Sunday, January 06, 2013

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Frank Graves' review of the current state of Canadian politics focuses in on the growing gap between the Cons' waning interest in listening to the public, and their growing expenditures on advertising and marketing:
In Canada in 2006, the federal government spent roughly the same amount of money on polling as it did on advertising (I declare a major self-interest on this point). Polling for the federal government is non-partisan and designed to solicit the feedback of citizens and clients for government on programs and policies. Government advertising is also supposed to be non-partisan and is intended to explain or communicate.

Cynics suggest that advertising is now more partisan in nature and is designed to persuade and comfort the public. Note, for example, the continuing federal marketing effort on Canada’s Economic Action Plan, which actually concluded its stimulus phase a couple of years ago. Although the numbers are difficult to nail down, it is clear that the federal government now spends somewhere between ten and twenty times as much on advertising as it does on ‘listening to Canadians’.

This dramatic shift from parity of polling and advertising is a fairly minor example of the shift from a focus on policy and engagement to one on persuasion and branding. Policy research has dropped dramatically in the Government of Canada, as Alan Gregg (sic) and others have noted.

This is not unique to Canada and the shift from the pursuit of rational public policies to massive investments in political marketing intended to cajole and persuade is our final example of a force we can expect to see bending Canadian politics for the foreseeable future.
- Meanwhile, Charlie Smith suggests that corporate self-regulation has been a failure when it comes to advertising standards - and wonders whether the NDP will call for public regulation instead.

- Keith Reynolds points out the inevitable intersection of two major corporatist trends: as the same time that P3s are pitched as a possible source of corporate tax revenue, tax avoidance schemes serve to make sure that the least possible amount of P3s spending actually stays within a province:
Partnerships BC calculates how much the private sector will pay in taxes. It calculates all of the expected tax revenue for BC and half of the expected tax revenue for the federal government. This amount is then added to the predicted cost of doing the project publicly because it is considered revenue lost to the province from taxes. The total predicted cost is then compared to the total predicted cost of doing a P3.

But what happens if the tax revenue predicted from the P3 project doesn’t materialize? That means the province does not get the expected revenue, which is a big deal in cash strapped British Columbia. It also means that the comparison used to decide whether to use a P3 to do the project publicly was biased against public operation because of overly optimistic revenue expectations from the P3.

One of the ways companies cut their taxes is by moving their headquarters to tax havens.  Instead of claiming their profits in the country where they actually deliver services profits are claimed in the tax haven and taxes are paid at much lower rates.
- Finally, the NDP's list of Harper Con lowlights offers a useful reminder as to just how far Canada has sunk over the past year.

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