Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Stephen Maher follows up on this week's Supreme Court ruling on Etobicoke Centre by pointing out where we should be most worried about our electoral system:
Fraudulent voting is far from the biggest problem facing our democracy. Disengagement is.

Voting rates are declining steadily, particularly among young people, which means politicians see little point in discussing youth issues.

MPs are going to be looking at changes to the Elections Act after this fiasco, and they ought to tighten up the process. But I hope they won't require mandatory picture identification, as the Republicans are doing in the United States, because it discourages voting.

Our real problem is not with the tiny number of cheaters, but with all the people who stay home.
- And unfortunately, it looks like the Cons are taking advantage of exactly the opportunity I'd worried about in commenting on the case - seeking to capitalize on misplaced outrage at procedural snags to restrict real voting rights.

- Susan Delacourt wonders whether the failure of the Charlottetown Accord represented the point at which Canada's political class and citizenry parted ways. But I'd respond by noting that the constitutional wranglings of the '80s and '90s (which turned off the citizenry as reflecting elite concerns detached from voters' everyday lives) largely gave way to governments who have been similarly obsessed with negotiating elite-rooted trade deals inside and outside the country. And it's entirely natural for citizens to feel disconnected from governments who are more focused on limiting their own ability to act in response to popular concerns than actually improving the condition of Canadian lives.

- Janyce McGregor and the Huffington Post both review some of the contents of the Cons' latest attempt to run over democracy with an omnibus bill.

- Finally, I'll agree with Murray Mandryk that the most noteworthy development in the "Cons going off message" department is Brent Rathgeber's remarkably reasonable take on his party's union-bashing:
The proponents of C-377 argue that the tax deductibility of union dues somehow creates a public interest in what the collector of those dues does with them.  According to the theory, tax deductibility equals forgone revenue to the treasury, which makes it akin to public money and thereby creating a public right to know how the forgone tax dollars are spent.

...(I)f tax deductibility truly created a public interest, it would have to be more consistently applied.  As a lawyer, my law society fees are tax deductible.  Does that mean that the public has a right to know what the Law Society pays its staff??  I would argue no and certainly there is no existing obligation for the Law Society to disclose.  As a member of the club, I believe I have a right to know but do not see a similar right for non-members of the club.

Moreover, if I take a client out for lunch, 50% of that is written off as a business expense.  Should the restaurant have to disclose how much it pays the server and the cooks simply because of the tax deductibility of the meal??

I have obvious and I believe logical concerns regarding Bill C-377.  Although I unequivocally support the principle that union members have an interest in knowing how the union leadership spends its money, I am less convinced that non-members have a similar interest.  I eagerly await the Finance Committee’s deliberations; if there are no amendments considerably limiting the breadth and the scope of the Bill, I will be unable to support Bill C-377.

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