Saturday, March 18, 2006

P3s redux

Murray Dobbin again slams the Campbell government for the waste and secrecy associated with its P3 projects:
Public-private partnerships persist in B.C. and are set to expand despite the fact that the rationales for them have, one by one, been debunked. Early on, supporters touted them as a way to help debt-conscious governments get liabilities off the books. Yet there is little difference between taxpayers servicing the interest on a government loan and paying a yearly fee to a P3 contractor — who uses it to pay off its loan. It's all taxpayers' dollars.

However, there is one important distinction: the P3 fee is always higher, for the simple reason that governments can borrow money at a lower rate than private companies. On a big project, that can mean tens of millions of dollars in extra costs. As for keeping debt off the books, even the free-market International Monetary Fund has severely criticized governments for this accounting trick, demanding that they begin treating yearly P3 payments as debt and not operating costs...

One of the most serious problems with P3s and PBC's promotion of them is that the whole process is shrouded in secrecy — rationalized by so-called “commercial confidentiality.” Even publicly elected officials don't get to see the contracts.

“P3s allow megaprojects to be imposed upon local communities without any meaningful consultation,” Richard Neal said. “Even rudimentary public scrutiny of projects is prohibited until the contracts are signed, and by then it's too late to stop them. Look at the RAV, St. Paul's Hospital, the Highway 1 [expansion], and the twinning of the Port Mann [Bridge] — none of them would be approved as conventional projects without a lot more public oversight.”
Unfortunately, despite consistently strong writing on the subject both by Dobbin and by others covering the issue for the Tyee, the dangers of P3s don't appear to have broken into the mainstream media to any great extent. And it may well take a lot more public knowledge of the B.C. Liberals' apparent ideological commitment to inefficiency and unaccountability to ensure that they don't receive any more opportunity to impose more unnecessary costs on the province.

A partial solution

Maple Leaf Politics points out that the Alberta legislature has introduced legislation to limit the distribution of Albertans' personal information. Like MLP, I'll applaud Alberta's efforts, and hope that other provinces follow suit. But unfortunately, the bill won't have quite as strong an effect as MLP appears to think. And the ultimate effect may be just the opposite: the fact that the legislature has spoken up may merely force all the more requests into the most secretive forum possible.

On its face, the bill should "effectively halt any requests made under the US Patriot Act for personal information". Other means aside from the Patriot Act provisions exist to allow the U.S. to seek personal information, and part of the test in those cases is the degree to which the information is protected - both through contracts and through statutes such as the Alberta legislation. So to the extent that it's possible to challenge disclosure through these means, the legislation will indeed help matters.

But as I've pointed out before, one of the more scary aspects of the Patriot Act is that the disclosure of the information simply isn't open to challenge, and in fact it's an offence to so much as disclose that the request has been made. Which means that if U.S. authorities want to avoid having to justify their request over the admonition contained in Alberta's legislation, the Patriot Act provides the ideal means for them to do so...regardless of what any provincial legislature has to say about the issue.

It's well and good for Canada to send a message, both on a provincial and a federal level, to say that we won't stand to have our information available upon the whims of U.S. authorities. But absent a change in U.S. policy to eliminate the secrecy of the Patriot Act, there will always be a way around that declaration as long as information about Canadians finds its way into the hands of U.S.-controlled companies. And a loss of business resulting from privacy fears may well be the only factor which could force the U.S. to make that change.

On losing strategies

The Globe and Mail discusses the pattern of other governments trying to centralize the flow of information - and the futility of trying to do so:
The Harper government's move to demand central control over all government communications is part of an international pattern of governments seeking to centralize their message while they face pressures to increase openness and accountability, an expert in government information practices says.

Communications aides to leaders say the move is just an expansion of the kind of efforts most administrations have tried — efforts that have invariably fallen apart...

Patrick Gossage, a former press secretary to prime minister Pierre Trudeau who coaches politicians on media relations, said the new government's strategy is simply unworkable.

"Every PMO in the history of PMOs since Trudeau's PMO at least have made attempts to control the message centrally, usually without success," he said. "We tried to do it for a little while. It didn't work...They're in a way, dysfunctional, because it makes the team look like it's not a team."
So much for Harper representing any change from politics as usual. It remains to be seen whether Harper will eventually learn from both his mistakes and those of others, or whether he'll face the inevitable leaks that come from a smothered party. But judging from the rush toward central control, it seems far too likely that Coach Harper is too busy trying to impose his system to recognize what's best for his team.

Friday, March 17, 2006

A sunny future

The investment may pale in comparison to the billions the province plans to pour into new nuclear power, but let's give Ontario credit for taking a step toward encouraging solar power on a wider scale than it's been used before:
Ontario will soon offer Canada's first subsidy to homeowners or businesses that install solar electric power.

The incentive — 42 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced — is to be announced Tuesday by Premier Dalton McGuinty, industry sources say...

With the energy savings, the system could be paid off in 20 to 25 years. That's when the main payoff begins, since the equipment is expected to last 40 to 60 years, Rob McMonagle, executive director of the Canadian Solar Industries Association, said yesterday.
The Ontario project may only be a start to what needs to be done in making use of solar power. But at the very least it should provide a serious boost to an industry that hasn't really developed yet in Canada...and once solar power can establish a foothold, it should be a lot easier for other provinces to follow suit with programs of their own.

High praise

The surprisingly strong opening to CanWest's final article on the Cons' Senate reform promise:
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Conservative government's plan to reform the Senate is that there appears to be no plan.
If only any Cons were allowed to at least give the media something to work with, rather than leaving coverage of the party entirely to the imagination (or in the case of this article, to the 1988 Reform plan for the Senate), there might be at least some chance of winning the Canadian public over to what surely has to be a somewhat more concrete plan than has been stated publicly. But as things stand now, a media presented with no thoughts from the Cons can only assume that no such thoughts exist...which isn't doing much for whatever image of competence Harper presumably hopes to win.

The streak continues

For those keeping tabs, Canada has won yet another round before a NAFTA tribunal on softwood lumber. If only there were any reason to think that the U.S. was any more likely to act based on this decision than any of the previous ones - no matter how quickly or often Harper (but no other cabinet minister) gets on the phone.

Closing ranks

I'm not quite sure who came up with the idea that the biggest problem with Harper's regime so far has been its excessive public availability. But apparently trying to make the current Cabinet even less accessible is Harper's main focus at the moment:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has imposed central control over all information and comments to the public issued by government officials and even cabinet ministers, directing them to have everything cleared by the Prime Minister's Office, according to an internal e-mail and government sources.

The orders, described in an e-mail to bureaucrats, indicate that ministers have been told to avoid talking about the direction of the government, and that the government wants them to be less accessible to the news media. And all government officials are instructed to avoid speaking about anything other than the five priorities outlined in the Conservative campaign...

"In order to keep a grip on such events [those that distract from priority areas], PMO will approve all ministerial events."...

Government officials and Conservatives confirmed the instructions, including orders that the PMO clear all public communications — including minor comments and letters to local newspapers.

"PMO will have final approval for all communications products — even Notes to Editors or Letters to the Editor," the e-mail states.
No word yet as to whether or not Harper will punish himself either for his highly distracting jaunt to Afghanistan, or even his officials' willingness to comment on the information suppression story.

That said, the problem with the Cons' action (which of course seems highly consistent with Bushco's communications strategy) is that unlike Bush, Harper and his government will have to face the questions of opposition parties in Parliament. And if Harper doesn't even trust his ministers to avoid making fools of themselves in scripted events or letters to the editor, it's hard to see what chance they stand of holding up in the face of pointed partisan questioning.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Common problems

The World Water Forum is underway, and even with Canada's general luck in having massive amounts of water resources, the problems being discussed are ones we've heard about at home:
Forum organizers set a goal of improving water access for the poor, but similar efforts in the past have failed: The poor pay vastly more money to private corporations for their water today than they did when the first global water forum was held in Marrakech, Morocco, in 1997...

Outright privatization of water systems has been a hard sell since 2000, when thousands of Bolivians protested rate increases in water contracts held by foreign companies. The protests left seven demonstrators dead and forced the companies out of the country.

Bottled water, on the other hand, has earned good profits and little attention.

"It's in some way sort of a stealth privatization," said Janet Larsen, research director for the Earth Policy Institute, a private, Washington-based environmental group. Larsen noted that the biggest gains in bottled water sales are in developing countries...

"The problem isn't that these (bottling) companies are supplying people" with water, Bogantes said. "The question is, given that governments have invested millions of dollars in water treatment and distribution systems, why aren't they supplying the population?"
We should be all too familiar with Canada's situations where bottled water was (or is) used in large quantities as a substitute for a functioning public water supply. And it surely can't be a positive example for developing countries that even as a country as wealthy - in money and in available water - as Canada hasn't made clean water a high enough priority to make it available to all of our citizens.

On conflicts

Robert points out that the government of Afghanistan is now looking to turn local drug lords into the main backers of the Afghan economy, in direct contrast to Harper's apparent vision for Afghanistan. But the need for a debate on at this aspect of the mission is even more clear than Robert makes it out to be.

From the Star's article, take a look at the U.S.' position on the matter:
A U.S. diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the drug trade was so entrenched it was difficult to confront the drug bosses head on.

The government could grant them an "informal amnesty" if they end their involvement in drugs, swear allegiance to President Hamid Karzai's government, invest their money at home and pay taxes, he said.

And while one or two major traffickers have approached the government for talks, no deals have been reached. Most of their money is stashed in banks in the United Arab Emirates, the diplomat said...
As a tangent, that position itself is typically hypocritical given the U.S.' strong condemnation of the same type of policy elsewhere:
The U.S. has accused military-run Myanmar — once the world's top producer of opium — of allowing drug kingpins to invest in commercial banks and other businesses.
But Bushco's foibles aside, the article makes clear that it isn't only local Afghan policy which conflicts with Harper's stated goals: one of our allies in the mission appears to be fully on side with the accommodation of the traffickers as well.

There's certainly room for a number of different views as to how the traffickers should be dealt with. But not only can Canada not claim any agreement with Afghanistan's government on the matter, the occupying coalition hasn't even worked out its stance on what's bound to be a key issue in trying to rebuild the country. And when the coalition is so obviously lacking for unity even now, surely there can be no rational basis to commit Canada's troops indefinitely.

On recognizing pluses

The Globe and Mail discusses discusses how Canada's positive reputation deflated the anger of Mark Budzanowski's Palestinian captors. But could there be any doubt that such a story would lead to a rush of Bushites trying to claim that there's something wrong with that good reputation?

Of course, it's also true that hostages of all nationalities were released, meaning that it wasn't Budzanowski's passport that won his freedom. But at the same time, it's still far better for Canada to be seen as a country which can win at least the respect of all kinds of people - not as one which has gone out of its way to make enemies around the world.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Apparently concluding that the neglect of diplomatic officials hasn't yet caused enough problems for Maher Arar, the Department of Foreign Affairs is now refusing to offer any effective assistance as Arar plans a trip to testify in Europe about his experience:
Arar is scheduled to fly to Brussels March 23, where he will testify before the European Parliament's committee on the transportation and illegal detention of prisoners.

Last week, Arar's lawyer Marlys Edwardh wrote to the Foreign Affairs Department asking that he be guaranteed safe passage to the meeting.

"The Government of Canada is not in a position to make assurances or to guarantee the safe passage of Canadian citizens once they travel outside of Canadian jurisdiction," says the response letter, delivered late Tuesday...

"I would suggest that you contact the Belgian authorities in Canada if you have any questions or concerns," added the letter, signed by Foreign Affairs legal adviser Alan Kessel.
It shouldn't be particularly difficult to figure out which concerns Arar might have about the trip, especially given the prospect that a flight could be diverted to the U.S. or another country due to travel conditions. And if Foreign Affairs is completely unwilling to do anything more than send a note to Belgium confirming that Arar does indeed plan to make the trip, the main question that comes to mind is how Foreign Affairs could possibly have learned nothing at all from what's already happened to Arar.

But apparently Canadian officials aren't interested in hearing or dealing with the obvious. Which means that when Arar steps onto the airplane for the purpose of testifying as to the torture endured last time he attempted to travel, his fate is at best in the hands of his destination country (which has apparently already done more than Canada to help), and at worst completely unknown.

Rejecting obstructionism

Despite John Bolton's best efforts to make sure that any U.N. reform would occur on the U.S.' terms or not at all, the U.N. has agreed to the structure for a new human rights body. And now that it can't keep the council out of existence, even the U.S. plans to play along:
UN member states ignored U.S. opposition and overwhelmingly approved a new Human Rights Council on Wednesday, attempting to strengthen the world body's machinery to deal with major human rights offenders.

The vote in the 191-member General Assembly was 170 in favour, with four against, and three abstentions...

U.S. officials said Washington nonetheless will give its financial backing to the new council and seek a seat on it.
We'll see how long it takes before the U.S. begins actively undermining the new council as it did the previous one. It seems all too likely that ew attacks will start the earlier of whenever the U.S.' actions come under any scrutiny, or whenever the U.S. decides that not enough of the seats are held by itself and its allies.

But it's still a relief to see that the U.N. isn't allowing itself to be paralyzed by the U.S.' unwillingness to work toward consensus solutions. Moreover, if the Council serves as an effective enough example of a reform brought about despite the U.S.' objections, then future reforms may be based all the more on global needs rather than U.S. demands. And at best, the U.S. may even be forced to start bringing a more reasonable position to the table.

An evident problem

Just yesterday, CBC reported on a wave of flawed child-porn charges based on a list of names which failed to take into account issues such as identity theft and outside access to individual computers:
Irish lawyer Paul Lambert has reviewed some of the Landslide cases. He says because the issue was child pornography, people were not treated as innocent until proven guilty.

"Certain police forces around the world ... would have been told by U.S. authorities, 'These are pedophiles and this is a 100-per-cent pedophile website,' " he said.

Lambert says no one seems to have considered other possibilities in the cases he has reviewed, "things like whether somebody else has access to a computer; things like malicious access to computers, malicious uploading and downloading.
Now, the U.S. government has won the ability to add Google search data to the evidence currently available to it:
Google will have to hand over details of users' internet searches to the United States government after a judge said the company must comply with a federal investigation...

The government argued the information was vital for its bid to restore laws protecting children from online pornography that were struck down by the US Supreme Court...

James Ware, US District Court Judge for northern California, said the case was in essence about the government seeking the search data to test child-safe content filters and though "reticent" to decide on the relevance of the request, was inclined to give the government "some relief".
We'll find out whether appropriate limitations and conditions are put on the use of the data - particularly an assurance that the searches can't be matched up to individual users. But it sounds all too probable that the U.S. has just been handed a license to engage in a witch-hunt on any subject where a user may have searched Google. And given the track record of failing to take into account exculpatory factors, there's far too much reason for concern that more innocent people will get see their lives destroyed based on a single link between an individual computer and a "suspicious" search.

(Via Socialist Swine.)

Update: Blast Furnace Canada Blog draws the same connection.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A hopeful sign

I'm highly skeptical that Rona Ambrose's latest announcement will be followed by action. But if it is, then Canada's environment has a chance to be treated better under the Cons than it ever was under the Libs:
The Canadian government will not opt out of the Kyoto accord, but the federal environment minister says the country must do more than just try to reach targets.

Rona Ambrose says she has a problem with elements of the Kyoto agreement that allow the purchase of carbon emission credits to help meet targets, but do nothing to benefit the environment or promote Canadian clean air and clean water technology.
Of course, we should all be familiar with the tactic of promising serious action on the environment then failing utterly to follow through. But a willingness to at least recognize the problem is a surprising first step for the Cons...and with Ambrose standing alone among the Cons as a prominent figure who hasn't yet embarrassed or contradicted herself, hopefully the party will play along enough to let her polish an image as a minister capable of getting things done.

How to win friends and influence policy

Jim Stanford nicely pegs the best possible outcome for child care under the Con government. But he seems to miss the point in how to get there:
Fiscally, Ottawa can easily afford both the Conservatives' baby bonus (worth something over $1.5-billion per year, net of taxes collected) and continuing federal contributions to the national program (worth another $1-billion per year). In that regard, we could have our daycare cake, and eat it, too. The opposition parties could then approve Mr. Harper's first budget, on condition that it include a five-year funding commitment to the national program. This sort of compromise should be a no-brainer in a minority situation.

Unfortunately, it won't be that simple. Nobody wants another election, of course (we didn't want one last Christmas either), and Mr. Harper will use this to play chicken — governing as if he actually won a majority. Meanwhile, the opposition parties, perversely, are still as focused on outfoxing each other, as on preventing the destruction of the first new national social program in decades...

We need the direct power of public opinion, undiluted by parliamentary machinations, to stop Mr. Harper — something like that famous “Goodbye Charlie Brown” moment that stopped Brian Mulroney from de-indexing pensions two decades ago.
Obviously the public-opinion side of the issue is an important one. But it's only through parliamentary machinations that any plan can actually pass, and it's hard to see how Stanford can fail to notice how those machinations line up perfectly to ensure just the compromise long as the NDP takes the lead role in brokering a deal.

It seems fairly clear that the Libs are bent on posturing as best they can rather than working toward a consensus deal. But that posturing should readily lead to a productive good-cop, bad-cop scenario. With the Libs bent on opposing as if they too had a majority, the NDP can point out its comparative willingness to make a deal...if the Cons in turn are willing to reach the obvious compromise.

Moreover, as the one party which actually proposed a relatively similar plan within its platform, the Dippers won't lose political face in making the offer. About the only possible downside is the potential risk to Layton's deal-maker reputation if the Cons turn up their noses...but if the result of a refusal would be another election, one can easily see Harper accepting the compromise while claiming victory.

In contrast, any attempt to preserve the child-care deals through public pressure to have the Cons make the first move is doomed to failure. After all, Harper has shown no interest at all in publicly acknowledging any view other than his own ideology since he took power. And in light of his newfound macho, fight-until-the-end persona, he surely can't afford to be seen as the first leader to blink.

But that said, he can surely understand the language of power. And the carrot-and-stick of either accepting a reasonable compromise or facing the voters should be enough to bring about a deal.

The public opinion is indeed an important factor, particularly to ensure that Harper recognizes the downside of refusing an offer once it's made. But the sensible compromise can only be reached through political means...and Stanford seems to be going out of his way to avoid recognizing which party holds the only realistic chance of making the obvious solution a reality.

Long overdue

Ralph Klein is apparently planning to set a timeline for departure later this month, likely leading to a departure around October 2007. While that's good news in general, we'll see if Klein's imminent departure forces Harper out of wait-and-see mode on health care, or whether Harper's parting gift will be a continued willingness to look the other way.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A healthy reminder

Rafe Mair unloads on the Campbell government for going out of its way to ignore the needs of mentally ill British Columbia residents:
Nancy Hall's mandate was to look for the mentally ill who needed help. For her efforts, she was fired. At that time, I editorialized thusly. "I believe the minister, Dr Cheema, to be a very sensitive, well motivated man who sincerely wants to make things better for the mentally ill. I believe the premier shares that feeling. But they are not going to identify the problem, nor be able to bring solutions to bear, without help from those whose jobs don't depend upon results."

The Campbell government, concerned only with the bottom line, could see that if Nancy Hall were kept on much longer, the mentally ill would be found and that would add significantly to burdens on the health care system. It is not, therefore, extravagant to say that a solid part of the first Campbell government's fiscal savings were on the backs of the mentally ill...

There are simple remedies:

1. Every doctor, before getting a licence, must have a thorough grounding in mental illness. This requires the coming together of government, the medical school, the British Columbia Medal Association and private agencies.

2. The BCMA should maintain a list of family doctors who are able to deal with mental illness and will take new patients.

3. Recognizing that dealing with mental illness requires more time with the patient that usually expended on patients, Medicare must recognize this fact with a better fee schedule.

4. The office of mental health advocate must be resurrected with the mandate to see that those who are mentally ill have access to help as well thus guiding the ministry of health to where the problems are.
It's hard to be optimistic that Campbell will suddenly care about mental health issues when his government was previously responsible for silencing the strongest B.C. voice on the issue...not to mention when the current commitment is a pitiful $8 million for 3 years to deal with issues related to homelessness and mental illness. But if there's no formal advocate left, then Mair is a very strong substitute...and if any significant proportion of those who read his column take up the call, then there may yet be a chance of reversing the current neglect.

In case Big Brother is watching...

Larry Zolf unveils the new Newspeak.

The widely anticipated is out of the blue.

Imitation is leadership.

Melodrama is competence.

And Stephen Harper is capable of winning a majority.

Who's counting?

Greg at Sinister Thoughts points out that Canada's upcoming census may become a lot more interesting than usual, as a movement has formed to challenge the outsourcing of Canada's census data to a U.S. firm.

While the site is worth a look, there may not be quite as much risk to Canadians' privacy as suggested by the site. The Statistics Act clearly prevents the disclosure of information. That, along with the terms which would presumably be included in the contract with StatsCan, should give the contractor involved a defence against any refusal to share the information...assuming of course that a Lockheed Martin subsidiary is willing to challenge the absolute power of Bushco.

That said, the outsourcing of the census still poses at least some privacy risk, along with a question as to whether Canada's main means of tracking its citizens should be in private hands of any nationality. And hopefully the site will call attention to those issues before the census takes place.

Information freeze

Thomas Walkom discusses the first prosecutions under the U.S.' animal-abuser-protection legislation, as six people will be going to jail for operating a website which described where peaceful protests would take place:
Along with another case in Oregon, this one involving radical environmentalists, the New Jersey trial marks a significant step forward in the Bush administration's decision to bring the war on terror home for use against those it views as its new domestic enemies...

The Foundation for Biomedical Research calculates illegal acts by animal and environmental extremists have increased 1,000 per cent over the past decade. But even so, the absolute numbers (82 incidents in 2005) remain miniscule.

FBI spokeswoman Cathy Milhoan says there have never been any deaths or injuries in the U.S. attributable to animal rights or environmental terrorism.

By comparison, radical right-wingers killed 168 people in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Since then, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center report, police have uncovered 60 more right-wing plots, including plans to assassinate judges, bomb synagogues and destroy mosques...

Yet in spite of this, as the Alabama-based law centre points out, the U.S. government has decided the radical right presents little or no threat.
There's too much content to comment on for now; give it a read, and be glad you're in a country where merely passing along information isn't yet a crime.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Where have we heard this before?

Shorter Canadian military policy: Support (read "politicize") the troops. But don't expect to be able to hear their side of the story.

Directory assistance

The CP reports that Harper's predictable defence of health care in the face of a challenge from Ralph Klein do absolutely nothing:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper appears to be backing away from a confrontation with Alberta over its Third Way health proposals...

Many critics say a simple statement by the prime minister that Alberta is violating the rules of medicare could have a major political impact - perhaps more impact, in this case, than a cut in federal transfer payments to the province...

Marissa Etmanski, a spokeswoman for Klein, said there has been no contact with federal officials on the issue.

"We haven't heard from them."
Remember back when the Cons were slamming the Libs for refusing to make a single phone call on the softwood lumber file - at a time when anybody paying the slightest bit of attention could tell that the phone call alone was going to accomplish absolutely nothing? Apparently now that he's taken power, Harper is suffering from the same inability to make a call that plagued his predecessor...even though the issue is one where the conversation could actually make a difference.

Apparently Harper's vision of standing up for health care is to do as little as possible until it's too late to make any changes, then to wring his hands over the fact that nothing can be done. (Which doesn't sound all that dissimilar from the Libs' management of the issue.) But for those of us who want to see the federal government doing something on the file for a change, now might be the time to get in touch with the PM and point out that he wasn't elected to continue the tradition of sitting on his hands by the phone.

On diversification

The CP reports that Canada's tourism numbers are on the upswing from almost all sources - but that the decline in U.S. tourism has nonetheless led to an overall drop in the industry:
Visitors from overseas are coming to Canada in droves, but the influx won't compensate for the cost of a proposed new travel document requirement that's already keeping Americans away, a prominent tourism advocate warns...

While the increase in overseas visitors is good news, the drop in U.S. travellers could mean a $2-billion shortfall for the tourism industry in 2005...

Because Canada's $57.5-billion tourism industry depends so heavily on U.S. visitors, a market that has declined some 30 per cent in the last five years, the good news from overseas is often overshadowed.
The article has a very negative tone due to the absolute drop in tourism. But the overall decline is a predictable result of Canada's overreliance on one market for tourists. In tourism as for other industries, the recent trend toward dependence on U.S. business has left Canada vulnerable to both economic weakness and arbitrary political decisions from our southern neighbour. And with both of these factors strongly in play, there's no realistic chance to make up for the loss of American tourists on an immediate basis.

That said, the current trend also appears to be toward a more sustainable long-term structure which isn't quite so reliant on U.S. tourists alone. The absolute drop is a symptom of the problem with relying too much on one source of tourists...but the growth elsewhere also signals an industry that's working to build a broader base so that it won't be so vulnerable in the future. And with any luck, the additional tourists coming from overseas will return home with a positive impression which will induce even more of their compatriots to give Canada a look.

Of course, it would also be a plus to attract back a higher number of Americans, and Canada should do its best to encourage policies which will allow that to happen. But Canada also needs to recognize the limitations on our ability to influence the actions of the U.S. - and to develop other markets to the point where the U.S.' problems don't inevitably lead to a decline at home. The result may be slightly less short-term gain than could be acquired through an effort to bring in the most U.S. dollars immediately with no regard for the associated risks...but the longer-term stability is more than worth the tradeoff.


CTV reports that contrary to past policy, the Cons government is demanding that several key diplomats resign to make room for new appointments:
CTV News has learned that five Canadian diplomats appointed by the Liberals have been asked to voluntarily pack up their bags and come home.

Sources say a senior bureaucrat in Foreign Affairs recently phoned the diplomats and told them that Frank McKenna, former ambassador to the United States, set the precedent by resigning so quickly after the election.

The bureaucrats urged the diplomats to follow McKenna's lead...

Diplomats have traditionally been allowed to serve their full terms even when there is a change in government.
It's particularly unimpressive that McKenna's departure for individual reasons (which until a week later appeared to include a desire to run for the Lib leadership) is now being cited as a basis for more systematic partisan appointments.

Fortunately, there is a voice of reason coming from the usual source:
The NDP's foreign affairs critic, Alexa McDonough, said these tactics smack of "intimidation." She says the Government should justify why these diplomats should return before their terms are up.

"If Canadian interests are being well served, they should be able to continue and fulfill their terms. If there's cause for removal then the government should make a case for their removal," McDonough said.
It seems all too likely that the Cons' response will be something to the effect that being in power means never having to justify one's actions. But of course, that thesis will receive a serious test once Parliament gets back in session. And if Harper doesn't have a particularly compelling reason to believe that the diplomats in question are falling short of the expected standard for their positions, then the clean-government vote should fall all the more squarely against the Cons next time Canada goes to the polls.