Friday, May 02, 2014

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Linda McQuaig discusses how the interests of big banks ended the Cons' willingness to consider postal banking which would produce both better service and more profits for the public:
(C)ompetition is the last thing the banks want. And given their power (straddling the very heart of the Canadian establishment) and their wealth (record profits last year topping $30 billion), the banks tend to get what they want from the Harper government.

This could explain the government’s otherwise baffling decision last fall to reject an option that would have allowed a serious competitor to enter the banking sector, offering financial services to hundreds of thousands of Canadians who currently lack a bank account and often end up paying triple-digit interest rates to payday lenders (otherwise known as loan sharks).

Canada Post had put together a lengthy file supporting the case for “postal banking.” Under such a scheme, Canada Post would offer banking services through its 6,400 postal outlets — stepping into the vacuum left after the big banks closed more than 1,700 branches across the country in the last two decades, leaving hundreds of rural and remote communities without a bank.

What’s more, by entering the lucrative field of financial services, the publicly-owned postal service could have earned significant profits. A management report done for Canada Post concluded that postal banking was a “win-win” strategy.
The Harper government’s resistance to the idea is at least partly ideological. Postal banking would essentially create a public banking system — something that would be repugnant to hard-right Conservatives who have spent years dismantling Canada’s public systems and turning them over to the private sector.
- Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Free Press concludes that the CPP represents by far the best option to offer Canadians improved income security in retirement. Which naturally means that the Cons are instead planning to demolish any form of defined-benefit plan, to be replaced by more risky plans intended to be run - and exploited - by the private sector.

- Mathew Paterson debunks the Fraser Institute's sad attempt to pretend that unregulated corporate dominance is anything but a disaster for the environment. And Andrew Flowers tests the business lobby's attempts to demonize unions in the name of "competition" - and finds that countries with greater union density are actually better placed to compete internationally.

- Frances Russell laments how even Canada's elections rules (along with budgets and other policy decisions) are being developed based solely on the Cons' partisan calculations. And Althia Raj points out that the Unfair Elections Act is designed to give special advantages to wealthier candidates.

- Finally, Carol Goar discusses the total lack of accountability or morality among Canada's right-wing political leaders - and recognizes what's needed to end the culture of cult conservatism:
There is nothing new about scandal in Canadians politics. History is replete with tales of ministers on the take, greedy public officials and corrupt mayors.

What has changed is that wrongdoers are no longer required — or even expected — to take responsibility for their actions. They don’t offer to resign. They don’t acknowledge they forfeited the confidence of the public. What they do instead is lash out at the government watchdogs who caught them, the journalists who exposed their malfeasance and the judges who applied the brakes.

To maintain this state of affairs, three conditions are necessary:

The first is an unprecedented level of secrecy or obfuscation by public officials.

The second is a sizable bloc of voters that can be counted on to support a besmirched leader no matter what he or she does.

The third is an electorate so unconcerned — or jaded — that it does nothing.

All three of these conditions currently exist in Canada; not in every jurisdiction but in several of the most prominent centres of government.

The antidote to what ails the body politic is obvious: eradicate the conditions that allow it to thrive.

Demand straight answers from those who are paid to serve the public and make it clear their jobs are on the line. Summon up the will to outvote the “bedrock supporters” who keep discredited politicians in power. Care a little more about Canada.

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