Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bell, EI/UI Owe, Jackson

The attempt to take Bell Canada private has failed -- thank God. The Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan, which has made such wise investments as the Toronto Maple Leafs, shopping malls and the tobacco industry walked away after KPMG ruled Teachers and the other members of the buyout consortium simply couldn't afford to take on $52 billion in debt. (No kidding!) It still faces a $1.2 billion breakup fee for backing out.

This is a victory for consumers. Any time a company goes private it means there's something to hide because the owners no longer want to be accountable. Now Bell can go back to what it's supposed to do: Provide a reliable telephone and ISP service. And never, ever, ever -- should a telecommunications company be allowed to be in private control.


The Supreme Court of Canada ruled today that the government acted mostly legally when it raided the unfunded surplus in the unemployment insurance trust fund -- nearly $54 billion worth. It also ruled that the trust fund has the right to use some of its funds for job retraining and job placement programs is constitutional. The did rule, however, that the government broke the law when it unilaterally set the UI rates in 2002, 2003 and 2005 without authorization from Parliament.

What does it mean? Well, the money's been spent.

Frankly, they should have left the money alone for a rainy day like this one, as well as increased benefits, maximum time to receive benefits as well eased the rules on who can collect. During the sunny days, they should have also set the premiums at break-even rates -- as far back as 2002 that could have been as low as 45 cents per $100 instead of the close to $1.80 we were paying. If there's one thing Harper's done right is that the money raised by UI will now go into a locked box run by an arms-length board. It's what should have been done all along.


One name that has come up in the investigation into the Senate seat sale investigation against Blagojevich is Jesse Jackson Jr. (as "Senate Candidate 5"). While it now appears he was not involved in the scam -- we hope -- it shouldn't be surprising that his name would come up.

Half of Americans, most of them white, hate his father, the legendary preacher -- and they hang on to any hope that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree (citing the elder Jackson's infidelity).

But I don't think in the end Jackson will get the seat, unless the Illinois legislature moves to have a by-election over the head of the governor. Even if he gets the chance to run, one has to recognize there's more to Illinois than Chicago and Peoria and it is generally a very conservative state. Obama had appeal to evangelicals because of his strong personal faith. Both Jacksons are also evangelicals, but the wrong kind according to the "religious right."

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WesternGrit said...

Unfortunately Bell IS a publicly traded company. The crown-owned SaskTel is a very good example of how a utility company should be run. Fully accountable to the public, and focused on what they do well. SaskTel does what it does so well that they advise foreign companies on how to operate their systems (via SaskTel International). They have set up services in the Channel Tunnel (yeah, THAT channel), Tanzania, Phillipines, and elsewhere around the world.

BlastFurnace said...

I actually do have a great deal of respect for SaskTel. I also like the similar model they had for MTS in Manitoba until the government decided there was money to be had.

In an ideal world, something like the phone company should be owned by the taxpayers with reasonable accomodations for competitors. But given the choice between having a company publicly traded or owned by an unaccountable pension plan (not an ideal choice, I'm afraid) I pick the former.

One you go pension private, the next step is selling it off for a profit to the Cayman Islands Offshore Holding Corporation (i.e. Krusty the Klown). Then you go into a black hole.