Saturday, October 04, 2014

On consensus-breaking

Having earlier dealt with Stephen Harper's attempt to justify war by building up hatred and hype toward ISIS, I'll note the other main rationale on offer from the Cons - which can generally be described as government by wrong answer to a rhetorical question:
If Canada wants to keep its voice in the world…and we should since so many of our challenges are global…being a free rider means you are not taken seriously.
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And when our allies recognize and respond to a threat, that would also harm us, we Canadians do not stand on the sidelines. We do our part.
Or in shorter form:
Canadians: If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do the same?
Harper: Of course. In fact, I take pride in following along.
So what's wrong with the "but everybody else is doing it!" argument?

Let's start by noting that the issue isn't one of other countries actually requesting Canada's military participation at all. Instead, the best evidence is that even as Harper falsely claimed to be responding to U.S. requests for help, he was instead positively begging to be dared to join in.

But more fundamentally, Harper can't claim to value the common views of other countries with any consistency.

In fact, he's consistently thumbed his nose at the rest of the world on issues ranging from climate change to asbestos to indigenous rights to financial regulation, ensuring that risks far more severe than ISIS would go unaddressed. And in those cases, his contempt for consensus actually stood in the way of international action - unlike in the case of Iraq, where some military intervention would almost certainly go ahead regardless of what Canada does.

Of course, the other common thread is that in those cases, Harper's determination to thwart arose out of the Cons' service of corporate interests, with a particular focus on the resource sector.

But surely that confirms that Harper doesn't value multilateralism as a general principle, only as a means to the ends which he wants to pursue anyway. And in this case, that means using allies as excuses to drag Canada into war for its own sake.

A friendly reminder from your military-industrial overlords

Money to extend and improve the lives of Canadian citizens is never available, and the need for funding precludes any discussion of the benefits of investing in people. But money for war is free and unlimited, and the need for funding is not to be discussed as part of any debate as to our military plans.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Charlie Smith discusses - and then follows up on - Donald Gutstein's work in tracing the connections between the Harper Cons and the shadowy, U.S.-based network of right-wing propaganda mills:
In Harperism: How Stephen Har­per and His Think Tank Colleagues Have Transformed Canada (James Lorimer & Company Ltd.), Gutstein makes the case that neoliberalism is far more sinister than simply having a desire for smaller government. A central tenet of his new book is that Harper is undermining democracy by marshalling the power of government to create and enforce markets where they’ve never existed before.

“He’s gradually moving the country from one that’s based on democracy to one that’s based on the market, which means that the decisions are not made by our duly elected representatives through the laws that they pass and the regulations that they enact,” Gutstein says.
...
With astonishing intellectual dexterity, Gutstein demonstrates in his book how Harper’s overarching mission to promote economic freedom through the imposition of markets is reflected in Conservative government policies.

This explains the zealous desire to dismantle environmental regulations, muzzle government scientists, and scrap the long-form census. The faith in markets also underlies Harper’s blindness to rising income inequality and his eagerness to undermine the Canadian Wheat Board.

In addition, it provides a theoretical framework behind efforts to persuade First Nations to abandon collective ownership of their land in favour of a fee-simple system. Neoliberal ideology also manifests itself in Harper galloping around the world to sign free-trade agreements, which limit municipal and provincial governments’ ability to introduce regulations or procure locally produced goods and services.
- And on that front, Arielle Mayer points out that the FIPA may severely limit Canada's ability to do anything to rein in climate change for upwards of a generation.

- Meanwhile, Kevin Campbell reminds us that inequality is bad for business as well as being socially corrosive:
The moral case for reducing inequality is well known, and compelling. But there's little discussion of the economic case. Competition and free markets will always result in some doing better than others, but when growth accrues overwhelmingly to the top 10 per cent, it threatens the health of our society and the sustainability of the economy. If the majority of our population is unable to spend on more than merely the basics, money won't circulate through the economy. If money doesn't circulate, economic growth slows. When economic growth slows, businesses fail, jobs disappear and key programs providing health, education and safety to our citizens begin to fail. It is true that we manage inequality better than many other countries, but since when is B.C. satisfied with measuring itself against the worst instead of by our proximity to the best?
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In 2011, the top 10 per cent earned 34.4 per cent of all after-tax income in this province. But income only tells us half the story. A recent report has estimated that the top 10 per cent owns 56.2 per cent of the wealth in our province -- well above the national average.

At this point some might suggest this line of inquiry is motivated by a disdain for the economically mobile. Wrong. I believe these numbers show how income inequality is bad for business. Let me put it this way: if an individual earns 10 times as much as her neighbour, she does not buy 10 times as many bottles of Okanagan wine or make 10 times as many trips to Science World. We can measure this effect: the 'velocity' of money in Canada -- the measure of how many times the money supply circulates in a year -- is now at a 35 year low.
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There's no shortage of ideas about how to address inequality without threatening our ability to do business, but few have talked about how much the future of our economy depends on reconciling this. Let's dare to end the false choice between growth and equality. Let's make our province more prosperous by making it more fair.
- And as one example of a policy choice which could help improve the position of workers within a stronger economy, Dr. Dawg makes the case for free university tuition as an important step in encouraging economic development and social equality alike.

- Tavia Grant discusses how workers lose out when employers offer only precarious and inconsistent work in order to pad their own profit margins:
The tilt to unstable work – temp jobs, shift work or erratic part-time positions – shows “these are not the 1970s jobs any more. There’s no sense of permanence to them. That’s the area that’s really changing – the lack of commitment by employers to employees in the long term,” says Wayne Lewchuk, professor at McMaster University’s economics and labour studies departments.

In prior decades, workers were seen as investments for companies, an asset to be developed over the long term. Now, he says, they’re often viewed as a liability or a cost to be minimized whenever possible.

“The reality is, our economy is much more competitive now than it was 40 or 50 years ago. It’s a brutal world out there if you’re a firm, and so they are looking for ways to cut costs. … So we’ve seen a movement of firms to protect a core [of employees] and surrounding that with a periphery of less permanent employees or tasks that are contracted out,” Prof. Lewchuk says.

He has surveyed 4,000 people in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area and found that nearly half now work in jobs with some degree of insecurity – from short-term contracts to self-employed, working for temp agencies or without benefits.

That has clear consequences for finances, his research has found, but the impact also spills into family, health and community involvement.
- Finally, Kim Stanton both argues for an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, and describes what we'd need for that inquiry to lead to real progress. And Doug Cuthand is duly appalled by the Cons' push to undermine indigenous rights at the UN level.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Musical interlude

Arcade Fire - Ocean of Noise

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Following up on yesterday's column, Michael Harris offers his take on how Stephen Harper refuses to accept anything short of war as an option:
Stephen Harper talks as if this is yet another of those good-versus-evil fables he is always passing off to the public as deep analysis and sound policy.

More honest and experienced minds make a more rational case. In the United Kingdom, the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove said that politicians are merely taking advantage of a distortion towards Islamic extremism. That distortion was branded on the public consciousness by the 9/11 attacks. It has since been used to exaggerate all kinds of threats, ISIS being just the latest of them.  Dearlove correctly points out that fighting in Syria and Iraq is essentially Muslim on Muslim.

He thinks that governments and the media make a great mistake in sensationalizing the threat represented by ISIS because the oxygen of publicity actually encourages their excesses. It is, he says, time to move away from the distortion that 9/11 understandably created, time to regain our footing. It is an idea not without appeal.
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Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau are right, plain and simple. The PM needs to make the case for war, if there even is one to be made. And he needs to make it to the Canadian people, not in an interview with the Wall Street Journal while in the offices of Goldman Sachs.

If he doesn’t hold a real debate, it will demonstrate that he is in the same headspace as Republican freshman Senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz. According to one wag, Cruz’s idea of foreign policy is part John Wayne and part Sarah Palin; “shoot first and don’t ask any questions.” Sound familiar?
- Meanwhile, Duncan Cameron summarizes how we reached the brink of war, while Scott Stelmaschuk offers a more detailed analysis. Rick Salutin makes the case for non-intervention rather than bombing. Jeffrey Simpson points out that the Cons' supposed rationale and strategy are based on nothing but wilful ignorance and wishful thinking. And Anthony Fenton reports that the Cons are already misleading the public about the scope of Canada's current involvement.

- Tim Dickinson offers a thorough look at the Koch brothers' toxic empire. And David Dayen discusses how a "benching" remedy can make sure a corporation doesn't merely treat the price of stalling and eventually settling regulatory proceedings as a cost of continuing to do improper business.

- Finally, the Economist discusses the growing disconnect between work and wealth (and associated rise of inequality). But it is worth going further than the Economist proposes in response: in fact, the lack of a link between individual work and incomes serves as a compelling basis to both collect more revenue on higher incomes which don't reflect work or merit, and to ensure that work isn't a precondition to participation in society through a guaranteed basic income.

[Edit: fixed typo.]

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Linda McQuaig discusses who stands to lose out from a CETA designed to limit its benefits to the corporate elite. And PressProgress points out that Canada's pay gap between CEOs and workers is higher than that of any other OECD country other than the U.S.

- Meanwhile, all indications are that the Canadian public is more than ready for a change in direction, as EKOS finds a significant shift toward more progressive positions in the past few years even on many of the issues where the Cons have focused the most political capital.

- And likewise, Karl Nerenberg writes that while the Cons may have succeeded in ensuring that Ottawa stays broken as long as they're in power, they only figure to make the case for change in doing so.

- George Monbiot observes that the drive for perpetually more consumption is having devastating effects on our natural environment while doing little for human well-being:
In the rich nations, which commission much of this destruction through imports, most of our consumption has nothing to do with meeting human needs.

This is what hits me harder than anything: the disproportion between what we lose and what we gain. Economic growth in a country whose primary and secondary needs have already been met means developing ever more useless stuff to meet ever fainter desires.

For example, a vague desire to amuse friends and colleagues (especially through the Secret Santa nonsense) commissions the consumption of thousands of tonnes of metal and plastic, often confected into complex electronic novelties: toys for adults. They might provoke a snigger or two, then they are dumped in a cupboard. After a few weeks, scarcely used, they find their way into landfill.

In a society bombarded by advertising and driven by the growth imperative, pleasure is reduced to hedonism and hedonism is reduced to consumption. We use consumption as a cure for boredom, to fill the void that an affectless, grasping, atomised culture creates, to brighten the grey world we have created.

We care ever less for the possessions we buy, and dispose of them ever more quickly. Yet the extraction of the raw materials required to produce them, the pollution commissioned in their manufacturing, the infrastructure and noise and burning of fuel needed to transport them are trashing a natural world infinitely more fascinating and intricate than the stuff we produce. 
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Working hours rise, wages stagnate or fall, tasks become duller, more stressful and harder to fulfill, emails and texts and endless demands clatter inside our heads, shutting down the ability to think, corners are cut, services deteriorate, housing becomes almost impossible to afford, there’s ever less money for essential public services. What and whom is this growth for?

It’s for the people who run or own the banks, the hedge funds, the mining companies, the advertising firms, the lobbying companies, the weapons manufacturers, the buy-to-let portfolios, the office blocks, the country estates, the offshore accounts. The rest of us are induced to regard it as necessary and desirable through a system of marketing and framing so intensive and all-pervasive that it amounts to brainwashing.
- Finally, Roger Peters makes the case for the federal government to take the lead in transitioning Canada toward a green energy economy. And Mike De Souza offers a noteworthy contrast as to how a focus on developing the tar sands to serve the private sector is being seen in the court of public opinion.

New column day

Here, on how leaders who stand up to hysterical calls to abandon peace and human rights in the name of fleeting threats tend to be vindicated by history - and how Thomas Mulcair is carrying on the NDP's legacy on that front even in the face of criticism from Very Serious People.

For further reading...
- The two prime examples of media attempts to strong-arm Mulcair into writing a blank cheque for war in Iraq (based a combination of threat hype and a general affinity for hippie-punching) come from John Ivison and L. Ian MacDonald.
- Meanwhile, Janyce McGregor offers the latest comparable spin on free trade. And Tim Harper manages to fit both corporatism and war into the same column.
- To be fair, plenty of commentators are rightly calling into question the rationale for war in Iraq, with the Globe and Mail recognizing the Cons have failed to make any reasonable case, Chantal Hebert pointing out that Stephen Harper's rhetoric is nothing but warmed-over talking points from 2003, and Neil MacDonald offering some much-needed perspective on how ISIS compares to other international realities. (For a more thorough review of that point, see Nicolas J.S. Davies' take here.)
- And Lysiane Gagnon goes so far as to recognize Mulcair's role in dialing back an unwarranted call to arms.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Abdul Abiad, David Furceri and Petia Topalova highlight the IMF's research confirming that well-planned infrastructure spending offers an economic boost in both the short and long term:
(I)ncreased public infrastructure investment raises output in the short term by boosting demand and in the long term by raising the economy’s productive capacity.

In a sample of advanced economies, an increase of 1 percentage point of GDP in investment spending raises the level of output by about 0.4 percent in the same year and by 1.5 percent four years after the increase (see chart, upper panel).

In addition, the boost to GDP a country gets from increasing public infrastructure investment offsets the rise in debt, so that the public debt-to-GDP ratio does not rise...

In other words, public infrastructure investment could pay for itself if done correctly.
- And the Montreal Gazette offers one example of an area where public investment is sorely lacking by pointing out the importance of making homes available as part of the fight against homelessness.

- Trish Hennessy's latest Index examines Canada's weak job market - including the continued shift away from secure full-time employment toward self-employment and other precarious, low-paying work. And the Huffington Post notes that even by the top-heavy metric that is GDP, Canada's economy is looking rather anemic.

- Which of course means that it's time for...more attacks on workers! There, Stephen Kimber notes, this time it's Nova Scotia's Liberal government breaking an election promise not to gratuitously attack health care workers - and rightly facing a backlash as a result. And Bryce Covert writes that the U.S.' already-woeful system of paid leave is getting worse by the year.

- Finally, Scott Stelmaschuk challenges Andrew Scheer's rationale for allowing irrelevant answers in Question Period by wondering why a tradition of unaccounable government would be worth preserving. And Ole Hendrickson laments the fact that we're governed by political operatives rather than representatives.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Downed cats.




Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Paul Verhaege discusses how unchecked capitalism is changing our personality traits for the worse:
There are certain ideal characteristics needed to make a career today. The first is articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible. Contact can be superficial, but since this applies to most human interaction nowadays, this won’t really be noticed.

It’s important to be able to talk up your own capacities as much as you can – you know a lot of people, you’ve got plenty of experience under your belt and you recently completed a major project. Later, people will find out that this was mostly hot air, but the fact that they were initially fooled is down to another personality trait: you can lie convincingly and feel little guilt. That’s why you never take responsibility for your own behaviour.

On top of all this, you are flexible and impulsive, always on the lookout for new stimuli and challenges. In practice, this leads to risky behaviour, but never mind, it won’t be you who has to pick up the pieces. The source of inspiration for this list? The psychopathy checklist by Robert Hare, the best-known specialist on psychopathy today.

This description is, of course, a caricature taken to extremes. Nevertheless, the financial crisis illustrated at a macro-social level (for example, in the conflicts between eurozone countries) what a neoliberal meritocracy does to people. Solidarity becomes an expensive luxury and makes way for temporary alliances, the main preoccupation always being to extract more profit from the situation than your competition. Social ties with colleagues weaken, as does emotional commitment to the enterprise or organisation.
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Our presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, “make” something of ourselves. You don’t need to look far for examples. A highly skilled individual who puts parenting before their career comes in for criticism. A person with a good job who turns down a promotion to invest more time in other things is seen as crazy – unless those other things ensure success. A young woman who wants to become a primary school teacher is told by her parents that she should start off by getting a master’s degree in economics – a primary school teacher, whatever can she be thinking of?

There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.
- Meanwhile, Robert Reich discusses how the U.S. economy is serving only the interests of the wealthy few. And Alan Pyke exposes another egregious (and seemingly widespread) form of tax evasion, as U.S. banks skim off a billion dollars each year as their fee for systematically transferring stock ownership to avoid having the real owner pay taxes on dividends.

- Danielle Martin and Steve Morgan make the case for a national pharmacare plan. But Amir Attaran weighs in on Health Canada's abject failure to protect the public from dangerous drugs under a government which simply doesn't care whether needed medications are either available or effective:
Consider the case of Ranbaxy, a pharmaceutical company from India. Last year, the FDA successfully prosecuted Ranbaxy for manufacturing adulterated drugs and misleading it with false, fictitious and fraudulent drug testing data — crimes for which Ranbaxy paid $500 million (U.S.) in criminal and civil penalties. Fortune Magazine, among other sources, alleges that this fraud was not isolated, but that Ranbaxy managers were aware of data falsification affecting “more than 200 products in more than 40 countries.” No wonder the FDA, after failed inspections, banned several Ranbaxy factories from accessing the United States market.

But not in Canada. Even though former Ranbaxy executives say they are “confident there were problems” with drugs sold here, after the criminal conviction Health Canada refused to ban Ranbaxy’s factories, and instead negotiated with the company to voluntarily pull a few of its medicines off the market for testing; Health Canada won’t say which ones. Worse, Health Canada routinely lets drug importers like Ranbaxy choose who inspects their foreign factories. Private consultants hired by companies, and not arm’s length government inspectors, often do so.

That is the deplorable state of drug regulation in Canada today: rather than enforce the law with vigour as the FDA does, Health Canada negotiates with companies like Ranbaxy that have committed terrible crimes and lets them cherry-pick their inspectors. Ranbaxy medicines banned as unsafe in the United States are on the shelves of Canadian hospitals and pharmacies today.

...(O)ur bigger problem is not legal but cultural, namely the indolent, lapdog attitude of ministers like Ambrose and the public servants at Health Canada, who seem to lack any understanding of how governments should regulate. As we learned by the carnage of Lac-M├ęgantic and the deaths from the listeriosis outbreak, regulation does not mean bargaining or pleading with the industry that you are regulating. It means ordering them, with a big stick in hand.
(Though I will sound a note of caution about Attaran's desire to instead hand over responsibility for quality control to the FDA in light of the risk that the U.S.' own regulatory structure could be gutted at any time.)

- Chantal Hebert points out that the Cons' fixation on fossil fuel extraction is facing significant obstacles at home as well as abroad.

- Finally, Aaron Wherry discusses the Cons' war on relevancy as their basis for opposing a simple requirement that they actually answer the questions posed to them in Question Period, while Kady O'Malley offers a few alternatives to try to keep MPs on topic (though all seem both more complicated and less effective than the NDP's proposal). And Andrew Mitrovica argues that we need to keep our eye on the bigger political picture, rather than being too easily distracted by sideshows like Paul Calandra and Ezra Levant.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Aaron Wherry reviews what the last week has told us about the functioning (or absence thereof) of our House of Commons - and points out that the most important problem is one which hasn't yet surfaced in headlines or memes:
(T)he most important sentence delivered last week about the state of our Parliament might’ve been found not on any screen, speaker or widely read page, but on page four of the Parliamentary Budget Office’s quarterly expenditure review: “The Government has refused to release data that is necessary for the PBO to determine whether the recent spending cuts are sustainable.”

That much didn’t inspire even a single question last week (though there was one question about a different refusal to provide the PBO with information). Maybe because this is such old news. But minding the collection and expenditure of public funds is arguably the primary reason we have a Parliament: the idea from which our Parliament began to grow in the 13th century. That we have a profound problem in this regard is hardly news. But to dismiss that concern is merely to dismiss 700 years of progress.
- And lest there's any doubt, the Cons are once again taking a stand against their ever having to answer for anything - this time, by opposing the NDP's simple motion to require the government to provide merely relevant answers in question period.

- Meanwhile, Michael Harris notes that recent days have also offered a continuation of some familiar and dangerous patterns when it comes to the Harper Cons' foreign policy choices:
The prime minister long ago used up any “benefit of the doubt” account he might once have had on foreign affairs. His analysis a decade ago would have had Canada front and centre in the last Iraq debacle — which anyone who takes a second to think about it knows set the stage for this latest ISIS fiasco.

The old thesis is back. One can bomb one’s way to peace in the Middle East without telling the folks back home what’s going on. You know, like Viet Nam. Only undemocratic war mongers believe that. And for that matter, only war mongers celebrate the beginning of the First World War, the way Harper did.
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Harper has done this much for the country. He has shown us that even in an age as shallow as this one, marketing has it limits. Harper’s UN speech was in the same category as the contest to name his new cat. If he thinks that talking peace and motherhood will allow him to send Canadians to fight and die in Iraq without debate, if he thinks he can foist weeping losers on the public in important positions, if he thinks he can replace inconvenient facts with made-up versions, he has forgotten it is no longer 2006.
- And Mark Kennedy reports that truth and reconciliation aren't anywhere on Harper's agenda at home either - as he's refusing to meet with the chair of the commission he himself appointed to examine Canada's shameful legacy of residential schools.

- Finally, Tom Sullivan discusses how P3s are failing to live up to their promise of a free lunch around the developed world. And Jim Holmes notes that a combination of vanishing funding, false assumptions and broken promises is turning Regina's wastewater P3 into a bad deal as well.

On choosing sides

Shorter L. Ian MacDonald:
Anybody doubting whether it's worth going to war in Iraq based on minimal information and questionable reasoning had best take a cold, hard look at the dangers of being on the wrong side of history. But of course, anybody demanding a war in in Iraq based on minimal information and questionable reasoning can count on the full and indefinite support of Very Serious People around the globe, no matter how appallingly wrong the decision proves to be.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Sunday reading.

- Frances Russell notes that the corporate sector is laughing all the way to the bank (and often an offshore one at that) after fifteen years of constant tax slashing, while Canadian citizens haven't benefited at all from the trickle-down theory. And Jordan Weissmann points out that a recent survey on CEO pay is just the latest example of Americans both severely underestimating the level of inequality in their country, and still preferring a far more equal distribution of wealth.

- Elisabeth Babcock writes that in addition to providing a reasonable standard of living, any effort to ameliorate poverty needs to include a concerted effort to overcome the individual stresses created by precarious life. And Chuk Plante reminds us how poverty and exclusion are intertwined with health and economic outcomes.

- Mitchell Anderson highlights how the FIPPA and other business-biased trade deals serve to undermine not only any hope of people-oriented policy, but also the personal and social protections enshrined in Canada's constitution:
Perhaps most importantly, the deal fails to protect aboriginal rights under the Constitution. The implications of this omission are profound. While our federal government has a duty to consult First Nations, Chinese state-owned companies can sue Canada through a secret international arbitration panel for any such accommodation that affects their economic interests.

This would essentially fetter the Crown, which could be successfully sued by either Chinese interests or First Nations depending on whether they respect aboriginal title or not. Put another way, while the FIPA does not specifically override First Nations Charter protections, it could make providing those protections prohibitively expensive. The Hupacasath First Nation on Vancouver Island challenged the FIPA in court based on exactly these concerns and their decision at the Federal Court of Appeal is expected any day.
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 With the prospect of a change in government in 2015, many Canadians are hoping for a period of rebuilding public institutions. The FIPA, however, could lock in Harper’s draconian cuts to federal environmental laws for almost eight electoral cycles — effectively an eternity by political standards.

Future governments could revisit the legislative changes by the Harper government, but if they affect Chinese interests in comparison to what is on the books now, we have to pay. How much? According to the terms just agreed to by Ottawa, the sky’s the limit.

Harper famously proclaimed, “You won’t recognize Canada when I’m through with it.” He has made surprising progress on that dubious goal, and like most politicians I’m sure would like to keep it that way long after he has left office.

This trade deal will persist for as long as we’ve had the Charter. But unlike the Charter, which was the result of months of good-faith negotiations between opposing political parties, the FIPA seems instead an undemocratic and underhanded endgame to lock in our prime minister’s ideological legacy.
- Meanwhile, Mike De Souza reports that the Cons are once again encouraging the oil industry to flout what few environmental laws are left on the books - this time issuing a drilling permit while studiously ignoring scientific evidence about the danger the drilling would pose to endangered beluga whales. Which means that it's more than understandable that affected communities like North Bay are raising concerns about the Energy East pipeline even as it avoids some of the risks and costs of its even more controversial counterparts.

- Finally, as part of Right to Know Week, Sean Holman unveils a new movement - and hashtag - intended to expose government secrecy in Canada.