Thursday, September 29, 2011

Late night

Elizabeth Warren on the debt crisis, fair taxation and the social contract. A video that's been making the rounds for about a week but worthwhile to see if you haven't yet. A liberal politician who speaks to the fact that we're all in it together and in a compelling way. Could be next U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, seeking to remove the Republican who won Teddy Kennedy's seat.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

About that poll

Big poll in the Star today. It polled a ton of respondents and has the Liberals and PCs at 35% apiece. NDP at 23%. Recent polls have been showing the race tightening so this seems to fit. Every election is unique and this one's undercurrents are certainly swirling.

So, lots of work to be done in the last week and a half. Particularly here in Parkdale-High Park:
The survey suggests the Liberals would win Parkdale-High Park, an NDP stronghold for dynamo Cheri Di Novo, but lose St. Catharines, a seat held since 1977 by popular Grit Jim Bradley. As well, it forecasts the Conservatives picking up Liberal-held Kitchener-Conestoga and Kitchener Centre, but falling short in Tory Elizabeth Witmer’s long-time riding of Kitchener-Waterloo. And McGuinty himself is shown as only slightly ahead in his home riding of Ottawa South, one of the most reliably Liberal ridings in the province.

“There are a few anomalies,” Bozinoff said.
Now that is interesting. I wouldn't characterize this riding as an NDP stronghold, it's more like a swing riding if you look at the history. And as the federal election showed us, you can't take anything for granted these days. (See last night's post on the Parkdale-High Park race, by the way, on the fact checking of Cheri Di Novo's debate claims.)

Have a great day out there, all you campaigners!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday night

Buy the sky and sell the sky and tell the sky and tell the sky...what is it up in the air's over, it's over...

Yep, still on R.E.M. nostalgia kick given the news this week! Two more faves. If you are looking for the usual progressive house fix, I suggest this one.

Have a good night.

The fight for Ontario in Parkdale-High Park

Parkdale-High Park Liberals have come out with a reality check this evening on some of the many claims made by sitting NDP MPP Cheri di Novo during the debates of the past week or so. I sat and watched two and lived the frustration that the piece references:
There is a line between being populist and being loose with the facts. Residents would need to have Google on tap during the Parkdale- High Park debates to fact-check a host of inaccurate public statements by the incumbent MPP.
So some of the statements have been fact checked. Here's a sample of some of the statements and then the reality:
10. Cheri and the NDP party were responsible for increasing minimum wage in Ontario.

FACT: since coming to office, Ontario Liberals have increased the minimum wage seven times. As a result, the current minimum wage is $10.25 an hour – a 50% increase over 2003 and the highest provincial rate in Canada. These increases outpaced inflation and helped make up for a nine-year freeze in Ontario’s minimum wage from 1995 through 2003.

Going forward, the Ontario Liberals want to take the politics out of setting the minimum wage to ensure Ontario never falls behind again. That’s why we will appoint a minimum wage advisory committee to provide recommended options on how to determine the minimum wage for future years. We look forward to the best advice from this committee.
11. Ontario has the highest child poverty rate in Canada

FACT: Ontario has the third lowest child poverty rate in the country[11]. In Ontario child poverty actually fell between 2008 and 2009, 14.6% down from 15.2%. That means 19,000 Ontario children and their families were moved out of poverty despite very tough times. We still have much work to do and even one child in poverty is too much. But it not true that Ontario has the highest child poverty rate.
Just amazing.

There are 10 more statements that have been fact checked at the link. 10 more! Check 'em all out.
Conclusion: Ms. Dinovo must be held responsible for providing constituents with fair and accurate information as part of the decision making process. The constituents of Parkdale-High Park deserve no less from their political representatives.
That is correct. Time for change here in Parkdale-High Park.

Environment Canada cuts expand beyond ozone monitoring

Good reporting at iPolitics this afternoon, following the trail of the government's Environment Canada cuts: "Oilsands monitoring plan threatened by cuts: experts."
The looming job cuts at Environment Canada spell trouble for the federal government’s recently unveiled oilsands monitoring plan, according to experts.

The plan was publicized with much fanfare by Environment Minister Peter Kent in July, promising increased monitoring of air quality, water quality and biodiversity. Even the Opposition agreed it was a “world-class” plan.

But since then, more than 700 Environment Canada employees have been notified that their positions may be eliminated as part of an efficiency review. Among those who received the letters are scientists in the ozone monitoring program and the aircraft division — people who carry out research that is required by Kent’s plan.

The cutbacks are “gutting” the department’s ability to monitor the oilsands, said Tom Duck, an environmental scientist at Dalhousie University.

“I don’t see how they can implement this plan,” he said.
The report goes on to include an Environment Canada spokesperson saying we should fear not, they're moving into the "implementation" phase of the program in collaboration with Alberta and are committed to the monitoring system. Their actions, as reported, suggest otherwise.

One other note on this report and some of the others this week...let's hear it for the academics like Professor Duck who offer their expertise publicly on the big issues of the day. And in doing so, provide a helpful check on the view being expressed by the government. Needed ever so more in Canada these days. 

Serious times: Harper talking recession

It appears that David Cameron's speech yesterday to Parliament made a big splash. Beyond the parts where he played up to Canada and made a case for increased trade and business friendly economies as his preferred solutions for economic growth, his words on the world's state of economic affairs and the Eurozone in particular are getting attention:
The global economy is close to "staring down the barrel" and is threatened by the failure of eurozone leaders to agree a lasting settlement to stabilise the single currency, David Cameron warned on Thursday night.

As markets tumbled around the world, amid gloomy assessments from the IMF and the World Bank, the prime minister issued his gravest warning about the global economic outlook and bluntly told eurozone leaders to stop "kicking the can down the road". "We are not quite staring down the barrel but the pattern is clear," the prime minister told the Canadian parliament in Ottawa.

"The recovery out of the recession for the advanced economies will be difficult. Growth in Europe has stalled, growth in America has stalled. The effect of the Japanese earthquake, high oil and fuel prices is creating a drag on growth. But fundamentally we are still facing the aftermath of the world financial bust and economic collapse in 2008."

Cameron's speech came as Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, warned world leaders that "time is of the essence" as investors took fright at politicians' failure to tackle sickly global growth and the spiralling eurozone debt crisis.
"The problems in the eurozone are now so big that they have begun to threaten the stability of the world economy," Cameron said. "Eurozone countries must act swiftly to resolve the crisis. They must implement what they have agreed and they must demonstrate they have the political will to do what is necessary to ensure the stability of the system. One way or another, they have to find a fundamental and lasting solution to the heart of the problem – the high level of indebtedness in many euro countries."
All seeming to be timed for the IMF & G20 finance ministers meetings happening in Washington this weekend. Cameron's tone was echoed by Harper, who hasn't really been speaking much about world economic affairs beyond the usual platitudes about things being fragile, maybe Canada will have to be flexible about our deficit reduction plans, etc. This seemed to be a real stepping up for him:
"Without key countries taking systemically appropriate and co-ordinated economic measures, without resistance to protectionism and acceptance of more flexible exchange rates, without fiscal consolidation [and] without a commitment by governments to cut rising deficits and reduce what are, in some cases, dangerous levels of national indebtedness - without things such as these, we will not avoid a recession," Mr. Harper said in his speech in the House of Commons. Talking to reporters, he said "uncertainty is getting to dangerous levels."
Irrespective of what you think about the substantive details of what he's saying, this new alarmist tone stands out. Raising the possibility that "...we will not avoid a recession." It's like Cameron came to town and it's a whole new ball game. For Flaherty too:
"I think matters will come to a head, quite frankly," Flaherty said during a news conference. "It's always better to get ahead of issues (or) we'll run into the kind of crisis issue that we ran into October 2008."
Some other news being made is this letter to Sarkozy, the host of the November G20 meeting that Harper, Cameron, Gillard and the leaders of Indonesia, Mexico & Korea have sent. In the UK they are noting that this could be interpreted as a real break for a British leader to have made, distancing Britain away from the Euro countries and joining with others like us, instead (Guardian link above).

Here are some of the headlines resulting out of yesterday's events:

"Cameron, Harper sound alarm amid global market panic."
"World needs to wake up to recession risk: Harper and Cameron."
"Fear of another recession drives global market carnage."
"The close: Dow, TSX plunge amid fading optimism."

Here's Christine Lagarde calling for concerted world leadership similar to that surrounding the 2008/2009 financial crisis:

All of which may have some impact on provincial elections, particularly if the headlines and bad news continue...

Late night

In case you missed David Cameron's address to the House of Commons earlier.

Or, just consider this one a more entertaining version.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jerky populism watch

From Horwath's announcement yesterday, this claim on hospital CEO salaries:
Horwath noted that by capping executive salaries at twice the salary of the Ontario Premier, about $80 million could be diverted to programs like these to help new mothers.
As noted here, that number seems to be in question:
ADDENDUM: This morning the NDP released a new number associated with hospital CEO salaries - $80 million. Leader Andrea Horwath announced the NDP’s breastfeeding and birthing centre commitment, and said she would pay for it “by capping the salaries of hospital CEOs at $418,000 which will free up about $80 million.” The thing is, the math is not only off, but dangerous. As per my post this morning, at best, the NDP could save $3.7 M from capping the salaries of hospital CEOs.
So which is it? $3.7 million is a far cry from $80 million.

Also on the let's-talk-real-issues front, this is getting little to no attention. Mental health:
What is a surprise, though, is that only the Liberals included a commitment to increase mental health services, particularly for children, in their election platform. The Progressive Conservatives made a passing reference to the need for “patient-centred” reforms on a variety of health-care concerns. The New Democrats said nothing.
Not sexy enough for a photo op?

Ozone monitoring cuts backlash

Let's check in on how it's going since government cuts to Canada's long time ozone monitoring program made news and the international scientific community took note.

Karen Dodds, the assistant deputy minister in the Environment department is claiming that the program can be made more efficient, redundancy can be eliminated. Where we now have two components of an ozone measuring program, there can be one:
"We're saying we don't need the same level of redundancy that we have now," Dodds said, noting that the department now has two networks monitoring different aspects of the ozone.

"So instead of doing both measurements as frequently as we have and at as many sites as we have, it is quite possible, (and) scientifically rational, to move to a system that combines the two," she said.
So they are in fact cutting the existing program. Peter Kent is using similar language to Dodds, speaking of "optimizing and streamlining." The government characterization of what they're doing is, however, directly challenged by an environmental scientist:
Thomas Duck, an atmospheric researcher at Dalhousie University, takes issues with many of Dodds' comments and said there is "no redundancy" in the Canadian ozone monitoring system.

"I could get a lineup of scientists to tell her flat out that the statement (about redundancy) is not scientifically defensible," he says.

If there were better ways to measure ozone, Ducks says the Environment Canada scientists would already being doing it. "They are using the best tools for the job, and to suggest they should do anything else is quite strange," says Duck. "These are professionals who care about what they do, and what's more, they are at the top of their game."
 Elsewhere he explains how the two current measuring systems work:
The "Brewer" methodology measures the total amount of ozone, but doesn't work in the Arctic during winter. And the weather-balloon approach called ozone sondes measures ozone just once a week and doesn't measure ozone on the ground, he explained.

"They do very different things, they take very different measurements," Duck said. "Both of them are absolutely necessary."
The scientists within Environment Canada are not being permitted to speak to the media (Postmedia link) so it is only the external scientific community who will be speaking to this issue on a scientific basis for we the Canadian public. Given the conflicting views above, it's difficult to see how the government's word on this will settle the issue at all.

It also seems a little strange for an assistant deputy minister to be so out in front on a controversial issue like this. This is a political controversy, not sure why the assistant deputy minister is carrying the flag on this. 

Beyond the environmental file here, this is likely a template of things to come. Cuts are undertaken yet lo and behold, we're told the services or the function at issue will not be impacted. This is relayed to the public in bureaucratic platitudes about redundancies, synergies, optimizing, streamlining, finding the best mix and technological advancements. They're better than Rob Ford at the federal level, after all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Late night

So the R.E.M. era is over. Guess it's kind of been over for a few years now, really. Since it's the official break-up, thought I'd post one of theirs that is a long time fave. It's the sound, to me, of what they were early on when they were new and the band to listen to, many years ago!

Also, sorry for the lack of posts. Campaigns get going and interfere a bit with the normal routine. We are having fun here in Parkdale-High Park with canvassing, debating, rockage, etc. Carry on, all you campaigners out there!

Have a good night.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A fair take on the green energy issue in the Ontario election

Hey! A reasonable newspaper column on green energy I can get behind! For the first time this campaign: " Energy flashpoints and the politics of power."
The right wing insists we can’t afford to subsidize power in this province. Funny, but this country has been subsidizing energy production almost since the invention of the light bulb — with special tax credits and allowances for oil exploration, tar sands production, nuclear development, even loan guarantees for hydro megaprojects. Not to mention our failure to impose a price on carbon, giving fossil fuels a perpetual free ride.

Are we recklessly betting the farm on green energy? The private sector takes conventional risks and often guesses wrong; sometimes governments have to backstop the bigger risks.

Some say green energy sounds good, but government can’t be trusted to get the job done. Yet big business also has its share of teething pains when rolling out big projects, so it’s hardly surprising that the government can’t flick the switch on solar and wind without blowing a few fuses.

Free market purists will always choke on the incentives Ontario is offering, just as they opposed the bailout that saved the province’s auto industry. Until we stop subsidizing the rest of the energy sector, and most of the corporate world, it makes no sense to selectively pull the rug out from under Ontario’s green economy. Unless the goal is to unplug it.
Read the whole thing, of course, for more context on the parties' particular positions. Otherwise, nothing much to add to what is a fair take on the energy issue in this election.


The fun with green energy columns continues
Another flawed attack on green energy in Ontario
On green job schemes

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Late night

No analogies intended. Just fun.

The anti-science government at work

Great post on the Harper government's latest anti-science move: "What We Don’t Know Will Hurt Us." They're axing an ozone monitoring project in the Arctic that has been in place for 45 years, providing continuous data. The international scientific community is reeling.

Anti-science's not just a U.S. phenomenon

Monday, September 12, 2011

Challenging the politics of division - part III

This is a very clever 90 seconds. McGuinty is articulating a moral view here, of what Ontario is about and what he believes, in continued response to Tim Hudak's divisive attack on the tax credit for businesses to hire skilled new Canadians.

Just to break it down a bit here, the proposition that we are all in this together, that we want to move forward together is at the heart of what McGuinty is saying. He portrays Hudak as a divider, dividing Ontarians into different groups. He says that Tim Hudak's referencing of "foreign workers" and calling new Canadians "foreigners" is not part of our values as Canadians, that it's not in keeping with who we are. Further, that Hudak is compromising our international reputation. That we want to be a beacon of hope and opportunity for people around the world to come to, so we can grow our economy and create jobs "for all of us." He goes on to bookend it with his statement that in Ontario there is no us and them, it's just us.

He's not getting hung up in the details of policy. It's all about a progressive moral view.

And I know people may be rolling their eyes out there and thinking this is total homer stuff. It's not really about that. It's about the language in play here and how this is a good thing to be hearing from progressive politicians in Canada.

See also:

Challenging the politics of division
Challenging the politics of division - part II

Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday night

A good one from recent weeks and maybe a little bit appropriate given election mode which has set in this week!

Have a good night.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Early days but good signs

Update below (7:05 p.m.).

A poll out tonight in the Ontario race shows a Liberal lead:
A newly released Harris-Decima poll shows Dalton McGuinty's Ontario Liberals have an 11 point lead over Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives - the first time the governing party has bested it's main rival in many months.

The Ontario poll has the Liberals in the lead at 43 per cent, the PC's with 31 per cent, the NDP at 21 and the Green Party trailing with five per cent.

The 43 per cent support for the Liberals, if accurate, puts the party in majority government territory. The double-digit lead marks the first time the Liberals have placed before the PC's in months and may indicate a significant turnaround in the direction of the campaign. The race has been seen as Mr. Hudak's to lose for over a year.
Poll itself not released yet but has the above details and it's getting a lot of buzz.

Early going and all, to be kept in perspective.

Update (7:05 p.m.): with confirmed numbers that slightly vary from the above: "The Ontario poll has the Liberals in the lead at 40 per cent, the PC's with 29 per cent, the NDP at 24 and the Green Party trailing with six per cent."

Again...perspective! Posted this due to Liberal tendency to self-flagellate. Motivation to work hard, etc. Carry on.

Update II (Friday a.m.): Globe report on this poll.

Canada falls from competitiveness Top 10

Noted from the Globe yesterday:
Canada has continued its slide in business competitiveness, falling to 12th place from 10th last year in a World Economic Forum ranking of countries around the globe.

The Conference Board of Canada, which prepared the data for Canada’s ranking, said Canada has slid steadily from 9th place in 2009 because other countries are improving their competitiveness while Canada’s score has remained almost identical over the past three years.

The board said Canada must place more emphasis on improving its productivity if it wants to maintain its high standard of living and quality of life.

“Canada should not be satisfied with its 12th place ranking,” said Michael Bloom, vice-president of Organizational Effectiveness and Learning at the Conference Board.

“Businesses continue to underperform in using our peoples’ skills and knowledge to generate new or improved products, processes and services. And Canadian businesses do not appear to be adapting adequately to globalization or building effective global value chains as quickly as their international competitors.”
Businesses underperforming in using our peoples' skills and knowledge...hmmm, kind of makes you think it might be a useful thing if a government were to encourage businesses to take on skilled workers who are presently not using their medical, legal, engineering or various other professional skills at all. Not using them because those people are new to the country and can't get jobs due to a lack of experience. But if they do get a little bit of experience, then maybe they can contribute to our economy and maybe bolster some of that there competitiveness thing much more than they presently are. And start paying taxes at a much higher rate than they presently do, which bolsters our tax base and funding of hospitals, education, job training programs, etc. That might be an idea. Even if it were only offered as a 1,200 person plan to begin with. Just a thought.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Challenging the politics of division

That's a good explanation of the much discussed proposal from the last 24 hours involving job training for new Canadians. Nice to see a politician stand up to the right wing nonsense, just flat out.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Epic win

A metaphor for good versus evil. Overcoming the stresses of life, whatever they may be. Raw survival skills at their best. The beauty of nature. Whatever you'd like to make of it. Or just lazy but fun Sunday blogging fare.


Friday, September 02, 2011

New deals

This post from Ezra Klein today is U.S. oriented, of course, but it's also applicable to the political dynamic in Canada. Thought provoking:
Much of what I'm hearing at the American Political Science Association's convention is best summed up in table form, and so doesn't make for very good blog posts. But not all of it. Yale's Stephen Skowronek, for instance, made a very provocative argument questioning whether progressives should continue to look back to the New Deal for inspiration. The left, he said, likes to think of itself as an insurgency dedicated to transforming the scope of government. But today, that mantle properly belongs to the right.

“Obama and progressive reformers were engaged in revising the scope and orientation of longstanding policy concerns in light of new challenges and conditions,” argued Skowronek. “In this regard, the project they embraced was very different from the New Deal transformation. That change was constitutional in scope and conception. It brought in a whole new set of concerns and worked to organize the government around them.”

Now compare that to the right, he continued, “which has become increasingly constitutional in scope, which challenges government-driven solutions in principle, which seeks to dislodge American government from the accumulated policy commitments and offers to establish a whole new standard for legitimate action in its place. Today's progressives may cast themselves as an insurgency to redirect government after years of conservative dominance. But the situation may be quite different. Republicans may have become a kind of permanent insurgency.”
...conservatism is better placed to turn people out into the streets, as it’s tapping into a deeper vein of unhappiness, and has to make fewer accommodations with the status quo and realities of and participants in the modern state. As Skowronek put it, Republicans “continue to tap more effectively than the Democrats into the repudiative and mobilizing power of the traditional reconstructive stance.”
Right now, the liberal dream, as embodied by ideas like the public option and universal early childhood education, is to push a bit further in the direction we're already going. The big conservative dream, as embodied by Rick Perry, is to somehow turn back the clock and undo almost a century of social-policy legislation. Where it was once the liberals who had radical ideas for what we should do with the state, it's now conservatives who are waging war on behalf of transformative policy change. That's an important shift.

International talking points

David Cameron early Friday:
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Cameron insisted the UK had been "punching at our weight or even above our weight" in the conflict with the RAF carrying out around a fifth of all strike sorties against Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

He added: "I really want to challenge this idea that somehow the Americans see us a weak ally, they don't - they see us as their strongest and most staunch ally."
Harper yesterday:
“They used to claim that in international affairs, and you’ve heard the quote many times: ‘Canada punched above its weight.’ “Well, to punch above your weight, you first have to be able to punch.
Separated at birth or something. The punching metaphor quite popular this week.

For the record, here's the way the NATO contribution was broken down this week by this journo based on info at the NATO Source blog:
France 33%

United States 16%

Denmark* 11%

Britain 10%

Norway 10%

Canada 10%

Italy 10%
An update at the NATO blog referenced above puts the UK at 12%.

The point...if any nation was punching above their weight, it was probably France. Since everybody seems so concerned about proper share of the credit and all.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Late night

This video is really making the rounds this week and deservedly so! I'm reposting it here for those who still might not have seen it. It's just a great video, dance moves and garb through the last hundred years in just over a minute and a half. So well done and great fun!

Harper's remarks in Italy

Can be found here. Canadians supported the Libya mission and the ouster of Gaddafi is a great achievement. Further, no one quarrels with the words that Harper spoke as a thank you to the servicemen and women in Italy today.

However, there were a few lines spoken by Harper today worth noting. This part:
“Which gives some proof to the old saying: ‘a handful of soldiers is better than a mouthful of arguments.’

“For the Gaddafis of this world pay no attention to the force of argument.

“The only thing they get is the argument of force.
And this part:
“They used to claim that in international affairs, and you’ve heard the quote many times: ‘Canada punched above its weight.’

“Well, to punch above your weight, you first have to be able to punch.
I don't think anyone disputes that it took force to remove Gaddafi. We entered this conflict, however, under a UN Resolution which was significantly humanitarian in its undertaking.

Harper's bellicosity today is certainly a new tone to be hearing from a Canadian prime minister.

Update (8:50 p.m.): See also Aaron Wherry's item on the origin and possible meaning of the quote Harper used above, the "handful of soldiers" line. 

Update (11:35 p.m.): A reader who speaks German sent me the original quote (below - in German). She assures me the "always" is indeed missing from Harper's version of the quote. So if he were quoting it accurately, it should properly have been: ‘a handful of soldiers is always better than a mouthful of arguments.’ Something that was therefore omitted out of error or perhaps because the PM did not want to go that far. Thought I would add this here because Aaron Wherry wrote earlier tonight that  "...the original musing seems to read that a handful of soldiers is always better than a mouthful of arguments."