Friday, February 04, 2011

Friday Afternoon Links

Content goes here.

- Robert Bothwell puts together one of the better descriptions I've seen of the Harper Cons, with a particular focus on the insignificance of their cabinet:
Harper ministers, it is true, have business cards, official cars, and even offices to sit in, but it is a real question whether they cast shadows or have a reflection in a mirror. In their offices sit appointees placed by the Prime Minister’s Office — official minders, perhaps reminiscent of the Soviet commissars who were assigned to inspire the troops and keep an eye on the generals.
The overall impression of the Harper cabinet is that its abilities are depressingly low. Consider Ontario’s John Baird, who serves as the government’s attack-buffoon, a special role that requires him to froth and fret in parliamentary committees. The effect is vaguely reminiscent of one of the tackier scenes in the movie Animal House.

Then there is Tony Clement, who after presiding over an explosion of subsidy and public works in his home riding in Muskoka, was required to go before the media and justify how the government was destroying the credibility of the Canadian census. Norman Mailer once wrote of a speech by Richard Nixon that watching it was like watching a man violate himself in public; the same may be said of Clement.
If Pearson’s era was a time of hope, Harper’s is a time of fear. Pearson was, and remained, the embodiment of that hope. Harper, regrettably, is its negation.
- Embassy nicely covers multiple sides of the current tax-cut debate. But I'm not sure there's any escaping the point made by Andrew Jackson:
(T)he corporations that did do well during the recession—in Canada, the commodities and financial sectors—are poised to make the biggest profits thanks to corporate tax cuts, but won't necessarily turn those profits into new jobs and investments.

"Everybody has this image in mind that cuts in corporate tax rates are going to result in investment in machinery and equipment," said Andrew Jackson, senior economist with the Canadian Labour Congress. But "a very large share of corporate profits in Canada are, in fact, earned in the resource sector, which is booming, and also in the financial sector, where rates of return really don't have much to do with real investment in the economy."

Mr. Jackson argues that most economic studies show business investment is related to the rate of growth of demand rather than capital costs like corporate taxes.
- The absurdity at Rights and Democracy doesn't figure to end anytime soon. But fortunately, neither does Paul Wells' coverage:
The audit shows, as Graeme Hamilton wrote in the National Post, that poor management at the organization “predated the presidency of Rémy Beauregard” and that he had “introduced changes to better control spending soon after arriving as president in 2008.” In short, “An organization whose annual budget of $11 million is supposed to defend human rights around the world has spent $253,000″—the cost of the untendered Deloitte contract—”to learn that its suspicions about Mr. Beauregard were unfounded.”

How unfounded? Gauthier’s main suspicion when he hired Deloitte, the audit report stated, was that R&D was sending $30,000 a month in clandestine payments to the agency’s Geneva office. Not only did Deloitte find no proof for this explosive accusation, it found no evidence for it. It was fantasy.
I would like nothing better (than to put the crisis behind us). But Lawrence Cannon will not let that happen because he wants the architects of this disaster to keep running the wreckage. Jacques Gauthier’s hunches and goose chases cost Canadian taxpayers $1 million last year. One-third of the R&D staff has quit. The organization has said no word of warning or celebration during the astonishing events in Tunisia and Egypt. Saad Eddin Ibrahim still lists his R&D affiliation in his bio. It used to be something to be proud of.
- Finally, Bill Curry and Campbell Clark document the latest example of tax expenses working for Conservatives rather than Canadians:
The Harper government is spending $6.5-million of public funds to promote its tax-cutting record in an advertising campaign centred on what is shaping up as a key election issue.
Some of the tax cuts are so small, like the $4-million spent each year on the Tradespersons’ Tools Deduction, that the cost of advertising the tax cut is actually more than what the government loses to offer the tax cut.

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