Saturday, January 01, 2011

The one closed window

I've posted before as to why any election before the fixed date in 2012 will figure to happen only as a result of the Cons' desire to have one. But let's supplement the point somewhat by noting that there is one window in 2011 where the Cons figure to be highly unlikely to want to precipitate an election - and it has nothing at all to do with the series of provincial elections scheduled for the fall.

Instead, I'd look to the schedule for the 2011 census for a hint as to when we can almost entirely rule out a trip to the polls.

After all, while the Cons managed to shift the discussion away from their census vandalism by the end of 2010, I don't think there's much room for dispute that it turned out to be a massive loser for them to the extent it consumed any substantial part of Canada's political discussion. And constant reminders of problems ranging from inflated costs to the destruction of data might provide exactly the kind of subtle push that could make all the difference in an election fought over a narrow band of swing voters. So I can't see the Cons wanting to have a campaign take place while census forms are being distributed and answers being collected from the general public.

That may push them to seek an election early this spring (to make sure it's over with by the start of the May 2 collection period) if they're going to pursue one at all at the start of 2011. And it should serve as reason to figure that if we make it into May without a campaign, we can be relatively confident that nothing will happen until the fall.

Of course, the above is subject to some other radical shift in party support that allows the Cons to overlook the dangers of superimposing an election campaign over an unavoidable public reminder of a bad issue for them. But I'd file it away for future reference in trying to decipher when we might see a trip to the polls - and when we can mostly rule out the possibility.

On choices

No, I won't reinforce yet another example of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation having its nonsense published without a serious challenge. And indeed, the CTF makes an embarrassing show of talking up changes related mostly to relative provincial inflation rates while conspicuously omitting the main reason why inflation actually was an issue in Ontario.

But in running with the theme of tax changes for 2011, the Star does point out a handy contrast in looking at what's being treated more and less generously for tax purposes:
Ottawa is also allowing a five-point increase in the deductible portion of meal expenses for long-haul truckers, from 75 to 80 per cent.

But, starting Jan. 1, Canadians will no longer be able to receive a federal credit of up to $1,500 for improving the overall energy efficiency of their homes.
That's right: the long-distance transfer of goods through the mode of transportation which causes the greatest possible energy use and damage to infrastructure is being rewarded with increasing tax breaks by the Cons - at the same time as efficiencies which reduce the need for wasted energy are being treated as unworthy of any support.

Of course, in the greater scheme of the Cons' efforts to use the federal government as a marketing wing of the oil sands, the 2011 tax changes make for extremely small moves. But the fact that the Cons are taking deliberate steps to encourage avoidable energy use even while cutting what few programs still exist to support greater efficiency nonetheless offers a strong hint as to whose interests they're really serving.

(Edit: fixed wording.)

Friday, December 31, 2010

Musical interlude

An early video for a cold New Year's night.

Watchmen - Any Day Now

Friday Afternoon Links

To help pass the time until the event apparently taking place at midnight.

- Aaron Wherry's year-end column is well worth a read in general. But it's particularly worth highlighting this piece:
(F)rom the far end of the room, often this year there was Mr. Harris and his gruff Newfoundland brogue (or perhaps it’s more of a twang). Here sometimes seemed a man who would set his teeth into your pant leg and not let go. That he and (the NDP) refused to go along with the negotiated agreement that followed the Speaker’s ruling and that they now pursue the participants from the outside is perhaps the only reason to believe the process will come to anything. Surely, if only to avoid proving them right, the Liberals and Bloc will be compelled to carry out their duties. Such is democracy. Or so we can hope.
Not that there's been much reason for optimism yet, mind you...

- LRT has some ideas on how an effort to offer big political choices rather than the usual microtargeted minutiae could result in much-needed change.

- Kelly McParland nicely illustrates why it's a sucker's bet for a self-identified progressive party to go out of its way to try to please the corporate sector. After a year where the McGuinty government gave business billions in free money by both slashing corporate tax rates and implementing the HST which exempts it from paying consumption taxes, it's treated to this from somebody who would seemingly agree entirely with its direction:
(W)e would settle for an incremental change: If Mr. McGuinty merely ceased forcing the province's corporations to pay for his grandiose ideas, Ontario might once again attract the investment it needs to be the engine of our economic growth.
- And finally, now's the time to get in one last donation in 2010.

On dangerous repetition

Yesterday, I noted that the Libs might want to be a bit more careful in echoing the CTF's message about supposed tax increases. Now, Andrew Jackson offers a better reason: that the CTF's claims are flat-out wrong in a way that distorts the purpose of vital social programs:
(A)ctually..., there has been no increase in the CPP contribution rate for 2011. True, the earning ceiling has been raised in line with average earnings, but that is not a real tax increase on two counts. First, there is no inflation adjusted increase at all for anyone, least of all anyone earning below the earnings ceiling. Second, the increased contribution ceiling will be rewarded down the road with a higher benefit, so it is not really a tax at all let alone a tax increase.

As for EI, yes the premium rate is being hiked marginally, from 1.73% to 1.78% for employees. (The horror! The horror!) This is just one third of what would have been required to balance the EI account moving forward. And the rise in the EI Account deficit over 2009 and 2010 was almost entirely attributable to increased payouts of regular benefits as a result of the recession (to the tune of some $10 Billion over two years), not to maternity/parental/sickness and compassionate care benefits which were unchanged in 2010. There was a very modest increase in EI funded training, most of that going to income benefits for unemployed workers being retrained.

Same old story, corporate taxes edition

I'm sure we'll still see the media cheerleading for the Libs' sad excuse for a choice on corporate tax slashing. But Scott Brison gives the game away by making it clear that the difference between his party and the Cons is somewhere between slim and nonexistent:
"It's a major expenditure and it significantly impacts the fiscal capacity of the country, so we would view it as essential that the government reverse its position on that issue," said Liberal legislator Scott Brison.

The Liberals support the tax cuts but only at a later date after Ottawa has eliminated its budget deficit, he said.
In other words, the Libs figure Canadians' choice should be limited to deciding whether corporate tax cuts are seen as priority #1 - as they are for the Cons, and normally are for the Libs as well - or whether they're priority #2, to be put in place as soon as enough programs can be slashed to cover their cost.

Needless to say, Brison's stance makes it clear that anybody who figures that yet another round of gratuitous giveaways to profitable corporations shouldn't be a top priority at all won't find any more of a receptive ear among the Libs than the Cons. And with the Libs making clear that their much-overhyped argument over corporate tax cuts is only a matter of when rather than if, hopefully media commentators will stop pretending there's any difference in substance between the two parties who have done nothing but encourage a race to the bottom for over a decade.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

And if you don't like those principles, we've got others

The Libs' deeply-held beliefs on corporate tax slashing, circa September 2008:
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion flatly rejected forming a coalition government with the New Democrats today on the heels of hints from NDP Leader Jack Layton that he'd be open to the idea.

Mr. Dion, speaking after an address to a Vancouver-area business crowd today, said he could not work with Mr. Layton in this way because the NDP leader wants to hike taxes on business.
The Libs' deeply-held beliefs on corporate tax slashing, circa December 2010:
Liberal MPs today called on the NDP to demand the cancellation of Conservative corporate tax breaks at a time of deficit in favour of easing the economic pressures on average Canadian families.
“We’re disappointed that the Conservatives ignored our advice to stop borrowing money to cut taxes for our largest corporations,” said Mr. Regan. “Now it falls to the NDP to take a principled stand in favour of middle-class families by refusing to support the Conservatives’ unaffordable corporate tax cut plan.”
Of course, it's anybody's guess what the Libs think they're accomplishing in merely challenging the NDP to further reinforce its own long-held position that other priorities deserve more attention than giveaways to big business. But having done plenty to push the Cons to slash corporate taxes in the past, the Libs are the last party to have any credibility in pretending to stand up for the interests of ordinary Canadians when their needs are lined up against the greed of the corporate sector.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Scott Brison is partly right in dismissing the Con-based talk about a possible agreement with the NDP on the budget. But the story only seems to have gone anywhere because the Libs themselves have been so eager to parrot the Cons' spin that the NDP would support the Harper government notwithstanding that its position has been clear on the Cons' corporatist focus:
Mr. Mulcair said the NDP wants future corporate cuts to be more targeted to ensure companies are investing in jobs and productivity.

“If the budget includes the same type of blind, across-the-board corporate tax cut that the Conservatives have been doing in the past, it is highly unlikely that the NDP caucus would ever be able to support such a budget,” said Mr. Mulcair.
- John Ibbitson's year-end review of the Cons nicely highlights Stephen Harper's seven-dimensional ultrachess at work:
The morning of the vote, Lawrence Cannon arrived at the United Nations absolutely confident that Canada would win a temporary seat on the Security Council, according to someone who was close to the situation. His diplomats had assured him they had more than enough written and verbal commitments to win one of the two seats up for grabs.

When Canada came up short on the first round of voting, the Foreign Affairs Minister “was absolutely astounded,” according to one source. So certain were the Canadians of victory in the first round, they lacked a strategy to build momentum in the second round. The delegation sat there, dumbfounded, as votes drained away.
And once again, it's well worth wondering whether the Cons' hubris may well result in similarly surprising results at home.

- Yes, I understand the appeal of using anti-tax language against the Cons. But can we agree that a message that the CPP and EI should be seen as "common villains" might not be one that deserves repeating?

- And finally, Preston Manning offers up a short story about the Underpants Gnome Privatization Theory of Health Care. I'd suggest that he stick to his day job, but he's probably doing less damage as long as he's writing extremely short fiction.


As one more follow-up point on last night's post, it's worth noting that the Cons' public position before they precipitated the 2008 election runs thoroughly contradicts their current spin that they'll never accept a "deal" with another party (particularly the Bloc) in order to stay in power. In reality, the Cons didn't just pursue such a deal with all parties including the Bloc, but they made a show of demanding one - with the only difference being that the other party involved was expected to receive nothing in return besides the privilege of propping up Harper.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Correcting the record

Following up on this post, Paul Wells's series of tweets this afternoon looks to serve as compelling evidence that even the best and most skeptical political commentator can sometimes be completely and utterly spun by the Harper Cons. So let's compare Wells' recollection of the summer of 2008 to what the opposition leaders actually said at the time.

Here's Wells:
But why did Harper call an election in 2008? (As I put on my pith helmet and delve into the ancient history of 2 years ago)...

...Because the other three parties *had decided to bring him down.* He actually met with each of them at 24 to be sure.

But knowing he'd be in an election at their hand in three weeks, he went earlier. He might do the same again. But only if they line up again.
So let's compare Wells' recollection to the actual interplay between the Cons and Stephane Dion when he met with Harper:
The prime minister has met with other opposition leaders in the past few days to determine whether there is common ground to avoid a fall election and to secure their support on an agenda for the fall session of Parliament.

Meetings with NDP Leader Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Québécois, however, followed a similar script: the opposition leaders emerged to say Harper is intent on calling an election this week, with a vote to be held in mid-October.

Opposition leaders could avoid an election if they provided some certainty that legislation could be passed during the upcoming session of Parliament, Teneycke said Monday.

Dion, however, said he refused to provide Harper with a "blank cheque" when asked if he would support the government until October 2009.

"Because he's confusing two things. Does the Parliament work? The answer is yes. Does the government have the certainty to survive? The answer is no.
Which roughly corresponds with my recollection of the time period. Unless Wells is privy to information that I don't recall hearing then or since, there was no evidence whatsoever that the opposition parties had teamed up to bring down the Cons in the fall of 2008: Dion wasn't showing any particular sign of fighting back and still figured to be willing to roll over at Harper's convenience, while the NDP and Bloc were continuing to vote based on the merits of individual issues rather than having any grand plan in place to force a vote.

So in order to call an election that he wanted in the absence of any realistic prospect that he'd face a non-confidence vote, Harper instead set a new and arbitrary standard of declaring that an election was needed unless somebody was willing to support his party's fall agenda in toto. Yet even in response to the developing certainty that Harper was pushing for an election, Dion didn't state any intention to bring down the government if the opportunity arose.

So yes, Harper met with each of the opposition leaders - but for the obvious purpose of putting a facade of legitimacy on his own apparent decision to call an election. And if even Wells has managed to buy the Cons' always-implausible line about their intentions the last time they decided an election was in their interests, I'd think it's only all the more likely that we'll see Harper figure he can once again precipitate a trip to the polls on his own schedule without wearing any consequences.

(Edit: fixed wording.)

On windows

Paul Wells looks to me to follow the right analysis about what has to happen to provoke a federal election to exactly the wrong conclusion.

Yes, it's highly unlikely that the three opposition parties will all want an election at the same time, making it a remote possibility at best that we'll see a trip to the polls caused by a non-confidence vote. And I'd add the further caveat that nearly any situation where all three opposition parties see it as favourable will likely come about only if the Cons are in free-fall in the polls - meaning that Harper would be likely to rely on his hard-won prorogation precedents to shut down any such vote before it happens.

But that means that whatever window Wells is pointing to involves a four-way game of chicken among parties who all have enough reason for optimism to see themselves having something to gain out of an election at the same time. And trying to plan election windows around that kind of rare confluence of political interests looks to me to be futile.

In contrast, given that the Cons' fixed election date legislation isn't worth the paper it's printed on, there's still an opening for the Cons themselves to call an election anytime. And it seems at least as plausible that they might prefer a fatigued public this fall to the other available windows in trying to parlay their 38% of the vote into a razor-thin majority as that they'd prefer to go this spring.

In other words, the election window is always open when the Cons want it - and probably not if they don't. Which means that the parties' current roles should probably be seen as reversed from the conventional wisdom - with the opposition mostly having the power to bait the Cons into thinking it's in their interest to call or force an election, while Harper holds the sole power to decide when that's actually the case.

Deep thought

A newspaper's year-end advice to a political party might be taken more seriously if it isn't illustrated with a year-plus-old stunt from a competitor's political staff.

Wednesday Morning Links

Content goes here.

- Linda McQuaig's latest column builds on the inequality theme of The Trouble With Billionaires, pointing out how wealth turns into other forms of power as well:
The wealthy exert influence not just through campaign contributions, but at every stage of the political process: in the forming of political parties, the writing of party platforms, the selection of candidates, the drafting and amending of legislation, not to mention the shaping of public opinion through think-tanks and media ownership.

The wealthy also often employ a form of blackmail, either directly or indirectly threatening they'll leave the country if governments don't capitulate to their demands for lower taxes. While it's hard to imagine political leaders caving in to similar threats from other groups -- say, electricians or teachers -- the sheer economic power of the wealthy seems to quickly bring governments to heel.
- Which would surely make for yet another point of confusion for Rafe Mair's Man from Mars:
Our Man from Mars would look at how we run our business affairs and would be struck by the way large pools of capital form themselves into corporations that can't be controlled. How would we expect them to be controlled when the people who want nice comfy laws finance the governing party which makes up the rules?

MFM would note that corporations spend huge sums anaesthetizing the public with full paid ads on every aspect of life telling the bumpkins what wonderful corporate citizens they are and how all their decisions were for the good of all. These ads make no reference to the fact that their only obligation is to make money for the shareholder and their good behaviour is in the hands of a friendly, indeed compliant, government.
Our Man from Mars, writing his report, would conclude that western democracies call themselves democracies much like communist countries once did. On being questioned about the liberties of citizens as compared to places like China, he would be bound to conclude that these Canadians have more freedom but that's steadily eroding and that, besides, the free speech in this country is about as effective as going out in a boat by yourself and shouting damnation on the powers that dictate and enforce.
- And as if to prove Mair's and McQuaig's points, here's Neil Reynolds predictably beating the drum for tax cuts even when they contradict his own data:
Canadian tax-collection statistics suggest that this supply-side law may well be operative here – only more so. On average, we remit to the federal government only 16.6 per cent of GDP in taxes regardless of rates. In the 1960s, it was 15.9 per cent of GDP. In the 1970s, 17.3 per cent. In the 1980s, 15.5 per cent. In the 1990s, 17.7 per cent. (From 2001 through 2009, reflecting a serious recession, revenue from all tax sources fell to 14.3 per cent.)
For those keeping track, that would make for a 3.4% difference between the 1990s (when taxes were hiked in order to balance budgets) and the 2000s (when taxes were lowered as the first order of business once deficits were brought down) - included in Reynolds' column in support of the theory that tax rates don't affect revenue. But fortunately, he's on the right side of the corporate media, so he'll be taken far more seriously than those of us who actually look at the numbers.

[Update: For a more thorough debunking, see Erin's post.]

- Meanwhile, Colby Cosh is right to note that "disappearing middle class" isn't necessarily the right term for extreme wealth inequality, and that "between neighbourhood" comparisons probably aren't the best way of analyzing the disparity. But can we also agree that it's worth doing something to address the danger of a "new Gilded Age, a realm of pervasively low marginal taxes and new deregulated industries" once we've removed those less-obvious problems from the picture?

- Finally, Ned Franks nicely connects the dots between the Cons' unproductive Parliaments in terms of the number of bills passed, and the fact that they've used omnibus budget bills to pass major changes without serious review:
n terms of productivity, Parliament has reached a new low. According to Franks, only 45 per cent of the bills introduced by the Harper government thus far have actually made it through the entire legislative process to royal assent.

And that can't all be blamed on the tribulations of running a minority government. Franks' records show the minority government of Lester Pearson during the 1960s managed to see 86 per cent of its bills through to royal assent.

The Trudeau government (both minority and majority) managed 72 per cent, Mulroney's majority government hit 83 per cent and Chretien's majority batted 69 per cent.

Since the Second World War, the number of bills receiving royal assent each year has declined steadily from an average of 67 a year during the King-St. Laurent era to 27 under Harper.

That doesn't necessarily mean the Harper government is legislating less. Franks said the government pushed about half of a normal year's legislation through in a single bill — this year's massive budget implementation bill which included varied measures dealing with all manner of subjects from environmental assessments to the post office to the future of Canada's atomic energy industry.

Franks finds the trend to omnibus bills particularly worrisome since it short-circuits the whole point of parliamentary scrutiny in a healthy democracy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Holiday cats.

Some assembly required.

Present and accounted for.

On open races

Last week, Paul Wells rightly pointed out that the main purpose of the Cons' (however laughable) Senate appointment and campaign launch for Larry Smith figures to have been to make inroads into one of the last remaining pieces of relatively unchallenged Lib territory in the country. But in the other note from Lawrence Martin's column on Thomas Mulcair that deserves attention, it won't be the Cons alone looking to test the opportunities available in Montreal:
In Quebec, where the NDP’s media presence has grown exponentially since Mr. Mulcair donned the party’s garments in 2007, the New Democrats placed second in several recent polls, behind the Bloc Québécois. Gains are particularly noticeable among francophone voters. Although Mr. Mulcair is an anglophone, he speaks predominantly French and is even more forceful in his second tongue than his first.

The party has expectations of winning the riding of Gatineau, where their candidate, Françoise Boivin, a former Liberal MP, lost narrowly last time out. The Dippers have a good shot in Hull and in a few Liberal-held ridings in Montreal, where they’ve lined up some high-profile candidates they’ll be announcing when the right moment arises.
Now, it's worth noting that the choice to wait for "the right moment" looks to make for a departure from the usual strategy of getting the earliest start possible in trying to challenge a stronghold seat. But it'll nonetheless be worth watching who ends up on the NDP's side in trying to convert the party's growing Quebec popularity into seats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday.

- Dan Lett points out who holds the ultimate power to force the political class to act more responsibly:
Despite the fact political leadership is as important now as it has ever been, voters spend most of their time complaining. They will lament the lack of choice among the parties. They will complain about a charisma deficit in our party leaders, a lack of new ideas, negative political advertising, and broken moral compasses. The worst part is that along with the heightening and increasingly shrill whining, fewer of us are voting. The 2008 federal election had the lowest turnout in history at just over 58 per cent. Provincial and municipal election voter turnout has suffered the same fate.

In the same vein as 'you get what you pay for,' it's pretty safe to say that if you trade in your election ballot for moans and whines, you'll get the government you deserve. Remember, those parties so many of us dislike are out there poking and prodding and doing their own polling. When you see their policies and pledges, you can bet a lot of it was exactly what we told them we wanted.
(T)hat's what the federal political system needs more than ever. A profound, forceful, definitive electorate that will reassert itself on the political stage. With all the moaning and whining, recall petitions and referendums, we've forgotten voters have always had the power to make a difference.
- Meanwhile, Sarah Barmak highlights why the Libs don't figure to be in a position to meet any demand for more substantive politics anytime soon:
Ignatieff is still searching for the right way to reach Canadian voters, and he seems to be trying a different tack every week. In an interview with the Star earlier this month, he attempted to align the Liberals with newly elected Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s successful platform of good customer service.

“We want value for money from our taxes. It’s not a message that’s anti-Liberal,” Ignatieff said.

The message is not specifically anti-Liberal, but it’s not pro-Liberal, either. Such attempts to make the Big Red Tent everything to everyone have been hallmarks of Ignatieff’s reign. But they risk watering down voters’ understanding of Liberal policies — and perhaps alienating those on the left who want the Liberals to rebuild social safety nets, not worry about “value for money.”
- Michael Norton and Dan Ariely's chart on views about wealth distribution has been making the rounds again, with most of the focus on the gap between how wealth is perceived to be distributed and how it actually is. But I find it even more interesting that even from a starting point that assumes less inequality than actually exists, every single group of people polled nonetheless sees the ideal distribution involving far less concentration of wealth - meaning that there's plenty of room to argue for greater equality even before correcting the record as to how distorted the current system has become.

- Finally, Alice's fascinating post on movement among Quebec voters over the past decade-plus is well worth a read.

Steal this message

Thomas Mulcair nicely lays out the argument the Libs will need to pick up to create any real chance of toppling the Harper Cons in the near future:
Mr. Mulcair has no doubt the two parties can work together. “On the centre-left, we have to be just as smart as conservatives were on the centre-right when they coalesced. We’ve got to learn from that, otherwise we’ll end up with Harper governing with 37 per cent of the vote again.”

The NDP, he says, is sending a clear signal. “People can trust us to work with anyone else who wants to give voice to the 65 per cent of Canadians who are asking for a more progressive form of government than what we’ve been getting. This will require everyone to put a little water in their wine.”

Monday, December 27, 2010

On confirmation

I've always been sympathetic to the argument that Michaelle Jean could justify keeping fairly quiet about the 2008 coalition showdown on the basis that it's the job of the politicians involved rather than the GG to argue the constitutional points in public.

But it's certainly a plus to see David Johnston explicitly confirming that he doesn't buy the Cons' attacks on the concept of a coalition government. And hopefully we'll find out before long how his acceptance of multi-party cooperation plays out in practice.

On hostage situations

I've noted before that one of the most dangerous elements of the Cons' efforts to cling to power in facing an impending non-confidence vote was their willingness to do deliberate harm to the country if they didn't get their way, effectively taking Canada hostage in support of their political interests. And at the time, I wondered what the strategy's success might mean in the future.

Now, we may have our answer. Having allowed Harper to succeed in his past hostage strategy, Michael Ignatieff is apparently trying the gambit for himself - declaring that if his party doesn't get its way in wanting to destroy other parties working for (more) progressive change, then the country can't get rid of its current destructive government. And far too many Kool-Aid drinkers seem to be entirely eager to go along with the plan.

So let's make it clear that replacing Harper with someone who's equally eager to subordinate the public interest to his political ends isn't progress at all. Which means that Ignatieff can choose between either acknowledging that his party is better off succeeding in cooperation with other parties than failing on its own - or proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that a vote for Ignatieff is nothing more than a vote for Stephen Harper 2.0.

Nothing but a game

Plenty of others have already commented on Don Cherry's sad attempt to play a Canadian troop in Afghanistan on TV. But it's worth taking a moment to consider how the latest publicity stunt fits into the Cons' general style of government.

It's no great secret that the Cons' domestic strategy has been based on little more than turning public institutions into a massive photo-op generator. And presumably that isn't a difficult strategy for the Cons to justify to themselves: since they don't consider most government to be legitimate or useful anyway, why not use all of its resources to fuel a PR machine?

For the most part, though, they've tried to act a bit more serious in their treatment of the military, especially where Afghanistan is concerned. And that too sense given their desire to push spending toward the military in the longer term by making it look more important than their farcical mimicry of a government at home.

What's significant about the Cherry bombing, then, is that it exposes the Cons' complete lack of any serious interest even in what are supposed to be their core issues. After years of being told that Afghanistan reflected a battle for civilization itself, we now have compelling evidence that they see it too as nothing more than a game, with Canada's actual mission to be shoved aside on a moment's notice for the amusement of a politically-friendly celebrity guest star. And it's well worth wondering whether voters may start to tell them they should play government on their own time and money.

Update: Thwap adds a must-read post on the subject.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Deep thought

I'm pretty sure that if we've learned anything from the 2008 financial meltdown, it's that we want employer-funded pensions to be less secure. Thanks, Deficit Jim Flaherty!

On unshared sacrifices

The decree has gone out: voters in the Atlantic provinces have no choice but to accept a decline in public services in order to cut down on government deficit and debt. But surely they can take solace in that fact that everybody is pitching in, right?

A helpful hint

Michael Ignatieff mindlessly repeating the Libs' decade-old talking points about how votes for more progressive parties don't count: not news.

Michael Ignatieff declaring in the same interview that he's in full agreement with the Cons' plans for a North American security perimeter, giving Stephen Harper yet another gift of political cover on an issue where he's completely at odds with Canada's voters: news.

You're welcome, media. Now please, report the actual news before it's too late.

A slight correction

I generally agree with Stephen Gordon that if the Cons want to have a more effective Parliamentary Budget Officer (and of course all indications are that they don't), part of the answer is to provide the office with sufficient funding to do its work. But there's another element of the picture that strikes me as even more important to the future of the PBO.

After all, the main recent area of contention between Page and the Cons has been the gap between a PBO offering the best analysis possible based on the information available, and a government which is refusing to provide any information about what will have to be cut to meet implausible projections. Which is why it's laughable that the Cons have tried to attack Page's last few sets of numbers by accusing him of failing to take into account information they're hiding from him.

Ultimately, for Page to be able to do his job effectively, the main remaining requirement is for the Cons to stop hiding behind cabinet confidences and other excuses, and start allowing Page to see for himself whether they actually have a plan to meet their budgetary assumptions. And the fact that the Cons prefer instead to undermine the office based on their own choice to withhold information should signal that a more complete review will only confirm the PBO's suspicions that the Cons' numbers lack any basis in reality.