Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mankiw on raising taxes

This is a notable development in the U.S. conservative spectrum, an op-ed from Gregory Mankiw in the New York Times today dares to talk about raising taxes and on the middle class, at that: "Too Much Wishful Thinking on Middle-Class Tax Rates."
Which brings us back to the middle class. When President Obama talks about taxing the rich, he means the top 2 percent of Americans. John A. Boehner, the House speaker, talks about an even thinner slice. But the current and future fiscal imbalances are too large to exempt 98 percent or more of the public from being part of the solution. 
Ultimately, unless we scale back entitlement programs far more than anyone in Washington is now seriously considering, we will have no choice but to increase taxes on a vast majority of Americans. This could involve higher tax rates or an elimination of popular deductions. Or it could mean an entirely new tax, such as a value-added tax or a carbon tax. 
To be sure, the path ahead is not easy. No politician who wants to be re-elected is eager to entertain the possibility of higher taxes on the middle class. But fiscal negotiations might become a bit easier if everyone started by agreeing that the policies we choose must be constrained by the laws of arithmetic.
Mankiw, as noted in the brief bio at the end, was a Romney adviser but more importantly was an adviser to President George W. Bush as well and is a leading light for U.S. conservatives. Talk of raising taxes, any taxes, as we know is anathema for them but things seem to be changing. What prudent conservatism is supposed to be about, after all, is balancing budgets and fiscal discipline and all that.

And you don't have to agree with the rest of the content of Mankiw's column, which trots out Romney's campaign talk on relative percentages of paid income taxes as between the wealthy and the middle class, to take away from it the point that he is now willing to speak of raising taxes. It's good for the House Republican bunch to hear that key message from one of their own.  

We, of course, have a VAT, the Americans don't. And while we don't have a carbon tax, unless you live in B.C., it's quite the thing to see this notable American conservative float it.

2012 in viral video

The Guardian's version of 2012's top viral videos. Some classic political moments from the year are featured. And what do you know, a Canadian with a British connection makes an appearance near the very end for his very Nixonian protest during a British media interview.

My apologies for such a predictable year end blog post, ho hum. I'd go with a Canadian version but I don't think one exists.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pondering Lincoln

Haven't seen it and not sure I want to after watching David Carr eviscerate Spielberg for it. This is fun.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday night

Crazy "drop," as the house peeps put it, but it's growing on me. I close out the year with....drum roll...Kaskade!

Have a good night!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Republicans on the no new taxes road to ruin

The Republican party in the U.S. has taken that road for almost two decades now and our Prime Minister has imported that no new taxes philosophy to Canada. Conservative sycophants all over the country have followed his lead. Yet at years end, take a look at what's happening in our neighbour to the south. The budget negotiations in the U.S. over the fiscal cliff have laid bare where the absolutism of the no new taxes stance can take you. Instead of permitting tax increases on upper income earners, the Republican radicals would rather let the fiscal cliff kick in and cause tax increases for all Americans and massive spending cuts, sending the U.S. into recession. Tying themselves in knots over being seen to raise taxes. The New York Times has a story today on how the Republicans arrived at this place: "How Party of Budget Restraint Shifted to ‘No New Taxes,’ Ever."

It's the road the Conservative Party of Canada is on as well, and possibly, other federal political parties if they continue to bow to Conservative political pressures. We are not on a fiscal cliff but we do have a structural deficit and other major challenges.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday night

Howdy all! Hope you're having a good week and surviving the holiday busyness and various and sundry politicking all across the country. That's an excerpt above from Jeremy Olander that should be, of course, about twice as long. Very nice and it needs to be loud, very loud. Thought about going with something more mellow, seasonal, but Quite enough of that elsewhere, malls and the like. So progressive house it is.

Have a good night!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Seen in Ottawa

Two people who enjoy politics very much, consulting about leadership advice, etc. Very nice photo.

That is all.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

"Panic all over" on the F-35 at Mr. Harper's feet

If this is true, that aerospace contractors are suddenly all aflutter given the news out of Ottawa on the F-35, then it's squarely on the shoulders of Stephen Harper and his government: "‘It’s panic all over’ as Ottawa rethinks F-35 purchase." Harper and his crew inflamed and sensationalized the jobs issue for contractors for political reasons when they had no need to do so. Here's a reminder of Harper in high form on the F-35s back in the day of 2010:
“To do what Mr. Ignatieff and his allies suggest now is to put in jeopardy every single job in this room and every single job that depends on the aerospace industry with no possible upside whatsoever for the Canadian air force,” he said. “Their position here is playing politics with the lives of our men and women in uniform and the jobs of the people in this room, and we will not stand for it.”
That's what the Prime Minister of Canada did while on site at one of these contractor locations. It was totally inappropriate.

The Memorandum of Understanding that Canada is a party to and that permits contractors to bid for jobs pursuant to, is the principal contract that has always governed our bidding regime. It provides for companies to bid and we paid money in joining this regime in order for these companies to do so. The contracts were never guaranteed to Canada but given our aerospace sector, the contracts came. They may continue to do so.

Some of the panic might have to do with a contractual conflict between what aerospace contractors signed with Lockheed Martin versus what Canada's Memorandum of Agreement with Lockheed Martin states. Again, that's something that never should have happened in this mess but all these people are grownups and they knew all these details. The contractors seemed to be willing to go along with Lockheed Martin to in effect pressure the government into buying the F-35. But governments are ultimately controlled by we civilians, thankfully, and this one finally has had some sense knocked into it by the astounding costs of this plane and the sheer risk now to their political viability (Conservatives of conscience, time to step up, hello).

Back to the main point, setting up aerospace contracts as a condition of our purchase of the F-35...that framing is all on the shoulders of Stephen Harper. And it is partly why this entire episode is so sorry. People's jobs are not political playthings to be gamed for electoral success. But this is the era Stephen Harper has ushered in, so now let's make him live with it. Maybe all those areospace types might want to re-think their photo-op availabilities next time someone comes knocking too.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

December 6th, 1989

Where were you? I will never forget. I was in my first year of law school in Windsor and watched this, or maybe it was a CTV report, on the national news with my roommate Marian. There was no internet (!), no smart phones, no Twitter, no blogs, nada. This is how we saw the news, old school. We were shocked, horrified, stunned. I remember the nighttime, the December cold and thought about a dear girlfriend in Montreal who I called that night. I graduated from McGill in the summer of 1989 and felt a special connection to the city. At the law school the next day and for a while, there was a lot of camaraderie, a closeness, a sharing of what we felt.

Every year on this day, like most of us, my thoughts are about those women and the horror they lived. It is still a day that leaves you with utter sadness and a lump in your throat about their loss. Never forget.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Mercer does Liberal leadership

Addressing the supporter category the party has adopted: "an astounding experiment in democracy." Could be indeed!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Electoral reform debate - video

Parkdale High Park Liberal Debate on PR vs FPTP Part 1 from June Macdonald on Vimeo.

For those who are interested, this is the first 20 minutes of our debate (more to come) held on November 15th in Parkdale-High Park on the topic of electoral reform. The introductory statements by the debaters begin at around the 7:00 minute mark.

It's relevant to a national debate that's taking off on electoral reform, so this was a happy incident of timing. Mr. Dion's presentation of his electoral reform proposal at the Green Party convention at the end of the summer was our jumping off point in deciding to pursue this topic.

Hope you find it informative.

A big thanks to Fair Vote Canada, the debate co-sponsor, for videotaping it and sharing and of course to all the PHP Libs who kicked in as a team to hold this substantive event.

More on cooperation

Noted in this op-ed about the Calgary Centre byelection aftermath:
Leadership is important but it may not be party brass and power-brokers who usher in co-operation. If it happens, it is much more likely to occur at the local level when frustrated political activists and volunteers devise new strategies for coming together to defeat Conservatives.

To that end, a meeting has already been planned for this week in Calgary. The anti-Conservative faction may have lost the byelection but they haven’t given up hope.
This democratic element of local organization is something that is usually overlooked in all the debate over cooperation in favour of what leaders and party brass have to say.

Democracy is messy sometimes and how you deal with it in politics can be telling.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Joyce Murray's Vancouver launch

That's video of Joyce Murray's Vancouver launch that happened Saturday afternoon. I recommend watching the full video as by the end of it you'll get a good sense of what she's about and the bold policies of her platform thus far. It is Sunday after all, come have time to watch a video. If you do need to get right to the heart of it, skip to about the 7:00 min mark and following for the official Vancouver based declaration of her candidacy and continue on from there. She was clearly happy and comfortable with her home crowd of about 200.

There are a few good quotes in the accompanying Georgia Straight article as well that is worth reading. There's this, on the party:
"Liberal governments have introduced most of the practical and bold initiatives that have made this country great," Murray said to a capacity crowd at the Jericho Saling Centre meeting room. "And that's what we need right now: a vision that's not only bold, but is achievable through experience and pragmatic decision making."
Continuing with that thought about the tradition of the party and its bold initiatives, there's more on the cooperation plank that is getting some favourable attention:
"I am against a merger," Murray noted, "but what I am for—for the next election only—is working with my party to adopt a system of voluntary cooperation at the riding level with riding associations having the veto."

She added that the "worst thing would be to continue to let Prime Minister Harper and his government dismantle our democracy and dismantle our social-safety net, and more than that, dismantle our environmental-safety net".

"I find it unimaginable that we can't find the will to cooperate on these key issues for Canadians," she said. "So I will be leading the charge on that."
 One more excerpt on another of her policies:
"In Canada, we have to end the phoney debate in Parliament," she said. "We need to put a price on carbon, and I will work with Canada's CEOs to discuss the best way to implement this carbon price and ensure that they have the predictability and stability that business needs. Business does need to be involved here and be a leader."
Murray is clearly not shying away from big issues of the day that need to be addressed.

Have a great Sunday.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday night

This is way too short but it's suiting the mood tonight. Optimism in major key! Enjoy and have a good night.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The week in Harper's judgment

Harper appointed this Senator:
Housakos, a member of the Conservative caucus since late 2008 and an influential fundraiser for the party, came up at the inquiry Wednesday. According to testimony, Housakos met at an exclusive club with two men who now face numerous criminal charges in an unrelated affair, including Catania.
He was described as having attended two meetings and hosting one, all in 2007 and 2008, before he was appointed to the Parliament of Canada. His name appears in a detailed ledger of people who frequented Club 357c, a high-end establishment located at that address on de la Commune Street, in the heart of Montreal's old city.
The document was deposited Wednesday at Quebec's Charbonneau Commission and it included Housakos' name as well as those of two former Quebec Liberal cabinet ministers and local municipal councillors, among others. Investigators said that names of people they did not recognize or considered irrelevant to their probe were blacked out in the documents released Wednesday. However, Housakos' name appeared three times in the 10-page document. In the interview with The Canadian Press, Housakos said he welcomed the commission's work but challenged some of the details.
When asked about Housakos, Harper mumbled a French proverb in response about a man who saw a man who saw a bear.

Harper appointed this Senator too, in the news over a week ago:
Sen. Patrick Brazeau receives an annual $20,000 taxpayer-subsidized housing allowance for claiming his principle residence is in Maniwaki, Que., but other residents tell CTV News they’ve rarely seen him there.
Harper's party hired this firm:
Liberals are demanding an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper after a Conservative pollster was censured for conducting a misinformation campaign against MP Irwin Cotler.
An investigation by the market research industry's watchdog concluded Wednesday that the actions of Campaign Research Inc., brought the industry into disrepute. "The actions of Campaign Research have likely caused the Canadian public to lose confidence in marketing research and have tarnished the image of the marketing research profession," says a ruling by three-member panel of the Market Research and Intelligence Association.
The panel was struck after the association received seven complaints of professional misconduct against Campaign Research. The complaints related to a voter identification poll the company conducted last autumn on behalf of the federal Conservative party in Cotler's Montreal riding. The company's callers suggested to constituents — falsely — that Cotler either had or was about to quit as the Liberal MP for Mount Royal.
Hello, Conservatives, when are you going to get tired of this? Anything stirring in those heads of yours? Any folks of ethics or integrity to be found anywhere in your midst?

Monday, November 26, 2012

No more secret fishing trips for the buds

Good times with his bud on Harrington Lake are likely in the rear view mirror for Mr. Ford. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Busy news day: Murray, Carney, Ford

Ok, obviously I was interested in this as the big event of the day but you cannot control for what the political gods of the day have in store for you: "Joyce Murray joins Liberal leadership, calls for co-operation with NDP, Greens." That's the leading Canadian Press coverage that should give you everything you need to know. Making the most news is the cooperation proposal more of which can be found here.

In a surprising development that Carney himself had downplayed, Mr. Carney went off to England to run their Bank of England. The new governor of the Bank of Canada may be the senior deputy governor "Tiff" Macklem. Would be the most interesting name for a Bank of Canada Governor ever.

And Mr. Ford may be shoved off. Or something like that. He is handling it with all the dignity and aplomb we Torontonians have come to know so well.

By-election results on deck for tonight.

For Joyce Murray for Liberal leader

I have decided to support Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray in the Liberal leadership race that has just officially begun. That's not a big surprise after my blog post last week writing of the importance of a track record of electability for leadership candidates. That post was essentially an endorsement but not fulsome enough. So this post will hopefully do the job. I am supporting Joyce with real enthusiasm and hope as I look forward to this campaign.

I met Joyce in Toronto in October and a number of things just clicked in terms of mutual views on the party and issues. In addition, it was quite apparent that Joyce is an impressive and substantially accomplished woman.

She is, above all else in my mind, a seasoned politician who is a fighter. That's who I believe the Liberal party needs right now as a leader. Joyce fights and wins and has repeatedly. She has successfully fought through three contested nomination contests, not two as I wrote last week. How many politicians in the Liberal party can say that to begin with? That they fought, there was no riding handed to or held for them. And then to say that they have won four elections? Very few except those who have substantial experience. She has also lost. And yet has come back to win again.

Why is this particular aspect of leadership, an electoral track record, so important? I would suggest that it instills deeply a sense of democratic accountability and respect for the democratic process for someone who has gone through it. This is a sense that I wish for the next leader of the party to have. To know through and through that you have to fight to win. To know the importance of winning each vote and to know how to do it.

To know that policy has to be grounded in values that connect with people otherwise you're not going to get re-elected next time. To know that you have to create that policy in a way that is collaborative, not top-down, so that your members and supporters connect with your party and then you indeed have a thriving party. To know that this is a political and democratic organization that the Liberal party is. It's not a club for the powerful and personalities. It's about doing good things for people and the country and we do that by getting elected!

So this is why I value electoral experience and believe in its importance for this leadership race. This is not a job that just anyone can do. Joyce has that experience, having been elected both provincially in B.C. where she was the Environment Minister and federally. I believe she shows the discipline that this democratic sensibility forces upon a seasoned politician.

I also believe it is important for our next leader to have a business sensibility, an on the ground depth of knowledge about what it takes to build a business and achieve success. Joyce also has that, having built a successful business with her husband of 35 years. The business they built has 600 full time employees and I believe about 800 seasonal employees. They reforest, among other things, demonstrating a real dedication to the environment as well. Building a successful business from the ground up over time. That shows a stick to it-ness and determination that the party needs as well.

Political acumen, business savvy, those are some pretty substantial credentials. That she is from the West, that's also a persuasive factor to me. It's time to have a Western leader of the party.

I would add the personal qualities as well that have impressed me. Integrity chief among them. You can sense when you are dealing with someone who sees the humanity in people and is fair. There is a likability too. She stands up for women (3:10 min mark here). She reminds me of some leading dignified women politicians of the day that I respect, including Alison Redford and Hillary Clinton. Why can't we members and supporters of the Liberal party choose that too? I think we should.

There are a number of policy reasons for my support as well but I'll leave those for another day (or days) as this campaign goes on.

Joyce is announcing her leadership bid at 11 am ET today. See you there!

See also: "Joyce Murray: Representing the Canadian Experience," "Joyce Murray will be a Formidable Liberal Leadership Candidate." 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wrong way Harper

"Poll points to lagging support for monarchy and universal pride in medicare."

Shorter version of this fun little poll on a Sunday afternoon, Canadians for the most part aren't buying what Harper is selling. Monarchy? No thanks. Charter? Oh yes, we like that no matter how much this government tries to downplay and ignore it.

A lot of things money just can't buy, PMO Comms staffers.

Carry on, Canada! You're on the right track.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

David McGuinty statement

Here is the appropriate accountability for David McGuinty's remarks:
Statement by Liberal MP David McGuinty

OTTAWA– Liberal MP David McGuinty made the following statement today:

"As Member of Parliament for Ottawa South I would like to unreservedly and unequivocally apologize for comments which I made with respect to Parliamentary colleagues from the province of Alberta. My words in no way reflect the views of my party or leader, and I offer my apology to them as well as my colleagues from Alberta.

I hold all Parliamentarians in high esteem, and I regret my choice of words, as I can understand the offence they have caused.

I have offered my resignation as energy and natural resources critic to my leader, and he has accepted. I look forward to continuing to serve my constituents in the House of Commons."

People step in it from time to time. It's the right thing to do to own up to it and take responsibility. As opposed to many other political actors in present day Canadian politics.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

If you lost your seat, should you compete?

While the Liberal leadership race formally began this week, with the party's official opening date, it seems like it's been going on for quite a while. Many leadership aspirants have been testing the waters and speaking with Liberals and supporters across the country for months now. During that time, and having had a chance to meet many of them, I've come to prioritize a few qualities when considering what kind of candidate I'd like to support.

One of my top criteria is indeed whether they have a proven track record of electability. This is a political party, after all, not a debating club as I believe Bob Rae put it in one well stated observation during this past year. Implicit in a proven track record of electability is political experience and acumen that only that electability brings. It matters to me. This party has to be more committed to the democratic process and walking the walk on that score. I want my leader to have been tested in that way.

That is a priority for me in this leadership race and I will judge all the candidates on that score. And that is how I read Warren Kinsella's article last night, with my criteria in mind.

Oh, and one other point on Warren's Sun piece. I just want to point out that in order to be complete he should have included one of the leadership candidates who will announce shortly, MP Joyce Murray. Who happens to have been through two contested nomination battles and has won four elections (one provincial, three federal).

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday night

Oh you've got green eyes, oh you've got blue eyes, oh you've got grey eyes...

Have a good night!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Last call: Electoral reform debate tonight #php #cdnpoli #topoli


Info on location and resolution all above on our great flier designed by Graham Bolton, riding volunteer.

The debaters are all quite enthused about the night which has been inspiring to hear. They are prepared and looking to get into the issue. We are fortunate to have such a great panel willing to give of their time to further this policy discussion.

We do plan to have an audience vote at the beginning, as a temperature check, and then at the end, to see who has prevailed on the night. All in fun, of course. It will be a very high tech show of hands. That's how we roll in PHP. Although we will have wireless mikes for audience Q & A.

If you are in Toronto, hope to see you there.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Liberal leadership is on

Mailboxes are all aflutter with press releases and there's this nifty new video. This is going to be big, people. The officialdom of it all is starting to set in. Debate schedules and whatnot. Exciting.

Ontario's leadership race should be finished just as this one is starting to heat up. Debates commence roughly around the time when Ontario's campaign will come to an end.

I should have an endorsement - federal - up some time next week.

Monday, November 12, 2012

An answer to the carbon tax rhetoric

Postmedia's Mike De Souza uploaded this Environment Canada presentation on to Scribd and it is getting a fair amount of attention.

Notably, it includes some information on the dollar costs of climate change in Canada over the last decade or so. If you look to slides 25 and 29 for example, the increased costs of fighting fires in B.C. due to drought conditions and the increased costs on the east coast of hurricane damage are set out, respectively. The costs of fighting the pine beetle are on slide 23. And look at this one, the losses suffered by farmers in the west on slide 21, entitled "Increased temperatures can exacerbate drought conditions":
"While no single event can be attributed to climate change, increasing temperatures are expected to cause increased aridity and more frequent drought; Impacts of the extreme drought of 2001-2003 were far-reaching, though hardest hit were agricultural producers in Alberta and Saskatchewan: $1.33 billion in 2002 while Saskatchewan was $925 million in 2001and $1.49 billion in 2002; More than 41,000 jobs were lost, and GDP was reduced by $5.8 billion"
On slide 32: "An overall 10-14% increase in Northern Quebec river flows is projected - In anticipation, Hydro Quebec is making significant capital decisions."

The job killing carbon tax? No, it's the economy killing lack of action, stupid.* 

Key Climate Change Impacts - 2012 02 17

*A play on the famous "It's the economy, stupid" framing of the 1992 U.S. presidential election by James Carville, of course...

Friday, November 09, 2012

Friday night

I go with my old faithful, Kaskade, mashing two good ones. He released it this week, something he played during his summer tour.

Can you believe I did not blog anything this week with so much going on. That is just unacceptable and will have to change.

Have a good night!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Reasons to vote

In this week before the U.S. election, noted film maker Errol Morris had a great short film that ran in the New York Times. It's about voting and is meant to encourage people to get to the polls. He does it in a light and humorous way by coming at it from the other direction. One of the best things seen online this week. Enjoy!

Friday, November 02, 2012

It is on: Electoral reform debate

In west end Toronto, on the evening of November 15th, the Parkdale-High Park federal Liberal riding association will be hosting a debate on electoral reform featuring some fine Canadian public policy leaders. We are very appreciative that they will be taking the time to participate with us in this event. The debate will be held in the auditorium of Bishop Marrocco High School (at Dundas West subway station on the Bloor line) from 7 – 9 pm. Fair Vote Canada has kindly agreed to co-sponsor the debate.

This is a little different from the usual town hall variety event that you might see going on in your ridings and that is the idea behind it. To raise an issue with some subject matter experts in a manner that is not partisan but rather puts a policy front and center. To seek the community's input on the issue. And to hopefully have some fun in doing so!

Here is our flier, below, with details and which is also available for downloading and sharing at this link.


There are a lot of people here in PHP working hard to put this together. All are welcome and please mark it down on your calendars.

Related links:

Facebook event for Facebookers to RSVP.
PHP Association.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Romney punts on climate change

Excellent video of Romney at a rally and his tin ear non-response, when given the opportunity, to respond to a heckler who challenges him on climate change.

Hecklers shouldn't be allowed to commandeer an event. But in these crucial few last days, when climate change has been brought to the fore and the ground is shifting in the form of Michael Bloomberg's climate change driven endorsement of Obama, wouldn't you think a gut instinct politician might take the moment to say something? Romney did not. He followed the chanting crowd and missed a moment.

Harper Halloween video

In case you missed it. Unfortunately, there is no sound. Or, fortunately because it looked a little too awkward of a photo-op and likely wasn't too festive.

On the right of Harper there, in the costumes...I think that's Fantino in the blue overalls/red shirt, maybe Diane Finley in the striped get up, and looks like Poilievre in the pink and yellow polka dotted gear. I could be wrong though.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Clinton on Sandy and global warming

Good for Clinton for speaking about climate change in the post-Sandy moment. What better time to point out the effects that rising ocean levels will have on coastal areas as these storms get more intense due to warming effects. What better time to challenge Americans to think about it and make that connection.

Two notes on what Clinton said. Romney actually mocked Obama during his convention acceptance speech. And Bill is referring to himself as a New Yorker, clearly. "In my part of the country..." jars you a little as he's such a southerner in style.

Who knows, maybe the Clinton words here bode well in terms of some budding leadership on climate change. After Americans have been walloped like this, you'd like to think so.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mother Nature weighs in

Not going to talk about climate change during the U.S. presidential election? Mother Nature may be taking her revenge, in the form of the storm bearing down on the U.S. east coast and which will affect many here in eastern Canada. Joe Romm has some of the science explaining how the warming climate is manifesting itself in this storm:
“A meteorologically mind-boggling combination of ingredients [] coming together: one of the largest expanses of tropical storm (gale) force winds on record with a tropical or subtropical cyclone in the Atlantic or for that matter anywhere else in the world; a track of the center making a sharp left turn in direction of movement toward New Jersey in a way that is unprecedented in the historical database, as it gets blocked from moving out to sea by a pattern that includes an exceptionally strong ridge of high pressure aloft near Greenland; a “warm-core” tropical cyclone embedded within a larger, nor’easter-like circulation; and eventually tropical moisture and arctic air combining to produce heavy snow in interior high elevations. This is an extraordinary situation, and I am not prone to hyperbole.” [Stu Ostro]
Being fueled in part by “ocean temperatures along the Northeast U.S. coast [] about 5°F above average,” so “there will be an unusually large amount of water vapor available to make heavy rain” [former Hurricane Hunter Jeff Masters]
Also being driven by a high pressure blocking pattern near Greenland “forecast to be three standard deviations from the average” [Climate Central and CWG]
And what's causing that high pressure blocking pattern near Greenland that is driving the storm toward the eastern U.S. instead of it remaining out at sea? A scientist at Rutgers who does work on the impact of the loss of Arctic sea ice says it is consistent with the fallout from this summer's record low sea ice:
The jet stream pattern — particularly the strongly negative NAO [North Atlantic Oscillation] and associated blocking — that has been in place for the last 2 weeks and is projected to be with us into next week is exactly the sort of highly amplified (i.e., wavy) pattern that I’d expect to see more of in response to ice loss and enhanced Arctic warming. Blocking happens naturally, of course, but it’s very possible that this block may have been boosted in intensity and/or duration by the record-breaking ice loss this summer. Late-season hurricanes are not unheard of either, but Sandy just happened to come along during this anomalous jet-stream pattern, as well as during an autumn with record-breaking warm sea-surface temperatures off the US east coast. It could very well be that general warming along with high sea-surface temperatures have lengthened the tropical storm season, making it more likely that a Sandy could form, travel so far north, and have an opportunity to interact with a deep jet-stream trough associated with the strong block, which is steering it westward into the mid-Atlantic. While it’s impossible to say how this scenario might have unfolded if sea-ice had been as extensive as it was in the 1980s, the situation at hand is completely consistent with what I’d expect to see happen more often as a result of unabated warming and especially the amplification of that warming in the Arctic.
I haven’t read the entire Noren paper yet, but it does not surprise me that severe flooding in the northeast could be linked with periods of negative AO [Arctic Oscillation]. When the AO is negative, the jet stream tends to be wavier, just like the situation we’re in now, which favors slow-moving weather systems that can cause floods. Losing ice, reducing the poleward temperature gradient, and warming the entire climate system should contribute to increasing the likelihood of condusive to anomalous storms.
There's much more at his post to take in on this "warming-driven monster" that is asserting itself with a vengeance in the last week of the U.S. campaign. Maybe more attention to the global elephant in the room would have been warranted.

P.S. It goes without saying that our government, of course, is not doing any better in addressing the challenge.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday night

Going with something a little funkier tonight. Great part around 1:30 mark.

Have a great night!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fate and timing

Dalton McGuinty is not running for the federal leadership it is now fully confirmed. Just wanted to highlight one of the things he said in his interview with Joan Bryden of Canadian Press:
"One of the things I've discovered in talking to people in different parts of the country is there's a tremendous bedrock of goodwill and enthusiasm. It's not being manifested on the surface at this point in time but it is there nonetheless," he said.

"I would also argue ... that we are, by inclination and in terms of our history, we are small 'l' liberals, we Canadians. And it's just a matter now of doing the necessary work to recommit ourselves to Canadians, to show people that we are hungry, that we have good ideas, that we understand the future, we know where our place for success can be found in that future and to get on with the work.

"So I am, in fact, very optimistic about the future of my federal party."
That is the classic optimism and positivity of McGuinty that he would have brought to the federal level. I hope the next federal leader will have their own personal version of it as well.

But for one seat, over one year ago in the 2011 fall election, would McGuinty have been in federally? We will never know.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Flaherty muses on CMHC privatization

"Flaherty eyes privatization of CMHC." Well that's something big to watch. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is a profitable Crown corporation ($335 million in profit in the 2nd quarter) and has billions in assets. It is a stabilizing force in the Canadian housing market and by providing residential mortgage insurance, encourages home ownership.

Why would Flaherty go here? The burden should be on Flaherty et al. to demonstrate that moving from what is working to an alternative would be beneficial for Canada. Any move to take us down a road that the U.S. has gone by destabilizing a longstanding public and successful institution like this should be treated with great caution.

It sounds like the Conservatives know this and seem to be backing off, a little, as this news broke today: "Ted Menzies, Flaherty’s parliamentary secretary, responded that the government does not have plans to privatize the CMHC “at this time." At this time, he qualified.

This could be a wallet issue that would resonate if the case is articulated well. Flaherty of the 40 year mortgage adventures should be watched on this very carefully.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mercer on the Economic Action Plan ads

Yes, I've been posting Mr. Mercer's rants of late. The last three have been bang on and deserve to be widely shared. It's unfortunate that we don't see more of such content on Canadian television given that the majority of Canadians don't support this government yet the venues to see such opposition on our television screens are so limited. Panels on the various political shows just don't cut it.

These latest ads are such a stretch. The notion that there is indeed an "Economic Action Plan" that is being carried out in the present day as an extension of the early 2009 stimulus spending, this neat construct the government has created, is a bunch of hooey. A government can have economic priorities and policies but this idea that there is a document or an official plan of some kind should be losing its credibility. Mercer is right to mock it. The government could call it an EAP at the height of the recession and get away with it. That moment required attention, something different, public assurance. Now it does feel like it's a creation that's living on borrowed time. The real propagandistic feel to these new ads is what makes you take that second hard listen.

Meanwhile, as these ads have ramped up, the expanded meat recall is unfolding. Nice ads on the screens, tainted beef in our homes...too bad this government isn't capable of acting competently when a concrete economic issue in need of a plan presents itself.

Monday, October 15, 2012

There goes Dalton

An excerpt from his unexpected resignation speech late this afternoon, more below:
Our government hasn’t been perfect. But when it comes to the big things that families count on us to get right –schools, health care, the environment and the economy -- we've gotten it right every time. Just this afternoon, we updated Ontarians on the state of our finances. We're once again ahead of schedule with our plan to balance the budget... We've beaten our budget forecasts in seven of the last nine years.
I feel very good about where we are as a party and a province. But as Liberals, we're always driving forward. The opposition’s political games are holding Ontario back. They've told us they oppose our plan for a two-year pay freeze for government workers. That means we can't make it law. So, we need to go back to the drawing board.
We're going to make a sincere and determined effort to negotiate a wage freeze agreement with our labour partners. Like the agreements already reached with 80,000 public sector workers. We're also going to consult with the opposition about what they would support to freeze wages.
To this end, I’ve asked the Lieutenant Governor to prorogue the legislature to allow those discussions with our labour partners and the opposition to occur in an atmosphere that is free of the heightened rancour of politics in the legislature. And when the legislature returns, we will either have negotiated agreements in hand or a firm sense of what the opposition will support.
As the party and government of relentless progress, we’re always looking for new ideas and ways to renew ourselves. And I’ve concluded that this is the right time for Ontario's next Liberal Premier and our next set of ideas to guide our province forward.
Earlier today, I asked Yasir Naqvi, our party president, to convene a leadership convention at the earliest possible time. I will remain as Premier until that leadership convention. And it will be my honour to continue to serve as the MPP for Ottawa South until the next general election.
I know I've asked some hard things of you. But I’ve always been inspired by the ideal that the older generations work hard to build a bright future for the younger ones. And they do this, always, with love and an unwavering commitment. I saw that in my own mother and father. It’s what Terri and I have tried to do for our children. And I see it in the eyes and actions of Ontario families, every day. I thank you for the honour of serving as your Leader and your Premier... In Ontario, the greatest province in the best country in the world.
Note that he stated he will remain as Premier until the leadership convention to choose his successor. There is, however, some early speculation on his future going on, naturally, given the federal leadership race which technically commences almost a month to the day. He'd certainly have a lot of backers should he choose to give it a run. And it looks like there might be something to this or at least a preserving of options going on: "Federal Liberal leadership campaign building around Ontario premier: sources." Very interesting must read material this evening.

It was not difficult to campaign in the last provincial election in my Toronto riding on things like full-day kindergarten, the Green Energy Act, and the high rankings the school system has been getting internationally. Those are some impressive legacy flags to have planted.

Further, there are very few politicians who can speak like this on an issue like bullying - "I care about you" - and you know he meant it. 

I leave it at that tonight. Carry on! 

Today's big poll

"Liberal poll numbers climb over NDP as leadership starts." A few quick thoughts...

I looked at the dates over which this poll was conducted, first: "The telephone survey of 1,000 Canadians was conducted between Oct.4-11 and is considered accurate within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20." OK, right in the wheelhouse of the aftermath of Trudeau's announcement, which was on October 1st. Followed by an avalanche of coverage. It means that Canadians at that time were heavily exposed to the prospects of the Liberal leadership race, Trudeau, yes, and likely had a thought or two swirling around about the state of political leadership in the country.

This poll also occurred at the height of this latest tainted meat episode and I wouldn't discount that factor either as an influence on people's political choices at the moment. Anything but Conservative could be a factor.

While I am very hesitant with any poll these days, my impression is that this is just one of many you will see showing the three main parties all in the same ballpark. Even when other pollsters have Liberals in third spot, the distance among the parties is never so great that it couldn't be overcome in an election campaign given the fluidity these days. So it means something, but whether anyone should write these numbers down as delivered by Nanos today as some kind of gospel, probably not.

It should, however, tell those who would peddle silly existential questions about the Liberal party that they should think about getting a new hobby.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Late night Gillard

Thanks to Dr. Dawg for posting this most excellent video. Had to fly the flag for Julia over here too!

I don't have much to add just hope that everyone watches. Sheer guts and awesomeness from Gillard in calling out Tony Abbott, the leader of the opposition and his hypocrisy on sexism.

P.S. Those are nice leather benches they have in Australia. A modern house.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Harper announces new Supreme Court nominee

Well there's nothing like a burgeoning food safety crisis to prompt some Prime Ministerial newsmaking. Meet the new nominee: "Mr. Justice Richard Wagner." Just over one year on the Quebec Court of Appeal but about 8 in total on the bench.

One more quick observation here. Noted in Justice Wagner's background:
He was also an executive member of the Construction Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association, Quebec Division which he presided during the year 2003-2004.
You never know when that kind of background might come in handy these days...

A middle class pitch

There's a certain dynamic going on in Canadian politics that you may not have noticed. Or, maybe you did because you're a sharp cookie. A broader angle that gets lost in the daily hurly-burly. You may have noticed two words in particular that jumped out in yesterday's preview reporting on today's Justin Trudeau leadership launch. In the Toronto Star, for example, note a certain two words in the first sentence:
Justin Trudeau is launching his bid to be Liberal leader with a call for the party to reclaim its role as the voice of Canada’s middle class.
Then you see the words again in the Globe:
There is much political sizzle surrounding Mr. Trudeau’s bid, but his team is insisting that there will be lots of content, including a heavy emphasis on reclaiming middle-class support, in his initial campaign speech.
Got it? Middle class. A very popular target these days this middle class segment. An appeal to the middle class was Tom Mulcair's first order of business at his first caucus meeting after having been elected as leader: "Creating a budget, he said, is about priorities. He said Harper has a choice between pandering to his rich friends or defending the middle class." No more ordinary Canadians, it was noted.

You may also have noticed that Harper and his band of followers are all over the middle-class action as well. John Ibbitson has written about the concern in Conservative circles about whether they might be in jeopardy of losing these voters as inequality concerns grow:
There is a quiet debate under way within the Conservative caucus. While not everyone – perhaps not even a majority – agrees, senior figures within the caucus are convinced the party’s future hinges on the outcome of that debate, and they believe Stephen Harper shares their concern. Some Conservatives are asking themselves whether the party is in danger of losing the middle class.
And so the government heavily targets their economic message to the middle class. For example, here was Bernard Valcourt talking about trade on September 7th: “The Government of Canada is committed to promoting Canadian business abroad to create jobs, economic growth and prosperity for middle-class Canadian families.” Here was Tony Clement in Northern Ontario a few days ago: “Today’s announcement will help develop the region as a tourist destination, attract visitors to the area and create jobs for middle-class Canadian families,” said Minister Clement. Here was John Duncan at the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce on September 11th: "I'm talking about our government's number one priority, and the number one concern for Canadians: economic growth and creating jobs for middle-class Canadian families."

The anti-carbon tax campaign the Conservatives launched this parliamentary season has also been about "Supporting Middle Class Jobs," so they claim.

And see the campaign going on in the U.S. where the fight for support from the middle class is a central battle.

So it's understandable that a leading candidate for the Liberal leadership could launch their campaign with this emphasis.

Looking forward to the big event tonight.

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.

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

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!

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 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.


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.


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

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!

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.