Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Michael Katz looks back at how the U.S. abandoned its poor - and how that choice continues to affect people across the income spectrum today. And Michael Valpy discusses how Canada can and should avoid travelling any further down the same path - with his "Big Four" ideas focusing on mandatory voting, proportional representation, a guaranteed basic income and protections for vulnerable workers.

- Jeffrey Simpson describes the Cons' narrow focus on about 10 per cent of the Canadian electorate in the lead up to the next federal election, while Andrew Jackson previews what we can expect out of future federal budgets. And Michael Harris laments the fact that Stephen Harper is far more interested in using public money to promote his own image than in actually governing competently:
The Tories carpetbombed the NHL playoffs in 2013 with ads for the Economic Action Plan, tagging this shameless self-promotion with EAP 2013 identifiers. The playoff ads cost $95,000 a pop. But the Harper government had to admit later that the ads did not contain any actual measures from the 2013 budget.

In other words, not only was it a freeloading political announcement paid for by Canadians on behalf of the Conservative party, it was false. The Canada Jobs Grant which was being advertised at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars didn’t even exist.

When Harper himself was forced to explain his profligate ad offensive at the public’s expense in the House of Commons, he no longer talked of informing citizens about government programs, the way Rona Ambrose had. Now it was a matter of national pride — in him.

No one is better at giving himself straight As than this PM. The new explanation went something like this: The ads were worth it because after seeing their key message — that Canada was doing better than any other developed country in tough economic times — Canadians would burst with pride at what a good government they had.

Setting aside the neck-snapping shift in the justification, there was another problem with the ads.  They weren’t true either. Canada does not have the highest growth rate in the G7 — the United States does. Outside the G7, the economies of Australia and some Scandinavian countries also grew faster than Canada’s did.

The Economic Action Plan was a propaganda vehicle originating in the Finance Department to make Canadians think Jim Flaherty is the best finance minister on the planet … you know, ‘STFU’ Jim.
Believers in that steroid pantomime known as Wrestlemania may have been taken in. People who can read are a tougher sale.
The bottom line? No prime minister has any business spending hundreds of millions of dollars of other people’s money to boast about his accomplishments. If only the PM would unmuzzle his ministers — and give a few interviews where he didn’t supply the questions in advance — the media would be delighted to offer the air time and column inches for free.

What a terrifying concept that would be for a control freak not particularly restrained by the facts — someone who would rather spend pots of public money creating them.
- John Ivison gives us advance warning that there are plenty of years of diplomatic darkness ahead if the Cons get their way.

- And finally, Dan Leger theorizes that we may look back on 2013 as the year citizens pushed back against constant surveillance in the name of security.

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