Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Michael Harris rightly points out that a steady stream of scandals and incompetence from the Cons says plenty about Stephen Harper's own judgment (or lack thereof):
Sooner or later, the country is going to realize that there is something terribly wrong with Stephen Harper’s judgment.

And sooner or later, the Conservative party is going to realize one-man bands are great until the tuba player runs out of breath.

At the moment, judged only by his record in Senate appointments, Harper’s eye for talent appears to be made of glass.

Patrick Brazeau and Mike Duffy have become media migraines for the government. Both have tarnished the Tory brand. They were the PM’s picks. Blow the draft choices, face the consequences.
Like some of his appointments, the Senate itself is further evidence of poor judgment by the prime minister. Instead of the refreshing promise of reform, Harper has turned the Senate into a bank machine for the Conservative Party, using his appointees to raise money at endless fundraisers and to fiddle the system.

Harper’s broken promise is bad enough, especially the part about patronage having no role to play in the parliament of Canada. The reality check? No one has outdone the current PM in sending party hacks, bagmen, failed candidates and media sycophants to the trough.

The difference between this PM and his predecessors is that he didn’t stop at stacking the Senate with pork. He remorselessly used it as just another partisan forum, on one occasion deploying a patronage-based Senate to kill a climate-change bill that had already been passed by elected MPs. That hadn’t happened in seven decades.
- Meanwhile, Kelly McParland considers Mike Duffy to be a case in point as to how the Senate is long past its expiry date:
A senator’s primary residence would matter if the Senate still did the job for which it was originally intended, representing provincial interests in Ottawa. But the fact is it doesn’t: the provinces, led by their premiers, do that for themselves, as they have long done.

The leaves the Senate with its other mandate, acting as  a chamber of “sober second thought.”  Except it doesn’t do that either. There may be a small group of senators who add some value to the legislative process in Ottawa, but the majority are of the Duffy type, patronage appointments put there to agree with the prime minister who appointed them. For years the chamber acted as a Liberal nodding shop; more recently Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stuffed it with compliant Tory appointees, whose main job is to agree to reform themselves if and when Mr. Harper ever gets a Senate reform bill to that stage. How qualified can members be if they can’t even identify where they live?

That being the case, the situation faced by Sen. Duffy inadvertently illustrates why the Senate is no longer needed: because it has too many members like Mr. Duffy, whose consumption of public income and resources serves no purpose. Think of how much better served Canadians would be were Sen. Duffy to be retired, enabling him to spend all his time in Cavendish.
- Peter O'Neil reports that Preston Manning and Ed Broadbent have joined Kennedy Stewart's push to encourage a petition process which will at least ensure MPs consider issues of importance to citizens.

- Finally, Sid Ryan and Alex Himelfarb make the case for Ontario to look beyond the pain fixation of austerians:
Cutting our way to growth failed as a budget strategy in the 1930s and it will not work now. As economist Paul Krugman notes, government deficits are a symptom of a greater economic disease, not the disease itself. It follows then, that if we zealously tackle the symptom and ignore the disease, we risk making the situation much worse.

We need to understand how we got into deficit if we are to develop sensible, prudent policies. The evidence here is clear: loss of revenue and increased spending after the financial meltdown (although spending was not our problem before the recession and it isn’t now) and years of tax cuts that mostly benefited wealthy citizens and corporations to the tune of $15 billion while never delivering on their promise of growth and jobs.

Budgets that eliminate waste and reduce debt in good times are prudent budgets. Budgets that cut programs and services, lower wages, and maintain unaffordable tax cuts, especially when the economy is struggling, are neither prudent nor responsible.

It’s time to change the conversation on austerity, to talk about getting Ontarians back to work in jobs that pay a living wage, to talk about revenues and not just cuts, to talk about building a better future together.

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