Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Joan Walsh discusses how employers are exploiting the U.S.' wage supplement policies by taking the opportunity to severely underpay their employees - resulting in both insecure income and employment, and significant public expense to reduce the poverty suffered by full-time workers. And Lana Payne comments that the Cons' anti-worker policies figure to further exacerbate inequality in Canada as well.

- Meanwhile, lest anybody doubt the disproportionate effect of corporate power in politics, Juliet Eilperin writes that the Obama White House delayed the introduction of health, safety and environmental regulations until after the 2012 election cycle to avoid controversy - and still hasn't caught up on the backlog.

- Martin Regg Cohn writes that the Canada Pension Plan needs shoring up now. But Chris Hall reports that the Harper Cons loom as one of the most important obstacles to agreement on a more secure retirement system.

- In the same vein, the Cons are once again showing their disdain for immigrant families by severely restricting the circumstances in which it's possible to sponsor a parent or grandparent. And they're seemingly planning to pull the rug out from under Canadians who rely on social housing.

- Thomas Walkom points out how the Cons' attacks on Canada Post seem designed to avoid important decisions about underfunded pensions. And Susan Delacourt speculates about the political effect of making mail less accessible and affordable:
The more that people refuse to answer their phones or come to their doors when a politician calls, the more the parties have had to find other ways to know their voters.

The parties have been buying magazine subscription lists, for example, to find out what interests the people inside those homes. But will these subscriptions themselves become relics, when magazines, like the mail, no longer arrive on the doorstep?

What about the direct mail fundraising that has been such a source of small, individual contributions to political parties? Will those postcard-format appeals for dollars even make it from the community mailbox into voters’ homes?

People are still letting the outside world into their homes, but now the main route of entry is through a screen — whether on a television, computer or smartphone.

The milkbox is no longer the portal into suburban homes. Soon the mailbox, the place to deposit letters, bills and newspapers, will join it as a museum artifact.

Can the politician on the doorstep be far behind?
- Finally, Andrew Coyne comments on the Cons' culture of secrecy:
If the Senate scandal has had such legs, then, it is because so much of the behaviour it describes, the secrecy and deception and control from the top, has been everywhere replicated in the government’s handling of the fallout. What began as a secret deal to buy a senator’s silence has progressed through several additional layers of deception: the bogus story about Senator Mike Duffy repaying his own bogus expenses, papered over with a bogus money trail; the tampering with the Deloitte audit; the whitewashing of the Senate committee report; the series of ever more preposterous stories, after the story broke, about what Senator Duffy and Nigel Wright were up to, and whether they were fine, upstanding public servants or misguided patriots or deceitful criminals; the denials of involvement or knowledge, including to the police, by several of the principals, in direct conflict with the known facts; the mysterious mass deletion of emails by Benjamin Perrin, who may or may not have been the prime minister’s lawyer, followed by their even more mysterious discovery; the stonewalling and evasions throughout. I may have missed a stage, but I believe we are now at the cover-up of the cover-up of the cover-up.
As ever, we are confronted with the utter inability of our democratic institutions to hold those in power to account. Nor is this confined to the Senate mess. Debates in Parliament are now routinely cut short by “time allocation.” Committees now routinely meet in camera. The Parliamentary Budget Office is reduced to filing access to information requests for the departmental data to which it is statutorily entitled. The list goes on.

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