Friday, April 23, 2010

Blogging break ahead

I'm off to an undisclosed location until next weekend, with little or no blogging in the meantime. But if you're looking for a way to pass some time and do some good in the interim, why not help one of your friendly neighbourhood Saskatchewan NDP riding associations meet its goals for the Local Victories Challenge?

Blackstrap (Darien Moore)
Cypress Hills-Grasslands
Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River (Lawrence Joseph)
Palliser (Noah Evanchuk)
Prince Albert (Valerie Mushinski)
Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre
Saskatoon-Humboldt (Denise Kouri)
Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar (Nettie Wiebe)
Saskatoon-Wanuskewin (John Parry)
Souris-Moose Mountain

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Musical interlude

A day earlier than usual - because who can wait?

Cary Brothers - Ride (Tiesto Remix)

Edit: fixed formatting.

Worth watching

By way of follow-up to this morning's post, the one area where there's serious reason for concern about the abuse of letters to the editor and other expressions of opinion is where they're submitted by individuals paid to support a particular position, particularly out of public funds. And Kent offers up reason for concern that it's NDP Watch itself that's resulting in public money being misused for partisan purposes.

On delay and distraction

Not to pick on Susan Delacourt too much in the wake of yesterday's post. But she goes astray again in not only drawing the questionable analogy between Peter Milliken's function as speaker and Michaelle Jean's as Governor General, but now suggesting that it's somehow a "compromise" to drag the Supreme Court of Canada into the mix as well:
Governor General Michaëlle Jean granted Harper a request to prorogue Parliament, but reportedly made clear, in a two-hour discussion with the Prime Minister, that the government was being granted the stay of execution on condition that it co-operate better with the majority opposition in the Commons.

Now, a little more than a year later, Harper’s refusal to co-operate with this parliamentary order could be viewed as defiance of the governor general’s instructions. In that case, if this dispute lands in front of Jean again, she may have no choice but to dissolve Parliament, recognizing that it has become dysfunctional.

The Supreme Court, however, could represent a compromise of sorts. If Milliken sides with the argument that Parliament prevails over government, the Justice Department may well draft a formal reference to the Supreme Court – in the form of a constitutional, not a political question – about which laws have precedence in the case of a dispute.

In other words, rather than going to the governor general, and almost certainly an election, the problem would head to the Supreme Court, where everyone could buy some time.
Now, the most basic problem is that "buying time" isn't a compromise position at all. When the dispute revolves around the government using every delay tactic at its disposal to avoid allowing the opposition to do its job even in the wake of an explicit order of the House of Commons, anything that merely pushes matters back even further is a full win for the Cons and a loss for Canada.

Leaving that aside, though, I'm at a loss to figure out the supposed relevance of Jean's rumoured conversation with Harper during the coalition showdown. It would seem obvious enough that whatever Jean may have said during their December 2008 meeting falls short of setting any binding obligations on Harper. (Though if she thought the conversation important, one would think Delacourt would be particularly suspicious about the delay involved given that Jean likely wouldn't be in the GG position by the time the Supreme Court reached any decision.)

But more importantly, the only way a "dispute would land in front of Jean" again would be if Harper demanded either prorogation or dissolution - the former of which she's apparently decided to allow as a matter of course, the latter of which would put an election squarely on Harper's shoulders rather than Jean's. So ultimately, Delacourt's effort to shift responsibility to Jean and/or the Supreme Court serves only to distract from where it properly belongs.

All of which is to say that Delacourt seems to be trying to be too cute by half at every turn in seeking compromises where none exist. We've long since reached the point where conflict avoidance means allowing a secretive government to abuse its power by preventing either elected representatives or responsible tribunals from holding it to account. And it does nobody but the Cons any good to portray their position of "give Harper what he wants or the country gets it" as justifying an effort to meet halfway.

"So absurd as to defy comprehension"

The Star Phoenix editorial board weighs in on the Sask Party's negligence in handling the province's kidney transplant program:
The "Patient First" recommendation by its health care consultant Tony Dagnone apparently forgotten, the government is doing only now what it should have done months ago if it's objective was to recruit transplant specialists whose skillsets would replace urologists and vascular surgeons.

That this direction was taken without apparent consultation with Dr. Ahmed Shoker, head of the transplant program, is so absurd as to defy comprehension.

No wonder that he says he's "frustrated and losing hope." As Dr. Shoker points out, even a continued and prolonged delay in restarting the transplant program has potentially damaging consequences, with the skills of all team members eroding over time.

Even when it comes to the issue of dollars and cents, to keep each transplant patient on dialysis costs about $40,000 a year while the first year costs of a transplant are about $25,000. There should be every incentive in the world for budget-conscious politicians and bureaucrats to obtain the required transplants as soon as possible, without having people languish on dialysis for months or years.
(Don) McMorris says the government will bend its rules about paying only for the procedure itself when patients are sent out of province for treatment, and pay for the cost of travel and accommodation for each kidney transplant patient and a caregiver.

This only further adds to the cost of the out-of-province transplants paid for by the government, which has deemed the remuneration demands of vascular surgeons as too excessive.

Some public explanation of the cost-benefit considerations in this issue would be highly welcome, given the high personal price being paid by Saskatchewan patients and a once-renowned kidney transplant program that's slowly being eroded through neglect.

On concerned citizens

I'm not a huge fan of the all-negative, all-the-time concept behind the Sask Party Watch and NDP Watch blogs. But on the balance, a couple more sources of information and discussion on the province's political scene figure to be a plus.

That is, to the extent they actually focus on anything of relevance to the parties involved. But NDP Watch looks to be going much further in trying to pretend that any letter to the editor originating with a worker in Saskatchewan must be part of some grand commie conspiracy, rather than reflecting the viewpoint of an "average citizen" worth listening to.

So let's set the record straight.

The fact that somebody writing a letter is involved in a union or business, or has been a candidate at some time in the past, doesn't mean that they lose their right to express their personal opinion. And the more the Sask Party's backers try to portray community involvement as somehow disqualifying one as an "average citizen", the more important it'll be for people to buck that trend to build a system where their participation isn't seen as an unwelcome intrusion.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Regina Dewdney - Kaitlin Stocks Seeking NDP Nomination

LRT is once again ahead of the game on the NDP's Regina Dewdney nomination race, as Kaitlin Stocks has been confirmed as the challenger to incumbent Kevin Yates - and looks to be off to a strong start with 110 fans already.

As I noted in my earlier post, the road is never easy for a challenger to a sitting MLA. But I maintain that it's a plus to see the kind of enthusiasm involved in such a challenge (and I'm not alone in that assessment). So kudos to Kaitlin for throwing her hat in the ring, and I'll be looking forward to seeing how the nomination race plays out.

Deep thought and burning question

Judging from Kady's account of this afternoon's committee hearing, I'd be highly interested to see how Pat Martin would have handled Jaffer if he wasn't wimping out.

(And is anybody else wondering if Martin's reluctance to have Jaffer testify - never mentioned until after the motion summoning Jaffer was already passed - might have been intended to clear the way for his particularly strident questioning?)

On tourist opportunities

There's rightly been plenty of attention paid to how the Sask Party's negligence has put Saskatchewan's kidney transplant program on hold. But it's particularly worth noting what the Wall government's response has been - as it seems far more interested in building capacity elsewhere rather than using what's already available in Saskatchewan.

Here's Health Minister Don McMorris from yesterday's Hansard on what he's doing in the short term:
(I)n the meantime, Mr. Speaker, we are working with Edmonton to try and increase their capacity. But, Mr. Speaker, more than that, I've instructed the Ministry of Health not only to look across into Alberta, but across Canada to see where we can find capacity so that our citizens will receive care. In fact if it's out of the country, Mr. Speaker, we'd entertain that thought too, Mr. Speaker. We want to ensure that our citizens receive the timely care that they receive. Mr. Speaker, we've just heard that one more patient will be accepted into Edmonton. As of today or yesterday, Mr. Speaker, we have five that are willing or able to receive treatment elsewhere. We're looking for those places.
Now, it's worth noting that the availability of transplants elsewhere makes for cold comfort for the 101 patients on the waiting list who aren't willing or able to go elsewhere. But for those few who are able to go out of province or country, those options are apparently on the table as McMorris sends our resources elsewhere to compensate for his falling asleep on the job.

In contrast, McMorris is apparently deliberately ignoring the possibility of getting the province's own program started back up. Here's McMorris in response to Judy Junor's observation that Saskatchewan now has as many specialists available as it did when the program was previously run successfully:
All three of those specialities are involved in the transplant program, Mr. Speaker. And they are saying that the way the program was run in the past is not the way that it can be run in the future.

That's why we're working with the Health ministry, the Saskatoon Health Region, and the three professional . . . the specialities that make up a transplant program to ensure that we have a transplant program that is secure into the future, that isn't reliant on one physician going sick and the program failing, Mr. Speaker. That isn't the program we want to see. In the short time, we're guaranteeing and ensuring and working as hard as we possibly can that citizens of Saskatchewan will get their care elsewhere.
Now, it's fair enough if one wants to make the point that the system as it existed ought to be changed for the future. And presumably all parties will want to make sure that improvements are made regardless of when Saskatchewan's program is started back up.

But given an obvious option between restarting a transplant system which relies on a suboptimal but workable complement of staff and continuing indefinitely with no transplant availability at all, the Sask Party has inexplicably chosen the latter. And the fact that the Sask Party is apparently perfectly happy sending patients elsewhere for care (or denying it altogether for those who can't travel) because it prefers total failure to an imperfect system should raise plenty of alarm bells for Saskatchewan's patients.

On Parliamentary knowledge

For all the accolades Susan Delacourt is receiving for her latest, I'd argue that her view that the current detainee document issue resembles the coalition showdown is completely off base - or at the very least that despite the common theme of the Harper Cons flouting whatever power they can get their hands on, the roles are actually reversed.

Of course, we don't know exactly how or why Michaelle Jean decided what she did. But all indications are that she saw her role as the delegate exercising the Crown's authority to mean generally taking the instructions of the Prime Minister, with no room for input from the opposition parties or anybody else aside from her own chosen advisers due to the limits of "constitutional knowledge".

If there's any analogy to be drawn, it's that Peter Milliken derives his authority entirely from the House of Commons, and is responsible for administrating the will of the House alone. And accordingly, any decision should be based primarily on the order passed by Parliament - with any representations from both sides serving only to assist in interpreting and applying it, rather than influencing the outcome based on political considerations.

Update: EFL reminds us of the historical context as to the Speaker's role.

On confidence

I've made the point before. But since it seems to need repeating, let's go over this again. There's no reason why any vote dealing with document disclosure should cause an election. And it's a sign of bad faith that the Cons are looking to pretend that's the only option if the opposition parties affirm the supremacy of Parliament.

To see why that's so, keep in mind just what it is that Parliament has voted on. The order giving rise to the current allegation of contempt isn't directed at non-confidence in the government, and indeed it implicitly rules out any intention to cause a change in government by ordering the government in power to deliver the listed documents to Parliament.

And any enforcement will be even more clearly aimed at accountability for the current government rather than an attempt to topple it. Of the two draft motions, Derek Lee's explicitly states that it "shall not be taken to be an expression of confidence or non-confidence in the Government by this House", while Jack Harris' is less direct but makes clear that "other business" will continue following the adoption of an anticipated declaration of contempt. And both are aimed solely at requiring the production of documents by two responsible individuals rather than disrupting the operations of the government.

Of course, it's true that Harper could decide to treat any given contempt motion as a matter of confidence if he's eager to provoke a needless election. But that's no less true for, say, an opposition day motion on prorogation. Or a bill on child care or climate change. And thankfully, we're not at the point where anybody is pretending that those offer Harper any reason to stomp his feet and demand a trip to the polls.

But for some obscure reason, far too many commentators seem eager to argue that Parliament's efforts to secure needed information somehow serve as a reason for Harper to force an election. And it's worth responding that it's Harper alone who should bear responsibility for doing so without justification - lest we otherwise face the mooted possibility that the Speaker will cut away at Parliamentary supremacy based on nothing more than the risk that Harper will abuse some of his other power in response to a correct ruling.

(Edit: fixed wording.)

The next challenge

The NDP has managed to get noticed for operating based on the apparently remarkable notion that Parliament should be a place to discuss serious issues. Though naturally even that hasn't happened without some furious pushback from the other federal parties.

With that in mind, how effectively can the NDP now pitch the position that it's possible for people to reasonably disagree on a hot-button issue, even as the Cons and Libs both crank their rhetoric level up to 11? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Aim at foot. Fire.

Shorter Garry Breitkreuz:

I'm positively mortified that some of our closed-door violent rhetoric got let out in the open.

Tuesday Afternoon Links

- Alison and EFL have each offered their own takes on the Cons' maneuver to force through the Colombia free trade bill. But I'd raise another question: if it's that easy to dictate Parliament's agenda on a majority vote with no notice, why doesn't the opposition do so more often?

- This week's must-read is Rabble's series documenting Jason Kenney's office's interference in George Galloway's planned visit to Canada.

- Auditor General Sheila Fraser is rightly concerned that ancient technology will make it impossible for the federal government to collect taxes or deliver benefits in the near future. Fraser of course isn't to be confused with the Fraser Institute, which is presumably giddy about the prospect.

- But don't worry: it's not as if the federal government is paying the costs of its own policy anyway.

- Finally, while there's been no lack of attention to the Cons' refusal to say when they might get around to supplying documents to the Military Police Complaints Commission, isn't it even more striking that the government has the nerve to whine that the MPCC is bothering to ask for them?
Mr. Prefontaine said numerous requests from the commission are making life difficult for government record keepers because they have to keep screening more of them as new demands are made.

On perverse incentives

Lisa Austin highlights some of the inherent problems with how our access to information systems are currently designed (which the Cons are of course exploiting to their fullest) - but also notes that there's a straightforward solution:
One of the central problems with our access laws is that many important exemptions are discretionary. This means that the government “may” disclose the information that falls under such an exemption, but does not have to. In theory, this permits more disclosure than mandatory exemptions, but the problem lies with who exercises the discretion to disclose. The answer? The very government that might be embarrassed by disclosure.
Usually,...deference is highly appropriate, as the decision-making body that is granted discretion often has specialized knowledge and expertise. In this case, it is a perverse consequence of a poorly designed regime: Those who have the strongest conflict with the public interest are precisely those empowered to determine the public interest.
The problem of government discretion, built into the very structure of the law, is exacerbated by the numerous other ways in which the government can manipulate the processing of requests to avoid political embarrassment.

Many of these have been documented by the current interim information commissioner of Canada, past information commissioner reports and numerous media stories. They include creating administrative processes and pressures that interfere with the independence of access to information co-ordinators. They include not creating records in the first place if there is a worry that they might be subject to an access request. They include simply not providing the funding and leadership to make the access regime work.
(J)ust as the current political context has provided us with ample evidence of Canada’s lack of open government, it can also provide us with its political solution.

The government is outnumbered. Perhaps the other parties will join together and do the right thing: Reform the legislation.

On regressives

Shorter Fraser Institute:

And in the state of nature, without such concepts as an "economy" or "currency" to facilitate governing structures, humankind paid no taxes at all. How we long to return to those days!!!

Update: Not surprisingly, Progressive Economics Forum has a more thorough debunking.

I'm particularly impressed with the chutzpah involved in labelling deficits as "deferred taxes". But given the Fraser Institute's habit of labelling any government income as a "tax", doesn't that effectively mean that its label of "taxes" in fact means the amount spent by government, rather than the amount raised?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Just so we're clear... trying to paper over its negligence in attacking Saskatchewan's film industry, the Sask Party is now not only scrambling to invent new programs to compensate, but announcing project-level funding out of a pool of money which didn't exist until this afternoon's press release.

I for one see absolutely no way in which that attitude toward public money could go horribly, horribly wrong.

Slash first, get asked questions later

Murray Mandryk digs into the question of whether the Wall government bothered to do anything to figure out the consequences of its decision to destroy the Saskatchewan Communications Network. And the answer as to just how clueless the Sask Party has chosen to be is rather stunning:
Gamracy (the chair of SCN) would have even been happy with the simple courtesy of either of the Sask. Party government's culture ministers meeting with her or the SCN board in two and half years of government.

Gamracy, who has served as SCN board chair since 2007, says she has not met with a government minister since the last NDP minister responsible for the film industry. "I can say unequivocally I've never been treated so disrespectfully," she said, adding that she certainly called and e-mailed to arrange meetings with Sask. Party government ministers and their officials.

And what might be most galling about what Gamracy calls the government's "draconian" move is that government decided to shut down SCN on what seems to be a lot of misinformation, without any appreciation of the consequences.
(W)hat seems lost on the government is how critical SCN was to that jigsaw of federal and provincial tax credits and facilities like the Regina soundstage that are needed to create a viable film and video industry in this province.

Also, there appears to be a total lack of understanding of how Canadian Radio Television-Telecommunication broadcasting licenses work and what will actually happen if SCN does fade to black at the end of the month. "What do you do with the broadcast licence?" Gamracy asked. "SaskTel is not a broadcaster.

"I don't know where they got their information, but they didn't get their information from us."

For the sake of SCN's relatively modest $5-million budget, it's possible the government will collapse the province's entire film and video industry worth several fold more, the financial investor said.

On corporate influence

At first glance, Andrew Coyne's latest might seem like just another anti-government rant. But it's worth noting that Coyne's criticism is much more specific than that, and in fact leaves open an important choice as to how to move away from the current spending model:
Jaffer, first. Whatever may be the truth of his relationship with Toronto financier Nazim Gillani, whose alleged business interests, besides blackmail, fraud and busty hookers, include “obtaining grants and loans from various government bodies,” we have it by Jaffer’s own account that he was no less successful, as advertised on his newly decommissioned website, at “securing support from the Canadian government.” And whether or not he actually enjoyed the kind of access of which he apparently boasted, what is certain is that he could have had no ability to siphon government funds into private pockets where none was available.

But of course the federal government has become a vast spigot of this kind of thing, providing billions of dollars every year in subsidies to businesses, trade associations and other private groups. Just to list the “grants and contributions” over $100,000 takes up more than 280 pages of the Public Accounts of Canada, at around 60 lines a page. With all this money sloshing about, it stands to reason you’d find fraud artists waiting to take their piece, and well-connected friends to help them, just as they did under previous governments. We might as well put up a sign: The Buffet is Open.
Now, I'm sure some will read the passage as focusing more on the money being spent than its destination - and that's probably Coyne's intention as well. But the second part of what makes the spending so problematic deserves to be highlighted.

After all, "into private pockets" element of Coyne's complaint is the one which raises the danger of significant fraud and influence peddling. To the extent government carries out its functions in-house, the stakes for any individual are generally no greater than the relatively reasonable amount of their public salary - which of course relies on their retaining enough trust to continue to be employed. And even for those looking for opportunities to exploit the system, there's seldom a lack of opposition or media interest in exposing that type of problem, resulting in a high probability of detection for any serious problems. Which means that while there's still obviously some danger of misfeasance in the public sector, the stakes are relatively low, the likelihood of fraud limited and the lines of enforcement direct.

In contrast, it's when a government relies on sending money elsewhere to try to get public functions carried out that the concerns raised by Coyne become particularly glaring. And unfortunately, we are indeed at a point where billions of dollars are "sloshing around" to reflect government's supposed commitment to all kinds of industries and causes, with less reason than there should be to think there's much of a link between that funding and our ultimate policy goals. Which is a wonderful outcome for the corporate interests on the receiving end of the largesse (however they come to enjoy that status), but not such a great deal for those stuck with the bill.

Now, I'll grant Coyne that it's worth taking a close look at whether some of the industry-based subsidies and other current streams of funds actually merit public investment. But by the same token, if we do care enough about a particular issue to believe that public action is required, we should be spending a lot more time asking what means will work best: are we satisfied with a government that serves simply as a conduit to fund whatever private actors can best place themselves to receive our money, with all the increased risk of corruption that entails? Or should we consider placing more direct responsibility in the hands of the public sector?

Deep thought

I'm guessing the Harper government which has spent tens of millions of dollars announcing and taking credit for stimulus projects will be rather more circumspect when it comes to trumpeting their cancellation.

Three makes a trend

Susan Delacourt adds her name to the list of Ottawa observers who have managed to notice which opposition party actually spends its time in Parliament dealing with real policy concerns:
The New Democratic Party regularly uses Question Period to tackle policy issues. It's heartening to see, in fact, day to day. The reward, in poll numbers or media attention? Nil.
Fortunately, Delacourt's latter point is looking less and less accurate by the day. And the more commentators recognize the trend with favourable reviews, the more likely it is that the rest of the media and the public will follow.

Still digging

I'd wondered how it was that the Campbell government could ignore the funding rules under B.C.'s initiative legislation to plan a publicly-funded ad blitz trying to sell its much-despised HST to make up for the complete lack of anybody else willing to defend it. And it looks like the question is about to be investigated:
Organizers of the anti-HST campaign in British Columbia plan to complain to both the RCMP and Elections BC if the provincial government goes ahead with an advertising blitz aimed at their initiative.

Finance Minister Colin Hansen told reporters last week that the government plans to send out information to British Columbians defending its harmonized sales tax.

Chris Delaney of Fight HST says they believe the mailing campaign violates the Initiative Act, which requires that opponents or proponents register with Elections BC, either as an official opponent or advertising sponsor -- something the province hasn't done.
Now, it seems entirely possible that the ad campaign will backfire, both by raising public awareness of the petition drive at a time when it's HST opponents who face a barrier which requires massive public attention to the issue, and by adding a new reason for concern about the misuse of public resources. And the possibility of an investigation which might dog the B.C. Libs long after the petition drive is over should only add to the latter possibility.

Of course, yet another misstep shouldn't come as much surprise considering that virtually everything else about the Campbell government's decision to force the HST onto the province has similarly been made up of equal parts tone-deafness and contempt for B.C. citizens. And just as the B.C. Libs have seemed to be shocked at every turn as they've dug themselves into a deeper pit, it doesn't seem likely that they'll even consider the possibility that a woefully unpopular government might not want to keep using what little political capital its has left on a futile effort to sell a thoroughly-despised tax until they've damaged their reputation - and boosted the anti-HST cause - even further.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Well said

The Mound of Sound points out that while we may have been lucky enough to avoid the direct impact of Iceland's volcanic eruption, the widespread effects should serve as a warning as to just how vulnerable we may be to predictable disruptions:
There are invaluable lessons to be learned from what is going on in Europe today. One of them is that our civilization is not nearly as robust as we imagine. It is, in fact, quite fragile yet, despite the myriad of challenges we'll be facing this century, no one is in charge, we have no Plan "B". While our leaders natter on endlessly about trivialities, seeking to score points, nobody is leading.
Canadian society is facing great environmental, social and economic upheaval and this will probably land on your doorstep with a definite thud within a decade, two at the outside. When it does, you're going to wonder why nobody was doing anything about it years earlier. Why was nobody talking about it, why was nobody talking to us about these challenges? Why indeed.
"No one is in charge." Precisely. Yet despite the ecological devastation wreaked by the Tar Sands (leave greenhouse gases aside), the Conservative and Liberal parties are led by Tar Sands boosters. That is nothing short of astonishing and an indictment of both supposed leaders. It's one reason why I believe that Canada will be ill-served with either of them as prime minister. We're running out of time. Canada and the Canadian people cannot afford their sort of leadership any longer.

On savings plans

Andrew Jackson rightly points out that while the Cons and far too many of their provincial counterparts are resisting any move to ensure universal pension security through the CPP and public supplements, the position that it's enough to tinker with voluntary savings plans isn't shared by economists:
The third main argument against (CPP expansion) is the “nanny state” argument – individuals should bear responsibility for their own fate. In point of fact, many of the experts give short shrift to this one and agree that individuals left to their own devices tend to save far too little, and also invest very badly and at high cost. Kesselman argued that the state will have to pay in the final analysis and that an expanded CPP will reduce future GIS expenditures and create room for user fees on the elderly for their health care and other needs. There seems to be a lot of support for opt out schemes and larger pools of investment savings than RRSPs, on the basis that leaving individuals on their own just doesn’t work. It is unclear to say the least why mandatory inclusion is the acceptable basis of private employer pension plans but is unacceptable when it comes to expanding CPP.
As Jackson notes, the group of economists broadly agreeing that the "nanny state" argument is utter nonsense was organized by Jack Mintz - the same, conservative-friendly figure whose own report is being relied on as much of the excuse for doing nothing. So to the extent even Mintz' group of attendees sees no point in wasting time with half measures, it's probably safe to say that voluntary plans aren't much worth discussing.

With that in mind, the real public policy question to be decided seems to be less whether the CPP is the best vehicle to improve pension income compared to voluntary schemes or high-income-friendly deductions, and more whether we should simply do nothing at all on the assumption that there's no problem to be solved. And that debate looks to offer ideal ground for the position that Canadians should expect more security than they're currently offered.

On problems

Con MP Lois Brown offers the Harper government's reponse to a bill to undo the Con/Lib attack on pay equity:
I would like to draw to the attention of the House an article in today's paper, the headline of which is “Women grab reins of power in PS”, from which I would like to quote. I am very proud to be part of a government that has taken a look at this issue and realized that it needed to be addressed. We took stock of it and addressed it in budget 2009. The article states:
A married woman was forbidden from working in Canada's public service 55 years ago, but today women have the majority of jobs and a growing hold on the executive ranks.

They have outnumbered men since 1999, but the government's latest demographic snapshot shows 43 per cent of executives are now women...
I believe that is to the credit of what this government has done and what this government saw was a problem that needed to be addressed.
Which raises a couple of interesting points of interpretation. Has Brown accepted her party's rewriting of history such that the Cons have always been the government in order to take credit for what happened around 1999 (presumably excepting the few hobby-horse issues they still regularly complain about)?

Or do the Harper Cons consider the advancement of women in the public service to be a "problem that needed to be addressed", which they're proud to have changed through their budgets?