Saturday, September 26, 2015

On continuing opportunities

Let's answer Greg Lyle's headline question as simply and concisely as possible:

No.

The NDP's opportunity in the ongoing federal campaign has never involved the ability to move the election date up to fit a rise in the polls, nor a plausible expectation that well-funded opponents would let that rise go unchallenged. As a result, we shouldn't judge any campaign by the fact that the election remains a three-party race.

In fact, it would be a waste of resources to focus unduly on pressing an immediate advantage which would likely be undermined by election day. And that has to be considered a real danger for anybody who rises far enough to become the main target for all of the other competing parties.

It's true that so far, only the NDP has managed to rise far enough above the competition to reach front-runner status for even a moment. But it's hardly a negative for the NDP that it has already shown it can do so. And the fact that it managed the feat while engaged in significantly less advertising than its competitors should hint at the remaining room to grow once the NDP makes its push toward election day.

Ultimately, the campaign can only be judged by where a party ends up. And while the NDP should absolutely be adapting as the election approaches, its opportunity to form government is as strong now as it's ever been.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Burning question

Even leaving aside the past politicians who we'd expect to be mentioned in an election, the Cons' ultra-long, ultra-nasty campaign has managed to drag three of the top ten Greatest Canadians into the political muck. So who has Frederick Banting in the pool?

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Yonatan Strauch and Thomas Homer-Dixon discuss how the Cons' economic plans involve betting against our planet. And David Macdonald notes that the supposed reward for prioritizing oil profits over a sustainable future is to stagnate at recession-level employment rates.

- James Bagnall documents the rise of inequality in Canada - though it's worth questioning the assumption that the policies pitched as encouraging growth at the cost of increased inequality have actually lived up to the supposed benefit. And PressProgress reminds us of the Cons' woeful record in dealing with offshore tax avoidance.

- Melissa Newitt makes the case for a federal pharmacare program. And CBC reports on just another example of the profiteering mindset that makes needed medications unaffordable, as a pharmaceutical company is challenging Canada's authority to regulate the price of a treatment for immune disorders which costs $700,000 per year.

- Scott Gilmore duly questions the claim that Cons whose entire message is based on perpetual fear of imaginary threats can make any claim to bravery or strength:
(E)very message from the Conservative party highlights something that frightens them. The global economy. Justin Trudeau’s age. Mulcair’s budget. Crime.

Consider that last danger. Stephen Harper is regularly warning that more must be done to keep us safe, by imposing longer sentences, building bigger prisons, reducing parole. But crime rates in Canada have been declining for decades. There are fewer property crimes now than there were in the 1960s. So why is he so scared?

Perhaps it was inevitable. Conservatives everywhere have been campaigning for years on the proposition that they are the strongest and bravest. But, for that to matter, there must be a counter-threat, something that requires a real man like Stephen Harper in office, not a wet academic like St├ęphane Dion or a mincing toff like Michael Ignatieff.

So they talk up the threat. It used to be the commies. Now it’s the terrorists. And the drug dealers. And the brown people. And the reckless spenders. And the environmental activists. And the census takers. Everyone and everything. They’ve spent so long warning us to be constantly afraid, they’ve internalized it. They have literally frightened themselves.

And now, ironically, the Conservative party is whom you vote for if you are timid and emasculated, if you go to bed scared and wake up worried.

And what of Chris Alexander, who used to strap on body armour and helicopter into hostile districts to stare down warlords? He’s scared of a young woman in a niqab and a homeless family in Turkey.
- Finally, Michael Harris laments how much the Cons have done to destroy trust in Canada's public institutions. And the Tyee offers a handy booklet version (PDF) of its compilation of Stephen Harper's abuses of power.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Musical interlude

Gareth Emery feat. Emma Hewitt - I Will Be The Same

Readiness!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada:
Sitting in his riding office in Montreal, Cotler says he didn’t like C-51, despite ultimately voting for it. The Liberals, he says, supported C-51 largely out of political considerations. “The party voted against the multilateral mission [against ISIS]. Then comes C-51. Harper’s saying, ‘I’m the guy who’s standing up to terror.’ If, after the ISIS vote, the Libs had been against C-51, then Harper would have said, ‘You can’t really trust these Liberals; they’re soft on terror, soft on crime,’ ” Cotler says. Trudeau, Cotler says, was sure the Conservatives would be open to compromise on the bill. To no one else’s surprise, they weren’t. “Justin is a decent guy. He’s not yet realized how these guys operate, maybe,” Cotler says.
Which raises the question: shouldn't somebody running to be Prime Minister have at least some passing awareness of the events of the past decade in Canadian politics?

On political placement

While others have already commented on Adam Dodek's argument that judges should never enter politics after leaving the bench, I'll offer a couple of observations of my own having to do largely with our perceptions of politics (and the need not to let them override democratic principles).

Dodek's concerns arise largely out of attacks launched by the Cons against Carol Baird Ellan based on some of her past decisions. But it's worth asking whether the problem lies primarily with Baird Ellan's candidacy or the Cons' standard in evaluating it - and how best to address that problem once it's identified.

Let's start by noting that it's absolutely true that judges occupying that role must decide - and must be seen to decide - each case based on the law rather than based on any external consideration, including future political implications. (In this respect, I fully agree with Dodek.)

That said, I'd attach the duty at its highest to the judicial role alone - not indefinitely to the person who occupies it, but who may come to find other priorities worth pursuing.

On that front, I'd hope nobody would look at the career path of, say, Louise Arbour and argue that her experience on the bench should have limited her ability to later work on human rights or international conflict resolution - being the areas where she found an opportunity to apply her skills and experience in the service of the greater public good.

Indeed, to the extent we value a judicial temperament, it's a trait we should be looking for in other areas of society as well - including the political arena, where a sense of fairness or objectivity is all too often lacking.

In Baird Ellan's case, there's of course more of a clash between talking points and the realities of judicial experience - which include decisions which can be manipulated for political gain by a sufficiently unscrupulous opponent. Such is the system as it stands now, and so it will remain until we set a higher standard in politics.

But while Dodek's answer is to keep lowest-common-denominator politics away from anybody associated with the bench, I don't see the value in shutting out well-informed citizens who could go a long way toward setting that higher standard. And if the goal of ensuring better decision-making in multiple branches of government requires a bit more work to defend the judiciary in the meantime, then we should be prepared to put in the effort. 

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Angella MacEwen comments on the fight for universal child care, along with the lessons we can learn from Quebec's experience. And Claire Cain Miller notes that inequality in the workplace extends to benefits as well as wages - with child care included alongside other supports which are currently treated as employer-specific perks rather than needed programs.

- Meanwhile, as Elliot Berkman notes, the failure to win the employer lottery only creates additional hardships for the working poor who are then forced into short-term survival mode:
The very definition of self-control is choosing behaviors that favor long-term outcomes over short-term rewards, but poverty can force people to live in a permanent now. Worrying about tomorrow can be a luxury if you don’t know how you’ll survive today.

Research supports this idea by showing that poor people understandably have an increased focus on the present. People who are among the poorest one-fifth of Americans tend to spend their money on immediate needs such as food, utilities and housing, all of which have gotten more expensive. In this situation, the traditional definition of self-control doesn’t make a lot of sense.
...
(P)overty has powerful harmful effects on people, and helps explain why it’s so hard to escape. Their choices are much more a product of their situation, rather than a lack of self-control.

The way we scientists define self-control is part of the problem, too. We tend to think that focusing on long-term goals is always a good thing and satisfying short-term needs is always a bad thing; we say that “self-control failure” is equivalent to focusing on the near term. This definition works well for people who have the luxury of time and money to meet their basic needs and have resources left over to plan for the future. But self-control as currently defined might not even apply to people living in the permanent now.
- And Tim Sale likewise notes the importance of stable and affordable housing as a precondition to improved health, education and economic outcomes.

- Finally, Ali Hamandi discusses the Harper Cons' damage to Canadian women in general, while Kate Heartfield focuses on the lack of action to address violence against women in particular. Desmond Cole rightly recognizes the need to ensure first-hand perspectives on women's issues. And Haroon Siddiqui slams the Cons for their phony war against the niqab and the women who wear it.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Lies and the lying liars who tell them

Ideally, this would be the end of the story when it comes to Stephen Harper's callous and desperate attempt to claim the Terry Fox Foundation's reputation for his own. But there's reason for serious doubt that will happen - and indeed the Cons may end up treating the story as a case study in how to get what they want in politicizing issues and institutions which want nothing to do with them.

The crucial part of the latest from the Foundation is this:
The foundation said it would have no further comment about Sunday’s announcement or any federal campaign issues.
So what's the problem with that stance?

To start with, let's note that there are two ways for lies to overpower truths in the the court of public opinion.

The first involves immediate impact: a lie spreads quickly enough to be seen as true before anybody has a meaningful chance to assert otherwise. Thankfully, that hasn't happened in this case - and indeed the Cons have likely been dealt at least a temporary blow in credibility.

But the second involves volume and repetition: in the absence of a counterweight, a statement repeated often enough seeps into the public consciousness with little regard for its source. And while it's easy to understand how neither family members nor the Terry Fox Foundation want to have to respond to daily questions and statements, here's the risk involved in that course of action.

We know the Cons have no scruples about lying about how they've dealt with the issue. And we can thus fully expect them to keep doing so.

So let's say Stephen Harper keeps asserting as a matter of course that there's some connection between his party and the Terry Fox Foundation.

At best, someone in the media might use a precious question to challenge that assertion, resulting in some balance in a day's reporting. But Harper will still know that he'll get the most opportunities to speak at any given event, the support of his partisan-screened crowd, and the last word in responding to the question.

More likely, the issue will simply be dropped. And the Cons' lies would then go unchallenged for their present audience, and for anybody who hears about it second- or third-hand.

In fact, the Cons may now see themselves having an incentive to push the envelope with increasingly wrong claims to test just how committed the Fox family and Foundation are to offering no further comment.

Which means that for the rest of us, there's only one reaction to Harper and his party which can do the situation justice.

While it's worth pointing out that there's no institution so far above politics that the Cons won't drag it into the mud, and no cause so noble that the Cons won't try to turn it into a political football, the ultimate issue comes down to three words worth emphasizing while the issue remains in the public eye.

Stephen Harper lies.

And if he'll lie on matters of public record involving the Terry Fox Foundation, then we shouldn't merely ask him for an apology or clarification. Instead, voters and media should recognize - and we should emphasize - that Stephen Harper's words simply aren't worth the air used to emit them.

Because at this point, the only way to keep Harper from using his party's war chest to drown out civil society is to make sure people tune out the Cons' falsehoods on first contact. And if we lacked enough reason to do that before, we surely have it now.

New column day

Here, expanding on this post about the crucial difference between the types of change on offer from the NDP and the Libs.

While there wasn't room for this point in the column, I'll also note another rather important distinction between the two parties.

In the NDP's case, Prime Minister Tom Mulcair would have to take into account the real and consistent preferences of party members and supporters who have coalesced primarily around shared policy goals. And while the base is likely willing to be patient so long as the result is real progress, one can't imagine Mulcair being able to reverse course and argue against core promises like child care, pharmacare or corporate tax fairness without facing a serious push from within his party to keep his promises.

On the other hand, the Libs' activist base (such as it is) has demonstrated repeatedly that it will go along with whatever the leadership pushes.

On virtually all of the major policy questions discussed at the federal level in the last decade and in this election - ranging from child care to carbon pricing, corporate taxes to deficits - the Libs have embraced ever-changing and contradictory positions without taking a moment for self-reflection (let alone dissent). And if his party's response to a drastic change in position is inevitably to rally behind his cult of personality as quickly as possible, that means there's nothing at all grounding Justin Trudeau in the concept of actually following through on his temporarily-convenient positions.

To be clear, this doesn't mean we should brand leaders with the "flip-flop" label based solely on their sometimes answering questions with nuance or varying emphasis. (And both the Libs and the NDP have made too much of that claim at times.) But it does reflect the need for a leader and party to have some meaningful incentive to act progressively even when the campaign is over - which is the case for only one of the major political parties.

On that front, while the NDP may have moved past defining itself as the conscience of Canadian politics to the extent that implies a limited focus that falls short of creating the opportunity to form government, it at least stands out as a party with a conscience of its own. And so in addition to having a better plan for Canada's long-term progressive future, the NDP should also be considered more likely to actually live up to its commitments.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Jim Stanford discusses how the Trans-Pacific Partnership is renegotiating NAFTA - and taking away what little Canada salvaged in that deal. And Jared Bernstein highlights the TPP's impact on prescription drug costs.

- Rick Smith rightly challenges the effort some people have made to minimize the difference between Canada's political parties:
Though the constant spinning of basically unchanging polling results is annoying, I’m not sure it’s corrosive to the democratic process.  On the other hand, the notion that it doesn’t matter who we elect is not only factually inaccurate, it does Canadians a disservice.

Over the past nine years an important part of the Conservative project has been to reduce participation in elections: restricting Election Canada’s ability to do outreach and education; making it harder for students and others to vote; and an outright disenfranchising of entire groups like Canadian expats. Diminishing the importance of voting just feeds this trend.  In fact, the only people who benefit from electoral nihilism are Conservatives, who have a vested interest in turning people off politics thereby keeping them home on election night.

Pretending that all politicians and party platforms are the same or shades of gray is also unfair to the many progressive community leaders running in this – and other elections — who are trying their damndest to actually make a difference. 
- But sadly, Kelly McParland only adds to Smith's list of commentators glossing over the real differences to create a narrative of voters tuning out the election.

- David Keith writes that the most scandalous element of Bruce Carson's involvement with the Cons is the role he and his oil industry cronies have played in exacerbating climate change. And Charles Mandel reports on yet another research library the Cons set out to destroy - though the good news is that in this case, PIPSC managed to step in before the damage was complete.

- Finally, Jeremy Nuttall reports that the Cons are also putting a price on previously-available information about temporary foreign workers. PressProgress finds a Con candidate telling young workers they should work for free rather than thinking paid employment is an option. And Sid Ryan offers his take on what the labour movement needs to do to improving working and living conditions for everybody.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Kevin Carmichael compares the federal parties' promises to help parents and concludes the NDP's child care plan to hold far more social and economic benefit, while Natascia Lypny likewise finds that parents are more interested in actual affordable child-care spaces than tax baubles. CTV reports on the NDP's promise to extend parental leave under EI as an added help to new parents. And David MacDonald offers five reasons why we need to ensure better opportunities for indigenous families and children.

- Nathan Liewicki reports on the Council of Canadians' town hall on protecting health care in Saskatchewan. But when this is the contractor being brought in by the Wall government as an alternative to public control over our health care system, there's obviously plenty of work to be done.

- David Olive notes the futility of trying to equate corporate tax giveaways with economic development. And Guillaume Hebert responds to the spin from some corporatist opponents of pharmacare.  

- Bill Tieleman discusses what the Cons mean in making reference to "old stock" Canadians, while Murray Mandryk reminds us of the history of exclusionary politics in Canada. Shannon Gormley comments on the need to act reasonably and fairly toward the refugees who need our help, rather than accepting the Cons' presumption of guilt. And the Star notes that the Cons' current scrambling to feign compassion for refugees is the result of their longstanding failure on that front while in government.

- Finally, Chantal Hebert warns that the Cons' desire to arbitrarily ban the niqab might represent the first step toward regular use of the notwithstanding clause to undermine the Charter. And Sean Fine exposes how the Cons ignored the advice of the civil service and went out of their way to require mandatory discrimination against women who wear niqabs. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Toying cats.



On partial answers

Having posted earlier on the message we should expect from our opposition leaders when it comes to ensuring change, let's make clear exactly what Justin Trudeau has now said - and most notably, what he hasn't said.
“There are no circumstances” under which the Liberals would prop up Harper should the Tories emerge with only a narrow plurality of seats, Trudeau said Tuesday in his strongest statements to date on the possibility of a Tory minority.
...
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has long maintained that his goal is to ensure Harper doesn’t win government. He has also said he would be willing to work with the Liberals to ensure that happens.

Although he has said he would be “willing to work with others,” Trudeau has already rejected the notion of any formal coalitions, including with the NDP.

On Tuesday, he sidestepped the question of whether he would support a NDP minority.
Which means Trudeau's answers to the two questions I'd raised now look to be as follows:

A. Will you commit to voting non-confidence in Stephen Harper at the earliest opportunity?

Not exactly. Trudeau's promise is to not vote confidence in a Harper government - but that's different from committing to vote non-confidence, leaving open the possibility the Libs might again simply sit on their hands rather than voting one way or the other. But it's at least something more than Trudeau had offered before.

But then we get to...

B. Will you commit to voting confidence in a government led by the leader of a current opposition party at the earliest opportunity?

Not at all. And this is just as crucial a decision point as the first question: if the Libs fail to offer support for an alternative government, then we could well end up in the second election campaign the Cons seem to be hoping for - with Harper continuing to hold power on a caretaker basis for lack of anybody able to take power.

Which is to say even if one takes him at his ever-changing word, Trudeau has a long way to go before committing to the basic process needed to ensure a change in government.

On questionable support

Shorter Stephen Harper:
I only need to receive a single piece of correspondence from somebody to claim their permanent blanket endorsement of everything I might someday propose. Stay tuned for future policy announcements unveiled with the enthusiastic support of grade-school penpals, American Express, and multiple members of Nigeria's royal family.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Oxfam points out that without a major redistributive effort, hundreds of millions of people will be trapped in extreme poverty around the globe no matter how much top-end growth is generated.And Michael Valpy writes that the Cons have gone out of their way to stifle any talk of shared responsibilities and communitarian goals.

- Meanwhile, Art Eggleton discusses the urgent need for more affordable housing in Canada. And Robyn Allan writes that Canadians are getting gouged while buying gas - with an assist from the Cons who ensured that we don't have access to accurate information about who's profiting from what we pay at the pumps.

- Harvey Cashore and Frederic Zalac report on the links between the Con government and KPMG as the latter was having any assessment of its offshoring tax avoidance schemes stalled in front of the courts.

- Lawrence Martin highlights what we lose when our government considers information suppression to be one of its core values.

- Finally, PressProgress exposes Ron Liepert's belief that civil rights aren't part of the Canada we live in. And Craig Forcese and Kent Roach comment on the effect of the Cons' terror legislation:
When enacting its 2015 security laws, the government consistently rejected the outside policy advice it received. It radically ramped up information-sharing about even marginal security threats. But it disregarded advice—from both the Privacy Commissioner and the judicial inquiry into Maher Arar’s mistreatment—to the effect that Canada’s system of independent review was partial, stuck in silos, and manifestly inadequate. The government also disregarded the advice it received from four former prime ministers and a score of other former officials urging that increased review and oversight of national security activities were necessary, and that they would improve rather than detract from security.

The architects of the new 2015 legislation also ignored the Air India Commission’s 2010 recommendations that CSIS be obliged to share intelligence about possible terrorism offences, and that its human sources not be able to veto appearing as witnesses in prosecutions (a recommendation that was echoed in a unanimous 2011 report of a Senate committee chaired by Senator Hugh Segal). In the final analysis, the 2015 “reforms” were long on rhetoric about a war against “violent jihadis” and attempts to secure partisan advantage, but woefully short on evidence and deliberation.
...
Bill C-51 in particular was drafted in a novel and provocative manner that departed from long-standing definitions of “threats to the security of Canada” or the more Charter-compliant pattern of past, similar laws—such as hate-speech laws, immigration security-certificate provisions, and the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act.

The complexity arises from the fact that most of these new provisions are not free-standing: they amend existing laws that have their own history and purposes. The most extensive amendments were made to the CSIS Act, originally enacted in response to concerns about RCMP illegalities in the wake of the October Crisis in 1970. The 1984 CSIS Act created CSIS as a civilian and largely domestic intelligence agency that would obey the law and whose mandate was limited to intelligence collection. The new laws radically change that.

On rigged outcomes

I'm not sure when "what would Michael Ignatieff do?" became the Libs' operating mantra. But as long as the subject of fighter procurement is on the table, let's highlight the real similarity between two parties on that front: both the Cons and the Libs seem bent on handing Lockheed Martin billions of dollars it's done nothing to earn.

In the Cons' case, that means pushing Canada into an ill-advised, sole-sourced contract based on the deliberate neglect of alternatives.

And in the Libs' case, that means publicly prejudging a procurement process in a way which would give Lockheed Martin a massive claim against Canada for its anticipated profits without delivering anything.

To be clear, what we know so far makes it highly likely that on a fair evaluation, we'd come to the conclusion that we can do better than the F-35. But the "fair evaluation" part is crucial both to competent government, and avoiding readily-foreseeable litigation risks.

Instead, Justin Trudeau's declaration that he'd rather grandstand than allow for fairness at best reflects cynical political posturing - and at worst means he's happy to waste public money through the mirror image of Stephen Harper's closed-mindedness. And it's hard to see how either of those possibilities represents anything but a continuation of the destructive politics we should be trying to move past.

Monday, September 21, 2015

On ill-advised pledges

Shorter David Beers:
We should start demanding that candidates drop out if a single poll shows them running behind because there's absolutely no history of voters' minds changing in the month before election day.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Roheena Saxena points out that personal privilege tends to correlate to selfishness in distributing scarce resources. And that in turn may explain in part why extreme top-end wealth isn't even mentioned in a new inequality target under development by the UN.

- Or, for that matter, the Calgary Board of Education's continued provision of free lunches to executives while students lack food and supplies. Meanwhile, Laurie Monsebraaten reports on the spread of hunger in Toronto's suburbs, while Karena Walter points out the need for more action on poverty in Canada's federal election.

- Michael Harris notes that Stephen Harper's definition of "old stock Canadians" (along with his belief in the significance of such status) represents yet another effort to cut First Nations out of Canada's history.

- Ralph Surette offers a reminder that voters need to make sure they haven't potentially been disenfranchised by the Cons' voter suppression tactics. And the CP reports that Elections Canada is expecting even more cheating in the election to come - which can't be a surprise given the Cons' consistent law-breaking in every election they've won.

- Tom Parkin highlights why the NDP is the credible progressive choice for Canadian voters, while Scott Piatkowski duly questions the Libs' claim to be running from the left of the NDP:
This election is also about who will repeal the draconian Bill C-51. The NDP will. The Liberals won't (Why would they? They voted for it.)

It's about who will deliver quality affordable child care and pharmacare to Canadians. The NDP will. The Liberals won't (they used to at least pretend that they were in favour of both; now they denounce both as unaffordable).

It's about who will increase corporate taxes, crack down on tax havens and remove the stock option tax loophole that costs the tax base $750 million each year. The NDP will. The Liberals won't.

The NDP will reinstate the federal minimum wage that the Liberals abolished and to move it to a living wage of $15 an hour. They've also promised to restore the federal role in housing that that the Liberals ended and to renew expiring federal subsidies to housing co-op members.

The NDP has promised to launch an inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women within 100 days of being sworn in. They've promised to expand the CPP, increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement for Seniors, prohibit changes to private pension plans, and restore the retirement age to 65. They've promised to increase funding for infrastructure and transit and to cancel plans to end home delivery of mail. The Liberals have offered similar or lesser versions of the commitments listed in this paragraph.

None of these ambitious commitments are the sign of a New Democratic Party that is moving to the centre. In fact, quite the opposite. There's absolutely no evidence that the NDP is running to the right of the Liberals (or even in the same lane).
- Finally, Karl Nerenberg wonders whether there are too many attacks on both sides of the NDP/Lib divide - raising a point which I'll expand on in future posts.

[Edit: Updated link.]

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Haroon Siddiqui comments on the Cons' tall economic tales. And Steven Chase and Greg Keenan note that workers are rightly fighting back against the Cons' plan to sell out Canada's auto parts industry and its 80,000 jobs.

- Canadian Doctors for Medicare weighs in with its approval of the NDP's plan for a national pharmacare program. And to remind us why we need to deal with prescription drug costs as a matter of public policy rather than hoping they'll take care of themselves, Andrew Pollack reports on the appalling price tags being applied even to long-available drugs being taken over by new profiteers.

- Max Ehrenfruend points out some of the symptoms of the U.S.' economic inequality - as the less well-off are facing shorter life spans on both a relative and an absolute basis.

- Mychalo Prystupa reports on the Cons' continued contempt for the media (along with anybody else who might dare to hold them accountable for their actions). And Cory Doctorow offers his take on the Cons' war on knowledge.

- Finally, Michael Hollett responds to a misplaced "anybody but Conservative" message by pointing out that there's a clear best option for Canadian voters - as the NDP offers both the most progressive government in the short term, and the prospect of a more fair electoral system which will help the Greens and other parties to play a larger role in the future.