Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Morning Links

A variety of content for your weekend reading.

- The Lethbridge Herald nicely points out who figures to have a problem with Stephen Harper's decision to have the Canadian public pay tens of thousands of dollars to send him to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals:
(P)erhaps the flap over Harper's appearance at the game was a tempest in a teapot. Nevertheless, some Canadians saw it as a slap in the face; an unnecessary extravagance at a time when the government is looking to trim some $4 billion per year from federal programs and services. If you're one of the people who stand to be affected by those cuts, perhaps seeing the prime minister among the crowd in Boston was a galling reminder that some of us are having to tighten our belts while those in government can still enjoy the high life.

Petty? Maybe. Perhaps it all depends on whether you're one of the haves or the have-nots.
But it's worth extending the have/have-not distinction a step further. For Harper, the $50,000 served as the different between watching a hockey game at home, and watching a hockey game from the rink. For have-nots far from Harper's line of view, the same sum of money could have served to bring multiple families out of poverty for a year.

And given that contrast, Harper's conclusion that his choice of location for a touching family moment can possibly takes precedence looks all the more inexcusable.

- Meanwhile, the Imagine What We Could Do campaign is raising some even more important either-or choices between handing free money to the corporate sector and funding social priorities, with a particular focus on Saskatchewan resource royalties.

- But as Ken Lewenza notes, after decades of stagnant wages and top-heavy development it'll take plenty of pushback to ensure that working Canadians share in any future economic gains.

- A proposed research project for Jim Flaherty or anybody willing to take up his latest tax-flattening crusade: identify a single person above Canada's bottom tax bracket who's wholly unmotivated to do additional work at current tax rates, but would leap to do more based on the marginal tax reduction of 3% or 4% that would result from bracket elimination.

Of course, we'll instead see Flaherty justify a more regressive tax system with nothing but faith-based assertions that such a thing exists. But my guess is we'll discover the confidence fairy before an actual example of the supposed rationale for what the Cons have in store.

- Finally, Bruce Johnstone points out the leading example of what we can expect to happen if the Cons follow through on demolishing the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board:
(N)umerous studies by agricultural economists have shown the CWB earns a premium price for producers through its market clout, timing sales to catch market peaks, ensuring both the quality and quantity of grain delivered and getting volume discounts on shipping and handling.

So, what happens on Aug. 1, 2012? Well, no one can say for sure, but the Australian Wheat Board, which lost its monopoly in 2008, provides a pretty good example.

Despite having been in operation for more than 20 years, within a year of the removal of the single desk, the AWB's share of the export market dropped to 23 per cent. Since then, the AWB was taken over in a $1.1-billion bid by Agrium, which sold the commodity marketing arm of AWB to Cargill for $175 million.

So, who benefits? Grain companies, for one.

Viterra CEO Mayo Schmidt said he supports the removal of the single desk by the Conservatives and "intends to actively participate in the process to promote an orderly transition with positive, sustainable change for the benefit of the Western Canadian agricultural industry."

Given the success of Viterra's takeover of the Australia's former barley marketing agency, ABB Grain, Schmidt must be licking his chops with the prospect of getting a piece of the CWB's business.

So, who loses? The majority of Western Canadian farmers who support the CWB, of course.

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