Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Electoral Reform: Recalling an MP

In a fit of pique I was searching for the concept of recalling the government or at least an MP.

I found an article discussing this concept and how it might strengthen our democracy. Giving it a read I realized it seems like a very good idea. For example, when a member crosses the floor, it might very well be a time for the constituents to get upset and force the MP to come back to the riding and convince them why they should not issue a recall.
The Recall of Elected Members
This article explains the recall idea, looks at how it has been used in other countries, outlines how it would might work in Canada and offers some suggestions about what difference recall would make to Canadian politics. This article, based on research done for the Lortie Commission on Electoral Reform is an edited version of a presentation to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on March 15, 1994.
I hope you read the full article. Combining a recall option, senate reform, and some type of proportional representation might make a lot of sense. I wonder if a party could run on a democratic reform platform and get traction?

By the way, you can subscribe to this quarterly publication as described here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Escaping to Canada II

Harper is violating the Canada that I know and love.

Private member bills to stop all funding to the CBC are not random events. They are surely payback for the accidental public outing of government front group Ethical Oil.

Other abominations are floating around such as reductions in corporate taxes, billions being spent on aircraft, ships and prisons while old age security seems likely to be pushed a few years further away for future generations. Don't forget branding everyone opposed to the oil sands pipelines as "radicals" or "enemies of the state" now referred to as Enemy Gate.

This is not my Canada.

I'm left wondering how to be effective and how to do so quickly. It's not easy to get people who are trapped in their daily lives to spend the energy to care. It's harder getting them involved to the degree of helping to donate resources and harder yet to get physically involved. Even so, how can we do anything but slowly build an avalanche of voters determined to clean up the mess that Harper is creating with his majority?

I've got half a mind to create a second Canada. A virtual Canada. An online Canada. As you've surely guessed I'll call it Canada II. This country will have a policy stance. Citizens will join and will have two duties. They will prove that they are willing and able to vote in a physical election by naming their riding, MP and local polling station. They will also pay a small citizenship tax, perhaps $5 per year, to prove their willingness to do something more than simply complain online.

Canada II will be a non-profit organization founded to work on issues important to the majority of Canadians. It will work for environmental stewardship, human rights, legalization of marijuana, proportional representation, carbon reduction, sustainability and renewable energy. Canada II will not be anti-business but it will exclude business and monetary influence from it's policy decisions. It will advocate policies purely for the public good.

Canada II will be filled with citizens who will vote, know where to vote, and have put their money where there mouth is with respect to their beliefs.

Will anyone join me? At the very least we could organize and connect with other like minded people online and locally. With success we would have a large enough advocacy group to make politicians concerned about our deliberations.

What is your alternative... complaining on Twitter until 2015?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

An Alternate Economic Strategy

It has become clear that the Harper government is all about exploiting resources. In particular, there is a large push to shrink government, curtail government programs, and aggressively expand natural resource exploitation even at the risk of alienating a large segment of the population - which they are willing to brand as radicals or even enemies of the state.

It's also clear that Canada's sustainability indicators, perhaps meant to demonstrate sustainability in terms of our so-called sustainable development strategy, are a joke. Sustainability is not simply about pollution levels. Sadly, Environment Canada is now simply a department meant to foster resource development.





A CANADIAN ECONOMIC STRATEGY FOR SUSTAINABILITY

We know that there are three or four high probability scenarios that will have large economic consequences on the world economy:
  • Reduced petrocarbon availability.
  • Global climate change.
  • Systemic economic dependency and fragility.
  • Stratification of economic participation
Based on these issues, and the need to better integrate input from all sectors of Canadian society, the following strategies have been constructed.

Constructive Carbon Policy
It's clear that our dependence on oil and gas will eventually consume available reserves and have destructive effects on the climate in the progress. We must find a way to break our addiction to oil while working towards protecting ourselves from catastrophic climatic shifts.

Canada should implement a National Energy Tax (NET). This tax would impose an additional cost to the consumption of gas, oil and electricity. Basically, all of our high-energy products have a well defined sales path that would make it easy to calculate the amount of energy consumed and allow taxation at a relatively low rate, such as $1/barrel of oil equivalent.

Energy producers selling non-carbon based renewable energy resources would apply to be granted tax collection exemptions based on the percentage of energy provided from renewable sources.

Monies collected by this tax would be earmarked specifically for the development and promotion of sustainability practices and policies. These would include scientific research, experimental pilot projects, promotion of energy conservation, and promotion of sustainable practices. Such a program would fund and encourage sustainable energy practices until such a time as carbon based energy sources were no longer a major percentage of our energy consumption. 

A reasonable tax rate, applied to all consumers, would have an insignificant direct impact on current energy suppliers but it would exert a subtle pressure on all consumers towards a preference for renewable energy sources. This is a responsible way to move towards reduced petrocarbon reliance and reduced impact on our climate.

Systemic Dependencies
The recent global financial crisis demonstrates how interdependent the world's economies have become. It is clear that we must trade with partners but it is also clear that we must be able to protect ourselves from the risks involved in doing so.

Canada should create a department of Systemic Risk Research (SRR). This department will study and report on risks to Canada originating from economic sectors such as global finance, agriculture, and resource depletion.

Risk, when realized, has a very large cost. Risk reduction, often thought of as hedging in the business word, is a prudent way to manage risks. The SRR department will be responsible for publishing policy proposals in terms of protecting the public good for consideration by the general public as well as world economists. In particular, the concept of public good and the governments role in determining how it can be protected are vital to the public decision making process.

First Peoples Consultancy
Our First Peoples have a long history of living from the land and respecting nature. Canada should, as a strategy, connect with this history and provide incentives for the development of Native Canadian ability to promote sustainable land use within Canada and internationally.

At a rough guess making available unlimited higher education in history, economics, business, politics and environmental issues would be a good start. Western society speaks in terms of money, technology, business and politics -- we can't hear anything else.

This isn't an attempt to bring anything to Native Canadians, participation is obviously voluntary, but it is instead an attempt to bring the knowledge of Native Canadians to both Canada and the world. Finding a way to inject their philosophies in term of environmental stewardship into our western discourse could have a striking effect on the long term course of humanity which, quite frankly, faces a challenging future.

Economic Opportunities
We need to understand that economic opportunities, and in particular widespread economic participation, are the basis for a healthy and happy society. We also need to understand that there are always taxes, laws and regulations in a civilized society. However, in recent years lobbyists and corporate interests have been able to direct government activity specifically to their benefit with respect to tax breaks, legal changes and relaxed regulations.

Canada should create a taxation policy that favors the working class. Taxes on wage income should be at the lowest possible rate. Taxes on corporate profits and capital gains should be at a higher rate as it is blatantly obvious that lower income workers direct all their income back into the economy while higher income entities do not.

Canada should create a department of Economic Mobility and Participation (EMP). This department will develop policies and programs to enable Canadians to re-enter the education system or retrain for higher demand positions at any stage of life. Working with accredited education institutions in all regions of the nation EMP will provide and administer a nationally recognized exemption exam policy which will allow all Canadians to acquire university credits for courses through experience and independent study.

EMP will provide guidance to government at the community and regional levels with respect to removing the obstacles to economic reintegration faced by lower income citizens. In particular, this may involve dealing with existing debt levels, housing costs, educational costs, child care and other items that make it difficult to take the time needed to develop skills and education needed for an improved economic outcome.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Harper's Agenda and Playbook

Well, I wish I had of been wrong, but it all adds up so far. I'm sure more will show up, in terms of graft, when cracks finally show up in Harper's government.

First, do yourself a favor and read Federal Documents Spark Outcry by Oil Sands Critics.
In the document, environmental organizations and aboriginal groups are shown as "adversaries." Industry associations, energy companies and the National Energy Board – which is supposed to serve as an independent body evaluating new projects – are listed as "allies."
Now lets rewind all the way back to the Chaquita Banana nonsense.
This is a fantastic way to change the debate to an issue that doesn't really matter. Has anyone seriously thought that we would not be able to sell our oil? Come on. This is much ado about nothing. Actually, I'm sure the outrage has more to do with the fact the claim is based on the carbon footprint reasoning than anything else.
Soon we hear about a National Energy Strategy that may be in the works.
This answer to this question is simple. So that either BC can be forced to accept a pipeline, the government of BC can be given a means of avoiding blame, or most likely provide a means of funneling enough money around to ensure public opinion is ignored.
Before long we start to hear the government use Radicals as a description for pipeline opposition.
Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade. Their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth.
The whole issue turned into the foreign interests nonsense by Ethical Oil and Our Decision - a pair of government front groups.
Now, as you know I've been stating that it's obvious that Ethical Decision (really, why pretend they are truly different organizations) is a government shill wrapped in the pretense of being a grass-roots organization. If you were paying attention a few weeks ago you would have seen clear synchronization between Harper, key players, and the Ethical Decision team.
Recently Harper spoke at the Crown-First Nations Gathering and I think you can read between the lines a bit.
I've ignored you completely, ignored the Kelowna accord, and now that I'm leading a majority government I have the ability to deal with you from a position of strength without having to worry about the collapse of my government. This bodes well for me.
And, tonight, coincident with the first story, Harper has unveiled his Grand Plan at Davos.
Although short on details, Mr. Harper’s speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday made clear the sweep of his ambition. He will change how Canadians finance their retirement. He will overhaul the immigration system. He will make oil and gas exports to Asia a “national priority” and aggressively pursue free trade in India and Europe.
Our government has a plan born in the days of conflict between East, West and a Federalist Ottawa. Harper, a product of the West's anger over that period is now rewriting Canada in a West first manner. I have no desire to condemn the West but I don't think any one region should be the basis for a national grand plan.

The Harper government is on the wrong side of history. We are facing climate change issues and now is the time to start getting ready for the issues that we can already see on the way. We don't need to cut corporate taxes. We don't need to build prisons. We don't need to dismantle the things that brought Canadians pride for generations. We don't need to import right wing thinking from the USA.

I want my Canada back. I've been calling the Tar Sands the Prime Minister's undoing, his Moby Dick. I hope I'm right. We've got to dump this "grand plan" and get things back on track before we've gone completely over the cliff.  A massive shift to corporatism is not what we need. The world is starting to question the merits of capitalism in its current form while we are about to embrace it more tightly than ever before...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Parsing the Crown-First Nations Gathering Speech

From the Canadian Government's Stephen Harper blog:

"Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure to welcome you on the traditional territory of the Algonquin, to this historic Crown-First Nations Gathering. And it is especially appropriate to do so in this building, a building whose name honours the memory of a prime minister who cared deeply about the things we are gathered here to talk about today: respect, rights and opportunity for First Nations Canadians.

"John George Diefenbaker was, in many ways, the initiator of the modern era of Crown – First Nations relations.  It was he who named the first First Nations member to the Parliament of Canada, Senator James Gladstone in 1958.  And, it was he who, two years later, extended to aboriginal Canadians living on reserves the right to vote in national elections.

"In addressing that long-standing and fundamental injustice, he was a man ahead of his time and in many ways, an apt inspiration for today’s proceedings.

I'm not so sure this is as friendly a message as it sounds. While first steps are important they also highlight the historic segregation and non-participation that First Nations have dealt with -- for a very long period of time. Perhaps Harper feels if he finds an issue or two to address he too will be considered a man well ahead of his time and an inspiration for future proceedings?

"Greetings to all participating here in Ottawa and across the country: His Excellency, Governor General Johnston and Mrs. Johnston, Minister Duncan, Secretary Rickford, Senators and Members of Parliament from our Caucus. All distinguished guests, Elders, chiefs, including Chief Weasel Head, and Peter Standing Alone from my home nation, The Blood First Nation of Southern Alberta and, of course, National Chief Atleo.

"It is in no small part the vision and conception of the National Chief that has led to this gathering today, and I know we all congratulate him for that leadership.

"Ladies and gentlemen, friends, yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the general election in which Canadians first entrusted the stewardship of our country to our Government.  These past six years have been a time of, putting it mildly, distractions of elections, of minority Parliaments, and, of course, world economic and financial crises.

I've ignored you completely, ignored the Kelowna accord, and now that I'm leading a majority government I have the ability to deal with you from a position of strength without having to worry about the collapse of my government. This bodes well for me.

"Nevertheless, our Government has worked hard to deal with matters of abiding concern to members of Canada’s First Nations.  And I believe that, as a consequence of our work together thus far, we have exciting opportunities to strengthen our relationships.

"More than that, such will be the demand for labour in our future economy that we are positioned today to unlock the enormous economic potential of First Nations peoples, and to do so in a way that meets our mutual goals.

"Canada's growing and vibrant economy will require a skilled and growing labour force in every region: urban, rural and remote.  Aboriginal peoples are Canada’s youngest population. It is therefore in all of our interests to see aboriginal people educated, skilled and employed.

All that matters to me is boosting the financial strength of corporations in Canada. I think that your people represent a source of untapped potential economic participants that will help Canada exploit oil and other natural resources.

"And there will be no better point in history to ensure that happens.  In a moment, I will come back to that. First however, I must say this: every relationship has its ups and downs, moments of consensus and of disagreement.  I believe it is important to build a narrative of any relationship based on its highest points. In the relationship of First Nations with Canada, there are some very high points.

"We have the Royal Proclamation of 1763, of which we will mark the 250th anniversary next year, a foundation of the Crown-First Nation relationship. We have, of course, all the historic treaties, large and small. We have the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, this year, in which aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples joined under the Crown, ultimately laying the basis for a distinct country in the northern half of this continent. And, of course, all the wars since, in which aboriginal people have always fought alongside their fellow Canadians in the defence of freedom and democracy, here and around the world. There are great things on which to build.

I've had nothing to do with any of these things and I call on your sense of history, one which I do not share, to get you to listen to me.

"Nonetheless, we must acknowledge the not-so-uplifting moments, some very low points and the reality that, for generations, the relationship between our peoples was tainted, tainted in a manner that eroded trust and blocked ways forward as does a tree fallen across a road.  Tainted in particular by the experience of the forced residential schools, the explicit attempt to destroy aboriginal culture and to dismantle the aboriginal family that wounded so many so deeply.

"That is why one of my most rewarding days in office was when I rose in the House to deliver an apology to those students.  We acknowledged that sad chapter in our history. We repudiated the thinking that lay behind it. And, we went beyond symbolism; we took concrete action to settle the claims of those who had been injured.

It cost us nothing to deliver an apology and I didn't have to enact the Kelowna accord which would make it harder for me to accomplish the goals I have for Canada's exploitation of natural resources and your role in that plan.

"That ladies and gentlemen, concrete action, has been our election promise to First Nations people in 2004, in 2006, in 2008 and in 2011.  And to those commitments, we have been faithful.  For example, Our Government has addressed historic grievances by accelerating the settlement of both comprehensive and specific claims.  In concert with The Assembly of First Nations, our historic new process has allowed more than 65 specific claims, previously held up for decades, to be dealt with thus far.

"We have extended the full protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act to First Nations Canadians living on reserves.  We seek to promote the full participation of First Nations in Canada's political and economic life, with all its rights and responsibilities.  And we are dealing with things that have been in the talk-shop for 20 years, in some cases longer than that.

"We are, for instance, about to ensure that the property of First Nations women and children are protected when relationships end. We have tabled bills to strengthen First Nations governance with 21st century rules on elections and transparency.  Many First Nations people will say it's about time.  We routed more than a billion dollars of Economic Action Plan funding to investments for Aboriginal and northern communities, using one-time stimulus money to accelerate the building of new homes, and water and waste water systems to improve living conditions.  And soon, we shall secure water-system accountability through legislated standards.

"In the name of self-government, we have devolved land and resources from Ottawa to Inuvialuit.  To protect children, we have brokered six child and family services harm-prevention agreements between Ottawa, First Nations and provincial governments.  And, of course, we endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.  This reaffirms our aspiration and our determination to promote and protect the rights of indigenous people at home and abroad.

All of these things are achieved at little to no cost, little to no risk, little to no effort, and they give me something to stand on for what is to come.

"These things we have done, Ladies and Gentlemen, as a down payment on what we wish to achieve.  For our goal is self sufficient citizens and self-governing communities.  Our goal is to promote improved governance. Our goal is much increased aboriginal participation in the economy and in the country’s prosperity.  And we have no illusion about the enormous work that lies ahead of us.

When I talk of self sufficiency I imply a total integration into the economic engine of Canada. When you are so integrated corporations will help steer your communities in the same direction as the rest of Canada. You will be free to self govern in the economic interests of those who pay your wages. I won't have to do a thing from a governmental point of view but I trust that economic integration will ensure that you are challenged and divided by the forces of profit and greed and will no longer present a strong united bargaining group.

"Our Government’s actions and accomplishments during the last six years speak to our sense of urgency.  But, I can tell you this: we have only just begun.  In terms of participation, standard of living and quality of life, the time has come for First Nations to fully share with other Canadians from all walks of life with equal opportunity to find the dignity of gainful employment and more than that, the ability to raise a family in the security that comes with it.

"This is our goal as the Government, for all Canadians.  And where it is not working for First Nations, we must act, act aggressively and act together.  That brings me to the “Canada-First Nation Joint Action Plan,” agreed last year between the Government of Canada, and the Assembly of First Nations.  This is a timely understanding, based upon common goals and shared principles, principles such as respect and transparency.  Goals like the empowerment of individuals, strong, sustainable communities and economic development.

I've mentioned it last but everything hinges on the concept of economic development. As you've probably heard recently my government is branding those that dare to stand in the way of economic development as radical, enemies of the nation and in particular people who will not be allowed to slow the progress of commercialization and resource exploitation.

"I call it timely, because there has never been a better moment to build on what we have achieved, to move forward, to reset the relationship, to learn from the past, but to focus on the future.  The Joint Action Plan points the way ahead, through specific joint commitments, commitments that will effectively change the rules in education, accountability, economic development and treaty relationships.

"Why would we wish to change the rules? Because “from the rules you set, come the results you get.” And the incentives buried in the Indian Act self-evidently lead to outcomes that we all deplore.

"To be sure, our Government has no grand scheme to repeal or to unilaterally re-write the Indian Act:  After 136 years, that tree has deep roots, blowing up the stump would just leave a big hole.  However, there are ways, creative ways, collaborative ways, ways that involve consultation between our Government, the provinces, and First Nations leadership and communities, ways that provide options within the Act, or outside of it, for practical, incremental and real change.

"So that will be our approach, to replace elements of the Indian Act with more modern legislation and procedures, in partnership with provinces and First Nations.  It is an approach that has already shown promise.  With inspired leadership, energy and enterprise, some bands have already shown that First Nations people are as quick to prosper, as capable of excellence and as able to enjoy all that Canada’s vibrant economy has to offer them.

Participate in our economy. Your lands are key to some very important resource exploitation projects and if you play ball then there will be economic rewards.

"I think if B.C.’s Haisla First Nation, partners in the massive Kitimat LNG project that will deliver training, employment and rich economic and social benefits to the community for decades to come.  Or in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Miawpukek First Nation which has developed a unique job creation program for unemployed community members, operating in surplus despite having revenue sources of their own.

"Or in Quebec, the Essipit First Nation has developed its tourism and commercial fishery industries, thereby creating local jobs and partnerships with both the private sector and neighbouring municipalities.

"I do believe that so much more is possible than what we presently imagine or conceive.  However, none of us, not governments, not First Nations communities, not aboriginal individuals, can accomplish these things alone or without the others.

"In past conversations, we have talked about symbolism and respect and trust. Certainly, in the past, lack of trust on both sides has held us back.  But this is a new day.  New generations are arising, generations that seek a common vision, that have common goals.  And, the greatest respect that we can show to First Nations men and women is to provide them with the tools, to credit them with the capacity and then allow them to move forward.  We all need to move forward.

New generations are rising that don't have the memories of the past that earlier generations did. By moving forward, according to my vision of progress, you will help me accomplish my goals. Your participation will of course result in financial gains and employment to your communities -- and you can then work on issues troubling you on your own. You know my government has no intention of doing so.

"So let us be willing partners.  Let us use this opportunity to renew the conversation. I look forward to your deliberations. Thank you, Friends."

Thank you for listening to me and giving me yet another opportunity to demonstrate how reasonable, caring and fair I am. Representatives will be visiting some of your lands in the near future to canvas your willingness to participate economically in various pending projects. 


I anticipate your support.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Capital Gains Tax Arguments

Well, south of the border Mitt Romney released his tax records.

Death and Taxes

Guess what, everybody is discussing whether or not capital gains taxes should be at a higher rate or not. Of course, we have the usual douchebag economics arguments:

  • Double taxation: corporations already pay taxes on their earnings so capital gains and/or dividends are in essence already taxed.
  • Job creation: lower taxes will foster jobs growth while higher taxes will drive away jobs.
Once again, we have kernels of truth in there, but the arguments are out of touch with the way things are working in the real world now.

Double Taxation

The concept of double taxation suggests that companies have no recourse and will be forced to pass 100% of their taxation costs to the taxpayer. Neither of these statements is true.  Companies, as they are playing on a level playing field, will all face the same situation. They will seek to maximize returns which will involve pressures on quality, prices, profitability and innovation.

Two of these forces act on consumers, one acts of economic efficiency and one acts on the shareholder. However, don't forget, consumers have the ability to invest for capital gains within a retirement plan -- problem solved. Those who aren't too rich to require a retirement plan, or won't max out their contribution limits, are able to skip right past this double taxation issue if they wish. Think about it.

Job Creation

Right now, at the current rate of corporate and capital gains taxes, companies are sitting on record amounts of cash. They have the ability to spend that cash and create jobs any time they so desire. Instead, companies are concerned about unpredictable events due to the recent global financial crisis. So, at a glance, we can see that taxes are not the primary driver of corporate investment -- its risk avoidance and ability to sell products. Give companies stable or rising demand and they will happily do business.

However, there is certainly truth in corporate tax rates concerning the ability for a company to earn higher rates of return in countries with lower corporate taxes.

Bonus Argument

However, I'd also like to tackle job creation and capital gains on another level. In the current economy we have people, or groups, with large amounts of capital engaging in speculative activities. Their investments are not as often translated into direct capital to be used by companies for growth and hiring. This role has been taken over by venture capitalists (not IPO's) at the start-up end and banks at the other.

Lowering taxes on the wealthy will simply put more money under leveraged speculative money management in a search for returns. Speculating on commodities and financial instruments is not a job creator for working class citizens.

Double Bonus Argument

This argument is likely to cause the most consternation. Those that are earning a significant portion of their income off of capital gains, as opposed to interest income, are already wealthy. They are not forced to work for a living and are simply letting their money ride here and there around the world. Sure, they take risk, but that's what professional money managers, due diligence and hedging are for.

We should lower income taxes on those that are performing labor in order to survive. Those who do not have to work should be paying higher taxes. If they are forced to actually do some paying work to raise their income, they will benefit greatly for it. Flip the advantages around. Make work pay and people will want to work. However, even if capital gains are taxed at a high rate, people will be happy to avoid work if they can still pocket a ton of cash while patting themselves on the back for being better than everyone else.

And, something that has no place in economics perhaps, think of this in moral terms. Why should we penalize people who are forced to spend their lives working. Those living the lives of leisure are very capable of bearing some of the load for the privilege of, in the majority of cases, being born into money. We, the working classes, have really had the wool pulled over our eyes by politicians under the influence of lobbyists.

Conclusion

I haven't put much effort into supporting my statements and yes I am certainly flying in the face of the dogma of free market capitalism. Please don't offer me the same tired old rhubarbs or political talking points -- I really do have a background in economics and I simply disagree with many of the commonly held beliefs.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Douchebag Economics

I have no argument with the vast majority of mainstream economic theory. In fact I will quickly suggest that I understand and agree with the following items:
  • Competitive advantage: trading partners generate higher overall productivity via trade.
  • Free market efficiency: free markets are very efficient at allocating capital between profitable activities.
  • Free trade: maximizing efficiency and overall productivity between trading partners.
  • Floating currencies: work to correct imbalances between trading partners.
However, be careful, there are a lot of nuances in there! Now, let's turn our attention to an article that caught my ire:
Adding Value To Our Raw Materials Won't Make Us Rich
It’s important to keep in mind that when discussing international trade, exports are costs. The purpose of engaging in international trade is to import goods and services more cheaply than we can produce ourselves; exports are the price we pay in order to obtain those imports. Productive capacity that is devoted to making things that will be exported is productive capacity that is not available for what really matters to Canadians’ economic welfare, namely, domestic consumption.
Sounds good, right? Well, I'm sure you noticed the title to this post so it will come as no surprise that I have a few issues with such a statement. The only part I agree with is that if we allocate productive capacity to one area it will not be directly available to be employed in another area. The rest has a lot of baggage riding with it.

For example, exports are not purely costs. To be ridiculously hypothetical we could allow tankers to siphon fresh water from coastal lakes and rivers for delivery to foreign parched lands. Well, shoot, we didn't even have to lift a finger, did we. Where is this allocation of productive capacity coming from in this case?

Another less contrived example. How about some smart software programmer creates software for a local company and then sells or licenses hundreds of thousands of copies to businesses outside the country? Look, we aren't living in a purely theoretical world anymore, and it's douchebag economics to present conclusions based on assumptions that we are.

Now, let's consider what we do with all this cash sitting in Canadian coffers due to exports. Yes, we could certainly make sure we spend all of it on trinkets and crap sold at Nmart if we wanted to. However, there is a concept known as investment as well. What if we decided to buy a stake in PetroChina or more realistically an Australian coal exporter? Oh no. Now we have expected capital gains or even a revenue stream magically arriving in our country. According to douchebag economics we'll have to import more crap for sure!

Sort of a side topic but I also have issues with how douchebag economics deals with unemployment. For example, if we are sitting around with non-elective unemployment then it's strange to suggest that further optimization, so that we get rid of well paying jobs in exchange for lower valued jobs, is going to be good for Canada. A higher paid populace with high levels of employment can lighten the tax burden for all, by spreading the load across more upper income individuals, while simultaneously reducing load on social assistance programs.

Finally, I consider it douchebag economics to suggest that the buying of more crap, in total, is more important than making sure that a larger number of Canadians are participating in the economy in a way that allows them to earn a good income, buy the things they need, and raise a family. Of course, these are somewhat social issues and can't easily be measured in dollars. Douchebag economics thinks that everything that matters is expressed in total dollars and absolute efficiency. It just isn't so.

While heading out of the domain of the quoted article I'll give you another example. Let's assume Canada decides to stop producing finished wood products and ship raw lumber to the USA. If we have 20,000 people employed in that field then we'll be putting those people into other industries as the jobs are lost. Yes, all true. However, let's say we shut down all finished wood product work overnight. I'd like douchebag economics to tell me the impact that this will have on real people today in exchange for longer term efficiency tomorrow.

When you see economics being spouted in the media you really have to take it with a grain of salt. Generally, think tanks or other motivated parties are spewing crap in order to promote a political or financial viewpoint that benefits someone.

Why? Why? Why?

Gwynne Dwyer is obviously wondering why world powers are clinging to so much military capacity.
Defence Budgets and Cave Men
For the first time in history, NO great power is planning to attack any other great power. War between great powers became economic nonsense more than a century ago, and sheer suicide after the invention of nuclear weapons. Yet the military establishments in every major power still have a powerful hold on the popular imagination.
In effect, the new US defence strategy says that for the United States to be safe, everybody else must be weaker. This displays a profound ignorance of human psychology – unless, of course, it is just a cynical device to convince the American public to spend a lot on "defence".
The answer is very simple. Fear has bought votes and profits since the end of WWII. Maybe one of these days we'll do something about that.

Stop Whining and Fight Back

This is great advice but a little hollow. In fact, Warren's column essentially does the same thing it decries:
Stop Whining about Political Impudence
They’re doing to Rae what they did, so successfully, to Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff: They’re shaping impressions about Rae before Rae does.

The best strategy, then, isn’t to call for yet more laws restricting legitimate political speech.

The best strategy is to hit first, and twice as hard. Be swift and brutal.

Remind people that Harper moved us from a surplus to a deficit. That he didn’t see the recession coming. That he wants to dismantle health care. That he favours Alberta over other provinces. That he has a far-right SoCon agenda. Whatever you do, progressives, do it now. Don’t wait.
Now, before you decide I'm out to lunch, consider that this entire column is essentially a cry for somebody, somewhere, to take action.

That's whining believe it or not.

We live in an instant world. We communicate endlessly. We point to interesting and damning articles using Twitter, Facebook and blogs, thinking we are accomplishing something. Better writers do the same thing in political and editorial sections of more traditional media circles.

Yep, it's all whining.

Let me refer you to my New Year's resolution. In short, I plan to be effective this year. Take a look at the last statement of my resolution. I will organize initiatives and foster concrete action. Holy shit, I might have to step away from my keyboard and get my hands dirty.

Here is some advice concerning how to stop being a whiny nambypants:
  • Yes, of course, organize, collect and notify others of issues using Twitter or whatever.
  • Volunteer time to organizations more in line with your viewpoints.
  • Speak out, demonstrate, support or otherwise physically participate on behalf of those who are not powerful enough to resist abuse of power on their own.
  • Donate resources to those who are physically working to be effective.
  • Put together an action plan that others will be willing to donate to.
You don't have to be rich. You don't have to give until it hurts. You don't have to do anything except think long and hard about how you can make what contribution you have be effective.

I haven't had long to work on my goal of being effective but here are some things I've been trying to put into place based on the concept of being effective:
  • Create this blog.
  • Point to problems with the mantra of free-market capitalism.
  • Start to define and discuss some initiatives concerning longer term change.
  • Set up a Facebook page (and advertise it) to find others unhappy with government policies.
  • Acquire domain name to organize participants and raise funding.
Now, I'm sure not everyone will be interested in the actions I am trying to take. That is fine. My job is to find people passionate about the things I think are worth being passionate about, convince them using the same whining everyone else does, but then to do something about it.

Stop whining and fight back. Do more than simply write words. Take action or join others who are taking action. We are in the majority and if we can get our asses off the couch, stop watching television, and make our voices heard, we can change things.

In the words of a crass commercial entity known to take advantage of cheap labor, just do it. I am.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Digging Deeper on Keystone XL

We are seeing a lot of headlines concerning pipelines these days. Here are some articles that should help shed light on what is actually happening with respect to the XL project.
California Awaits Tar Sands Legal Ruling
California's low-carbon fuel standard is the world's first attempt to require oil suppliers to slash the carbon footprint of their motor fuels, measured not just by emissions from tailpipes but across their full lifecycle, from extraction to combustion. Eleven Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, and the European Union, are closely tracking California's case because they are working to adopt similar rules.
Basically, the world is watching this process and may impose financial penalties on Tar Sands sourced oil. With this as the backdrop we can understand why our government is behaving badly in Europe.
UK 'extraordinarily naive' over Canada's tar sands lobbying
The Canadian government has repeatedly argued that the EU proposal, under the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), is unworkable. According to a UK Foreign Office document released under Freedom of Information rules, a London-based Canadian diplomat called Sushma Gera met her UK counterparts on 21 October.

"Sushma told me that the US consideration of similar measures had just failed, as it was 'unimplementable'. She promised to send further details," reads the record of the meeting. The only similar measures in the US are being delivered by California's Air Resources Board, which has now written to Europe's Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard, to clear up what the ARB describes tactfully as a "misunderstanding".

The ARB letter, which I have seen, is a clear rebuttal of the Canadian arguments and states: "The principle of accounting for the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of transportation fuels, including those associated with the production and transportation of crude oil, continues to be an important feature of the [Californian] Low Carbon Fuel Standard." The measures are clearly alive and well, not failed.
Meanwhile, the XL project is political fodder in the USA. The Republicans put in a ridiculous timeline which of course was not feasible. However, people are being naive if they think the project is gone.
Why Keystone Pipeline Project May Get Built After All
In December, Congress passed an extension of the payroll tax cut. Inserted in this bill was a deadline of 60 days for the White House to approve the Keystone permit.

However, the State Department had already said it would need more time to evaluate the economic and environmental impact of the pipeline extension, which has the ultimate goal of bringing crude from Canada's oil sands down the middle of the country to the Gulf states.

"This has been 100 percent politics," said Dan Dicker, president of MercBloc and long-time oil trader. "You can re-route all the oil anyway and the pipeline operators are doing it, and planning on it. It will be resubmitted and approved in the next iteration after the election, 100% assured."
In conclusion, it seems Harper is between a rock and a hard place. He can anger millions of Canadians and push through yet another unpopular policy, the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, or he can face abject rejection in Alberta if the western world rejects the Tar Sands. If California penalizes Tar Sands oil then it is very likely a wave of US states and the European community will do so. This explains why China has become so important that the government is willing to consort with domestic propaganda puppets and label everyone concerned about environmental issues a radical.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winning Against Dirty Politics

How are we going to get the next Liberal Party candidate past the opposition Super PAC's and their coordinated attack ads?

Just in case Bob Rae was thinking of entering the fray, which many Liberals are not very interested in anyway, the so-called National Citizens Coalition released an opening salvo:


Apparently a lot of folks, both left and right, didn't appreciate this video.

I actually do have some concrete ideas concerning how to combat these types of things but I simply don't think I'm going to write them down. At least not publicly.

Instead, I'll refer you to my New Year's resolution...

XL: The Zombie Pipeline

Wait, did you think the XL pipeline was dead?

Don't be silly. This pipeline is still on target... it just wasn't given quick approval during the false deadline artificially imposed by US conservatives.
Why Keystone Pipeline Project May Get Built After All
In December, Congress passed an extension of the payroll tax cut. Inserted in this bill was a deadline of 60 days for the White House to approve the Keystone permit.

However, the State Department had already said it would need more time to evaluate the economic and environmental impact of the pipeline extension, which has the ultimate goal of bringing crude from Canada's oil sands down the middle of the country to the Gulf states.

"This has been 100 percent politics," said Dan Dicker, president of MercBloc and long-time oil trader. "You can re-route all the oil anyway and the pipeline operators are doing it, and planning on it. It will be resubmitted and approved in the next iteration after the election, 100% assured."
What does this mean? It means that Harper's Harpies have no justification for pushing ahead the Gateway project based on this issue. If we had to choose between the two the XL proposal is much better for our environment, our BC First Nation's, and for Canada.

Of course, while there may be alternatives to having either pipeline, it seems that we are unlikely to consider them.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Is the NCC a Super PAC?

It's obvious, isn't it?

If you've been watching American television, and who hasn't during the recent GOP convention Olympics, you know that Super PACs are third party funded operatives who do things on behalf of candidates.

They do things that candidates can't do. For example, they can raise unlimited amounts of money.

You tell me, is the NCC a Super PAC or not?

Tory Malfeasance Review

I haven't spent all that much time collecting links but already this is starting to get impressive. Here's a short trip down memory lane:

Tory Malfeasance Articles

Friends... The Harper Government, Ethical Oil..., Desmogblog, 2012-01-20
Lunch with the RCMP? Speak to the Minister, Globe and Mail, 2012-01-19
Deputy Director of Climate Change, Canada II, 2012-01-03
Why MacKay's Helicopter Ride Touches..., Globe and Mail, 2011-12-02
Email's Contradict MacKay's Explanation..., Globe and Mail, 2011-12-01
Harper Government Falls... Found in Contempt, Globe and Mail 2011-03-25
The Harper Government's Tipping Point, Globe and Mail, 2011-03-08
Former Tory MPs Speak Out..., Globe and Mail, 2011-03-04
Court Quashes Decision Tories Hailed..., Globe and Mail, 2011-03-01
Ezra Levant Ordered To Pay $25000..., Rabble.ca, 2010-11-24
Vigna v. Levant 2010 ONSC 6308 [PDF], Superior Court of Justice, 2010-11-18
Soros Threatening To Sue Sun Media, Globe and Mail, 2010-09-17
Financier Boasted of His Ties to Bikers, The Star, 2010-04-10
Jaffer's Drunk Driving Charges Dropped, CBC, 2010-03-10
Tories Bristle When Asked to Explain Jaffer's..., Globe and Mail, 2010-03-09
PM Shuts Down Parliament until March, CBC, 2009-12-30
Drug, Drunk Driving Charges Dropped, The Star, 2010-09-09
Jaffer Facing Drug, DUI Charges, Globe and Mail, 2009-09-16
Altered Ad Invoice Began Tory Troubles, The Star, 2008-04-22
Mounties Search Tory Headquarters, CBC, 2008-04-15

Oilsands Articles

Friends... The Harper Government, Ethical Oil..., Desmogblog, 2012-01-20
Unethical Oil: Questions of Fraud?, Canada II, 2012-01-16
Ethical Oil Political Connections, Part 1..., Deep Climate, 2012-01-13
Cozy Ties: Astroturf 'Ethical Oil' and Conservative..., Desmogblog, 2012-01-13
Ethical Oil: Domestic Puppets, Canada II, 2012-01-13
The Real Foreign Interests in the Oilsands, Ottawa Citizen, 2012-01-12
Sierra Club vs Ethical Oil (full), CBC Power and Politics, 2012-01-12
Northern Gateway Debate a Tale of Two Provinces, Vancouver Sun, 2012-01-09
Environmentalists Hit Back Over Pipeline Hearings, The Star, 2012-01-09
Radicals Working Against Oilsands, Ottawa Says, Globe and Mail, 2012-01-09
An Open Letter from Joe Oliver, Natural Resources Canada, 2012-01-09
Unethical Oil and its Canadian Friends, Vancouver Observer, 2012-01-08
China's Oil Sands Deal Will Have Lasting Impact, Globe and Mail, 2012-01-04
The Brilliance of Ethical Oil, Canada II, 2011-12-31
Oilsands PR Battle Goes After Chaquita Bananas, The Star, 2011-12-19

Over time I hope to collect loads of information pointing out the ridiculous nature of the Harper government and their hypocritical actions.  For now, this is accumulating on the initiatives page of this blog.

However, keep in mind, whining about Tory bad behavior has not lead to election success so far!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Capitalism is the Crisis

I know some people think that the profit motive is perfect but it's not. It's incredibly efficient at allocating resources but it doesn't take into account the needs of human beings that aren't expressed in terms of profit and expense:


This is the full video, from YouTube.

You may want to wait until you have about an hour and a half of free time before you start watching it. I'll add it to the awakening page -- especially since it's free -- where other resources are highlighted.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Are These Joe Oliver's Radical Environmentalists?

Read the testimony of First Nations chiefs as they talk about their stewardship of and relationship with their lands.
No oil pipeline here: Enbridge Northern Gateway...
Chief Alfonse Gagnon told how, when Enbridge first proposed the pipeline, the Wet'suwet'en researched the oil sands. They flew over the oil sands and talked to the Fort Chippewa people. "We seen the devastation sitting there at oil sands," he said. "Those big berms by the Athabasca River. We looked at the effects on the people that are living in the area. Their water was poisoned and they were getting strange cancers. It was devastating to our ears. The Athabasca delta produced everything in their life: muskrat, beavers, ducks, provided everything they needed. It was hard to listen to the answers to our questions. I asked, "What is your biggest fear if they keep producing oil sands above you?" They answered, "Our biggest fear is that we will be relocated."
Do yourself a favor and read the article, it's moving.

In case you didn't notice Joe Oliver's rant... you can read it on the Natural Resources Canada web site.

Ethical Oil: Ties That Bind

There is a good article on HuffPo today that details the links between the Harper government and the Ethical Oil propaganda group.  Take a look at the following chart:


Of course, you know I have suspicions concerning where the money is coming from and going to. Finally, if you aren't aware of the work done to debunk the Ethical Oil crew yet then take a look... see the links at the bottom of the article for hours of fun.

This type of network of involvement shouldn't even be suggested, much less exist, in a government attempting to appear like it is operating above the board.

Wait, it's not over yet, check out this blatant example of corporate interests interfering in the interests of those governed by a corrupt government (from the GCN):


Of course, don't forget to go visit HuffPo and the GCN.

Finally, if you haven't heard it from me before, please go look into how corporate influence subverts the will and well-being of the general public.  And, once again, especially with big money lobbyists in the mix, go look at my concerns versus funding shenanigans.

Wake up, before what you think of Canada is all gone.

Well, what do you know, within minutes of posting this I see the following traffic...


The IP address and time have been blocked out to protect the (potentially) innocent. Who knows, maybe there is a hidden Liberal hiding out up there cheering us on...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Unethical Oil: Questions of Fraud?

Given that folks associated with Ethical Oil have been attempting to drive public opinion via use of propaganda we are left to wonder what other ethical lapses might they have.

The following image shows a capital management company searching for the post office box known to be or have been used to accept donations for both Ethical Oil and Tony Clement:


[ Please read the links provided above. Without the background information the following questions will be somewhat out of context. ]

Of course this doesn't prove anything, and the company shall remain nameless unless requested by appropriate authorities, but the crack team at Canada II does have some questions:

1) Fiduciary Responsibility?

The company in question provides resources for creating and managing international financial structures in order to deal with tax planning, estate planning and asset protection. They have a highly qualified team that provides multi-jurisdictional help involving law, taxes, and accounting who can help a group meet all reporting requirements.


2) Asset Management?

According to the company web site successful achievement of a client's goals depends on a customized wealth management plan.  The company in question provides high net worth clients a variety of asset classes diversified across multiple currencies and countries. Clients have tools to manage their affairs wherever they are in the world.

3) Why Check for the PO Box?

Personal curiosity of an employee within the company? Worried about having a client being pressured via Internet exposure? Worried about the implications of looking after the affairs of a client that may soon be involved in a scandal?

4) Who's Sending Money?

Donations from ordinary citizens for ordinary purposes at the very least. Donations for Tony Clement. Donations for Ethical Oil. Other donations? Donations from oil companies? Donations from Chinese companies?

5) Who Set Up the Accounts?

Was it Ezra Levant? Was it Ethical Oil? Was it a large foreign controlled corporation (the concept of projection on the part of Ethical Oil members would tend to favor this)?

6) What is the Scope?

Are we talking thousands of dollars? Probably more if it requires asset management. Hundreds of thousands? Millions?

7) How Many Groups Are Involved?

We believe that there are direct ties between Ethical Oil and politicians. Not often do politicians secretly get into bed with other organizations if there is no money involved. What people are involved and what is their level of responsibility in or what influence do they have on our government? We have seen that Joe Oliver, Stephen Harper and other high level politicians were very quick to jump on the Ethical Oil, Chaquita Banana and Foreign Influence bandwagons.

8) Is Everything Legal?

Well, the appearance of a scandal in the making doesn't mean that there is a scandal. However, it might be best if Ethical Oil and Tony Clement opened up some books for examination otherwise the public may be forced to come to it's own conclusions.

NOTE: Obviously, this is all speculation and questions. Something smells. It is completely possible (even likely) that the smell emanating from Ethical Oil and certain political operatives has absolutely nothing to do with the company in question. Given how embarrassing it might be for Canada we truly hope that there is nothing untoward going on... but there is a loose thread and it's our responsibility to see where it leads.

Addendum

Hey, isn't there some missing money floating around somewhere? Didn't we have some surprising unexplained cost overruns? Where did your tax money go? Aren't questions great?

Hey, wouldn't it make sense to throw a chunk of money somewhere and then use it to drive an agenda? Would it make sense that people with a demonstrated lack of ethics would be the ones doing such a thing? Would it make sense that everyone swirling around the whirlpool would be sharing web sites, involvement in its initiatives, and so on?

We love questions!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Unethical Oil: Who's Funding Whom?

The JSL Report blog brings some new information to light on the Ethical Oil controversy. Notice that Ethical Oil and Tony Clement have or had the same donation address.
Tony Clement Should Resign: Ethical Oil-Gate

About EthicalOil.org | Ethical Oil (link)
P.O. Box 1047, 31 Adelaide Street East, Toronto, ON M5C 2K4.


Free Dominion – Principled Conservative – Party and... (link)
Tony Clement Campaign
PO Box 1047, 31 Adelaide St. East Toronto, ON M5C 2K4


Good catch. We need to dig up who's funding whom with all of this!

There are a lot of ways that money could be misdirected between all the parties involved in this little game. Some investigation is in order to make sure salaries and expenses from one organization are not funding the efforts of another.

Addendum

Full credit goes to The JLS Report -- I simply wanted to make sure screen captures were present and suggest a few questions that need asking.

Building a Policy Platform

I obviously won't say that I've got a complete policy platform in place but I will suggest I've got a few good pieces of timber selected:
  • Legalize pot. Tax it. Reduce crime. Raise revenue and reduce expenses.
  • Ignore monarchy issue. We already brought home the constitution not too long ago.
  • Energy self-sufficiency. Huge economic benefit by spending our money on local energy.
  • Risk analysis. Free market corporations do this, so should we -- re: climate.
  • World engagement. We have interests in the world and good relations help achieve them.
  • Military readiness. It is important to have a capable military; less so to actually deploy it.
  • Government reform. Most important, root out economic influence on politicians.
I think that is enough to go on for. Obviously, how to achieve each of these issues can be argued but in concept none of them should be too problematic for Canadians. I can imagine that foreign interests might prefer we pursue other paths.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Regarding Dion's Electoral Reform Concerns

Dion raises a few concerns about Harper government senate reform initiatives and how to bring Liberal reform ideas to the table without suffering from shades of the past.
Dion says Senate Reform Bill Will Weaken...
Mr. Dion said all the government’s bills to reform the Senate have been bad, including the most recent, Bill C-7 to reform the Senate with tenure limits and elections, which he called "the worst one." He said the bill will weaken Canada's democratic system.

"At the end of the day, you will have two elected Chambers, the House and the Senate. I'm not against electing Parliamentarians. I think it's dangerous to do that if you don't have a dispute mechanism between the two Chambers," he said.

[...]

"I'm interested in all of these proposals under discussion and I'm supportive of them, but I wonder about how they're going to be perceived in presentation," said Jeff Ravetts, a delegate from the riding of Scarborough Southwest, Ont. "As we talk about doing government differently, electing government differently, we're still under discussion as the 'natural governing party of Canada' so, if we make demands that are different from the way we governed for a number of years, as we request transparency, which we didn't necessarily provide, as we ask for proportional representation when we spent so long benefiting from a lack of a proportional representation and democratic reform, how do we present that without assuming an air of hypocrisy?
First, I don't think there is much that can be done about whatever the conservatives choose to do with respect to senate reform. Their have been enough appointments to the senate recently that whatever this particular ship is carrying it's probably going to sail.

However, there is plenty of time to come up with a better plan and replace any legislation that was apparently flawed after a resounding election win. Yes, I know, you'll hear a lot of scoffing today, but something to keep in mind is that whatever bad news comes down the pipeline before then, it won't have been the fault of the liberals because there aren't any in power.

Recently, I wrote a post about revamping the election process. Calling for proportional representation in the house, based on the current riding system, with the current system's allocation of house members being used to fill the senate instead.

Based on recent concerns I'd simply add that we give the house, as the proportional body, the pants in the family. The senate would be subservient, performing a similar role to now, unless it were to muster a 66% threshold in which case it could stop a piece of legislation.

To flesh things out a bit -- the proportional system that I've proposed would reward those that best represented the will of the people locally. Not voting on issues that suit local needs would quickly find someone else elected for the riding in question. At the same time parties would still have to find ways to work together to form and maintain a government.

Perhaps less obvious is the fact that it would allow people to cast their vote exactly how they wished. Under the current model people have to be concerned that votes can be split -- giving a riding to a candidate for which the majority of the people voted against. This would broaden the discussion and allow less mainstream views to be heard.

These are things we need.

However, the big question is whether or not we have enough courage to stand up for what is right even if it risks the ability to win the election. Put a plan on the table, suggest it will involve a referendum to implement, and then lay down a platform of governance independent of the plan. Do both based on principles and beliefs and simply let the people decide.

Canada's Access to Information Act

Let's get some information out concerning the access to information process currently available in Canada.

For those looking for intimate legal details here is the Access to Information Act itself. The forms to fill out are available online from the Treasury Board of Canada's web site:
Access to Information Request
Determine which federal government institution is most likely to have the information you are seeking.

To apply for information under the Access to Information Act, complete the Access to Information Request Form. Describe the information being sought and provide any relevant details necessary to help the institution find it. If you require assistance, refer to Sources of Federal Government and Employee Information for a description of program records held by the institution or contact its Access to Information Coordinator.
There are some fees involved depending on the type of information requested and the source departments involved. You'll need to send your request to the appropriate Access to Information and Privacy Coordinators for the departments involved. It may be worth an email or a call to the appropriate party to make sure the details are up to date.

There are some tangled links between government sites but the confusion seems to lead eventually to the web site of the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada. Importantly, their page entitled Making an ATIA Request to the OIC contains the following snippet:
Also, a list of all requests made ... to the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada under the Access to Information Act can be found here for quick reference.
The page referred to is the Completed ATIA Requests page. Note that you can request a copy of these previously completed requests.

However, as noted by the CBC, there are some remaining issues with respect to how this policy has been implemented by the government.

After all this I have one remaining question. If I find dirt on the government through an ATIA request will anyone know that I made the request? Given the behavior of the Harper government I'd rather not make myself visible to them. Strange that a citizen would feel that way isn't it?

Addendum

Here is an interesting article on The Star explaining why Canada's freedom of information system is in a shambles...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ethical Oil: Domestic Puppets

It turns out that Ethical Oil and Our Decision are really domestic puppets. First, let's check out Kathryn Marshall on CBC's Power and Politics to defend her groups claims about environmental groups (go to 4:43 to get to the point quickly):


Now, as you know I've been stating that it's obvious that Ethical Decision (really, why pretend they are truly different organizations) is a government shill wrapped in the pretense of being a grass-roots organization.  If you were paying attention a few weeks ago you would have seen clear synchronization between Harper, key players, and the Ethical Decision team.

While it was originally obvious, the clip above starting around the 4:43 point really drove home how much of an attack dog front group this was.  However, additional stunning evidence has come to light.  It turns out spokesperson Kathryn Marshall, whom I refer to as The Drivelist, is married to one Haimish Marshall. So what right?
Haimish I Marshall, Chief Research Office, Abingdon
Before Angus Reid, Marshall was the Manager of Strategic Planning in the Office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper where he oversaw the quantitative and qualitative research efforts of the central agencies of the federal government... He is married to Kathryn.
Now, I realize that some heavy kool-aid drinkers will never be convinced, but the coordination with the Harper government, the rampant propaganda and spin used by Ethical Decision, and last but not least the direct ties to Harper's office drives the last nail into the coffin of doubt. More about radical conservative activist Haimish Marshall from blog Conservative Home:
After working on the successful national Conservative campaign in 2006, he served as the Manager of Strategic Planning in the Office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper until September 2007. He is a well known strategist and activist trainer within Conservative circles.
I think the proposed pipeline may be Harper's Moby Dick. He'll ride this whale to damnation for himself and his party. Yippee-Ki-Yay Motherfucker! Enjoy the ride...

Addendum

The twitterverse is really tearing this apart. Check out the following pictures from @stephenlautens posted originally on twitter:


Check out more of the neighborhood:


How much could you need? Okay, here you go...

Federal Documents Spark Outcry by Oil Sands..., Globe and Mail, 2012-01-26
Whistleblower claims PMO Tried to Silence..., Marketwire, 2012-01-24
Unethical Oil: Questions of Fraud?, Canada II, 2012-01-16
Ethical Oil, the Sub Prime Mortgage Crisis and..., Desmogblog, 2012-01-15
Ethical Oil Political Connections, Part 1..., Deep Climate, 2012-01-13
Cozy Ties: Astroturf 'Ethical Oil' and Conservative..., Desmogblog, 2012-01-13
Ethical Oil: Domestic Puppets, Canada II, 2012-01-13
The Real Foreign Interests in the Oilsands, Ottawa Citizen, 2012-01-12
Sierra Club vs Ethical Oil (full), CBC Power and Politics, 2012-01-12
Northern Gateway Debate a Tale of Two Provinces, Vancouver Sun, 2012-01-09
Environmentalists Hit Back Over Pipeline Hearings, The Star, 2012-01-09
Radicals Working Against Oilsands, Ottawa Says, Globe and Mail, 2012-01-09
An Open Letter from Joe Oliver, Natural Resources Canada, 2012-01-09
Unethical Oil and its Canadian Friends, Vancouver Observer, 2012-01-08
China's Oil Sands Deal Will Have Lasting Impact, Globe and Mail, 2012-01-04
The Brilliance of Ethical Oil, Canada II, 2011-12-31
Oilsands PR Battle Goes After Chaquita Bananas, The Star, 2011-12-19

UPDATED: Link to YouTube video was no longer working. Changed to use direct link to CBC's video archive.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Radical Free Market Capitalists vs Public Good

Anyone who hasn't consumed free market think tank generated kool-aid will find truth in the following snippet:
In Defence of the Public Sphere
For longer than anyone can remember, conversations about the public sphere have been dominated by relentless bashing of everything public per se as inefficient, wasteful, and corrupt -- public transit, public services, public education, public infrastructure, public-sector unions, and so forth. 
Such bashing, accurate or otherwise, has invariably been coupled with the corollary assumption that the private sector is inherently better and more efficient. 
If the last couple of years have accomplished anything, they ought to have put the lie to that. The financial and industrial elites have been remarkably efficient at lining their own pockets (much of the time with our money), but at advancing the public good? Please.
I think you can narrow down the concept of public good by finding very obvious public bads. For example, if a company pollutes the water such that consuming it threatens health, then a public bad has occurred.

Free market economists do not always measure the cost of such a bad. In fact, free market economics doesn't measure anything that is not expressed in terms of money. The problem is that many things happen that aren't visibly defined by money.

This is the little secret of the free market economists. Or, perhaps, it shows that they can only think in terms of money. Public bads, referred to as "externalities" in economics, have simply been driven out of the public discourse. Sadly, the concept of public good has been driven out as well.

If you go back in history, you'll find that whenever something is not noticed, such as various forms of pollution, people will suffer until it can be proven that an economic activity is the source of the issue -- and only then can action finally be taken. This also explains big oils efforts to fund studies to obfuscate the nature of climate change.

Our society needs to find a way to either recreate commercial enterprise so that it is able to focus on the public good as well as profit or to recognize that there are often hidden costs that are not currently showing up on a balance sheet. This is where government is supposed to step in and protect the public interest.

The global financial crisis, for example, was brought about by a lack of governance. Rules were relaxed, activities were explicitly excluded from governance, and inappropriate levels of risk were taken. Reducing the risks to society are the reason Canadian banks were regulated -- which did reduce their ability to participate in some free market reindeer games, thankfully for us.

The idea of adding the cost to society of greenhouse emissions to the balance sheet is where the C02 cap and trade proposals originate. It would impact industries based on the size of their carbon footprint. It would force society to adjust to an economy that generated less C02. A lot of companies don't like the idea of being less profitable when having to pony up for environmental impact.

Tell me, where does the Canadian and global public good reside on the C02 issue?

Bonus reading... discussion of emissions trading on wikipedia.
Bonus reading... how corporations erode government concern for civil issues.

Dickwad Politicians Cry About Mean Tweets

Funny, I thought those in public office were used to dealing with amateur commentary.
Fantino tirade targets 'slanderous' Twitter users
"Recently, I had the occasion to peruse a number of so-called tweets between a number of users, whose communications back and forth included the most flagrant defamatory reference to local community-spirited individuals whom I personally know to be decent, ethical and truly honorable people," he wrote.

"All of which caused me to think that the authors of those communications must naively believe that the Internet gives them protection from the reaches of legal consequences, that communications over the Internet are somehow protected by the notion of freedom of speech or that their anonymity is guaranteed."
I don't know about you, but I'm not about to change my tweeting style because of some sanctimonious ass.  This is double true when said ass'es government is working with transparently flagrant propaganda groups attempting to influence public opinion.

Frankly, after Tony Clements screw-up on twitter and Joe Oliver's rant about decent, ethical and truly honorable people, I can only hope said dickwad is planning on chasing down government operatives abusing citizens and taxpayers in this manner.

However, I suspect that this is more likely a sly attempt to scare some people away from saying negative things about incompetent, greedy and unethical politicians who aren't worthy of being human seat warmers for the positions of power they occupy.

The whole thing would be hilarious if it wasn't such a clown act.

Frankly, I do actually assume that except for certain types of statements towards non-public figures that I am protected by free speech. Does Canada no longer allow free speech? Inquiring citizens want to know.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Yes Minister

Oops, it looks like if you talk politics long enough on Twitter that you'll end up getting a friendly governmental visit:



Interestingly, I think I know which tweet resulted in this visit. It had something to do with decrying the blatant childish propaganda being spewed by Twitter accounts Ethical Oil and Our Decision.

These two shills for the government are visibly skewed and never bother to mention all the foreign money involved in both the oil sands and the pipeline proposal.

More posts about oil sands issues.

Claiming: 9YW94AENWAHK

Monday, January 9, 2012

Harper Agenda: Americanize Canada

Goodbye wheat board. Elections in the senate. Militaristic stance on world affairs. Shunning UN. The equivalent of "Drill, Baby, Drill." Good Christ, I'm living in the US!

Remember the phrase... you won't recognize Canada when I get through with it.

Canada doesn't need to be a little US. We aren't going to achieve anything by copying our gridlocked and partisan friends from the south. We don't need a Prime Minister who considers himself a demigod who can make his own rules.

Fuck me, we have to find a way to hang onto our Country!

We need to start finding ways to keep the powers of the Prime Minister in check. The job of citizens has always been to keep power from eroding rights.

Oil Sands: Trouble for the Government?

I think there is room for a dark horse to enter into oil sands pipeline debate.

Consider if you will the position of the US on selling Canadian oil to China. We already have Chinese ownership of one oil sands project and I can almost guarantee that China has plenty of money on the table if the  Gateway project gets the green light.

What will Uncle Sam think? Though I doubt Uncle Sam has the nads to stand up to big oil these days I do think his relative the military-industrial complex does. Especially when you add all the hawks hiding in government agencies with three letter acronyms.

Here is one scenario for you. Companies, such as one causing a ruckus in London Ontario, wreak havoc on public perception of the Harper government. XL or else! We have many companies that are foreign owned which would be willing to make a stink if it meant breaking a union and suddenly getting great concessions across the border.

How this one plays out is ongoing delays from the US while we slowly come to the conclusion that BC wants to maintain a tanker moratorium -- and Harper can back down saying he doesn't want to step into the provincial domain in this regard any more than he does for health care.

Magically, after a reasonable period of time so it doesn't look too connected, the XL project gets under way with some added environmental protection to give the incumbent at the time something to crow about for the left while talking jobs and economy for the right.

Unfortunately, I can't see the development of the oil sands being stopped, no matter whether or not a pipeline is built.

I guess we can hope for the lessor of all evils? How many examples would it take to rile the citizens before our majority mad government would decide to care about the consequences.

Addendum:

The following article, from TheStar, about the Harper government trying to find ways past the regular approval process due to the length of time it will take raises some interesting questions:
  • Would this imply the Harper government is playing hardball?
  • Is energy a Moby Dick for Harper?
  • Will bulling through the Gateway project spell the end for Harper?
  • Is there enough hidden money on the line he'll sink the conservative party in the process?
Stay tuned, this looks to be an interesting if pricey proposition.