Friday, September 30, 2016

Xenophobia And Political Ambition

 
Bob Hepburn warns that those of us who think that Kellie Leitch is on the political fringe, whipping up wing nuts, should think again. Xenophobia is gaining political traction all around the world. After his recent visit to Britain, Hepburn reports that:

In Oxford and Portsmouth, well-educated middle-income people, the type of voters I thought would see the advantages of being closely linked with other European nations, talked to me about why they voted to leave the EU.

Their main reason? Too many immigrants in recent years from the continent, many of whom they felt didn’t want to “be British,” who didn’t respect “British culture” and “British traditions” and who could be potential terrorists.

They also wanted to “send a message” to the political elite in London, who they felt ignored their concerns about immigrants working in jobs that once were filled by old-stock Brits.

The same thing is happening throughout Europe and the United States:

Similar anti-immigrant sentiments are rampant across Europe and are altering the political landscape from Greece to Germany, France and on to the United Kingdom.

The same xenophobia is a driving force behind Donald Trump’s campaign for the U.S. presidency, with his rallies fuelled by crowds roaring their approval whenever he vows to build a towering wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigrants.

In Europe, countries such as Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria are fed up with other nations demanding they take in more refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria. Greeks are trying to prevent migrant children from attending schools with their sons and daughters and talk about “a different look” now in Greek schools.

And, in Canada, the same sentiments are just under the surface:

The lone public poll on Leitch’s proposal found 67 per cent of Canadians, including 87 per cent of Tory voters, like the idea of screening newcomers for “anti-Canadian values.” The Forum Research poll for the Toronto Star also found 57 per cent of Liberals and 59 per cent of New Democrats like it.

It doesn't matter that potential immigrants are already heavily screened. What matters is that xenophobia is the handmaiden of political ambition.

Image: huffingtonpost.ca

Thursday, September 29, 2016

That's When It Gets Tough



The pundits are increasingly sceptical about Justin Trudeau. Nevertheless, Gerry Caplan writes, the public's love affair with him continues. Even columnists for The Toronto Star -- which generally supports his initiatives -- are beginning to show their cynicism:


Take a column this past weekend by the scrupulously non-partisan Susan Delacourt. Like so many of her peers, Ms. Delacourt did not at all appreciate Stephen Harper’s open contempt for the press gallery. So for most reporters, Mr. Trudeau’s openness and accessibility was a breath of fresh air. Now his shtick has turned to hot air.

Mr. Trudeau’s press conference last week, Delacourt wrote in last Saturday’s Star, “was a remarkably answer-free encounter with the parliamentary press gallery, in which one had the sense the Prime Minister was trying to prove that he could smile and speak for 20 minutes without saying anything.” She offers this warning to the PM: Voters can “take only so many platitudes and winding, wordy detours around hard truths.” Harsh stuff.


And, likewise, for Tony Burman, the bloom is coming off the rose:

Similarly, Tony Burman, former head of CBC News, ridicules Mr. Trudeau’s speech at the UN last week (to a hall two-thirds empty, it was not often enough noted). Mr. Trudeau was peddling his usual “We’re Canadian and we’re here to help” rhetoric. Mr. Burman comments acidly: “If only life were that easy.” And a Globe cartoon shows Mr. Trudeau as all sizzle, no steak.

Smiling images will only get you so far:

These scornful and disappointed observations seem to me to encapsulate much of the reaction these days to Mr. Trudeau’s endless sunny days. Nothing is as easy as Mr. Trudeau always implies, from pipelines to reconciliation with our indigenous peoples. Yet he must produce something, indeed many things, in the next few months, or he’ll be a laughingstock. But of course he risks being a laughingstock if he fails to live up to his own hype. This is a man who increases expectations every time he speaks, who can’t seem to distinguish between aspiration and reality, and he’s doing himself no favours.

 All political honeymoons come to an end. And that's when it gets tough.

Image:  cbc.ca

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

It Only Stokes Anger



In what Lawrence Martin calls The Anglosphere, conservatism is in crisis. He writes:

In the United States, the conservative brand has gone from Dwight Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan, to George W. Bush, to Mr. Trump, who was on display in full floral gory or glory (take your pick) in Monday night’s presidential debate. Canada has gone from the moderate Toryism of John Diefenbaker, Robert Stanfield and Brian Mulroney to the vanquishing of Red Tories and the conservatism of Stephen Harper (with Toronto’s Rob Ford thrown in for bad measure). In Great Britain, the Conservatives are in the thrall of those who want to put up walls.

The brand is increasingly about identity tests and xenophobic strains. It is home to, if not climate-change deniers, then many who are close to it. It is soft on guns. Its appeal is to aging whites, to the prejudices of the less-educated, to religious fundamentalists. It’s a time-warp version of modernism, one many Canadian Conservatives apparently think they can thrive on.

Rather than building a big tent, conservatives have doubled down on their base:

In recent years, Canadian Conservatives have been like some of the others with their obsession with appealing to the party base, to the prejudices of the base, for milking it for everything it’s worth. In this sense, the crisis in conservatism reaches beyond Mr. Trump. The “base” fixation was rarely what it is now in these countries. The parties normally sought to broaden their pitch, not narrow it.

Democracy requires openness to ideas and to people who are not like you. But for modern conservatives, people who are not like them are considered  members of the elite. That's Donald Trump's pitch line. It was also Stephen Harper's line.

That mindset doesn't encourage renewal. It only stokes anger.

Image: pinterest.com

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

His Word Is Not His Bond



Following last night's debate, NPR fact checked the statements of both candidates. It should come as no surprise that much of what Donald Trump says is patently untrue. Consider just a few examples:

Trump said, "You look at what China is doing for country in terms of making our product, they're devaluing their currency and there's nobody in our government to fight them."

According to Anthony Kuhn, NPR's International Correspondent, "In fact, over the past two years, Beijing has been selling off some of its roughly $4 trillion in foreign exchange reserves to prop up the value of its currency, the Renminbi or Yuan. This has contributed to a lower U.S. trade deficit with China. Beijing allowed the RMB to appreciate against the dollar for about a decade until 2014, leading the IMF to judge the RMB as fairly valued in May of last year."

Trump said,"Thousands of jobs leaving Michigan, leaving Ohio, they’re all leaving."

Marilyn Geewax reports, "Unemployment in Michigan is 4.5 percent; Ohio rate is 4.7 percent. Both are better than the national average of 4.9 percent." 

Trump said, "Under my plan I will be reducing taxes tremendously from thirty five percent to fifteen percent for companies, small and big businesses." 

Danielle Kurtseblen writes, "The conservative Tax Foundation estimates that his plan would reduce federal revenue by $4.4 trillion to $5.9 trillion over the next decade, which is a lot, but down from $10 trillion in his original plan.

Some of that could be offset by economic growth, but even using “dynamic scoring,” the foundation says the plan cuts tax revenue by $2.6 trillion to $3.9 trillion over 10 years. (The higher figure is if the 15 percent business tax rate is applied to “pass-through” entities.) The biggest beneficiaries of Trump’s tax cuts are the wealthy. The top 1 percent of earners see their after-tax income rise by between 10.2 percent and 16 percent. Overall savings would be less than 1 percent.

Trump claimed that he never called climate change a "hoax."

According to NPR, "Actually, Trump has called climate change a "hoax" on several occasions. He said on Meet the Press that he was joking about China's role. As PolitiFact noted: "On Dec. 30, 2015, Trump told the crowd at a rally in Hilton Head, S.C., 'Obama's talking about all of this with the global warming and … a lot of it's a hoax. It's a hoax. I mean, it's a moneymaking industry, OK? It's a hoax, a lot of it.' "

The original source for the “hoax” quote was a tweet Trump sent in 2012. He said the concept of global warming was created by the Chinese to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive. 

Take a look at the NPR link. Trump is a serial fabricator and a serial bankrupt. His word is not his bond.

Image: cnn.com

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ottawa, A D -- After Duffy



Last week, two of the movers and shakers in the Prime Minister's Office announced that they were giving back part of the money they had received to move from Toronto to Ottawa. They were followed by two other staffers -- for Ministers Dion and Bains -- who refunded another $55,000 to the federal coffers. Michael Harris writes:

After asserting that they had broken no rules, the PM’s prodigal aides followed a step further in [Mike] Duffy’s shoes. They both claimed that there were elements of their relocation expenses that made them feel uncomfortable at the time, just as Duffy had testified in his own defence. 

But then they went further:

Butts and Telford expanded the Duffy Doctrine. In their ‘mea culpa,’ they said they now felt strongly that the rules they followed in filing their moving expenses were so utterly, egregiously, and inherently wrong that they voluntarily returned a portion of their jammy reimbursements. 

The Conservatives, of course, were cackling -- forgetting that it was they who made the rules:

If the rules are, as Conservative MP Candice Bergen claims, a personal ATM for the current government and its minions, it was Stephen Harper who handed out the debit cards. In fact, Harper’s PMO approved nearly $325,000 in relocation expenses during its tenure, including $93,000 in moving expenses for one senior ministerial aide. In court, they call that a precedent. 

But arguing over who made the rules is pointless. Since Senator Duffy's trial, things have changed. Our age is still officially recorded as "A.D." But, in Ottawa, that acronym has taken on new meaning. From henceforth it will mean "After Duffy."

Image: orleansstar.ca

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Putting Money Where Her Mouth Is



Recently, Health Minister Jane Philpott informed the province of Quebec that she intended to enforce the Canada Health Act. Tom Walkom writes:

The Canada Health Act is the federal statute governing medicare. It lists the standards provinces must meet if they are to receive money from Ottawa for health care. And it gives the federal government the right to cut transfers to any province that doesn’t meet these standards.

In particular, it imposes a duty on the federal health minister to financially penalize any province that allows physicians operating within medicare to bill patients for extra, out-of-pocket fees.

However, the federal government has only rarely penalized provinces which allowed extra billing:

Compared to the billions the federal government spent on health transfers over the period, these penalties were pittances. But they did make the point that medicare is indeed a national program.

And in every province except B.C., where the issue has morphed into a constitutional court case, the extra-billing problem was apparently resolved.

There, Dr. Brian Day has launched a court case, claiming that extra billing is a practice that is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If the case succeeds, medicare -- as a defining Canadian institution -- will be finished. Someone has to meet the challenge head on. That task has fallen to Philpott.

But it's imperative that Justin Trudeau stand behind her by providing the money to defend medicare. Originally, medicare was a 50/50 proposition. Half of the costs were to be born by the provinces and half by the federal government. In 2013, CUPE released a report on Healthcare spending. The fifty-fifty split was ancient history. According to the report,

the federal government covers only one fifth of provincial health spending, where it used to cover half – and it wants to scale back further. The 2004–2014 Health Accord provided stable funding after deep cuts in the 1990s. It has brought the federal government’s cash share of provincial health spending up to 20 per cent1 from a low of 10 per cent in 19982 and part way to its original 50 per cent share. The current federal government wants to reverse this progress. 

The "current federal government," of course, was the Harper government. When Stephen Harper headed the National Citizens Coalition he advocated dismantling medicare. These days, Dr. Day has taken Harper's place.

Minister Philpott has signalled that the line has been drawn. But, if she is to succeed, the prime minister is going to have to put money where her mouth is.

Image: The Canadian Press

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Facts That Don't Suit Its Agenda



Andrew Coyne used to sing the praises of the Harper Party. That was before he discovered that they were not who they claimed to be. Stephen Harper may be gone, but his party is still a fraud. Take the issue of putting a price on carbon. Coyne writes:

The party of free markets, rather than support a plan that relies on the quintessential market instrument — prices — favours the most costly, intrusive and regulatory-heavy approach imaginable: the very approach that has so signally failed to date. The party of personal responsibility favours sparing people the costs of their economic choices, either socializing them via subsidy or disguising them via regulation.

All of the party's leadership candidates -- save one -- are vehemently opposed to putting a price on carbon:

Yet the position of the Conservative party, and of virtually every one of its leading lights, is flat-out opposition to carbon pricing, in whatever form. Of the federal party leadership candidates, only one, Michael Chong, has come out in favour. The other 87 or so are all opposed. The official line remains the same: it’s a “tax on everything,” and they want no part of it.

But, like it or not, a tax is on its way:

British Columbia has had a carbon tax since 2008. Alberta will have one in place by 2018. Ontario and Quebec are implementing cap-and-trade regimes. That’s 80 per cent of the country, by population, where carbon pricing is now law. And in six weeks the government of Canada will formally commit the country to the Paris climate accord, together with its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, UN-speak for emissions reductions target. By year’s end, the Trudeau government has signalled it will have a national carbon price in place, with or without the provinces’ cooperation.

The Harper Party has never been who and what it claimed to be. And it has never been able to deal with facts that don't suit its agenda.

Image: lautensblogspot.com