Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Scott Sinclair studies the effect of NAFTA on government policies, and finds that it's been used primarily (and all too frequently) to attack Canadian policy choices:
A study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) finds over 70% of all NAFTA investor-state claims since 2005 were brought against the Canadian government and the number of challenges against Canada is rising sharply. From 1995-2005, there were 12 claims against Canada, while in the last ten years there have been 23.

"It appears that the federal government's strong ideological commitment to ISDS and its willingness to settle and pay compensation is encouraging investor-state claims against Canada," says Sinclair.

As of January 1, 2015, 45% of NAFTA claims were made against Canada. Canada has been the target of 35 investor-state claims, significantly more than either Mexico (22) or the U.S. (20). "Thanks to NAFTA chapter 11, Canada has now been sued more times through investor-state dispute settlement, than any other developed country in the world," Sinclair added.

The study notes that although NAFTA proponents claimed that ISDS was needed to address concerns about corruption in the Mexican court system, most investor-state challenges involve public policy and regulatory matters. Sixty three per cent of claims against Canada involve challenges to environmental protection or resource management measures.
- And Thomas Walkom follows up by pointing out that the CETA figures to create even more limitations on democratic decision-making.

- Raksha Vasudevan writes about the Cons' voter suppression tactics aimed at Canadians living abroad. And, Linda McQuaig highlights how Justin Trudeau looms as the main obstacle to proportional representation at the federal level.

- Also on the electoral fairness front, Alice Funke identifies how the Cons have radically altered election spending limits based on the length of a campaign period. But I'd point out in particular (as Alice alludes to) that the effect of that change may be just as much to perpetuate a government's financial advantage as to exploit it: a governing party which had set its advertising budget for an election cycle could turn what would otherwise be pre-writ spending into a rebated expense by starting the writ period earlier.

- Mike Hager discusses how the Cons' restrictions on research funding are suppressing any work into exactly the controversial subjects where greater knowledge would seem essential to policy development.

- And finally, Daniel Beland, Rachel Laforest and Jennifer Wallner discuss some of Canada's worst policy ideas of 2014 - with the Cons' income splitting scheme rightly earning a prominent place on the list.

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