Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Joseph Stiglitz laments the corporate takeover of policy-making processes, including by imposing trade rules which impede democratic decision-making:
The real intent of [investor protection] provisions is to impede health, environmental, safety, and, yes, even financial regulations meant to protect America’s own economy and citizens. Companies can sue governments for full compensation for any reduction in their future expected profits resulting from regulatory changes. 

This is not just a theoretical possibility. Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia for requiring warning labels on cigarettes. Admittedly, both countries went a little further than the US, mandating the inclusion of graphic images showing the consequences of cigarette smoking. 

The labeling is working. It is discouraging smoking. So now Philip Morris is demanding to be compensated for lost profits. 

In the future, if we discover that some other product causes health problems (think of asbestos), rather than facing lawsuits for the costs imposed on us, the manufacturer could sue governments for restraining them from killing more people. The same thing could happen if our governments impose more stringent regulations to protect us from the impact of greenhouse-gas emissions.
- Meanwhile, Joe Oliver provides a prime example by demanding that the U.S. abandon what little regulation it has over the financial sector under threat of a NAFTA suit. And Cory Doctorow writes that the secrecy surrounding the TPP includes having security staff keep even U.S. Senators from so much as making notes on the deal - because heaven forfend an elected official should be able to remember details of what closed-door corporate meetings have produced.

- Arloc Sherman and Danilo Trisi note that even the U.S.' frayed social safety net may be doing a better job of reducing poverty than it receives credit for. But we can never take those social supports for granted - and Lori Culbert reports on a new B.C. Ombudsman study showing how that province's welfare system is designed to discriminate against the people who most need help.

- Dennis Hiebert makes the case for charities to be able to comment on the areas of their expertise rather than being silenced by the Cons. And Elizabeth Thompson reports on Jean-Pierre Kingsley's proposal that government advertising be limited in the lead up to an election campaign.

- Finally, Antonia Zerbisias is hopeful that the Harper Cons' electoral strategy will fall apart as thoroughly as their policy plans. And Paul Orlowski theorizes that orange waves could be the new normal in Canadian politics.

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