Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday Morning Links

Some light reading to end your work week...

- Andrew Potter highlights the obvious response to the Cons' determination to eliminate reasoned discussion by focusing on gut-level politics instead:
(T)he ultimately more effective instrument is the control of language itself. The Tories have spent the past year rolling out a few slogans, most of them aimed at framing the terms of debate for the next election. And so we’ve heard the Prime Minister repeatedly tell us that “losers don’t get to form governments,” that the Liberals will form a coalition with “socialists and separatists,” and, now, that anyone who supports the long-gun registry is a member of an urban elite. It’s a straight-up appeal to the gut, aimed at short-circuiting more sophisticated thinking.

As the Tories’ resilience at the polls suggests, gut-level politics is incredibly effective, which is why George Lakoff suggested that the only real option for the Democrats would be to engage to Republicans on their own terms—take back the White House by taking back the dictionary. It is increasingly clear that you can’t win in modern politics by having evidence or good ideas on your side, and so it might be time for the opposition in Canada to take their cue from the Democrats down south, start fighting the Tories on their own turf. For example, Stéphane Dion would have had an easier time selling his Green Shift plan if the phrase “tax bads, not goods” had even once passed his lips. More radically, the opposition might want to try reframing the anti-gun registry crowd as the “death lobby.”
- I've spent plenty of time discussing the "coalition" angle on the Cons' scare tactics. Now, Chris Selley takes on the "separatist" side and finds it equally unreasonable:
It’s often said that until Quebecers decide they want to participate in the governance of Canada — i.e., by voting Liberal, Conservative or NDP — we’ll just have to live with the appalling consequences of officially separatist MPs infesting the House of Commons. I have no time for the argument. The Quebecers who don’t want to participate in federal governance don’t vote in federal elections. If we were willing to swallow our dusty, antiquated hardcore federalist pride, we could make the system work better — which is to say, as it’s supposed to work — right now.

Never mind the fact the Bloc’s MPs often seem more honestly concerned for Canadian democracy than the other parties‚ (even if they’re only concerned insofar as it benefits Quebec). The Canadian Alliance was perfectly willing to negotiate with the Bloc in 2000 if the Liberals hadn’t won their third consecutive majority. In 2006 the House of Commons voted 266 to 16 to declare that les Québécois “form a nation within a united Canada.” On Wednesday night, the House went further — voting unanimously to censure Maclean’s magazine for having “denigrate[d] the Quebec nation” (my emphasis). The federalist high road was demolished years ago. The October Crisis was four decades ago. As Mme. Jean’s tenure as governor-general proves yet again, the federalist/separatist divide is not nearly as wide or as bitter as politicians like us to think. There’s no point continuing the charade.
- Eric Reguly comments on the wider implications of BHP Billiton's bid for PCS:
So should the Canadian government prevent BHP from scooping Potash Corp. into its voracious maw? Ignoring the fact that potash is a strategic, irreplaceable resource that prevents mass starvation, why should Canada allow companies that are actually or effectively takeover-proof to buy homegrown corporate hotties?
Most subsidiaries, regardless or their size, have no say in the company’s important financial, legal, human resources and financing decisions. That, in turn, means that the spinoff benefits, such as the use of local lenders, legal teams and the like, are nil to negative. Tax, or lack thereof, is another big consideration. Typically, foreign buyers load up their new foreign subsidiaries with debt, all the better to minimize the local tax hit. Is that what BHP has in mind for Potash Corp.? If Investment Canada isn’t asking that question, there’s something wrong. If it isn’t legally allowed to ask that question, there’s something even more wrong.

BHP may be a fine owner of Potash Corp. Then again, it may not. If Investment Canada won’t block the takeover of a company that doesn’t need taking over, it has to ensure “net benefit” means as much. BHP can afford to deliver what the agency demands. It’s just that its demands for the last quarter century have been laughable. As a result, Canada is turning into a branch plant, A Mari usque ad Mare.
- Finally, it's well worth highlighting the Harper Cons' hiring of more and more executive staff even as they tell everybody else in the country to cut back. But can somebody ask Brian Lilley to either explain the building management implications of hiring increased numbers of "guys in the corner offices", or use language that actually describes the executive's function rather than burying the facts under a pile of inaccurate descriptions?

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