fundamentally optimistic in that holds that a critical mass of the electorate is persuadable. I've long been skeptical of this implicit assumption. But as I've aged, I have come to see it as quite brilliant. In the present case, I don't know of a more powerful tool of democratic persuasion than the prospect of losing family.

It's been tremendously inspiring to watch gay Americans wield these twin swords--humanism and democracy--against bigotry. It's also, as you've probably noticed, helped clarify my feelings around liberalism's long war.

I don't want to give in to liberal frustrationism. I've already been there and the only logical outcome is profoundly undemocratic. As I said in comments, surely Ben Tillman reigned during the time of Ida B. Wells. But whose America do we live in? Who really won that war?
Great thoughts and that term, liberal frustrationism, is a keeper.

Also notable today, Brad DeLong thinks for the first time that Obama will lose in 2012, prompted by David Frum's critique: "Obama is his own worst enemy."

Finally, this excellent blog post on how institutional investors are effectively doing the job of the SEC and the DOJ in punishing executives and companies responsible for the financial crisis/mortgage meltdown through class action litigation. When government is not doing its job, sometimes the lawyers will.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Late night



Look at the crowd for Laura Marling, wow. What a great voice.

24 hours in post-election & post-parliamentary session developments

A few items from the past 24 hours that have that air of careful timing to them for a government that would prefer such things to occur beyond the parliamentary session.

1. "Axe hits Industry Canada amid questions about timing of Tory cuts."
"...the timing of the news is being questioned given that many of the cuts stem from restraint plans launched more than a year ago – not the government cuts promised in the 2011 budget.

“People didn’t know that these plans were in place, of course, until after the government was elected, so I find that whole thing rather distasteful,” said Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. “People knew what was going to happen, but they saved announcements until after the election.”
2. "Ex-Tory minister Stockwell Day sets up government relations firm." Optics! It's called Stockwell Day Connex. Except he is avowing he will not be connecting in the lobbying sense and has the blessing of the ethics commissioner.

3. And finally, this news, which is big but has never really garnered enough attention in Ottawa or elsewhere: "Ottawa to sell AECL to SNC-Lavalin." This is big for Ontario especially, seeking to buy two CANDU reactors and who will now have to deal with a private corporation and with no government backstop for risks, i.e., cost overruns, etc. Maybe this will get some more analysis now that it's finally coming to fruition.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Late night



More from Glastonbury, Ed Sheeran who is 20 years old! Man. "Cool girl, no phone...," great line.

Arts funding arbitrariness

Despite the diplomatic reaction by a SummerWorks board member, this does seem like a predictable result given last year's Prime Ministerial public pronouncement about the content of one play put on by SummerWorks, a Toronto summer theatre festival: "Ottawa cancels funding for Toronto theatre festival that presented terrorist play." Given that the government is clearly in the business of funding arts festivals of many varieties, it's not as if there isn't funding available for such a festival. The festival had been receiving just under $50,000 per year in support, not an inordinate amount. So last year's controversy, despite denials from the ministry, can't help but factor into a perception that the defunding is connected to the criticism of that one play's content (“last year, the Department of Canadian Heritage received over 10,000 funding requests for local events and festivals across Canada. The total demand far exceeds available funding, and therefore choices must be made.”)

There is an element of arbitrariness to our arts funding execution that this SummerWorks news underscores. If we are going to support arts groups, and clearly we do, there needs to be a fair process that allows for groups to plan appropriately. Apparently SummerWorks has received the news that they can't count on this year's support just about a month before the festival begins. The process needs to have more certainty. Not in the sense that everyone is guaranteed funding, but that it needs to be less of an Academy Award moment that sees lucky winners gaining the largesse of the ministry. It appears arbitrary.

Consider as well controversies over government funding of other entities that have made news in the past year. There was the "not" added to the Kairos funding after it had been thought to have passed departmental criteria. Throw in the rejection of Toronto Pride funding after it had passed the government's criteria for funding.

Merit and defined criteria, not politics, should be the driving force behind all such decisions across government departments. Unfortunately, with this government and its track record, the perception is that that it is the politics, not merit that drive the decisions.

Liberalbook



That's what it looks like to me and it's a needed evolution. There are lots of discussions out there on the future of the party in niches yet this central gathering place was missing.

Only critique, what is with the muzak...come on people!

Going to plan

As a clever person pointed out to me last week, the fall 2008 economic update is being executed now quite swimmingly following the election. We saw this one come to fruition in the budget:
Today, our Government is eliminating the $1.95-per-vote taxpayer subsidy for politicians and their parties, effective April 1, 2009.
Check. Albeit that the subsidy elimination is being carried out more gradually over a few years.

Further, the Harper government's treatment of the labour disputes at Air Canada and Canada Post saw these principles borne out:
We will introduce legislation to ensure that the pay for the public sector grows only in line with what taxpayers can afford as the economy slows.

This legislation will put in place annual public service wage increases of 2.3 per cent for 2007–08, and 1.5 per cent for the following three years.

This restraint will also apply to MPs, Senators, Cabinet Ministers and senior public servants.

The legislation would also temporarily suspend the right to strike through 2010–11.
Check. Ballpark on the wage increases for Canada Post. And the right to strike in the federal public sector may prove to be "suspended" right through 2015, who knows.

Horwath gaffe watch

So, the Ontario election campaign is getting a little more interesting of late. This quote by NDP leader Andrea Horwath really deserves a second look:
“I’m putting a party back in the party,” Horwath, 48, said Sunday, one day after raising eyebrows and a few hoots with an unscripted crack about holding back some of her party’s election platform for later in the campaign.

“I’m a woman — I know you don’t give it up all at once,” Horwath told reporters.
That day after Horwath spin that this was just her being funny wasn't very convincing. I enjoy teh funny too, very much so. This quote, however, wasn't so funny. It was a bizarre thing for a progressive politician to say, let alone a progressive woman. Bottom line, it was a gaffe. On a big launch day, at a special event centered around their platform, the leader says something weird and unhelpful for women. Raises doubts about the readiness for prime time. While it may or may not be a harmful incident here and now, as she may be given a pass like some seem to be handing out, it may yet be a problem during the campaign and something to watch.

Late night



From the UK Glastonbury music festival, which is now over. Glastonbury's always worth watching just for the crowds and how they get into the songs, like this one. It's magic. Just when you think a group may sound tired, they surprise.

Oh, and you have to be a rock star to wear different colour shoe laces, in case you're thinking of trying it out there.

Blogging has been light, it's summer and it's not like there's much going on out there anyway, right? Should resume at a semi-normal pace anytime now...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Afghan detainee docs released

4000 of 40,000 documents have been released this afternoon. There may be much discussion to come on what is being released, how much has been redacted, etc. This report from the reviewers who worked in conjunction with the committee is important background information to be read in connection with it all. If you are so inclined. Various media organizations will be uploading the documents for all to peruse. Have at it.

Update: Apparently it's 4000 pages of 40,000 pages, not documents, apologies.

Afghan Detainee Document Review - Canada

The RCMP G8 evaluation in the early going

The way the news of a possible RCMP investigation into the Harper government's G8 spending broke yesterday really was interesting.

We have learned, courtesy of the Auditor General's review, of $50 million being spent on G8 legacy projects in Tony Clement's riding, that $50 million having been drawn from an $83 million border infrastructure fund that was approved by parliament. The Auditor General's office questioned the lack of paperwork accompanying the projects chosen for Clement's riding. The acting Auditor General mused out loud about the Appropriations Act and whether "or not this was inside or outside of the Appropriations Act." I think it's fair to assume that the federal police force would have taken note of these comments. Or at least, that they should have. The facts as they have been revealed to the public, courtesy of the independent Auditor General's report, have been significant and troubling.

Yet what we saw yesterday was that a former Liberal MP seemed to possibly be a driving force behind the initial inquiry that's being done. It did not appear that the RCMP had initiated action on its own. At least, that seemed to be the perception because if it was otherwise, they really didn't do anything to dispel that perception in their public statements. It made the RCMP look reactionary and passive. And it allows for an unfortunate perception of a partisan taint when there should be no questions in the air about such matters. This strikes you as a situation that a credible federal police body shouldn't need to be prompted to look into, let alone by a former MP of any stripe.

We will have to wait and see whether a full investigation comes out of this in any event.

70 years ago today

For the history buffs out there, this is one of Churchill's very memorable speeches selected in Brad DeLong's liveblog of today in World War II: "Winston Churchill Liveblogs World War II: June 22, 1941."
"We have but one aim and one single, irrevocable purpose. We are resolved to destroy Hitler and every vestige of die Nazi regime. From this nothing will turn us - nothing. We will never parley, we will never negotiate with Hitler or any of his gang. We shall fight him by land, we shall fight him by sea, we shall fight him in the air until, with God's help, we have rid the earth of his shadow and liberated its peoples from his yoke. ..."
It is an inspiring and quick read. His confidence and clarity in those moments never fail to amaze. And make you do that comparative consideration of your own present day circumstances and the issues facing our country.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Late night

whimsyandcolour.com: Prairie Waves, Squiggly Line Clouds

Today was the summer solstice, did you miss it?

Thanks to Theo who, as always, likes to share his art.

The results are in

While it's interesting to have a glance at an early sense from Canadians on how they're feeling about what they just elected federally, part of this Nanos poll seems utterly useless:
About one-third of survey respondents (32.3 per cent) said Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the most trustworthy leader, putting him ahead of Opposition Leader Jack Layton (29.4 per cent), Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae (8.4 per cent) and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (1.3 per cent).

Nearly four in 10 people considered Harper to be the most competent leader (38.5 per cent), when compared to Layton (24.1 per cent), Rae (10.4 per cent) and May (2.3 per cent).

When asked which leader had the best vision for Canada's future, 33.7 per cent of respondents picked Harper, who drew more support than Layton (28.4 per cent), Rae (8.5 per cent) and May (4.5 per cent).

The new Nanos poll marked the first time that Canadians were asked about Rae, who was only appointed as Liberal leader late last month.
Gee, I expected Rae to be knocking it out of the park on all counts. He's had almost a month to demonstrate his competence as a leader and lay out his vision for Canada's future after all...

Quebec fallout still unfolding

According to this report last night, another PQ MNA, Benoit Charette, is about to leave the party and that will be announced today: "Au tour du député de Deux-Montagnes de quitter le PQ." He is said to be close to Francois Legault. For non-Quebecers, Legault is not a familiar name but that could change. There was a piece in the Globe last week on how Legault could well become Quebec's next premier. Polls are showing at the present time that Quebecers' desire for change could propel a new Legault-led right of centre party into government with substantial reductions for the old parties, the PQ and the Liberals. He's attracting interest from party people of all stripes. Support for Legault seems to be about what's new, what's change and less to do with ideological rigidity.

There's also talk about a new party to rival the PQ. One of the four PQ MNA's who resigned from the PQ a few weeks ago is considering starting a new party: "L'ex-péquiste Jean-Martin Aussant songe à créer un nouveau parti." Pierre Curzi, one of Aussant's co-departistes is also said to be exploring the idea of a new party. Joseph Facal wrote yesterday about a possible breakdown of the PQ itself.

The political landscape in Quebec is still unfolding in new ways that don't seem to be very friendly toward the old school parties at all.

Party officials with newspaper columns

Quite a read, Brian Topp's just in from Vancouver item in the Globe on Monday. I expected him to tell us more, given this opening:
The New Democratic Party met in convention this weekend. What happened and what did it mean?
There are glowing lines about the rapturous welcome given to the 103 NDP MPs, the most successful leader in NDP history, the gift of youth "long into this century" for the party, etc. All very understated stuff. What goes unmentioned, however, is that Topp was elected President of the party. No bio upgrade there on the right either.

Elsewhere, Topp writes this on the "socialist" in the preamble problem (without mentioning the word socialist): "But they voted, near-unanimously, to refer the matter back to the party's officers for more work." The party's officers? I think the word he's looking for there is "me." 

I think about how I would react if the Conservative party president had a regular platform in the Globe or another national media outlet. Not well. And it's no different for the NDP party president.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Liberal Extraordinary Convention: Leadership in 2013

Just a quick post here on the results of this afternoon's convention which went off without a hitch and with much collegiality on Twitter.

The date for selection of the next leader was the principal issue of the day. A proposal initiated by a North Vancouver delegate won the day, pushing a vote back to a date between March 1, 2013 and June 30, 2013. This extended the time frame the national executive had proposed, a date between November 1, 2012 and February 28, 2013. So we're not talking a major extension of time but every little push in months into the future allows for a greater emphasis on other issues than leadership and more on rebuilding. That seemed to be the sense that was rallied to during the debate.

Oh heck, let's just let Mr. Milliken handle this.

Multiple hours on the phone were fun but have done me in for the day! Have a good one!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday night



Going with a Deadmau5 fave this week.

If you want new stuff, check out the NXNE music festival going on all over Toronto, lots of variety there. These highlights are from Wednesday but they're posting videos for each day:



Have a good night!

Liberal Extraordinary Convention tomorrow

The details surrounding the Liberal Extraordinary Convention are online. The event is going to be fully open to the public with a live audio stream along with a livechat as well. Peter Milliken is chairing the event, Bob Rae will be giving an initial interim leader report.

Along with the main constitutional amendment proposal that has been made by the party executive, there are five sub-amendments for Liberals to think about. I encourage everyone to spend time tonight and tomorrow in advance of the 3:00 p.m. convention reading the proposed amendment and the sub-amendments. The rules of the convention are also a necessary read, they're not too complex and will help with a smooth process on Saturday.

In terms of what I'm supporting, I favour a longer time frame for selection of a leader, a 2013 selection date. A principal reason for me is a desire to attract people to the leadership who may not presently be contemplating it. To attract younger candidates who may be committed to other endeavours in their lives but who have a spark of interest that might be cultivated. Those candidates might be people who are presently involved in the party but who haven't been on the leadership radar to date. But there may be others out there as well who are of the Liberal persuasion too and who might be considering a dive in. A shorter time frame can work against such individuals.

I also favour a longer time frame so that the party can work on instrumental things in the mean time. Get membership drives going, yes, you can do that independent of leadership. Leadership races may be good ways to do so, sure, and that will happen. But you want people who are in it for the long term, for the party independent of a loyalty to one person. Get field workers to help work that as well. Among other things to be done.

And really, when we look at all the proposals, the majority of them do point toward a 2013 leadership selection, except for the Jedras proposal, the second sub-amendment proposal on the list, which I would respectfully disagree with for the above reasons.

The main amendment under consideration tomorrow would set a leadership vote to occur between November 1, 2012 and February 28, 2013.

The PEI/Yukon proposal contains three sub-amendments. It would set a leadership vote to occur between November 1, 2012 and June 28th, 2013. This extended time frame is driven by a desire to push the January 2012 biennial convention back to end of June 2012. They also seek flexibility in terms of the location of the biennial.

The North Vancouver sub-amendment would set a leadership vote between March 1, 2013 and June 30, 2013.

I have been inclined to support the main amendment proposal to date. I am glad to see other options being presented for consideration, however, that would permit a leadership race even further into 2013 and look forward to the discussion about that. I hope it is fulsome and that there is a good hearing on it. I find it interesting that we see these two initiatives, both the PEI/Yukon and the North Vancouver sub-amendment leadership proposals having the end of June 2013 outer limit in common.

Peruse, think and choose, whatever your preferred option is. See (or hear) you tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Go Canucks...and a few other things

It's the big Canucks game day and all so people are likely not going to be very interested in Canadian politics. But some big things are happening that bear mentioning.

First of all, the ludicrous situation with how the two strike actions going on in the country are developing. The Harper government is giving Air Canada and its union two days, if that, to work out an agreement under threat of back to work legislation. This comes after just one day of strike activity and under guise of the harm that can be done to the economy, the go-to winner rationale for Harp et al. On the heels of that development, that must have been happily viewed by Canada Post management, news late last night that whooops, the Canada Post workers have been locked out by management. Will it be back to work legislation for Canada Post via harm to the economy redux? So much for free and fair collective bargaining as the Harper majority era kicks off.

Second, Tim Naumetz has a report on some specifics of budget cuts including an "unexplained" 20 percent cut at Environment Canada. Look forward to the explanation of that one. Particularly when we have a steep climb to undertake in order to meet the GHG reduction target we've agreed to by 2020, a 17% reduction from 2005 levels. Last week at the UNFCC conference in Bonn, we gave a presentation that was not well received at all by many other countries in attendance. See slide 11 of the presentation that reiterates a point made in recent months by Peter Kent. That current action by all levels of government is not going to meet the GHG target the government has agreed to and will only result in achieving a quarter of those reductions. Doesn't seem like the time to be making steep cuts in Environment Canada's budget but as Naumetz notes, it is as of yet "unexplained."

Finally, this! Too unbelievable, couldn't resist. Possibly a metaphor of some kind for the above items...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CANARIE chirps about their funding

A follow-up to yesterday's post, "Setting a high tech government funded asset adrift," where the sunsetting of funding for CANARIE, Canada’s Advanced Research and Innovation Network, was raised. I did so based on a post at OpenMedia.ca by a media analyst, Dwayne Winseck. There he pointed out the language in the Harper government's budget, just passed:
Five years is up next year and, guess what, CANARIE’s funding is set to be eliminated. Never mind that much needs to be done, and the Harper Government’s own previous praise for it as a leader in its field, funding levels that have hovered between $20 and $30 million for most of the last decade appear in this year’s budget to fall to zero next year (see pp. 209-210).

As the dry language of that document states, the “reduction of $31 million is due to the sunsetting of the grant”.
CANARIE has blogged about the issue today as a matter of clarification (they seem to have focused on my blog item and not Winseck's, who raised it initially, perhaps because I was more colourful about the implications):
CANARIE receives funding in five-year blocks, so the current Government estimates indicate that CANARIE’s funding is to be retired. That language can be confusing — what it really means is that this five-year funding block expires this year. BUT — CANARIE will apply for another five-year funding block, which will be included in the March 2012 budget.

CANARIE’s senior leadership team have been working closely with Industry Canada in putting the final touches on our proposal for mandate renewal, which presents a strong case for the need for ongoing funding of CANARIE if Canada is to continue to engage in world-leading science, research, innovation and discovery.

If you want more detail on the proposal, go to our website at www.canarie.ca and watch our CEO, Mark Roman present the elements we are proposing. Of course we are mindful of the fiscal environment the Government is managing right now, and our proposal reflects a balanced approach to the need for advanced digital infrastructure in a challenging environment.
I would hope that is the case because CANARIE seems to be a highly valuable research entity for the Government of Canada to be investing in. You can understand why there might be some skepticism, however, given the current fiscal environment, the fact that they are renegotiating and there have been other agencies in recent years whose funding has gone poof despite similar impressions that all was well in their dealings with Harper government officials.

Happy to raise awareness of this issue and follow it going forward.

You can follow them on Twitter: @CANARIE_Inc.

Canada Wheat Board fight begins



As the video above explains, the NDP government in Manitoba, facing an election in October this year, is rolling out taxpayer funded ads to oppose the federal Conservatives' intended move to take away the Wheat Board's monopoly: "Manitoba releases pro-wheat board ads as election looms." Governments of all stripes do love those ads, the ones that don't come out of their party coffers.

Despite the federal position, that the Conservatives have won their majority with its supposed affirmation of their position on the Wheat Board, there is a fight shaping up. There is this difficulty for the federal position, for example:
“This is an organization that’s funded entirely by farmers,” added Allen Oberg, chair of the CWB, “The present law says the way to decide this issue is with a plebiscite, so that’s what’s at stake here.”
Ritz's answer to that is classic:
Following his address, Ritz conceded that Goodale is "half right. There is a vote required if you're changing commodities that the board is handling ... But when you're fundamentally changing the full act, that comes down to the supremacy of Parliament,'' Ritz said. "We're removing the (Canadian Wheat Board) Act. Removing the act is substantially different than removing a commodity (from the CWB Act).''
The principle underlying the right to a vote is being violated though. If there is a change in a commodity being handled, the Act seems to contemplate that a vote is warranted because that is a significant change that affects farmers. Similarly, if the Conservatives make a change to the very operation of the Board - albeit under a new Act - a change that will significantly affect farmers, that should also warrant a vote. There is an expectation of participation that's been created under the present Act and if it's taken away, well, you can see the opposition that is clearly there.

There was, however, this bit of happy karma for Ritz:
Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz slammed the CWB and the Selinger government for the ads in an emailed statement Monday, accusing them of “engaging in gratuitous fear mongering.”
The irony be strong with Ritz, very strong.

An issue to watch, clearly.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Setting a high tech government funded asset adrift

Here is an item today that may be an indicator of the ideological underpinnings of this government shining through.

See this post from Dwayne Winseck at the OpenMedia.ca site on the government's decision to no longer fund Canada’s Advanced Research and Innovation Network (aka the "CANARIE network) as of 2012, confirmed in the budget. CANARIE has been a publicly funded entity since its inception and acts as an innovative, highly resourced internet catalyst for research, application development in conjunction with the private sector, promoting internet connectivity throughout Canada, etc. Here is Tony Clement enjoying himself at a CANARIE event in February.

This may be the issue with CANARIE and why its funding is set to "sunset" as it is being put:
But CANARIE has, since it’s inception, been designed as a non-commercial entity that aims to further the development of Next Generation Networks and applications for them, rather than either an extension of or competitor to the major commercial network providers in Canada: Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Telus, Quebecor and Cogeco. It develops and experiments with networks that are far more advanced than what commercial providers offer and its networks are based on inviolable commitment to the principles long associated with the Internet: open systems and interoperability.

At a time when those principles are under assault, and the commercial development of networks in Canada lags its major global counterparts, CANARIE in a sense has competed with the private sector by showing what is feasible, and what can be done.
It seems to be a government backed research champion that pushes research limits and provides leadership in the field but works cooperatively with the private sector. The government's decision to defund runs counter to the government's stated objectives in 2007:
The government is working toward becoming a world leader in research and technology. CANARIE embodies some of the strategy’s key goals, such as promoting world-class levels fo scientific and technological excellence, and creating partnerships to accelerate the pace of discovery and commercialization in Canada.
Winseck follows up on the OpenMedia post above with a piece at his own site where the notion of CANARIE being independently funded is canvassed. Begging the question, however, of who will fund it now. Private contributors who would be interested would likely be some of those major tech actors who presently sit on CANARIE's board. Canada has funded the entity for "decades" and now it is set to be cast adrift, leader that it is in research, looking for funding. Sounds like a sort of privatization in the offing of a taxpayer funded gem and it deserves some attention.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Not a budget for one Canada"



Thought I would just do an overview kind of post on Bob Rae's House of Commons budget debate remarks from earlier this week. You can see it above (runs about 20 minutes on the video) and you can find the text here. I just want to highlight some of the themes in the remarks.

First, there was clearly an effort to send the message that the government continues to divide Canadians, that its budget choices reflect this and the government is not speaking to "one Canada":
The essential message that I bring to the House and to the people of Canada about this budget is that it is not a budget for everyone. It is not a budget that brings Canadians together. It is not a budget for one Canada. It is a budget that focuses on a certain group of people. It does far more for those who are better off than for those who are not.
Below there is a further excerpt that expands on what the above means, specifically that the tax credit choices the Conservatives favour are geared to the middle class and even those above. Begging the question of the degree of universality of policy or tax choices the government is making. 

The second excerpt I thought was notable, a commitment to fight the criminal justice policies, with the cost of prison expansions singled out in particular. While there is support that you see here and there in public opinion for the tough on crime policies of the Conservatives, the cost issue may become much more sensitive and encroach upon that support as cuts come into focus:
...I want to refer to one other item that is not in the list of things, because it relates to a major debate that we will be having in this country in the fall, and that is the cost of prisons. The government is about to take this country on a course with respect to the reform of the criminal justice system that will repeat every significant error made in the United States and made in Europe, particularly in the U.K., for which those countries are now repenting and seeing the folly and unwisdom of their ways.
There was also a pointed message to the government about the strength of its majority, an important point to continue to raise.
The majority of Canadians do not have the same priorities as the Conservative Party. That is important. We acknowledge the facts: the Conservative Party has a majority in the House, but it does not have a majority in the country. It is difficult for the Conservative Party to accept this reality. In fact, the Conservatives can do as they wish in the House, but they cannot shirk their responsibility to respect public opinion in Canada.

I would like to talk about the options available to Canadians. Throughout the country, a movement that is open to and ready for change recognizes that Canadians want a different kind of politics. This movement believes that the government is there to serve Canadians. It is a popular movement that understands the economic challenges, but that does not believe that the ideologies of the past will help.

We in the Liberal Party believe that public policy should be driven by facts and evidence, not by ideology. Every step of the way we will be challenging those policies coming forward in the House from wherever they come that are not supported by facts and evidence.
I liked that message for two reasons, because it pushes back against this Conservative-values-are-Canadian-values talking point we're hearing post-election. It also seems to reach out to Canadians, building alliances, if that's what's meant. That Liberals will be on side in supporting fact-based policy in opposition to an ideological government (see prison point above, for example, and others).

Last excerpt, this one seemed to balance the focus on poverty (in an emotional part here) with talk of creating a "truly progressive entrepreneurial culture" before going on to explain that tax credit preference system the government is fostering:
When we look at health care and at the issues of crime and social justice that I have talked about and at our tax policies, and, particularly, when we look at the importance of aboriginal issues that have still not been faced up to by the House and Canadians, we must recognize the real and present danger that we are dealing not with one Canada but with two, with those who are in and those who are out; with those who are benefiting from the good things in life and those who are not; those who have a stake, a position and security, and those who have none.

These things are avoidable. As Canadians, we do not have to accept this fate. We can lead the way as a country by saying that we want to set a standard for our country in the world and that we want to be at our best in the world. Yes, we want prosperity. Yes, we want our businesses to succeed. Yes, we want to create a truly progressive entrepreneurial culture in this country. However, we understand full well that it will mean nothing if there are still millions of people unemployed and millions of people living in poverty, and if there are those who go to bed at night in a room with six or seven people who wonder, as the wind is whistling through the windows of an overcrowded house on Big Trout Lake, in their aspirations if there is not a better world and a better place.

We must recognize that despite all of our successes, Canada has the highest suicide rate in the western world. That principally is because there are far too many young Canadians, young teenagers, young aboriginal people in particular, who do not see a way out, who do not see hope and who do not see opportunity.

As we reflect on our budgets, they are not just about what businesses or the chamber of commerce think. A budget is not just there for taxpayers, even successful taxpayers, but a budget is there for every single Canadian, whether homeless or with a home, whether on the street or in the most comfortable place, whether living in rural Canada or urban Canada

The definition of a good politics is a politics that brings everyone together. When I look at the budget, I see a consistent politics that tries to divide, that tries to separate, that says the government is there for some but not for all.

Let me provide the simple facts. Last year 24.5 million returns were filed , of which 15.2 million owed net federal tax and 9.3 million owed no federal income tax after all the credits and deductions. The fact is that without net income, one will not get the benefit of the tax credits.

In my riding, who needs piano lessons but does not get access to them? It is the poorest kids in my riding. Who has problems taking care of their loved ones? Who has problems taking care of their mother or their father?

Who needs the tax credits provided by the Conservatives? They are not simply tax credits for Canada’ middle class. They should be for everyone and not just for some. Quite frankly, that is the difference between the vision of the Liberal Party and that of the Conservative Party.
Those tax numbers underscore the exclusionary nature of the tax credit approach. And remember, tax credits are actually new Harper government spending programmes. When Harper decides to give tax credits to one group, he's spending all of our tax dollars subsidizing one group. That's hard to criticize, on a political level, because you don't necessarily want to offend that group. Rae, however, is opening up the argument by making an appeal to Canadians' sense of fairness, about the moral thing being to include everyone - if we are indeed going to make a government choice to spend money. It's about the right thing to do and the government, by favouring some who are less in need over others who have greater need, is not doing the right thing. This seems to me to be a good approach to criticizing the Harper economic choices on the targeted tax credits in question. (Whether these one-off tax credits in and of themselves are a good way to go is a whole other discussion.)

This is an inherently reactionary speech, in that Liberals are reacting to the government's agenda. And the budget will pass, no doubt about it, irrespective of what any opposition member says. Despite all that, it struck some good contrasts with the government. The "one Canada" theme in particular was clear and made an appeal to Canadians' better nature. There seemed to be a solid emotional aspect to it as well, something Liberals could use a lot more of.

Ontario's declining GHG emissions

Saw this on Live Free or Die's blog where he cites a recent Pembina item on Ontario's declining greenhouse gas emissions.
Good roundup of GHG data. This part stood out for me:
Inside Canada, provincial emissions results almost always generate some interest. Although Ontario is no longer Canada’s top emitter — a title it has lost in recent years to Alberta — the province is still probably the standout emissions story for 2009. Ontario’s emissions fell by 13 per cent from 2008 to 2009 , moving the province to 7 per cent below its 1990 emission level — a result that (for now at least) puts Ontario ahead of its 2014 target, which is to reduce emissions to 6 per cent below the 1990 level.
Glad to hear that McGuinty’s policies are having a real effect.
Just wanted to note that as I missed it in the last week. That seems to be a real positive for the coming campaign as energy issues and costs are going to be a big focus.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday night

Going with this full version of a remix that was given mucho attention this week by one Pete Tong:



Also kicking around from the last week of listening, Example, some old Matthew Good and, oh, I don't know...Kaskade! Can't let a week go by these days without our favourite DJ...

Have a good night.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

It matters

Just wanted to pick up on a thought in Warren Kinsella's post on the release of the Auditor General's report today: "Lying liars."

The Auditor General's report has confirmed what came up during the election, that there was serious non-disclosure to Parliament of G8 costs. Border infrastructure funds were used for pork barrel projects in Tony Clement's riding. Inexcusable. Yet the Conservatives were dancing on the head of the existential pin today, defending it all. Harper told us:
But Prime Minister Stephen Harper effectively shrugged. Indeed, he candidly told the Commons the border fund has been used routinely for other purposes.

"If the leader of the Liberal party had looked at the border fund he would realize it's frequently used for projects that are not in border communities," Harper said, raising hoots of derision from opposition benches.
Laughably, the border fund isn't about the border. It's actually some kind of free-for-all fund. Everyone apparently knows that according to our PM. But, if you look at the parliamentary disclosure that was made by these Conservatives, there isn't any clue that G8 spending would have been found there. The PM's position isn't defensible.

Kinsella asks the question, given the Conservatives now having their majority:
The questions that remain, then, are these: does this kind of deceit matter anymore? Shouldn’t it? Are the Conservatives right, when they sneer that you and your neighbours don’t care?
Whether it matters is a good question. I think the answer is yes and that the Conservatives are wrong to think that people don't care. They've just been able to get away with it to date.

Look at the B.C. Liberals who were re-elected with a majority government in the spring of 2009 and yet their leader was subsequently driven from office in the HST fallout. Being up front with voters on a pocket book issue was shown to matter significantly there. I'd also look to Jean Charest and the difficulties he's had in the polls, with high profile efforts to get him to resign, in the wake of public outrage over links between party financing and government contracting, for example.

We have also seen fuses lit on single issues, see the usage-based billing CRTC decision, for example where the Conservatives stepped in to overrule it: "The CRTC decision has sparked outrage across the country with Canadians rushing to sign petitions asking the Conservative government to reverse it." On a comparable level, there was also the foreign takeover of Saskatchewan's Potash Corporation that was blocked due to solid public opinion in opposition to it, fostered by strong provincial government opposition. Outrage in Canadians can clearly be kindled.

At the federal level, we're dealing with a different animal. One acutely conscious of public opinion, highly messaged and disciplined. Willing to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to bolster their messaging. And yes, the opposition to them is dispersed and media is Conservative friendly. The deck is stacked like never before. But it doesn't mean that their fuse moment can't come. Especially if they keep poking taxpayers in the eye and making decisions that seed resentment. They may think they're impervious to a run on public opinion against them but there's enough evidence to think it's just as likely that it could happen.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The "low tax plan for jobs and growth" considering user fees

Pop quiz: What do we call paying more money for government services?
Mr. Clement said departments are being asked to develop two proposals for cabinet to consider: one that involves a 5-per-cent cut and another for a 10-per-cent cut. The focus of the cuts can include all operating expenses, including wages, salaries, professional services contracts, grants and contributions, plus payments to Crown corporations.

“We are encouraging departments to develop a full range of options in areas such as administrative and program efficiencies, business consolidation and user fees,” he said. “Some of this may require legislative or machinery changes.”
Yes, you guessed right...tax increases! Of the user fee variety.

Just noting the hypocrisy. Lots more to come in the next few years.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Rae 1, Layton 0

Let's have some post-budget fun in bleak majority land! Let's compare the Rae and Layton reactions to the budget: "Opposition slams Tories’ ‘groundhog budget’." (Well, some of us look at this kind of thing in a fun way...)

Layton on the budget priorities:
“It’s not a budget that addresses the urgent needs of families right now for job creation. They’re pinning all their hopes on more tax cuts for banks but the evidence is very clear that we need much more proactive action to create jobs,” he told reporters in Ottawa.
Mmmm, sounds a little too focus-grouped to me. Key notes hit, yes, must mention "families" as if every Canadian belongs to a neat little two parent, multiple children unit. Not all of us do. "Tax cuts for banks," yes, bank hatorade, check mark for stereotypical NDP rhetoric that probably sells on main street these days. "Proactive action to create jobs," well, yes, but a little too vague. But I'm picky.

Rae on the budget priorities:
“This is a groundhog budget. It takes us back to where we were in March with a couple of very few changes. Same spirit of complacency. There’s a lot that’s left out here,” he told reporters.
...
“Basically what the government is saying is if you’re poor, your kid doesn’t get piano lessons. If you’re poor, your kid doesn’t get to go on an adventure or wilderness thing,” he said. “It’s not a document that’s intended for all Canadians. It’s just intended for a few Canadians and for people who have some money and for people who don’t have any money, you’re out of luck.”
Well, he did score a headline out of the groundhog day thing. That's primarily how he gets the big win in the blog post title. Secondly, that's not bad on the "your kid" thing. Not sure if he's presuming the old-fashioned nuclear family, see above. But at least it's done with a bit more edge, street lingo, if you will. Your kid doesn't get an "adventure or wilderness thing." Crazy. Poverty focus heartening and comes through.

Now, Layton on the Conservative mystery cuts targeted for 2014:
“I think the government on purpose is not telling Canadians what it’s going to cut because it knows it will be unpopular for doing so. I would have hoped we would have had more transparency,” he said. “Well, it looks like billions of dollars of cuts are being hidden away. So our job as the Official Opposition is going to be to root out what it is that the government is up to.”
Again, hits all the key notes. Not being transparent, correct. Job of opposition...well, yes.

Rae on the Conservative mystery cuts:
“I don’t think the government can come forward with a plan in 2011 and tell us that they’re going to get to a surplus in 2014 and not tell us how they’re going to do it. What, is it supposed to be a miracle? Is it the loaves and fishes? Like, how is this supposed to be done?”
Well, I do like that he leaves the onus on the government to disclose the plan. It's their job to tell us. A little funnier than Jack too. I like funny. Budgets are boring, let's face it.

But, this is inside the Queensway stuff, we all know. Still, it will be a game we'll all be playing in the next year and a half or so, whether we do it overtly, like above, or more impressionistically, the way a lot of voters will. May as well have some fun with it.

Blog post title to be updated for next year and a half at which time we should be in the hundreds. (Kidding!)

Monday, June 06, 2011

G20 hearings continue in Toronto tonight

Public hearings continue tonight in the west end of Toronto: 5:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at the Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall.

There is a narrow question at the heart of these hearings and posed to those making submissions: "What role should civilian oversight play with respect to the policing of major events?" The entire review, however, is much broader than that and gets at the role that the Board, as overseer of the Toronto Police may have played in, for example, erroneous communications about that "five-meter zone outside the security fence," instructions to police about Charter rights during the G20, the kettling strategy, cross-police force agreements, the Prisoner Detention Centre and lots of other key matters. Last week's hearings veered into these issues and it's likely that tonight's will as well. Deservedly so.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Sunday drive-by blogging

With thanks to pogge for the blog post title. Meant to describe shorter, list-style blog posts that raise issues in a glancing sense, not a violent one by any means!

1. The Russians really are coming. Proving once again how silly some of the rhetoric from Peter MacKay and his boss can be.

2. Some good news for those of us who are not so enamoured of the Harper government's black pen tendencies. The Federal Court dealt the government a blow this week: "Censors must not arbitrarily black out public documents, panel rules." "...the ruling stops short of saying ministers must explain why deletions were made. Rather it only requires that there be evidence that discretion was exercised; that there was a careful and appropriate consideration rather than arbitrary refusals to release information or the blacking out of embarrassing sections."

3. Worth a read, from the other day, Rick Salutin's piece: "The strange, and very political, death of hope." He's probably harder on Paul Martin than deserved, given Canada's relative strength in dealing with the fallout from the worldwide financial crisis. But there is a lesson there for Liberals. Equally applicable to other political parties as well.

4. Tom Flanagan's op-ed, "The emerging new Conservative coalition," is not a whole lot of new. The interchangeability of francophone nationalists for Ontario ethnics as a third pillar in this coalition does seem to beg the question about long-term stability. If we are looking for possible weaknesses.

5. Brigitte DePape opinion is everywhere. Pro. Con. Pro. Con. Pro. Con. I don't have much to add beyond my initial pro-take on the protest. I do believe the Arab Spring comments DePape made are being overplayed now as a metaphor, that she meant them in a Canadian context where we do have a democratic deficit in many uniquely Canadian ways. Also of note, of the top 15 "News & Politics" videos at YouTube at the moment, 5 are related to her protest.

Prog Blogs down

I see some bloggers are a little out of sorts due to Progressive Bloggers being down. They're hitting their blog rolls in lieu of the site. Hey, people? Do you not use Google Reader? I have the blog roll in the sidebar but I also have a ton of Canadian blogs in my Reader. That's how I tend to read what's going on, much faster. You don't have to keep jumping around from site to site. Don't think I could live without Google Reader these days. What with all the organizational goodness it brings to one's life.

Really, and more importantly, this post is just an excuse to share this, a new Matthew Good song that I just came across that sounds like a good Sunday song. One of those 8 minute Good epics.



Have a nice Prog Blog free Sunday! And who knows? Maybe it'll be down for a week! (Risk diversification, Tribe, risk diversification...)

Update: This post was offered in good humour, if that wasn't clear. No offence intended.

Carbon tax campaign brings climate of intimidation in Australia

Remarkable goings on in Australia: "Australian climate scientists face death threats, cyberbullying."
Australia's leading climate change scientists are being targeted by a vicious, unrelenting email campaign that has resulted in police investigations of death threats.

The Australian National University has confirmed it moved several high-profile climate scientists, economists and policy researchers into more secure buildings, following explicit threats to their personal safety.
...
More than 30 researchers across Australia ranging from ecologists and environmental policy experts to meteorologists and atmospheric physicists told The Canberra Times they are receiving a stream of abusive emails threatening violence, sexual assault, public smear campaigns and attacks on family members. (Canberra Times)
More: "Australia scientists threatened on carbon research." The outrageous threats seem to be concurrent with a public advocacy campaign that's just started in support of the government establishing a carbon tax. Yes, I know. Half a world away and also so far away from where we are in Canada. There were rallies in Australia this weekend in support of the campaign which is geared to creating public pressure, paving the way for the government to introduce a carbon tax within the next year. Here's the ad which stars Cate Blanchett. For this, she is receiving much flak:



This is something to watch, to see how the campaign of fear and intimidation plays out and whether the conservative opposition in Australia will be able to derail the carbon tax effort.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Sneaky

Updated (Sunday a.m.) below.

File under things that might have been inflammatory during a federal election that are now being rolled out and are objectionable.
The Canadian military is in talks to establish a permanent presence in up to seven foreign countries, the Minister of Defence confirmed on Thurday, marking the first time since the end of the Cold War that Canada has aimed to expand its military reach around the globe.

“As we look out into the future what we obviously try to do is anticipate where and when we will be needed,” Peter MacKay told reporters in Ottawa.

The plan, dubbed the Operation Support Hubs Network, involves establishing a permanent presence in up to seven countries including Senegal, South Korea, Kenya, Singapore and Kuwait.

In addition, Canadian officials have already signed agreements with Germany and Jamaica.
Canada is not a global military power and the need for permanent facilities in "up to seven" countries is not a discussion we've had. Yet some agreements have been signed.

There is the whole expense question too, as we see the choices being made by the Harper government, prioritizing such military expansions as above when the government is simultaneously talking up an era of restraint.

Further, there's the disregard for more civilian based efforts, such as increased support for Foreign Affairs, for example, for democratic institution building. The uprisings in Arab countries have demonstrated a real need for support of that nature from western democracies, Canada could be making a real difference that way. Those are choices we could be making.

This looks like a face-changing move for Canada and it's a little surprising to be reading about it just within one month of a federal election.

(see also)

Update (Sunday a.m.): Apparently there is an effort to dial this story back: "Canadian Bases Overseas. Maybe or Maybe Not." Reads like they're conscious of the blow back and are engaged in public relations.

Life in the Senate

One of our favourite Senators, Senator Elaine McCoy, is back in the blogosphere after a bit of an absence from her blog, Hullabaloos. Back with some wit on display yesterday as she liveblogged the Throne Speech. Some excerpts and fun insights:
Well here I am, sitting in my seat the requisite 30 minutes ahead of the ceremonial start-up.
...
Well, the chat is useful ... I learn that the Cons want 10 committee chairs out of 15 and the Libs have acquiesced.
...
The Budget will be introduced on Monday ... bragging about the stimulus package. Promises new tax credits and low tax rates.

So far, there's no talk of cutting the deficit .... hmmmm ....

3:19pm: Ach ... I see William Elliott is here (RCMP Commissioner) ... didn't he resign already? Good grief ...

More bumph on business ... sigh, this is not new, is already happening and sadly shows a piecemeal approach. Industrial strategy? National energy consensus? No way ... not even close!

Again, a National Securities Commission is promised despite the current law suits against it by many provinces. Sheesh ....

One or 2 short sentences now about cutting the deficit ... no details, of course but (we've heard it before) no cuts in transfer payments. As so many have been saying, how on earth ...?

3:25pm: I've had my head down and missed the page who proudly lifted her sign "STOP HARPER" ... don't you just love independent youthful commitment? She was swiftly escorted out ... sigh ....

Why the Throne Speech is still droning on, I don't know. Whatever legislation he didn't get through before, he's going to push it through now. Including citizen's arrests ... how lovely, a nation of snitches and snatchers ... and abolition of the long gun registry etc., etc.

25 minutes and still going ... ah, at last, some concluding type comments? But sadly not ... now we're into more repeats ... Senate reform, First Nation reform, eliminate public elections financing, MP review of Court appoiontments ... sounds more and more like the USA, doesn't it? Scary ...

3:40pm: Whew, we're done (if not done for)!
The Senator, in contrast to some reaction, seemed quite ok with the protest that occurred. She later posted Brigitte DePape's press release.

Life in the Senate could be interesting during this Parliament, in light of the reform wranglings the Harper government is bandying about, although to what constructive end remains to be seen. Nice to have this Senator's perspective back in the online community.

"Restraining the welfare state"

This piece last Sunday in the Star, "Restraining the welfare state," by Stanford Professor Michael Boskin, a former Bush the first adviser, has evoked a fair response in letters to today's Star: "Welfare argument full of holes." Boskin's thesis was that Harper's re-election to a majority government has affirmed that voters are looking to restrain "the growth of the welfare state." He sees this as possibly part of an international trend, along with the Republicans recapturing the House in the U.S., the British Tories' win (albeit through coalition, which he fails to mention). You will hear echoes of his thesis from the Harper Conservatives and their supporters. You heard traces of it in the Rob Ford campaign here in Toronto too.

One response to Boskin questions the premise of the thesis, however, that there has been growth in the Canadian welfare state, then goes on to rhyme off a litany of statistics demonstrating where we're deficient in spending, not over-indulging.

Depending on how Harper goes about deficit reduction, and he will no doubt do it quite cleverly - he's no David Cameron or Paul Ryan after all, evoking a huge backlash by providing big fat targets - there may be ample room for articulation of a "new Canadian deal" as one of the letter writers puts it.

This seemed like a very interesting debate this week and it's likely going to keep our attention as the Conservatives start angling for restraint.

A lesson in change

"USC's 21st Century Virtual Classroom":
In the spring of 2008, John Katzman, the founder of the Princeton Review, approached the Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at at the University of Southern California with a revolutionary idea. USC could increase its graduates by a factor of ten without building another room.... It's three years later, and 1,500 aspiring teachers are now earning Masters degrees in teaching at the University of Southern California -- more than the Masters programs at Harvard (972) and Stanford (415) combined. Since USC and Kaztman teamed up to create the country's first online course for a Masters in teaching, called MAT@USC, the school that graduated only 100 students in 2007 is on pace to become the country's largest not-for-profit teacher prep program by 2013. "Teachers and students uniformly love it," said Melora Sundt, associate dean of academic programs at USC's Rossier School of Education. "We're bringing people from all over the world into the same classroom." Now in 45 states and 25 countries, including Turkey, Japan and South Korea, USC's online education has gone global.

The centerpiece of MAT@USC is a virtual "classroom" accessible by laptop, smart phone or iPad.... Professors can post slides or discussion questions on the screen, students press a button to virtually "raise their hand," and everybody can watch recorded of past sessions....The school still accepts students selectively, still charges the same tuition and still requires 20 weeks of in-classroom practice. Students upload daily videos of their work in classrooms from their home city....

SC's biggest critics are faculties at other universities. They say you have to be in the classroom to learn teaching. USC responds: You do have to be in the classroom, but you don't have to be in Los Angeles. "Everything about this program pushes definitions about what is a semester, what is the university, what is a classroom, and where do the faculty belong?" Sundt says. "We presented our program to another large research university for their business, law and education school deans. They said they had an online course in committee for two years. Two years! They couldn't believe what we did. Their comment was: 'How did you make this happen?'" Sundt laughs and says, "This is the future, guys. I kept thinking, this train is going to run right over you."(Original source)
A great story of an institution, committed to change, grabbing the opportunity and making it happen. By challenging its own operating assumptions, its traditional ways of doing things, the definitions of the core functions of the institution. And by not getting bogged down in bureaucracy. Food for thought for institutions seeking change. 

Friday, June 03, 2011

Friday night



OK, Coldplay, I have been known to like you in the past, so I give you a shot here. This does sound like an effort to catch the popular electronic vibe in their own way: "Ebullient chords and melodic uplift are never far from the kind of non-specific portent that has become Coldplay's trademark. But this one seems to have something of the festival about it; from the ravey intro to the euphoric lyrics ("I turn the music up, I got my records on"), it seems to be an attempt to get as many hands in the air as possible."

Other items on the playlist this week, if the above is not enough sound for you: The Saturdays, Kaskade, Incubus.

Have a good night!

What happens when august institutions are disrespected

(source) (click to enlarge)

It breeds disrespect. That reference in the blog post title is to Mr. Harper's government and the actions it has taken which have bred that disrespect for one of the most esteemed institutions in Canada. The seat of our government has seen tremendous disrespect under his leadership. Not caring that one of your ministers inserts a "not" after a document had been signed by others, for example. Not respecting members of parliament who ask the government for the most basic of financial information supporting billions in purchases the government seeks to make. Making light of an historic contempt verdict. To cite the more egregious examples of recent memory and not even needing to go near the famous incidents of prorogation.

Breed disrespect, reap protest.

Some say the Throne Speech's reading in the Senate was not the place, tut tut. The easy groupthink response rears its head right from the get go. It allows you to give a nod to the sentiment of protest but just say, well, maybe it should have been somewhere else. Essentially agreeing with the protest then, which is the most important aspect. But if it had been somewhere else, it wouldn't have achieved a fraction of the impact.

Today's incident may be a harbinger of things to come under the Harper majority. Creative protest in forms unseen to date. That page felt strongly about what is happening now in Canada. There are many, many more just like her and she certainly sent her message today.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Today in Rae

Today marked the return of Parliament with the election of the new Speaker this afternoon. Life in the Harper majority era is formally beginning. Just want to note a few observations from the past 24 hours here in terms of Rae's debut as interim leader. First, a few tweets from observers this afternoon:



This quote which strikes the right note of humility given certain early polls and the long road ahead:
"It is an honour to sit in the House of Commons and whether you sit in the front row or the back row ... it doesn't matter. It's a great honour to serve here and we'll serve in the position to which we've been put by the people of Canada. We've been put in third place, we accept that," he said.
And this:
Moments after Baird spoke with reporters in the halls of Parliament, interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae casually dropped Resolution 242 into his own response to questions about Harper's G8 stance on the Middle East.

Told that Canada's current foreign minister was unfamiliar with the resolution, Rae expressed surprise.

"It is not only a number," Rae said, before rattling off the history of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

"Go back to President Nixon, Mr. Kissinger, all that, all the efforts, the Madrid process, the Oslo process, all the events, the Annapolis process, more recently the effort that President Obama began. All these efforts since what, 40 years, are based on 242."

Rae declined to twist the knife, however, simply saying the new minister "has things to learn."

"We accept that nobody is perfect. I'm not."
Early days but not a bad start at all.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Soudas departing

The Globe headline this aft as news comes that one of Harper's most committed partisans is leaving: "Harper loyalist Dimitri Soudas stepping down as PMO spokesman." Termed a loyalist in a headline of the national paper. It sounds quite honourable at a glance. Marjory LeBreton is consulted:
Senator Marjory LeBreton said she will miss Mr. Soudas.

“He's been an outstanding, hard-working colleague,” Ms. LeBreton said.

“I have nothing but admiration for his hard work and devotion to the Prime Minister.”
Further on, they do touch on some of the controversies involving Soudas' tenure such as ignoring some journalists, Soudas' involvement with the pre-determined journo question list, his "sway" in Quebec that was probably inordinate given his position as a young spokesperson. But it's done in a general way.

Not mentioned in the Globe, however, that very recent and significant controversy involving allegations of interference by Soudas in the Montreal Port Authority's board. A conflict between sworn testimony he gave to the House of Commons Operations Committee in 2008 and recent evidence from board members raised questions about Soudas' testimony. That glaring loose end likely would have been pursued at the Operations committee that New Democrat Pat Martin may end up chairing. But now Soudas is leaving.

Canadian Press, of course, included the appropriate factual context with a different headline: "Harper loses fifth communications director in six years as Soudas set to resign."
"His most recent brush with trouble came during this spring's election campaign, when Soudas was named as the "real boss of Quebec" in a phone conversation between two purported Montreal construction industry bosses negotiating how to get allies appointed to the Montreal Port Authority."
CBC also went big on the Soudas hagiography, surprisingly.

But, there are many other Soudas controversies you aren't hearing about today. It was not all hail fellow, well met stuff. The tone that Soudas brought to the job was destructive to civility in Ottawa. It has to be noted along with all the good will being expressed as news of his coming departure breaks.

Whether this will usher in a new era of civility...it hasn't been there during five years of Harper government. There is little reason to expect it going forward.

Worst ever carbon emissions in 2010

Reported on Sunday in the Guardian:
Greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history, putting hopes of holding global warming to safe levels all but out of reach, according to unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency.

The shock rise means the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius – which scientists say is the threshold for potentially "dangerous climate change" – is likely to be just "a nice Utopia", according to Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA. It also shows the most serious global recession for 80 years has had only a minimal effect on emissions, contrary to some predictions.

Last year, a record 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuel – a rise of 1.6Gt on 2009, according to estimates from the IEA regarded as the gold standard for emissions data.
I did a quick search to see if Peter Kent, our Environment Minister, had anything to say about that this week and couldn't find anything. I don't believe he's said anything about the other big environmental story of the week either, this one: "Canada leaves out rise in oilsands pollution from UN climate report." That has been picked up by the Guardian today: "Canada tries to hide Alberta tar sands carbon emissions." I wonder if the Environment Minister will be commenting at all on either of these stories. Maybe they'll be unavoidable for him at next week's UN Climate Change Conference. Assuming he's going.