Saturday, June 30, 2012

While Colorado burns

Pointed, killer column in the Guardian by Bill McKibben:
Global warming is underway. Are we waiting for someone to hold up a sign that says "Here's climate change"? Because, this week, we got everything but that...
And then goes on to enumerate a list of the record setting weather events of the past week, including the fires in Colorado. Choice excerpt is regarding the Exxon CEO who got a lot of attention this week for saying the world would adapt to climate change and that fears are overblown:
Amid it all, the CEO of the biggest oil company in the world, Exxon, gave what may go down in the annals as the most poorly timed – not to mention, arrogant – speech in the firm's history: Rex Tillerson, speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, admitted what his company spent many years denying, that humans were heating the planet. But then he added:
"We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around – we'll adapt to that. It's an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions. And so I don't … the fear factor that people want to throw out there and say, 'We just have to stop this,' I do not accept."
Against the backdrop of the burning Rockies, it's pretty clear this is not an engineering problem. Engineers, in fact, have performed admirably. One day last month, Germany generated more than half its electricity from solar panels. We've got the technical chops to solve our troubles.
No, this is a greed problem. In the last five years, Exxon has made more money than any company in history. For the moment, Exxon and other's desire to keep minting money – and our politicians' desire for a share of that cash – has conspired to keep our government, and most others, from doing anything to head off the crisis.
And unlike the healthcare predicament, this crisis comes with a time limit. If we play politics for a generation, then weeks like the one we've just come through will be normal, and all we'll be doing as a nation is responding to emergencies. As one scientist put it at week's end, the current heatwave is "bad by our current definition of bad, but our definition of bad changes."
A column with a point that applies equally to Canada. We've certainly got our weather extremes settling in and a government that is not talking about climate change or acting on behalf of our nation to do our part.

Late night

Have a great night!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Refugee health care protest actions

Cuts to the Interim Federal Health program kick in this weekend yet protests will be ongoing. The doctors who are leading the opposition to the cuts, Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, are going to collect data on refugees who are affected and tell the stories that they hear by sharing them through media "and with Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers, both at their offices and when they make any health-related announcements." Good on them for their commitment, it has been so inspiring to see. You can follow them on Twitter at @docs4refugeehc to keep up on their activity.

There's another effort on this issue that's sprung up, students asking that people send 59 cents to Harper to support the cost per Canadian to cover the cuts. Worth circulating.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Liberal leadership movement

A few developments to note. First up, word came last night of LPCBC President David Merner's announcement that he is leaving that position in order to run for leader. I spoke with David on the weekend while he was at the LPCA meeting in Edmonton. Merner is a native Albertan, living in Victoria, who has worked in Ottawa at the Department of Justice. Is fluently bilingual. So fluent that he played on French hockey teams while living in Ottawa. And wrote the Ontario Bar in French. That's pretty darned bilingual.

Also notable about Merner, he sits on the advisory board of Leadnow, which over the past year has become one of the leading young progressive organizations in the country. Speaks about really making an effort in the west for the party, emphasizes micro-targeting, mentioned Liberalist twice during our chat, cares about a new way of doing policy in the party ("wikisourcing") and is keen to answer the question of what kind of leadership the party needs. Very engaging and easy to talk politics with, he is going to add a lot to the race.

Second, Deborah Coyne is to declare her intention to run today:
...she says she's running because she believes Canadians are fed up with polarizing partisanship and that gives the Liberal party a golden opportunity to re-emerge from its current third-party status as the party of "bold, principled" national leadership on important public policy questions.

"I'm in this to make sure it's an ideas-based campaign. I believe I have a vision and a program that will resonate with many Canadians."
That should partially satisfy the #Coyne4LPC crowd. I paid $5 for one of those buttons at the Biennial, who knew it would actually come in handy?

One other item, I note Taleeb Noormohamed, the former 2011 Liberal candidate in North Vancouver, is now being included in the list of those considering a run (CP link above). Another intriguing name to watch.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Harper's risky economic theories

There are a few items in the news today that run contrary to the constant spin we get from our Harper government spokespersons about the solidity of the omni-present Economic Action Plan and how all our possible economic troubles stem from abroad. First up: "Moody’s warns on mortgage debt."
After Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced last week that Ottawa is tightening the rules on government-backed mortgages to keep the housing market from overheating, Moody’s said it is concerned the efforts may not be enough.
High levels of household debt in Canada have left consumers with little flexibility to adapt to shifting markets, the credit rating agency said. “The government’s moves may have come too late, owing to the buildup in consumer debt that has already occurred,” Moody’s said in a research note Monday. “Canadian consumers’ reliance on low interest rates to support high debt loads remains a risk.”
Same old story with the Harper/Flaherty team. Too late in acting and not enough scrutiny being given in Canada to the role they have played in meddling with mortgage rules.

Then there are other broader concerns being articulated: "Conference Board of Canada: Weak productivity, innovation gap pose challenges to Canada's economy."
Mr. Hodgson said Canada’s productivity growth “has been dismal” compared to the U.S. and other major economies. “Thanks to chronically weak productivity growth, Canadian incomes are $8,500 per capita below where they would be if we had matched the U.S. on productivity,” he said.
The Conference Board is not alone with these concerns. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, in a June 13 report, cited lagging business innovation and low productivity as threats to Canadian growth.
These are issues that have been under this government's oversight and don't appear to be faring so well. That economic record is not so ship shape. It might even be the kind of material that is ad worthy, if anyone had the money to do so.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Government recognizes contributions of Canadian government scientist

Too bad it's not the Canadian government! "China Bestows Rare Honour on Canadian Agricultural Scientist."
The Baicheng Academy of Agricultural Sciences is honouring Government of Canada agricultural scientist Dr. Vernon Burrows for his achievements in improving food security, his innovations in oat breeding science and his outstanding contribution to the friendship between Canada and China. A bronze bust of Dr. Burrows was unveiled today at the China-Canada Agricultural Science and Technology Forum in Baicheng, Jilin Province, China.
Not that we would want to give the Harper Government™ any bright ideas about starting up with bronze bust deployment across the country, Lord knows what we'd end up with.

It is, however, nice to see news of a Canadian scientist being celebrated rather than muzzled or shadowed.

You go, Paul Martin

Yeah they did: "Tories made a ‘major mistake’ in their approach to the euro crisis, Paul Martin says."
“The major mistake that the government has made is the way that it's characterized this,” Mr. Martin said.

“The role of the G20 is to strengthen the financial institutions and the other global institutions that exist. And so, for Canada to turn its back on the IMF when the IMF is saying ‘we want more money, not simply for Europe, we want to be able to deal with the huge imbalances that exist around the world,’ I think that was a mistake.”

Mr. Martin, credited as one of the main architects of the G20 – which in the past few years has supplanted the Group of Seven as the premier forum for addressing international economic issues – went further.

“The second thing,” he continued, “is that when you’ve got China, India, the United States, Europe and Canada and the others at the table, you’re going to have differences. But if you want to make globalization work, what you have to do is put a little bit of water in your wine. You have to be prepared to be pragmatic. And for Canada to consistently say, ‘we want you people to be pragmatic, we want you people to compromise, but if we don’t get our way we’re going to take our ball and go home,’ I’ll tell you, that’s just not going to work.”
Yes, by all means, take on the nonsensical European rhetoric from the Harper gang.

I'd take that guy representing Canada at the G20 or anywhere on the world stage rather than this PM.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Supply management & #LPC leadership

I have two reactions to the issue of supply management becoming the first prominent issue to be featured as part of the still very early Liberal leadership race.

First, uh, how did this issue which most Canadians have not likely even heard of get to be a lead-in issue? Does it even deserve to be there? Colour me dubious and in need of convincing.

Second, it is an idea of substance that people apparently wish to discuss and feel is important and therefore, I begrudgingly respect that despite my initial reaction. Who knows, maybe in time and upon further reading and discussion I will come to love the debate over "the complicated system of tariffs and quotas that protect high prices for Canadian dairy, poultry and eggs." I am a big fan of milk and drink 2 cups every day. Am not so concerned about the price of it and would be concerned about changes that might affect the viability of our farmers though. Again, in need of convincing.

It appears that we may be hearing quite a lot about it.

But please, let's also rattle some hearts out there not just minds.

The world ponies up to the IMF

The IMF released this table at the end of the G20 yesterday showing pledges received over the past few months by countries around the world to increase IMF resources:

That's quite a list. 37 countries including 15 of the G20 have now contributed to the IMF fund seeking to build resources at a time of great Eurozone financial uncertainty. A bunch of nations made their contributions at this G20 meeting. As we know, Canada has not contributed and that position was not widely followed among the leading nations of the world.

We also know that the Harper government has made great political hay out of our not contributing. They have made an insular me-first appeal that encourages resentment toward European nations. They have made it seem as if Canadian taxpayers would be hit with a bill, as if this would be a tax increase. This is how they have framed it for domestic political purposes.

That positioning by the government was recently debunked:
This is completely misleading. Funds are not given to the IMF; funds are lent to the IMF. More importantly, the funds that would be lent to the IMF would not come from Canadian taxpayers. The funds would come from foreign exchange reserves held at the Bank of Canada. As of May 23, 2012 Canada had foreign exchange reserves of $68.7 billion. Of this, $36 billion was in U.S. dollars; $19.7 billion in other currencies; $8.7 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs); and $4.1 billion in a reserve position in the IMF.

Were Canada to contribute to the G20fund the ”contribution” would involve a transfer of SDRs from the exchange reserves to the IMF in exchange for a commitment that the funds would be repaid. There would be no use of taxpayers’ money and there would be no budgetary impact.
Nevertheless, it's probably fair to say that the Harper messaging has predominated and the above understanding has not made any headway.

So who is right? Us or the vast majority of the G20 and western industrialized nations? Is it as Harper says, that it's about policies that the EU must put in place and that they have all the resources they need? Guess we will find out in coming months. In the meantime, it's an awfully long list of nations that disagree with the position that Canada took.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day of action on refugee health care

There are demonstrations happening across the country today organized by Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care.
On Monday, June 18th, 2012 in cities across the country physicians and other health care workers opposed to cutting health services for refugees will be participating in a day of action. To find out about a demonstration or event happening near you, please see a list of events below.

Toronto - 1pm - demonstration in front of the Toronto regional office of Citizenship and Immigration Canada at 25 St. Clair Avenue East. For more information please contact Meb Rashid at:
This is one of those decisions that is crystallizing so well exactly what Harper's Canada means. More from the Star with some examples, including this one:
In one case, a family resettled here by the Canadian government from Iran feared the government would remove the wheelchairs currently provided to its three children, all suffering a genetic disease that impairs their movement.
The decision to cut refugee health care is a seriously flawed one that a wealthy nation of immigrants should not be so ungenerous to make.

Fun with headlines, etc.

Updated below.

"Liberal leadership: Justin Trudeau could lead Liberals to first place, new poll shows."

Um, what? I read this report twice. But nowhere do I see in that Star report anything to support the sensational headline. He's first in one online poll on possible Liberal candidate names, yes. Vaunting the party in the polls to first place, however, is not substantiated. Does not compute.

Elsewhere, this seems a little bizarre too.

I find that hard to believe but I assume there is method to the calculation. If it is true, it underscores what a great opportunity there is to really make something of all that media attention, if a well run race takes place that drums up interest in ideas and draws new people into the process.

Update (2:45 p.m.): Here is the excerpt from the Angus Reid poll (h/t) that did not appear in the Star report: "A Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau would become the national frontrunner (40%), with substantial leads over the Conservatives (30%) and the NDP (21%)." There are other results there depending on the leadership name being put to respondents. Such questions remind me of those pre-season sports predictions made before the games are played.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday night

Missed out on posting music on Friday, so this is to make up for that oversight. Plus it was a good day so I just feel like posting some music.

Additionally, I think Big City Lib was dissing electronic music and its resurgence a bit, so this is for him too. :)

Have a great night!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A thought on the leadership hullabaloo

Tomorrow the National Board is deciding on a motion or set of procedures pertaining to the Liberal leadership race and the conditions under which candidates, including Bob Rae, would be permitted to run. I don't know what the details will be, despite the leaks, and will await the decision. I am a little concerned, however, by the way it has begun to unfold.

This may or may not be helpful, but I'm going to raise it anyway. I can't help but think, given what has transpired over the last number of days, that the idea that Paul Summerville put forth during the national board election campaign period and which can be found on his blog (here and here) would have been an optimal way to proceed in terms of how to deal with the question of the possibility of an interim leader running given a promise not to that was made. Paul's idea was to have a vote among the members on the question. Organize a tele-townhall or something of that variety that could put the question to members.

The advantages of such a process were many. It would have offered a clean way of addressing the situation. It would have ultimately taken the issue of Bob off the table, one way or another, whether members said yes or they said no. It would have been done with and put to bed. It might have even prevented multi-pronged Bob-should-not-run columns from being launched, from within the party, across the national press.

Most importantly, it would have demonstrated to Canadians a professional means of dealing with this controversy. It would have shown sensitivity to the question. It would have been an act of democratic leadership showing we are getting our act together and know the importance of showing that to the country given our history of fighting during leadership.

The downside would principally have been the focus that would be placed on Rae running, an over-emphasis if you will, by the very fact of having such a vote. If there are other downsides to such a process, they're not obvious to me. Perhaps there is the argument that the National Board is to make such judgments, they were elected to represent us. That is true. Yet look at the hurly burly of the last week.

Weighing all the considerations, the idea just made sense. I have no idea whether it would still be possible to do this or whether the train has left the station. It could be that the National Board does indeed have something in mind that might be comparable and until Wednesday's decision is made and released, there remains that possibility that some process or steps will be put in place to effectively address this controversy. Or, maybe not. We shall see.

I really hope that as this leadership process develops, there is more of an emphasis on how the party interest should be put first. Constructive thinking, of the variety put forward above, is what we could do with a lot more of in order to make that happen.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Liberal pollapalooza

Are you enjoying the headlines of the past few days? An Ipsos-Reid online poll of 1,000 respondents taken from June 5-7 seems to be generating a fair bit of content for Postmedia. A casual reader would likely have the impression that multiple polls had been taken given the multiple platforms and varying headlines we're seeing.

Headline example 1: "Liberals a ‘party of the past’: poll." Appears on the Global news site.

Headline example 2: "Most Liberal, NDP supporters back party merger: poll." Appears on a Saskatchewan Postmedia newspaper outlet.

Merger, party of the past, nothing too suggestive about those headlines as the alert Postmedia crew want their news pages to be read as the Liberals gear up for a week in which the executive meets to set ground rules on leadership.

Good too that Ipsos was kind and conscientious enough to poll on the state of the Liberal party right about now. They also seem to have helpfully included such options as "pretty much written off the Liberals" as choices. That sounds eminently fair, don't you think? To their credit, however, they did mention this result, although it is not getting as much play as the ominous takeaways: "The other half believes the party will once again be a force to be reckoned with."

It's not to say that there aren't nuggets of truth in both headlines that people would feel. You could put me down as well as one of the 21% who think the party can be characterized as a party of the past. I don't take that as a death sentence, however, as many Conservative and NDP partisans do as they tout it across Twitter as a proud new headline to disseminate. It's an opportunity to vanquish such considerations.

Take the nuggets but don't be dismayed by the presentation.

Update (7:00 p.m.): Knew I forgot something...there was a third headline generated out of the above-referenced Ipsos poll: "Justin Trudeau more popular choice than Rae for Liberal leadership: Poll." Even more mileage to throw on the barbie with that one.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Friday night

Have a good night!

Statesman at work

Well this seems to have gone well, what with the takeaway platitudes of agreement between Hollande and Harper about the need for growth and for there to be stability in order to have growth.

But wait! "After Harper meets socialist president, Tories take 'sumptuous' Europe to task." Well, I'm sure the French ambassador to Canada wouldn't have taken offence to the good cop-bad cop two step thing the Conservatives had going on yesterday. Do these ambassador types ever notice such things anyway? Then relay such comments back to the mother ship?

Let's ask the German one. Ouf.

Onwards with Harper-does-Europe-2012! How to win friends and influence people, etc.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

You're doing it wrong, Larry Miller

"Tory MP wants Baird to consider yanking Canada out of UN." Such a piker. If you really want to get your Tea Party on, you need to go big. You sir, are no John Bolton.
Bolton famously said “there is no such thing as the United Nations” and if the U.N. building in New York “lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”
Good to know the Reformers, as always, are on top of the American right wing's pet projects and are importing them here.

Oh, and what Dominic LeBlanc said.

The Harper interview

A few thoughts on the big interview last night between Harper and Peter Mansbridge on the National...

This interview seemed to have two parts to it. The primary focus was Europe, as it rightly should be. This took up more than half the interview. The European situation is a reflection of the years we're living in. We're in post-2008/2009 recession times that, as Harper notes, are turning toward recession once more. What happens in Europe in the near future could shock the world economies again. There's a good analysis in the New York Times today on what could happen in Europe and how that could affect the American election. This is how, beyond Harper's vague comments about us being "exposed to others who are exposed to others," we too could feel the heat as a result of trouble in Europe:
With an economy in free fall and 22 percent unemployment, Greece looks very close to dropping the euro and defaulting on its debts. This could potentially lead to the departure of other vulnerable nations, including Spain, Portugal and Ireland, and the dismemberment of the single currency into up to 17 different parts.

While nobody has a clear idea of how a breakup of the euro would affect the American economy, it would hurt. Citizens of vulnerable European countries would rush to withdraw their euro deposits ahead of the breakup, to avoid having their savings converted into pesetas or drachmas. Banks would fail, and financial markets would plummet as investors took their money out of risky assets and put them into the comparative safety of German bunds and American Treasury bonds.

This would very likely cripple some big American banks. And a stock market crash would wipe out the savings of many ordinary citizens. Exports to Europe would slow sharply as European economies contracted — depriving the United States of one of its few engines of growth.

Look at it this way: When Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in 2008, sending the global financial system into a tailspin, its debts amounted to about $600 billion. Government debt alone in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland — the most vulnerable European countries — adds up to about $1.9 trillion. And the economies and government finances of most developed countries are in worse shape than they were four years ago.
There you go, pretty much a worst case scenario, so factor that in.

So what has Harper's contribution been to solving the European problems? Well, Flaherty quite bluntly told them where to go about a month back in terms of any financial help to the IMF for Europe. And Harper, as noted in this Globe report today, was preaching austerity and the need to get debt under control while he hosted the G20. That has largely been his message.

In last night's interview, he gave his more up to date present day position and said the Eurozone has to be more integrated. Yes, now that Merkel is moving that way on integration just in the last few days, Harper seems to be saying the same thing too (see above New York Times link, for example, re Merkel).

The European preoccupation serves as a reminder of the realities for politics in Canada and what a big part of the agenda that the economy occupies now and likely for the next few years. That's not just Harper's preferred focus, it's a reality beyond his control. He may make toooo much of it at times, sure, but there's no getting around its importance. It affects the ability to make headway on legitimate critiques of this government that need to be made, on democratic issues in particular.

The importance of the economy is why there is tremendous opportunity for the Liberal leadership race in particular to speak to the issue. Again - not to the exclusion of other issues, there is much more to leading a nation than being a CEO type. But it's still ground that needs to be plowed by people who want to replace Harper. He spoke in the interview in a very simple way on what his approach is:
But at the same time you do need, as we are doing in Canada, you need to undertake a range of measures, not just fiscal discipline, to ensure growth. We have an ambitious trade agenda, we are revamping our science and technology policies to get better results, as you know we're doing labor market reforms, were doing regulatory reforms. These are all things that need to be done to increase the growth capacity of our economy.
Disagree with the Conservative policies, sure. But what is the alternative vision for growth? There are a number of big planks that could be articulated.

The other part of the interview involved the questions on the monarchy and the Canadian media. Both of which seemed to show a bit of a disconnect between Harper and the reality as some of us see it.

He was glowing in describing the monarchy and what the celebrations meant, for e.g.: "sixty years of really incredible, selfless, dedicated service," and "respect, dedication, affection." In hearing him speak of the monarchy in that way, you have to wonder, is there no self-awareness in Harper that such qualities are things that he too should aspire to evoke in others? Is it just for others who have some kind of public role to achieve such standards? It is puzzling. How can a leader proceed in such divisive and secretive ways and yet speak so glowingly of these qualities in others?

The responses he gave on media seemed similarly disconnected. Where he spoke of the media needing to do its independent reporting, of there being a healthy distance between politicians and media in Canada. There was this laugher: "the media is tremendously important, and it's important for our government and all governments that we are able to communicate our story through the media." As if he is blissfully unaware of the clamping down his government has done on allowing reporters to interactively engage with he and others. Email responses have become the norm to reporters. He answers few questions. Even appearances like the Mansbridge interview are rare. But Harper speaks as if all is normal. No sense of the concerted, massive public relations effort that he has engineered in order to go around and neuter the media, not recognize its importance.

Until the next one, maybe a few months from now...

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Mansbridge and Harper tonight

Why is Harper smiling so much during discussion of a topic that is dead serious? Is Peter Mansbridge getting under his skin? Nice preview of a rare Harper interview on The National tonight.

Given that Canadians don't get many opportunities to hear the Prime Minister in such candid venues where he actually has to answer pointed questions, such interviews are always a must see.