Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Saturday reading.

- Kate Heartfield worries that the NRA knows exactly what it's doing with its jaw-dropping response to the Newtown shootings - and that it should be all too familiar based on the tactics of the Harper Cons:
It’s ridiculous, but ridiculous works, time and time again. “Elite” no longer means rich and powerful. It means smart. It means anyone who takes the time to look at the evidence and construct a logical argument. Not to be trusted, that. So all academics and journalists are suspect. The only way a journalist can avoid being seen as an elite is to go on the attack against other journalists, to promise, for example, to provide the straight talk that the so-called Media Party doesn’t want you to know.

This works. The Conservative government doesn’t have to construct a fact-based defence of its environmental or crime policies, because it doesn’t matter that they don’t make sense. No conservative (in the ideological, not the partisan sense) really thinks that costly, top-down regulation is the best climate-change strategy, for example. But it doesn’t matter, when it comes to the party’s electoral chances, which is all the party cares about. The policies don’t have to make sense. They just have to come attached to some boilerplate about how ivory-tower academics don’t understand the real world, or how statistics lie.
- Meanwhile, Andrew Coyne buries the lede in an otherwise unremarkable summary of the Cons' policy direction:
(A)t year’s end, it’s still not entirely clear whether the government has learned anything. We may stick with the F-35. We may not. We may go to competitive bids. We may not.
Meanwhile, the robocalls scandal has slowly dragged on, a steady drip of voter complaints, revelations arising from Elections Canada’s continuing investigation, and court testimony. Nothing as yet indicates any senior Tories knew about or colluded in attempts to mislead or harass voters in the last days of the campaign, but neither does it seem plausible that it was all the work of a few overzealous kids. The calls are too many, in too many ridings, with too much sophistication required.

Last, there are the omnibus budget bills, I and II: the point at which the government’s emerging policy ambitions and continuing contempt for Parliamentary democracy converge. I’ve said my fill about these earlier, so I’ll be brief here. When much of the government’s legislative agenda can be pushed through in a single bill, or two; when “debate” on these hydra-headed monstrosities is itself cut short by government fiat; when these arrive on top of the whole long train of abuses to which Parliament has already been subjected, starting under past governments but with conspicuous enthusiasm under the present – then the question for next year, and for years to come, is clear. It is whether we will still live under a Parliamentary system of government, or something else.
 - Michael Wolfson makes the case for a stronger Canada Pension Plan which pairs any age increase in benefit payments with recognition that lower-income seniors need an alternate source of income:
An expansion of the benefit levels of the CPP should be phased in more rapidly, say over 20 to 25 years rather than the 47 years implicit in all the current discussions. In parallel, the age at which full benefits from the CPP would start should rise gradually from 65 to 70. More rapid phase in of benefits, of course, means payroll taxes would have to rise. But a delay in the age when benefits become fully payable would reduce the need for tax increases.

Finally, the long run structure of the Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) portions of Canada’s public pension system should be coordinated with any changes to CPP to assure it is fair to those with lower incomes – a point clearly lost on the Harper government with their most recent cuts to OAS and GIS.

These options open the possibility of a more creative and better pension bargain – more adequate pensions that are also fiscally sustainable. Are Canada’s finance ministers ready to think outside the box?
- Finally, Brad Lavigne's analysis of the NDP under Tom Mulcair focuses almost exclusively on what Andrew Potter would consider the cynical side of the party's interests. But it's well worth noting that the NDP's upcoming policy convention will provide an ideal opportunity to discuss exactly where members actually want to be on that spectrum - and to assess Mulcair's responsiveness to members' concerns.

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