Saturday, June 18, 2005

Deserving winners

Reporters Without Borders names its top Freedom Blogs, consisting of blogs defending freedom of expression, sometimes in the face of oppressive governments.

The winners:
Asia: Screenshot (Malaysia, published in English)
Joint winner Africa and Middle East: Shared Pains (Afghanistan, Farsi)
Joint winner Africa and Middle East: Al Jinane (Morocco, French)
Europe: ICT lex (Italy, Italian)
Americas: Press Think (US, English)
Iran: Mojtaba Saminejad (Iran, Farsi)
International: Netzpolitik (Germany, German)

Take a moment to remember how much easier we have it than some who risk life and limb to make the truth known.

The Hon. Member from McCarthy East

Not too much interesting from yesterday, except for one excellent piece of campaign fodder.

Conservative Rob Nicholson isn't quite ready for the Cold War to be over:
If the government does not have any money because it gave it all to the NDP, why does it not suspend trade with and foreign aid to China and do something with those resources to expel all these communist spies in our country?

This, of course, is followed by a half-hearted retraction again demanding the expulsion of "communist spies", but this time backed only by suspension of foreign aid in the meantime.

Can I get a "Mr. Hu, tear down that wall!"?

On listening to one's self

Ralph Goodale criticizes Europe for backloading its foreign aid promises:
If you say we're going to get there but we're not going to add a dollar until 2015 — and that is the commitment that some countries have made, entirely back-end loaded — well, it doesn't make for much help in the meantime.

Very interesting. The numbers from Goodale's budget just a few months ago:
Three-quarters of the $41.2 billion in new spending announced in the budget over the next five years will occur after April 1, 2007, with fully one-third of the overall spending in 2009-10, the last of the five years.

So is minimal spending in the meantime acceptable, as long as some money flows now? If so, I'm sure we can count on several euros worth of aid flowing immediately.

Blog Readership

A Little Bit Left has a great post on the future of blogging in Canada. That said, I'll point out that U.S. data seems to counter the thesis that an election campaign will drive blog readership up. For all the publicity given to the big American blogs during the campaign, they actually had more hits in April before the election and January afterward.

I'm not entirely sure why that's the case, but I suspect it's because even during relative down-times for news outlets, there's always something interesting going on somewhere on the blogs. When the MSM is properly covering an interesting story, there's less need to go online for news. But for someone wanting to know the latest on Downing Street, until a week ago there was nowhere to go but online.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Campaign finance reform

...small-party style:
Seven of Canada's smaller political parties have launched a lawsuit, claiming they're not being given their fair share in electoral funds.
The Christian Heritage party is looking for its share. So, too, is the Marxist-Leninist party, the Communist party and the Marijuana party.

A good plan, as I can understand the frustration at being left out of the money even on a per-vote basis, and there may well be a serious case to be made based on s. 15 of the Charter.

But why stop at cooperating for the purposes of the lawsuit? Surely if these groups all joined forces, they could give the Greens a run for their money as Canada's fifth party. And the collective message wouldn't be any less coherent than that of the Greens now.

They're all the most radical candidate!

So much for my thinking that an immediate referendum would be a radical policy in the upcoming PQ leadership race:
(Boisclair) said he will hold a referendum within a first mandate if the PQ defeats Premier Jean Charest's Liberals in an election likely to be held in 2007 or 2008.

Now that both of her opponents seem to back this idea, how long until Marois announces the same plan?

On when to close the barn door

The Cons wish Stronach had been forced to run in a by-election:
One month after Stronach's departure sank their hopes of toppling the Liberals, her jilted former mates tabled a private member's bill Friday. The bill would force a byelection call within 35 days in any riding where an MP switched sides to join a new party.

The bill also requires that an MP leaving a political party sit as an independent during the time before the writ.

One fun loophole in that it doesn't appear that independents are covered by it - would this lead MPs to run as independents in order to choose which party to join based on how the session worked out?

And on a more snide note, is there any chance this bill would have been introduced if Kilgour or O'Brien had joined the Cons?

The CBC isn't perfect

But here's why it's still the best we have for now:
There are serious issues that should be debated -- ones that affect the heartbeat of a democracy. What do the media cover? How do they cover it? What motivates their decisions? Are there tendencies that apply to all news organizations, or only certain ones? Are there hidden agendas that people should be aware of?

But they should be debated seriously, by serious people. This latest Fraser Institute "study," like yelling at the TV, adds nothing.

Media that stands up for itself against ridiculous assaults from right-wing ideologues. No wonder Bill O'Reilly hates it.

Freedom Days

A quick link to this Babble discussion about the focus given to Fraser Institute's "Tax Freedom Day". My contribution was to suggest that rather than merely trying to shut down the current talking point, progressives should develop new ones of their own (in particular annual ones similar to the TFD concept). Here are the suggestions so far, please add any more ideas you can contribute.

Gender Freedom Day - the September or October day when the average male will earn as much as a comparable female will earn in a full year.

Executive Freedom Day - the day in early January when the average corporate CEO earns as much the average employee for that company. (For added fun we can have two such times hours apart, reflecting before-tax and after-tax.)

Welcome to Canada Day (renamed from the thread) - Some day from late August to mid September, highlighting the lower wages first-gen immigrants earn.

Private Auto Insurance Freedom Day - For the New Democrats out West, this is self explanatory.

US Tuition Freedom Day - The difference between American and Canadian university tuitions.

Go to it!

It's up...

...but is it going anywhere yet?

IWT News went live on Wednesday, and I've been avoiding another link in hopes that a bit more substance would be put on the site. So far it's limited to a promotional video, a survey on current news coverage, and a blog which only covers issues related to IWT News itself.

The disappointing part to me is that the intention seems to be to use the Web only for fund-raising purposes, rather than as an easy and cheap means of getting a foot in the door. A couple of blog entries a day pointing out news stories which aren't getting much press would go a long way toward showing what the network will eventually hope to accomplish. The power of the Web is great, but so too is the pace - and I hope IWT will keep up.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Pillorella pilloried

No, I'm not the only one who's appalled at the actions of the then-ambassador to Syria.

From CBC:
Former Canadian ambassador to the UN Paul Heinbecker berated his colleague Franco Pillarella for comments made at the Maher Arar inquiry...

Heinbecker spent 40 years in the Department of Foreign Affairs. He says everybody knows Syria has a bad human rights record and for Pillarella to say otherwise, casts a pall over the entire foreign service.

"I think it puts the Department of Foreign Affairs and the foreign service in a bad light," he said...

He says it is the ambassador's job to know the situation in-country and act accordingly.

Never mind ambassadors, doesn't pretty much any job involve generally paying attention to one's surrounding circumstances?

(Conservative strategists excepted of course. But to my knowledge none of them have been given diplomatic postings just yet.)

Contributory negligence

Dalton McGuinty unveils a plan to sue the U.S. over smog.

Very interesting idea, but there are a few problems:

(1) Ontario itself hasn't yet stopped using coal-fired plants, and doesn't plan to for a few years yet:
Despite a Liberal promise to close all of the province’s coal-burning generating stations by 2007, only three will close on schedule. The fourth, Nanticoke — the province’s worst polluter — will close in 2009.

To the extent that standards of care come into play, it'll thus be awfully tough for Ontario to get anywhere while not practicing what it's suing for.

(2) As noted by Marilyn Churley, part of the incoming emissions result from coal power plants from which Ontario purchases electricity:
As long as they’re importing power from the U.S. midwest that burns coal, I don’t think that they have a leg to stand on.

(3) If Ontario succeeds in such a lawsuit, then surely Quebec and the maritime provinces would have an equally strong claim against Ontario itself for sending pollution their way. Any gain would thus be temporary at best.

Nice gambit by McGuinty to try to get attention, but until Ontario at least tries itself to meet the standard it's demanding, this isn't the answer to any question other than "what's the best way to irritate the U.S. for absolutely no potential gain?".

Guessing game

Antonio Zerbisias notes an impeding conservative rival to Maclean's. Agreed with her that the copy editing is something to behold.

I presume this will be an effort to completely counter the information given in the original. In light of this prominent story in Maclean's, which seems to follow the generally-accepted take on the Harry Potter series (i.e. Harry good, Voldemort bad), what will be the imitator's take on J.K. Rowling's creation?

(a) The whole series is fundamentally evil for preaching witchcraft and independence.
(b) Harry should never have been taken away from his aunt and uncle. Instead the Dursleys should have received a tax credit. Then they could have chosen either to spoil Dudley even more, or to better restrain Harry.
(c) Voldemort is getting a bad rap, and just needs to show his sense of humour on the barbecue circuit in order to deservedly take absolute power.
(d) All of the above.

If you can correctly answer the above question, and avoid misspelling any words, you're one step ahead of the current operating minds.

Commons review

From yesterday's Hansard...

Bob Mills can spot a problem and repeat his complaint, but doesn't mention why we should think he has an effective plan.

Bev Desjarlais blasts inaction on Zonolite:
During the 1970s and 1980s, thousands of homes in Canada were insulated with zonolite. The federal government encouraged its use under the CHIP program. The Liberals have said they will remove the dangerous asbestos from military homes, but not from reserve housing or from hundreds of thousands of other homes across Canada...
(T)he Liberal government should be rightly recognized as the villain, willing to risk the lives of Canadians by ignoring the danger.

Jason Kenney, Peter MacKay and Stockwell Day are outraged that a world power actually has a spy service.

Jack's back to smog, with good results.

Brian Masse makes it clear that the NDP does care about trade with the U.S., and wonders whether the government does the same.

And Diane Bourgeois takes the lead on foreign aid. Much as I'd like to see the NDP at the frontlines on this one (particularly given the contents of C-48), at least it's getting talked about.

No deal. Or is there?

The Star seems to think so, based on the say-so of some Liberal backbenchers:
"There is no deal and there will be no deal between the government and the Conservatives to delay the civil marriage legislation until the fall. Period," Reid said.

"We can't guarantee that Bill C-38 will pass this session if the Conservatives are determined to obstruct and filibuster both it and the budget bill."

But backbench Liberals say it has become obvious in recent weeks that the beleaguered Martin government is not going to force a final vote on same-sex marriage before June 23, which will allow for more debate of the issue in the Commons when MPs return to Ottawa in the fall.

The question here is why the Star takes the word of anonymous backbenchers as to the direction of the government - especially when it also points out that Ken Boshcoff, one of the backbench Liberals who opposes C-38, would rather see a vote now than let the fight drag on through the summer.

I'll grant that the latter part of Reid's quote may leave some room for doubt as well. As already noted, though, there's no need for the Liberals to leave any doubt - nobody wants an election now, and nobody's going to care if the government (particularly with some opposition support) shuts down debate on both bills. If anything, it'll only ensure that Stephen Harper is still grouchy when he hits the barbecue circuit.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The radical candidate?

A new name enters the PQ leadership race:
Louis Bernard, a chief of staff to then-Parti Quebecois premier Rene Levesque in the 1970s, announced Wednesday he will run for the party's leadership.

Bernard, 68, who also served as a top-ranking civil servant, is the second candidate to officially seek the top job.

"I really have the intention to win the (leadership) race, win the election and make Quebec independent," he said. "That's my goal."

He also said he wants the province to be a country to allow it to assume its destiny and assert itself on the international stage.

If the 24% of the party who voted against Landry really did so out of frustration at the lack of movement toward separation, this seems to be their candidate. And now that there are two confirmed candidates with Boisclair also likely to announce, any "re-draft Landry" movement is probably dead. The suspense continues.

That didn't take long

Martin spokesman Scott Reid:
If this is the path (Tory leader) Stephen Harper selects, we will let him explain to Canadians why affordable housing, environmental protection and aid for the world’s poorest should be hostage to his unwillingness to allow a free vote on civil marriage take place.

Damn right. But let's not pretend the Liberals cared enough about those issues to put them in the budget in the first place.

The budget offer

Very interesting move by the Tories. Suddenly the supposedly-reckless spending is just fine, as long as bigotry is allowed to reign a little longer.

As an aside, I'm not sure why the press is claiming Jay Hill's comment was "snappy" as opposed to "nonsensical":
This isn’t about what Canadians are concerned about. The reality is it’s about trying to make Parliament work.

No, Jay, there's a difference between "trying to make Parliament work" and "threatening to prevent Parliament from working".

The more striking part to me is the Cons' apparent acceptance that defeating C-38 is an official "party position", so important that they'll trade off a budget in order to get it done. Haven't they been ranting all along about the need for free votes rather than party strong-arming on the issue? Do the Cons who have voted in favour of C-38 (but presumably still oppose the budget) agree with the trade-off?

There's no reason for Martin to cut a deal at this point - he can pass both the budget and C-38 this sitting if he stays the course and limits debate if necessary, and nobody will remember (or care) about his limiting debate by the time an election rolls around. The only reward for giving in will be even more of a PR campaign against SSM over the summer. Let's hope he makes the right decision.

Defending Canadian interests

Offered the chance to sit in on Syrian interrogations of Maher Arar, Ambassador Franco Pillarella declined. And the public won't be told why:
(T)he former Canadian ambassador to Damascus...testified Wednesday that the offer was made to him by Gen. Hassan Khalil, head of Syrian military intelligence...

Pillarella did not explain, in his public testimony, why the Syrian offer was rejected. He has testified at length in camera, but that evidence remains secret for national security reasons.

But don't worry: if Pillarella had been shown "conclusive proof of torture", he may have taken action.
Pillarella acknowledged that prison conditions were likely "appalling" and that Arar was "probably subject to some form of abuse."

But the ambassador, who has since been posted to Romania, insisted for a second straight day that he had no conclusive proof of torture.

Keep in mind that this is Canada's top representative in a foreign state known for torture...and he not only didn't follow up himself, but even declined invitations to gather more information.

And for this he was rewarded by being assigned another ambassadorial position.

Ever rewarding merit, that Martin.

For those who missed it...

including Sarmite Bulte, the House of Commons had more going on yesterday than just the confidence motions. A sampling:

-Alexa rightly slams the Cons for their committee whitewashing of C-48.

-Paul Martin actually agrees with Blaikie that the ongoing Devil's Lake diversion is "simply unacceptable".

-And Rona Ambrose gets in some recreational union-bashing.

Now wasn't that more fun than an endless series of votes?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Preaching to the converted

Antonia Zerbisias wonders whether bloggers will notice IWT's debut in the absence of corporate media coverage.

It may have already come up once or twice.

And nobody should be surprised that the corporate media isn't too eager to cover a future competitor instead of hoping it'll go away. It's up to us to make sure that doesn't happen.

No more impunity

Now this is an impressive ruling:
Hundreds of people could be charged with torture, disappearances and kidnapping babies during Argentina's so-called Dirty War against dissidents after the Supreme Court today struck down amnesties passed in the 1980s.

In a 7-1 vote, with one abstention, the Supreme Court voided laws passed in 1986 and 1987 to forbid charges involved in disappearances, torture and other crimes during the dictatorship. The court said the bans were contrary to today's international norms requiring the state to protect human rights and punish abuses.

Note the importance of international norms in overturning a well-established law. In the view of anybody concerned with human rights and individual accountability, this decision is cause for celebration. In the view of a good chunk of the U.S. House of Representatives, this would be cause to impeach the majority of the court.

The next Liberal leader?

Frank McKenna seems to be making friends in high places as U.S. Ambassador.

Though I have to wonder whether winning Lou Dobbs' approval is more an insult than a compliment.

Real scandals

The Tyee strikes again - this time Murray Dobbin has the rundown on Liberal actions which should be reviled more than the sponsorship scandal.

The punchline:
The polls also say that the sponsorship scandal is dropping down the list of concerns -- replaced by traditional issues such as health care, child poverty and the environment. Canadians have got it right.

Amen to that.

Diplomatic amorality

Canada's ambassador to Syria at the Arar inquiry:
Pillarella was asked repeatedly about the first meeting Canadian officials had with Arar at a Syrian jail in October of 2002.

At that time, Arar told a consular official that he had been in custody in secret for two weeks.

But Pillarella chose to believe a Syrian official who assured him Arar had been there for only 24 hours...

"I believe facts," Pillarella replied.

"When [the consular official] met with Mr. Arar, there was no evidence, no evidence that Mr. Arar had been physically tortured.

"Because I can tell you one thing: If that evidence had been there, that evidence would have been reported to Ottawa."

A truly compelling argument. Since, of course, most states in the midst of acts of torture are particularly eager to share this fact with foreign diplomats and the public at large. (Them aside.)

Bargaining for advantage

Maclean's has this interview with Jeremy Kinsman, Canada's Ambassador to the EU:
I'm afraid to say the present guys who are running the big countries aren't the guys to do it. They fail to see beyond their own political, national self-interest. They've been running against Europe, against Brussels, for so long now, and bargaining with each other for advantage for so long, that they really can't mobilize people in favour of Europe. The European idea has lost its mobilizing credibility.

While Kinsman earlier draws a parallel to the failure of Meech Lake (and oddly argues that since the economy is doing well, the lack of an agreement doesn't much matter), an equally striking similarity is to the side-deal form of equalization. Of course, it's obvious why the premiers are willing to take whatever money they can get from the feds. It's less obvious why, rather than trying to build a system that's fair to each province, Martin has cut different deals for different provinces based on different criteria. Good politics for now, probably, since it forced the Newfoundland Cons to try to get the budget passed. But it's terrible long-term policy which will likely hurt the Liberals if future discussions result in any province getting less than it does under the status quo.

Smog continues

From the Star:
More than 5,800 Ontario residents are expected to die prematurely this year because they are breathing dirty air, warns a new report from the Ontario Medical Association...

"The impact polluted air is having on the health of Ontarians is dramatically worse than we had initially estimated," said Dr. Greg Flynn, president of the OMA. "We are paying the price for poor air quality with our lives and if we don't take action immediately, the cost will continue to rise significantly."...

The report estimates the cost of lost workdays from illnesses related to air pollution — including caregivers' time — at $374 million this year, rising to almost $467 million by 2026.

Health care for air pollution related illnesses, including hospital stays and medications, will cost about $507 million this year, and nearly $702 million by 2026.

Just a reminder of why good policy on pollution is vital both economically and socially. And why waiting 12 years in office before even putting together a plan is inexcusable.

Monday, June 13, 2005

A great argument against term limits

ElBaradei is confirmed to a third term at the IAEA, as the U.S. decides not to fight his re-nomination - despite outrageous moves like this:
In spite of US charges of softness, the IAEA head has repeatedly criticised Iran for its lack of openness with the agency's inspectors. But his team has found no firm proof of Washington's suspicions that Tehran is preparing the ground to make nuclear weapons.

Ah, the insolence. Hasn't he learned that where Bushco wants proof, Bushco finds proof? (Which, coincidentally, is probably the best available argument in favour of term limits.)

Some people get it

From the Western Governors Association meeting:
Gov. Bill Owens said Monday it is "hypocrisy" for the United States to pressure Japan to lift a ban on U.S. beef over mad cow concerns while banning Canadian beef for the same reason.

"It's this sort of hypocrisy that makes it very difficult for the U.S. to win any sort of trade war."

Meanwhile, no hypocrisy on our side:
Canada's ambassador to Washington, Frank McKenna, said Monday Ottawa will not close its border to imports of U.S. beef.

Just to be clear, in the long run the closed border may be turning into a net plus for Canada due to increased processing capability, and that's part of the reason for the U.S. backlash against a continued ban. But the best of all worlds is in sight: the processing plants are already going up. If the borders open as well, then all levels of cattle production should be in better shape than before the crisis.

Now if Calvert's voice calling for reduced ag subsidies gets heard, we'll really be in business.

New Media

This may be the best news I've heard in a long time:
On February 15, 2003, 15 million people around the world protested the illegal American invasion of Iraq. That impressive organizing effort convinced Jay and others that independent world television, supported by its viewers, was possible. They would use the Internet -- which allows millions of people to band together – to raise the money. Jay has brought on board key strategists from the Howard Dean presidential campaign who were astonishingly successful in raising millions of dollars in small amounts over the Internet.

The 98-member IWT advisory committee reads like a who’s who of progressive left activism and journalism, especially from the US. The list includes Lewis Lapham of Harper’s Magazine, Gore Vidal, Jeff Cohen, Laura Flanders and Janine Jackson from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, and Janeane Garofalo of Air America.

Among the 35 Canadians on the committee are familiar names like Patrick Watson, Bill Roberts of Vision TV, Naomi Klein, Avi Lewis, Stephen Lewis and filmmaker Alan King. From other countries the advisory board contains people like investigative journalist Greg Palast, anti-nuclear armaments activist Helen Calidicott, and former U.K. Labour Minister Tony Benn.

I'm particularly impressed to see Klein and the Lewises involved - all favourites of mine for obvious reasons.

The plans for now are relatively modest:
Sample programming consists of six hours of programs five days a week. These include one hour of citizen journalism from around the world, the evening news, an issue-focused debate show, a show in which journalists and experts analyze the day’s major stories, an investigative program, feature-length documentaries, a show on the global political economy, political satire, issues from the south, environmental issues and a show profiling how people have organized their campaigns.

Needless to say, the upside here is substantial: a brand-new news source to not only provide socially responsible coverage itself, but also to force corporate media to cover the issues worth covering.

Of course, there's a downside to any break from the norm. If it doesn't pan out, then that entrenches and reinforces the current media all the more.

For all the legitimate griping about the corporate-owned media, this is a real alternative in the making. Go. Read. Contribute. Enjoy.

EDIT: Welcome to all the Kossacks finding their way here. One comment for those hoping that a George Soros will fund the whole project - I have to agree with the network's own position on this one:
Money from business, advertisers and government will be prohibited.

To me that restricts large individual donations as well, and for substantially the same reason. This network shouldn't be beholden to George Soros any more than it is to corporate advertisers - better to let Soros provide seed money for think tanks, while this becomes a truly grassroots effort.

Courting disaster

From the National Post:
A retiring Supreme Court of Canada judge says his potential replacements would not be scared off if the Martin government allowed MPs to publicly question them before being named to the High Court.

"Taking the ordinary qualified candidate, I don't think anyone would say 'no' simply because there is going to be an interview," Justice Jack Major said.

I don't have a huge problem with Major's actual position, especially since (contrary to the headline) Major clarifies by saying that a U.S.-style public vetting of candidates wouldn't result in any useful information coming out. However, that part is conveniently left out of the lead.

What's worse, a more important question is left out of the article entirely. The calculation isn't simply whether qualified candidates will avoid the court based on public hearings, but also whether the court (even if composed of the exactly the same people) will be seen as more political due to opposition-party grandstanding.

At the best of times, the balance favours maintaining the status quo. When people like this are taking a substantial place in the official opposition, the balance swings even further against mixing politics with the court.

Getting things accomplished

This time, it's Ed Broadbent managing to push for action on democratic reform:
Chairman Don Boudria, a Liberal, said a report could be issued by Wednesday. "We're making tremendous progress. Not that many days ago I would have said the chance that we'll ever report anything is remote. But it isn't that way now. I'm optimistic," he said.

The improved collegiality among the MPs reportedly came after New Democrat Ed Broadbent put forward a motion -- which is expected to form the basis of the panel's report -- urging the creation of two separate committees. One would consult Canadians and report to the other committee, which would consult with experts and make final recommendations.

Due credit to the rest of the committee as well for working with the NDP's elder statesman. But it's a huge plus to have yet another example of the NDP taking the lead to get something done.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The starting point

Paul Krugman on efforts to reform the American health-care system:
(M)ost reform proposals out there - even proposals from liberal groups like the Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress - reject a simple single-payer approach. Instead, they call for some combination of mandates and subsidies to help everyone buy insurance from private insurers.

Some people, not all of them right-wingers, fear that a single-payer system would hurt innovation. But the main reason these proposals give private insurers a big role is the belief that the insurers must be appeased...

But I think that's the wrong lesson. The Clinton plan actually preserved a big role for private insurers; the industry attacked it all the same. And the plan's complexity, which was largely a result of attempts to placate interest groups, made it hard to sell to the public. So I would argue that good economics is also good politics: reformers will do best with a straightforward single-payer plan, which offers maximum savings and, unlike the Clinton plan, can easily be explained.

From our standpoint, this column highlights the need for immediate action. Right now, the status quo is an almost entirely publicly-funded system. The more insurers that are able to set up shop before any action is taken, however, the more vested interests there will be in the privatized elements of the system.

Krugman notes that even with 70+% support both in the 1940s and now, the U.S. has never been able to put a universal health-care system into effect. We have that system now - but if we let it slip away, it'll be nearly impossible to regain it.

Tax collection

It's not a popular job, but it is a necessary one. And results from the Canada Revenue Agency paint an interesting picture:
As of March 31 this year, the federal government was owed $18 billion in overdue tax accounts, compared with just $9.6 billion in 1997. Put another way, about 5.5 per cent of all the money owed in federal taxes as of March 31 this year is overdue, compared with about 4.3 per cent in 1997. About $8 billion of the outstanding taxes are owed by individuals; the rest are due from companies.

It's particularly noteworthy that the total number of dollars left unpaid by corporations exceeds the amount unpaid by individuals. Meanwhile, according to the Finance Department, total revenue from personal income tax was over three times that from corporate tax, by a margin of $84.9 billion to $27.4 billion.

I'll grant that there's an apples-to-oranges element in comparing accumulated debts to annual incomes. That said, it still bears mention that the ratio of personal taxes paid to unpaid is over 10:1, while that for corporations is under 3:1.

Can we agree to take corporate tax cuts off the table until corporations start matching individual Canadians in paying the taxes that they already owe?

Framing and pressure

What pogge says:
(I)t's a mistake for those who support single payor health care to dwell on the subject of so-called judicial activism. It shifts the debate away from where it needs to be. It shifts the focus away from governments and politicians who are responsible for the current state of affairs and who are the only ones who can do anything about it. Of course that means they'll have to stop playing politics with the issue and get down to the admittedly difficult job of actually doing something about it. But that's what we pay them for.

It's tempting to look for groups to criticize at this point, and McQuaig takes aim at a couple of easy and prominent ones. But as noted by pogge, slamming the court only ignores its proper concern over past underfunding. And as cathartic as it can be to take out one's frustrations on the Fraser Institute, that's not the target that matters now.

These are. Apply pressure accordingly.

Keeping on top of one's work

Dosanjh, appearing on Question Period, discusses the Supreme Court's judgment: "I haven't read it thoroughly. Not yet."

I suppose it makes more sense that he's not calling any meetings yet - obviously he still has some important reading to catch up on first.

Something to stop the genocide

Canada now plans to send 100 armored personnel carriers to the Sudan:
Canada may send 100 Grizzly armoured personnel carriers to Sudan...They would be used by the African Union, which has a 7,500-soldier force that is trying to stop Arab militias from killing the local population in the Darfur area.

But there's a potential hold-up:
But sending the vehicles is not a sure thing because the U.S. State Department has a veto. The Grizzlies contain U.S. equipment, and cannot be sent to a third country without U.S. permission...

This should be a gimme. Bush has talked about the need for action. The carriers themselves are 30 years old and not suitable for use except as support vehicles, or against relatively lightly armed forces like those in the Sudan. If there's any delay in U.S. approval, there'll be all the more ammunition for those who argue that Bush is trying to prevent action.