Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mulcair does Bay Street

Mulcair gave a speech on Friday to the Canadian Club on the NDP's vision for economic growth. If you read through, I don't think you'll find much that is particularly visionary. The point was probably not to fly too many flags but rather to portray the Mulcair NDP as pro-business and not at all scary.

It was rather mundane. Talking about "partnership between industry, labour and government," for example, is not exactly surprising from an NDP leader. Investing in youth is something you might hear from all parties. There might also be the hint, as you read through, that Mulcair is going to be very conservative in his proposals on economic policy and is speaking in a language that would have been quite welcome on Bay Street:
Governments can’t do everything, nor should they.

The road to prosperity in the 21st century will require a balanced approach.

A thriving private sector will, thankfully, always be at the heart of our national economy, and the engine of our economic growth.

But there’s also a commonsense role for government to play in building the fairer, more prosperous Canada that we all want.

There’s a commonsense role for government to play in creating the right environment of stability and predictability that business relies on to profit.

In ensuring sound economic policy that fosters productivity and competitiveness—without sacrificing long-term sustainability.

And investing in an economy better equipped to meet the demands of the 21st century: In knowledge, in research and development, in a more skilled workforce, in matching skills to jobs.

There is a pretty convincing argument for the role of government in science, education and innovation.
Yes, there's a "pretty convincing" argument for the role of government in science, education and innovation. Tom was clearly going out on a limb there.

Uber-safe and sounding very mainstream. Playing for the middle, take note.

One partisan item that jumped out, however. Just what bit of history was Mulcair trying to rewrite in this excerpt?
Today Canada is held up as an international model for financial regulation, but let’s remember, we were not immune to the calls for financial deregulation that swept across the rest of the developed world a decade ago.

In the 1990’s, Liberal and Reform party leaders alike joined the same chorus. It was only New Democrats who held the anchor against calls for further deregulation.

Today, Canadians are glad that we did, and that Canada did not go down the same path as Europe and the United States.
"Only" New Democrats? What is Mulcair talking about? It was during a Liberal majority government era that bank mergers were blocked. Liberals Jean Chretien and Paul Martin were the principal politicians and party who "held the anchor." I found this funny that Mulcair would go here.

Word cloud via Wordle with no tinkering save for choice of "Blue meets orange" theme which seemed appropriate. See, it's a very boring wordle.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday night



Not hard this week at all 'cuz there's new Deadmau5 to be heard. I like this one, called October, so seasonal and all.

Have a good night.

Mulcair on Trudeau

Best lead in to a Mulcair quote in recent memory:
Mulcair interrupts his oyster eating. “You know far too much about Quebec politics, “ he says bluntly “to think that the Trudeau brand carries any weight in the province of Quebec.”
Yes, put down that oyster for a moment, man.

Come now, the Trudeau brand doesn't carry "any weight" in Quebec. None? That's setting the bar a little low, I'd say and it probably isn't unwelcome expectation setting.

And isn't this exactly the kind of attitude Liberals used to have about New Democrats in Quebec?

Snapshot of the U.S. campaign

Checking in on the U.S. campaign. Here is how it's going, in a nutshell.

A new Obama ad:



A new Romney ad:



Which one do you find more compelling?

Krugman yesterday:
The conventional wisdom — which I too bought into — was that Democrats were going to support Obama, but grudgingly and without much enthusiasm. There had been too many disappointments; the golden aura of 2008 was long gone. Meanwhile, Republicans would show their usual unity and discipline, and at best it would be Obama by a nose.

Instead, the Republicans appear to be in a shambles — while the Democrats seem incredibly united, and increasingly, dare I say it, enthusiastic. (Mark Blumenthal sees this in the polls, but it’s also just the impression you get.)
And on the lighter side, since it is Friday morning after all, check out Al Franken's fundraising letter and make sure to read the P.S.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

20 Questions for Mark Carney


Updated below.

Off the top of my head and since this is becoming a bit of a thing, some questions for Mr. Carney to ponder, in no particular order.

1. Do you think war resisters should be able to stay in Canada?

2. What is your position on a woman's right to choose?

3. Do you favour cap and trade or a carbon tax and why? Or perhaps neither? And why?

4. Do you support electoral system reform? If so, what kind and why?

5. Do you enjoy talking about the random variety of issues raised in questions 1 - 4? Do you have positions on these issues? Are you prepared to defend your positions through and through and over and over?

6. What do you think of Liberalist?

7. What are a few of the challenges facing Liberal riding associations where you live? What are your solutions to fix those challenges?

8. Do you favour open nomination contests in ridings? A wide open Liberal leadership race?

9. Do you realize who has been "Liking" you on Facebook lately? Are you on Twitter? Do your retweets constitute endorsements?

10. Do you enjoy long bus rides? Packed with political staffers and media types?

11. Do you like door knocking?

12.  Can you inspire a room?

13. Do you like people?

14. Do you live and breathe politics? Are you willing to do so for a decade? Is it in your gut? Your heart?

15. Are you really bilingual or are you franglais bilingual? What's the game plan on the ground to win seats in Quebec?

16. Does a Harvard and Oxford trained "mensa central banker" go to Tim Hortons?

17. How would you help more women get involved in politics? Have you demonstrated an interest in promoting diversity during your very successful career?

18. Can you actually see yourself in the House of Commons? Leading the charge?

19. Were you Liberal Who? Come on, you can tell us.

20. At the very least, do you think you could just do us a solid and get in for a while?

Just wondering.

Update (Friday a.m.): Not really a surprise, he doesn't like bus rides: "In addition, all evidence suggests that the Liberals should abandon their dream of luring Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney into the fold, with bank officials on Thursday pointing to his past rejection of a candidacy in a televised interview."

The impact of Kenney's refugee health care cuts being seen

The group Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care has done a report at the three month mark on the impact of the Harper government's refugee health care cuts. Here's an excerpt:
Our reporting indicates a wide cross section of refugees being denied access to health care, with pregnant women and their babies being particularly impacted. Newly arrived refugees do not qualify for health care coverage for many weeks after making a claim. Many women are not receiving appropriate care for their pregnancy as a result. Six such cases have been seen at one small clinic alone in the last three months. The lengthy waiting period for coverage also affects refugees arriving from areas where they have been exposed to a myriad of health risks.
Another troubling finding is that many clinics and hospitals are refusing care to refugees because of a lack of clarity around IFH coverage rules and the inability of the government’s private sector insurance company, Blue Cross, to provide definitive information. In a separate survey of 30 walk-in clinics in the Toronto area, only five could clearly state they were accepting IFH coverage for refugees and understood the new rules.
The doctors cite some specific examples, such as these:
· A young female refugee claimant is 18 weeks pregnant as a result of a sexual assault while being used as a sexual slave. She has no IFH coverage to address the pregnancy.
...
· A refugee claimant, 32 weeks pregnant, presents at two emergency rooms suffering from lower abdominal pain. On both occasions she is told that she would have to sign a document stating that she would be responsible for the costs of her visit. She leaves the emergency room on both occasions without being seen.
Read on for a host of other shameful examples courtesy of your Harper government.

203-91



The video above is the National's report from last night on the incredible Commons vote on Motion 312 that would have put a woman's right to choose on the legislative table in Ottawa. It is stunning that in a country like ours, as progressive as we might like to think we are, that 203-91 was the margin. 87 of 163 Conservatives, just over half, voted in favour of the motion, 4 of 35 Liberals.

Since Harper had pledged repeatedly not to re-open the abortion debate, the motion was not likely to pass the Commons. But quite a signal was sent nevertheless. I don't believe for a second that this wasn't pre-choreographed so the Conservatives would know exactly how many votes, including of the ministerial kind, were put on record for this motion. Just enough to put their party over the top in the 50% range.

It's a very provocative move by the Prime Minister. I think of that young woman at the door during the federal election who was going to vote Conservative even though she viewed herself as a progressive person and didn't think there was anything to be concerned about. Wonder if she's thinking any differently now or will next time she votes.

This is how the conservative side of the spectrum works, they shift the lens through which we look at issues, bit by bit, and they are very good at it. Having a sizable number vote in favour of the motion serves that purpose, by seeding the issue in the here and now for future steps. It may also help along some Canadians in thinking, hmmm, maybe we are a little more conservative just like ol' Harp's been telling us.

Beyond the politics of this thing, from a woman's perspective, just maddening.

Also, this could have legs. Go visit.

The big news

Should probably say a lot more about this at some point but not right now, it's been a busy week. So I go with Bruce Anderson's last paragraph yesterday on the Justin news:
Many in the Liberal Party know that the chances of extinction are real, and the consequences of making the wrong choice are dire. The race will become interesting with the entry of its first star candidate. But I suspect it will be far from over.
With emphasis on the last two sentences.

Carry on!

Monday, September 24, 2012

A pattern to Jason Kenney's online petition data mining

This story today rang a bell for me: "Jason Kenney’s office mined online petition to target message to gay Canadians." Kenney's office has done this before. About two years ago, I received an email from a long time reader of my blog outlining a similar email that they had received, out of the blue, from Jason Kenney. For whatever reason, I did not publish this information at the time although I did draft a post, go figure. Anyway. It should add some context to today's reporting to demonstrate for how long and how extensively Kenney's office has been mining online petitions and perhaps keeping lists of individuals who sign them.

All identifying information, other than mine and Jason Kenney's, has been redacted. Here is the email train from October 5, 2010. Best to start from the bottom and view the video Kenney sent:
On 2010-10-05, at 10:23 PM, impolitic@rogers.com wrote:

Ok thx!
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

From:
Date: Tue, 5 Oct 2010 19:22:33 -0700 (PDT)
To: impolitic@rogers.com
Subject: Re: Email from "Kenney.J" - Conservatives and Liberals Help DefeatMilitary Deserter Law

On iPod now. I did not send individual email . I get group petitions from organized campaign for war resisters .

Sent from my iPod

On 2010-10-05, at 10:07 PM, impolitic@rogers.com wrote:

Had u ever emailed his office before?
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

From:
Date: Tue, 05 Oct 2010 22:06:42 -0400
To: Impolitic
ReplyTo:
Subject: Re: Email from "Kenney.J" - Conservatives and Liberals Help Defeat Military Deserter Law

I think you've got it! Of course they may respond if they wish, but like most of us I sign
many such petitions and this was handled differently than the rest. Let alone the
actual contents.


On 10/05/10 9:47 PM, Impolitic wrote:
Do you mean you signed an online petition somewhere and then Jason Kenney emailed you out of the blue? That is, you may have agreed with the petition being forwarded to the government but you did not anticipate that the government would compile an email list and email you directly.

Imp


From:
Reply-To:
Date: Tue, 05 Oct 2010 16:12:29 -0400
To: Impolitic
Subject: Fwd: Email from "Kenney.J" - Conservatives and Liberals Help Defeat Military Deserter Law

Hello. I had "signed" an online petition regarding the recently (closely) defeated
private member's bill in support of US war resisters. This arrived in my
Email a short time ago, and there are so many problems with this in substance and
tone - where to begin.* If you use this, please scrub of all personal references. Now
I know I'm on a "list"... [ed: redacted]

* Oh, all right. 1. Getting an Email at all in this way. Usually they come from an
organization, clearly identified. Awkward! 2. No identification of
the writer and his position in government. 3. "Bipartison support"? Oh? What was this,
a ... coalition? 4. "Military deserters."
5. "Special" pathway. Feeling entitled, are they? 6. "Here's a video of ME!!!" (and of
the question only apparently -- not necessarily the answer -- who wrote this, a 19-year-old
staffer?). 7. No gratitude for my expressing my views, which is my right and obligation in
a democracy. And usually appears first in political correspondence. 8. In short,
a cyber-slap in the face.


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Conservatives and Liberals Help Defeat Military Deserter Law
Date: Tue, 5 Oct 2010 14:56:15 -0400
From: Kenney.J@parl.gc.ca
To:




You have all emailed or written me at some point to express your views on the issue of US military deserters and recent legislation to give them a special pathway for permanent residency.





As you may know, with bipartisan support from Michael Ignatieff's Liberal Party caucus, the government succeeded in defeating the Bill. Here is a YouTube video of a question I answered during Question Period on the subject.





http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCeUrJHlJps





Yours sincerely,





Jason




--
If you watch that YouTube clip, you can see how the online petition in support of the war resisters was responded to by Kenney. He sent the petitioners a video of a setup question in Question Period that was unabashedly partisan. Did Kenney know, standing there that day in the House of Commons, that he would be using his Commons statement to email these petitioners?

What's worth noting in all this is the reaction by those on the receiving end of the emails from Kenney. They may have signed a petition and consented to their name being publicly associated with that petition as it was conveyed to Kenney's office. But you don't really contemplate a personal email in response, particularly when this has not been your experience to date when signing petitions. Is signing a petition the equivalent of emailing or writing to a minister? Probably not. If I received a personal email from a minister after having signed a petition I'd be a little taken aback too. We have expectations about how a government should act with our information and a partisan slap is not among those expectations.

There is also the concern that names may have been collected and may still exist on a database somewhere, to perhaps be used for purposes beyond the simple signature to the petition. "Now I know I'm on a list," was the concern expressed above. Is my correspondent's name still on a list? Has it been retained or disposed of after almost two years now?

Also worth thinking about, will this person and others sign petitions in the future? Maybe. Maybe not.

These provisions of the Privacy Act may be relevant.
4. No personal information shall be collected by a government institution unless it relates directly to an operating program or activity of the institution.

“personal information” means information about an identifiable individual that is recorded in any form including, without restricting the generality of the foregoing,

(d) the address, fingerprints or blood type of the individual,
(e) the personal opinions or views of the individual except where they are about another individual or about a proposal for a grant, an award or a prize to be made to another individual by a government institution or a part of a government institution specified in the regulations,
Do names on an online petition relate directly to an operating program? Probably not. Do these names relate directly to an activity of the institution? Less clear. There may be other provisions in the Act that are relevant as well. Maybe the Privacy Commissioner might take note of this.

Wonder what else they're doing with the information they are deriving from these online petitions.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nice help if you can get it



Hey ho, the gang is all back together. Bridget Mary McCormack, sister of West Wing alumnus, Mary McCormack, is running for Michigan Supreme Court and the above is her ad highlighting the tricky ballot that may affect her support.

A few thoughts...best ad ever? Longish but for fans of the West Wing, probably.

It also reminds me how thankful I am that our judges do not run for office, with all the money that would require and the political and populist pressures that would bring.

Enjoy!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday morning laugh

Go visit this Tumblr page: RomCom 2012. Hilarious.

h/t to Mother Jones and deBeauxOs1 who suggested Mother Jones' Tumblr to me in the first place. An excellent web stop during the 2012 campaign.

P.S. Did you see that Rachel beat O'Reilly on two nights this week? In a key demographic, anyway. Gives us hope about our American friends.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Liberal leadership buzz

Some people down east and in Ottawa tell me that unless I run there is not likely to be a LeBlanc in the leadership race.

More to come in the next few weeks.

P.S. Regarding me running...funny friends I have:)

Friday night



Brand new Tegan and Sara. My friend, here at the house, says it is "way too girlie." Good enough for me!

It's a little different for them, more upbeat.

Have a good night.

Late night



UK Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg with his very own version of a Checkers speech. He offers an apology for supporting massive tuition fee increases when he and his party had promised not to during the election campaign. It was probably timed to go in advance of a Lib Dem convention coming up next week.

It's not going over very well and is being widely mocked. Well done Clegg! Political parties everywhere, take note on the perils of such efforts in this here era of teh internets.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Harper's special bonus pension to be clipped

Bob Fife's report on CTV's national news last night contained a segment about Harper's special bonus pension allotment of an extra $100,000 as PM.

This might not have come to light but for some unknown Conservatives having floated it to the media, along with other pension reform plans. "The hunt is on" for the source, reported Fife, who added that Harper will share in the pain. A little message from within about Mr. Harper?

It's not clear whether Harper (aka hockey loving Mr. Tim Hortons common man) was planning to ante up prior to the publicity this pension attracted.

The devil on the PM's bonus plan will be in the details.

Weaver to run for B.C. Greens

Reading the tea leaves: "Climate scientist Andrew Weaver turns to B.C. Greens for political run." A provincial development but it may signify an undercurrent in Canadian politics. Weaver, renowned climate scientist, is running for the Greens and not the NDP in BC when it's looking like the NDP are shaping up to be the next government.
Victoria-born Mr. Weaver, a member of the Nobel-Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said in a statement on Thursday that he hoped his candidacy would build some momentum for the Greens.
“By running for the Green Party in the Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding, I have decided to do something I never thought I would do. But with a rudderless provincial government and the potential for a landslide NDP victory in the upcoming election, I felt now was the time to get engaged to ensure that the principles of economic, social and environmental sustainability continue to be raised and discussed in the legislative assembly.”
There are 3 independents in the BC legislature but no Greens.

News like this in the New York Times today and that we've been hearing about for months adds to the context: "Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low That Leads to Warnings."
Now, some scientists think the Arctic Ocean could be largely free of summer ice as soon as 2020. But governments have not responded to the change with any greater urgency about limiting greenhouse emissions. To the contrary, their main response has been to plan for exploitation of newly accessible minerals in the Arctic, including drilling for more oil.
Given the significant environmental issues affecting B.C., Northern Gateway, etc., we may see more of a movement to Green parties there and possibly elsewhere in the country as environmentalists become even more politically galvanized as a result of the federal Conservatives' anti-environmental stances.

This is one of the biggest issues of our time, to state the obvious, and there is a huge gap at the federal level waiting to be filled.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mercer does omnibus



I agree. Could have done without the use of the word handsome but otherwise, spot on.

Also, look for MP pension reform to be included in the omnibus bill for public relations purposes, always a paramount priority: 
When Peter Van Loan announced Monday that scaling back MP’s retirement nest eggs would figure into the fall’s budget implementation bill, it lay an obvious trap: vote against what promises to be another hefty and likely controversial budget bill and the Conservatives can tell voters you voted against pension reform from now until 2015. 
Conservatives and democracy, they just go together. Like a fish and a bicycle.

Update: Sixth Estate on the omnibus/MP pension reform ploy.

NDP and Conservatives cooperating to "screw" Liberals?

From John Ivison's column last night:
Nathan Cullen, the NDP House leader, and Peter Van Loan, his government counterpart, have apparently been having productive discussions about passage of C-21, the political loans accountability act, which would, among other things, tighten rules on leadership candidates walking away from loans.
The legislation is intended to address what happened during the Liberal leadership campaign in 2006, when a number of candidates failed to pay off their debts in the required time period. With another Grit leadership contest under starter’s orders, the other two parties appear only too happy to co-operate and pass the legislation so that it applies to the Liberal contest.
Here's a contrast from the UK for you where they have been engaged in discussions on how to reform broader party financing rules:
A Liberal Democrat spokesman insisted that the coalition would not impose a deal on the parties. "The history of party funding reform is littered with corpses. You have to do it in consultation with the other parties," the spokesman said.
C-21 on political loans, and any party financing reform for that matter, should be subject to a similar standard. All political parties should be supportive of the reforms and that should be a litmus test for this type of legislation. Otherwise, we can end up in a situation where some parties are legislating in their own self-interest and not in the best interests of all on a subject matter that shouldn't be subject to partisan gaming.

Here is an excerpt from the Legislative Summary as it stands today with some key things to watch as C-21 proceeds:
Bill C-21 would replace the “per contest” contribution limit with an annual contribution limit (clause 6(2), amending section 405(1)(c)).21 An individual will therefore be entitled to contribute more than $1,100 ($1,200 starting on 1 January 2012) if the leadership contest lasts longer than one calendar year.

2.7 Transitional Provisions and Coming Into Force (Clauses 34 and 35)

Clause 34 provides that loans and the guarantees of such loans made prior to the coming into force of Bill C-21 are not subject to the provisions of the bill and continue to be subject to the Canada Elections Act as it read before the coming into force of Bill C-21.
Bill C-21 comes into force six months after Royal Assent, unless the Chief Electoral Officer publishes a notice in the Canada Gazette indicating that the necessary preparations have been made to put the new requirements of the bill into effect, in which case the bill comes into force on the day said notice is published (clause 35).
If these provisions remain the same, it looks like what was expected to be an improvement this time around for the Liberal leadership race, maximum contributions of $1,200 being permitted on a per year and not per contest basis, won't be happening. It doesn't appear that the new legislation will come into effect until the race is over, by the time this is passed.

On the other hand, it looks like the existing provisions of the Canada Elections Act will apply to loans so there is some flexibility there.

But if, as Ivison suggests, the other two parties are seeking to make mischief for the Liberals, those are two important benchmarks to watch. When each come into force is key. 

This is dry, technical stuff and yet there are other very important implications too. See bullet point 4, for example, of the government's news release which would have huge implications if it applied to this contest: 
Only financial institutions (at market rates of interest) and political entities could make loans beyond that amount. Rules for the treatment of unpaid loans would be tightened to ensure candidates cannot walk away from unpaid loans: riding associations or parties will be held responsible for unpaid loans taken out by their candidates.
The amount referred to in the first sentence is $1, 200.

We will see if the NDP and Conservatives are indeed intent on changing the Bill, as it has been proposed to date, with a view to squeezing the Liberal leadership contest.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mitt's having a bad week



And it's only Tuesday!

A fun video that speaks to the eternal question...just who is Mitt Romney? It looks like he's this one. Not good.

I am enjoying the waterfall of commentary condemning Romney for these insensitive, uncaring remarks. It is viewed as a huge gaffe. It's getting front page treatment across the U.S.

If a similar incident were to happen in Canada, by a leading right wing figure, would we see such a rational objective perspective on a wide scale and sustained basis? I have my doubts.

(h/t)

Maybe veterans are tired of wearing hats

So the Harper government has finally launched their transition plan for military members moving to civilian life: "Veterans Can Now Apply for Jobs through Helmets to Hardhats Canada." Yes, from helmet to hardhat, narrowing the field of opportunity for highly skilled military personnel.

This programme has been previously blogged about here and the principal critiques of it remain. Veterans should be encouraged to make wide use of their skills and educational assistance could have been considered as a key transitional measure in order to enable more choice to the individual beyond the construction trades. Surely that's not all Canada has to offer veterans. And surely that's not all Canada needs in terms of assessing what industries these highly trained individuals are suited for. But here is the government website lead:
Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) Canada is a partnership with Canada's Building Trades Unions, their many Employers across Canada, and Government stakeholders. The H2H sister program originated in the United States in 2003, and has been highly successful for America. H2H Canada will follow a similar model, but is focused on career opportunities in Canada for anyone who has served (or is currently serving and looking to transition to a civilian career) in either the Regular or Reserve Force Components of the Canadian Forces. The program offers apprenticeship opportunities to achieve a journeyperson qualification in the building and construction trade of one's choice, as well as potential opportunities in other management positions within this industry, all leading to a promising new career.
Whether it's a good choice for women veterans is another question. A preliminary search suggests the percentage of women in the construction industry is quite low (12% based on these 2008 figures or less), whether because it's just not an attractive option, the physical nature of construction or whatever the reason may be. The government is nevertheless emphasizing this route, not women friendly, for all our veterans, men and women.

There is nothing wrong with trades work. This just seems to smack of simplistic thinking, the easiest solution and not necessarily the best opportunity we can give our veterans.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Carbon tax madness

Here's a CBC report on the back and forth between the NDP and Conservatives today: "Carbon tax allegations fly between NDP and Conservatives." This follows on Tom Mulcair's declaration yesterday that Harper and his MPs are lying about the NDP's position on a carbon tax.

I hope some Liberal leadership candidates are following all this back and forth and thinking about how to put the idea of a carbon tax forward but in a constructive, positive way. Thinking about how to change the climate of discussion on this issue in the coming year. A carbon tax should be embraced and explained in a way that doesn't deny its utility. That doesn't make it a shameful political bomb that no one should touch. There's a good story to be told about its economic benefits. When Shell wants one, you've got an opening, for starters. Canadians are supportive about the idea. There are lots of thoughtful people urging support for it with new arguments unfolding as the climate changes.

Denying, running away from it...anyone who adopts that stance, you're doing the Conservatives work for them.

Update: One more thought to throw into the mix on this, see quote by Conservative MP Barry Devolin at the bottom of this link on the public mood being different given world economic turbulence. Agreed. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tax cuts and economic growth

A new study in the U.S. is the latest to say that tax cuts do not positively relate to economic growth. David Leonhardt of the New York Times excerpts its conclusions in the Economix blog:
The top income tax rates have changed considerably since the end of World War II. Throughout the late-1940s and 1950s, the top marginal tax rate was typically above 90%; today it is 35%. Additionally, the top capital gains tax rate was 25% in the 1950s and 1960s, 35% in the 1970s; today it is 15%. The average tax rate faced by the top 0.01% of taxpayers was above 40% until the mid-1980s; today it is below 25%. Tax rates affecting taxpayers at the top of the income distribution are currently at their lowest levels since the end of the second World War.

The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie.

However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. As measured by IRS data, the share of income accruing to the top 0.1% of U.S. families increased from 4.2% in 1945 to 12.3% by 2007 before falling to 9.2% due to the 2007-2009 recession. At the same time, the average tax rate paid by the top 0.1% fell from over 50% in 1945 to about 25% in 2009. Tax policy could have a relation to how the economic pie is sliced—lower top tax rates may be associated with greater income disparities.
Leonhardt then continues on with the subject in his column today:
But tax cuts have other effects that receive less attention — and that can slow economic growth. Somebody who cares about hitting a specific income target, like $1 million, might work less hard after receiving a tax cut. And all else equal, tax cuts increase the deficit, as Mr. Bush’s did, which creates other economic problems.

When the top marginal rate was 70 percent or higher, as it was from 1940 to 1980, tax cuts really could make a big difference, notes Donald Marron, director of the highly regarded Tax Policy Center and another former Bush administration official. When the top rate is 35 percent, as it is today, a tax cut packs much less economic punch.

“At the level of taxes we’ve been at the last couple decades and the magnitude of the changes we’ve had, it’s hard to make the argument that tax rates have a big effect on economic growth,” Mr. Marron said. Similarly, a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that, over the past 65 years, changes in the top tax rate “do not appear correlated with economic growth.”
Kevin Drum's take on it:
Low tax rates appear to be associated with:

Higher investment
Lower savings
But no change in growth rates

None of these three results were statistically significant, but a fourth result was: lower top marginal tax rates mostly benefit the rich, leading to much higher income inequality. The study found similar results for capital gains tax rates. All the charts are below and the full study is here.

One caveat: Generally speaking, marginal tax rates were high from 1945-1980 and low from 1980-2010. So the CRS results might just be an artifact of the fact that growth was higher during the postwar period and lower during the post-Bretton Woods era. In other words, it might have nothing to do with tax rates. But of course, that's the point. Nobody thinks that raising taxes is actively good for the economy, except to the extent that it helps balance the federal budget. The question is whether there's any evidence that lowering taxes boosts economic growth. And there really doesn't seem to be.
Information worth keeping in mind when you hear those tax cut espousing politicians linking them to economic growth. One of the Harper government's favourite slogans is their "low tax plan for jobs and growth." Let's make them prove the relationship or at least ask hard questions about whether there is any relation at all. This latest study suggests no, there is not.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

New Obama ad



Look who's featured in the new Obama ad. The ad that could win the election? It's straightforward, answers the 4 years/better off question directly. Would be nice to think so.

Putting the Progressive back in the Conservatives?

It's September, the big back to school month, and Parliament resumes sitting this coming week. Interesting then to note some moves being made by the Harper government, perhaps designed to put a new coat of paint on their tired, right wing shtick. Noted in the past day or so...

"Canada gives up defending asbestos." Citing the election of the PQ and their anti-asbestos policies - shared by most Canadians - the Harper government has slunk away from their continued support of the industry. An excuse presented itself and our federal government, integrity driven as always, has finally backed away from the poison.

An item today on the environmental file: "Environment Minister eyes overhaul of law protecting at-risk wildlife." This is certainly not the hard stuff on Kent's plate. No GHG emission regs for him. It's more of the declaration of National Park status from the Harper crew. Still, the casual observer will be left with an impression.

Then there was John Baird's splashy speech yesterday: "Canada to promote gay, women's rights in foreign policy." Easy to give a foreign affairs speech, it's low cost and gets a lot of attention. Meanwhile, back in Canada, the Conservative backbenchers' agenda manages to keep coming forth in Parliament, always bubbling under the surface. It's a hard sell to say these Conservatives are pro-gay rights and pro-women but apparently that's not stopping them from trying.

A new coat of paint for Canadians? A concerted effort to re-brand? Something to watch. Leopards don't change their spots so easily, or however that expression goes.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday night



New Dave Matthews out just this week. Live version at Rolling Stone.

Have a great night!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quote of the day

From a Globe article quoting Joan Crockatt and the prospect of Calgary Centre by-election voters lining up to back one "ABC" candidate just as they did in 2000 when they backed Joe Clark against the Canadian Alliance:
“I think that they conveniently forget that Joe Clark was a conservative,” she said. “He was a conservative prime minister of Canada.”
Not exactly. She forgot a word there. A very key word. That's quite a re-write of conservative political history. 

I wonder what Joe would say in response to Ms. Crockatt? While he's likely too decent to get into this, we can just imagine based on a recent quote from Clark:
"I'm astounded, frankly astounded, by the degree to which Parliament and Cabinet acquiesce in following, without any apparent questioning, the prime minister's lead," he said in a rare display of candor. "Prime ministers have always been strong in our system, but almost all others have respected their parties and their parliaments more than Prime Minister Harper does."
Underscoring how the above quote by Crockatt has the air of the ham-handed Mitt Romney. Further case in point:
“If I’m a backbench MP, I’m just fine doing that,” Ms. Crockatt said. “To me, the job is to support the Prime Minister in whatever way that he thinks.”
Huh, that's a new one. A lot of people will offer just that criticism about backbench MPs and heck, cabinet ministers under this government. But just blatantly putting it out there that the role of an MP is mindless and actually running on it, that's something. Her view on what the job of an MP is begs for a mighty response. It says so much about her and what is wrong with Parliament in this era. It's certainly not about one individual and what he thinks, for starters.

Who knows, with quotes like these, if someone can get their act together and mount a tough campaign, maybe there's some hope for this race just yet.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Annals of statesmanship

There's this news that prompts a spontaneous moment of reflection and good will from Canadians across party lines: "Tributes pour in for a gravely ill Peter Lougheed."
Considered one of Canada’s greatest statesmen and an unabashed champion for his home province of Alberta, former premier Peter Lougheed remains gravely ill in hospital, according to his successor, Don Getty.
And then there's this news that prompts a ton of response in the Globe, off the charts in terms of the recent numbers of comments you will see there: "Harper, honoured in N.Y. as statesman of the year, aims to snub UN."

What did Harper do on the world stage over the past year beyond the recent closure of the Canadian embassy in Iran? Let's review the award winning brand of statesmanship.

We saw Harper of the health care benefit cuts to refugees that were deplored by Nobel winner Elie Wiesel. There was more arbitrary international application of the death penalty. There was Canada's "no" to the IMF, a lonely position in the G20 at a serious moment for the Eurozone. We saw condemnation from the international science community on environmental cuts. We saw more of the go-it-alone routine with other allies as well, not exactly the stance one thinks of when they hear the word "statesmanship."

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, meet your 2012 pick in statesmanship by a New York based foundation that gets a lot of press. Statesmanship - for lack of a better word, of course, the "man" is inherently sexist but what to use in its place - just doesn't seem to be what it used to in the political world. It now seems to involve less constructive engagement and a higher degree of lecturing and finger pointing.

Anyway, it's not the awards that tell us who the statesmen are among us.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Saturday night



To make up for last night's music fail on the blog, this is the Foo Fighters performance at the DNC this week. Not bad at all. Predictable but fine choice as their opening song.

Have a good night!

Friday, September 07, 2012

A Kitchener-Waterloo note

If this had been known:
Elizabeth Witmer put an end to speculation about why she stepped down as MPP after 22 years. She said her decision had nothing to do with politics. Her husband of 32 years has cancer.
Might the by-election result have changed? Might voters have looked on it as less of a power play by the Liberals and helped Liberals? Might it have helped the PCs hang on to the seat in a wave of sentimentality? Might this context have taken away some of the protest edge that the NDP benefited from?

Who knows. It may put some of the analysis taking place now in a different light though.

Witmer obviously didn't want to disclose this as she departed and it is indeed a private family matter. Still, you can't help but wonder about it all now that she has decided to make it public.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Liberal leadership rule day

The FAQ on the new leadership site has all your details including entry fee ($75,000, not so high actually), spending limits ($950,000) and notably, debt limits ($75,000 - got to be prudent and demonstrate that to Canadians, very good). I wouldn't have called it an "FAQ" but that is just nitpicky:)

April 14, 2013 is the big day. Mark your calendars!

Like: heavy use of word "change," emphasis on "We're in this together." We want you, join us, etc., also smartly emphasized. How to keep new member and supporter people involved and interested during leadership for more than just leadership reasons should be considered.

Carry on!

Clinton rocked



A little bit of Bill to start your day. Massive speech last night:
Watching Bill Clinton take the stage at the Democratic National Convention and take over the room with his first few, simple words – “We are here to nominate a President and I’ve got one in mind” — was like watching a great violinist follow a group of gifted amateurs.
His commanding presence, his let’s-just-chat manner, the familiar sound of his southern growl were the perfect counterpoint to the Republican Party’s assault on President Obama at its convention in Tampa last week. He skewered the Republicans gently, biting his lower-lip in characteristic fashion. He spoke more in sorrow than in anger – while also making it clear that the Republicans had almost destroyed the country and now want to finish the job.
...
Gone was the resentful man who did everything he could to stop Mr. Obama from being nominated in the 2008 primaries. Here was the beloved party elder called forth from his retirement to help save Mr. Obama’s candidacy by lending the dry, aloof president his down-to-earth, loamy charm: “I want to nominate a man who’s cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside.”

Mr. Clinton did his assigned job, which was to do Mr. Obama as much good as he could. He also probably did some good for his wife, should she decide to run in 2016. And he got to bask in the spotlight– until Mr. Obama came out to share his standing ovation and lead him offstage.
Have a good one.

Joe Oliver's natural resources new economics

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was in Toronto on Tuesday to give a speech and kick off the fall with some new economic data produced by his department. This is the press release version on the government website: "Minister Oliver Highlights Economic Impact of Canada's Natural Resources." There is also a backgrounder that contains what they term "methodology" to explain the figures used in the press release.

The highlights of Oliver's remarks were essentially two points. First, that jobs created by the natural resources sector are not just found in traditional natural resources industries. Rather, we should include all those jobs that are indirectly created by this sector. So professional service firm jobs, for example, would also be included in Oliver's expanded characterization of the impact of the natural resources sector.
Today, Canada’s natural resources sector is a significant component of the national, provincial and territorial economies, contributing to high living standards for Canadians. In 2011, this sector directly accounted for 15 per cent of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) and 790,896 jobs.

In addition, through the purchase of goods and services from other sectors such as construction, machinery, professional services, transportation, the natural resources sector makes considerable indirect contributions to the Canadian economy. Using Statistics Canada’s input-output model, this indirect contribution to nominal GDP is estimated at about $70 billion in 2011, or about 4 per cent of Canadian nominal GDP. Correspondingly, over 800,000 jobs in other sectors were supported by the purchase of goods and services by the resources sector.
So it's not just 800,000 jobs the government is touting as natural resources related. They now say it's actually 1.6 million jobs. It's not just 15% of the nominal GDP, "the natural resources sector drives almost 20 per cent of economic activity in Canada."And that 20 percent figure is what all the headlines blare.

A problem with the numbers they offer, however, is that they just don't show how they got to these 2011 figures. They admit in their backgrounder that "nominal GDP" figures from Statistics Canada end in 2008. They must project up to 2011. So what they are doing is saying they have developed a methodology that gets them to their 2011 figures but they don't show it. Canadian Press apparently asked Natural Resources to explain and got this kind of response:
Now, government officials have developed a way to update the nominal GDP numbers for the natural-resource sector so that they can see how much money is flowing into the economy from energy and mining on a more timely basis.

Oliver said the exercise shows that in both Alberta and Saskatchewan, energy and resources directly account for one third of nominal GDP. In Newfoundland and Labrador, it's 40 per cent.

However, officials did not immediately explain their methodology, nor did they make a full year-by-year and province-by-province analysis available. So calculations for the two largest provinces -- Ontario and Quebec -- were absent.
A Globe report also raised questions about Oliver's new GDP figures:
The new calculation provides a number much higher than previous estimates. In 2010, the government said natural resources accounted for 11.5 per cent of GDP. The revised calculation is for the nominal GDP, as opposed to real GDP, and takes into account both quantity and prices using just-released numbers. Mr. Oliver called the nominal GDP a “more accurate indicator” of the sector’s economic contributions than real GDP.
From 11.5% to 20% in just one year through new calculations. Why the sudden move from "real GDP" to this "nominal GDP" calculation?

A second point that Oliver made the other day and which the government continues to promote is this: "There are currently over 600 major Canadian resource projects planned over the next 10 years or underway representing approximately $650 billion in investments," said Oliver. That $650 billion figure is repeatedly cited. Their backgrounder, however, suggests that $300 billion of that $650 billion may not happen but they include the $300 billion in their $650 billion anyway: "$300 billion in projects which are in earlier stages of planning (i.e. undergoing environmental review, feasibility studies or in the process of securing financing)." You have to rely on their say-so as they don't provide a list of projects. Do they include that $13 billion Kitimat refinery proposal, for example, that has no financing, we don't know.

Further, the $650 billion includes $200 billion in projects that have received approvals and have financing but remain in the proposed category. So it is possible that there is just $150 billion in projects underway that Oliver should be citing. Yet he repeatedly cites the higher figure of $650 billion, without the fine print qualifications, and which gets repeated in the media. $150 billion is nothing to sneeze at, sure. But it's not $650 billion.

Why are they pushing the $650 billion figure? To bolster the case for increased foreign investment. As pointed out in that Globe report though, Oliver's message contradicts Flaherty and Carney's recent rhetoric "who each called on corporate Canada to bolster the economy by investing their stockpiled money in the country."

This post is not intended to say that the natural resources sector is to be minimized. Not at all. It's an important industry. This is why Canadians deserve a clear picture about its impact and in order to get that clear picture, Oliver's numbers and new way of calculating GDP deserve some scrutiny. If they have the data to back up all their numbers, they should just show it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Wednesday afternoon in big Liberal developments

First up, Dominic LeBlanc makes some news while attending the Liberal caucus meetings in Montebello: "Trudeau, LeBlanc front runner prospective candidates in Liberal leadership race."
“I’ve thought long and hard, as a number of other people have I’m sure, about whether I’m the best person at this time to assume the leadership of the party, at a time when it’s never been at a weaker point in its history,” said Mr. LeBlanc, who since 2000 has represented the New Brunswick riding his father held while serving in the government of Mr. Trudeau’s father, the late former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
“I have talked to people across the country who’ve encouraged me to run. I think the party desperately wants a new generation of leadership. I think the party has to come to terms with the fact that if somebody wants to seek the leadership they have to be bilingual,” Mr. LeBlanc told the journalists. “I think some of these things are a given, and I think the experience I have, and friends I’ve made in the party, would make my candidacy an interesting one to a number of people.”
But he cautioned: “I need to come to a rather serene understanding if I’m prepared to say that the next 10 or 15 years of my life will be occupied exclusively with the pursuit of the rebuilding of the party and an election victory, and hopefully leading the next generation of majority Liberal government.”
I mean, if brothers Ed and David Miliband can both run for Labour party leader in the UK, is this so far fetched? Not at all. It would be an encouraging development.

Also on the news front, Paul Summerville of Victoria, B.C., former candidate for a national Liberal party executive position, has confirmed publicly that he is gathering signatures for the Liberal nomination in the coming Victoria by-election. Paul has been active in the Victoria association and is authoring compelling economic thinking that is worth noting. Best of luck to him!

Also big news, of course, Jean Charest's departure as Liberal leader in Quebec. That came a little sooner than I thought it would but it is completely understandable. Turning a page, he said, which sounds like he's done with politics.

There is also some party leadership rule speculation going around but until it's official, will leave that be for the moment.

Quebec election morning after

What a tremendously shocking incident at the PQ victory rally last night. To see a death at a political rally, other gun injuries and a fire set...that's a truly shaking thing for Canadians.



And what an incredibly close result. Notably, just 0.7% separated the PQ's lead at 31.9% over the Liberals at 31.2%. The CAQ ended up with 27.1%. The PQ end up with 54 seats, the Liberals 50, the CAQ 19 and Quebec Solidaire 2. Pauline Marois has a very weak minority government to work with which will hem in her mandate, including on that separatism question. That is good news indeed.

What to say about Jean Charest? Here's a clip that says a lot:



In the face of such protest, he isn't fazed and makes a point of saying everyone should vote. Enough said. Didn't give up all weekend either, reportedly giving barn burner speeches to the end. No doubt there were those who took note over the weekend as they were mulling over their final decision. A lesson for pols - and everyone, really - not to give up.

The results have earned him and his party time to decide what's best. The closeness could mean an election in the near future and judging by his performance, I'd say there will be some who will urge him to stay. Things will be worse politically? Worse than they were this time? With a PQ record that will be in issue? Interesting times ahead.

(See also: Harper's statement. That statement be tight, y'all!)