Saturday, July 02, 2011

Parliament In Review: June 16, 2011

While June 16 was a shortened day due to the NDP's weekend convention, it wasn't lacking for a few notes of interest.

Issue of the Day

While the Cons took the opportunity to serve notice of their intention to impose back-to-work legislation at Air Canada, the NDP's focus on pensions offered an ideal response - encapsulated in Jack Layton's question which of course received a typical non-response from Stephen Harper:
The government should not be getting involved so early on in the process and picking winners. The workers are currently fighting to protect their pensions. They do not have a choice, because the government did not do what was necessary to strengthen and protect the retirement pensions of workers here in Canada.

Why does the government want to impose a pension model that leaves people to fend for themselves?
Meanwhile, the Cons seem to have somewhat anticipated the issue, using one of their members' statements to criticize the NDP for having an interest in improving the Canada Pension Plan. No word yet on their progress in excising all references to Jim Flaherty proposing exactly the same thing.

Cooperation Runs Amok

The day saw several outbreaks of civility in various forms - including a round of mutual back-patting on the mega-trials bill which all parties agreed to pass, and Elizabeth May asking a question to enable Irwin Cotler to finish a speech which got cut off. But the spirit may have gone a bit too far in a round of "points of order" which were nothing of the sort in response to the news of an Air Canada settlement.

In Brief

Within the debate on the mega-trials bill, Joe Comartin took the opportunity to point out the Cons' habit of trotting out the same victims of crime on multiple occasions in support of legislation they themselves kept from passing. Peggy Nash introduced a private members' bill against animal cruelty. And the Cons offered some signal as to how they plan to deal with the NDP's ascent to Official Opposition status: by simply whiting out "Liberal" and replacing it with "NDP" in repeating their stale attacks.

Saturday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Janice Kennedy highlights the consequences of turning back the clock 80 years when it comes to collective bargaining rights:
In the world of Stephen Harper and Co., big business rules. Period. The concept of workers' rights, especially unionized workers' rights, is a nuisance to be swatted away.

The proposition is elementary. Either you believe in collective bargaining and, therefore, in the right of workers to strike. Or you don't.

Clearly the new Conservative government does not.

So they're turning back the clock to an earlier time, a time when labour rights were minimal and unions were great collective personae non gratae. And life here is getting a whole lot simpler.

Not better, though. We are now moving into an era where issues are defined without nuance or subtlety in strict black and white. These days, there are only bad guys and good, and, in labour relations, the battle lines are clear: the ones with the power - whether corporate bosses or government decisionmakers - are the good guys.

Everyone else? Not so much. Especially unionized workers. Especially unionized striking workers. And if you can portray these workers as overpaid, underqualified slackers who exploit contract provisions to greedy personal advantage, working just a fraction as hard as hard-working non-unionized Canadians - why, so much the better. Then the picket line becomes the turf of the out-and-out baddies.
To point to the bad apples and extrapolate is irrational and simplistic. Equally simplistic is the conviction that waving a big stick will make troubles disappear, that justifying the use of legislative force on the flimsiest of grounds is the way to labour harmony and greater productivity.

And yet, here we are. This is the new Canadian landscape. We'd better get used to it.
- But then, as Thomas Walkom notes, the Cons have already done plenty to prove they're neither willing nor able to govern competently, with the AECL selloff looming as just the most recent example:
(T)axpayers aren’t guaranteed any money from this sale. In fact, when the back and forth is totalled (Lavalin gives Ottawa $15 million; Ottawa gives Lavalin $75 million), we end up paying $60 million for the privilege of no longer owning that chunk of AECL.

Lavalin gets the lion’s share of the nuclear technology company’s $1.1 billion worth of assets — including land, buildings and tools.

The public, on the other hand, is stuck with all of all of AECL’s $4.5 billion worth of liabilities.

That means, says Lavalin vice-president Leslie Quinton, that the public is still responsible for decommission existing AECL atomic reactors and disposing of their waste.

Canadian taxpayers are also on the hook for any cost overruns from past and current AECL projects, including an estimated $1 billion that New Brunswick says it is owed for its Point Lepreau nuclear power station.

Oh yes. And Lavalin is expected to lay off at least 40 per cent of AECL’s 2,000-person commercial reactor division. Most are scientists and engineers.

In short, we pay Lavalin to take the good stuff and slash high-tech jobs. We’re left with the debts — plus the promise of unspecified royalties in the future.

Which is a pretty good deal for the Montreal-based firm. If I’d known what patsies Harper’s Conservatives are, I’d have tried to “buy” AECL.
As the only bidder, Lavalin was in the driver’s seat. It took full advantage of its position. Who can blame it?

Blame instead the government. Conservatives insist that government has no business being in business. The hapless AECL saga suggests rather that Conservatives have no business being in government.
- Fortunately, Brian Topp points out that voters and leaders around the world are starting to wake up to the dangers of doctrinaire right-wing government:
It is Papandreou's conclusions about the future that merit thinking about next. “Are we too weak to deal with the financial and banking system?” he asked. “Are we too weak to deal the need for transparency in the financial markets? Are we too weak to deal with the ratings agencies? Are we too weak to fight tax havens?” He noted that bond rating agencies could destroy Greece's financial plan with a single additional downgrade. They have more power over the future of Greece than its people or its Parliament, “and that is totally unacceptable.”

Precisely so – which is why responsible social democrats in all jurisdictions are, and should be, allergic to excessive reliance on debt to finance government.

This is in stark contrast to conservatives in their modern form, eager as they are to finance tax cuts for their friends and other reckless spending through public debt. Doing so provides a perfect pool shot from their perspective. The rich get richer, and government is destroyed. Perfect!

But what we are seeing on our television screens from Athens is the inevitable consequence.
The immediate financial crisis – so similar in its essentials all around the world, triggered by neo-con recklessness and misrule, and the limitless greed of financiers and speculators – needs to be addressed.

Countries around the world need to be put back on their feet -- to survive, and to win, as Papandreou says.

And the root causes of all of this madness needs to be addressed in the style Prime Minister Papandreou is using to address the crisis here in Greece, against overwhelming odds – calmly, thoughtfully, and with determination.
- Finally, Sixth Estate catches the Fraser Institute citing out-of-date disclosure guidelines in an attempt to pretend it's being transparent about research funding.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Musical interlude

Heatbeat - Trash


Stephen Harper describes his party's view of the type of environment needed for any industry to plan for the future and create jobs:
“Protecting and creating jobs and ensuring economic growth in all regions remains our Government's number one priority,” said Prime Minister Harper. “We will continue delivering the stability needed for the economic well-being of hard-working families, small business owners and entrepreneurs..."
Jim Flaherty describes how his party plans to treat Canada's cultural community:
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has a warning for cultural institutions that have come to rely on regular government funding: don't count on it.
On Monday, SummerWorks, an acclaimed Toronto indie theatre festival, announced it had lost its federal funding. The festival made headlines last year after staging “Homegrown,” a play about a convicted terrorist, a member of the group known as the Toronto 18.

In a note posted on its blog, the festival said it had received federal funding for five straight years — totalling $140,000 — and was surprised to learn it would not get more money this year.

But Mr. Flaherty says arts organizations should not set their budgets assuming they'll get government funds.
So having run an election campaign on the theme that no industry can succeed without a stable foundation from which to plan, the Cons have made it clear that they're demolishing any trace of stability for the arts and culture sector. Which would seem to speak volumes about how little they value Canada's cultural sector - while at the same time making it all too likely that they'll succeed in undermining it.

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Canada Day reading.

- Oh, how nice it would be to be able to take pride in Dan Gardner's message about Canada's true identity:
The level of civility seen every day at fourway stops across Canada is unheard of in countries around the world. That doesn't mean Canadians are, individually, better people than others because that civility isn't the product of careful moral deliberation.

In fact, we seldom think about civility at all. It's habit, ingrained in the culture and in us. We just do it.

And it improves our lives immeasurably, not only by making four-way stops work and traffic flow, but also by making everything function better, including the economy our prosperity depends on.

It also makes life a lot more pleasant.

Best of all, it's contagious. Think about all the immigrants this country takes in. An awful lot come from countries where saying "after you" - or holding a door open for someone else, or queuing in line - is a ridiculous thing to do.

But after some time here, what do they do when they come to a fourway stop? "After you."

And that, on this day and all others, is a reason to be proud and grateful.
- But the problem with a relatively trusting society is that it creates dangerous opportunities for anybody who views that trust as a weakness to be exploited, rather than a strength to be developed. And Susan Delacourt's list of lessons from recent political campaigns hints at the problem facing the media in dealing with a federal government which does just that:
I have a degree in politics and a career in journalism. Both are fields that were "professionalized" in the mid-to-late 20th century. The idea, popular in the 1950s and 1960s, was that everything could be a science; measurable, predictable, operating under certain, mechanized, routinized rules. (That's why kitchens, incidentally, started to be designed like hospital operating theatres in this era. Science fixed everything.)

My view is that the public is no longer "buying the science," as they say. (Shades of last year's census controversy, or, for that matter, the climate-change debate.) I think the public was more influenced by skewed, partisan ads in this election -- certainly when it came to the Liberals -- than they were by journalistic reporting or political debate on a level playing field.

I think we journalists have to grapple with the fact that the public is perhaps more willing to believe a blatant partisan report than a perhaps complicated work of journalism. Repetition works; even when the facts being repeated are wrong. It may mean that this 50-year-old experiment, treating journalism and politics as a measurable science, with absolute rights and absolute wrongs, is coming to an end. And what rises up in its place?
- Which has resulted in our country receiving the punishment pointed out by Gerald Caplan:
(T)here was only one strategy the right wing’s propagandists, organizers and billionaire financiers could now follow – sheer, unmitigated chutzpah. Instead of acknowledging a whit of responsibility, they would do the opposite, preposterous as it seems: Blame government, taxes and unions, and distract attention from the filthy rich. This quite explicit strategy has been working for several decades; why not try it again? After all, shamelessness is the signal characteristic of those who survive and prosper in this life. Sure government regulations and bailouts saved us all from an even greater crash. Sure unions in the public sector helped their members maintain a barely modest level of middle class comfort and security, the precarious embodiment of the North American dream of upward social mobility. So attack both government and unions, what else?

Of course this makes no sense of any kind, except that it’s working like a charm. It’s elected many right-wing politicians, some so far off the conventional ideological continuum they’re in a parallel universe of their own insanity. Thus the United States in the mid-term elections and the surrealistic contest for Republican presidential candidate. Thus a know-nothing union-baiting mayor in Toronto. Thus a Harper government, enabled by working class and middle class ethnic voters in Southern Ontario who somehow trusted him but distrusted a larger role for government.

Thus the sustained attacks across the United States, and now Canada, on public service employees who have been lucky enough to have unions to keep them from a life just above permanent financial anxiety. It shows the worst of human behavior and the failure of reason. Instead of solidarity with those lucky enough to hang on and with little responsibility for society’s ills, frightened, insecure people have turned mean and vindictive towards those just marginally luckier than themselves, instead of turning against those who are in fact responsible for it all.
- And all this while Canada's own corporate sector stands out even among its worldwide peers for its failure to generate meaningful social benefits alongside the pursuit of profit - as Susan Riley laments:
(T)he underlying problem is not misfiring federal attempts to help; it is a private sector that, for a variety of reasons, has long been risk-averse, or lazy, or complacent, or otherwise slow to innovate.

Too few companies, for example, are taking advantage of the strong dollar to buy new technologies.

There have been only fitful efforts to develop green technologies, or process our abundant raw materials here and create spinoff jobs. It is easier to simply export crude natural resources and collect the cash and executive bonuses - and it always has been, from the fur trade to the tarsands.

This persistent timidity, and self interest, sounds more dangerous to national prosperity than overly generous union sick day provisions.

Why has Canada never developed its own car, like Sweden? Why does a small place like Switzerland (pop. 7.8 million) have so many more iconic brands and companies than Canada - Swatch, Victorinox, Nestlé, Novartis to name a few?

Sweden is synonymous with Ikea, Holland with Shell. What company says "Canada"?
Veteran Globe and Mail business columnist Eric Reguly has an explanation: Canadian investors, he writes, "would rather take an even meagre payout today than stick with a company for years to create a world beater."

Short-term greed, in other words. We'll see if the Harper government agrees - and if it will be as ruthless with its foot-dragging ideological friends as it is with its enemies.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

On foreseeable futures

In posting about the DND's "First Look" at where Canada is headed, Mike DeSouza focuses on a seemingly throwaway sentence mentioning the Green Party. But the more striking part of DeSouza's post looks to be this:
The life expectancy for men would be 80+, and 86+ for women by 2040, the report predicted. It also said the overall population would grow to 45 million, with about 25 per cent of the population over 65 years of age.

Their (sic) top priorities of Canadians, still according to the report, would be the environment, energy efficiency, conservation and social welfare, with national unity and identity representing “key areas of concern.”
Of course, I'm sure staffers at the Manning Centre are hard at work trying to claim that set of priorities as Conservative values. (Might I suggest pretending that, say, "social welfare" will only be an issue in the sense that people want to avoid it?)

But it's rather striking that the DND's vision of Canada's future values is radically different from the one the Harper Cons are so desperately trying to pitch. And Harper himself would be well served to try to move his own party's values toward where the rest of the country is headed if he wants to have any hope of actually building a lasting governing party.

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Andrew Jackson points out and sums up a Statistics Canada study showing how much possible revenue is lost to the underground economy:
Statscan have produced interesting and important new estimates of the upper bound size of the “underground” or “non observed” economy, putting it at a seemingly modest 2.2% of GDP in 2008. (Some of this is already included in GDP which is adjusted to take into account some hidden and unreported economic activity.)
Overall, Statscan estimates that corporations made as much as $17 Billion on underground activity in 2008, about half of which was in the construction sector.

Unincorporated businesses make up a much smaller share of the economy but are much more likely to skim and not report income. The estimated maximum is $10 Billion, about one half of which comes from skimming. Underground construction and contraband sales of alcohol and tobacco also loom large for this sector.

Not to make too one-sided a moral story of it, consumers are clearly complicit in a great deal of underground economy activity, getting goods and services at lower prices than in the formal, taxed economy. The underground economy is strongest in construction and in sales of tobacco, alcohol, and domestic and child care services.

Still, you can’t help but think that more stringent auditing of businesses by the tax authorities could turn up quite a useful amount of extra revenue if there is up to $27 Billion of under and unreported business income sitting on the table.
- Greg Weston sums up the Cons' AECL giveaway:
The federal government's long-awaited deal to sell off its money-losing nuclear reactor business is more like a perpetual partnership than a sale, leaving Canadian taxpayers stuck with the fiscal fall-out for years to come.

The government-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. has announced it has finally reached a tentative deal to sell its commercial reactor development and repair division to Quebec-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

The Montreal-based company was the only suitor in the world left at the negotiating table, a fact that helps to explain why the government is effectively paying SNC-Lavalin to take over the Crown corporation.

Under the deal, SNC will pay a paltry $15 million for AECL's nuclear reactor division, plus some as yet undisclosed "royalties" on future reactor sales.

In return, the government will give SNC up to $75 million toward the development of the next generation of AECL's once internationally successful Candu reactors.

In other words, Canadian taxpayers are giving the Quebec company $60 million to take AECL off their hands.
Most of AECL's massive past liabilities and a lot of the financial risks going forward will remain exactly where they have always been — on taxpayers.

For instance, SNC-Lavalin will complete the current refurbishments of four reactor projects, but only "through subcontract service agreements with the government of Canada."

Translation: SNC-Lavalin will get paid for doing the work, but taxpayers will likely be on the hook for massive cost overruns and potential lawsuits that could run into the billions of dollars.
AECL's commercial partner in (the Chalk River) snafu, MDS Nordion, is now suing the federal agency for $1.6 billion in damages.

Of course, if putting AECL under private-sector management successfully turns the nuclear reactor company into a commercial powerhouse, the federal government could ultimately reap a windfall in royalties from the sales of CANDU nukes the world over.

The fact the deal was announced by the government on the eve of summer doldrums suggests even the new owners of AECL aren't exactly overwhelmed with optimism.
- Dan runs the numbers on how a merged NDP/Liberal party might have affected this year's election - with the results showing that even under highly optimistic assumptions, the result would have been little different from the actual outcome. Which should offer reason for both parties to agree that they're best off using their time and energy to challenge the Cons, not to try to fuse two substantially different party formations.

- And finally: lest there was any doubt, no, a declaration that the Cons might eventually release notice of future regulations which could someday be adapted to apply to oil sands production isn't a departure from their usual plan to delay, distract and do nothing on climate change.

On needless aggression

While I wrote today's column before word came out about the Harper Cons' meddling in the negotiations between Canada Post and CUPW, it looks like the Cons' desire to provoke a war with workers extended even further than I'd thought - including through their rejection of a deal which both the union and Canada Post were prepared to accept:
The NDP launched a filibuster in the House of Commons to delay the proposed law in hopes of giving more time for a negotiated settlement. Behind the scenes, Godin and fellow New Democrat MP Joe Comartin acted as go-betweens with Labour Minister Lisa Raitt and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers as well as the Canadian Labour Congress.

Interviews with officials familiar with the talks reveal they came close to breaking the stalemate.

Indeed, even before the filibuster got underway Thursday night, the NDP thought a deal had been reached with the Conservatives to amend the back-to-work legislation. The changes would have taken final offer selection off the table and provided for eight weeks mediation overseen by an arbitrator.

Emails predicted success. “Looks like this will work out,” read one email written by one person close to the talks and obtained by the Star.

But just over an hour later, the Conservatives had put the final offer back on the table and the message from Raitt’s office was “there is no deal.”
By Friday evening, both Canada Post and the union had a tentative settlement that outlined agreement on some key issues such as wage rate, according to a source. Other outstanding issues would be sent to arbitration.

But after midnight came word that Raitt’s office had apparently turned down the deal, a source said.
It's not clear whether the motive was aimed more at ensuring that the NDP couldn't claim a win, or at taking the hardest possible line with CUPW instead as a signal to other unions. But either way, there seems to be little room for dispute that the Cons were far more aggressive and unreasonable than any of the parties actually directly involved in the Canada Post bargaining process - going so far as to choose to reject an agreement which would have been possible absent their interference. And that message should serve as a red flag for workers across Canada that their federal government will be working to damage their interests at every opportunity.

Meanwhile, for those asking questions about the NDP's strategy in filibustering on motions at second reading rather than challenging the Cons more in committee, the news of the Cons' interference looks to provide a compelling explanation. It looks to have been true that Canada Post and CUPW only needed some additional time to come to a compromise - but that ceased to matter when the Cons made it clear that any resolution acceptable every other party involved would be considered unacceptable to them.

On political investments

Yes, there's plenty of reason for snark in response to the news that the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce will be (a) pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into this fall's provincial election campaign, and (b) pretending not to be doing so on behalf of the Saskatchewan Party. But let's focus instead on a couple of more substantive points we can take from the intervention.

To start with: despite what some commentators may be spouting, the corporate sector doesn't believe for a second that the election results are a foregone conclusion. And on that point, we should be eager to prove it right.

But at the same time, it's only looking to take in embarrassingly small amounts of money into the campaign compared to the freebies handed out by the Wall government. Never mind the larger-scale goodies ranging from the hundreds of millions of dollars (head office tax incentives, private power generation contracts) to potentially the billions (resource revenues); even the highest suggested donation level instead looks to be for a tiny fraction of the money Wall has handed out in the past just to have selected industries write their wish lists.

In other words, Saskatchewan's business sector is apparently under the impression that the province's voters can be bought off for a pittance. And there, it's well worth working to prove it wrong.

New column day

Here, expanding on the hostile labour environment that's developing as federal and provincial governments alike use back-to-work legislation as a pre-emptive attack on workers.

For further reading (which should be familiar to those who read the blog regularly):

- Ryan McGreal's "revenge egalitarianism" concept earns a mention in the column, and for those who haven't read it yet his general discussion is also well worth a look.

- Andrew Jackson points out the research showing a link between decreased unionization and increased inequality, including this summary with a similar theme to the column:
The path from strong unions to greater equality among non union workers likely runs through two channels. The first is fear, non union employers in a strong union environment will pay higher wages to lower paid workers in order to avoid unionization. The second and likely stronger channel is norms. Strong unions establish norms of fair wage differences between management and workers and between groups of workers which spill over into the non union sector.
- And the theme of the column is developed from a couple of my earlier posts on the Canada Post strike/lockout.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On selloffs

Sure, it takes some effort to pull a sweetheart deal out of the wreckage of AECL. But we probably shouldn't be surprised that the Cons seem to have pulled off the feat:
Versant Partners analyst Neil Linsdell told CBC News there's still a market for the existing reliable Candu technology in the developing world.

"SNC is really a great partner for [Ottawa] because of their international expertise in working with emerging economies," he said before the sale was officially announced. [Ed. note: no, this is not comforting.]

Even excluding any new sales, the servicing side of AECL's reactor business is profitable, Linsdell said. "The service business is going to be a good one," he said. "SNC is going to get a good deal out of this thing."
And all this while the Cons commit to spending five times more to support SNC Lavalin's newly-severed business than they'll recoup from the sale price.

Which of course raises the question: why in the world would the Cons be willing to take virtually nothing in exchange for a genuinely profitable part of AECL, while continuing to saddle the public with all of its liabilities?

Yes, that's a rhetorical question. And I suppose the more important one is: why are the Cons still in a position to hand out goodies to the corporate sector?

Fund-Raising Review By Province - NDP

Following up on my previous post, let's take a look at the NDP's partial fund-raising numbers from 2007 to 2010. (I've kept the 2010 data in the chart as an FYI, but a keen-eye reader notes that we shouldn't compare to previous years' data since it reflects quarterly returns rather than annual ones.)

Prov/Reg 2007 $ 2007 % 2008 $ 2008 % 2009 $ 2009 % 2010 $ 2010 %
AB $307,001.80 10.31% $406,575.72 9.23% $307,350.79 10.01% $143741.94.50 9.44%
BC $805,217.20 27.04% $1,109,104.94 25.18% $680,108.02 30.22% $504,443.60 33.13%
MB $148,937.94 5.00% $251,361.54 5.71% $174,442.71 5.68% $64,005.27 4.20%
NB $34,410.77 1.16% $42,393.92 0.96% $38,635.19 1.26% $13,144.86 0.86%
NL $13,894.00 0.47% $22,273.00 0.51% $22,290.00 0.73% $11,340.00 0.75%
NS $105,734.34 3.55% $155,442.45 3.53% $110,203.00 3.59% $37,112.50 2.44%
NT $7,146.00 0.24% $21,542.00 0.49% $9,433.00 0.31% $2,150.00 0.14%
NU $2,830.00 0.10% $2,420.00 0.05% $4,018.00 0.13% $2,040.00 0.13%
ON $1,199,357.72 40.28% $1,841,233.15 41.81% $1,364,679.90 44.46% $583,063.67 38.29%
PE $7,145.00 0.24% $8,300.82 0.19% $5,952.00 0.19% $2,470.00 0.16%
QC $94,120.42 3.16% $120,570.19 2.74% $65,811.41 2.14% $30,502.58 2.00%
SK $243,518.12 8.18% $411,029.18 9.33% $278,655.30 9.08% $124,664.37 8.19%
YT $8,300.92 0.28% $11,703.92 0.27% $8,174.92 0.27% $3,887.34 0.27%
Total $2,977,614.23 n/a $4,403,950.83 n/a $3,069,754.24 n/a $1,522,571.13 n/a

The NDP received $23,019.67 in other donations included in La Presse's dataset; as with the Cons, that extra amount looks to consist generally of donations from Canadians living outside the country. And another $1,237,818.50 was linked to a province but not classified by year.

I'll note that the above chart doesn't include one of the ways I played around with the data, which was to compare the parties' 2008 donations to their votes in each province. Based on the Cons' numbers alone I wasn't entirely sure what to look for, but there are some rather interesting comparisons to be drawn between the Cons and the NDP:
- Both parties posted their top fund-raising take per vote in...the Yukon, with the Cons raking in $11.85 per vote and the NDP $9.17. The Northwest Territories also rank near the top of both parties' lists, but Nunuvut breaks the territorial trend as the Cons' lowest per-vote source of income.
- The Cons' most efficient province for fund-raising is predictably the one where they hold a stranglehold on the popular vote, with $4.53 finding its way into party coffers for every vote won in Alberta. Next in line were B.C. ($3.89), Ontario ($3.69), Manitoba ($3.52) and Saskatchewan ($3.36).
- For the NDP, by far the most efficient province for fund-raising compared to votes received (and the lone one where it exceeded the Cons on that measure) was Saskatchewan, with $3.83 raised by the NDP for each vote it won. Surprisingly to me at least, Alberta ranks second at $2.52, followed by B.C. ($2.37), Manitoba ($2.24) and Ontario ($1.96) - making the fund-raising bases substantially the same for the NDP and the Cons, even if they've had varying success in cultivating them.
- Meanwhile, the NDP had two provinces far below the rest in dollars raised per vote. In Newfoundland and Labrador ($0.34), the party's vote was itself based largely on Danny Williams' ABC campaign, making for an obvious explanation for the disconnect. But even that effect couldn't win the bottom place on the NDP's list of dollars raised per vote - which leads us back into the discussion of the NDP generally.

While I noted that the Cons' returns in Quebec has always been less than impressive, the NDP's (at least for the years covered by La Presse's data) have been substantially lower...and declining by the year as a proportion of the NDP's overall fund-raising. And even in the 2008 election which saw the party make modest gains with a 12% showing at the polls and its first ever general-election seat, the NDP raised only 27 cents for every Quebec vote it won.

Which isn't to say that the NDP can't indeed build up its capacity in Quebec now that it has 59 MPs and a majority of popular support to work with. And one can't say that the model of working toward winning votes based on relatively soft support which doesn't yet reflect a donor base has been anything but a stunning success.

But there's an awfully long way to go for the NDP to turn what had previously been its least efficient fund-raising generator into a national power base. And I'll be highly curious to see whether the party's fund-raising base shifts substantially based on its Quebec success.

I'll note one other trend in the NDP's data, as the close relationship between the NDP and its provincial sections looks to have a significant influence on how the party raises its money. The 2007 and 2009 years offer an ideal basis of comparison since the dollars raised are such a good match, and they show an almost unbroken pattern: where a provincial party faces an election (including Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario in 2007, and B.C. in 2009), the federal party's fund-raising is lower for the year.

And the exception that proves the rule is Nova Scotia - where despite the euphoria of winning a provincial election for the first time and the added attention from hosting the party's federal convention in Halifax, the federal NDP improved on its 2007 fund-raising numbers by less than $5,000.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Yes, plenty of attention is being paid to Canada's weak ranking when it comes to innovation. But it's well worth noting that the failure isn't for lack of billions of dollars being tossed down a sinkhole due to the Cons' distaste for active and effective government:
Other countries prefer to just give tax money to companies that perform a lot of research. We’re allergic to that kind of thinking in Canada, so the chart for direct national-government spending on private-sector research looks like this:

But since the point of supporting private-sector research is to produce more private-sector research, and not just to show up in a flattering place on a chart, it’s pretty clear that Canada’s preference for tax incentives over direct subsidy doesn’t work.
- Meanwhile, there may be room to quibble with a few of Serge Coulombe's points. But this much looks dead on in describing what we should be doing with our resource revenues (which in turn need to be high enough to support the cause):
Newfoundland and Labrador saw the largest improvement in production per worker because the province moved away from a low-productivity natural resource business, fishing, to a higher-productivity natural resource activity, oil extraction, and it recorded the largest improvement in education.

This boom in production per worker growth on the back of higher resource prices is inherently temporary. When Newfoundland and Labrador’s oil runs low, just as the fish stocks did, or resource prices falter, the province will need to rely on savings stuffed away now to invest in better education, infrastructure and technology.

Alberta has had among the lowest growth rates of educational achievement and production per worker, partly reflecting young workers not investing in higher education because of the easy money in the oil sands.

For provinces booming now because of high resource prices, saving non-renewable resource revenues in rainy-day funds is crucial to keeping the good times rolling.
- Marc Lee expands on the CCPA's finding that B.C.'s tax system is now outright regressive by tracing what's happened under the province's Lib government over the past decade:
Unsurprisingly, total BC taxes as a share of income declined for every income group. This has undermined funding for public services, but has also led to a shift in who pays how much. The average tax cut was 2.3% of income, though there were larger gains as income increased. Tax reductions were only worth about 1% of income for the lower-middle deciles, increase to 1.8% of income for the upper-middle, then rise to 3.6% for the top 10%. However, the top 1% got tax cuts worth 5.1% of their income. In dollar terms, that is a gain of $41,000 for the top 1%, while those in the bottom deciles average a tax cut of a couple hundred bucks.

By contrast, in 2000 BC had a relatively flat tax system, with a modest bump in tax rate for the top 1%. By 2010, the tax system as a whole had shifted to become regressive. Income tax cuts, unsurprisingly, were the principal driver of lower taxes. The value of income tax cuts averaged about 0.2% of income for the bottom decile, rising to 5.2% for the top 1%. The provincial income tax system continues to be progressive, but has flattened out over the course of the decade.

Gains from income tax cuts were somewhat offset by increases in MSP premiums for middle-income groups, as much as half of a percent of income. But as “head tax” MSP premiums inevitably shrink as a share of income as income rises. So much so that for the top 1% the difference between 2000 and 2010 is negligible (and rounds to zero).
- Finally, it may seem like somewhat of a "dog bites man" story. But Glen McGregor catches Sun Media fabricating outrage against the CBC.

[Edit: fixed sizing on chart.]

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Sun-soaked cats.

On radioactive deals

Yes, there are plenty of reasons for concern about the sale of AECL to SNC-Lavalin. But let's add another by raising the other issue that has put SNC-Lavalin in the news recently:
Hon. Jack Layton (Leader of the Opposition, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, people would think that no one would be a fan of Gadhafi, but he has been pretty good for business.

Under the government, Canada's exports to Libya have skyrocketed and that included the sale of arms to the Gadhafi regime. Canadian owned SNC-Lavalin received a $275 million contract to build a prison for Gadhafi.

Will the government finally take steps to ensure that Canadian investment never contributes to human rights violations abroad?
Of course, there's a separate set of export rules associated with the nuclear industry. But between a Harper Con government which so gleefully flouts international norms for the sake of even much smaller industries and a purchaser on record having made deals with the likes of Gadhafi, there's reason for concern that the potential costs of a sale go far beyond even the debts and hazards already inherent in nuclear development.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that (with a B.C. flavour) for your Tuesday reading.

- Yes, the CCPA's report showing that taxes in British Columbia are downright regressive is stunning enough on its face. But the real story may lie in the response of the province's finance minister:
Finance Minister Kevin Falcon said he didn't put much stock in the study's numbers, and suggested his staff would find problems with the report.

"They keep coming out with these reports, and I rarely agree," said Falcon.
In other words, Falcon is determined to keep on making the tax system ever more regressive - and will pre-emptively ignore any study showing that doing so will only make for even more unfair treatment of most of the province in order to justify continued steps to favour the wealthy over the rest of the population. And it's not hard to see how that attitude can lead to exactly the outcome that Falcon refuses to consider possible.

- Meanwhile, Falcon's declaration that any study showing an unfair tax system should also thoroughly undermine can be ignored based on nothing but his ideological leanings should also call into doubt other politically-motivated spin from the B.C. Libs - such as, say, their government's attempt to shut down any discussion of poverty in the province by quibbling over the definition of the poverty line.

- But then, Rafe Mair notes that there's plenty more reason for concern about the B.C. Libs' lack of integrity:
Campbell and Hansen supported the 2009 budget in that year's election almost certainly knowing it was false, and then added well over a billion dollars to it after they won. If they did not know, the entire finance ministry ought to be fired, because they knew trouble was coming because of falling sales tax and stumpage receipts.

They had to know. The stock market failures were another sign and were sufficient for two fiscal ignoramuses, my wife and me, who cleared out of the market before the crash.

If Hansen, and through him Campbell, didn't know what was happening in the world when they went to the polls based on a phoney budget, they were bungling incompetents. As one who was in cabinet prior to the 1981 recession and saw the finance minister predict it by assessing diminishing receipts, I can tell you that Campbell and Hansen knew. These sorts of deals don't come together overnight, and if you believe that the government wasn't negotiating with Ottawa long before the '09 election, I have a bridge for sale you might want to have a look at.

Campbell and Hansen denied during the '09 election that the HST was even on the radar screen, and then safely elected, implemented it. Hansen had a full and damning finance ministry report on his desk two months prior to the election.
We will be asked, in an election...likely to be called in advance of the set day, to support a premier who was there for most of the Campbell scandals, and now wants us to save the province from the NDP!

If we don't give a damn about corruption, cronyism, hypocrisy and falsehoods, we will approve that conduct and let the Liberals go at it again for another four years.
- Finally, I'll echo those pointing to Ryan McGreal's post as the definitive commentary on what the Cons' attack on CUPW means not only for Canada Post, but also for the wider economy:
I also want to comment on what I've come to regard as revenge egalitarianism among those people who are incensed that the decent wages and benefits letter carriers enjoy haven't yet been stripped away.

There was once a time when public sentiment on wages and benefits turned around the idea that they should trend upwards. You know, for everyone - not just a thin crust of the deserving rich.
(Since 1980), (o)ur economy has generated strong growth in overall wealth, but most of that wealth has accrued to the very wealthy, while the wealth of Canadians below the median has actually fallen in real terms.

It's no coincidence that this trend coincides with two major changes:

* A steady flattening of our income tax structure that lowered tax rates for the wealthy and extended exemptions and tax shelters for the wealthy, while actually increasing tax rates on the poor.

* The rate of unionized workers fell from 34.6 percent in 1997 to 29.3 percent in 2009. Unionized workers tend to earn more than non-unionized workers, so a falling unionization rate is a drag on overall median incomes.
The bottom line is that every time a corporation (or government) breaks the back of another union, we all lose out. The median income further stagnates, and the workers whose wages and benefits have been cut have less money to inject into the economy.

Finally, the labour market in general shifts more bargaining power from employees to employers, resulting in downward pressure on wages right across the broad middle class.
- And Andrew Jackson notes that the link between the attack on unionization and increased income inequality is backed by solid evidence.

On direct representation

In discussing how the new Parliament has functioned so far, Charlie Angus makes an important point which hints at how the Bloc lost touch with Quebec - as well as where the NDP has a massive opportunity:
NDP MP Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay, Ont.) agreed that it was easier to work with two parties rather than three. He said in the last Parliament, the Bloc Québécois, which was reduced to four seats in the May 2 election, was becoming "increasingly intransigent" and "difficult to work with on some committees" because of their Quebec-only rhetoric.

"Everything seemed to be if the National Assembly of Jean Charest didn't give his personal stamp, we couldn't discuss this. It was problematic. That's gone," he said, praising the NDP Quebec caucus. "The new Quebec caucus in the NDP are engaged, they want to get down to issues, so I feel we're going to be more productive on that level."
Now, at the best of times it would be problematic for a federal political party to see itself as beholden to the instructions of a provincial government. But with the parties currently occupying the National Assembly so desperately unpopular that a party which doesn't technically exist is polling in majority government territory, it shouldn't take much insight to figure out that the best way to reach voters is to engage with them directly - rather than assuming that their values are fully and exclusively expressed through the provincial Libs and the PQ.

Fortunately, the NDP is making it clear that it isn't about to fall into the same trap that ensnared the Bloc. And that gives it a strong chance to build more direct connections to Quebec voters than any party can boast at the federal or the provincial level.

Suitable for comment

After a bit more of a delay than I'd anticipated, commenting capability has been restored. Go wild.

Deep thought

Boy, is it ever a good thing we have a stubborn, unaccountable majority government to help restore confidence in Canada's economy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

On downturns

Sure, it might seem like reason for concern that it's only the type of government spending which the Cons are determined to slash that allowed Canadians in general to somewhat avoid a significant economic collapse over the past few years:
In 2009, average earnings fell from $39,100 to $38,500 due to the steep rise of unemployment and an increase in short-term jobs. (Median earnings fell from $29,600 to $28,700 or by 3%.) This fall in average earnings happened even though the earnings of those who were steadily employed actually rose over the year.

The number of Canadians working full-time year round decreased rapidly. In 2009, 8,916,000 Canadians were working full-time year round, compared to 9,593,000 in 2008, a decrease of 677,000 full-time, full-year jobs over a year.

Mainly because of reduced earnings for those hit by the downturn, the average market income of families fell from $63,500 to $61,900.

However, this was offset by an increase in government transfers. from an average of $3,900 to an average of $5,100. Since taxes also fell slightly, the average after tax income of families was actually unchanged at $59,700.
Despite the increase in EI and other income transfers, the poverty rate for all persons rose from 9.4% to 9.6% in 2009 compared to 2008, and the child poverty rate rose from 9.1% to 9.5%.

This increase in poverty is disturbing since the 2009 reading really takes us only to the mid point of the recession, which continued into 2010. Even today, we are far from where we were before the recession in terms of the number of workers in steady full-time jobs.
But take heart: while Canadians in general may have lost ground in the market, the top just-under-1% is right back where it started [update: and feeling bullish]. And isn't that what really matters?

Parliament In Review: June 15, 2011

Yes, the spring session of Parliament has come to an end. But with much less news popping up on the political scene, I'll take the opportunity to take a look back at the days I didn't get to through my Parliament in Review posts - starting with Wednesday, June 15.

Theme of the Day

The most obvious theme from the NDP was that of poverty - including both pointed questions from Jean Crowder immediately following Jack Layton's opening of Question Period, and a budget speech from Anne-Marie Day which nicely summarized both the limited progress made in addressing poverty and the long ways left to go:
There is nothing in the government's proposals to improve the living conditions of Canadian families. Poverty exists in Canada and increases every year. All experts agree that, for the past few years, the gap between rich and poor families in Canada has been widening. Inequalities persist rather than diminish.

However, there have been some small steps forward. In 1989, Canada's poverty rate was 10.2%; in 2008, it was 9.4%, a reduction of 0.8% in 20 years. In 1989, the poverty rate for those under 18 was 11.9%; in 2008, it was 9.1%, a reduction of 2.8% in 20 years. Canada can do much better for its people, and we cannot be pleased about such a small decrease in poverty.

Our youth are in a precarious position. In 1981, 31.2% of young workers between 14 and 24 had a low-wage job. In 2000, the proportion had risen to 45%, a sharp increase in 20 years.
Poverty in a rich country is not an inevitability; it is the result of poor policies. Therefore, the government must propose a real agenda to eradicate poverty and inequality.
Cold Comfort

In response to Libby Davies' questioning asking why Canada - unlike the U.S. and the EU - doesn't require that drug manufacturers disclose testing results as to the effect of drugs on children, Colin Carrie had this to say:
Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member and Canadians that we are up to speed. We encourage manufacturers to submit pediatric information and to introduce an additional six-month data protection for drugs if they are filed for pediatric indication.
In fairness, I suppose it would indeed be worse if the government were outright discouraging big pharma from providing relevant pediatric information. But Carrie looks to have made it clear that the Cons' plan is to let the corporate sector decide what information should be available about the effect of medication on children - which hardly figures to be reassuring for parents.

Question of the Day

Within the budget debate, Kennedy Stewart raised an issue which cuts to the core of the Cons' economic policy:
Madam Speaker, I have been reading through the budget and paying careful attention, but I have some questions about the base statistics on which your work is done.

Most specifically, I am interested in what is commonly reported in the U.S. as the natural rate of unemployment. The U.S. Federal Reserve says that the current natural rate of unemployment in the U.S. is about 6%. Former finance ministers here have said it is about 8%.

What natural rate of unemployment are you basing the budget projections on, and can you tell me whether that natural rate is increasing or decreasing?
Not surprisingly, Shelly Glover didn't see fit to actually answer the question. But it's well worth pressing the Cons as to how many Canadians they plan to see out of work in the years to come, as well as on how to ensure that workers ticketed for structural unemployment can maintain a reasonable standard of living nonetheless.

In Brief

Dany Morin raised a question about violent hate crimes against the GLBT community - with Peter Van Loan unable to bring himself to even repeat the terms "gay" and "lesbian" in response. And Randy Kamp asked what looks to be one of the more bizarre questions imaginable - in effect using his own government's lack of openness to suggest that the NDP shouldn't be concerned about budget cuts, since when nobody but the Cons can say exactly what programs will be affected.

Kept on track

Impolitical rightly points out that the Harper Cons are well on their way to implementing every single odious policy that was rightly labeled as unacceptable overreach when included in Deficit Jim Flaherty's 2008 fiscal update. Now if only somebody hadn't proudly missed the opportunity to stop Harper in his tracks...

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Following up on yesterday's post, the Hill Times reports that even the first set of cuts from the Harper Cons' majority looks to have a serious effect on our federal government's ability to function for itself rather than relying on self-interested corporations to make decisions:
The 46 axed positions were occupied by term employees with the Adaptation Impact Research Section, the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, the Climate Chemistry Measurements and Research and Climate Data and Analysis teams. Most of them are located in Toronto, Ont. though some are in Victoria, B.C.

The Public Works cuts will affect the real property services division, and Auditing Services Canada. Eighty-one per cent of these jobs are located in the National Capital Region, said Mr. Gordon.

The work performed by Audit Services Canada will be contracted out to a private firm.

Mr. Gordon said he is at a loss to understand how the government thinks these cuts (which will save the government a reported $172.2-million over three years) will actually result in long-term savings.

He said that the government already contracts out 95 per cent of its work, such as construction or consulting, and that now those who oversee the contracts are being cut.

"They need expertise within government so that they understand what they need. You don't go to a company and say 'We want you to do this kind of work' without writing up a whole proposal and having people who understand precisely what it is you need," said Mr. Gordon.
- Meanwhile, Derek DeCloet notes that it isn't just government that's figuring to get much less efficient thanks to the Harper Cons. Instead, even the much-vaunted oil and gas sector may itself be facing a massive gap between the perception of growth and the reality that it's serving more as a money magnet than an actual source of production - with the Cons' corporate tax slashing only serving to exacerbate the problem.

- While pointing out that nobody but the peaceful protesters against Stephen Harper should be taking any pride in the Cons' G8/G20 fiasco, Gerald Caplan also laments the fact that a few violent acts managed to largely suppress their message.

- On the bright side, Charles Dobson nicely summarizes the best way to get citizens involved in our political system. And I'll add that while social media offers some additional ways to connect people, the importance of face-to-face interaction is likely no less great now than it has been in the past.

- Finally, Bruce Livesey ponders what we can expect as more and more people are left out of the gains from an increasingly inequitable economic system:
how can one suggest that capitalism is terminally ill? Especially since people have been predicting its demise since Adam Smith’s day.

I am not suggesting it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

What I am saying is that evidence is mounting that capitalism is failing the vast majority of people. It is failing to provide working people with jobs, a decent standard of living, security and stability. The Great Recession grinds on with job growth either anemic or even falling, wages are declining, personal and government debts are climbing, food and gasoline prices are soaring, and the income gap continues to worsen. With the exception of a handful of countries, Europe is an economic disaster zone, the US economy is flailing, and Japan’s economy is in deep trouble. The middle classes and unionized working classes are going the way of the dodo. And governments are about to make matters worse by imposing austerity measures and laying off millions of public servants around the world.
Even if the forces of socialism fail to re-emerge, capitalism is facing a period of unrelenting instability. As larger portions of the world’s population are driven into penury, you will see greater social unrest, more violence, more social problems, more despair. And that’s entirely because too many desperate people, unable to make ends meet, unable to find jobs, will turn to increasingly desperate measures – either via protests and acts of rebellion, or entering the underground economy of organized crime – in order to seek alternatives to the current order.

In the past, when capitalists have faced rebellion, they have either embraced fascistic parties and authoritarian measures to launch crack downs, or they’ve made concessions – allowed wages to rise and workers to garner more rights. But in an era of globalization and free trade, the ability of capital to give workers higher wages is limited. And cracking down on dissent and becoming more authoritarian, has its limits too, as Syria and Egypt and Libya demonstrate.

Capitalism might not be overthrown, but it will likely be facing a period where its very foundations are undermined because it continues to exclude too many people from the opportunities they want and deserve.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

On private opportunities

Last week, I noted that the Harper Cons' generally opaque austerity plans include one cause for alarm, as they're looking to turn public services into sources of corporate profit. And via Digby, the L.A. Times offers an example of how that type of strategy has worked south of the border - with such cataclysmic political consequences that its architect became a frontrunner for the Republicans' presidential nomination:
Louise Cohoon was at home when her 80-year-old mother called in a panic from Terre Haute: The $97 monthly Medicaid payment she relied on to supplement her $600-a-month income had been cut without warning by a private company that had taken over the state's welfare system.

Later, the state explained why: She failed to call into an eligibility hot line on a day in 2008 when she was hospitalized for congestive heart failure.

"I thought the news was going to kill my mother, she was so upset," said Cohoon, 63. Her mother had to get by on support from cash-strapped relatives for months until the state restored her benefits under pressure from Legal Services attorneys.

Cohoon's mother, now suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was one of thousands of Indiana residents who abruptly and erroneously lost their welfare, Medicaid or food stamp benefits after Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels privatized the state's public assistance program — the result of an efficiency plan that went awry from the very beginning, the state now admits.

Though the $1.37-billion project proved disastrous for many of the state's poor, elderly and disabled, it was a financial bonanza for a handful of firms with ties to Daniels and his political allies, which landed state contracts worth millions.
Now, it could well be that privately-determined arbitrarily restrictions (which would never be tolerated in a public institution) might well save a small amount of money at the expense of the programs currently delivered by the federal government. But nobody aside from the private actors siphoning off a percentage of program spending actually figures to gain substantially in the long run - making the Cons' determination to push toward privatization one of the most important issues facing the country over their term in office.

Sunday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material to end your weekend.

- Brian Topp points out the biggest difference between the Parliamentary reaction to the Harper Cons' attack on Canada Post workers and previous overreaches by the Con government:
Before May 2, there would have been relatively little debate on Mr. Harper's intervention, since the Conservatives found a like-minded partner in the former Liberal opposition.

But there's a new sheriff in town – a new, more numerous and more determined New Democrat Official Opposition with some important tools available to it to shine on light on issues like this. A majority government is in place, and it can ultimately get what it wants. But a real opposition, fighting on a real issue, can make things go very slowly indeed – so that Canadians can judge the issues, and see what Mr. Harper's government is doing in the bright light of day.

In short, we finally have an Official Opposition capable of, and willing to, do its job.
- Most media discussion of the Ontario NDP's platform has focused on the inclusion of several pocketbook issues. But Martin Regg Cohn notes that there's much more to it than that:
There is a worthy proposal to undo the Tory breakup of Ontario Hydro by putting most of the pieces back together again. Breaking up Hydro was not only hard to do, it left a legacy of uncertainty and inefficiency in the electricity sector.

There are also promises to halve emergency room waiting times, boost long-term care, and eliminate the controversial Local Health Integration Networks that coordinate hospitals around the province. Interestingly, the NDP acknowledges that these “unelected” LHINs would have to be replaced by something else, so they promise no savings — unlike the Tories, who claim, improbably, that they can cut $70 million a year without budgeting for a replacement.

Politically, it is a smart platform — expedient on pocketbook issues but thoughtful in other areas. Opportunism aside, there is an opportunity for intelligent debate on corporate tax cuts and the chaos in the electricity sector. The NDP’s immediate challenge, however, is to raise the profile of its little-known provincial leader. Judging by the beaming expression worn by Horwath’s speech coach Saturday — it could have been a scene out of The King’s Speech — she continues to improve as a public speaker onstage.
- So far the NDP's response has been remarkably understated. But the stunning story of the Cons looking to prosecute an individual who had the nerve to take a story of rape public in the wake of a complete lack of investigation - rather than doing anything about, say, the alleged rapist - would figure to present about as powerful a symbol as possible of the Harper Cons' focus on preserving secrecy over doing what's obviously right.

- Though of course, as Alex Himelfarb notes, the Cons' lack of interest in dealing with specific crimes which might prove politically embarrassing won't stop them from wasting ludicrous amounts of time and money on a fear-based "war on crime" in general.

(Edit: fixed wording.)

On unreasonable outcomes

I've pointed out before how the Cons' deliberate attack on the Canadian Union of Postal Workers figures to create damaging incentives as federally-regulated employers consider how to handle future collective bargaining. But now that we've seen the Cons' endgame, it's worth noting that the incentives for unions may be equally damaging.

After all, the CUPW approached its negotiations with Canada Post from the standpoint of trying to be as reasonable as possible - both in its position at the bargaining table, and in a collective action strategy designed to avoid disrupting postal service. And even from that modest starting point, it was willing to compromise further through the parliamentary process, signalling no apparent disagreement with amendments aimed solely at modifying the worst of the Cons' abuses (eliminating the decree of future salaries lower than those already offered by Canada Post and allowing for some effort at mediation rather than a winner-takes-all arbitration).

And yet even that willingness to compromise was met with a thumb in the eye.

Now, I'm sure the Cons hope that other unions will see the lesson as being that it's not worth even trying to defend collective bargaining rights.

But I'd think that's only one of two possible interpretations - with the other being that the Cons wound up supporting the party which was utterly unreasonable and unduly disruptive, while punishing the one which operated in good faith all along.

And while it remains to be seen what strategies Canadian workers will develop to respond to that message, I'm not sure the Cons or anybody else will have reason to look forward to the result.