Saturday, July 13, 2013


For those who haven't yet seen Whipped, Sean Holman's documentary on party discipline in the B.C. legislature is now available through CPAC's website. And it's well worth a watch (particularly on a stormy Saturday).

But I will point out that there may be an important distinction between an elected representative speaking up about issues in a way which differs from a party's position, and actually voting against a party position on a specific bill. And we may be best served if parties and the media alike offer more leeway on the former in order to better determine when it is or isn't appropriate to limit the latter.

As Holman shows, political journalists may only serve to reinforce the perceived helplessness of individual legislators by always taking a public statement of disagreement with one's party as a sign of weak leadership.

Ideally, that could be addressed in part by a leader explicitly encouraging differences of opinion: after all, it's much harder to make the case that an action constitutes a challenge to the authority of a leader who's explicitly approved of it in advance. But either way, the media would seem to have an important role to play in treating independent thought as an expected attribute for an elected representative - not an opportunity for a gotcha moment.

Once it's time to vote on legislation, though, I can see the case for a different standard. In that respect, I have plenty of sympathy for Mike Harcourt's comments which are used as a foil to Holman's message - even if the need for solidarity on the points required to keep a party and a government functioning should be paired with a presumption of free votes on matters which aren't classified as core party policy issues or confidence votes.

In addition, I'd also see reason to address the relationship between a party's leadership and its membership - which surely has some valid role to play in setting the direction of a caucus elected under a party banner.

Ultimately, though, it's tough to disagree with Holman's conclusion that the line between party discipline and MLA independence has been drawn in the wrong place in British Columbia (among other legislative assemblies across Canada). And it'll take a shift in focus by the media, constituents and party membership alike to challenge the amount of power that's currently wielded by party leaders.

On selective endpoints

Shorter Andrew Coyne:
If you ignore the actual recent rail disaster that blew up a town, there's little apparent risk of rail disasters. So let's keep assuming the likelihood of future disasters is trivial.
Now, some observers might ask how consistent a particular event is with a set of assumptions about the probability of that event occurring, and at least question the "everything's fine, nothing to see here" thesis in light of an actual disaster resulting from the blatant neglect of what they themselves observed to be obvious risk factors. But apparently not Coyne.

And some of us might also point out that the purpose of a public safety regime - particularly one governing the transport of products with the ability to cause massive destruction - should be to establish policies which keep us a reasonable distance away from the borderline between safe operation and disaster, rather than to test the limits of what we can afford to abandon given the human consequences of getting the answer wrong. (In effect, this goes to the question of what "tests" we're willing to have carried out on an unsuspecting public in gathering evidence as to what is or isn't safe.) But once again, apparently not Coyne.

Fortunately, plenty of others are working not only on figuring out what happened in Lac-Mégantic, but also asking more fundamental questions as to what we expect from our regulatory authorities before the "actuality" of similar tragedies materializes. And if Coyne ends up alone alongside the Cons' know-nothing camp, then so be it.

Musical interlude

Paul van Dyk feat. Arty - The Ocean

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The Globe and Mail weighs in on the Lac-Mégantic tragedy by pointing out that we should be far more concerned about public safety than technical defences and excuses. Saskboy notes that as soon as a corporation's business choices lead to a massive public disaster, the result is a claim that it can't be responsible for anything. Julian Sher looks at the history of cost-cutting by railroads including MMA, while Heather Mallick focuses on the issue of single-engineer trains.

- Stuart Trew catches Jean Charest and the Fraser Institute actively encouraging increased Canadian prescription drug costs in the name of finishing off a trade deal of dubious value with the EU:
We learned recently that the Ontario government believes CETA could save provincial exporters up to $100 million as a result of tariff elimination in Europe. But provincial trade officials admitted this sum would be undercut or even eclipsed by the hundreds of millions of dollars more the province would have to pay annually for Brand Name versus cheaper generic drugs, as predicted by the federal government and other studies.

As I've said before, this trade-off, which the majority of countries negotiating the TPP are apparently not willing to make, essentially swaps potential corporate gains (e.g. if Ontario firms make use of the lower tariffs, and if brand name drug makers bother to invest more in Canada) for absolute and permanent real losses to public revenues. It would also hit individual pocket books since private drug plans would be effected by the patent extensions.
- And Lori Culbert reports on the destruction of British Columbia's Therapeutics Initiative, Canada's main source of independent information about prescription drugs, at the behest of big pharma.

- Peter O'Neil reports on the PBO's findings about funding for First Nations schools in British Columbia, with the less-than-surprising conclusion being that students on reserve are being thoroughly underfunded

- Paul Dechene discusses the City of Regina's pathetic attempts to retroactively rewrite the rules for a a petition drive which received more support than anybody holding public office in the city.

- Finally, David Dayen writes that less than five years after a global financial meltdown caused mostly by lax regulation, both U.S. parties seem fine leaving a massive loophole in the minimal effort to protect the public interest passed in response:
The Dodd-Frank financial reform law intended to end the practice of financial industry behemoths shifting away their riskiest practices from U.S. regulators’ prying eyes. But a rule that would subject the $630 trillion global derivatives market to the same regulations, no matter the location of the trades, is on life support, thanks to a combination of foreign regulators, bank allies at federal agencies and in Congress, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who may have delivered the final blow last week. The complex battle over derivatives also reflects a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party, between populist reformers and Wall Street-friendly shoe polishers. And while the situation is fluid in advance of a Friday deadline, as it stands now, the shoe polishers are winning.

Derivatives are those massive bets on bets that are only tangentially related to real-world assets, like a rise in home prices or the reduction of the dollar. They accelerated the financial crisis when the housing bubble collapsed, and until recently, they were totally unregulated. But Dodd-Frank included substantial derivatives reform, forcing the trades to run through transparent clearinghouses, and forcing the dealers to carry sufficient capital to cover losses. Most important, under the “cross-border” provision, all affiliates that trade more than $8 billion in derivatives would be subject to the same regulation, regardless of where they are based. That’s crucial, because the five biggest U.S. banks control 95 percent of the derivatives market, and they have thousands of overseas affiliates where they often park their trading desks (at least half of their trading takes place overseas, according to International Financing Review). This allows them to spread risk in unregulated areas, only to plead for federal assistance when it all blows up. “Doing derivatives rules without cross-border is like blocking the front door and leaving the back door wide open,” said Marcus Stanley of Americans for Financial Reform.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Martin Lukacs offers up the definitive response to the Lac-Mégantic rail tragedy:
The deeper evidence about this event won't be found in the train's black box, or by questioning the one engineer who left the train before it loosened and careened unmanned into the heart of this tiny town. For that you'll have to look at how Lac-Mégantic was hit by a perfect storm of greed, deregulation and an extreme energy rush driving companies to ever greater gambles with the environment and human life.
It's little wonder, then, that today's oil and rail barons have cut corners with ease. They've been using old rail cars to ship oil, despite the fact that regulators warned the federal government they were unsafe, as far back as 20 years ago. A more recent report by a federal agency reminded the government that the cars could be "subject to damage and catastrophic loss of hazardous materials." All were ignored. To top it off, the federal government gave the go-ahead last year to Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway to operate with just one engineer aboard their trains.

All of which means it will not suffice to find out if a brake malfunctioned the night of the disaster, or limit ourselves to pointing at the failings of lax regulation. The debate should be about the need for another kind of brake, over the mad pursuit of infinite resources, and the unshackling of reckless corporations, on a finite and fragile planet.

Canada's political class will not be pleased by the lessons to be drawn. The government needs to get back into the business of heavily regulating corporations – through incentives, through taxes, and through sanctions. And this will involve not just grappling with the dangers of the transport of oil – which will remain unsafe, whether by rail or by pipeline – but starting a rapid transition away from an extreme energy economy entirely. That will not happen as the result of any government inquiry, but a noisy social movement that puts it on the public agenda.
- And Mike de Souza finds the Cons characteristically lying about their responsibility for lax regulation.

- Rick Smith tries to take some solace in the expected replacement of Peter Kent as the federal environment minister. But while I fully agree with his criticisms of Kent, I'd see little evidence that any Con in the same role could be expected to produce better results. 

- Meanwhile, Jeffrey Simpson recognizes that the Cons won't take a single step to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sector beyond what they're forced into by outside actors. Nick Fillmore writes that any such pressure is limited by corporate influence over some environmental groups. And Clare Demerse offers a look at what we should expect from a changing climate.

- Finally, Richard Wolff discusses how more sophisticated rent-seeking and tax-sheltering at the top is cutting off most of the U.S. from the promised benefits of economic development:
Capitalism's great relocation places a remarkable political question on history's agenda today: can the system survive its relocation?

Capitalism grew successfully in its old centers despite working-class oppositions, expressed by labor unions, socialist and communist parties, anti-capitalist intellectuals and artists and by the resistances of its colonized subordinates. Part of that success – a basis of its 200-year global hegemony – was the ability of its working classes to wrest rising wages and/or standards of living.

In sharp contrast, capitalism's great relocation now underway both presses and enables capitalists to cease raising wages and standards of living in its former, old centers (Europe, North America and Japan). Indeed, it is lowering them.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

New column day

Here, on how the Cons' abuse of supporters' donations can only stoke cynicism about the value of participating in politics - but how the limited number of people currently involved in politics creates a huge opportunity to change the system.

For further reading...
- Samara's poll and analysis on public participation can be found here (PDF). 
- The finding that the Conservatives' voter database was used to commit election fraud was of course made by Judge Mosley as discussed here. And CBC's reporting on Greg Horton's affidavit mentions the Conservatives' willingness to lavish $32,000 in donations on Mike Duffy, while Alison documents where Clusterduff stands now.
- Finally, Chris Selley comments on his sympathy for non-participants in light of their current choices - though again, I do think the most important step is for those less involved to take a greater role in shaping who's on the ballot. And Suzanne Moore discusses similar public apathy in the UK.

On glibertarianism

One of the more obvious points of convergence in political thought over the past 70-80 years is the greater appreciation of systemic complexity - the recognition that different decisions by many types of actors may collide in unpredictable ways, with the results potentially far outweighing the perceived impact of any single action and reaching people who may have had no idea their interests were affected.

That recognition in turn gives rise to two broad public policy responses: to seek to have a government equipped to identify the risks posed by factors which no other party has the means or will to address, or to give up and leave ourselves at the mercy of forces which interact in ways which we don't even try to anticipate.

Suffice it to say that Andrew Coyne's response to the Lac-Mégantic rail explosion is staking out some rather extreme territory in the latter camp.

Here's Coyne trying to isolate the specific circumstances of the explosion in order to treat the issue as one which doesn't call for an immediate response:
Consider what a singular convergence of events was required to bring it about. A highly flammable cargo; an unattended train; parked on a hill; on the main track, not a siding; above a town; far enough from town to build up great speed; and, as a final piece, that fatal bend in the track as it entered town. If any one of those is not present, no disaster and no deaths. But even if all are, you still need two more: the failure (so it seems) of the air brakes; and the failure (so it is alleged) to lock the hand brakes.
Now, may be true that Coyne's list of factors is indeed extremely unusual. But I'm fairly sure the right answer to "how many towns could see the same type of disaster?" is "we don't know, and should probably find out" - not "one - and since it's already been blown to smithereens, let's not worry our pretty little heads about it."

And indeed, a closer look at those same factors reveals some rather important decisions not to consider possible public safety issues:
Consider what a singular convergence of events was required to bring it about. A highly flammable cargo whose transportation has never been subject to a specific regulatory evaluation; an unattended train which is permitted by regulation; parked on a hill which should presumably be known to the rail operator and regulators alike; on the main track, not a siding which should presumably be known to the rail operator and regulators alike; above a town which should presumably be known to the rail operator and regulators alike; far enough from town to build up great speed which should presumably be known to the rail operator and regulators alike; and, as a final piece, that fatal bend in the track as it entered town which had been pointed out by concerned residents. If any one of those is not present, no disaster and no deaths. But even if all are, you still need two more: the failure (so it seems) of the air brakes; and the failure (so it is alleged) to lock the hand brakes.
Again, this brings us back to the core question of how to deal with complexity. Should we simply ignore risks in the name of minimizing our own costs, presuming that somebody else (and in this case, a private operator devoted to shipping the most product for the least cost) will bother to identify what needs to be done in order to avoid public tragedies? Because the evidence from Lac-Mégantic (and an ongoing series of spills, derailments, explosions and other disasters) doesn't exactly support the "let somebody else do it" argument.

Moreover, it seems equally obvious that other "convergences of events" might come about elsewhere. And that's precisely why we need a regulatory structure equipped to evaluate the distinct threats facing all sorts of communities and ensure that they're being avoided to the extent possible - rather than one based on allowing private operators to self-report on standardized checklists as the primary precondition for carrying out dangerous activities.

But sadly, we have a government more interested in slashing public services than making them work - which is an issue we should be discussing regardless of whether a particular regulatory tweak would have been necessary or sufficient on its own within the complex array of factors which might have stopped the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. And yes, the aftermath of a preventable disaster is probably the best possible time to highlight the fact that we should be making some effort to prevent disasters.

Speaking of which, I haven't even reached the most galling part of Coyne's take:
There are things we could do, without a doubt, that would preclude another Lac-Mégantic altogether. We could make the cars out of titanium, or reroute the lines around towns, or take out the bends. But are the costs, potentially high, worth the risk: vanishingly small? We could ban carrying oil by train, but other methods, as I’ve mentioned, have their own risks — and what of the vast number of other hazardous materials that also travel by rail?
Put in its most charitable light, one might read this passage as referring solely to probabilities - to the exclusion of any talk about the cost imposed on innocent parties should the possibility materialize. But surely any rational calculation of risk includes some consideration of both. (Paging Dan Gardner on this one.)

And I'm far from willing to consider this... be a vanishingly small cost incurred in the fulfillment of the apparent highest possible good of ripping carbon from the ground and burning it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ethan Cox discusses how the Lac-Mégantic tragedy was a predictable - if not inevitable - outcome of a self-regulated (or un-regulated) rail system:
Prior to, during, and after the process of deregulating railroads, there were strident warnings issued by the most credible and well-positioned experts and organizations in Canada. Their dire predictions fell on deaf ears, and yet not a single story in the mainstream media has made the link between the deregulation of the rail industry and its inevitable consequences.

Instead, those who dare make the commonsensical connection between deregulation, cuts to regulation and inspection, and an increased frequency of accidents, are pilloried for politicizing a tragedy.

I wonder, if now is not the time to discuss the reasons why this disaster occurred, when is?
- Bruce Campion-Smith reports that the Cons specifically approved some of the operating procedures which may have contributed to the explosion, while Bruce Cheadle notes that nobody seems to have seen a problem leaving a train unattended and unlocked in the absence of a regulation to the contrary. And Paul Schneiderfeit takes a more general look at some of the causes of the disaster, while Jennifer Delgado and Kim Geiger point out the rail operator's anti-union history.

- Meanwhile, the rubber-stamping of oil developments with disastrous effects on the environment continues at the Cons' usual breakneck pace.

- And while Jason Sattler hopes that the insurance industry's concern about climate change will serve to shift right-wing opinions, I'd worry the legislative response will simply be to absolve the corporate sector of responsibility for the damage caused by its actions.

- Corporate Europe Observatory highlights some of the areas for concern in an anticipated free trade agreement between the EU and the US. And in what should be a familiar theme in the establishment of separate, corporate-friendly legal systems, there seems to be precious little evidence of any need to impose strict limits on democratic action:
MEPs have repeatedly asked the Commission to provide evidence of access to local courts being denied in Canada. The Commission gave two weak examples where companies did not even try to go to local courts. Asked specifically about problems faced by European investors, it admitted: “There is little publicly available information available in this context”. Neither has the Commission given any proof of discrimination against foreign firms in US courts.

On the other hand, the Commission remains completely silent on the rampant corporate bias and vested interests at play in private investment arbitration tribunals. Last year, our Profiting from Injustice report uncovered how a small club of lawyers riddled with conflicts of interest is securing investor-friendly interpretations of the law and sustains a continuous flow of multi-million dollar lawsuits.

So, while the Commission has yet to prove that there is anti-foreign-investor behaviour in US courts, there is an enormous weight of evidence of the corporate bias in the parallel legal system it is proposing instead.
In its factsheet, the Commission explains that the investor rights which it wants to incorporate in the EU’s future international investment agreements “are not necessarily incorporated into the domestic system” of the signatory states. The investor needs a parallel legal system – investment arbitration – to enforce these rights. Thus the need for investor state dispute settlement.

Finally some honesty! This is exactly what the Commission’s corporate agenda is about: granting multinationals far greater property rights than any domestic firm, any community, any individual is granted by any constitution in the world. And creating an overreaching legal system by which these superior rights can be enforced.
- Finally, Jared Milne's series of posts about Canadian First Nations and the "reserve paradox" is well worth a read.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Wrapped-up cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- George Monbiot rightly challenges the attempt of corporate interests and their political sock-puppets to demonize anybody concerned about our planet's future:
Exotic invasive species are a straightforward ecological problem, wearily familiar to anyone trying to protect biodiversity. Some introduced creatures – such as brown hare, little owl, field poppy, corncockle and pheasant's eye in Britain – do no harm to their new homes, and are cherished and defended by nature lovers. Others, such as cane toads, mink, rats, rhododendron, kudzu vine or tree-killing fungi, can quickly simplify a complex ecosystem, wiping out many of its endemic animals and plants. They have characteristics (for example, being omnivorous, light-excluding, toxic or inedible to any native carnivore or herbivore) that allow them to tear an ecosystem to shreds. These aren't cultural constructions. They are biological facts.

Comparing those who describe this process to racists is the intellectual equivalent of stating that evolution through natural selection is a coded attack on the welfare state, or that the first law of thermodynamics was hatched by green campaigners intent on conserving energy. It is to see the words but not to understand the science they describe.
Unlike most art, the wonders of nature often stand in the way of attempts to extract resources or to build airports or shopping centres. Corporate attacks on people who love and seek to defend the natural world have seeped into every pore. Culturally hegemonic, the developers' view finds expression in the most unlikely places.

So those of us whose love of the natural world is a source of constant joy and constant despair, who wish to immerse ourselves in nature as others immerse themselves in art, who try to defend the marvels that enthrall us, find ourselves labelled – from the Mail to the Guardian – as romantics, escapists and fascists. That, I suppose, is the price of confronting the power of money.
- But unfortunately, it's the people most determined to destroy all they can in the name of profit who are largely responsible for making their own rules. On that front, CBC reports on the miserable failure of self-regulation in Canada's rail sector (particularly when it comes to the transportation of oil), while Steve Horn points out that the U.S. government isn't even being informed of the actual location of the Keystone XL pipeline it's being asked to approve as safe.

- Rich Clarke makes the case for a guaranteed annual income among other steps to alleviate poverty and inequality:
Ask how to attack poverty and guaranteed annual income often comes up as the response or solution. While it has many positive facets, it alone is not the single answer. We do not believe there is one solution, but there is one goal — guaranteed income security.
It is recognized that more than one-third of working Canadians do not have permanent, full-time paid jobs. Many, often referred to as the precariously employed, fall below the poverty line due to low hourly wages and low hours of work, and/or not enough weeks of work in a year.

The working poor and near-poor — who move in and out of low-paid jobs but often fail to attain a decent standard of living — is disproportionately made up of recent immigrants — especially those belonging to racial minorities — persons with disabilities, female single parents, the single near-elderly, aboriginal Canadians and young people trying to get into secure employment.
There is no one solution to alleviating poverty. The concept of a guaranteed annual income is a reminder that we need to raise the bar for all; and the best way to do this is to strengthen the foundation of income security for all.
- Finally, Michael Harris sees the Harper Cons as running out of (however implausible and meaningless) stories to tell to distract from their own corruption and cover-ups. And Crawford Kilian offers a primer on the RCMP's investigation into Mike Duffy and his Conservative Party benefactors.

Monday, July 08, 2013

The unengaged majority

Samara has released a study on the sadly limited level of public participation in Canadian politics and community activities. And Susan Delacourt and Misty Harris both follow up - with Harris catching what looks to me like the most important point:
Sixty per cent of Canadians say they haven’t discussed a political or societal issue face-to-face or over the phone even once in the past 12 months, according to a striking new study by Samara. And it’s not that those conversations have simply moved online, either.

Just 17 per cent of Canadians say they have shared political content via social media in the last year; 15 per cent blogged about a political issue; 30 per cent used email or instant messaging to talk politics; and 25 per cent participated in an online discussion group for such purposes.

“Politics is viewed as a dirty word – something that isn’t appropriate or that should be celebrated,” said Alison Loat, Samara’s executive director. “But it’s through politics that we decide how we’re going to live together, how we shape laws, how we allocate billions of dollars of tax money. . . . It’s the process by which we build our country every day.”
Now, it's particularly striking that the poll question about political or societal issues wasn't limited to the partisan politics which are so often seen as the problem. Instead, the problem extends to a lack of discussion of any issues at all - whether or not they reflect the priorities of political parties.

And I'd think that finding leads to an obvious need for change: to the extent there is a taboo against talking about political issues in a wide variety of settings, that restriction on the scope of expected discussion has gone too far.

Samara's poll actually found more people actually involved in participating within civil society groups, signing petitions or boycotting products than talking about issues. Which means that a substantial number of respondents with enough interest to act on political issues couldn't think of a single time when those same issues were discussed.

That set of respondents raises one challenge: a political culture which to a great extent treats the majority of citizens as passive rather than active participants seems to be reflected in their actions. But it's hard to believe that people signing petitions or engaging in boycotts don't have at least some interest in talking about why they engage in those actions. Which means that the main issue may be a lack of opportunity to get involved - a problem which any political party or activist group should be eager to remedy.

Meanwhile, the survey also includes a substantial number of respondents who aren't involved in any way. But there too, some public affirmation that there's value in discussing political and social issues (along with a greater number of opportunities to participate) would have the potential to make a significant difference - and hopefully create an expectation that everybody will at least think and talk about the issues that affect their lives.

Monday Morning 'Rider Blogging

Two games into the Saskatchewan Roughriders' regular season, the "experienced team starting quickly" theory is looking fairly solid. But let's take a look at what's gone better than expected - as well as where there may be room for concern.

To start with, a couple of areas which looked like possible weaknesses have proven to be anything but. The 'Riders' special teams were a major question mark as the season started, but have been nothing but steady through the first two games. And the relative newcomers in the 'Riders' secondary have developed in a hurry, as Saturday's game against Calgary saw relatively newcomers Macho Harris and Prince Miller make a number of big plays to shut down the Stamps' quick-strike offence in the second half.

More importantly, though, the 'Riders offence has taken a major step forward. And the main question for the rest of the season will be whether it can keep up the pace.

Under most circumstances, I see the easiest path to success in football involving an opportunistic offence and strong units elsewhere. But alongside some cap and personnel-replacement considerations, that preference is largely a matter of practicality.

The problem with a precision offence is that it can be stopped in its tracks by a single misfire or dropped pass. And until this season, the 'Riders' personnel has been better suited to seeking out big plays than stringing together long drives - as Darian Durant has sometimes been erratic as a passer, and Chris Getzlaf has alternated between spectacular catches and cringe-inducing drops.

But two games into 2013, the 'Riders' key skill players (including Durant, Getzlaf, Weston Dressler and Kory Sheets) have looked like they can piece together a touchdown drive six yards at a time almost at will. And that style worked to perfection against the Stamps, as a methodical offence both kept the Stamps' playmakers off the field most of the second half and made up for an early deficit.

What's more, there's even some prospect for improvement. After all, Geroy Simon is still waiting to get back onto the field, and Taj Smith continues to show that he can make jaw-dropping catches when given the chance (even if they didn't translate into numbers against the Stamps).

Of course, there is a downside to fine-tuning an offensive machine around a single quarterback: while it may be possible to plug in new parts elsewhere, it's rare for an inexperienced backup to be able to find the small openings exploited by a more comfortable starter. Which means that the 'Riders' offensive line may be under even more pressure to keep heat away from Durant.

But if the greatest risk for the 'Riders is that their ruthlessly efficient offence relies on the skills of a quarterback who looks to be reaching his prime, that's hardly a bad sign. And while any football season is bound to involve some ups and downs, we haven't seen much of the latter from the 'Riders yet.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Lest anybody think the Harper Cons' combination of dishonesty and secrecy is limited to political payoffs, Blacklock's reveals (PDF) that they subsidized the shipment of corporate jobs out of Canada - and didn't deign to inform the public that the program existed until seven years after the fact.

- And APTN reports on the Cons' suppression of tens of thousands of pages of documents detailing the causes and effects of underfunding of First Nations child welfare.

- But then, both stories also serve as important examples of the value of detailed research into government activity. And Nicky Woolf credits the Guardian for taking up that cause around the globe - making it an increasingly valuable journalistic resource even in the U.S.:
Figures given exclusively to The Atlantic show that -- according to internal analytics -- June 10, the day after Snowden revealed his identity on The Guardian's website, was the biggest traffic day in their history, with an astonishing 6.97 million unique browsers. Within a week of publishing the NSA files, The Guardian website has seen a 41 percent increase in U.S. desktop unique visitors (IP addresses loading the desktop site) and a 66 percent rise in mobile traffic. On June 10, for the first time in the paper's history, their U.S. traffic was higher than their UK traffic.
The Guardian also has a reputation for solid investigative journalism. The NSA story isn't their first rodeo. They were one of three publications to work closely with WikiLeaks to process the mountains of data leaed by Bradley Manning in 2010. When Rupert Murdoch's vast tabloid the News of the World was finally caught phone-hacking, it was The Guardian that brought it down, doggedly fighting for the story for two years against a storm of legal threats and denials from News International. Before that, the paper was known for having faced down a storm of litigation to prove that the former MP Jonathan Aitken had lied before a court, giving them probably their best-known front page, featuring the headline "He Lied And Lied And Lied".

I ask Gibson what's coming up for Guardian US, when the Snowden dust finally settles. "We will add commentators, we will add reporting, we will add verticals, we will continue to grow, and we'll work with commercial partners and do tech and business and all the things that we want to be," she says. The publication is doubling down on its investigative presence in the States as well: Investigative journalist Paul Lewis is joining the paper's Washington bureau from the London office this month, and Nick Davies, the reporter whose two years of digging brought about the phone-hacking scandal, is joining the New York team later in the year.
- John Ahni Schertow offers a look at the process being used to push a nuclear waste depository on the community of Pinehouse - and the rightful response from community members.

- Finally, Kathleen Rodgers and Darcy Ingram criticize the Cons' lack of interest in any youth involvement in politics other than as paid flacks and trained seals.