Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Tom Bergin reports on a predictable corporate attack on the very idea of government sovereignty - as tax evaders are insisting that their own demand for "certainty" in the availability of tax havens should trump the ability of tax authorities to assess where revenue should be taxed:
The companies said the existing practice of recognizing inter-company transactions gave business greater certainty and encouraged trade by helping ensure the same profits were not taxed more than once.

Business groups were also cool on a proposal tabled in June by the Group of Eight (G8) leading developed economies, that companies should provide information to tax authorities on their earnings and tax payments on a country-by-country basis.
- And we can probably count on the Cons for one being highly sympathetic to the view that institutional cover-ups are more important than factual and fair policy - as the firing of EI whistleblower Sylvie Therrien confirms.

- Karl Nerenberg points out Thomas Mulcair's neat skewering of Stephen Harper when it comes to Harper's loud proclamation that he personally reviewed and approved Pamela Wallin's expenses. Andrew Coyne wonders why the Cons dedicated a shady, party-wide cover-up operation to something as mundane as Senate expenses, while Lawrence Martin documents Harper's relationship (or lack thereof) with the truth.And Tim Harper observes that the Senate has made an airtight case for its own abolition.

- Kathryn May reports on the latest anti-worker legislation slipped into the Cons' omnibus budget bill. And Thomas Walkom sees the union-bashing as a distraction from the Cons' Senate corruption.

- Finally, Fraser Harland and Mark Dance discuss how the Cons have harmed Canada's federal government for decades to come:
Could there be a more politically awkward and unpopular case for a future finance minister to try to make than that deficits are not always bad and that one’s own government need not be kept on such a short leash?

This is not the first time that the Harper Conservatives have set out to pin their successors to the wall.

The death of the long-form census undermines the ability of future governments to pursue smart and informed social policy, the equivalent to covering up the eyes and ears of the public service. Broken threads of data have guaranteed the illegibility of long-term trends, enfeebling the capacity of governments to make smart choices for future generations.

The same strategy is at play on the government’s fiscal flank. The cuts to the GST were roundly criticized by policy experts for blowing a hole in government coffers while doing little to alleviate the financial burden of individual Canadians. Once again, though, reversing this policy decision would require a serious expenditure of political capital by a future government from which it could be difficult to recover.
Taken together though, these measures show themselves to be more than just short-term vote grabs. Rather, they are political and legislative ropes around the wrists of future governments as well as blindfolds over their eyes. To the extent that reversal of these measures is possible, it would in many cases involve complex and counterintuitive policy explanations to voters, likely to devastate their champions in the polls.

Calling Harper a visionless incrementalist is currently a popular trope for the opposition parties and liberal pundits. However, they should not lose sight of the fact that Harper’s goal could be to handcuff and constrain government far beyond his own tenure. In that respect, he may turn out to be a visionary after all.

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