Sunday, September 25, 2011

Non-member status for Palestine a non-starter

An interesting suggested compromise to the "Palestinian question" came out during the week past.   It would be to recognize the Palestinian state without granting it a seat at the United Nations General Assembly.   The quirk would be that it would have the ability to sit on the UN's agency bodies -- UNESCO, UNICEF, ICAO, IAEA and so forth -- just as the Holy See / Vatican does.   Among the many commentators who have made this suggestion of a "Vatican solution" for Palestine was Gwynne Dyer.   I usually agree with Dyer's insights but there are a few flaws with this one.   I count three.

The biggest problem is that unlike Vatican City which is a very definitive territory inside of Rome, the borders of Palestine haven't been settled.   Far from it.  Clearly Israel doesn't accept the pre-1967 lines otherwise it would not be building the so-called border fence well inside the Green Line, nor would it be creating even more new illegal exclaves on Palestinian ground.   In fact, as we well know,  the status of Jerusalem itself isn't settled; and the issue of the Old City is complicated by recent archaeological evidence (controversial in itself and for obvious reasons) to suggest the actual site of the Jewish Temple is not at or below where the Dome of the Rock and the adjacent Haram al-Sharif are now but actually slightly further south in a section of Jersualem known as the "City of David," where the mighty king built his palace, this too happens to be in East Jerusalem.

Also notable is that the Vatican supports an "international city" status for Jerusalem which once existed for Danzig / Gdansk in the interwar period of the last century, and what West Berlin was more or less during the Cold War.    Israel rejects this, as do most "Christian" televangelists, and all countries that do have ties with Israel purposely locate their embassies outside of Jerusalem (either East or West) until the final status of the city is determined.

Second, were Palestine to get this non member state status, a stepping stone from getting full membership, it would create enormous problems of its own.   It has a hard time acknowledging the terrorists within its own borders let alone trying to stop them.    And if that weren't enough, it would be quite an embarrassment for Israel if Palestine were to use the IAEA to openly declare what we all know already, that Israel has nuclear weapons and should be subject to international sanctions if it doesn't open up its facilities.   I agree that Israel shouldn't get any special exemptions, any more than North Korea or Iran should, but no country has ever imposed sanctions on Israel when treaty obligations suggest that they should do so.

Third, and finally, Palestine is not like the Vatican.   As part of the treaty that ended the impasse between Italy and itself, the Vatican pledged itself to permanent neutrality in world affairs.  A non-member member status for Palestine would indicate the same.   Palestine is hardly neutral in matters international.   It's been on the agenda since the First World War, not the Second.   And while the King of Jordan has suggested that a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan could include a security blanket from the entire Islamic Conference, this is no longer certain with the year of revolutions which while welcome cast current arrangements for peace into doubt.

I agree that justice delayed is justice denied.   And while Palestinians are a people that deserve to have their own state, this isn't the way to do it any more than a full statehood gambit being pursued by Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen).   Especially when there's no peace to be had.   Until some kind of border is agreed upon, until free and unimpeded access to holy sites is agreed upon, and certainly until the issue of compensation for dispossessed Palestinians is agreed upon (at this late stage a right of return is impractical), the status quo as undesirable as it is, is preferable to the black hole a "you're in but you're out" status would create.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Carney: €1 trillion to bail out Europe

We're all used to the concept of "shock therapy" when it comes to finances.   Canada went through that process a decade and a half ago in an unpopular but successful attempt to balance the budget and start paying down our debt.   We're running deficits, certainly at a level higher than would be truly prudent but our debt-to-GDP ratio is much lower than it was in years past so it isn't too much of a concern.    We're seeing the suicide mission the United States is on right now with a "poison pill" set to kick in at year's end if Congress doesn't get its act together (50% of mandatory cuts from the military, 50% from the other departments).

This morning, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, said that Europe is in such a mess he figures it'll take € 1 trillion (about $1.35 trillion US at current rates) -- that's one followed by twelve zeros Euros -- to knock the continent's finances back in shape.   And notably it's not just Greece, it's all seventeen countries in Euroland.   Even worse, said Carney, even if Greece still had the drachma it would've still had to make a major restructuring even with a devaluation.

There is much to be admired about Europe's social systems which put even Canada's to shame.   Theirs is a continent that truly values families rather than just talk about "family values."   But choices have to be made and governments can't be all things to all people.  I've always felt that while tax systems can be restructured to reduce the burden on families -- including enriched negative income taxes rather than a so-called "universal" payout that is still taxed -- choices have to be made.

In Greece's case, a lack of an effective tax collection system until relatively recently is quite shocking for a modern democracy, indeed the mother of all democracies.   How can one pay the bills if everyone thinks they can game the system -- and I do mean everyone?

It's the same in most countries to be sure, here in Canada we get contractors all the time who say they can give us a "discount" (waive the HST / GST) if we waive our right to an invoice.   The risk we're taking in the short term is if we need a second repair there is no warranty.   The longer risk term is no money to pay for what we come to rely on, or the police to enforce the laws, or the military to fight the new wars we're facing including terrorism and piracy on the high seas.

But there is simply no excuse for the EU Commissioners who should have done far better due dilligence on the country's finances before inviting it to join the Euro common currency.   I don't think it's a question of expelling a country -- once you're in the zone you're in.   But the remaining prospective candidates should show a consistent pattern of fiscal prudence, say over a four year term even during tough times, to be let in.

The trillion facility is there and should hopefully knock things into balance.   But that is money that could be used for other priorities -- infrastructure, for one.   We don't need falling bridges and collapsing tunnels to remind us of that.

I just shake my head at the double standard, however.   If a third world country ran up that kind of balance sheet we'd impose the kinds of controls that are the very reason why the World Bank and IMF are so hated there.   Or we just throw more money after bad, especially when there's a dictator we're trying to appease.   But we have no problem when it comes to a country with a majority white population.   The world bailed out the UK in 1975, and for reasons that had little to do with the EU or its pillars.   So the precedent was set then and it was a bad one.

It really didn't have to come to this.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Unfunded mandate galore, courtesy the Fed Cons

No surprise that the Cons reintroduced, yet again, their "omnibus" crime bill.   And no surprise, again, that the Cons refused to say how much it will cost to implement -- much less if there will be any commensurate transfers to the provinces and territories to offset that cost.   Likely not.   Which means the second order of government will be stuck with an "unfunded mandate."

Certainly there is much to be respected in the bill.   Many of the measures I can support -- especially in particular two:   One is cracking down on the black market in immigration to fly in sex trade workers under the radar.   There should be no compassion given to such evil exploiters, in fact nothing less than Supermax is acceptable for them.

The other is giving individuals the right to sue foreign corporations and even governments for sponsoring terrorism or organized crime.   I do agree with this as well; although many states will, as they do with similar laws in the US and other countries, claim "state immunity" from such suits.  For proof, look at the intrepid people in Rome and their repeated lawsuits at Radio Herod (um, Radio Vatican) for radiation outputs from their antennas anywhere from two to four times the legal limit in the EU -- radio broadcasts regularly interfere with other radio stations as well as telephone calls; rates of leukemia are six times in the state of Lazio (which includes Rome) than should be expected.   The Vatican has always responded by denying such radiation and even if such existed that the land on which the antennas are on are extraterritorial Vatican property and therefore outside Italian jurisdiction.    If Italians can't collect on communications fraud, imagine our trying to collect on sponsoring terrorism.   Exactly.

But the main point for me is the unfunded mandate, or partially funded mandate if one will.    I first wrote about this a little over a year ago.   One only has to look to health care -- it was only ever supposed to be a 50-50 cost share between the feds and the lower governments; it went down to 18 cents on the fed side but only went back up to 25 when the provinces finally mustered the will to revolt.    With this financial issue still in view especially as the first wave of the Baby Boom started collecting their Old Age Security this year, it continues to be a bane for the provinces not just in terms of who's going to pay for long term care as well as a much needed national strategy for prescription drugs, but also other new shared cost programs.    There is a general understanding that provinces can opt out of any new programs of this nature (although it's really been only Québec that has done so, and two attempts to put this principle of opt out for any province, for any program other than pensions, into the Constitution have failed) but there is also a huge backlash if the province doesn't put it its own similar program.

But on the issue of crime, there shouldn't be a dispute.    We've always had a unified criminal code but left it to the provinces to enforce that law (after consulting with the provinces on the text of the provisions, naturally).   But since provinces and territories house prisoners sentenced up to and including two years less one day it should follow that they have the adequate resources to do so.   Heck, even tax points would be acceptable to most.   But there doesn't seem to be an indication there will be movement even on this.   Originally, the Cons were saying it would cost an extra $2 billion per year.   The provinces have said $5 billion -- and this was before the "omnibus" bill introduced today, which combines nine bills in consideration before the election.   My guess would be more like $8 to 10 billion per year, ongoing.

Another thing -- what if a province has an alternate sentencing program at the provincial or community level that has proven to reduce the rate of recidivism and the feds say, sorry, can't do that anymore?   For a man who long believed in the principle that local government closer to the people should best decide these things PMS has done a complete 180 and imposed a one size fits all approach, the exact opposite of what he has long believed in.

Does this mean less half way houses in favour of larger and naturally even more violent prisons?   Maybe PMS should spend a weekend at the Maze -- um sorry, that was closed and is now being torn down as part of the peace process in Northern Ireland.   How about enforcing some of the laws that Parliament passed under Liberal governments but have never been proclaimed into force.   One was a two strikes law passed over Chrétien's objections by most backbenchers of all parties -- a mandatory seven to life sentence for a second conviction for a listed violent crime.   This was a simple one page law that could deal a serious blow to some issues that PMS thinks needs several hundred pages of clauses to resolve.   But things are never simple in politics.

Of course it's easy to be tough on crime.   It's even easier not to pay for enforcing the law.   That's why so many states in the US are going bankrupt, as is the federal government -- and why the courts have had to step in to enforce consent decrees like SCOTUS did earlier this year in California.    Are we headed that route?    If PMS wants to get tough, he'd better roll out the dough as well.   The second level of government will wait only so long before they take matters into their own hands.   Hard to imagine a constitutional crisis over something like this, but it could happen.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Reopen Swiss Air 111

Yesterday morning's explosive (pardon the expression) allegations by a former Mountie that the Swiss Air 111 crash in 1998 may have been a terrorist act and not an entertainment system gone haywire is something that absolutely has to be taken seriously, especially if as Sgt Tom Juby claims he was ordered to redact extensive notes he had taken regarding the leads he was following.

Many of us are young enough to remember Arrow 1285 which crashed near Gander during the Christmas 1985 holidays and just weeks before the Challenger disaster.   This was a charter that was flying a large part of the 101st Airborne as well as members of other units and military police, from Cairo to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, via Cologne and Gander.  What was interesting there was that the day of the crash a wing of Hezbollah claimed responsibility but that was immediately dismissed by both the Canadian and US governments.   The result of the investigation was a farce:  The final report was a split decision, with three members saying it was icing on the wings and two saying it was terrorism -- with a later review by an ex-Supreme didn't mince words, saying the available evidence supported neither quite credibly; indeed so damning was Justice Willard Estey's analysis that the crash investigation process in Canada was rebuilt from the ground up.

Although the evidence in the present case overwhelmingly supports the generally accepted conclusion of poorly insulated wiring, I don't think it would hurt to have a retired Supreme Court justice review the evidence just one more time.   If this was indeed a practice run for 9/11 I think we have a right to know that.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's not obstetrics, it's obstruction

It's taken some time to write this but I can't wait any longer.   It's more than obvious that the Holy See simply doesn't get it when it comes to child abuse.

Not that long ago, in July of this year, an independent inquiry in Ireland led by Judge Yvonne Murphy detailed in damning terms the massive collusion that existed between the Bishop of Cloyne and "head office" in Vatican City to ensure justice was obstructed again and again.   The position of the bishops seemed to be that they had some kind of "diplomatic immunity" that shielded them from answering any questions from the Garda Síochána, the Irish FBI.    After several weeks of silence, the Vatican finally posted an official response on its website on September 3 of this month -- an open letter to the Deputy PM of Ireland (who also acts as Foreign Minister, the typical Cabinet post given to most DPMs in the EU).   And as a Catholic I'm not impressed one damn bit.

The time frame we're talking about is not three decades back, when much of the abuse happened, but fresh allegations that emerged only three years ago, as the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny noted in the Dáil (Irish lower house) on his reply to the Cloyne Report.   Both the lower chamber and the Irish Senate voted for motions of censure against the Vatican -- itself quite remarkable for a country that is so heavily Roman Catholic and maintains a concordat with the Holy See.

Carefully, the Vatican claims that they're not responding to specific crimes that may still be at investigation by the Gardaí.   But it makes some rather dubious claims:
  • Similar to the position it took when the US Bishops tried to impose a "one strike and you're out" rule which was vetoed by the previous Pope, JP2, it tries to hide behind a veil that expresses concerns about mandatory reporting of any allegations to civil authorities.   It also says the lack of a requirement of mandatory reporting doesn't mean the allegations shouldn't be referred to the police or child protection authorities at all.   I'm sorry, but one necessarily leads to the other.   The Bishop Emeritus here in Hamilton, Anthony Tonnos, made clear nearly 10 years ago that on this one, regardless of what canon law might say, he is bound by the civil and criminal law -- all allegations are reported without questioning the motives of the alleged victim; that priest, nun or brother would be suspended with pay pending the outcome; and full cooperation by the bishop and his staff with authorities would be automatic while the Episcopal Corporation (i.e. the Diocese) also conducted its own internal investigation.  The current Bishop, Douglas Crosby, hasn't amended this one bit.
  • It claims it never interfered with procedures or processes conducted by the Irish government or its agencies.    Instead, it then immediately hides behind the Apostolic Nuncio (i.e. Vatican ambassador) in Ireland and says that the issue was for the Diocese to handle, not the Embassy.    That might be fine were it not for the fact the Bishops' Conference (the governing body of the Catholic Church in a given country) and the Nunciature in the same country work hand in glove and glove in hand.   For instance, the Bishops may recommend a worthy priest to serve as a new bishop, but the nuncio can express his objections even before the nomination is forwarded to the Pope's desk for assent.   Furthermore, if there was massive corruption going on in Cloyne, surely the Nuncio should have known about it.   The Pope is free to fire a Bishop -- when the proof was in the pudding Joe Ratzinger surely gave it the silent treatment.
  • As to the claim that a church cannot be bound by the "norms" of a Society, this is truly egregious.   As I have noted before, no other church on the planet -- no other church -- has diplomatic immunity at its highest levels nor the ability to extend it to its underlings.   If a church cannot be expected to cooperate on child abuse, financial misappropriation, etc., then it should not have state immunity at all.   Its tax exempt status should be revoked and any concordats should be ripped up by the receiving state.
  • It claims it never interferred with the local church.   Local church officials have openly stated and admitted otherwise.   Would you believe people locally or from a palace built with "indulgences" centuries ago?   Exactly.
  • It claims that Bishops do not represent the Church, but Christ.   Well of course they do -- but any bishop showing disobedience to the Pope and his most senior advisors (all male, all allegedly "virgins") is considered a grievous violation of norms.   If someone on the inside told a bishop to back off, and the bishop says as much, isn't it time to call the kettle black?
  • Finally it relies on the notorious Crimen Sollicitationis, which required bishops to keep internal investigations under wraps and effectively was used to prevent disclosures to the police (by way of secret Church Trials, the successor to the Spanish Inquisition.   While it also states the maximum penalty is being defrocked and the penalty has existed since 1922, such a penalty wasn't regularly applied until the last decade and a half, and only because the laity demanded it.
Bottom line for me -- don't buy it.   The Church has a lot to answer for and it can't pretend to ignore realities that there is corruption at many levels.   Either the senior leadership needs to stand up to those who prey upon the most vulnerable (children and women) or it's time to have a bottom-up revolt.   The Church is the people, all of the people, inside of it -- not a Board of Directors hiding behind a palace wall on the west side of Rome.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Legacy of sports or legacy of debts?

Heaven help Hamilton on this one.    Another round of Pan Am chicken.

No sooner did it seem we call Red Hat owner Bob Young's bluff and offer to do a renovation of Ivor Wynne than it turns out that the proposal as set was for bleachers and not seats with backs.   So the whole place will have to be torn down and rebuilt (just as well, the lower decks are 80 years old) and rebuilt with fewer seats.

Now, we've gotten into a mess over the velodrome that is supposed to be built for the 2015 Pan Am Games (the games for those not good enough to get into that year's world championships of the various disciplines that also act as qualifiers for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro).   The costs have skyrocketed, from about $12 million to $25 and yesterday doubled again to $50 million.   And it hasn't even been built yet.

Plus it gets crazier -- no site has been finalized.    What should have been the site for the new stadium (the old Rheem ™ water heater plant) was expropriated but the cleanup costs are way high and there is no Superfund like the EPA has in the States for contaminated brownfield sites.   This would have been a nice site -- in fact in the winning bid book the Toronto committee organizing the games saw the West Harbour having both the soccer stadium and the velodrome.   McMaster University, my alma mater, is not interested.   Several sites on the Escarpment are being considered, but they would require paving over soccer and baseball fields.   That leaves Olympic Park in Dundas, but the environment crowd is all over that because it's right at the very west end of Lake Ontario, along the Desjardins Canal and Cootes Paradise.

We have sewers that are 100 years old.   An access road along the Escarpment that literally caves in twice or three times every year.   A huge public housing backlog.   For heaven's sake, don't we have better things to do than spend fifty mill on a bike track?   Contrary to what the opponents claim, there won't be many young non-competitive cyclers using this one.   Especially if the rent is sky high.    They tried that model in Montréal, it failed and the velodrome there, next to the Big Owe, is now a provincially run environment museum.   Hamilton prides itself as being a city of museums except Montréal has long marketed itself much better on that one and it actually manages to pay off its debts eventually even if concrete slabs fall every now and then. 

Hamilton?   Don't make me laugh.    Spend the money on priorities that pay back over the entire life cycle -- not on white elephants.   If we can't get major airlines other than WestJet ™ to fly out of that monstrosity that doesn't even have a full 10,000 feet runway (but will soon, 30 years after), why should we even bother with this joke?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Real questions for less than real Ontario leaders

Dear Leaders:

I have made the decision that unless one of you does something so egregious that it merits a comment I will not -- will not --make any running commentary about the current election in Ontario.   Frankly, the platforms are all uninspiring that I wonder why anyone would even bother to vote.   Although of course they should, as will I at some point between now and election day.

Instead I make a proposition.   I would like to hear directly from all leaders.   By snail or priority mail.   You know how to reach me from the master voters lists.  Not by e-mail or posting here because there is no verification process.   I want answers only from the leaders themselves, and real answers and not just talking points.   I would like direct answers to these simple questions, questions not being asked by the MSM or anyone who pretends to be they're not although they are (i.e. Post Media, Sun News).    If you respond, I will transcribe and post them here, unedited, so my readers as well as my colleagues over at Progressive Bloggers can review it for themselves.

So here goes:
  1. Currently, the Ontario Theatres Act overrides the Municipal Act, such that any one can locate a motion picture or live theatre establishment anywhere he or she wants regardless of zoning laws.   I happen to believe that while such movie houses that exclusively show explicit sex should not be banned they should be well away from areas where families normally congregate and should feel safer.    Do you agree that cities and towns should have this authority, and if so what zoning restrictions should apply?
  2. Going further from question 1, the Municipal Act still has many sections that date back to the 1850s, before Canada was even the country we know it as today, and no longer reflect modern realities.   Cities and towns, for example, are forbidden from imposing local sales taxes or a lodging tax for transients -- which places our town and country at a huge disadvantage from a financial standpoint compared to their counterparts in, say, the United States.    Would you agree that the provincial sales tax should be lowered with allowance for municipalities to raise such funds, as well as being able to rely more on parking and moving violation fines for revenues?   (This would have the benefit of lowering property taxes and as such should be revenue neutral.)
  3. While immigration is a shared Canadian value (at least among most), and it is also a shared jurisdiction with Ottawa, there is presently little to no transparency as to what the immigration agreements are.   I do not recall any such agreement ever being debated in the legislature, whereas the parallel but much more comprehensive agreement Québec City has with Ottawa (dating back to the first Cullen-Couture deal in 1978) has always been the matter of debate in the National Assembly along with a ratification vote (as well as one in Parliament).    Do you agree Ontario should take control of its own immigration policy, provided it meets national interests, what would be your bottom line terms, and will you subject the agreement to a binding free vote in Legislative Assembly?
  4. Since the last round of tax reform in 1987, the income tax system has become more and more complicated as Ontario has felt the need to parallel all (or at least since 2000 most) of federal tax credits that have crept it.    Such incremental-ism goes against the idea of a simple but fair tax system.   So, simply stated, do you favour
    • getting rid of most of these puny non-refundable and refundable tax credits with a simple system with clearly defined brackets (and not phony "surtaxes" which create additional, shadow brackets) and lower rates;
    • a higher personal exemption with equality for two-income, one-income and single parent families;
    • timing payment of provincial refundable credits to the same time as Ottawa's (with a double branded assessment statement) to save on postage and financial transaction fees:
    • a flat tax (with a view as to what rate and what exemptions); and / or
    • completely segregating our tax system from Ottawa's and creating a made-for-Ontario tax system that reflects solely and entirely our policy goals of wealth redistribution?
  5. Do you agree that Ontario should exercise its powers under Article 94A of the 1867 Constitution and run its own retirement and disabiilty pension plan with its own set of supplementary benefits, and an all-Ontario board of financial advisors, such plan to have full reciprocity with the Canada and  Québec Plans?
I await your reply.   If you it will get posted here.  But I'm not holding my breath.

Yours truly,
Robert Pavlacic

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

If you want to win votes, play the ethnic card

It's true.

It's how the GOP have been able to divide and conquer for most of the last 3 decades in the States, it's worked marvelously well for the Cons in Ottawa and now Tim Hudak, trying to unseat Dalton McGuinty in next month's provincial election, is fuming at the Ontario Liberals' proposal for a $10,000 per head tax credit to hire immigrant workers while Hudak mutes his own proposal for a relatively paltry $400 tax credit -- for ESL (English) or DFLES (French) language training.   (Basically, the second one would allow corporations and family owned businesses to write off computer software that teaches the language which is about that cost more or less.)

Why is Hudak so up in arms about this?   Especially since he introduced a private member bill, last year, that would have offered virtually the same thing as McGuinty is proposing -- in Hudak's case, a 10% wage write-off.   But that seems to be missing from his platform now.

Sure, one has to be concerned that unscrupulous crooks will take advantage of the credit, hire unskilled people and exploit them in sweatshop like conditions and run away with a big cheque from the government (which could, of course, be applied against other payroll taxes owing including worker's compensation and the employer health tax).

For the first time in months, I have to admit I may actually change what I thought my vote this fall would be.  As I have stated, I consider myself an independent at the provincial level.  I was leaning towards the provincial  ND for the last two years, but more and more I am beginning to wonder if McGuinty, as slick as he is, might not be such a bad choice after all.  Especially with Hudak's take on the issue.

But McGuinty wouldn't have to do this if the regulated professions in Ontario faced up to their hypocrisies and hired skilled immigrants and fast-tracked their equivalency exams so they can work here in the jobs they were trained for.   The stories about architects and physicians who are working 18 hour days, 7 days a week "on contract" (and therefore not subject to the employment standards laws we expect to be enforced for the rest of us) are doing not their chosen profession but driving taxis and delivering pizzas, or even worse going door-to-door using shady pitches to get unsuspecting consumers to sign up for long term water heater or energy contracts, are not urban legends -- they are absolutely true.

I also suggest that Ontario is continuing to get shafted when it comes to the immigration settlement funds that it, along with the other provinces, gets from the feds (remember, that immigration is a shared field).   It is true that the gap that Ontario and the other so-called "rest of Canada" provinces in relation to Québec has improved considerably over the last ten years.

But when Québec gets $5000 per "regular class" immigrant, the other provinces get $3400 per capita and NONE of the provinces get anything to help settle Geneva Convention refuguees -- not to mention the rest of what has become yet another unfunded mandate from Ottawa, what are the provinces expected to do to get immigrants into the workplace so they start paying taxes and help fund our social programs?

It's also not the province's fault that the feds (under Conservative rule) did not do their jobs in relation to monitoring community based immigrant settlement programs that were essentially run as black holes -- not just pulling the funding but also refusing to reallocate that money to the more ethical agencies as well as the provincial governments.

McGuinty is on the correct track but he needs to take it one step further.   It's time for Ontario to go the route of Québec.   As far back as 1978, that province took matters into its own hands and said that it would take the lead role in selecting immigrants and temporary skilled workers to the province including its own "points system", with the feds' role basically limited to doing a background check and issuing the visa.   Why can't Ontario -- or the other provinces too for that matter?  It wouldn't in any way impair national unity; on the contrary it would be reflective of the fact that every province, and indeed regions within each province, are distinct and Canada is truly, as Joe Clark (a Con!) called us, a "Community of Communities."

Hudak would do better to promote the incentive programs that exist already to hire unemployed Canadians -- including demanding Ottawa pay its full share -- than slamming the door and saying all we should get for hiring an immigrant is the first level of Berlitz ™ or Rosetta Stone ™.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Who to lead the progressive torch (es) ?

It may not happen during the current cycle, but I think it is inevitable -- despite the huge gap that exists in a number of policy fields between the Liberals and the New Democrats, some kind of alliance between the two or even an outright merger is bound to happen sooner rather than later.   Unless the Liberals can get a truly strong leader in a strong position to negotiate terms, it could very well be an ND takeover much as the Reform Party absorbed the Progressive Conservatives then dropped the "P" word.

The term "Liberal Democrat" will enter our vocabulary sooner than we think, but it need not be the right or far right Newspeak that the term denotes in Japan or Russia, but something truly progressive, as the Lib Dems are in the UK (at least on paper).   If some kind of détente can also be reached with the Greens (even if it's some informal agreement where the stronger of the two parties in a district runs a candidate with the tacit support of the other which would not field), the centre-left could have a chance.   There has to be broad agreement up front on where there is common ground, then serious good faith negotiations on what remains.    And unlike their right wing cousins, there has to remain a link between the federal and provincial parties.  It makes no sense to have "orphan" progressive movements left to fend their own fights.

I can't get my head around who could be running for the Liberal leadership.    Bob Rae, the interim leader, of course is not, which is too bad because he knows the far right better than most who play the game.   He got outplayed by one (Mike "The Knife" Harris) when Rae was an ND and the then Ontario Liberal leader had a gaffe-filled campaign which included the rightly said but wrongly interpreted "Hit your spouse, lose your house" line.   Frank McKenna has said repeatedly he's not interested, that 10 years as Premier of New Brunswick was enough, and I think that's a shame because he actually sowed the seeds for the "Third Way" policies of the Chrétien-Martin tag team, and that also partly inspired Roy Romanow the former socialist premier of Saskatchewan.

As far as Justin Trudeau goes, fuggetaboutit!   Canadians aren't interested in a dynasty unless there is a very long gap, and 30 years isn't enough.   Many Westerners who support Reform also visit the sins of the parents upon the children and they haven't forgotten about Pierre giving the West the middle finger.   As far as goes Justin's sister, Sarah Coyne, she's not "tainted" so much because she came along well after Pierre left office.   But she's too busy right now at the Wharton School.   Maybe ten to twenty years down the road ... I'd leave her be for now.

On the ND side?   Well, the obvious ones are out:   Romanow, Gary Doer and Svend Robinson, just to name three.   And the current batch of MPs are mostly greenhorns which isn't a bad thing for a party that reinvented itself without abandoning its socialist roots but the new blood needs to keep the momentum going and not go stagnant.

Unless another strong candidate comes forward and truly shines out the only logical choice I would see right now is Thomas Mulcair.   Yes, he is known for shooting himself in the foot at times -- but which politician hasn't had made an honest gaffe?    But, after the late Mr Layton, he knows Québec better than anyone else in his party (for one thing, he is a direct descendant of Honoré Mercier, a Premier of the province) -- and he managed to break through the provincial fortress where many thought the Libs would win forever.

If Mulcair says he isn't interested, that's understandable.   It takes a specific kind of person who would want to accept that kind of scrutiny while at the same time being merciless, absolutely merciless, against the incumbent PM.   Since the Conservatives want to run their next campaign in four years like it's right now, then their opponents need to call the bluff the moment a new leader is chosen.