Saturday, December 08, 2012

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Frances Russell discusses how the Harper Cons have capitalized on the general public's lack of familiarity with how our parliamentary system is supposed to work - and the conventional checks and balances which have been overridden at every turn by a governing party which isn't interested in preserving a functional system of accountability:
Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of politics at the University of Manitoba, calls the debasement of Canada’s Parliament under the Harper Conservatives “stark.” He cites such recent developments as: the government forcing committees to meet in secret and muzzling opposition MPs from revealing anything that occurred to protect the government; drafting 400-page omnibus budget bills and ramming them through Parliament in marathon sittings allowing little or no debate; compelling opposition MPs to appear before committee to be interrogated because they offended the government; and controlling and managing the parliamentary press gallery.

Our system is based on the assumption that prime ministers and cabinets will respect constitutional traditions and unwritten conventions — not to mention democratic norms — and agree to be bound by them, Thomas said.

“So there’s always a presumption of a certain amount of restraint on the part of the prime minister. He has, not all the power, but most of the power, and he can make a lot of things happen and prevent other things from happening and if he’s bound and determined like Harper is, then you get someone who is more systematic, sweeping and more consistently controlling.”

Thomas said the government is determined to dominate the agenda, to engage in news management and to prevent unforeseen events from arising through Parliament. “It’s more systematic and across the board. They don’t see Parliament as a useful part of the governing process. They see it as a nuisance.”
- Meanwhile, Jordan Brennan points to corporate control as another source of conflict between citizens' interests and the actions of Canadian governments:
It turns out that there is a stunning historical relationship between relative firm size (corporate concentration) and the income share of the richest Canadians (inequality). In 1950, an average firm within the top 60 was five times larger than an average firm on the TSX. This ratio would slowly decline to three by 1977 and then, just as the Canadian state began to embrace ‘Chicago School’ principles, gradually rise to six by 1989 before surging to 23 in 2008 (see enclosed figure). What’s more, the pattern of this ratio is closely shadowed by the income share of the richest 0.1 per cent of Canadians.

The reasons for the growing concentration of income and corporate power aren’t hard to discern. After all, Adam Smith grounded his advocacy for laissez-faire in two counteracting principles: self-interest and competition. His ‘system of perfect liberty’ would optimize social welfare and enlarge human freedom so long as self-interest was always kept in check by the disciplining effects of intense competition between many small firms. Smith also believed that laissez-faire would entail a ‘perfectly equal’ distribution of income or conditions ‘continually trending to equality’.
Other effects of growing corporate concentration can be inferred, if we care to look. Despite extreme inequality, three decades of wage stagnation and a two decade-long decline in union density, politicians at all levels of government — cheered on by corporations — are attacking unions. Unions give a voice to ordinary people in the workplace and, historically, have strengthened middle class formation by ensuring that gains from growth are widely shared among lower income brackets. Their erosion is closely tied to the concentration of corporate power and increasing income inequality.

What does this have to do with democracy? Detractors will answer ‘nothing’ on the basis that the governing party is subject to elections. But as Josiah Ober — the Stanford professor of classics — makes clear, for the ancient Athenians who invented it democracy did not mean majority rule, nor did it hinge on elections. Democracy meant a regime of empowered citizens with the ability to effect change in the public realm. It was centred on the capacity of an ordinary citizen to do good things in the life of the community.

This means that democracy is not a condition Canadians have realized, it is an ideal we pursue. Democracy is weakened when important decisions about our collective future are removed from the public realm and put in the hands of the few. It is severely impaired when a small faction in the polity, in this case corporate Canada, exercises control over the levers of the state.
 - Andrew Coyne discusses the Cons' F-35 abuses as a prominent example of the breakdown of democratic accountability.

- And finally, Greg Weston, Jenny Uechi and Andrew Nikiforuk all criticize the Cons' nonsensical explanation for approving CNOOC's takeover of Nexen.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Musical interlude

Jennifer Carbonell - Broken Pieces (F & L Radio Edit)

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Steven Hoffman highlights the Cons' utter refusal to recognize that foreign aid - as defined by global treaties - doesn't mean the same thing as corporate giveaways:
Reports and commentary on Canada’s new foreign aid policy reveal the extent to which international development means different things to different people. Some see it as public charity, others as the way a country projects its values to the world. Still others, including International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino, argue that it’s “a part of Canadian foreign policy” and the fulfilment of “a duty and a responsibility to ensure that Canadian interests are promoted.”

These are all valid perspectives – international development can be any one or all of these things combined. But, unfortunately, official development assistance, to which we have made international commitments, can’t. This system, in effect since 1969, defines aid as official financial flows that are concessional in character and intended to promote the development and well-being of developing countries. Excluded are grants intended to advance donor countries’ interests, including admirable objectives such as economic growth or security from terrorism. Grants to private for-profit companies are also excluded because, by law, they primarily serve commercial objectives.

Donor countries such as Canada can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, despite skill or best intentions. Our government’s new foreign aid focus on private-sector partnerships and self-interest – which, in Mr. Fantino’s words, is for “Canadian values, Canadian business, the Canadian economy, benefits for Canada” – deserves reconsideration. It unwittingly represents a dramatic departure from the established global development system and brings Canada out of sync with the rest of the world.
- Which means Tim Harper may only be understating matters in arguing that the Cons are gutting Canadian foreign policy alone, rather than trying to attack basic international principles.

- pogge highlights a few more sad examples of the Cons' government by ill-fated improvisation, while Michael den Tandt reports on the most glaring example as the F-35 debacle is apparently wound down. And the Cons are still trying to cover up everything they do - with the latest example being their stonewalling against Kevin Page's request to see shipbuilding contracts in order to be able to assess them.

- But while Bob Hepburn may be right in his assessment of MPs when it comes to most of the Cons as being enemies of democracy, we should be careful not to tar all of our elected representatives with the same brush. After all, an unduly sweeping, "they all do it" message (in contrast to recognition where MPs represent their constituents properly) will only make it easier for the worst offenders to avoid answering for their wrongs.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Pat Atkinson discusses the need to make sure that Saskatchewan's boom-time spending actually sets us up for long-term prosperity, rather than fiscal disaster:
Even though the OECD report, the burgeoning federal government deficit, China's economic slowdown and America's political deadlock all advise us that now is the time for caution, the Wall government is trapped. Its political image is completely dependent upon constant economic growth or the appearance of it.

It is so cemented in its own message of a New Saskatchewan, that any deviation from it is unlikely.
From its first day in office, the Sask. Party oversold its product and cannot now risk voter wrath if the public is suddenly (and unexpectedly) informed of the government's deteriorating fiscal climate.

It is time our government started planning for tougher times, if only for the simple reason to err on the side of caution.

The Wall government and Krawetz seem equipped to ride the wave, but are ill-prepared to manage in challenging times. When the government starts believing its own hype, we're all in trouble.
- Meanwhile, Barbara Yaffe highlights the absurdity of the Harper Cons raiding tens of millions of public dollars for War of 1812 jingoism while cutting desperately-needed public programs.

- Trish Hennessy notes that Tim Hudak's ideological drive to privatize liquor sales in Ontario isn't based on any reason to think the province will do anything but lose out in the process. And of course, the same applies here in Saskatchewan.

- Finally, while Jason Warick's report on the disturbingly cozy relationship between the uranium industry and the community of Pinehouse has received some attention, this looks to me to be the most worrisome aspect of how future interests are being sold out for a modest amount of immediate funding:
Highlights of the draft agreement between Pinehouse, Cameco Corp. and Areva:
Pinehouse agrees to not make any future financial requests or claims against the companies.
Now, normally restrictions on future liability are treated with skepticism by the courts, and I'd hope this particular one would be limited to the types of claims or requests already involved in the agreement. But how short-sighted would an agreement look if it managed to get a mining operation off the hook for a future nuclear disaster?

On culture wars

No, I don't think Peter Van Loan's finger-wagging merits the response it received - as talk of nearly every other issue ground to a halt yesterday in response to an incident of little substantive importance. But I do think it's worth making a couple of points as to how we should respond to it - and how best to minimize the effect of similar stunts in the future.

To start with, there's always a danger in responding to behaviour like Van Loan's as primarily an attack on one's own party. Again, that's where the Libs look to me to have lost the plot on the Cons' past contempt of Parliament: they took as a given that voters would see "they're being mean to us!" as worthy of outrage which would then operate in their favour, and proved wrong on at least the latter count. (The NDP responded somewhat better by pointing to a need for more respect for Parliament generally - but even that allowed the Cons' stunt to deflect from more substantive issues.)

But it's also worth noting how the outsized visibility of party leaders might play into incidents like yesterday's - and how a party might seek to counter that effect.

While I'll presume Van Loan's attack on the NDP was spontaneous absent evidence to the contrary, it's far from unheard-of for opponents to try to set up negative photo-ops for their competitors' leaders. And that makes for a rational if cynical calculation in a political culture where those leaders are seen as the sole faces and decision-makers for their parties.

Indeed, given the incentives at play I'm surprised the Cons don't (so far as I know) have staffers or volunteers dedicated solely to harassing competing leaders at every opportunity - with the primary goal of luring them into gaffes, and the secondary "benefit" of making it difficult to think and act without interruption. (And given the asymmetry in security and planning capacity between the government apparatus and an opposition party, it would be rather difficult for anybody to respond in kind.)

In that vein, even a calculated effort to try to provoke opposition leaders in the House of Commons might make sense as a Con public relations exercise - both by diminishing the institution to the advantage of an anti-government party, and by attaching some negative impression to an opposition leader (while the balance goes to some less-recognized government member rather than Stephen Harper personally).

Now, one way around such traps is for an opposition leader to be a saint who avoids responding to any provocation whatsoever, and develops enough positive impressions to overcome the negativity imposed by the governing party.

But while that might seem like the easiest option for an individual leader to control, there's another path available: working on rejecting the leader-centred framework which both favours an incumbent who can afford to stay above the fray, and creates incentives favouring attacks on one's own leader. Instead, better to emphasize that the actions of MPs and staffers on all sides reflect an institutional culture - and that votes involve a choice among parties and their respective cultures, not merely the selection of a single leader.

Of course, it'll be no easy task to develop that alternative framework. But success in shifting toward a greater recognition of party brands and cultures will make it far more likely that actions by other Cons besides the heavily-insulated Harper can be tied together as a matter of public impression - which will work wonders in making the case for change.

New column day

Here, on how Saskatchewan's existing list of unremediated and orphaned oil and gas wells should remind nus of the need to make sure resource developers account for the social cost of their operations.

For further reading...
- The most recent Provincial Auditor's report highlighting the orphaned well issue is here (PDF - see Chapter 31, page 239).
- My comment about the two-year lag in any climate change action is based on the province's climate change information page, which shows no new developments since February 2011 and no indication when relevant legislation will be proclaimed in force.
- Finally, Thomas Walkom worries that climate change has utterly fallen off the radar, while Barbara Yaffe notes that the Harper Cons seem perfectly happy to stick Canada with the long-term bill for unknown adaptation costs rather than doing anything to minimize the damage in the first place.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Martin Kirk discusses the role governments play in allowing and facilitating the extraction of a substantial portion of the world's wealth to tax havens (h/t to thwap):
Tax theft is endemic all over the world. It is organised through an intricate system of tax havens; the PR around it is astonishingly good, as evidenced by the fact that most people have no idea of its scale and can get distracted by the misdeeds of a few bad apples rather than seeing the barrel they came in; and one of the most vibrant and important hubs – the City of London - is sitting right under the noses of the British politicians who are today decrying the corporations who use it.

Tax havens exist solely to help the rich avoid national taxes. They give them a way to opt out of the social contract. Multinationals happily extract profits from countries and then team up with tax havens to avoid paying their share of taxes that make the countries profitable for them in the first place. Without things like the rule of law, and economic and political stability, the market for most products would flounder. All these things cost, and when people steal taxes they are essentially saying, everyone but us should pay.

The scale of the theft is staggering. Somewhere between $21 and $32 trillion is hidden behind the vast walls of tax haven secrecy. That’s the equivalent of one third of all global annual income. Somewhere between 60 and 70% of all international trade flows through them so that profits can be siphoned off untaxed.

The scale alone means tax havens have a material impact on levels of global inequality and poverty. But more insidious is what they actively facilitate. Tax havens are in the background of practically every instance of large-scale corruption and economic crime of the last thirty years. Every corrupt leader, every major arms dealer and drug cartel, as well as most multinational corporations rely on their ‘discretion’ to do business. It’s a morality-blind service industry for the ultra-rich. Forget the 1% - this industry exists largely for the pleasure and benefit of the 0.02%; the 10 million people who ‘own’ the bulk of the $21trillion hidden.
- Michael Harris talks to Allan Cutler about secrecy and corruption in the federal government - and the one-time Con candidate has some sharp words for the party which recruited him:
Years after a nondescript public servant wouldn’t play ball with institutional sleaze (and became a national hero in the process), Allan Cutler still has Canada on his mind. He is as troubled now as ever he was when Jean Chretien had his name embossed on golf balls to keep Quebec in Canada.

“I had hoped after Gomery that things would change. If anything, it has gotten worse. We have an epidemic of corruption at the federal level. Whistleblowers are even more unwelcome now than they were then.”
“In the end, it didn’t matter. Even if I had won the election, I would have been an independent in a few months. And I would have lost the next election.”

After his defeat, Cutler eventually was offered a “six figure” salary to work for John Baird as a policy advisor. There was, however, a condition: Allan Cutler, a man of the people behind the scenes, had to agree not to advocate for anyone in public. He turned the job down.
“I think things are actually worse now than they were back then. I have seen evidence of decisions on billion dollar contracts that were decided at meetings where no minutes were kept. I have seen evidence of helicopter maintenance contracts that were moved all around North America to increase the costs.

“In any organization there will always be corrupt people. But the system still protects them and that is wrong. Deputy ministers have a legal obligation to report to the Privy Council when a minister interferes in their departments. They never do. And even if they did, there is no penalty for such interference.”

- Meanwhile, the Cons are doing their best to prove Cutler right in considering them the most corrupt and ineffective government yet. The latest hits include their cover-up of internal communications as to how to respond to concerns about muzzling scientists, the revelation that the Cons are pushing a bill to sweep torture and its consequences under the rug, and the news that Canada's minister responsible for foreign aid has absolutely no clue what foreign aid is supposed to accomplish.

- Finally, Bill Tieleman makes the case as to why we shouldn't lump the NDP, Libs and Greens together under a single anti-Conservative banner. And Jamey Heath's counterargument for a pre-electoral pact doesn't go far beyond "we must do something, this is something, ergo we must do this!".

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Festive cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- George Monbiot all too accurately describes the current state of politics around much of the developed world:
Humankind's greatest crisis coincides with the rise of an ideology that makes it impossible to address. By the late 1980s, when it became clear that man-made climate change endangered the living planet and its people, the world was in the grip of an extreme political doctrine whose tenets forbid the kind of intervention required to arrest it.

Neoliberalism, also known as market fundamentalism or laissez-faire economics, purports to liberate the market from political interference. The state, it asserts, should do little but defend the realm, protect private property and remove barriers to business. In practice it looks nothing like this. What neoliberal theorists call shrinking the state looks more like shrinking democracy: reducing the means by which citizens can restrain the power of the elite. What they call "the market" looks more like the interests of corporations and the ultra-rich. Neoliberalism appears to be little more than a justification for plutocracy.
Neoliberalism is not the root of the problem: it is the ideology used, often retrospectively, to justify a global grab of power, public assets and natural resources by an unrestrained elite. But the problem cannot be addressed until the doctrine is challenged by effective political alternatives.

In other words, the struggle against climate change – and all the crises that now beset both human beings and the natural world – cannot be won without a wider political fight: a democratic mobilisation against plutocracy. This should start with an effort to reform campaign finance – the means by which corporations and the very rich buy policies and politicians. Some of us will be launching a petition in the UK in the next few weeks, and I hope you will sign it.

But this is scarcely a beginning. We must start to articulate a new politics, one that sees intervention as legitimate, that contains a higher purpose than corporate emancipation disguised as market freedom, that puts the survival of people and the living world above the survival of a few favoured industries. In other words, a politics that belongs to us, not just the super-rich.
- And in case there was any doubt, Frank Graves writes that the relentless shift toward corporatist policy-making under the Libs and Cons has nothing to do with the values of Canadians:
As affluence and power have shifted westward, so has national attachment and confidence in national direction.

Overall, however, the new national outlook is heavily affected by a growing fear that progress is no longer an inevitable byproduct of effort and skill. As Canadians look forward they are fearful of relative decline in a new global economic order. They also are increasingly resentful about a new class order which seems to allocate the lion’s share of the meager growth the economy is generating to an extremely narrow cadre of privileged Canadians.
When looking at values overall we are struck by their level of stability. This is to be expected and welcomed; values constitute the moral charter for societies and it would be a very bewildering and unstable world where values were shifting rapidly. But within this placid world of normative stability there are some conspicuous exceptions. All of the values which are demonstrating downward trends are conservative values.

Respect for authority and traditional family values, still very important in older and conservative Canada, hold no resonance in younger and university-educated Canada. The overall trajectory in all portions of society is downward for these and related conservative values such as minimal government and security. Not only are these trendlines significantly downward but this decline in subscription to conservative values is even more pronounced in younger Canada, metropolitan Canada, university-educated Canada and among women.
- But then, the Cons themselves are rather flexible in their interest in what any reasonable person would consider to be "family values". And indeed, about all that's lacking from Murray Mandryk's comment on the failure of the Cons' moral compass is that the issue is far from new - with any interest in family unification and sustainable social development long since replaced by a view of immigrants and Canadians alike as bare dollar values.

- Mind you, at least "hateful, xenophobic nutbars" will be glad to know their values are seen as entirely acceptable to Jason Kenney and the Cons.

- Finally, Pat Garofalo points out the growing gap between higher corporate profits and lower wages in the U.S. - which only figures to get worse as both parties seem willing to prioritize lower corporate tax rates over improved social policy.

#skndpldr - Saskatoon Debate Notes

I'll continue my look at the Saskatchewan NDP leadership debates with a review of the first Saskatoon forum:

And I see a few interesting developments beyond those mentioned in Scott's detailed series of posts.

To start with, as I pointed out when the federal NDP introduced candidate-to-candidate questions as part of its federal campaign, the opportunity to ask questions of one's competitors figures to be an ideal opportunity for a leadership contestant to handle one of the key roles of an opposition leader. But Trent Wotherspoon looks to be using the question periods for a rather different purpose.

Instead, his questions and follow-up points through the debates available online have consisted of relative softballs lobbed toward Cam Broten and Ryan Meili. Which does nothing to address questions about Wotherspoon's sparring skills - but might well be effective in getting supporters of other candidates to see him in a positive light.

One might expect to see that choice by Wotherspoon to try to stay above the fray paired with sharp questions directed toward him - which was the pattern faced by Thomas Mulcair as the presumptive front-runner in the federal party's leadership campaign. But even in the wake of his difficulty with a relatively simple question about his own policies in the second debate, Wotherspoon didn't face any significant test from his fellow candidates.

That might speak to some disagreement between the candidates as to whether Wotherspoon is in fact ahead of the pack, with Wotherspoon adopting a front-runner's strategy even as the other candidates see Broten and Meili as the more important opponents. (Or it could simply reflect a choice to challenge Wotherspoon more closely once the campaign is drawing more public attention.) But it could easily work to Wotherspoon's advantage if he's able to appear more positive on both sides of each question period as a result.

Meanwhile, each of the other candidates engaged in some more direct clash - and each came away with mixed results.

The most interesting exchanges were those between Cam Broten and Ryan Meili. In response to an audience question, Broten did well to point to inequality as the main challenge arising out of Saskatchewan's current economic situation. But when pressed by Meili, he was light on specifics as to what he'd do to address that inequality - leaving an obvious need to address the gap between intentions and associated policies, but also an opening to develop those policies as the campaign progresses.

Meanwhile, Broten's question to Meili about his intentions if he didn't win the leadership led to the most noteworthy single answer of the night. I don't recall Meili often speaking publicly about not being welcome among the party's inner circle after the 2009 leadership campaign, but he was remarkably candid in making that point. And Meili's response looks to turn any question about the aftermath of the previous campaign back on Broten (or any other candidate) who would prefer not to have to defend Dwain Lingenfelter's tenure as leader.

However, Meili fell into somewhat of a trap of his own in trying to bring Erin Weir into the discussion. While his direct question on team-building gave rise to a productive conversation, his policy challenge to Weir's child care plan fell flat - mixing a nebulous "made in Saskatchewan" message with an easily-answered concern about the assumptions underlying Weir's costing. And not surprisingly, Weir was ready with a strong response defending his own plan - though in refuting a couple of Meili's points, he missed the chance to discuss the economic benefits of freeing parents to choose whether to participate in the workforce.

All of which is to say that for all the common content from one debate to the next, we may be seeing some strategic choices which will significantly shape the balance of the leadership campaign - as well as some lessons which the candidates are still learning as the debates continue. And since the debates look like the best opportunity to see how the candidates see themselves in relation to each other, I'll keep reviewing them closely as they become available.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Susan Delacourt comments on what's often lacking from Canadian political coverage - and the challenge facing journalists looking to stop relying excessively on horse-race numbers which may miss what ultimately motivates voters:
Political journalists don’t have to stop covering the horse-race numbers or the big opinion trends — they’re still important, he said. But they have to stop pretending that the big picture is the only picture, that the campaign is being decided on the basis of what people see on television or on the artificial stage sets crafted by the politicians.

“Fundamentally, good political coverage needs to acknowledge that we cannot write with (any) sort of confidence about the entirety of the enterprise,” he said. “We need to be respectful enough of our readers to acknowledge how much of this is out of our reach and find a new knowledge of campaigns to engage that doubt.”

So there’s the challenge. If we want to repair the rift between polling and journalism, first we have to tell our audiences what we don’t know — what those horse-race numbers aren’t telling us. A five-point rise or fall in the polls may be far less important, in other words, than the data informing us what is motivating (or turning off) voters at the individual level.

Next we should start trying to find a way to know and report more on this micro-data.

We have nearly three years to go before the next federal election in Canada. That’s enough time, you’d think, to put journalism back in touch with the polling numbers that really count. 
 - Lawrence Martin and Andrew Coyne both use the last set of by-elections to try to push an electoral non-compete pact among opposition parties. Aaron Wherry responds to Coyne with just a few questions.

- Gerald Caplan weighs in on the Cons' inhumane and immoral choice to deprive developing countries of needed AIDS medication:
The Canadian government had the opportunity this week to help hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of AIDS sufferers in poor countries and deliberately chose not to do so. What should we think about such a decision? When are citizens allowed to ask the unthinkable: If a government knowingly allows hundreds of thousands of people to die unnecessarily, what is its responsibility? How much less culpable is indirect guilt, or guilt by omission, than direct guilt or guilt by commission?

These are fraught questions which many outraged Canadians are asking right now. They arise because a private member’s bill in Parliament has just been defeated by the Harper government by a mere 7 votes. Bill C-398 would have enabled Canada’s generic drug manufacturers to provide inexpensive life-saving medicines to Africans suffering from AIDS and other curable diseases who can’t afford brand-name medicines. Many believe the government has betrayed these people. African AIDS activists, with whom many Canadians have close contact, feel betrayed.

Can this really be the end of this story? Do the Africans who will die unnecessarily in these years – and there will be huge numbers – merely get forgotten? Too bad, so sad? Another day at the office?
What plausibly accounts for the government’s decision? Bill C-398 seemed like a win-win for all. It was a surefire way to save countless lives at no cost to ourselves. It had strong support from Canadians in every walk of life. Instead of being bystanders to needless death and suffering, Canadians could have been part of the solution. It was a perfect fit with the government’s vaunted maternal health initiative. Canadian generic manufacturers would do well by doing good. In more hard-bitten terms, Big Pharma, a major influence on Conservative decisions, seemed to be on board, while international legal experts found the bill consistent with Canada’s treaty obligations.

Some wonder if the government’s decision reflected its concern for the many trade and investment deals it’s negotiating, which routinely call for ever-greater patent protection for the giant brand name drug companies. The government may be wary of demonstrating the slightest sympathy for their generic rivals. There’s suspicion that, behind the scenes, Big Pharma was actually encouraging the (government) to deep-six the bill.
 - But as Tim Harper points out, we shouldn't expect the Cons to answer for any of their choices, as they continue to view accountability as a punishment to be inflicted solely on their enemies rather than a value to be pursued as a matter of good governance.

- Finally, Murray Dobbin rightly notes that the progressive side can easily win an argument on the need for sufficient tax revenue to fund a viable social democracy - but that we can't afford to shy away from the conversation.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

#skndpldr Roundup

Once again, Saskatchewan's NDP leadership campaign has focused largely on recent debates and other candidate forums (and I'll be discussing those individually as I get a chance to view them). And for those interested in immediate coverage of those, Tracey Mitchell has been offering just that. But here are a few other recent developments which I haven't yet discussed...

- Having already written that few endorsements figure to change the direction of the leadership campaign, I'll note that one recent statement of support at least looks to distinguish the current campaign from 2009: UFCW 1400's endorsement of Ryan Meili offers a level of organized labour support beyond that which Meili won in the previous campaign. And while Trent Wotherspoon still looks to a slight edge in labour support so far, the key takeway looks to be that no one candidate will be able to lay claim to an overwhelming edge in trade union backing (as was the case for Dwain Lingenfelter in 2009).

- Erin Weir wrote to the Southwest Booster to point out how the Sask Party's privatization schemes stand to lose the province millions of dollars every year, while also earning a writeup in the Moose Jaw Times Herald on the need for fiscal plans to accompany social policies. But I do wonder whether Weir is missing a chance to group those issues together under a general campaign theme along the lines of "returns on public resources" (or even the familiar "common wealth" philosophy) - whether the resources in question consist of oil, minerals or Crown investments.

- Finally, after playing a key role in the Saskatchewan Party's grudging choice to reverse course on funding refugee health benefit, Cam Broten is now pushing the Wall government to similarly recognize its underfunding of HIV/AIDS awareness. 

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Louise Story reports on tax goodies and direct giveaways to businesses at the local level (which of course seldom deliver the promised economic return). That said, it's worth noting that we're desperately lacking for any movement to counteract the inter-jurisdictional competition for jobs that feeds such corporate handouts - and that we might all be better off spending less time negotiating free trade deals which leave government no way to influence development other than through cash giveaways, and more time establishing standards for corporate tax policies which preclude a race to the bottom.

- Tzeporah Berman recognizes that tar sands development can be much cleaner if it's carried out within a reasonable regulatory environment. But we shouldn't hold our breath waiting for that action from a government which has not only ignored advice from Canada's public servants about what regulations are needed to protect the environment, but muzzled scientists who dare to share facts with the public. Which means that Megan Leslie is entirely right to critique of the Harper Cons' Orwellian language.

- Speaking of which, the ultimate example of the Cons' combination of mismanagement and self-parody may be playing out at the still-unopened Canadian Museum of Human Rights - which is not only denying past and present employees the freedom of speech, but viewing its mandate as being to declare that our human rights rations have been increased over last month regardless of whether that claim has a basis in fact:
Eberts's comments echo the concerns of many current and former employees contacted by CBC News.

They said government and corporate interests may be having an impact on what will ultimately be included in the museum. Staff also said they have been told to include more "positive stories," and to curtail criticisms of issues touching on current government policy.
- Finally, Alice highlights the role that fund-raising may play in the federal Libs' leadership campaign. But I'll add that the gap between Justin Trudeau and his competitors may manifest itself in an additional way: while some candidates may be left out of the race for all intents and purposes due to their outright inability to fund a meaningful campaign, even the relatively close challengers may be at a serious disadvantage if they need to put in significantly more time and effort to bring in enough money to compete.