Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted reading to end your week...

- Kevin Page points out the obvious as part of his effort to get the Cons to stop hiding information from him:
Page, dispatched by MPs on the government operations committee in October to help them get a handle on the impact of the operating freeze, came back empty-handed. The government won't tell him details and has refused his requests for any information citing cabinet secrecy.

Page said the government's secrecy and blanket refusal to release basic documents is blocking the work of Parliament and, if left unchecked, poses all kinds of risks, including the temptation to hide mistakes.

He argues the blocking of information is getting so out of hand that someone should be monitoring what's being refused to ensure they really are cabinet confidences.
- And Aaron Wherry provides a timely example of what happens when a forum like question period is seen as not being intended to convey actual information. And indeed it's hard to see who's supposed to be better off waiting for new set of revelations before anything approaching the truth starts to trickle out when there was a chance to start having a meaningful conversation months ago.

- Warren Kinsella comments on the seemingly inevitable result when corporate and state resources are marshalled against the likes of Wikileaks:
Getting big companies like PayPal and Amazon and Visa to hit WikiLeaks in the pocketbook is as idiotic as it is predictable. So, too, threatening Assange with untold prosecutions on trumped-up charges – and even now prosecuting him in a case that looks, to many of us, highly coincidental and therefore suspect. To me, what I see in the papers this morning are the institutions that people truly hate these days – banks, and huge corporations, and bellicose governments – doing what they always do: reacting stupidly, corporately, and way too late. They should all send a bunch of “secret” cables to each other about their plans. They do that a lot, apparently.

I tried to think of a metaphor that fits, to make my point. I settled on a fight between a big, slow, dumb dinosaur – being besieged by an army of fast, smart, tiny mammals with really sharp teeth.

And we all know what happened to those big, slow and dumb dinosaurs, don’t we?
- And finally, it's always nice to see some new discussion about why the Cons' choice to gut the census figures to have damaging side effects. But while less accurate information is surely a problem for those actually interested in solving problems, I'm not sure the Cons can be expected to see this precise form of inaccuracy as anything but a plus for them:
Ms. Nakamura noted that simply changing the weights could lead to CPI under-estimating actual inflation. That could help government budgets achieve politically preferred results.

On the revenue side, if personal incomes rise faster than measured CPI, more people get bumped into higher tax brackets. (Tax brackets are indexed to CPI.) That amounts to a tax increase without any discussion in Parliament.

On the expenditure side, CPP and other inflation-adjusted transfers grow more slowly, as do public sector wages and benefits. This holds down government spending below what it would otherwise be.

Lower-than-actual values for CPI would be valuable to the Harper government in other ways too. It would make Canada look good to both foreign and domestic investors who value price stability. It also puts less pressure on the Bank of Canada to raise interest rates.

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