Saturday, May 13, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Claire Provost writes about the spread of the private security industry - which now exceeds the size of public police forces in Canada among other countries - as a means of privileging the protection of wealth over public interests.

- Meanwhile, Lana Payne comments on the importance of allowing civil servants to focus on what's best for the public, rather than serving as political tools for governing parties.

- Jamie Condiffe points out that automation is having less impact on employment relationships than is often assumed, while Bill Emmott laments how wage fearmongering has been used to divert more and more profits into corporate coffers. Martin Regg Cohn discusses what may be some positive steps toward improved wages and working conditions in Ontario - though the timing and motivation of Liberals in an election year offers reason to be wary. And Jill Petzinger reports on how unions have been able to protect the interests of employees of Tesla and other new manufacturers.

- Percy Downe writes that while it's helpful to see improved funding to combat offshore tax evasion, it remains to be seen whether that promise will lead to results. And Diana Swain and Jennifer Fowler report on how Russian criminal organizations are using Canada's secretive banking sector for money laundering purposes.

- Finally, in the wake of Brad Wall's declared intention to use the Charter's notwithstanding clause as part of the foundation of Saskatchewan's education system, Leonid Sirota discusses the danger of it serving as a tool for reactionary politicians:
The Saskatchewan government’s unwarranted and hypocritical behaviour illustrates the fundamental problem with the notwithstanding clause. In theory, it could be a means for elected representatives of the people to express reasonable disagreement with the courts on difficult philosophical issues regarding the extent of constitutional rights, as well as policy questions about what kinds of limits on these rights might be unavoidable in a free and democratic society. In practice, if Saskatchewan succeeds at normalizing the use of the clause, governments will not engage in any serious deliberation about these issues. At best, they will resort to the clause to avoid the costs of carrying out their constitutional obligations. At worst, they will do it simply in order to appear “tough,” enacting policies both unnecessary and iniquitous in a race to the constitutional bottom.

The recent proposal by Lisa Raitt, a candidate for the leadership of the federal Conservative Party, to use the notwithstanding clause to prevent protests against the building of pipelines exemplifies the latter dynamic. So do calls by nationalist politicians (and legal academics) in Quebec to dispense with the right to be tried within a reasonable time. [Allan] Blakeney thought that enlightened politicians might need to overrule courts in order to preserve social programs from encroachments by judicial reactionaries. Instead, his toxic constitutional legacy is in danger of being used by unscrupulous populists to satiate the reactionary tendencies of the electorate. Voters should keep in mind that poison tends not to be as nutritious is it might seem.

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