Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- The Broadbent Institute has released a new set of polling (PDF) as to Canadians' values. And it's particularly worth noting that even on the Cons' signature issues such as tax cuts, austerity and crime - where millions upon millions of public dollars have been spent in a combined effort at branding and persuasion - 60% or more of respondents (including new immigrants) side with a more progressive option.

- But as Steven Shrybman notes in criticizing Jeffrey Simpson's blase view of universal public health care, we still have our own Village working to impose policies which favour profit over people even when the public strongly supports the status quo. And Dave Coles comments on Tim Hudak's attempt to bring Republican-style attacks on workers north of the border.

- If we need a reminder as to the disastrous results of corporate self-regulation, though, Leslie Young and Anna Mehler Paperny provide it:
The cracked pipe sleeve behind the second-biggest oil spill in Alberta’s history had been flagged as a hazard more than two decades earlier by the national regulator responsible for pipeline safety.

But this pipe fell under provincial jurisdiction, so the national regulator’s inspection edict didn’t apply at the time. And while the provincial regulator “assumed” prudent safety measures had been taken, it wrote in a post-incident report, it couldn’t be sure.
Both the Energy Resources Conservation Board and its federal counterpart, the National Energy Board, rely on oil companies to let them know when something goes wrong. The regulators rarely follow up themselves, and usually only if they know of a series of problems.

Successive audits and reports have found that regulation isn’t keeping pace with industry growth, and that even when inspectors identify problems, they rarely follow up.

This has demonstrable consequences: On a spring evening in 2011, a leak on a Plains Midstream pipe in Northern Alberta released more than 28,000 barrels of sweet crude into rural muskeg before it was shut down – eight hours and several alarms after the leak was detected. According to the ERCB’s own investigation, it took nearly 14 hours after the first signs of a leak for Plains Midstream to report the incident to the energy regulator.
[The National Energy Board] has been conducting fewer field inspections annually – and finding more cases of “high-risk noncompliance.” Inspectors found 437 such instances in 2011, up from 263 the year before. That year, 41 out of a total 362 of the drilling operations it inspected were deemed “high-risk noncompliant” – the highest proportion since 2006.
- Finally, Larry Elliott discusses Oxfam's conclusion that it would be possible to end extreme poverty on a global scale (and twice over) if not for tax avoidance and evasion:
According to Oxfam's estimates, almost $18.5tn is being held for individuals in tax havens, one third of it in British Overseas Territories and crown dependencies.

The charity said that even on conservative assumptions, the $18.5tn would yield $156bn to tax authorities around the world, whilst the cost of providing every person on earth with an income of $1.25 a day would be $66bn.

Emma Seery, Oxfam's Head of Development Finance and Public Services, said: "These figures put the UK at the centre of a global tax system that is a colossal betrayal of people here and in the poorest countries who are struggling to get by, and they put the government on the side of the privileged few. If they want to get on the right side of this debate, now is the time to take action.

"Britain's credibility is on the line; talking tough on tax, whilst continuing to usher a third of the world's wealth into UK tax havens, risks making a mockery of David Cameron's leadership at the G8 Summit in June."

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