Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Don Braid comments on Alberta's complete lack of credibility when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental issues. And Andrew Leach nicely sums up the PC/Con position in trying to put a happy face on growing emissions:
Suppose you run into an old friend whom you haven’t seen for some time. You notice that he looks a little thicker than you remembered around the waist, but, since you aren’t one of those academics who shuns basic manners, you keep mum.

“How are you doing?” you say, “What’s new?”

His response leaves you shocked: “I feel great!” he tells you, “I’ve lost 20 pounds.”

Despite your best efforts, you can’t hide your scepticism.

“It’s simple, really,” he says. “On the path I was on — eating chicken wings and drinking beer almost every day — I would surely have gained 40 pounds in no time. I stuck to my plan, though, and by having wings and beer only on weekends, I gained a mere 20 pounds. Who would have thought you could drink beer, eat chicken wings, and still lose weight!”
Sounds like an absurd calculation, doesn’t it? This type of thinking, though, is the bread-and-butter of discussions about greenhouse gas policies — it’s called a reduction relative to business-as-usual.
- And for those looking for a way out of Canada's staples trap which has done to much to distort discussion about economic and environmental issues, Daniel Drache offers a road map - if one that may not be easily followed:
In Canada, we must build a very different policy environment to escape the modern staples trap and address the imbalances of fixed overhead costs, mountains of debt, and over-investment in unsustainable mega projects. Other countries have successfully climbed out of the staples trap, altering their economic trajectories. A survey of this experience suggests that seven conditions need to be met.

First, there must be a champion inside the political class to make it happen: such as a latter day Walter Gordon or Eric Kierans. Second, there must be a strategic purpose and moral compass for environmental and redistributive goals. Third, the country must possess a valuable commodity that gives the state the leverage to negotiate new resource revenue sharing with MNCs (revenues which in turn are recycled to support broader development goals). Fourth, the country needs a modern infrastructure. Fifth, public opinion must be on side to demand fundamental policy changes. Sixth, there need to be credible new ideas to transform the “resource curse” into a blessing. This requires a strategy to use resources as a driver of domestic growth and diversification, competitive industries, and strong job-creation. The final ingredient, of course, is luck. Here, timing is key: the optimal moment to introduce a national energy policy is during the upswing of a commodity boom, when the state has optimal leverage with banks and resource players.
- Ethan Roeder explains how the Obama 2012 campaign used detailed data analysis to get a better picture of voters than its competition.

- CUPE discusses how the Cons continue to keep Canadians in the dark about CETA by substituting for its actual text. And Julian Beltrame reports on a study showing that the added prescription drug costs caused by CETA will far outweigh any reductions in tariffs (not to mention that the increased price will flow to big pharma rather than toward public coffers).

- Finally, Sean Holman introduces a new series testing the limits of government accountability in Canada:
It's easy to disagree with such opacity -- making it easy, as Legault has, to conclude that freedom of information is the expression of our core values.

Yet I wonder how many Canadians would disagree with the assumption that privacy is necessary for decision-making?

Because once you accept that assumption, as many of our political leaders have, it becomes easier to reject requests for information about such decisions.

What that says about our core values is admittedly debatable. It suggests freedom of information is not an expression of those values or, at the very least, that we have conflicting values.

But what's undeniable is that at the beginning of the 21st century, we find ourselves residents of an unknowable country.

It is a nation of the governed rather than the self-governed -- a place where transparency is routinely sacrificed on the high altar of peace, order and what some would call good governance.

1 comment:

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