Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Charles Campbell discusses Robert Reich's work to highlight the importance of a fair and progressive tax system. And while Lawrence Martin is right to lament the systematic destruction of Canada's public revenue streams under the Libs and Cons alike, his fatalistic view that nobody can stem the tide doesn't seem to match the evidence that the public - in Canada and the U.S. alike - sees inequality as a problem to be solved rather than a fair result of corporate-friendly policies.

- Mark Taliano writes about the Harper Cons' distaste for evidence-based policy. And even the New York Times takes note of Stephen Harper's desperate attempts to suppress science when it comes to the tar sands:
Science is the gathering of hypotheses and the endless testing of them. It involves checking and double-checking, self-criticism and a willingness to overturn even fundamental assumptions if they prove to be wrong. But none of this can happen without open communication among scientists. This is more than an attack on academic freedom. It is an attempt to guarantee public ignorance.

It is also designed to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the northern resource rush — the feverish effort to mine the earth and the ocean with little regard for environmental consequences. The Harper policy seems designed to make sure that the tar sands project proceeds quietly, with no surprises, no bad news, no alarms from government scientists. To all the other kinds of pollution the tar sands will yield, we must now add another: the degradation of vital streams of research and information.
- Meanwhile, Tim Naumetz reports on Con rail safety spin which bears a striking resemblance to that on climate change: point to long-broken promises and not-yet-drafted regulations as "action", and hope nobody notices the difference between that and actual progress.

- And Paul Wells responds to selective leaks about the Cons' supposed reset by looking back at past throne speeches:
(G)etting righteous on behalf of consumers would have the virtue of novelty. If this government stands up for consumers, it has until now been bashful about saying so. The most recent Throne Speech, only 25 months ago, contained no mention of the word “consumer.” Previous Throne Speeches—there have been six in total from various Harper governments up to now—contained hardly any more language on consumers’ rights. But those old speeches make fun reading today anyway, for their mix of forced rhetoric, policy dead ends and, here and there, a few real portents of what Harper had in store.

On Oct. 16, 2007, Michaëlle Jean delivered the Harper government’s second Throne Speech. It contained one reference to consumers. “Our government shares the concern of parents about the safety of consumer products and food.” It also promised “binding national regulations on greenhouse-gas emissions across all major industrial sectors—with requirements for emissions reductions starting this year.” Six years later, there are still no regulations for the oil sands.

On Nov. 19, 2008, after Harper’s first re-election, everyone was back in the Senate for another big speech. “Our government will follow through with legislation providing better oversight of food, drug and consumer products,” Jean said. The government also promised to “respect the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories and . . . enshrine its principles of federalism in a charter of open federalism.” That didn’t happen.

The 2008 Speech’s odes to Parliament’s greatness read a little funny in retrospect. “Parliament is Canada’s most important national institution . . . Parliament should be an expression of our highest ideals and deepest values, our greatest hopes and grandest dreams for the future of our children.” Two weeks later, the three opposition parties tried to give Harper’s job to Stéphane Dion. Harper promptly petitioned the GG to prorogue the session, thereby saving his bacon. Rarely since has Parliament expressed anyone’s values or hopes. Even Harper prefers to express his values and hopes as far from the Commons as he can get.
- Finally, Duncan Cameron takes a look at the goals of each Canadian political party for this fall and beyond.

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