Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Tim Harford proposes four first steps to start combatting income inequality. And the Star's editorial board makes clear that there's tax room available for Ontario (among other jurisdictions) to pursue in order to serve the public good:
Sousa promises to protect the “middle class” — whatever that is. But he need not fear a backlash if his spring budget increases the burden on those making substantially more than the average, whether that starts at $150,000 or some higher level. Four other provinces — including B.C., whose government leans right — have done that in the past few years without substantial blowback.

Politicians can’t protect citizens — taxpayers — from fiscal realities forever. If we want the services we get from government, we’ve got to pay for them. And if we truly worry about growing inequality, increasing the burden on the (comparatively) well paid is one important way to address it.

Even conservatives, at least those who fear Ontario is flirting with disaster as its debt mounts, should not run from the concept of higher taxes. A new study by the right-wing Fraser Institute warns, in apocalyptic tones, that the province’s debt is more than twice as big as that of California, long considered a fiscal basket case.

One solution would be slashing services beyond recognition. A much better course would be making sure Ontario has the tax revenue to pay for what it provides — and what we value.
- Meanwhile, Scott Clark and Peter De Vries note that we should expect a responsible government to reevaulate and ultimately back off of ill-advised election promises - lest frivolous schemes like income splitting burn billions of dollars while serving no useful purpose.

- Laura Payton interviews Andrew Reynolds about the Unfair Elections Act and the message it sends to developing democracies. And Trevor McKenzie-Smith takes a look at the bill's potential effects in Canada:
Proposed changes contained in this Act would allow candidate representatives the right to go beyond observing the process to ensure fairness. Instead they will be able to insert themselves directly in the voting process via the new right to ‘examine’ voters’ identification before they are allowed to vote. This is a dramatic shift in roles for campaign volunteers, and is a recipe for conflict that could result in systematic bullying of voters and elections staff by partisan campaign volunteers.

Candidates’ representatives have virtually no training and in many cases can get the rules mixed up. Further, they are not impartial like Elections Canada staff must be, and the potential exists for them to target certain voters for challenge in order to give their candidate an advantage.

Allowing a candidate’s rep to stand between the voter and the ballot box is a fundamental shift away from observer to actor, which will result in many peoples’ right to vote being challenged unnecessarily. This practice could also give voters the impression that these volunteers have real authority when challenging a voter’s credentials, further deterring them from voting.

This proposed change would act to further disenfranchise people who are already underrepresented in our electoral system. Aboriginal people, people with low incomes, people who move a lot, first time voters, students, homeless people, and many others could become targets for further scrutiny by candidates’ representatives who are there to do political work. And if unchecked that political work could result in rights being denied.
- Thomas Duck hears an echo of the Walkerton crisis in the Cons' cuts to Environment Canada.

- Meanwhile, Nicholas Keung identifies something even worse in a mooted immigration policy which would keep spouses from reuniting in Canada if they don't meet a wealth threshold. And it's particularly worth noting that the Cons have gone out of their way to encourage employers to engage in exactly the type of abuses they claim to be addressing at the family level.

- Finally, Ken Rasmussen puts "lean" in context as just another administrative fad which is fated to deliver far less than promised by its proponents.

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