Friday, February 12, 2016

That Word He Used To Trumpet


                                                 http://waldo.wikia.com/wiki/

Stephen Harper has disappeared. He has not been showing up for work in the House of Commons. Perhaps, Michael Harris suggests, he believes he is the member for Las Vegas/Fort Myers. His party doesn't seem to mind. But they still have not come to terms with their defeat. And their cheerleaders, people like the peanut gallery at the National Post, keep shilling for more of the same. But Harris reviews the record:

Under Harper the economist, 400,000 manufacturing jobs were lost. Worse than that, he presided over a one-third drop in Canada’s value-added exports — the better to concentrate on rapid, unsustainable and environmentally harmful resource development.

While the rest of the industrialized world was investing in alternative energy sources to save the planet, Harper’s master plan was to subsidize pipelines and pollution and damn the torpedoes. That’s why he dropkicked Kyoto into oblivion and replaced it with the environment-killing omnibus bill C-38. And Rona now talks about how much the Cons love nature.

Harper spent tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars promoting so-called government programs. Much of this material amounted to thinly-disguised promotional bumf for the Conservative Party of Canada.

So great was this prime minister’s disrespect for Parliament that he shuttered the seat of government for an incredible 181 days for purely political reasons. He unleashed the Canada Revenue Agency on NGOs and environmental groups, using audits as a weapon against his perceived political enemies.

Harper’s attack on civil liberties was deep and disturbing. Bill C-51 gave police-state powers to agencies like the RCMP, CSIS and SEC. Some of you may remember that these same agencies were already spying on environmental groups and then meeting every year with representatives of the oil industry to brief them on the alleged threats facing their projects.

Harper the diplomat turned Canada into what former Conservative PM Joe Clark called a “denier and an outlier”. For the first time in fifty years, Canada couldn’t get elected to a seat on the Security Council at the UN, losing the spot to Portugal. He turned the world into a comic book narrative of good and evil, preferring bombing to talking whenever he had the choice.
The NDP has reviewed the reasons for their loss -- even though the review was painful. Tom Mulcair has acknowledge the campaign shortcomings and has taken responsibility for them. We'll see if he survives.

Perhaps Steve believes that, as long as he hides, he can escape that word that he used to trumpet -- accountability.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Only In America

                                             http://www.mycanadaguide.ca/


New York Times columnist Tom Friedman calls Bernie Sanders a socialist "whose ideas died in 1989." That's a strange conclusion, Gerry Caplan writes. In Canada, Sanders would be a member of the New Democratic Party:

If he calls himself a democratic socialist rather than a social democrat, it’s probably because not a dozen Americans have a clue what social democracy might mean. In the U.K., he’d likely be in the moderate anti-Jeremy Corbyn wing of the Labour party. In Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Spain, all the Nordic countries, he’d be a middle-of-the-road member of existing social democratic parties. He’d be enthusiastically embraced by tens of millions of people.

Across the rich world, only in the United States is Bernie Sanders seen as some kind of extremist of the left. It shows just how dangerously far to the radical right America’s political culture has moved.

Eighty-five years ago, Sanders would have been one of Roosevelt's New Dealers. But the crackpots in the Republican Party have managed -- since Ronald Reagan -- to move the political conversation increasingly to the right. Now they are on the verge of tipping over into lunacy:

After all, the remaining GOP candidates, most of them crackpots, are now considered mainstream, even moderates.

And, when they engage in dirty tricks, as Ted Cruz did in Iowa -- by suggesting that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race -- Donald Trump claimed to know the source of Cruz' malady: "Because he was born in Canada," shouted Trump. 

The source of evil for Republicans these days seems to be Canada:

“I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production,” he told students at Georgetown University. “But I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a decent standard of living and that their incomes should go up, not down.” Throw in a couple of “hard-workings” here and there, and Comrade Bernie could jump right into the middle of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party.

Nowhere are the absurd limits of American politics better exposed than when Sanders is bitterly pummelled for supporting something really far-out, even near-Bolshevik – a Canadian-style public health system.

God help Canada and Canadians if Donald Trump becomes president.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Neither Stephen Nor Pierre


                                          http://www.theglobeandmail.com/

Carol Goar has an interesting column this morning on Justin Trudeau's leadership style -- which is nothing like his father's:

A pattern is developing in Canadian politics.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet a group expected to be unfriendly or censorious. He will listen carefully to its position but make no firm commitment. To the surprise of his critics, he will emerge unscathed.

Consider where's he's been and what he's done in his first one hundred days:


  • It happened last week in Calgary when he met oil company executives. He couldn’t promise relief from plummeting crude prices or guarantee that a pipeline to either coast would be built on his watch. What he undertook to do was build a national consensus that getting Alberta’s landlocked oil to a sea port is in the interest of all Canadians.




  • It happened the week before in Montreal, where he met the city’s combative mayor. Denis Coderre had publicly declared his opposition to the Energy East pipeline. The pundits were primed for an embarrassing clash between the two Liberals. But after his audience with Trudeau, Coderre indicated that he could change his mind.




  • It happened in November when he attended his first G20 summit meeting in Turkey. Critics of the fledgling prime minister warned he was in for a dressing down by world leaders over his decision to withdraw Canada’s fighter jets from the U.S.-led coalition combat mission in Iraq and Syria. The timing could scarcely have been worse for Trudeau. The night he left for the summit, terrorists attacked Paris and killed 129 people. ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) claimed responsibility. Stemming a tide of retaliatory rhetoric, Trudeau stood his ground, saying Canada would bring home its CF-18s in March but contribute to the mission in other ways. If he faced reproach or pressure to reverse his stand, there was no report of it. 

  • He's still on his honeymoon and the really tough stuff lies ahead:

    The most likely explanation is that Trudeau hasn’t yet given his foes a substantive target. His government hasn’t enacted any legislation, tabled its first budget, produced its climate change strategy, approved any pipelines or pulled a single warplane out of the Middle East (although it soon will). 

    But one thing is certain. When it comes to dealing with people, Trudeau is neither Stephen Harper nor his father.


    Tuesday, February 09, 2016

    Only Time Will Tell

                                              http://www.nationalww2museum.org/

    The Right is up in arms. Rona Ambrose calls the changes Justin Trudeau has made in the battle with ISIL "shameful." John Ivison claims that, "Canada is not playing its full part in the battle against ISIL," and Andrew Coyne writes that "what Canada is about is standing by while others engage in combat on our behalf."

    They are aboard the bandwagon -- the same bandwagon that claimed its mission was to destroy Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction -- and which gave rise to ISIL. Shock and Awe didn't work then. And it hasn't worked this time around, either. In its second life, it has brought in Russian bombers on the other side.

    And tripling the number of trainers puts more Canadian boots on the ground. Trudeau's strategy is high risk. Jeff Sallot writes:

    Trudeau’s strategy also runs a big risk. Canadians will be training ethnic Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq who have a political agenda all their own. Yes, they want to rub out ISIS — but they also want to establish an independent Kurdish state. The Iraqi government in Baghdad — a government that Ottawa says it supports — doesn’t like the idea of partitioning its territory.

    Our NATO allies in Turkey also have concerns about the Kurds. Turkey has a substantial Kurdish population of its own along the border with Iraq. A Kurdish separatist revolt against Baghdad in Iraq could quickly explode into a Kurdish rebellion against Ankara.

    Not to mention the sight of returning body bags. We are not out. We are in. And only time will tell how it will end.


    Monday, February 08, 2016

    Strangling Our Future

                                                  http://www.corbisimages.com/

    Youth unemployment is a problem world wide. Carol Goar reports that:

    Our youth unemployment rate is 13 per cent. In Sweden, 19.4 per cent of young people are looking for work. In France, the youth jobless rate is 25.9 per cent. In Spain, it is 46 per cent. In Greece it is a staggering 48.6 per cent. (It is hard to get comparable statistics from Africa, where youth can mean anything from 12 to 30 years of age.)

    The International Labour Organization -- which is sponsored by the UN -- is raising the profile of the problem:

    Determined to provide impetus, the ILO launched a Global Initiative for Decent Jobs for Youth in New York this month. The UN’s 28 other agencies joined the campaign. “Today two out of every five young persons of working age are either unemployed or working in jobs that don’t pay enough to escape poverty,” said ILO director-general Guy Ryder. “Our challenge is to continuously find new and innovative solutions as we look into the future of work.”

    During the Harper Era,  youth unemployment mushroomed:

    Former prime minister Stephen Harper did more to undermine than assist young job seekers. Between 2006 and 2014 his government opened the floodgates to low-skilled temporary foreign workers, who took the entry-level jobs normally sought by young people.

    In 2013, he claimed there was a severe skill shortage in the land. There were plenty of jobs but employers couldn’t find workers with the skills they needed. This misalignment, Harper said, was “the biggest challenge our country faces.” No one could figure out where these job vacancies were. Reporters, economists, the parliamentary budget office and the Conference Board of Canada did some digging and discovered they didn’t exist. Federal officials were relying on data from Kijiji, a classified ad service operated by eBay. It allowed employers to post the same job in various categories, which led Ottawa to double and triple count. 

    Justin Trudeau vows that his government will reverse that course:

    Justin Trudeau has pledged to spend $455 million a year helping young Canadians find work. His intent is to create 40,000 jobs annually by expanding Ottawa’s summer jobs program; increasing the number of co-op positions available for business and engineering students; giving a one-year payroll tax break to employers who hire young Canadians for permanent positions; and relaunching a youth service program like Katimavik, started by his father in 1977 and eliminated by the Harper government in 2012. 

    But, Goar writes, most of Trudeau's efforts are focused on the public sector. More needs to be done in the private sector. Will the Captains of Industry step up? We'll see. Any society which cannot make a future for its youth is strangling its own future.

    Sunday, February 07, 2016

    Upstream, Downstream

                                                    http://www.thestar.com/

    At the end of January, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr announced new guidelines to evaluate the impact of new pipelines. Jason Maclean writes:

    The new regulations stipulate that oil pipeline decisions will be based on science and traditional indigenous knowledge; the views of the public, including affected communities and indigenous peoples; and the direct and upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that can be linked to pipelines.

    During their press conference announcing the new regulations, McKenna and Carr repeatedly intoned that “Canada needs to get its natural resources to market in a sustainable way.”

    When pressed about greenhouse gas emissions, McKenna told reporters that the guidelines included projections about both upstream and downstream emissions. And there is the rub:

    While this is a notable improvement on the NEB’s steadfast refusal to consider either the upstream or downstream emissions of oil pipelines, the problem remains that most of the GHG emissions arising from a pipeline are downstream emissions. An environmental assessment that arbitrarily excludes downstream emissions effectively exports not only Alberta’s bitumen crude oil but also its ultimate emissions.

    In terms of science, peer-reviewed analyses demonstrate that in order to have a better-than-even chance of keeping global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, at least 85 per cent of Alberta’s remaining ultimately recoverable bitumen must remain in the ground. In one model, the percentage rises to 99 per cent.

    No oil pipeline that will expand the extraction of Alberta’s unconventional oilsands can pass a scientifically valid climate test because any increase in unconventional oil production is incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. This is the scientific standard that must be applied to the Energy East project proposal if the government’s assessment is to be trusted by Canadians.

    Justin Trudeau has vowed to assist Alberta's ailing economy and to fight climate change. If those commitments mean seeing the Energy East Pipeline construction through to New Brunswick, it appears that Trudeau has vowed to square the circle.

    It will be interesting to see if he can do that. That feat has been tried before -- but without much success.

    Saturday, February 06, 2016

    Let The Debate Begin


                                              http://www.americandailynews.com/

    Last week, Chrystia Freeland signed the Trans Pacific Partnership. While doing so, she maintained that her signature was in no way her government's ratification of the accord. There would be, she said, extensive public consultation and debate before the Liberals made that decision.

    Murray Dobbin writes that, if history is any guide, the consultation will be shallow and the debate short lived:

    For many of us who have dealt in the past with the trade bureaucrats promoting these investment protection agreements, it is easy enough to suspect that Freeland is being deliberately misinformed by her own staff. There is no doubt that the Trudeau government is eager to portray itself as open to persuasion on the TPP. To bolster the position that they still might say no, the government has engaged in a flurry of consultations across the country and has made a point of inviting ordinary concerned citizens to send in questions and criticisms to Global Affairs Canada. Sounds good so far. But it is the execution that raises serious questions about how genuine the consultation will be.

    First, the consultations reveal that the vast majority have been with groups supportive of these agreements: provincial government ministers, business groups, industry reps, universities, etc. Of 74 such meetings (as of Jan. 31) there have been just a handful with "students" (but no student council representatives who have actually studied the TPP) and a couple with labour -- the CLC and Unifor. There have been literally no meetings with NGOs that have actually taken the time to closely examine the TPP -- not the Council of Canadians, not the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, not any First Nations (whose solemn agreements with governments can be trumped by ISDS), nor any environmental groups.

    The real bone of contention has always been the Investor Dispute Settlement Mechanism. And, again, if history is any guide, things do not look good:

    Since NAFTA came into effect on January 1, 1994 it has been subjected to over 35 NAFTA investor-state claims. Nearly two-thirds of these have involved challenges to environmental protection or resource management. Canada has already paid out over $170 million in damages in six cases (lost or settled) and abandoned most of the "offending" legislation and regulations. We currently face additional corporate challenges totalling over $6 billion in potential penalties for NAFTA "violations" such as the Quebec government's decision to ban fracking under the St. Lawrence River.

    It's pretty clear that these trade agreements are written to favour large countries with large economies -- specifically, the United States. It appears that the bureaucrats in Global Affairs Canada do not recognize that fact. But, if there is a clear rejection of the TPP among Canadians citizens then, perhaps, Canada will not ratify the agreement. Perhaps.

    In any case, let the debate begin.