Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saving Capitalism From Itself


The American economist  Richard Wolf maintains that capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction. Unchecked, it produces greater and greater inequality, until it collapses upon itself. Tom Walkom agrees:

Experts may tie themselves up in knots over the precise trajectory of inequality, depending in part on what is measured and when.
But the general point is beyond dispute: On its own, the free market is providing increasingly less equal rewards.
That inequality, in turn, hampers the very forces that favour the free market.

Thus, those who wish to preserve capitalism should protect capitalism from itself. Those protections include public pensions, public healthcare, unemployment insurance and public employment.

After the Second World War, business and labour reached a grand bargain, which included these four safety valves. But things changed:

Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government began the job of dismantling the so-called welfare state. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are finishing it.
But the factors that really killed the old bargain were globalization and the changing nature of work.

The old welfare state was built for a world where much of the workforce laboured in big factories.
Now, big factories are passé. The new normal is part-time work and alleged self-employment.

Rather than responding to changed circumstances, our politicians have been deer in the headlights. Walkom  has some suggestions about what they should do:

Build a national pharmacare program. This would continue the process, begun in the 1960s, of socializing the costs needed to keep workers healthy.

Reform the employment insurance system. The aim here should be to ensure that all who are involuntarily unemployed, including part-timers and the self-employed, have full access to EI.

Rebuild the entire collective bargaining system. Developed in the 1930s and ’40s, the current one was premised on a world of factory production. A new arrangement would have to take into account the dramatic new changes in work.

The Harper government has no such plans. But a new government -- if pushed -- might.

Friday, February 27, 2015

An Early Election?


Two days ago, rumours were circulating that we were in for an early election. So far, nothing has materialized. But, having mastered the art of fear and smear politics -- and having passed Bill C-51 -- Michael Harris writes that there are lots of reasons for Stephen Harper to call an early election:

It would let Harper campaign on terrorism, not his record. He has his emotional issue: “I am the strong man who will protect you from the beheaders.”

A defence brief recently obtained by the CBC under Access to Information implies Canada’s failure to procure the F-35s may be damaging our relationship with our international allies: “Canada often struggles to meet timelines to participate in international co-operative activities.” Read: Canada needs those F-35s so we can protect everyone by bombing the Middle East.

If Harper wins the election, Canada will get those planes, no matter what they cost, even though they may not be fully operational until 2019 due to a newly-discovered computer glitch with the plane’s main gun. Not a small problem, by the way — it could prevent the F-35 from firing during close air support operations. The Pentagon, which milks the American taxpayer like a prize cow, has denied there will be a delay.

Harper wouldn’t have to present a budget that he can’t balance.

He’d escape blowback from the Mike Duffy trial, where Nigel Wright might have to tell the truth under oath, instead of a carefully constructed version of the truth designed to protect the prime minister. Meanwhile, Patrick Brazeau’s preliminary inquiry is set to begin June 1. Mike Duffy’s trial will still be on at that point — bad timing for the PM.

The trial of Bruce Carson, a former senior aide to Harper, on charges related to a water purification company for First Nations starts September 8.

If Harper calls an early election, there will be confusion at the polls because of changes under the new Elections Act. Many voters will turn up without the proper ID — although you can bet Conservative voters will be well prepared. You now need two pieces of official ID, at least one with your street address. Yes, due to a hard-fought amendment, someone can vouch for your address if they know you — but you both have to swear an oath and that takes time, meaning long line-ups at the polls. Just what you need when you have to pick up the kids at daycare.

Harper has never been a man of principle. But he has always been a desperate opportunist. Is anyone taking bets?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Cabal Of Fools

You may have missed it. But, recently, the Harper government pulled funding for the Palestinian organization, MIFTAH, which is headed by Hanan Ashrawi. Paul Adams provides some context:

For more than twenty years, Hanan Ashrawi, an ethnic Christian and a moderate, has been a prominent Palestinian leader. In 2006 she was elected to the Palestinian parliament as a member of the Third Way, an almost laughably small party which has tried to provide a democratic, centrist alternative to the corruption of Fateh and the violent Islamism of Hamas — the two dominant Palestinian political factions.

She founded a non-governmental organization called MIFTAH; its mandate is human rights but it has carved out a role primarily as a promoter of women in Palestinian life.

But Ashrawi ran afoul of John Baird:

On his farewell tour of the Middle East a few weeks ago, Baird said Palestinians were crossing a “red line” — a favourite expression in the region when laying down an ultimatum — by accusing Israel of war crimes before the International Criminal Court.

In a press release, Ashrawi fired back that the red line Baird was trying to draw was a form of impunity for Israel, and she called Baird an apologist (that word again) for those complicit in war crimes.

In a strange little episode, Canadian officials abruptly demanded a letter of thanks from Ashrawi for their $27,000 contribution to MIFTAH. When it was not forthcoming, they cancelled the grant.

Adams points out that MIFTAH  receives the bulk of its funding from the Republican Party in the United States. It's not a left wing love child. But when John Baird said something stupid -- as he has done frequently -- Ashrawi called him out.

Our present government is petty and mean spirited. That's because it's led by a cabal of fools.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

They Own Him


It's been a relatively silent coup. The wealthy have successfully bought our political system. If you have doubts, consider two key pieces of Harperian policy -- income splitting and Tax Free Savings Accounts. Both policies amount to robbery of the federal purse. Rhys Kesselman writes:

Income-splitting has been extensively assessed and widely criticized for its revenue cost, its tilt toward higher-income families, and its failure to accomplish anything beneficial for the economy.

Soon the other shoe may drop: The Conservative Party of Canada’s second major tax promise from the last election was to double the contribution limits for Tax-Free Savings Accounts. 

The Conservatives market TFSA's as the salvation of the little man and they now propose to double contribution limits:

Yet doubling the TFSA limits would share the deficiencies of income-splitting as public policy — or even surpass them. It would drain revenues from both federal and provincial treasuries, with deceptively small initial sums adding up to costs far greater than those incurred through income-splitting. The long-run benefits would be far more sharply skewed toward the wealthy and high-earners. And doubling the TFSA limit would not benefit the economy in tangible ways.

Once the existing TFSA provision has fully matured in 40 to 50 years, it’s estimated to cost the federal treasury up to $15.5 billion annually — more than seven times the cost of income splitting. Provincial treasuries were insulated from the revenue impacts of income-splitting; they will not be so lucky with TFSAs, losing up to $9 billion per year when the scheme matures.
The government’s vow that TFSAs will never be considered in federal income tests for tax and benefit provisions carries further revenue costs. By mid-century, TFSAs will raise the Guaranteed Income Supplement’s cost by $2.8 billion annually and reduce recovery tax from Old Age Security by $1.2 billion annually. These figures are the official estimates; the sums projected by an independent analyst run far higher.

Stephen Harper argues that the age for Old Age Security must be raised because we don't have the money to pay for it. But he doesn't tell you why the money won't be there.

The wealthy could not ask for a better servant. And they will see that he is properly compensated. They own him.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Look Somewhere Else


Stephen Harper talks tough. But when things get tough, Harper hides. Andrew Mitrovica writes:

The prime minister, simply put, is a nasty piece of work. His every act and statement is a product of a petty, parochial political calculus; the quaint notion of ‘nation-building’ isn’t part of his lexicon. And like any unrepentant bully, Harper prefers adversaries who can’t fight back — hence his venomous attack on Radio-Canada journalists.

When people fight back, he heads for cover:

You probably saw this iPolitics report — about how the PM quietly invoked parliamentary privilege to escape being grilled by lawyers representing the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). Not exactly the stuff of profiles-in-courage, is it?
The NCCM sued Harper and his freshly departed PR guy, Jason MacDonald, for libel after MacDonald appeared on Sun News Network to slime the NCCM by insisting it “has documented ties to a terrorist organization … Hamas.”

Anyway, the NCCM argues that MacDonald’s attack had his boss’s implicit, if not explicit, approval. Make no mistake, the explicit intent of that slur – based on laughable, discredited information culled from an obscure court case heard in the backwoods of the Lone Star state – was to malign all the loyal, hard-working Muslim-Canadians working at NCCM as Hamas sympathizers or worse. When Harper and company refused to retract and apologize, the NCCM sued the pair last May.

The overall effect, of course, is a blot on Harper’s carefully cultivated tough-guy image. A bad hombre wouldn’t hide behind his lawyer’s pinstriped pants. No sir. He would waive parliamentary privilege, agree to appear at discovery with his former spokesman — who, by the way, is still being represented by a government-hired lawyer — put his hand on a Bible and say: Fire away.

If you're looking for heated rhetoric about Muslims or Russians, Harper's your man. But, if you're looking for courage, look somewhere else.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Non-Liberal State


Last week, Ralph Nader declared that Stephen Harper was unsafe at any speed. Michael Harris writes:

According to the former U.S. presidential candidate and long-time consumer advocate, this prime minister is a combination of Chevrolet’s doomed Corvair and Dick Cheney: A lemon and a warmonger — all rolled up into a consumer dud begging for a recall.

With police state powers about to be handed to Canada’s spy agency based on a factitious threat, Nader pointed out that the PM’s talents run to hyperbole, not to truth-telling or accuracy. (Time allocation has once more killed sensible debate on major legislation, this time it’s Bill C-51.)

“When Prime Minister Harper says jihadi terrorism is one of the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced, one is entitled to say ‘oh really?’. What about Hitler, Mussolini, or Stalin? It is just a wild exaggeration,” Nader said.

Speed is what Harper is all about. There was little debate. He declared closure and sent the bill off to committee. That's dictatorship, not democracy. There are interesting parallels, writes Harris, between Stephen Harper and Viktor Orban, the man who has sabotaged Hungary's newly won democracy. Orban recently told The Guardian:

We are parting ways with Western European dogmas, making ourselves independent from them. We have to abandon liberal methods and principles of organizing a society. The new state that we are building is an illiberal state, a non-liberal state.”


Sunday, February 22, 2015

There's Reason To Be Apathetic


Robin Sears writes that two recent incidents speak volumes about why Canadian voters are apathetic:

What is a first-time potential voter to make of the nonsense from Premier Kathleen Wynne that her number 2 employee is both her taxpayer-paid deputy chief of staff and her party’s campaign director? Is this on alternate days or partisan until noon but public employee after lunch?
Such an absurd insult to common sense might be seen as a good reason not to vote.

And, of course, there is the case of Eve Adams:

Then there is the case of the weather vane MP and her gormless new political love. Imagine a hockey player whose agent is secretly negotiating to move her to a new team, swearing all the while no such plans were afoot. She plays against her “about-to-be” team until the night before the announcement of her switch, trash-talking them to the end! And what would we think of her new coach sappily smiling beside her and claiming he “had always respected her, was delighted . . . blah blah.” This would not pass a five-year-old’s ethics or credulity test.

The Harperites have made this kind of politics commonplace. They have left us a swamp that will have to be drained:

Yes, Stephen Harper skilfully employs religious prejudice, national security angst, angry regional tensions, and even our deference to authority to serve his partisan interests, daily. Yes, there will be a lot of cleaning up to do after the lost decade of Harperism: rebuilding trust in government, morale in the public service, and Canada’s standing in the world, among a much longer list of damage to be repaired.

But Sears asks an important question -- a question our party leaders refuse to answer:

But why would anyone competing for that cleanup role think that smearing themselves in the same political mud was a good idea? Why would a premier chosen in part for her pledge to clean up the stench that surrounded the sad closing months of the McGuinty premier’s office allow herself to squander her reputation for integrity so carelessly?

Voters want good government. Our leaders want victory. The gap between our leaders and we the people is the reason 40% of us stayed home in the last federal election.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

So Let It Be Written. So Let It Be Done.


Stephen Harper hasn't shown up to debate Bill C-51. He just announced it at a campaign rally. And he's letting Joe Oliver do the talking about the economy. Heading into a meeting of finance ministers last week, Oliver declared:

Our Government’s sound economic management and unwavering commitment to balance the budget this year — while creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians — has resulted in a resilient economic performance in a challenging global economy. 

But, given the facts, what Oliver has been saying is pure gibberish. Scott Clark and Peter DeVries write:

This government has adopted an austerity-led growth strategy. We got the austerity — we just didn’t get the growth. Annual economic growth has fallen in every single year since 2010. Forecasters, including the Bank of Canada, are lowering their growth forecasts for 2015 to below 2 per cent, a far cry from the almost 2.5 per cent they were forecasting only a few months ago. The Canadian economy is in a deep freeze, and the only thing Oliver and Prime Minister Harper can think to do is more of what they’ve done: cut spending.

The drop in oil prices has forced economists to revise down their outlook for inflation. Nominal GDP — the broadest base for calculating government revenue — is now expected to be significantly lower than the earlier forecast. In the November 214 Fiscal Update, Oliver forecast nominal GDP growth at 3.7 per cent for 2015. Now, most private sector economists expect it to be around 2 per cent. This will result in much lower federal revenues going forward.
Oliver says the government has an “unwavering commitment to balance the budget.” Trust us — absolutely no one in a position to know believes that Oliver can do it without some budgetary voodoo.

Apparently, Mr. Harper believes he is the New Pharaoh. Facts like these simply don't matter:

The unemployment rate is stuck between 6.5 and 7 per cent. The labour force participation rate is at its lowest level since 2002. In January, the increase in employment was due primarily to part-time and self-employment. Full-time employment actually fell. And we can expect things to get worse in the coming months, as we begin to see the direct impact of falling oil prices on employment.

Last year, the G20 agreed to boost spending on infrastructure "to raise global GDP by 2.1 per cent by 2018." But Oliver insists that balancing the budget comes first.

So let it be written. So let it be done.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Supreme Narcissist


Stephen Harper hates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He says that Bill C-51 is all about fighting terrorism. But Michael Harris writes:

Here we have a piece of legislation that advances the prime minister’s favourite project: undermining the hated Charter of Rights that circumscribes his power and remains a monument to his most hated rival — Pierre Trudeau.

Which is why this PM despises the Supreme Court of Canada, why he continues to bombard it with unconstitutional legislation and provokes personal confrontation with judges. It’s the SCC and not the PM that’s charged with the momentous task of interpreting the Charter — and that’s what frosts his socks. If Harper can’t go through the Charter, he’ll tunnel under it until the underpinnings give way.

After this latest piece of “anti-terror” legislation passes, CSIS will join the Canada Revenue Agency as an organization not bound by the Charter. It will be restricted only by the vague words in the legislation that give the hush-hush boys extraordinary powers whenever the economic, social or political security of Canada is at stake.

Harper's objective is to make what he calls "Conservative values" unassailable. And institutions like the CBC -- or, at least, its French language service -- are obstructing that objective:

Perhaps that’s why he slandered CBC employees at Radio-Canada in the way he did. While campaigning in Quebec, he told a private radio station host that many people at Radio-Canada “hated” Conservative values. To what Conservative values was he referring? The ones held by Dean Del Mastro, Bruce Carson, Peter Penashue or Dimitri Soudas? The ones that gave us robocalls or the Senate expenses scandal? The ones that serve up omnibus bills and muzzle freedom of speech? Which ones?

The prime minister is the supreme narcissist:

Most people have forgotten how Harper took down all the portraits of previous prime ministers from his party’s lobby room — including paintings of Sir John A. MacDonald and John Diefenbaker. What did he replace them with? Green Party leader Elizabeth May gives us the answer:

“Photos of Stephen Harper in different costumes, in different settings, dressed as a fireman, in Hudson Bay looking for polar bears, meeting the Dalai Lama … even the portrait of the Queen had to have Stephen Harper behind her.”

Bill C- 51 is the legislative expression of that narcissism, writes Harris. It's now all Steve, all the time.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Feeding His Base

Fear fueled Stephen Harper's victory in 2011. Back then, he stoked fears about a coalition government. This time  around, he hopes to surf back to power by fanning two categories of fear -- fear of jihadists outside the gates and fear of criminals within. Frances Russell writes that fear of the criminals within is completely unfounded:

“The 2011 Canadian rate of 1.73 homicides per 100,000 population is the lowest of all the Americas, 14 times lower than in Mexico and about one-third of the rate in the United States. The homicide rate in Canada is more comparable to many European countries and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), but remains much higher than the rate in Japan and Hong Kong.”

So reports Statistics Canada in its latest international comparison of homicide rates.

Yet to listen to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet and their ongoing “tough on crime” drumbeat, you would think Canada was in the midst of a major crime wave.

Crime isn't rising in Canada. But our incarceration rate is. Howard Sapers, Canada's Correctional Investigator, reports:

 “Over the last three or five years, we’ve definitely seen a population increase and it’s definitely around eight to 10 per cent at the federal level and perhaps a little more at the provincial level.”

And the dominos just keep falling. “We’re now seeing, for example, a higher proportion of provincially incarcerated individuals are being held pre-trial which means they’re simply being held on remand and haven’t even been convicted.”

Russell writes that many prisoners are now incarcerated before trial:

It’s not uncommon now for 60 to 65 per cent of all provincial and territorial jails having to house inmates who are still at the pre-trial stage – in other words, serving time before they’ve been found guilty and sentenced. In case the government won’t tell you, that’s akin to denying the ancient right to due process.

No one seems to be questioning the fairness -- or the wisdom -- of this change:

In reality, the whole safety/punishment mantra has nothing to do with science and evidence. It’s simply raw political opportunism by a governing party who likes to use fear and threat to capture every populist wave it can generate to mine more support and money from its already rock-solid base.

Mr. Harper believes he will win by feeding his base -- even if the country loses.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Very Dangerous Man

Stephen Harper has based his political career on the notion of austerity. Deep down, he believes it's good for the soul. But, Thomas Walkom writes, he also stands fourscore for another a-word -- absurdity. The recent arrests of two people in Halifax underscore just how absurd his new anti-terrorism legislation is:

Canada’s anti-terror laws don’t criminalize actions that might cause terror. Well before the current law was enacted in 2002, it was illegal in Canada to murder people or blow up trains.

Rather, they criminalize intent. It may be illegal to kill people in Canada. But it is even more illegal to kill people for a religious, ideological or political purpose.

More important, it is left to the state to decide — in the first instance at least — which murderous conspiracies have a political motive and which do not.

If there is a common thread between Harperian austerity and absurdity, it's the notion that anything means what I say it means:

So that’s the first point about the terror laws: They are unusually arbitrary.
The second is that the government’s interpretation of these laws is infinitely flexible. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, with the backing of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, proposes a new anti-terror law that would give the security services even more power and citizens even fewer rights.

Never mind that the new law isn't needed. What Harper needs is the ability to define everything and everyone. He is a man obsessed with power and his own survival -- a very dangerous man.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

It Will Be About Getting Out The Vote


Canada faces what the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas called a "legitimation crisis." Duncan Campbell writes:

Simply put, many Canadians no longer believe that power being exercised in their name is rightful. The political system as a whole is no longer believed to work.

When in 1993 Canadians voted massively to throw out the Conservatives, it was expected that changes would ensue. Instead the Chrétien-Martin Liberals continued with the same economic policies introduced by the Conservatives.

Disillusioned with political outcomes, people give up, and declare a pox on all political parties. The abstention rate in federal elections has been running in the 40 per cent range.

Stephen Harper understands how to turn the crisis in his direction:

The people who stay home multiply the strength of Conservatives who tend to turn up and vote. The 25/60 rule says that if 25 per cent of eligible voters vote Conservative, and only 60 per cent of the population bothers to vote, the Conservatives win 40 per cent of the total vote and over one-half of the seats in Parliament.

His base hovers around 30%. As long as they vote -- and other voters stay home -- Harper will own the cat bird seat. So he keeps delivering for his base:

The Harper government target their political base constantly. No government in Canadian history has focused every action on pleasing about 35 per cent of the population and ignoring the rest of us. This is the essence of Harperism.

The legitimacy of the government and what it does is not questioned by the Cons' supporters. They get fed what they want. Tough on terrorists, check. Lower taxes, check. Cutbacks to social spending, check. But for significant numbers of Canadians, the Harper Cons lost their legitimacy as a government by following a narrow ideological agenda.

The next election will be all about how well the opposition parties get out the vote. If they offer a kinder gentler version of Harperism, the votes need to defeat Mr. Harper will stay home.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Catching Up With The Organ Grinder


John Baird has quit. Eve and Dimitri have bolted. But, for Stephen Harper, this winter of discontent is going to turn into a very rough spring. Mike Duffy's trial is a little more than six weeks away. Michael Harris writes:

True, the suspended senator’s health could falter. True, the charges could be stayed, the trial might be postponed, or key witnesses could fight a subpoena to appear. But Duffy will never agree to walk away from this mess semi-corrupt. He will either be guilty or innocent, not trapped in some kind of reputational purgatory arranged by lawyers.

Harper and his acolytes have done their best to convict Duffy out of court. But the courts function differently than Harper's PMO:

The one thing Harper hates more than Justin Trudeau is evidence. And that is exactly what will be on offer once Duffy’s criminal trial begins. Depending on what is contained in those 800 emails between Janice Payne, Duffy’s employment lawyer, and Benjamin Perrin, then the PM’s in-house legal counsel, Duffy’s critics may discover that they were going after the monkey when it was really the organ grinder who was to blame all along.

Donald Bayne, Duffy's attorney, has pointed to the central problem behind the whole imbroglio:

“I am sure that I am not the only Canadian who will now wonder openly, how what was not a crime or bribe when Nigel Wright paid it on his own initiative, became however mysteriously, a crime or bribe when received by Mr. Duffy."

That's the question the organ grinder will be forced to answer.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Death Of Sun News


Sun News is dead. A speciality channel which specialized in sound and fury, it passed quietly into the night. The whole project was ill conceived from the beginning. Christopher Waddell writes:

Initially, the Sun TV strategy seemed almost foolproof. Take a failing over-the-air channel in Toronto that relied on advertising for all its revenue and turn it into a national speciality channel that viewers would have to pay for through monthly cable or satellite subscriptions. To make it happen, mix in political pressure and powerful connections, deftly exploited.

Quebecor believed — or was convinced by others — that if it created a conservative all-news channel modelled on Fox News in the U.S., the Harper Conservative government would be so delighted (or would submit to having its arm twisted) that it would force the CRTC to require every cable and and satellite distributor in the country to include Sun TV on mandatory carriage.

That would mean all of Canada’s 10 million or so cable or satellite subscribers would have to pay to watch Sun TV — or pay to not watch it, but pay for it regardless. If each household paid Sun TV just 25 cents a month as part of their cable bill, the channel would reap $30 million a year.

The prime minister's former director of communications came on board. But the Harper government presented itself as the consumer's friend, and it did not deliver as Quebecor expected:

In the final analysis, Quebecor badly misread the environment on every level. It was apparently unaware of growing public anger about the cost of cable TV. Viewers infuriated at having to pay for channels they don’t watch are increasingly cancelling their cable entirely and, like many young people, are happy to have video delivered to them online.

Like the prime minister himself, the people behind Sun News were economically inept. Their economic ignorance cost 200 jobs. Mr. Harper's ignorance has cost much more.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Ascension Of Pierre Poilievre


Among all the sound and fury over Eve Adams this week, many Canadians probably missed the fact that Pierre Poilivere was promoted to Minister of Labour. Tim Harper writes that Poilievre bears watching:

Poilievre, 35, believes if you keep repeating the same, pithy, bumper sticker message, it will eventually come true. He will beat us into submission with repetition.
He tried that in his first big test as a minister with his Fair Elections Act and finally backed down, accepting amendments he tried to spin as something akin to a little scrubbing.
A Calgary-born former hockey player and a one time Reform Party worker elected at 25, Poilievre is the political equivalent of the hockey pest, the guy who yaps at you in the faceoff circle and gives you a glove in the face in the corner.

For those who hoped that the prime minister might re-evaluate his policy on the working man, Poilievre's ascension provides the definitive answer. Despite his rhetoric, Stephen Harper has never been the little man's champion. But he chooses little men to do his bidding.

On a personal note, we received word last night from Vancouver that my brother-in-law -- who I've known since high school -- has died. Like me, he was a retired teacher. He could teach any kid in the school. May he rest in peace.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Dream Still Lives

For the moment, economics  has intervened and put Stephen Harper's dream of Canada The Petro State on ice. But his other dream -- Canada The Police State -- continues apace. Michael Harris writes:

Where was the national debate about sloughing off a century of parliamentary tradition by putting the RCMP in charge of Parliament Hill security — an odd move when you consider that Michael Zehaf Bibeau’s attack on Centre Block occurred while the Mounties were parked on site with their motors idling? If anyone played a heroic role, it was Parliament Hill security, which is now being dumped.

And there’s this to consider: It was then-Public Safety Minister Vic Toews who ordered the RCMP not to meet with opposition MPs or senators without clearance from the government. Toews claimed that there could be “unintended consequences” from these meetings that might be “bad” for the government. (Oh no, not that!)

Elizabeth May has cottoned onto what is happening below the radar:

And while the press giggles over the Eve Adams affair, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has rightly pointed out that Bill C-51 will transform CSIS into a Canadian secret police. Why such a dire conclusion from a party leader who is also a lawyer?

Simple. Harper is proposing dangerously vague new powers for CSIS with no increase in oversight. What makes that even worse is that, back in 2012, Bill-38 already provided more police powers and reduced oversight. Most disturbing of all, [Minister] Blaney is not interested in additional oversight for Canada’s security agencies, referring to the proposal as “needless red tape.”
Toews also said he needed to know what the Mounties were doing or he couldn’t properly carry out his duty to Parliament. With the Mounties in charge of security, now every investigation that takes place on Parliament Hill will be telegraphed to current Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney before anyone else finds out. And that is a prescription for the Royal Canadian Harper Police.

Harris has been going around the country pointing out that Mr. Harper is a party of one. For this prime minister, people are expendable -- the list of those he has jettisoned and badmouthed on the way to his dream keeps growing.

But the dream still lives.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Caught In His Own Web


The plan was to ensnare the opposition in an economic web from which they could not escape. Instead, Stephen Harper finds that his economic strategy has come a cropper. Scott Clark and Peter Devries write:

It didn’t have to be this way. Prime Minister Harper had an opportunity a year ago to set his government up to sail through any pre-election downturn in the economy while smelling like a rose.

He blew it. Here’s how:

Eliminating the deficit by 2015-16 was never based on any economic logic. It was always a political commitment, no more or less. And setting political targets for fiscal measures is a very dangerous game to get into. Fiscal measures move; political commitments can’t. Not without a cost.

The budgetary balance is the difference between two very large numbers: budgetary revenues and total expenses. Slight errors or shifts in either of these two numbers can have a large impact on the budgetary balance. All aspects of budgetary revenues and total expenses are influenced by economic developments over which the governments have little or no control.

Mr. Harper operates on the theory that he is a great man. And, therefore, he can bend history to his will. If he understood history a little better, he would be in better shape:

Instead of trying to force the global economy to operate according to their political timetable, the Harper government could have taken a victory lap in 2014-15. Then, when oil prices went south, they’d still have the credibility to say that the government’s overall fiscal picture remained sound. They could have held on to the contingency fund for debt reduction. Instead of publicly scrambling to respond to events completely beyond their control, they would have looked like the kind of canny fiscal managers who had a Plan B all along.

He got caught up in his own ego which -- Dr. Freud could have told him -- is a complicated web, indeed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Triumph Of Naked Ambition


Eve Adams' floor crossing was the latest example of what has become a plague. Politicians used to claim they believed in public service. Now all pretense has been swept aside. Naked ambition is out of the closet. Perhaps the ascent of Stephen Harper has given all politicians the temerity to trumpet their conviction that they stand -- first and foremost -- for themselves.

Consider the transformation of Mr. Harper. Tom Walkom writes:

Stephen Harper used to trumpet his government’s handling of the economy.
In those days, the prime minister portrayed himself as Professor Harper, the bespectacled, cardigan-wearing economist under whose wise leadership Canada avoided the worst of the global recession.

Today, the professor has been replaced by Stephen Harper, Warrior Prince.
The spectacles are gone. The gaze is steely, the rhetoric muscular.

A change in circumstances requires a change of costume and a change of role. And the prime minister walks away from the mess he helped create:

Going into a meeting of G-20 finance ministers this week in Istanbul, International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde called for concerted international action to stimulate growth, particularly on the part of advanced nations.

In a note to the summit, the IMF asked countries with strong fiscal positions (like Canada) to delay balancing their budgets in order to spend more on infrastructure.

In Europe, a political backlash against austerity is playing havoc with the elite consensus that for decades has ruled the continent.

The election of a serious left-wing government in Greece has once again put the euro, a common currency of 19 European nations, at risk. In France, the far-right National Front continues to make political gains.

Here in Canada, the collapse of oil prices has savaged the petroleum producing provinces. Alberta’s economy is taking a beating. Newfoundland is expected to go into recession.

It's all vintage Harper. Never take responsibility for your mistakes and never apologize. Just look for an out -- and take it, as fast as you can. That's naked ambition.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The News Is Not Good


Yesterday, I wrote that Stephen Harper had devalued the coin of the realm -- trust. And I suggested that the distrust Canadians now felt for him might result in his losing the next election. On the same day, Eve Adams joined Justin Trudeau's Liberals. Tom Clark reports:

Some time before Christmas, Eve Adams and Dimitri Soudas called the co-chairs of the Liberal campaign in Ontario. They wanted to talk, they said, about becoming Liberals.

Talks started almost immediately, but it would take another month before anything was brought to the federal leadership team and Justin Trudeau. By the last week of January, the meetings moved to the senior levels. Sources say that no incentive was offered to get Adams to cross the floor — because none was needed.

They say Adams and Soudas both proclaimed that they had been betrayed by Stephen Harper, and they were ready to fight back.

So the request was granted.

Trudeau said yesterday that, to win the next election, the Liberals would have to win back Canadians who voted Conservative in 2011. The conventional wisdom is that Adams will be taking on Finance Minister Joe Oliver in his Toronto riding.

So what are we to make of all this?  That the best way to defeat a Conservative is with another Conservative? That's happening in Nova Scotia, in Bill Casey's old riding. But Casey is a different kind of Conservative than Adams. He took on Harper from the beginning. Adams -- until very recently -- has been Stephen Harper's loyal servant. Her defection seems to be entirely self serving. And what does Trudeau's welcoming of Adams into the Liberal fold say about him?

The news is not good.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Devaluing The Coin Of The Realm


The CBC has been battered by the antics of Jian Ghomeshi, Peter Mansbridge and Amanda Lang. South of the border, NBC is dealing with the fallout from Brian Williams' fictionalized accounts of what he did in Iraq.  And the Globe and Mail  has given space to Stephen Harper and John Baird to editorialize. Michael Harris writes:

The relationship between the current Globe and the Conservative Party has become so close, and so mutually supportive, that basic issues of trust are in play between Canada’s old blue-haired lady and her readership. When the editorial board endorsed Liberal Kathleen Wynne in the last Ontario election and the publisher subsequently reversed that decision in favour of Conservative Tim Hudak, it says everything about editorial integrity. It is the kind of thing that ends up losing a newspaper $33 million dollars in a single year.

In journalism, as in politics, trust is the coin of the realm. That currency has been at the mercy of self promoters and speculators -- and Stephen Harper is a superb example of both:

Stephen Harper has so far managed to prosper in a world of political special effects — rappelling soldiers at hockey games, Mounties marching, jets screaming overhead. There is no story line, just a bewildering montage of emotionally charged events that herd voters his way. He is the X-Man of Canadian politics.

And that is a very fortunate thing for him, because he could not and will not survive a sober assessment of his record. Why? Because like Brian Williams, he has told self-aggrandizing tall tales.

Harper recently said that the only veterans’ centres that were closed by his government were the ones with very few clients. In fact, thousands of clients were displaced by the closures, putting tremendous pressure on remaining facilities to absorb them.

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons on several occasions, that the cost of the F-35 jet fighter program was guaranteed by the “contract” with the plane’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin. Despite these claims by both the prime minister and his various ministers of defence, including Peter MacKay, there never was a contract to buy the plane at the price the government claimed. The real price is going to be tens-of-billions higher.

At the height of the Wright/Duffy scandal, Harper also claimed that no one in his office knew a thing about the $90,000 gift that Nigel Wright gave to Mike Duffy, a “gift” that Duffy claims he was forced to accept by a domineering PMO. The truth is, more than a dozen people in the PMO knew about the deal, despite Harper’s Brian Williams imitation – at the expense of people like former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page.

Which begs the question: "If he has seriously devalued the coin of the realm, will Stephen Harper win the next election?

Sunday, February 08, 2015

The Lessons Of 2006 and 2008


It's hard to predict the outcome of an election. But this time around, if the Harperites receive a plurality of votes, Nelson Wiseman writes that 2006 and 2008 should have taught the opposition parties a few lessons:

If the 2015 election produces another Conservative minority, the first lesson that should be drawn from the case of 2008 is that the opposition parties will be hard-pressed to bring down a minority government at a time and on an issue of their choosing.
If they pass the speech from the throne when the next Parliament convenes, they will give the government unconditional authority until it introduces a major spending measure. If the measure meets the opposition’s opprobrium, the prime minister knows he can repair to Rideau Hall once again to postpone and possibly avoid his government’s defeat as he did in 2008. He will ask for a prorogation or for Parliament’s dissolution and fresh elections. Given the history of his office and the record of his predecessor, the enfeebled Governor General will consent.
The corollary of this lesson is that in another Conservative minority situation, the opposition parties will have to act expeditiously and with greater resolve than they did in 2008. Expect negotiations on an alternative government to a Conservative minority to begin on election night and no later than the next day. A publicly acknowledged negotiation process by the Liberals and the NDP, if not the contents of the negotiations, will prepare the public for what may be coming.
The opposition parties did not do this in 2008 and they paid for it. An alternative government will emerge as a coalition government — where members of the two opposition parties are in the cabinet — or as a Liberal minority government after the Liberals sign an accord with the NDP, the likely third party holding the balance of power. Such an accord would ensure a stable Liberal minority government with the NDP refraining from voting non-confidence for a fixed period in exchange for the Liberals entertaining some of the NDP’s agenda.

The model is the accord between Bob Rae and David Peterson which followed Ontario's 1985 election. Expect Stephen Harper to claim that coalitions are illegitimate. That claim, of course, is completely bogus. And the present Governor-General is on record on that subject: “I think that most jurisdictions that have a system of first-past-the-post or proportional representation will from time to time have coalitions or amalgamation of different parties.”

This time around, the opposition know who they are dealing with. If they fail, they will have no excuses.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Not In His Vocabulary


The financial world is waiting for the other shoe to drop in Greece. It's a sure bet that Greece's creditors are biting their fingernails. But, Joseph Stiglitz writes, there is a way out of this problem. It's worked before -- just as austerity has failed before -- many times:

Austerity had failed repeatedly, from its early use under U.S. President Herbert Hoover, which turned the stock-market crash into the Great Depression, to the IMF "programs" imposed on East Asia and Latin America in recent decades. And yet when Greece got into trouble, it was tried again.

Greece largely succeeded in following the dictate set by the "troika" (the European Commission the ECB, and the IMF): it converted a primary budget deficit into a primary surplus. But the contraction in government spending has been predictably devastating: 25 per cent unemployment, a 22 per cent fall in GDP since 2009, and a 35 per cent increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio. And now, with the anti-austerity Syriza party's overwhelming election victory, Greek voters have declared that they have had enough.

Not only has it failed in Greece. It's also failed in Spain:

First, let us be clear: Greece could be blamed for its troubles if it were the only country where the troika's medicine failed miserably. But Spain had a surplus and a low debt ratio before the crisis, and it, too, is in depression. What is needed is not structural reform within Greece and Spain so much as structural reform of the eurozone's design and a fundamental rethinking of the policy frameworks that have resulted in the monetary union's spectacularly bad performance.

The reason for the failure lies less with those who borrow money and more with those who lend it:

Given the amount of distress brought about by excessive debt, one might well ask why individuals and countries have repeatedly put themselves into this situation. After all, such debts are contracts -- that is, voluntary agreements -- so creditors are just as responsible for them as debtors. In fact, creditors arguably are more responsible: typically, they are sophisticated financial institutions, whereas borrowers frequently are far less attuned to market vicissitudes and the risks associated with different contractual arrangements. Indeed, we know that US banks actually preyed on their borrowers, taking advantage of their lack of financial sophistication.

It's wiser, Stiglitz believes, for creditors to forgive those debts:

Every (advanced) country has realized that making capitalism work requires giving individuals a fresh start. The debtors' prisons of the 19th century were a failure -- inhumane and not exactly helping to ensure repayment. What did help was to provide better incentives for good lending, by making creditors more responsible for the consequences of their decisions.

The classic example is Germany --  Europe's economic powerhouse. The debt burden which the allies placed on Germany after the World War I was one of the causes of World War II. At the end of the second war, leaders were determined not to make the same mistake:

Seventy years ago, at the end of World II, the Allies recognized that Germany must be given a fresh start. They understood that Hitler's rise had much to do with the unemployment (not the inflation) that resulted from imposing more debt on Germany at the end of World War I. The Allies did not take into account the foolishness with which the debts had been accumulated or talk about the costs that Germany had imposed on others. Instead, they not only forgave the debts; they actually provided aid, and the Allied troops stationed in Germany provided a further fiscal stimulus.

When companies go bankrupt, creditors swap debt for equity. Stiglitz suggests that the same remedy be followed in Europe:

The analogous approach for Greece is to convert its current bonds into GDP-linked bonds. If Greece does well, its creditors will receive more of their money; if it does not, they will get less. Both sides would then have a powerful incentive to pursue pro-growth policies.

Don't expect the Harper government to endorse this solution. After the G20 summit in Toronto, our prime minister -- masquerading as world statesman -- went to Greece and advised George Papandreou to apply the austerity brakes -- hard. We have seen the results of his advice.

Harper stands four square for punishment. But forgiveness isn't in his vocabulary.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Let's Not Forget


Diplomacy was is full bloom when John Baird announced his retirement this week. That was strange, Michael Harris writes, given Baird's record as Minister of Foreign Affairs:

Take a look at the damage Baird and company have done to Canada’s foreign service. After playing a key role in forging the protocols on climate change, Canada walked away from Kyoto. From Europe to India to South Africa, this country was pilloried for breaking our national word.

Canada walked away from the United Nations convention established to fight drought, primarily in Africa. Baird characterized the global effort as a fruitless “talkfest”. And he took no questions from the media on why Canada was the only country to see it that way.

CIDA, Canada’s foreign-aid agency, was swallowed up by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Bottom line? CIDA is now just part of the Harper government’s program to turn our diplomats into salesman, linking foreign aid to doing business with your “benefactor.” On Baird’s watch, foreign aid to poor countries has plummeted. Some of it has been redirected to help pay for the bad corporate citizenship of our mining companies operating abroad.

Canadian Foreign Affairs professionals had to watch in horror as the Harper government refused the United Arab Emirates more commercial flights into Canada, after the UAE had given us the use of Camp Mirage as a staging area for our troops going into Afghanistan.
Canada made Mexicans get visas to visit.

The foreign service cringed as the government sold off embassy properties around the world and refused to contribute to the IMF fund to assist a struggling European Union.

The atmosphere became so toxic over at Foreign Affairs that it led to the longest strike in federal public service history. The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers was out for six months over the revolutionary concept of equal pay for work of equal value.

As Baird trots off to make big money somewhere, let's not forget what his tenure at Foreign Affairs cost this country.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Stephen Houdini


Like Harry Houdini, Stephen Harper has built his career on illusion. His chief accomplishment has been to convince a significant number of Canadians that he is someone he is not. Along the way, he has sold a number of other illusions. Most important among them is the notion that he a a champion of the little guy. He has told middle class Canadians that he manages the economy for their benefit. Recent events, Geoffrey Hall writes, have exposed the lie behind that claim:

Harper’s carefully crafted image presents him to the nation as just another hockey-loving, Timmies-drinking, middle class guy — a person the average Canadian may not entirely trust or like, but not someone anyone suspects of being a mad-eyed radical ready to torch the neighbourhood. Steve’s projection of calm, banal, almost awkward normalcy has proved a highly effective illusion — concealing a very real agenda of radical change.

In Harper's Canada, prosperity goes directly to the top, while Canadian democracy sinks into oblivion:

Contracting-out the drafting of legislation, eroding the public service, removing science and evidence-based policy from decision-making, ignoring Parliament at every opportunity — step by step, Harper has concentrated the sum of power in his hands and, in effect, taken a match to many of Canada’s institutions. In fact, the greatest threat facing Canadians’ long-term economic and personal freedom is precisely this process of erosion — the slow loss of our ability to actually influence change, provide meaningful input to legislation and safeguard our fundamental freedoms.

Knowing that Canadians are beginning to catch on to the con, Harper has pinned his hopes on ginning up fears of jihadists at the gate. He knows that Canadians are justifiably afraid of lots of things:

Middle-class Canadians have plenty to be afraid of these days. Their numbers are shrinking along with traditional employment opportunities. The financial future for their families is uncertain. The pace of change in the economy is terrifying. These are all rational, legitimate fears — and they’re unlikely to go away in the course of an election year. A good politician knows he can’t make those fears vanish. But, if he’s both good and lucky, he can point those fears in another direction.

And that is precisely what the prime minister is trying to do. But it may not work. A Montrealer delivered a punch to Houdini's gut that caught the magician off guard. It was the punch that did Houdini in. Mr. Harper is convinced he has covered all his vulnerabilities.

We'll see.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Sins Of The Fathers

For Neo-Liberals, a deficit is more than a negative number. It is a moral failure -- a sin. That conviction drives Stephen Harper's economic policy. And that conviction, Scott Clark and Peter DeVries write, is a perversion of economics. Until recently, Canadian governments have understood that fixation on deficits is detrimental to the nation:

By that reasoning, most governments in Canada since Confederation were unethical — because they ran deficits. They borrowed to finance the transcontinental railways which built our country, the St. Lawrence Seaway which connected our western provinces to global markets. In fact, the only post-Second World War governments which didn’t fall into that category were the administrations of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.

Harper’s own government appears to be a late convert to [Joe] Oliver’s peculiar brand of fiscal ‘ethics’. After inheriting a surplus of $14 billion, it quickly turned it into a deficit by cutting two points off the GST. The Conservative government, for all its fiscal ethics, has run a deficit since 2008-09 — saddling future generations of Canadians with an additional debt load of more than $150 billion.

Like Puritans focused on the sins of others, neo-liberals see themselves as missionaries, whose job it is to convert the world. In Canada, they have converted the three major political parties:

The New Democrats’ top policy priority is a national childcare program — not a bad idea, actually, but not an economic growth strategy. They’re also allergic to any talk of deficits and debt financing; they’d to raise corporate taxes — not a good idea, actually. They have made a number of small tax announcements to support innovation and small business, but they hardly constitute an economic growth strategy.

The Liberals, meanwhile, have made increased infrastructure spending their top priority. But they too have an aversion to deficits and debt financing. In a well-written article in the National Post last week, Liberal Finance critic Scott Bryson set out the arguments for a national infrastructure program. The words “deficit” and “debt financing” do not appear anywhere in the article. Instead, the Liberals are looking at “innovative” ways to get private and public pension funds to undertake infrastructure investments. Whether any of these would be up to the challenge remains an open question.

And, until the false morality of Neo-Liberalism is overthrown, the future is austere. Our children will be right to be furious with us:

What Harper and Oliver can’t get into their heads is that burdening future generations with crumbling infrastructure — and the attendant costs — is unethical. But it can be ignored, because most of us, including Harper and Oliver, will not be around to accept the responsibility.

Until Neo-Liberalism is vanquished, the sins of the fathers will be visited upon their children.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

It's Not The Deficit. There Are More Serious Miscalculations


Much has been written  about the Harper government's deficit projections. Jim Stanford writes that, on paper, the budget will be balanced. There are all kinds of accounting tricks that can make that happen. The government is vulnerable, he writes because it has grossly mismanaged the economy:

The October tax cuts were premature; it is tax cuts, not oil prices, which have jeopardized the attainment of a balanced budget. The Conservatives broke their own promise in implementing tax cuts before the budget was even balanced. (Breaking their promise, not running a small deficit per se, is their key point of vulnerability.) In fact, as I show in my column, the federal budget would be balanced right now, even with lower oil prices, were it not for the accelerated first-year tax cuts which the government was so anxious to rush out the door before the election. 

    The October tax cuts are socially and economically damaging. The CCPA's fabulous analysis of the perverse distributional effects of income-splitting (here and here) is already making this case in spades. 
    The government's response to falling oil prices has revealed confusion and internal division. Joe Oliver delayed his budget to some unspecified future date (April or even later); perhaps he will actually "table" the budget on the hustings. Oliver has said that there will be no further spending cuts to offset the loss in revenue, and that the government can use its (phony) $3 billion contingency fund to protect the balanced budget. Employment Minister Jason Kenney, in contrast, said the exact opposite in public: suggesting that incremental spending cuts might be required, and that the $3 billion cushion would not be drawn down (since it is intended, he argued, for true "emergencies"). Treasury Board President Tony Clement, meanwhile, also hinted at surprise reductions in spending -- channeling Pierre Trudeau in saying "Just watch us" reduce spending. Clement's record in consistently underspending authorized operational budgets (part of the government's "austerity by stealth" strategy). These mixed messages indicate a breakdown of discipline within Conservative ranks, and send confusing signals to consumers and investors alike.   
    Most fundamentally, the government's macroeconomic and industrial emphasis on making Canada an "energy superpower," investing so much fiscal and political capital to facilitate energy megaprojects (including fruitless pipeline proposals), vilifying critical voices, and inadequately responding to the negative side-effects of the oil boom on other sectors, has left Canada's economy unduly vulnerable to an oil price decline that was always inevitable.
The Harper government's first economic responsibility is to put citizens to work. In that task, it has failed utterly -- and the Harperites know it. I suspect that knowledge has something to do with John Baird's exit, stage right.

Monday, February 02, 2015

No Great Man

Stephen Harper is a champion of disaster democracy. Michael Harris writes:

Disaster democracy needs just three things; an atrocious event, a political leader sufficiently cynical not to let any catastrophe go to waste, and a public mindset willing to exchange liberties for the illusion of safety.

The great benefit of disaster democracy is that draws away public attention from matters of the government’s record and redirects it to a more emotional plane. It’s weakness is its limited appeal; disaster democracy only works with frightened populations.

His record is now clear for all to see. But he's doing everything in his power to divert public attention from that record. And he has seized upon the shootings at Charlie Hebdo to create that diversion. The problem, however, is that:

Wise leaders don’t build public policy on single events or facile solutions. The Liberals learned that in Canada when they brought in a wildly ill-considered gun registry in reaction to the massacre of 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989.

After the biggest mass murder in its history, the shooting of 77 people by right-wing extremist Anders Breivick, the Norwegian government didn’t think it was worth changing their society in the name of a deranged criminal. Not one new law was proclaimed. Somehow Norway has survived. A billion dollars later, the gun registry didn’t.

Small men hide from the world. They call forth the worst in us and play upon our fears. In the midst of a crisis, great men appeal to our better angels. Franklin Roosevelt firmly declared:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.

Roosevelt was a great man. Stephen Harper fans the flames of nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror. He seeks to transform Canada into a disaster democracy. He is no great man.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Country Over Party

Gerry Caplan writes that the Liberals and the New Democrats are going to have to do what is unthinkable -- work together. It's possible that either party might win a majority. But, if that doesn't happen:

Some kind of long-term rapprochement between the NDP and Liberals must be pursued. Don’t think, after a lifetime of deep attachment to the NDP, it doesn’t kill me to write these words. But anything else is a recipe for continued Conservative rule, a fate that Canadian progressives must not inflict on our country in the name of party loyalty. If we take seriously the assertion that the Conservatives have already undermined the values that we and most Canadians hold dear, and that another term will entrench their work and make it irreversible, we have no choice but to place Canada before party.

At the moment, Caplan acknowledges that either party will not even consider his proposal:

I understand fully that this proposal has no chance of buy-in from either party before election day 2015. Indeed, both Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau have explicitly repudiated the idea of working together, and were I in their shoes right now I’d do the same. Both need to insist that it alone can defeat the Harperites and that all anti-Conservatives must unite behind one party. If this strategic voting strategy works (most likely for the Liberals), future co-operation is off the table. But if it doesn’t, members of both Opposition parties will have no ethical or political choice but to seek some form of collaboration. The alternative – leaving the country by default to the Conservative Party – is simply unthinkable.

Harper's recent switch from the economy to security -- and what he is willing to do in the name of national security -- underscores just how serious the situation is. And, because he is committed to incrementalism, a lot of Canadians haven't acknowledged what the prime minister has done to the country.

But Harper knows what's he's about -- just as Adolph Hitler knew what he was about. And surely Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Mulcair know what he's about. For that reason, each man must, in the end, choose country over party.