Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Thomas Walkom comments on the Cons' preference for low-wage, no-rights immigrant labour as a means of avoiding good jobs for Canadians:
Theoretically, temporary work visas are supposed to be reserved for those with unique skills.

But increasingly, the notion of skill has been stretched to the extreme. In Alberta, some temporary skilled workers serve coffee in doughnut shops. Others heave around beef carcasses in slaughterhouses like the Brooks XL Foods meat-packing plant — now the epicentre of an E. coli food scare.

In the fruit and vegetable fields of Ontario, the unique skill that temporary migrant workers from the Caribbean or South America bring is their willingness to do back-breaking work for low wages.

Employers say they need foreign temporary labour because they can’t find Canadians willing to work. What they mean is that they can’t find Canadians willing to work at the wages being offered.
A wise government wouldn’t create two classes of immigrants but would treat equally all who enter this country legally to work.

This government just authorizes more temporary migrant workers, knowing full well that — regardless of their formal rights — they are in no position to complain.

It’s one thing for the Harper Conservatives to return us to the status of a resource economy. It is another for them to insist that we become a low-wage resource economy.
- Meanwhile, Public Values catches the McGuinty Libs laying off labour investigators to match the number of enforcement officers they hired to much fanfare earlier this summer.

- Susan Delacourt has some suggestions to replace the current trend of top-down political advertising with more balanced forms of communication:
(I)f we are interested in curing our politicians of their advertising addiction, it seems there are two things we might want to demand.

One would be for some kind of limits on political advertising in between elections. We set spending limits during the formal campaign period so that the playing field is reasonably level; to ensure that no one has an unfair advantage in the bid to pummel citizens with propaganda.

It may be time for us to recognize that the election campaign never really stops in Canada these days — that the ad wars are a permanent fixture on the political landscape.

As for the government’s advertising addiction, that’s harder to cure, or even regulate. But as a start, we could maybe ask that the people in charge of the country spend as much money listening to the citizens as they do in talking at them.
- Tom Blackwell reports on Nipa Banerjee's conclusion that $1.5 billion in Afghanistan aid spending under the Cons bought Canada little beyond a few photo ops.

- And finally, CBC reports on the Sask Party's musings about selling off the Information Services Corporation. Needless to say, answers as to why in the world public corporate and land titles registries would be handed over to private operators (particularly given that the province will plainly need to ensure their continued adherence to legislated standards) do not figure to be forthcoming.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Musical interlude

Andrew Bennett - Break Away (Martin Roth Remix)

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Dene Moore reports on Enbridge's efforts to turn the Northern Gateway pipeline review process into an inquisition against critics. But I'll point out that thanks to the Harper Cons, that strategy is even more insidious than it seems at first glance: because of inflexible timelines the Cons have deliberately built into review processes, any time Enbridge can waste on such side issues only raises the likelihood of the project receiving approval by default.

- Meanwhile, Carol Linnitt compares the sources of funding and support for critics and proponents of the Gateway pipeline - and not surprisingly, finds that the oil sector is where we should have some concern about foreign control. And Tim Groves discusses how the oil industry has been in cahoots with Canada's security apparatus to coordinate against critics.

- Bruce Cheadle reports on the Cons' latest ad spending revelations - with tens of millions of dollars being poured into a new ad blitz even as the programs being promoted have receded in the rear-view mirror.

- Finally, Purple Library Guy nicely highlights some of the inherent contradictions in right-wing ideology:
Charities do a pathetically bad job taking care of the poor compared to government programs; research on this is so clear as to reach confidence levels typical of physics rather than sociology. But my question is, how can they believe all those things at the same time? If welfare is bad for the recipients because they become dependent on it, then surely charity is also bad for the recipients because they become dependent on it. If those charities were actually better at taking care of the poor than the government would be, that would just make it worse.
The right also believes the government shouldn't create jobs and that there needs to be enough structural employment to encourage labour force "flexibility" (i.e. settling for low wages and crappy working conditions for fear of not having a job). Admittedly they don't often tell the voters about that last bit, it's more something they talk about in elite business and economics publications. At the same time they believe that if anyone doesn't have a job, or their job doesn't pay enough to live on, it is their own fault for not having more initiative and self-reliance (see above about welfare). Again, I don't see how you can have both these beliefs in one ideology; if you're deliberately arranging for a certain level of unemployment then you are making sure that a certain percentage of people, no matter how much initiative or self-reliance they may have, won't have jobs. Turning around and blaming the victims is vicious and hypocritical of course, but it's also a logical contradiction. Both facets of right wing belief cannot be true.

So on this as on so many other issues, the right is not just factually wrong (although it is) and not just deliberately engineered to benefit the few at the expense of the many (although it's that too). It's impossible, a system of ideas that contradicts itself from the get-go. It's not just that the Right isn't right. The Right cannot be right. It would have to abandon some of its beliefs before there was even a point to testing whether the remainder were accurate.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New column day

Here, on the dangers of allowing corporate voices and employers to dictate what citizens are permitted (or required) to say about political issues.

While I didn't include a direct comparison in the column, I'll point out the rather stark contrast between the employer abuses exemplified by Murray Energy Company and the union structures which business interests are trying to tear down.

On the labour side, decisions about political involvement and work issues are made through democratic processes - and once taken, they still allow employees to choose how much of a role to play (if any) once action is taken. But with an employer like Murray, a worker receives neither an opportunity to influence demands before they're made, nor any alternative but to comply.

For further reading...
- Murray Energy Company has been the subject of extensive reporting, including this about mandatory attendance at a Mitt Romney rally, this about the use of that rally footage in a Romney ad, and this about funnelling employee donations to employer-chosen candidates.
- Jill Mahoney reported on the efforts of XL Foods' union to ensure that workers can contribute to public safety. But Matt McClure followed up and noted XL's refusal to acknowledge any remaining issues.
- Finally, my earlier post on the Regina Chamber of Commerce's free speech hypocrisy is here.

Leadership 2013 Roundup

While all has been relatively quiet from two of Saskatchewan's NDP leadership camps, there's still been some activity worth highlighting over the last few days.

- First, Scott Stelmaschuk has made another massive contribution to coverage of the race with a thorough candidate questionnaire. And Erin Weir's response tells us somewhat more about the political legacy he hopes to build:
In 25 years, what do you hope your political legacy to be?

I hope that my political legacy will be Saskatchewan collecting a better return from our non-renewable resources and investing the proceeds in important public services, renewable power for a green economy, and a provincial savings fund for future generations.
- Meanwhile, Weir has also released a plan for Saskatchewan's potash royalty system, with a focus on eliminating loopholes and revenue leakage rather than reconsidering the underlying royalty rates. Which isn't to say we should rule out the possibility of doing both in the longer term - but looks like a valuable first step toward earning a fair return for our natural resources.

- Finally, Ryan Meili's latest blog post discusses his reason for retaining his beard. And while I'm still not a huge fan of spending time talking about appearances rather than policy and values, Meili's take does suggest some noteworthy development as a candidate since the 2009 campaign:
When I ran for leader in 2009, I caved and shaved, wanting to fit into the expected mold of political appearance. I didn’t see this as a big deal at the time, but the more I think about it, the more I find it strange to change our appearances drastically to fit a narrow set of imaginary criteria. Politicians are expected to be thin and attractive, to be well-heeled enough to dress impeccably and to betray no hint of an accent. And, more often than not, they are expected to be white, male, middle-aged and heterosexual.

Now I’m not suggesting for a moment that I’m a member of an excluded minority. Like the other declared candidates in this race, I am a majority-culture, straight male approaching middle age. A few whiskers does not by any means make me part of an equity-seeking group. But the early reaction, however minor, to my facial hair is interesting, and reflects the disproportionate role that appearance and demographics play in our judgment of candidates. This may just reinforce the factors that have led this race, and Saskatchewan politics in general, to have so little diversity in its political representatives.

For citizens, I think it raises another question. If we expect candidates to change who they are to fit a small set of cultural norms, are we selecting representatives for the exact opposite of the behaviour we desire? If we are asking potential politicians to bend themselves so far they’re unrecognizable, can we really be disappointed if they later turn out to be inconsistent and insincere?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On honest appraisals

For all the concerns about the Cons paying absolutely no political price for their constant dishonesty, the NDP working to change that assumption:

So how effective does the new ad look to be, particularly compared to past efforts to develop the theme that the Cons can't be trusted?

Well, the good news is that the NDP has avoided the trap which regularly tripped up the Libs. Rather than portraying the Cons' dishonesty as an affront to the official opposition (which would have been rather easy to do given that the columns cited refer to lies about the NDP in the first place), the new ad highlights the relationship between the Cons and the public. So viewers with concerns about the Cons should react relatively similarly regardless of their relationship to any opposition party.

But there looks to be ample room for improvement in the execution, as the ad is both text-heavy (featuring only a single photo of Stephen Harper at the beginning), and based entirely on media opinions rather than direct quotes. Which means that it doesn't build much of a connection between the Cons' contempt and any actual Cons - or even any of their talking points.

Of course, we have no reason to expect Harper's party to stop lying anytime soon - so there should be plenty of opportunities for the NDP to polish up its response. But while the new ad makes for a reasonably effective first step, there's a long way to go in making the message stick.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- No, the aftershocks of an e. coli outbreak which has unfortunately given both Canadians and export markets reason for concern about the safety of some of our major food sources aren't about to end simply because the Cons are again pretending everything's fine. And the president of the union local representing XL Foods workers points out one of the major steps needed to ensure problems aren't allowed to fester due to managerial neglect:
Under the UFCW’s collective agreement, O’Halloran said, line workers can inform a supervisor only if they spot a safety issue, but the decision about whether to slow the line remains with management.

He said he wants the company to allow workers to go public with their food safety concerns if they are ignored by XL. It’s a demand he will reiterate at a press conference Wednesday alongside other labour leaders and Alberta New Democrat leader Brian Mason.
- Meanwhile, pogge and Pat Atkinson rightly call for accountability from the Cons - however certain it is that they'll offer nothing of the sort. Thomas Walkom connects the health issues caused by unsafe food to those arising from fast-tracked drugs. David Climenhaga worries about the destruction of the brand of Alberta beef. And Duncan Cameron fits the Cons' false claims about new inspectors into a broader theme as to the need for more facts in politics.

- But then, Lawrence Martin points out why our more cynical politicians seem to think that lying is a cost-free strategy:
Truth shaving of a serious kind has become so commonplace in politics today that it is expected. In the news business anything that is expected, that happens often, is of declining news value. And so the media over time has lost its sense of outrage when politicians wilfully distort or lie. The media don’t hold politicians to as a high as a standard as they used to. You’ll rarely, for example, see a front page headline saying “Cabinet Minister Caught Up In Baldfaced Lie.” Criticisms will usually come in the body of the story or on the inside pages. Political strategists realize the story will be one-day wonder, forgotten the next. No big deal.
In the case of the Harper government, numerous cases of willfull deceit have been documented by the press. Rarely a week goes by without some damning report, this week’s example being the government’s decision to close down water-monitoring stations in the north. Prior to this, we saw Conservative attacks slamming the New Democrats for favouring a carbon tax. They don’t. They favour a cap and trade system. Costs for cap and trade – a policy initially favoured by the Conservatives themselves – can get passed on to the consumer just as costs from the Conservatives’ regulatory measures to combat greenhouses gasses can be.
But as election results have shown, the Harper Conservatives, at least to date, haven’t paid much of a price for in-your-face duplicity. So why should they change their approach?
In trying to hold the government to account, it is usually the media that bears the burden. The media can either go along with the fall in standards or they can take a much stronger stance. Journalists have to find a way to respond that embarrasses offending politicians to a degree that makes them fear for their reputations. As of now the politicians pay no such price and, as can be seen in the presidential campaign, the downward spiral picks up speed.
- And indeed the Cons seem to be trying to outdo one another in how blatantly they mislead the Canadian public.

- Finally, Alex Himelfarb comments on the state of our democracy:
(G)rowing inequality makes it almost impossible to imagine ever formulating a shared sense of the good life. The very idea becomes a stretch given the profoundly different ways in which the super rich, the poor and the majority experience life. They breathe different air. Their kids go to different schools. They live in different neighbourhoods. Money always matters, but in an increasingly privatized world, it has never mattered more.
At the top, the extraordinary gains of a small global elite have given them an outsized capacity to shape the agenda and at the same time to secede from much of society. And even as extreme inequality undermines equality of opportunity, the myth of meritocracy emboldens many to believe that they are entitled to all they have. Down the economic scale, just as the very rich want to see taxes cut to hold on to what they have, so too do the majority want to withhold their money from a state they no longer trust. Even if recent events have shaken confidence in the promise of markets, they have not restored confidence in governments — and why should they? Look at the lost manufacturing jobs, tainted meat, deteriorating institutions and hollow politics. And, in a perfect self-fulfilling prophecy, taxes are cut, the state shrinks and becomes less trustworthy, the services it provides less relevant and increasingly shoddy, and the distrust grows and curdles into cynicism.

The result: a marketized politics of propaganda and pandering. It’s understandable then that, increasingly, those who want something better are looking outside of conventional politics: to their communities or global causes or to the streets. It was striking how many of the participants in the Quebec student protests found a new solidarity — and expressed a new sense of the common good — in their activism. Clearly some do care about our democracy, but many, especially young Canadians, have given up on the impoverished version offered up by our politics. That is both understandable and dangerous. The new activism and rebuilding of an independent civil society are essential but not enough.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats with clothes.


I've written plenty about Regina's municipal election over the past few days. But I'll take some time to encourage readers to join the conversation as early voting approaches.

With the City having released a stadium design concept at the start of the election campaign, it's been far too easy to fall into the trap of assuming that it's both a reality and a done deal. But it should be fairly simple to take to Twitter and offer some reminders that there's plenty we can do in Regina...#withoutanewstadium.

So how can we put the hashtag to good use? Well, here are a few suggestions.

First, by contrasting the current council's stadium obsession against other policy choices...
We could start building needed housing *now* #withoutanewstadium

We'll be able to save public money for far better purposes #withoutanewstadium
Second, with a dose of humour...
ZOMG!!! #withoutanewstadium, the #riders will TOTALLY move to *FLIN FLON*!

However will we teach young Reginans about "cost overruns" #withoutanewstadium?
And finally, as a response to the constant flow of business jingoism which so conveniently neglects the fact that our current stadium isn't exactly standing between Regina and the corporate community's goals either:
2668 jobs on saskjobs for yqr #withoutanewstadium

Riders generate $82 million impact annually - and #withoutanewstadium!
Of course, there are other important issues to be dealt with in the campaign as well. And I certainly hope readers and voters will take them into account at the polls.

But the most immediate choice facing for our municipal representatives is whether to let proponents of a new stadium buy their way to the front of the line while more important issues are left unaddressed. And it's long past time to recognize that Regina can keep thriving #withoutanewstadium.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Ed Broadbent and the Broadbent Institute are putting together a strong public push on the problem of growing inequality - featuring a video, op-ed and research paper (PDF). For more, see coverage from Rachel Mendleson, Natalie Stechyson, and CBC News.

- Today's handy reporting tip from Bill Curry: when corporate profits rise at the same time as rates are reduced, that's irrefutable evidence of causation. But when corporate profits were previously higher under a higher rate, that's a "blip" to be ignored.

- Jill Lepore offers a history of the political lie factory intended to reduce voters to mere consumers. And Allen Gregg follows up on the importance of reason in politics with a simple suggestion as to how to turn the tide:
What’s disconcerting about all of this is not just the substance of these bills, but why a government would want to disguise that substance. Maybe dismantling the Wheat Board or sending more potheads to jail is a good thing. But before we make those decisions, let’s look at all the facts; have a full and rational debate; and make a reasoned decision on what is best for all the parties involved. For voters to determine whether they support these measures requires that they know what is at stake and what the government is actually doing.

Moreover, for the rule of law to work, the public must have respect for the law. By obfuscating the true purpose of laws under the gobbledygook of double speak, governments are admitting their intentions probably lack both support and respect. This too explains this government’s obsession with secrecy, message control and misdirection.
History has also shown that tyrants can have a truncated shelf life if the citizenry enters the public forum and, armed with facts, reasoned arguments, and thoughtful ideas, engages in a loud debate. In the case of those who would stand against reason, our silence will be perceived as consent. There’s too much at stake to be silent.

If it feels lame to suggest that the solution about what to do next is to talk to each other more, I invite you to review history and ask yourselves what role public discourse has had in the toppling of dictators and despots. Right now, there seems to be a very one-sided conversation going on and the powers that be are leading it. We have our hands on the easiest levers the world has ever known by which to spread an idea and lead our own conversation. Let’s use them. 
 - Finally, Mike Sandler proposes a citizen's dividend as a means of addressing both inequality and economic stagnation.

Tuesday Morning 'Rider Blogging

The first half of yesterday's win over the Argos was filled with missed opportunities for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Yes, it's generally a plus to hold a 9-point lead at the half. But between a couple of dropped interceptions and an unusually ineffective short-yardage offence, the 'Riders held that small margin despite outplaying the Argos in all phases of the game. And with the Argos obviously hoping for big plays on defence or special teams to make up for a toothless offence, something figured to give in the second half.

Fortunately, the main difference was that the 'Riders' point production matched their overall effectiveness. Two long third-quarter touchdowns gave Saskatchewan a daunting lead, and the 'Riders' defence held the fort from there.

But again, the game always figured to be a relatively friendly one for a defence facing a mediocre offensive team's backups at quarterback and running back. Instead, it's the offence and special teams that looked particularly impressive in producing against the Argos' strengths.

Aside from the two third-quarter eruptions, the 'Riders didn't do much more than to play an effective possession game on offence. But they managed at least that much throughout the game, pairing another 100-yard game for Kory Sheets with a high-efficiency passing attack that more than doubled the Argos' yards per attempt. (Of particular note, Taj Smith had his best all-around game of the year - not merely taking advantage of breakdowns as he's done before, but making big plays both catching the ball in traffic and shedding tacklers.)

Meanwhile, special teams looked to be a high-risk area against one of the CFL's elite returners. But full credit goes to Craig Dickenson for a stunning performance by the 'Riders' cover teams: Chad Owens managed only one long punt return, while the Argos repeatedly started from deep in their own end due to penalties and/or negligible returns.

We'll find out this weekend whether the 'Riders can keep up that style of play against Edmonton on short rest. But it should help that the Esks rely on much the same turnover-driven game plan as the Argos. And for now, the 'Riders have kept themselves in contention for the top spots in the West.

Monday, October 08, 2012

The litmus test

Regina's municipal election is fast approaching - with advance voting set to begin this week. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of candidates (which, to be clear, I take to be a positive sign as to public interest in the election) will limit my ability to write about all of the options individually. But I'll take some time to discuss both the criteria I'm looking for in determining who to support, and a few candidates who look particularly promising as potential additions to Regina's municipal governing bodies.

At the outset, in the absence of a party system, it's absolutely essential for a successful municipal representative to be able to work with others and try to build consensus around issues. It's possible to make plenty of noise criticizing the status quo, but impossible to actually bring about change without some ability to reach out to others who won't agree on all issues.

But a healthy interest in cooperation shouldn't be seen as a reason to turn the city's governing bodies into closed clubs with no interest in listening to public input. And that's where matters have gone off the rails in recent years: all too often, our representatives have done nothing but circle the wagons and shut down debate on issues which plainly call for serious discussion.

What's more, in addition to ensuring that representatives are out of touch generally, that philosophy also ensures that city policy is easily captured by the big-money special interests who have hand-selected so many of our candidates.

So my two-part test for municipal candidates is this. Does the candidate hold a strong enough core of values to ensure that he or she will be more than just a yes-person parroting whatever schemes get drawn up for a rubber-stamp? And at the same time, does the candidate have the inclination and skill to put those values into practice by working with others?

Needless to say, the above isn't an easy test to meet. But again, I'll offer a few suggestions in a future post.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Jim Stanford reviews the effect of NAFTA (and associated corporatist policy choices) on Canada's economy:
Quantity of exports: In the mid-1980s, before Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan inked their deal, Canada’s exports to the United States accounted for 19 per cent of Canadian GDP. Today, they account for 19 per cent of Canadian GDP. Any boost to exports from the deal was temporary, and has since been completely reversed.

Composition of exports: In the mid-1980s, most of Canada’s exports to the U.S. consisted of relatively sophisticated manufactured goods (including automobiles, electronics and machinery). Today, most of our southbound exports consist of unprocessed or barely processed primary and resource products.

U.S. market: In the mid-1980s, 19 per cent of all U.S. imports came from Canada. Today, our share of their imports is just 14 per cent. So much for “special access.” Yet, we still rely on the U.S. for 75 per cent of all our export sales – just as high as before the deal.

Productivity: In the mid-1980s, average productivity in Canadian businesses equalled 90 per cent of U.S. levels. Free-trade advocates predicted that continental integration would eliminate that gap – but we’ve gone backward, and fast. Today, our productivity is just 72 per cent of U.S. levels.

Incomes: Proponents also promised that productivity gains from free trade would translate into higher incomes. There’s been no productivity dividend, and no income growth, either. In fact, last year’s median family incomes, adjusted for inflation, were exactly the same as in 1980 – not a dollar of income growth over the whole period.

In short, it’s hard to find any concrete economic evidence whatsoever that this historic deal actually helped Canada.
- Meanwhile, Murray Dobbin wonders whether Justin Trudeau has any intention of recognizing any weaknesses in the Libs' policy choices while presenting himself as a candidate of change. And Marc Lavoie and Mario Seccareccia make abundantly clear that the Bank of Canada isn't interested in learning from false assumptions about the relationship between inflation rates and growth.

- It's a tough contest as to which story is most emblematic of the Cons' stay in government: a deliberate choice to neglect public infrastructure until it can be sold off, or reckless public service cuts followed by lies going all the way to Stephen Harper to try to insulate the Cons from their choices.

- Finally, Don Braid laments the lack of commitment to access to information from the Cons and other Canadian governments. And no, a federal pilot project limited to fee-for-service online request submissions doesn't offer any particular reason for reassurance.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Free speech for me, but not for thee

Needless to say, the Regina Chamber of Commerce's attempts to paint concerns about its purporting to speak on behalf of the City as having anything to do with free speech generally have no basis in reality.

But if we want to look for somebody who's making a concerted effort to silence key voices on the political scene, we can look no further than...the Regina Chamber of Commerce, seeking to make it more difficult for unions to participate in politics through its submission to the provincial employment law consultation (PDF; bold in original, italics added):
Are trade unions sufficiently accountable?

No, the issue is that unions will on many occasions support causes or political parties that do not reflect some of the membership.
Should union members be able to stipulate what their dues are used for?

Yes, this would stop unions from being quasi political entities and force them to represent the interest of the workers they represent.
So let's ask a few questions: does the Chamber assert that every single one of its members supports every single political statement it's making surrounding the municipal election? Does its dues process include some means to ensure businesses who disagree don't see any of their contributions go to the Chamber's advertising?

And how in the world can it reconcile its bleatings about "free speech" on behalf of a representative organization with an express intention to "stop unions from being quasi political entities"?

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Murray Mandryk and Bruce Johnstone both thoroughly slam Gerry Ritz and the Cons for their food-safety negligence. But Johnstone hints at the larger issue:
Ritz, for all his faults, is not the cause of this latest debacle. He's merely a symptom of a bigger problem with the Harper government: specifically, it's (sic) ideological fixation on smaller government, it's (sic) blind faith in self-regulation and its tendency to micromanage every aspect of government policy.
- And Lana Payne reminds us why we should know better than to think there's any merit to anti-regulatory corporatism:
The latest food safety scandal begs the question: does anyone sitting in the federal Conservative caucus remember the lessons of Walkerton?

It was, after all, just a little over a decade ago that Canada’s worst outbreak of E. coli in the water supply of the small Ontario community of Walkerton took place, killing seven people. Another 2,300 residents fell ill in the same tainted water scandal.

The deaths and the subsequent outrage forced then Conservative premier Mike Harris to call a judicial inquiry — an inquiry he, as premier, was also compelled to testify at.

Certainly federal ministers Jim Flaherty and Tony Clement should remember the lessons of Walkerton. After all, they were part of the Harris government that ravaged public services, privatized important safety tests and gutted regulations.

Justice Dennis O’Connor, in his January 2002 report into the Walkerton tainted water scandal, concluded that had funding at the Department of Environment not been slashed, the worst-outbreak of E. coli could have been avoided. In other words, government cutbacks were partly to blame for the death of seven Ontarians.

And here we are again.

Some of the faces are the same. Certainly the ideology is. Hacking and slashing government jobs, programs and services without a mind or a thought to how those cuts will impact or hurt Canadians.
- Meanwhile, Stephen Maher reports that the Cons aren't exactly escaping responsibility for drinking their own Kool-Aid in other areas - as MPs are now on the hook for costs after a dismally-failed attempt to put roadblocks in the way of the Council of Canadians' challenge to Robocon-influenced election results.

- Finally, Susan Riley points out that we shouldn't be too quick to assume that younger politicians will offer up new ideas - especially if relative inexperience make a younger leader more easily captured by party insiders.