Saturday, November 17, 2012

#skndpldr Roundup

A few observations about the Saskatchewan NDP leadership race in advance of tonight's first debate...

The main news over the past week has involved the release of the candidates' October donation and expense numbers - which have been documented by Alice Funke and Joe Couture among others. But the most noteworthy number looks to be Trent Wotherspoon's expense total - and not merely because it makes his the sole campaign to be carrying a debt at the end of October.

While we don't yet have a breakdown of what Wotherspoon has purchased with his $47,977.10 in expenses, that total already represents a quarter of the $200,000 Wotherspoon's campaign is entitled to spend over the entire campaign period - again, before a single debate has been held, let alone any opportunity to put money toward voting infrastructure. And it's not yet clear what return Wotherspoon can expect from his high expense total so far.

Wotherspoon did generate some more positive news with the release of his policy on democratic reform and citizen engagement. And while bans on corporate and union donations, more accessible voting and a focus on open government may make for relatively familiar issues, Wotherspoon is offering a couple of highly significant proposals as to how to engage with and support Saskatchewan's First Nations population:

  • Hold an annual meeting between the provincial cabinet and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nation leaders.
  • Formally endorse the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The former looks particularly noteworthy by analogy to the developing pattern of joint cabinet meetings between provincial governments. In effect, Wotherspoon looks to be proposing to extend a similar level of respect to FSIN's leaders - which may make for an important point of discussion as the province works on ensuring aboriginal citizens play a part in Saskatchewan's development.

The other major policy release was Ryan Meili's plan for labour. Meili's main theme looks to be one of equity and protection for all workers - with pay equity extended to the private sector and to additional disadvantaged groups, while labour and social policy protections are extended to all workers (in contrast to the numerous exceptions that are currently enshrined in law, as well as the massive loophole for temporary foreign workers who have no means to enforce rights against employers who have final say over their ability to stay in Canada).

On the commentary front, Jason juxtaposed recent Youtube offerings from each of the campaigns, while John Warnock placed the current campaign into a historical context. And the main source for continuously updated discussion of the campaign continues to be Scott Stelmaschuk's blog.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Bill Curry reports on the Cons' latest public-sector slashing. But there hasn't yet been much discussion of the most alarming number: upwards of 30% of the Cons' cuts are coming from the Canada Revenue Agency, which at last notice already lacked sufficient staff to properly collect tax revenue. Which means that the Cons' plans continue to have everything to do with attacking federal fiscal capacity, and nothing at all to do with balancing the budget.

- Meanwhile, the Cons have apparently discovered the value of having audits of government activity conducted by experts with experience in the public sector:
The latest records released under the Access to Information law show Tining had found out from the privacy commissioner’s staff that Stoddart planned to hire outside specialists to do an audit of how veterans’ information was handled.

“Given the significant impacts on our department from the findings of the initial investigation, I wanted to take this opportunity to ask you to reconsider this approach in favour of using your own staff,” Tining wrote in a letter to “Jennifer.”

“I believe it would be in our mutual interest that the auditors be very familiar with federal government operations and have the benefit of being sensitized to the environment in which we are all working.”
Which naturally raises some question as to why they've eliminated the the public auditing service put in place to provide exactly those benefits for federal departments.

- Andrew Coyne writes about the potential for a guaranteed annual income - and rightly notes that the only real issues with such a plan involve turf wars and the need to establish a reasonable set of accompanying incentives. But lest anybody think there's much to be accomplished by merely trying to make minor incremental changes to benefit programs, Thomas Walkom points to Jordan Brennan's CCPA study on how increased inequality is largely the result of severe power imbalances.

- Finally, Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher break the news that Elections Canada was well aware about complaints about the Cons' false robocalls before the 2011 election. But the most worrisome aspect of the latest revelation is that while Elections Canada intervened in court to present its side of the story as to what happened in Boris Wrzesnewskyj's Etobicoke Centre challenge, it hasn't done anything to correct the public record in response to the Cons' debunked claim that issues of fraudulent phone calls were never raised until after the election.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Musical interlude

Orjan Nilsen - La Guitarra

On editorial decisions

By all means, I agree with the commentators pointing out that this is rather less than surprising treatment of (and by) a Con cabinet minister. But as always, there's another rather important followup question: why would Don Martin or anybody else still bother wasting their time interviewing MPs who are guaranteed from years of experience to have nothing but false, pre-programmed talking points to spout in the first place?

Friday Evening Links

This and that to end your week.

- Tavia Grant writes that at least one region of the globe - Latin America - is seeing some real progress in combating inequality. And the World Bank has some ideas to keep up the momentum:
The bank still sees room for improvement. It recommends governments incorporate the goal of equal opportunity into public policy and make further reforms to strengthen the social protection system.

It also urges governments to break the “vicious cycle” of low taxation and low quality of public services, by using some of the region’s commodity windfall to improve public services.
- Back in Canada, it's another week, another finding of pollution caused by the tar sands and covered up by the Harper Cons. Not to mention a concerted effort to exploit foreign labour to ensure Canadians can't find good jobs. Nothing to see here. Enjoy your publicly-funded propaganda campaign.

- Though Jeffrey Simpson does maintain enough residual faith in the prospect of making improvements to suggest that a national drug plan for seniors is in order. And Lawrence Martin is downright Pollyannaish in suggesting the Harper Cons might recognize that a judicial finding of electoral fraud might cast their legitimacy into enough doubt to require a federal election.

- Finally, Stephen Whitworth doesn't see much more reason for optimism at the provincial level:
(O)ne gets the distinct sense that Saskatchewan’s current leadership class have no vision, no imagination, no appreciation for the arts and no respect for the great things about this province’s history.

I submit that everything cool is getting kicked because in general, the business class and its toady politicians are ashamed of Saskatchewan’s historic achievements, which really, all come from the political left: health care, crown corps, arts boards and the co-operative sector. All that stuff really did make this place better but our conservative-types didn’t build it (actually, they fought it every step of the way) so they have to dismantle it. Because if they can’t have a legacy, NO ONE gets a legacy.

I mean, we’re in a boom and we’re starving our universities for funding? What a joke. I thought Saskatchewan was a have-province.

Leadership 2013 Debate Preview

I'll put together another #skndpldr roundup later today. But for now, I'll point out that the campaign's debate schedule starts tomorrow night in Regina (live-streamed here) - and discuss briefly what I see each candidate needing to do as the debates unfold.

Of course, it will be tempting to analyze the debates based solely on zingers and attempted gotcha moments. But I tend to agree with the line of thinking that each candidate should focus on specific strategic goals, rather than merely looking to be declared the winner at the end of any given debate. And in a contest where down-ballot support looks to be crucial, the debates could represent the best possible opportunity to make a case to members whose first allegiance lies elsewhere.

With that in mind, here's my quick rundown as to what each candidate should be hoping to accomplish...

Cam Broten - Stand out from the crowd. Again, Broten has done better than most of the candidates in setting up down-ballot support for himself - and he surely won't want to alienate supporters of other contenders. But the great risk for Broten is still that he won't accumulate enough early-ballot support for that to matter. And I'm not convinced that a focus on experience is going to get the job done for Broten, especially if he can't translate that experience into some ability to speak with more authority than his competitors. 

Ryan Meili - Keep pace on policy. Meili's choice to engage in a substantial consultation process before releasing a great deal of his platform presents both costs and benefits, and one of the major costs may become apparent based on how he approaches the early debates. It may be tempting to simply say "I'll get back to you on that" in order to avoid accusations of either withholding policy or making it up on the fly - but the danger is that Meili might then be seen as the lone candidate without much to say about issues of concern to members. As a result, Meili will need to at least deliver strong responses at a principled level on policies where he hasn't yet fleshed out the details.

Erin Weir - Bring out the olive branch. So far, Weir's campaign has been based largely on challenging the other candidates on all manner of issues - and it's worked to the extent that he's been able to stay competitive so far. But that relatively confrontational style also means that Weir has some heavier lifting yet to do in trying to win down-ballot support. And his best chance may be to recognize and latch onto some of the other candidates' themes and policy proposals.

Trent Wotherspoon - Go beyond talking points. While Wotherspoon has released plenty of policies already, he hasn't yet provided much by way of detailed explanation. Which means that he'll have to do so at the debates in the face of questions from his competitors - and his success in meeting those questions (rather than merely repeating his own message) may determine whether Wotherspoon enters the home stretch as the front-runner, or falls behind the pack.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New column day

Here, following up on this post as to the public returns Saskatchewan stands to lose if Brad Wall insists on giving away liquor profits to private operators rather than working within the proven SLGA retail model.

A few footnotes to the columns...
- The previous post applied SLGA's estimates rather than its actual data in estimating the percentage of sales that go to the wholesale cost of SLGA products. But the actual values for 2011 ($282,428,000/$571,844,000 * 100%) produce exactly the same 49.4% number.
- More importantly, the capital costs referred to as an up-front investment in my earlier post are actually included in existing store expenses - meaning that it's not clear that the cost of building or renting new facilities would actually represent any increase whatsoever in the relative capital cost of operating SLGA stores.
- Finally, the normal net profits for retail sales are drawn from here.

As for what Brad Wall in fact intends to accomplish by privatizing public services, we can draw a strong hint from the concurrent debate over the Information Services Corporation:
McMorris said that although a privatized ISC wouldn't pay profits directly back to the government, it could be a "success story for Saskatchewan."
Never mind that any such story will be utter fiction to the extent it pretends that commercial success arising out of public enterprises reflects the corporate owners who take the resulting profits rather than the civil servants who built successful operations in the first place.

Instead, the more important concern is that the Sask Party wants to separate financial success from any associated "story" - and hand the former over to the corporate sector while leaving the rest of Saskatchewan to tell tall tales as consolation.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Andrew Potter highlights the difficulties in practicing and encouraging truth-based politics at a time when entire parties make a deliberate strategy of lying - as well as the one technique that seems to be working:
Lying for political advantage is as old as the hills. But for the better part of human history, getting caught out in a lie was considered politically damaging, which is why politicians used to go to great lengths to hide the truth. And when caught, they would act apologetic, contrite and somewhat ashamed. But there came a point when politicians discovered that, if you simply kept repeating the same thing, over and over again, people would come to believe it regardless of whether it was true.
One difficulty is that the truth is not self-revealing. That is, you can’t debunk a claim simply by calling it a lie and pointing to relevant evidence, precisely because a lot of that evidence will itself be contentious. Facts don’t sit out there in the world waiting to be discovered. They exist at the centre of a web of overlapping observations, judgments and inferences, all of which are themselves open to challenge. Fact-checking will never be as principled and disinterested as we would like.

But a bigger problem with the effort to truth-squad our way back to fact-based politics is it misunderstands the way political persuasion works. Successful politicians don’t win over the electorate by giving them a set of plausible facts that in turn motivate a set of policies, they sell them on an attractive narrative. The best politicians, from Reagan to Bill Clinton to Barack Obama, are storytellers.
Truth should always remain a regulative ideal of political life. Facts matter, and fact-checking is still an important function of the independent press. But in the age of post-truth politics, it is important to remember that the guiding light of reason is the satirist. The literary devices of irony, sarcasm, and parody are the mechanisms through which grand political narratives are exposed not as false, but as laughable, preposterous or absurd.
- Of course, the U.S. experience also suggests that self-parody can have a rather profound impact on political decisions as well - if not in the way intended by the speaker. And Canada's political scene may soon offer its own examples if our own Fox News copycat is able to push itself on viewers.

- Meanwhile, the flip side of post-truth politics is an obsession with appearances. Needless to say, there's been plenty of evidence the Cons are far more interested in those than with facts thanks to multiple revelations about public money being used as media monitoring slush funds for the Cons' leaders - not to mention concerns that critical comments are being disappeared and questioning voices silenced. And Eva Sajoo offers some particularly important comparisons on the latter point:
(T)he political criteria of the CRA are applied with remarkable selectivity.

On the federal list of registered charities is the Fraser Institute, a self-described "think-tank" whose mission is to promote free-market economics. It produces a guide called, which promotes the economic benefits and safety of the mining industry. This puts the institute squarely behind the Harper government's controversial development and export policies on the oil sands industry via the Northern Gateway Project. The Fraser Institute also posted a recent study on the plan of the federal and B.C. governments to export liquefied natural gas to Asia, advocating removal of "the existing cumbersome and overlapping regulatory process and environmental reviews."
Then there is the Friends of the Oil Sands Interpretive Centre, also a registered charity. Its mission is "to serve as the gateway to Alberta's oilsands by presenting its history, science, and technology, promoting appreciation for it, and providing learning opportunities to all visitors." According to its website, the organization was founded by donations from "individuals, companies, and the Alberta government."
Or take Imperial Oil, which -- yes -- appears on the registered charity list although it invites investors, not donations.

Organizations that criticize government policy are another matter, notably on environmental issues.

The Vancouver-based Tides Canada, which opposes the Northern Gateway Project, has found itself subject to repeated audits from the CRA. Environmentalist opposition by organizations such as the Sierra Club has been condemned as "radical" by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, and labelled as domestic extremism by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

Once again, review of charitable status has been used as a threat to encourage silence.
- Finally, Andrew Stevens comments on the attempt by Saskatchewan's business community to turn our province into an anti-worker backwater through "right to work" laws.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

On abdications of duty

Shorter Gerry Ritz:

If unscrupulous businesses want to fleece Canadian suckers consumers, far be it from we Conservatives to stand in their way.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Duncan Cameron highlights the choice between austerity and prosperity facing the governments of both Canada and the U.S.:
The economic realities faced by working people in both Canada and the United States need to be addressed. Talk about putting the fiscal house in order is code for taking money away from working people. It does not preclude giving grossly indecent fiscal advantages to corporations.
The debate about the fiscal cliff is important because it helps focus attention on how government policy can have negative or positive effects on quality of life, and living standards.

Getting agreement on the link between spending increases and prosperity would be an improvement over falsehoods put about in Canada and the U.S. about how austerity is necessary to reduce deficits. It is not, and will not. All austerity does is reduce the standard of living of citizens.
 - But David Macdonald worries that the Cons have already made their choice - and that they'll use an economy that's weaker than (oh-so-loudly) advertised as an excuse to make matters all the worse for Canadians. And Thomas Walkom's hope that Jim Flaherty might be merely wrong rather than outright crazy doesn't seem particularly reassuring - particularly keeping in mind that his government's response to the 2008 crash was to push austerity from day one until political calculations intervened.

- Michael Geist explains how the Cons' copyright legislation will affect content creators and users.

- And Andrew Nikiforuk discusses the risks the Cons are pushing on Canada through an investment-protection racket with China.

- Finally, Paul Adams points out the significance of California voters simultaneously voting to raise their own taxes, and giving state Democrats the supermajority they need to have room to maneuver. But I'd think the even more telling sign that tax protest messages may have run their course is that even with an explicit tax increase on their ballot, California voters turned out in relatively low numbers - meaning that anti-taxers weren't able to motivate citizens to vote against it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Fiery cats.

Leadership 2013 Roundup

With a couple of weeks' worth of developments to address, I'll take a slightly higher-level look at the Saskatchewan NDP leadership race than I normally do. (And for those worried about missing out, note that we should have an opportunity to revisit new issues in detail as the debate schedule gets underway this weekend.)

Most significantly, Trent Wotherspoon released three new policy statements, covering the environment, health and the economy. Most of Wotherspoon's proposals can be safely classified as safe but effective statements of non-controversial policy within the NDP, but his small business tax proposals sets up what may be the first stark policy contrast of the campaign: where Erin Weir has suggested that corporate tax rates should be applied to more small business income in order to leave room for incentives for investment and hiring, Wotherspoon's economic plan proposes to eliminate corporate taxes altogether on earnings up to $100,000.

Weir also introduced his labour policy - which goes beyond restoring the law as it stood prior to the Saskatchewan Party's attacks on workers, but also includes additional steps to ensure that collective bargaining achieves fair results with a minimal amount of disruption:
He is calling for Saskatchewan to adopt legislation enabling either management or the union to apply for binding interest arbitration to resolve strikes or lock-outs that last more than 90 days. Such legislation has proven effective in Manitoba since it was enacted in 2004.
“Prohibiting replacement workers during legal strikes and lock-outs would also make these disputes less acrimonious,” said Weir. “Such anti-scab legislation would ensure that employers have an incentive to bargain in good faith rather than using replacements for 90 days until they can request arbitration.”
Weir would implement a construction tendering policy to prevent contractors from undercutting wages negotiated through the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council.
Weir also pointed out a spike in self-employment at the same time that actual jobs were lost in Saskatchewan - which at the very least raises serious questions as to whether the Sask Party is ensuring that a temporary boom provides as little security as possible for workers.

Ryan Meili responded to the Sask Party's liquor privatization plans with a focus on the social nature of problems caused by alcohol abuse (as found by the Parkland Institute and CCPA):
A couple of important points to keep in mind when weighing the government's recent actions:

Privatizing liquor sales leads to higher levels of alcohol consumption, which brings with it a host of social costs while increasing the burden on the health care and justice systems. Alberta, which became the first Canadian jurisdiction to privatize liquor sales in 1993, has the highest per-capita liquor consumption, while B.C., which began introducing private liquor stores in 2003, has higher-than-average consumption rates.

Private liquor stores replace quality, full-time jobs with low-paying, part-time jobs. "The studies agree there are more workers in liquor retail [in Alberta post-privatization], but they work fewer hours, have fewer benefits, and lower salaries than did Alberta government workers. So workers, by and large, are not better off."
Finally, Cam Broten offered his response to Scott's candidate questionnaire. And it's particularly interesting to contrast Broten's immediate priorities (which revolve entirely around party-building) against the policy issues he'd plan to tackle upon winning government. That hints at a noteworthy commitment to public engagement for its own sake on the path toward government - but may also provide fodder for the other candidates to question whether meaningful party-building is possible without highlighting issues as rallying points.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Lawrence Martin's take on Robocon doesn't offer much by way of new information, but nicely sums up exactly what deliberate vote suppression and electoral fraud should mean for a governing party:
At issue here is the legitimacy of the Conservative government. If the allegations are substantiated, they would arguably be worse than the sponsorship scandal that crippled the Liberal Party. Sponsorship was about lower-level Quebec operatives running off with the cash from a government advertising program to promote unity. Vote suppression is a campaign to throttle the workings of democracy by disenfranchising voters. It strikes at the heart of the democratic system.
A new Environics poll shows Mr. Harper’s trust ratings with the public to be among the lowest among leaders in a survey of 26 countries in the Americas. He can ill afford to have his party found culpable of running a campaign to disenfranchise opponents.
- Meanwhile, Democracy Watch highlights the need to close loopholes allowing big-money interests to influence our political system.

- Andrew Jackson points out some economic themes from Tom Mulcair which figure to help earn the trust of Canadian voters:
(T)he Conservatives are creating an economy where salaries will be much lower. There is less pressure with regard to all working conditions because of a series of measures that are being implemented. It is not by chance that, for the first time in Canada’s history, the middle class has seen a clear drop in income, and this occurred in tandem with the signing of NAFTA.

Over the past 25 years, the middle class has seen its real net income drop. This is the first time this has happened. In other words, the richest 20% of Canadians are experiencing a rise in income while the other 80% of Canadians—it has been measured and proven—are experiencing a drop in income. These are the results of the neo-conservative policies of the current government and its Liberal predecessors, who aggressively pursued the same goals for 25 years.

This is putting downward pressure on incomes and on employment conditions. As though that were not enough, these agreements are creating a race to the bottom: temporary foreign workers who used to come and work in a few sectors, such as produce farms, will now be in several employment categories. The government trumpets the fact that we can pay them a lot less than Canadians.
We need tailored incentives that better serve businesses and our economy as a whole. There are a couple of good examples that can be looked at in Canada where long-term vision and incentive by the government has produced a great result.

For example, take a look at the TV and film industry in Toronto. There used to be a time when it was only New York and Hollywood. Now, Toronto is in there competing with them every step of the way, but it required a partnership between government, business and labour. Those tax incentives were there for decades and they worked their way through the system and are producing the great result of bringing in billions of dollars a year and lots of high-quality jobs. However, it required government involvement every step of the way. The Conservatives simply do not believe in that.

We should be building the next success story now. Instead, we are getting less for workers, less for Canadians and less for our economy. That is what the Conservatives are about, less for everyone.
- Common Dreams compiles a few of the progressive arguments against another round of austerity south of the border.

- And finally, it'll be well worth keeping an eye on the Rolling Jubilee as a means of putting a dent in consumer debt.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Down the drain

There's rightly been plenty of debate over the Sask Party's recently-announced plan to decree that all future liquor stores in Saskatchewan will be privately-owned. But there looks to me to be room to take a closer look at exactly what Brad Wall is determined to give away - so let's take a back-of-the-envelope look at the profits we can expect to lose due to the gratuitous privatization of new liquor stores. (Numbers are from the SLGA Annual Report for 2012 (PDF).)

SLGA's liquor sales to the public (as opposed to sales to its franchisees) totalled $351,808.000 in 2011 (p. 45). Dividing that by the existing 51 stores, the effective sales per store are roughly $4,453,269.

The cost of liquor was roughly 49.4% of the subsequent sales price ($271,173,000/$549,454,000, from p. 26; I didn't see these numbers broken down by retail vs. franchise), while the cost of store operation was 11.9% of sales: p. 17.

That means that costs added up to 61.3% of the value of SLGA's retail sales. In turn 38.7% of the price of liquor from SLGA stores was pure profit for the people of Saskatchewan. And based on the per-store sales (which I'll generously assume wouldn't be any higher in booming areas than the average), for each store put in private hands rather than public ones, the province will lose out on $1,723,415 per year.

Of course, there would be a capital cost up front to build each store. But even allowing for rather generous building costs, the new stores would figure to pay for themselves within a few years - then produce returns many times over in the years to come.

And likewise, any residual income to the province from corporate taxes on private sales would figure to be dwarfed by the ample return SLGA is currently getting on its investment in retail stores.

Unfortunately, the Wall Saskatchewan Party isn't interested in the return to the province if it can find an excuse to shovel money into the private sector. And the province as a whole stands to lose tens of millions of dollars based on this ideological exercise alone.

[Edit: Fixed typo, wording.]

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Naomi Klein comments on how disaster capitalists have tried to turn Hurricane Sandy into a quick buck, while pointing out that there's a far more rational public policy response available:
The prize for shameless disaster capitalism, however, surely goes to rightwing economist Russell S Sobel, writing in a New York Times online forum. Sobel suggested that, in hard-hit areas, Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) should create "free-trade zones – in which all normal regulations, licensing and taxes [are] suspended". This corporate free-for-all would, apparently, "better provide the goods and services victims need".

Yes, that's right: this catastrophe, very likely created by climate change – a crisis born of the colossal regulatory failure to prevent corporations from treating the atmosphere as their open sewer – is just one more opportunity for further deregulation. And the fact that this storm has demonstrated that poor and working-class people are far more vulnerable to the climate crisis shows that this is clearly the right moment to strip those people of what few labour protections they have left, as well as to privatise the meagre public services available to them. Most of all, when faced with an extraordinarily costly crisis born of corporate greed, hand out tax holidays to corporations.

The flurry of attempts to use Sandy's destructive power as a cash grab is just the latest chapter in the very long story I have called the The Shock Doctrine. And it is but the tiniest glimpse into the ways large corporations are seeking to reap enormous profits from climate chaos.
Just as the Great Depression and the second world war launched movements that claimed as their proud legacies social safety nets across the industrialised world, so climate change can be a historic occasion to usher in the next great wave of progressive change. Moreover, none of the anti-democratic trickery I described in The Shock Doctrine is necessary to advance this agenda. Far from seizing on the climate crisis to push through unpopular policies, our task is to seize upon it to demand a truly populist agenda.

The reconstruction from Sandy is a great place to start road testing these ideas. Unlike the disaster capitalists who use crisis to end-run democracy, a People's Recovery (as many from the Occupy movement are already demanding) would call for new democratic processes, including neighbourhood assemblies, to decide how hard-hit communities should be rebuilt. The overriding principle must be addressing the twin crises of inequality and climate change at the same time. For starters, that means reconstruction that doesn't just create jobs but jobs that pay a living wage. It means not just more public transit, but energy-efficient, affordable housing along those transit lines. It also means not just more renewable power, but democratic community control over those projects.

But at the same time as we ramp up alternatives, we need to step up the fight against the forces actively making the climate crisis worse. 
 - Barbara Yaffe highlights the influence Canada's First Nations figure to have on resource development - as the constitutional duty to consult means they'll have a sound basis to challenge the Harper Cons' attempts to run over anybody who questions putting tar sands profits above all else.

- And in case there was any doubt whether many Canadians will accept Harper's spin unquestioned, Environics provides the answer...
(O)nly 16 per cent of Canadians place “a lot of trust” in their Prime Minister, putting Stephen Harper near the bottom among all leaders in the Americas.

“In an international context, Harper has a lower level of trust than almost every other national leader in the hemisphere,” Mr. Neuman said.
- Finally, Thomas Edsall writes about how Republicans lost the U.S. culture war. But Tom Tomorrow rightly questions whether they'll realize it anytime soon.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Afternoon 'Rider Blogging

Since I haven't had a chance to post after the Saskatchewan Roughriders' last two (mostly meaningless) regular-season games, I'll quickly preview today's West semi-final in Calgary.

To start with, it's always an open question as to whether Darian Durant can put together a virtuoso performance - and he's certainly managed the feat in the playoffs before against more distinguished defences than the one he'll face today. But the 'Riders offence has been at best consistent rather than explosive over the latter half of the 2012 season - and I'd hope the team won't need a 35-point outburst to stay in the game against the Stampeders.

That means the most important matchup should involve the greatest strength for each team: a Calgary offence built around two of the toughest players in the CFL to tackle, facing a Richie Hall defence built around limiting running room for opposing offences. And John Hufnagel has only raised the stakes by inserting Drew Tate at quarterback, trading off Kevin Glenn's well-honed passing skills for a quarterback with more ability to rack up yards on the ground.

While I wouldn't be brave enough to predict a Saskatchewan win based on that showdown, the 'Riders have risen to the occasion before - particularly by meeting a challenge to shut down Cornish in their previous meeting with the Stamps. And it'll likely take a repeat performance to give the 'Riders the upper hand today.

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Haroon Siddiqui highlights the similarities between the Harper Cons and the U.S. Republicans - who lost last week's election, and are even less popular outside their country's own borders (including in Canada):
(W)hat Americans have rejected, Canadians are stuck with at least until the next election.

Americans did so with 51 per cent of the votes cast. Canadians did it with 60 per cent in the last election, Harper having formed the government with 40 per cent. That’s our parliamentary democracy. Still, it’s useful to remind ourselves of his policies that are not in sync with majority Canadian opinion but mesh with those of Romney and the Republicans.

He and they advocate smaller government and lower taxes, deficits and debts. But they believe in pork barrelling, milking government dry for their favoured projects. They also spend big on the military. That leads to bigger deficits and debts, as under George W. Bush and Harper (forcing the prime minister to now start cutting back on defence).

The Harper Conservatives and Romney Republicans don’t like gun controls or environmental regulations. They are oblivious to growing inequality. They treat adversaries as enemies — if you’re not with Harper, you are to be demonized, ideally destroyed.
 - Meanwhile, Ezra Klein notes that the Republicans actually lost the popular vote in all three national votes last week - holding the House of Representatives only through gerrymandering. Matthew Yglesias points out why the Republicans have no leverage at all to insist on extending the upper-class-only tax cuts rejected by voters. And Time discusses the data-driven campaign that helped to re-elect Barack Obama.

- Kev laments the sad state of all too many backbench MPs in Canada (even as some want to silence them even more). But then, the regina mom observes that plenty of constituents aren't missing much based on the caliber of Con MP they're stuck with.

- Finally, CBC reports that Mennonites are the latest group under attack by the federal government for daring to speak out for their values.