Monday, April 08, 2013

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Michael Harris takes aim at Stephen Harper's thugocracy:
There is little that Stephen Harper has done that other prime ministers before him have not. But no one has used closure, time allocation, committee secrecy or omnibus legislation to a degree that renders Parliament itself irrelevant.

And he has done some other things that no prime minister ever has. He is the only one to have been found in contempt of Parliament. And has any federal government ever tabled a budget without also tabling the Planning and Priorities report? If the government’s spending details aren’t in the budget speech, aren’t in the omnibus legislation and aren’t in the estimates, isn’t Parliament then voting money without knowing how it will be spent or where cuts will be made?

The prime minister’s solution to the Warawa Mutiny is pure Stephen Harper and shows once again that this man is tone-deaf to his own shortcomings — a proclivity that will soon have him at Lying Brian numbers in the polls.
- Daniel Wilson wonders whether Harper is actively trying to pick a fight with Canada's First Nations. And Paul Adams explains how Harper has managed to avoid responsibility for his deliberate neglect in dealing with climate change, with these two elements striking me as particularly important:
Assessing risks: Human beings just aren’t that good at assessing probabilities and risks, or making the trade-offs between them, especially over time, as behavioural economists such as Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler have been exploring in recent years. That’s why surveys show we exaggerate the danger of being killed by a terrorist, why we buy lottery tickets when the odds are so bad, and why we don’t save enough for retirement. The risks of climate change have been difficult to imagine — at least until recently, when changes to the weather have become more dramatic. We find it much easier to conjure up the fear of losing our jobs or of paying more for gas at the pump.

The Harper government’s communication strategy:  The government’s approach to climate change has essentially been to make a lot of “policy noise”, proclaiming various targets without doing anything to achieve them, promising to harmonize with a non-existent American plan, and so on.  As a recent draft paper by two University of Ottawa scholars has suggested, this meaningless marching back and forth creates an illusion of government action that plays to the psychological weaknesses I described above. They call it “constructed ignorance”. The stunning thing is that the Harper government maintains the artifice of sharing the public’s concerns about climate change while at the same time using passive-aggressive tactics to check even modest steps to combat it at the international level — and even in Alison Redford’s Alberta.
(Which, needless to say, fits with my theory that the Cons are happy to voice their support for whatever climate change policy is furthest away from being implemented - at least until it comes time to put up or shut up.)

- Nick Fillmore takes a look at Ralph Klein's real legacy. And it's particularly sad to see that the "string of anti-social policies and programs" also looks to have been a blueprint for Brad Wall's corporate takeover of Saskatchewan.

- Verda Petry comments on the dangers of P3s:
The Wall government, with its accumulated deficit of $10.5 billion (LP, March 21) is fast approaching the $15-billion debt the Devine administration left when it was defeated in 1991. Add to the current debt the pillaging of Crown earnings and the growth in P3s and the result is that we and our descendents will be shackled with debt for the next several decades. No flexibility in programming will be possible for future governments.

Municipal officials and government ministers try to trick the public into believing that P3s are a "win" for everyone. This position is extremely deceptive. It is only a "win" for private developers who make a profit from investment in public infrastructure. For them, it is a secure investment because taxpayers will always be there to cover the costs of the debt.
- Finally, Alice provides a thorough look at the Labrador by-election - noting in particular that there's ample reason for each of the NDP, Libs and Cons to see a reasonable chance of winning the riding.

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