Saturday, October 12, 2013

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Andrew Coyne sees the disproportionate influence wielded by the representatives elected by a minority of voters in Canada and the U.S. as evidence that both countries should move toward proportional representation:
Two systems, both dysfunctional, in opposing ways. Is there nevertheless a common thread between the two? I think there is. Both have become hostage to small groups of voters, the objects of vastly disproportionate amounts of the parties’ time and attention. In both, the parties are sharply divided on regional lines. And in both, politics has become increasingly, corrosively nasty. I suggest these trends are not accidental, but have to do with a feature the two share: the first past the post electoral system.

The most important thing to know about first past the post is that it is highly leveraged: Not only do the parties’ representation in the legislature bear no resemblance to their respective shares of the popular vote, but tiny swings in the vote lead to exponentially larger swings in electoral outcomes.

Finding and mobilizing those votes are thus a matter of huge consequence to the parties. In Canada, these are typically the swing voters, the uncommitted and disengaged; in the more polarized politics of the U.S., it is more a matter of “ginning up the base,” motivating your most committed — and therefore demanding — supporters to get out to vote.

So where our politics has converged on the centre, theirs is increasingly dominated by the fringes. But in both, politics has become less and less about the broad public interest, more and more focused on appealing to a small fraction of the electorate. Some votes really are worth a great deal more than others.
- Gary Mason discusses Vancouver's crisis in dealing with severe mental health issues. But it's particularly worth noting that a drastic increase in arrests based on dangers to public safety doesn't seem to have been matched with much effort by any level of government to actually fund treatment for the people fighting mental illness.

- Pat Atkinson wonders whatever happened to the Cons' promise of a culture of accountability - and Tabatha Southey's best suggestions as to how to find a plausible justification for the latest abuses of public money by Mike Duffy can't quite answer the question. Instead, it's the NDP proposing to fix the problems exacerbated by Stephen Harper - both in addressing patronage and cronyism generally, and the Senate in particular.

- Michael Byers observes that the Cons' military procurement plans seem to be largely inspired by Monty Python.

- Finally, Bruce Johnstone comments on the Sask Party's inability to cooperate with anybody:
What it suggests is a government that “doesn’t play well with others.” In other words, the Saskies don’t like sharing power or tax dollars with any organization they don’t have complete control over. The common theme running through the Wall government’s economic development record is impatience with any group, program or policy that a) they didn’t come up with or b) isn’t controlled directly or indirectly by them.

One could accept the Sask. Party government’s small-c conservative philosophy that government shouldn’t be subsidizing business or “picking winners and losers,’’ if they actually practised what they preached. But for every program or organization they’ve shut down, a new one has taken its place, spending even more tax dollars than its predecessor.
 [Edit: fixed typo.]

Friday, October 11, 2013

Musical interlude

Tritonal feat. Soto - Forgive Me, Forget You

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Gordon Hoekstra reports on a study by British Columbia determining that Canada lacks any hope of containing the types of oil spills which will become inevitable if the Cons' pipe-and-ship plans come to fruition. But once again, the Cons' response is to make clear that they consider an ounce of self-delusion and denial to be worth a pound of cure.

- Meanwhile, the Star-Phoenix' editorial board recognizes the desperate need for resource-rich provinces to handle their wealth responsibility:
(P)rovinces such as Saskatchewan and Alberta are dipping ever deeper into their one-time resource revenue to pay their bills. Saskatchewan, for example, now depends on resources for about 25 per cent of spending, up from less than 10 per cent in the 1990s.

Alberta is in even deeper trouble. This led University of Calgary economist Jack Mintz to recently recommend that Alberta adopt a 13 per cent HST. Rod Love, former premier Ralph Klein's adviser, responded by saying westerners would destroy any politician who proposed any sort of taxes.

That illustrates why Alberta and Saskatchewan's governments would rather squander their future than introduce a rational tax strategy. It's worth noting that after nearly four decades, Alberta has an estimated $16 billion in its wealth fund while Norway has socked away more than $600 billion over the same period.

Norway had the advantage of being a national government. Canada's resource wealthy provinces must better manage their advantage before Ottawa is compelled by its Constitution to do the job for them.
- The Wellesley Institute takes a closer look at minimum-wage earners in Ontario - and finds hundreds of thousands of adults aged 25 and up trying to make a living at or near the minimum. Vincent McDermott reports on the replacement of hundreds of employees in Fort McMurray with temporary foreign workers in an attempt to lower wages and undercut unions. And the Canadian Press discusses a push for stronger enforcement of workplace safety standards in Manitoba - including real consequences for employers who suppress employee injuries.

- Andrew Mitrovica points out why we should be particularly concerned to know that a surveillance apparatus set up in the name of security is being used for all kinds of other purposes:
So what that they suck at catching the bad guys? (Anyone remember the murderous Tsarnaev brothers?) So what that the CSEC, NSA and Britain’s GCHQ can invade, unchecked, every aspect of our lives in the electronic ether? So what that together these agencies can, as The Guardian newspaper aptly put it, “harvest, store, and analyze millions of phone calls, emails and search engine queries,” every day? So what that they can keep that information about you for however long they like? So what that they break every bit of encryption you might use to afford you even the illusion of security?

I think what Shorten and Snowden have done is a courageous and eloquent rebuttal to the so-what crowd. This stuff does matter, and we need to know about it. We need to know about it because publicly the powers that be insist, like Boisvert, that the CSEC and its sister agencies exist to protect you and me from the bad guys. But we now know, courtesy of Shorten and Snowden, that we’re the real targets. They’re spying on us.
- And finally, Dr. Dawg discusses Canada's ignominious week resulting from the Cons' choice to use government resources for the exclusive benefit of private resource extractors:
Doing some industrial espionage in Brazil for private corporations—and getting caught. Instructing the Maldives on how to run clean elections. Threatening the Commonwealth.

Why is the Canadian state running errands for mining companies? Well, it’s not the first time, of course. Our trade alliance with the bloody narco-state of Colombia was based upon mining interests. The deep-sixing of a private member’s bill to enforce mining company ethics abroad is another example. (No surprise, the Harper government was supported by the Liberals in each case.) But when our government grossly misuses the public service—CSEC is supposed to be ensuring national security, not working to enhance corporate profits—we’ve gone well past the usual pro-business politics. Even as a gofer, the state has no place in the boardrooms of the nation. And to be caught at it—thank you, Edward Snowden—is plain cringeworthy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

New column day

Here, following up on Alex Himelfarb and Jordan Himelfarb's observations about the need to talk about the good we can do with tax revenue by noting the importance of making sure public money and authority aren't diverted to private or corporate purposes.

For further reading...
- CBC reports on Alberta's exclusion of environmental groups from any project assessment processes, while Justice Marceau's full ruling is here.
- The Guardian reports on Canada's spying against Brazilian leaders and businesses, as well as the Cons' deliberate choice to foster cozy dealings between CSEC and the resource sector. And Alison fills in some blanks around the role of CSEC.
- Finally, CBC also reports on Ontario's gas plant cancellations, wile Martin Regg Cohn puts the billion-dollar giveaways in context as another example of privatization gone awry.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Nadir Khan interviews Linda McQuaig about her choice to run for the NDP in Toronto Centre - and confirms that McQuaig's commitment to progressive politics fits neatly with her participation in a caucus:
NK : You mention that you’ve been outspoken and taken a strong stance on issues you care about. Certain research groups like Samara have found, through interviewing MPs, that MPs are surprised by how much party discipline is present in Parliament.

What are your thoughts on that? If you’re elected, do you see your outspoken and combative approach changing within the context of how disciplined our Parliament can be?

LM : I mean I certainly didn’t get into politics to kind of modify my voice. Or cease to be outspoken on issues. You know, that would be counterproductive. At the same time, I would say that I understand that if you enter politics it’s a different process than being a writer. You belong to a party and you make decisions collectively within that party on what the stance is going to be. And I accept that as part of the democratic process. I understand that that it is…the way it should be.  So, among other things, one of the things I look forward to is to be a strong and effective voice within that NDP caucus. Advocating those progressive positions that I’ve long done publicly.
- Andrew Jackson and Jonathan Sas observe that the Cons' response to growing awareness of inequality and poverty as policy issues has been to push income-splitting and other schemes to divert still more wealth to the top of the income spectrum.

- Michael Harris highlights about the Cons' continued contempt for science - and indeed their efforts to make money attacking it.

- Robyn Benson writes about the future of the union movement - pointing out that even now organized labour speaks for a substantial proportion of the public, while hinting at the importance of both organizing and communicating with still more potential members and supporters. And Julian Beltrame reports on the PBO's finding that the Cons' attempts to invent a need to slash public-sector wages are utterly misplaced, as actual wages have barely kept up with inflation.

- Thomas Walkom echoes my question as to whether Nova Scotia's election results should serve to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy that bland centrism is a path toward political success.

- Finally, Colin Horgan discusses how a talking-point culture both reflects and contributes to a lack of substantial discussion about political issues:
(W)hat’s really being promoted here isn’t time-saving or even effective communications. This is a way for governments and parties to say even less. That prospect might be very appealing to a lot of people — but it should be worrying us.

There is a very simple reason why politicians tend to sound idiotic when given less space and time to speak. There are clear restraints on nuance and considered thought when you speak in sentences that can be clipped by the news networks. At party HQs, where those sentences are dreamed up, they know this very well. And we all know the result. Language and arguments are dumbed-down, simplified and filled with hyperbole and outrage — a mélange of emotion based on limited knowledge.
While the minimalist-statement, talking-point strategy doesn’t always work (not everyone can win an election, after all), parties have to use it now merely to level the playing field. You have to fight your competition on common ground, and by and large the talking point battlefield is that place. But it relies on people not paying attention. After all, you can only really vote on what you know and, as far as politicians are concerned, the less you know, the better. An uninformed populace is more likely to either believe the last lie they heard or disengage altogether. While parties probably would prefer the first scenario, they know that if a voter doesn’t vote, at least he’s not voting for the other guy.

So now imagine less. Less information, less communication. Fewer words and fewer thoughts. Less nuance and less understanding. We go from the inane and ridiculous to, for all intents and purposes, nothing at all.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

On legacies

Obviously last night's Nova Scotia election results represent a huge disappointment for the NDP. But they also offer some reason to discuss the brand being developed at both the provincial and federal levels.

The working assumption for both the federal party and most of the provincial parties close to forming government has been that the only way to win over voters is to appear steady, staid and safe rather than pushing strongly for many policy priorities. And that theory seemed especially likely to work for Darrell Dexter given Nova Scotia's precedent of offering every previous government at least a second term.

But now that Dexter alone has been toppled - in contrast to far more controversial provincial counterparts elsewhere over the past couple of years - it's worth asking whether more activist government might prove valuable on two fronts.

First, for electoral purposes there has to be some value to keeping a party base engaged and a set of values in the public eye. And while "base vs swing" is one of the perpetual debates for political strategists of all stripes, it's hard to see the Nova Scotia experience as evidence that balancing budgets immediately and promising social progress later is a winning combination.

And second, there's the question of what a government will leave behind after its stay in office is done.

It may be that the forces which put Stephen McNeil in power would have won out in any event. But if that's so, then it's worth comparing Dexter's stay in office to the much-discussed single B.C. term of Dave Barrett.

Barrett of course was criticized for galvanizing his opposition by passing too much legislation too soon - a stark contrast to Dexter's focus on balancing the budget and laying the groundwork for larger plans to be implemented in some future term.

But Barrett's signature achievements continue to play significant roles in the lives of B.C. citizens four decades later - while much of what Dexter accomplished in his single term figures to be gutted (or at best rebranded) in the next four years. And if a premier is going to have only one term in which to build a legacy, he or she surely figures to want to do something worth celebrating and remembering in that time.

All of which is to say that NDP leaders across the country would do well to remind themselves that what matters most is how a government's actions influence the lives of citizens - not how little a government does to draw attention to itself. And if there's real doubt as to how a worthy policy choice will play out politically, it's better to err on the side of positive action.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Pointed cats.

Tuesday Morning 'Rider Blogging

After a few weeks of maddeningly bad luck, the Saskatchewan Roughriders desperately needed a win against B.C. to stay in the race for a top-two position in the West. And last Friday's victory signalled that the 'Riders can win in a game where the breaks mostly even out.

Yes, Saskatchewan benefited from three interceptions by Thomas DeMarco. But those seemed to be more a product of design than chance - and in fact reflected the breaks splitting evenly, as at least as many potential interceptions slipped through the hands of 'Rider defenders.

Of course, it's an open question whether the 'Riders can force that many dangerous passes from a more experienced quarterback in the playoffs. But the trade-deadline addition of Alex Hall to an already-ruthless pass rush means there's a strong chance that any opposing pivot will have to take some risks to get rid of the ball - meaning that a secondary which converts half of its opportunities should keep the turnover balance in Saskatchewan's favour.

Meanwhile, the 'Riders had a turnover of their own attributable to the Lions beating the odds, as Drew Willy was again stopped on a third-and-one gamble. And two more missed field goals by Chris Milo surely don't reflect the usual likelihood of success from one of the CFL's most accurate kickers.

But against B.C., Saskatchewan was able to complete enough of its drives to overcome those lost points - while the 'Riders defence only seems to be getting stronger as the season goes on.

Again, the hope for the rest of the season will be to develop to the point where Saskatchewan can overcome a bad break or two to beat an elite opponent. (And Kory Sheets' health may serve as the one unpredictable factor where the 'Riders have no room for error.) But particularly at the end of a four-game losing streak, it's enough for now to win an important divisional game without needing to rely too much on the luck of the draw.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Debbie Chachra discusses why an effective government is a necessary element of civilization - and why charity can't fill in the gap:
Taxes aren't the only way to pay for civilization, of course: community groups, charities, and churches also contribute. But I consider myself a fairly prudent consumer, and I want my money to be used well.

Even excellent charities are inefficient. Take food banks. We have a distribution system that goes from farms to warehouses to grocery stores. Food banks then set up more warehouses and pick-up sites to get sustenance out to those in need, often food that's already gone down the first chain. It's far more efficient to give people the means to use the retail distribution network than to create and have them use an alternate system.

Charity is also ad hoc: it's difficult to get help to people who need it in a systematic way that makes sure no one falls through the cracks. And charities, especially ones that do take on the challenge of large-scale issues, need to spend much of their income asking people like me to help.
(W)hile I regularly donate to charities and I believe they play an important role in society, I don't want them in lieu of more efficient systems. I don't want to go to fundraisers to pay the medical bills of artists; I want them to have health insurance. I want to be able to go to meetings on the other side of the country and buy chicken for dinner without worrying about my safety. And I want programs like WIC to provide services that reduce the need for more expensive interventions. 
- Barbara Kermode-Scott writes that big pharma's move to trash British Columbia's Therapeutics Initiative is being met with some international response from doctors who want more information about drugs than what manufacturers put in their promotional materials.

- CBC's series on offshore tax evasion continues with a look at the role Barbados plays in concealing large amounts of wealth siphoned out of Canada. 

- Graham Thomson writes that the Redford PCs' response to a judicial finding that they've deliberately and wrongfully shut the community out of environmental review processes has been to operate in denial that the decision was ever made.

- And Aaron Wherry surveys how Canadian courts have rejected the Cons' mandatory minimum sentence approach to criminal justice.

- Finally, Glen Pearson's takedown of backroom power brokerage is well worth reading (and applying as a test to all political parties):
For whatever reason, these former kingmakers, having had their day, refuse to ride quietly over the horizon. But for all their expertise and experience, their veiled arrogance hints of the kind of political class thinking that increasingly repels the average citizen. The brutality of their language sounds exactly like the regular partisan rants that emanate from the House of Commons on any given day of the week. It is the old politics that sees voters turning away from the political space in droves.
There is a new democracy [slowly] emerging to fight such shadows, not only in Canada, but in other nations at present that is calling for increased respect, an instinct for cooperation, that is commensurate with the significant challenges faced by communities and reacts with revulsion to those who play at politics while unemployment rises, jobs grow more scarce, our infrastructure deficit runs in the billions, and our middle class facing the greatest challenges in a generation. In such a world, the playground of former kingmakers appears not only out of place, but downright maddening.

The new democracy is more about citizen activism than backroom shenanigans and pressing for transparency than secret dealings. It ultimately opts for cooperation over contention, public policy over punishing partisanship, and a sense of the integration of power over its ideology. This is the politics more and more Canadians are requesting, but it's all fluff and airy ideals to the likes of Reid and Kinsella. They prefer the smell of the trenches over the messy work of the grassroots. Elections are their game, not engagement.

Ironically, our public fate in Canada depends on the outcome of the war between these two practices of democracy. How can citizens possibly win out over such courtiers, when power itself prefers the secret corridors over the public thoroughfares? Well, it's slowly happening regardless of the backroom boys. Activism in our communities is inevitably filling the vacuum left by an increasingly vacuous hunt for political power for its own sake. But this doesn't suit the power players, who show little interest in our daily struggles and who, ironically, are guilty of the same trait they accused Michael Ignatieff of: they're just visiting.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Thomas Walkom sees Stephen Harper's approval of dove hunting as an ideal metaphor for the gratuitous violence of his government:
The wildlife service also estimates that new hunting rules will result in about 18,000 Ontario doves being shot each year. But, say hunt aficionadas, so what? There are plenty more.

As the Conservatives would tell you: This is our world. Other species are born into it at their own risk.

To Canada’s governing party, killing doves is a metaphor for sound thinking, fiscal sobriety and doughnut-shop values. It is where the Harperites want to be.
To reconcile these competing metaphors is not easy. In Israel, Canada’s prime minister is the dove’s friend. He supports this wonderful bird root and branch. His ideals are lofty, his vision clear.

But back home in Canada, his relationship to the dove is quite different. Back home, Stephen J. Harper is the dove’s sworn enemy. Back home, his government wants to see a good chunk of these damned birds dead.
- Reuters reports that Switzerland will soon be voting on the type of universal income security that's been all too thoroughly excluded from discuss by the chattering classes in Canada.

- But at home, the Cons are still the main obstacle looming in the way of even modest CPP reforms to make sure that seniors have a reasonable standard of living.

- Erin Weir reminds us of the need for fair royalties to ensure that the oil industry can't siphon billions of dollars worth of public resources out of Saskatchewan while paying as little as penny on the dollar.

- David McGrane's Canadian Social Democracy Study looks to offer plenty of interesting discussion to come about the recent history and future of the NDP.

- Finally, David Oswald Mitchell's presentation on the grammar of social change is well worth a view:

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that to end your weekend.

- Daniel Goleman writes about the role of wealth in undermining empathy:
(I)n general, we focus the most on those we value most. While the wealthy can hire help, those with few material assets are more likely to value their social assets: like the neighbor who will keep an eye on your child from the time she gets home from school until the time you get home from work. The financial difference ends up creating a behavioral difference. Poor people are better attuned to interpersonal relations — with those of the same strata, and the more powerful — than the rich are, because they have to be.

While Mr. Keltner’s research finds that the poor, compared with the wealthy, have keenly attuned interpersonal attention in all directions, in general, those with the most power in society seem to pay particularly little attention to those with the least power. To be sure, high-status people do attend to those of equal rank — but not as well as those low of status do.

This has profound implications for societal behavior and government policy. Tuning in to the needs and feelings of another person is a prerequisite to empathy, which in turn can lead to understanding, concern and, if the circumstances are right, compassionate action.
Since the 1970s, the gap between the rich and everyone else has skyrocketed. Income inequality is at its highest level in a century. This widening gulf between the haves and have-less troubles me, but not for the obvious reasons. Apart from the financial inequities, I fear the expansion of an entirely different gap, caused by the inability to see oneself in a less advantaged person’s shoes. Reducing the economic gap may be impossible without also addressing the gap in empathy.
- Stephen Maher writes about the Cons' continuing problems with Stephen Harper's first set of patronage Senate appointments - which look to have arisen largely about of the perception that anybody sufficiently well-connected to be appointed would be above answering to the mere general public. And there's an echo of that theme in Kate Heartfield's discussion of the Cons' battles with Elections Canada as well.

- But when it comes to kicking the powerless while they're down, it's hard to top the Cons' thumb in the eye of war rape victims and child brides who need access to abortion as a means of remedying the human rights violations they've suffered - or the denial of health care to refugee claimants.

- Finally, the CP reports that Alberta isn't done trying to shut non-oil baron voices out of any environmental assessment of the tar sands.

Fool me twice

Andrew Coyne has a suggestion as to how the Cons might extort some increased adherence to free-market fundamentalism from the provinces:
It’s the balance between spending and revenues, not just the totals, that matters. The federal government, as the PBO numbers show, will have substantial fiscal “room,” revenues in excess of what it needs to pay its bills, while the provinces will be in substantial structural deficit. Ottawa has the money, in other words, and the provinces need it — desperately.

This puts the feds in a very strong bargaining position. Rather than simply hand over the loot, as the provinces will inevitably demand, they can use it as leverage: a transfer of x number of GST points, say, in exchange for dismantling provincial trade barriers.

Ottawa will have the fiscal clout to bring some order at last to this chaotic economic union. It should begin thinking how to use it.
Of course, the first problem with Coyne's pretense to compromise is the fact that both proposed actions in fact represent hard-right steps: tax cuts and the elimination of regulations don't reflect a tradeoff, but a complete capitulation to the corporate agenda on the part of provincial governments who may not entirely agree with it.

And the "tax room" theory serves only to exacerbate inequality among the provinces - replacing fiscal federalism which provides stability for all provinces with a go-it-alone philosophy.

But let's put those general problems aside in favour of a more specific reality about the Cons' posturing around tax points. Because the Cons have made exactly the same promise of offering provinces tax room before - and then used any effort to follow up as an opportunity to bash the provincial governments in question.

Again, here's how Jim Flaherty first presented the Cons' GST cuts:
Our government firmly believes that unanticipated surpluses, the last area I wanted to mention, should be used primarily to reduce the debt and reduce federal taxes rather than to launch new policies in areas where the federal government is not best placed to design or deliver programs.

This, in turn, creates tax room that provinces and territories can consider filling for their specific needs and purposes.
So what happened when Ontario tried to take Flaherty up on the offer in order to fund public transit?
“We did not lower the GST to have it taken away from Ontarians by the Wynne government with a new sales tax hike,” said Flaherty, who cut the federal levy from 7 per cent to 5 per cent prior to harmonization.
In sum, any provincial leader would have to be painfully gullible to think that the Cons will let further federal tax slashing open the door to provincial revenue gathering. And so if the provinces have any desire to be able to deliver programs for the public benefit, their ask needs to be for direct funding - lest their bargaining position get all the worse with time.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Alex Himelfarb and Jordan Himelfarb comment on Canada's dangerously distorted conversation about public revenue and the purposes it can serve:
As we argue in our new book, Tax Is Not a Four-Letter Word, the Canadian tax conversation has become dangerously distorted. Any reasonable discussion of taxes must take into account the highly valued public services they buy. But in Canada, and throughout much of the Anglosphere, these inextricably linked concepts — taxes and public services — have somehow become divorced. We now live in an environment in which the first question we ask of any policy idea is “How much will it cost?” whereas we never ask of tax cuts “What will we lose?” Canada’s slow-motion austerity may blind us to the consequences, but they are no less real: a less resilient and generous country and a stunted political imagination.

It’s not surprising then that even as federal taxes as a share of GDP keep hitting new lows, even after billions in cuts over the last couple of decades by all levels of government whatever their political stripe, more reductions are in store. Income splitting, for instance, would put money in the hands of middle-class families, many of whom feel stretched by decades of income stagnation. But a strong case has been made by experts that this tax cut would treat families inequitably, would create disincentives to work for some and would deprive federal and provincial governments of billions that could be used to better serve families and children — say, infrastructure or child care.
The current conversation is a consequence of the neo-liberal economic policy that began to dominate American and British politics in the early 1980s, and emerged more slowly and subtly in Canada at around the same time. In this view, economic growth and individual freedom are best served by reducing government and its influence and letting the market do its work. Politically, tax cuts were treated as a free good — with little discussion of what public services would be lost and at what cost. We still get promises of tax cuts as though they will magically pay for themselves or will simply require greater efficiencies and less waste. Yet the numbers on waste never add up and the cuts inevitably lead to eroding public services, rising inequality, environmental deterioration and lost opportunity. There is no gravy train and no free lunch.
- But then, the Cons are going out of their way to set up government funding structures which avoid doing any good at all - including "social finance" intended to make sure that poverty is seen as a source of profit rather than a problem to be fixed, and a job grant system which may sound familiar to those of us who remember employer-focused child care tax credits which produced zero results.

- Meanwhile, Aaron Wherry documents the Cons' flat-out lies when it comes to the evidence of the effectiveness of physician-prescribed heroin as part of a rehabilitation program. Which fits all too well with the Cons' continued evidence-averse handling of the census. 

- Murray Mandryk joins the ranks of observers wondering why Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party have decided to pick a gratuitous fight with the province's First Nations over revenue sharing.

- Finally, Catherine Rampell reminds us how boom and bust cycles exacerbate inequality - as less-wealthy people are all too likely to end up buying in just at the end of the boom, while only the cash-rich can profit from the subsequent crash.