Saturday, March 14, 2015

On dividing lines

For the most part, Joan Bryden's report signals that there isn't much controversy left arising out of Alexandre Boulerice's comments about niqabs in the civil service. But it's worth asking whether the trial balloon floated by Boulerice serves any purpose whatsoever:
Martin added that he has no problem with Boulerice's suggestion that a pan-Canadian commission — along the lines of Quebec's Bouchard-Taylor commission in 2007 — should be created to find a consensus on how far the country should go to accommodate minority cultural and religious practices.

However, Dewar, whose riding is home to many civil servants, said there is no issue to resolve; he's never had a single complaint about public servants covering their faces.

"Why would you have a study on something that doesn't exist?"
Dewar is right to note that there's no apparent problem to solve which would merit study by a commission. But even if there were some complaints being raised about face coverings, we also shouldn't ignore the fact that there are existing answers as to how much accommodation is required.

In addition to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, individual rights are also protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory treatment based on national or ethnic origin and religion unless there's a bona fide requirement which justifies that treatment.

In the case of a civil servant, that would mean that any prohibition against wearing a niqab would have to be justified by evidence that having a covered face prevents an individual from performing a job. And nothing in the current discussion suggests that's an even remotely reasonable position.

The effect of a commission would then be at best to confirm the existing standard, and at worst to establish some new threshold which prioritizes an explicit distaste for minority cultural practices ahead of the current balance between individual beliefs and practices and bona fide job requirements.

Which is to say that Boulerice's call for a commission should be dismissed as quickly as any call to discriminate based on niqabs in particular. He's entitled to his personal views, but not to try to use public policy to require individuals to conform to them. And the NDP should take the important opportunity to be the only party standing up for that principle in stark contrast to the Cons and Libs, rather than looking for some arbitrary dividing line of its own.

Update: Haroon Siddiqui makes a similar point

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- For those looking for information about today's day of action against C-51, Leadnow and Rabble both have details.

- Meanwhile, CBC reports that a professor merely taking pictures on public land near a proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline site is already being harassed by the RCMP under current law. Tonda MacCharles notes that lawyers currently involved in dealing with classified-evidence cases have joined the call to rein in the Cons' terror bill, while PressProgress points out that airlines are also raising serious concerns about the unfettered power handed to a single minister to dictate the terms of air travel. And Stephen Maher rightly questions whether CSIS is anywhere close to being up to the tasks assigned to it under C-51.

- Jeffrey Simpson calls for us to treat terrorism as a relatively small one of a number of dangers to be managed, not a basis for welcoming a radical reshaping of our society to be more intrusive and less inclusive. And Susan Delacourt comments on the Cons' irresponsible choice to sow baseless fear for the sole purpose of frightening people into emptying their pockets, while hoping the message will lose its power by the time Canadians go to the polls:
(E)ven seasoned marketers know that repetition has its limits. As far back as 1970, the University of Toronto’s Daniel Berlyne produced research showing that repeated exposure to novelty in advertising breeds familiarity at first, then boredom or contempt — the “two-factor” or “wear-in, wear-out” effect.

By marketing wisdom alone, then, this all-fear approach in the current political climate is a risky gambit. Sustaining the nation in a constant state of fear, all the way through an election months away, is a tall order for a government that may have its own wear-out concerns after nearly 10 years in office.

And at the risk of seeming naive or idealistic, it would be nice if higher principles than marketing — like the responsibility and privilege of governing — guided our politics back to the high road in these debates on tolerance and terror.

As a country, Canada is better than the politics of fear that is being marketed to citizens at the moment.
- Rick Salutin writes that Justin Trudeau has given away the game in acknowledging that he's supporting C-51 solely for crass political purposes of his own. But I remain baffled as to why Trudeau would hold the illusion that the Cons will somehow avoid criticizing him merely because he's giving them everything they want out of sheer cowardice.

- Finally, Simona Chiose reports on the Wynne Libs' plan to turn Ontario's university system over to employers in establishing program designs and tuition levels. And Simon Enoch calls out the similarly distorted premises behind the Saskatchewan Party's consultation on liquor retailing.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Musical interlude

Grimes - REALiTi

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Kendra Coulter discusses the connection between human treatment of animals and humans:
Close to home and around the world, working class and poor people are really struggling. In countries like Canada, unemployment and underemployment persist. We have been told that corporate tax cuts would create jobs, yet many of the few positions now available provide only poverty wages and part-time hours. Globally, over two billion people try to live on less than two dollars a day. In much of the global south, people face a "choice" between poverty wages in factories, or poverty income on farms. People are not poor by choice, and they should not be mocked or demonized.

Animals play different roles in the lives of the poor. Homeless and precariously-housed people are conscientious guardians of their cherished (and reciprocating) animals, for example. In some of the world's poorest communities, women see their donkeys as invaluable, and are keen to better protect the animals in return. Widespread and unrelenting poverty means some people must take undesirable paths, however. Too many for-profit industries and greedy individuals exploit people's desperation, trapping them into dangerous, poorly paying jobs -- and animals into worse.

People need income, and if given real choices, most would opt to earn a living by helping others rather than by harming them. Given this context, there is clear and pressing need to cultivate new, positive areas of work, to expand and create what I call humane jobs. Humane jobs afford people with good working conditions, doing jobs that help animals, or that help both people and animals. Humane jobs feed people's stomachs and their sense of pride.
- And Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig slams David Brooks' attempt to pretend that poverty can written off as resulting from the moral inferiority of the poor:
Brooks' underlying assumption is wrong: The baseline moral values of poor people do not, in fact, differ that much from those of the rich. Poor people feel ashamed of the incarceration of relatives. The poor, too, want to get married at roughly the same rates as the rich, though the rich have an easier time pulling it off. Matrimonial aspirations, then, are decaying no faster among the poor than the well-off; it’s only the ability to maintain a marriage under the stressors of poverty that seems to put poor families on unsteady ground. Lastly, lest anyone suspect the welfare-queen narrative about poor people eschewing hard work and responsibility holds true, Stephen Pimpare observes in his book A People’s History of Poverty in America that the stigma and shame of poverty and welfare are alive and well, meaning that welfare recipients tend to internalize society’s narratives about work and accountability. Poor people, whatever their material circumstances might compel them to do, don’t seem to lack a moral compass.
People who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or “food stamps,” tend to make healthier food choices than those who don't use SNAP; they also tend to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables when provisions (such as small credits for buying fresh fruits and veggies) are made that account for the extra cost of cooking multi-item meals. And, as a 2005 British study found, low-income parents who are given benefits to help raise young children "increased spending on items such as children’s clothing, books, and toys, and decreased spending on alcohol and tobacco.” In other words, reducing poverty through infusions of cash appears to correct many of the behaviors poor people are regularly maligned for, including neglectful parenting and unhealthy lifestyles, bringing them more in line with the habits of the well-to-do.

Morality should teach us how to live a good life. But to impose the easy virtue of the well-to-do on the poor is to request the most stressed and vulnerable members of society to display impossible moral heroism. To abstain from relationships, sex, and childbirth until financially secure enough to raise a child without assistance would mean, for many, a life of celibacy; to pour limited resources into education in order to score a respectable job would mean failing to make rent. If the problems plaguing poor communities persist after poverty is drastically reduced, that would seem an appropriate time to pursue the matter of a better "moral vocabulary," as Brooks calls itand even then, the participation of low-income communities would be essential. But before that conversation can happen, the obvious solution to the “chaos” Brooks observes among poor communities is to reduce poverty, and let its moral quandaries resolve on their own.
- Laurie Monsebraaten reports on Campaign 2000's push to make action against child poverty a leading theme of this year's federal election. And Ryan Meili writes about the connection between growing inequality and ill health.

- PressProgress highlights the fact that the Cons' push toward income splitting is based on an explicit desire to keep women doing chores at home.

- Jessica McDiarmid reports that the Cons' latest rail law falls far short of accounting for the real cost of a rail disaster, leaving the public on the hook once again. And Mike McKinnon discusses the similarly-fictitious numbers behind Regina's P3 wasterwater plant.

- Finally, Michael Harris comments that the Cons' lack of ethics isn't going away, as evidenced by two brand-new stories demonstrating that they've been ignoring impartial evaluations to funnel public money toward supporters.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New column day

Here, condensing this post on the component parts of the Cons' terror bill.

For further reading...
- Michael Geist writes that C-51 represents the evisceration of privacy in Canada.
- Jim Bronskill reports on Amnesty International's opposition to C-51 as a means of targeting activists. And Alyssa Stryker and Carmen Cheung highlight six elements protesters will want to understand about the bill.
- Finally, Craig Forcese and Kent Roach discuss the international implications of C-51, including the express authorization for CSIS to operate outside the law of foreign countries. And Forcese also points out exactly what the term "lawful" means when it comes to evaluating the limited carve-out for lawful activities.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Following up on last week's column, Frances Ryan laments the UK Conservatives' choice to inflict needless suffering on anybody receiving public benefits:
During seven weeks of undercover work at a universal credit contact centre in Bolton, Channel 4 journalists witnessed a farcical mess of centralised IT failure. But what really stood out were the underhand tactics DWP staff were found to use against claimants: from deliberately withholding hardship payments from people struggling after having their benefits sanctioned, to hiding the flexible fund put in place to pay for clothes or a bus fare they needed to help them get a job.
“The whole idea is the punishment, that’s what you’ve got to suffer,” one adviser was filmed explaining. This mentality is normal now and beyond Dispatches the evidence is mounting. “I got brownie points for cruelty,” one former DWP adviser told the Guardian last month.

Meanwhile, Jobcentre managers routinely put pressure on staff to sanction claimants’ benefits, according to their union. Failure to instigate or approve enough sanctions is said to result in staff being “subject to performance reviews” or losing pay. Imagine “success” at a jobcentre not being helping a person get a well-paid, fulfilling job but tricking them out of the money they need to feed their children. Punishment and suffering is at the heart of what was once a safety net.

What Dispatches showed is not an isolated incident, a black spot polluting an otherwise untarnished record. It is an example of both attitude and action that runs through the entire system: the growing conditionality on benefits, the withholding of emergency help, all the way back to how benefits are assessed.
We are sliding back to the notion that suffering helps the soul, that the underclass – be it the unemployed, the disabled, or chronically ill – need to be trained in order to behave. And, as almost a secondary consequence, their punishment cuts the welfare bill down. A bonus all round.

The ideology of a small state or the belief that benefits build dependency are crass, irrelevant details to what at its core is simply a decision about how to treat a human being. This is particularly damning when one person has all the power and the other is forced through economic necessity to take whatever humiliation or pain they are given. To do that to someone – let alone hundreds of thousands – is no accident. It is a conscious decision, that has been made over and over again by this government.
- Mollie Reilly reports on Thomas Piketty's rightful criticism of Republicans using inequality as an excuse to push policies which will only exacerbate it. And Duncan Cameron comments on the need to rebuild the American dream of genuine opportunity for everybody.

- Steve Denning lists just a few of the major problems with building an economy around shareholder value rather than more meaningful goals. And Rana Foroohar discusses how the financial sector has come to dominate the real economy in pursuing short-term profits rather than actual development.

- Matthew Renwick and Steve Morgan write that Canada is needlessly overpaying for generic biological drugs.

- Eve-Lyne Couturier points out how Quebec's selective austerity has increased the gender gap by upwards of $7 billion.

- Finally, Paul Adams questions whether the Cons can manage to keep up their apparent plan to stoke fear and bigotry even as they pursue the support of immigrant voters.

On unwanted obligations

Mike McKinnon reports that austerity elsewhere isn't being applied to continued seven-figure spending on a Lean tour. But it's particularly worth noting how that particular money pit is
still drawing Saskatchewan citizens' money even as the provincial government cries poor at every other opportunity:
The Saskatchewan government’s freeze on non-essential travel does not include costly trips to the United States for staff to be trained in Lean methods.

Seven of the so-called “Lean tours” were planned between Jan. 1 and Mar. 31, at a cost of $8,900 per person, per trip. With 20 people on each tour, the total cost is nearly $1.25 million.
In light of the travel freeze, Duncan said the Lean tours would have been reconsidered if the government had not been contractually obligated to them.
In other words, if the Wall government hadn't previously entered into a contract requiring it to pay off a private operator, it would likely have determined that the tours were a waste of money. But because it had contractually committed to waste that money, the provincial government was in no position to actually consider whether the spending was worth it in a changed fiscal situation.

Of course, that raises the question as to why the Sask Party was so reckless as to tie its own hands in the first place.

Lean may be one of the more familiar areas where public decision-making is being sacrificed to a desire to lock in corporate gains. But there are other areas - most notably P3 infrastructure projects - where the choice to sign long-term contracts today figures to severely restrict what decisions can be made in the public interest later. (Just wait until, say, a school which should be kept open based on any reasonable public interest calculation ends up getting closed because we're stuck funneling money to the private operator of another one which would be closed on the merits.)

In sum, Duncan's explanation only raises more questions as to why the Wall government has signed away any ability to make the best possible decisions for Saskatchewan. And if we're already paying the price for the Sask Party's past ill-advised contracts, then we need to make sure they're not in a position to inflict new ones on the province.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Emily Badger discusses Robert Putnam's work on the many facets of increasing inequality in the U.S.:
For the past three years, Putnam has been nursing an outlandish ambition. He wants inequality of opportunity for kids to be the central issue in the 2016 presidential election. Not how big government should be or what the “fair share” is for the wealthy, but what’s happening to children boxed out of the American dream.

His manifesto, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” will be published Tuesday. It places brain science, sociology and census data alongside stories of children growing up on both sides of the divide. Many of the findings draw on the work of other researchers who have long studied families, education or neuroscience. But Putnam has gathered these strands under a single thesis: that instead of talking about inequality of wealth or income among adults, we ought to focus on inequalities in all of the ways children accumulate — or never touch — opportunity.

The gaps he identifies have been widening on both ends: Better-off families are spending ever-more money on their children. They’re volunteering even more at their schools. Their children are pulling away as Mary Sue falls further behind, and her original mistake was simply, as Putnam puts it, that she chose her parents badly.

“Our Kids” picks up many of the themes from “Bowling Alone,” now 15 years later. That book cautioned that Americans were increasingly withdrawing from each other and civic life. Church attendance was in decline. So was union membership, voter turnout, trust in government and participation in civic groups from the Boy Scouts to bowling leagues. As a result, Putnam argued, Americans were losing the kind of “social capital” that helps us solve big, collective problems (how do we pay for our schools?), as well as small, daily ones (who will watch my child tomorrow?).
The poor children in “Our Kids” are missing so much more than material wealth. They have few mentors. They’re half as likely as wealthy kids to trust their neighbors. The schools they attend offer fewer sports, and they’re less likely to participate in after-school activities. Even their parents have smaller social networks. Their lives reflect the misfortune of the working-class adults around them, who have lost job prospects and financial stability.
Putnam doesn’t dispute that we need to fix families to fix poverty.

But he pairs that with the economic argument more often advanced on the left: that declining real wages and the disappearance of blue-collar jobs have undermined families. That no amount of marriage promotion can repair broken homes when fathers can’t find work, mothers can’t afford day care and the utility bills are past due.

“Bob Putnam’s work helped me understand a key insight,” Ryan says by e-mail. “Poverty isn’t just a form of deprivation; it’s a form of isolation, too.”
- David Korten rightly questions whether corporations need the vast new set of rights promised to them under a new and even more biased set of trade agreements including the TPP. And Frances Russell writes that corporate think tanks have distorted how we talk about our society.

- Meanwhile, George Monbiot comments on the need to start planning to keep fossil fuels in the ground to reduce the damage caused by climate change - including through international agreements:
(T)hroughout the 23 years since the world’s governments decided to begin this process, the delegates have uttered not one coherent word about constraining production.

Compare this to any other treaty-making process. Imagine, for example, that the Biological Weapons Convention made no attempt to restrain the production or possession of weaponised smallpox and anthrax, but only to prohibit their use. How effective do you reckon it would be? (You don’t have to guess: look at the US gun laws, which prohibit the lethal use of guns but not their sale and carriage. You can see the results on the news every week.) Imagine trying to protect elephants and rhinos only by banning the purchase of their tusks and horns, without limiting killing, export or sale. Imagine trying to bring slavery to an end not by stopping the transatlantic trade, but by seeking only to discourage people from buying slaves once they had arrived in the Americas. If you want to discourage a harmful trade, you must address it at both ends: production and consumption. Of the two, production is the most important.

The extraction of fossil fuels is a hard fact. The rules governments have developed to prevent their use are weak, inconsistent and negotiable. In other words, when coal, oil and gas are produced, they will be used. Continued production will overwhelm attempts to restrict consumption. Even if efforts to restrict consumption temporarily succeed, they are likely to be self-defeating. A reduction in demand when supply is unconstrained lowers the price, favouring carbon-intensive industry.
- Dene Moore reports on B.C.'s plan to hand massive quantities of water over to corporate giants for negligible returns.

- Jim Bronskill reports on SIRC's direct acknowledgment that it already lacks the capacity to properly monitor CSIS - even before the Cons distort matters even further through their terror bill. Thomas Walkom rightly notes that the Libs' choice to go along with C-51 for political convenience figures to completely undermine their core messages. And Nora Loreto argues that the public needs to meet extreme legislation with equally strong action.

- Finally, Chantal Hebert writes that the Cons' plan to pull on threads of fear and bigotry can only unravel Canada's social fabric. But I'm not quite sure why she thinks Stephen Harper - he of the desire to make sure people wouldn't recognize Canada by the time he's done with it - would have a problem with that outcome.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Puzzled cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Michal Rozworski reminds us that while a shift toward precarious work may represent an unwanted change from the few decades where labour prospered along with business, it's all too familiar from a historical perspective:
(P)recarity is what it means to have nothing to sell but your labour power, to use Marx’s turn of phrase. Taken in this sense, precarity is wide-spread: today, the bottom 40% of Canadians today own a measly 2% of national wealth and the bottom 60% own just over 10%. The fact of owning relative peanuts gives precarity an important part of its meaning – it’s certainly nicer to live in a rich country, but the “outside option” remains the wage with all its attendant risks.

The fight against precarity is also the foundation of the welfare state. The welfare state provides a social wage in addition to the working wage and thus undermines precarity. Its genesis was an experiment in social compromise. On the one hand, it gave workers greater security – a springboard to potentially fight for more. On the other, it gave elites a tool to manage labour unrest, especially the wave coming out of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the means to incorporate workers into new cycles of accumulation. For now, however, this experiment is sputtering. The last several decades have seen the breakdown of the compromise and, perhaps unsurprisingly, have brought precarity back to the fore, if for now in a more limited sense.
The major transformations we are witnessing are not just (or even primarily) in how work contracts are organized but how work itself is organized – its speed, the way tasks are assigned, how production (whether of goods or services) is managed, and so on. The system of just-in-time production – while still reliant on large-scale investments in some goods sectors but not necessarily so in others or in services – has its own specific, internal precarity: flexible production that at the same time creates and demands flexible workers. Canada, for instance, has seen an increase in the size of its tradable goods and services sectors, particularly tradable services, since the adoption of a series of free-trade agreements, notably NAFTA. This has opened more jobs to international competition and attendant pressures.

There is a concurrent removal of the anchors that characterized the attempts at managed post-war capitalism. You don’t need to become a contract worker to lose your defined benefit pension; it can be bargained away by your boss. In fact, this is what has happened in Canada and elsewhere. Similar things are happening at the level of the state: eligibility for unemployment benefits, for example, has been slashed to the point that less than 40% of the unemployed in Canada currently receive benefits. Both of these increase precarity without necessarily changing the kinds of contract governing employment.

In some ways, the sense of growing precarity seen as a rise of contract and temporary work is an epiphenomenon of renewed attacks on workers’ rights generally. It could also be reflective of what Moody characterizes as a struggle that has not yet recognized and internalized the changing circumstances in which it is fought.
- Meanwhile, Elizabeth Renzetti writes that Canada's climate poses extra difficulties for citizens with mobility issues.

- Andrew Mitrovica slams Stephen Harper as Canada's Chicken Little-in-chief. And Don Lenihan questions whether the Cons' terror gambit is going to accomplish much politically even as it creates a more fearful society.

- Ronald Crelinsten argues that CSIS needs more resources to exercise its current role, not a vast new array of powers it's ill-equipped to use. Malone Mullin wonders about C-51's effect on academic freedom. And Wes Regan calls for MPs to show the courage needed to stand up to the Cons' bullying tactics.

- The Cons' latest step toward pointlessly harsh criminal law hasn't passed without comment either, with Irvin Waller and Michael Kempa along with the Star's editorial board weighing in. But in case anybody was under the illusion that the Cons cared in the slightest about people in the prison system, Patrick White reports on their instructions to argue than an inmate with mental health issues who spent 162 days in solitary confinement was responsible for his own suicide.

- Finally, David Dayen offers a warning about the dangers posed by the increased shipment of oil by rail, while noting that the risks are only getting worse due to lax regulation.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Robert Reich discusses how outsized corporate influence in the U.S. has kept the general public from sharing in any nominal economic improvements:
The U.S. economy is picking up steam but most Americans aren’t feeling it. By contrast, most European economies are still in bad shape, but most Europeans are doing relatively well.

What’s behind this? Two big facts.

First, American corporations exert far more political influence in the United States than their counterparts exert in their own countries.

In fact, most Americans have no influence at all. That’s the conclusion of Professors Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, who analyzed 1,799 policy issues — and found that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

Instead, American lawmakers respond to the demands of wealthy individuals (typically corporate executives and Wall Street moguls) and of big corporations – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns.

The second fact is most big American corporations have no particular allegiance to America. They don’t want Americans to have better wages. Their only allegiance and responsibility to their shareholders — which often requires lower wages  to fuel larger profits and higher share prices.
- And LOLGOP notes that the Republicans remain firmly devoted to making matters even worse.
But Carol Goar writes that in Canada, we're seeing a strong push for a guaranteed annual income which could work wonders in eliminating precarity.

- Karl Nerenberg reports on Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien's concerns about the Cons' terror bill. Dr. Dawg points out disturbing similarities between CSIS' new mandate under C-51 and the FBI's orders to disrupt the U.S. civil rights movement. And Eleanor Bader discusses the FBI's outright control of some leftist groups even after its role in sabotaging civil rights had been exposed.

- Meanwhile, Evan Dyer notes that even the Cons' Australian counterparts were willing to answer a shooting with transparency rather than secrecy and fear - meaning that Stephen Harper's preference for the latter is a matter of choice rather than inevitability. And Laura Stone reports that Canada's top defence officials offered a far more reasonable perspective on the Ottawa shooting than the Cons' - including express recognition that it didn't involve "linkages" to any other activity.

- Finally, Trish Hennessy's latest Index exposes the frequency of violence against women in Canada.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

On component parts

It seems there's plenty of room for interpretation as to where the Cons' terror legislation falls on the spectrum from purely political red meat to help their poll position, to a political liability being pushed through for other reasons.

But most of the Cons' major bills tend to include both. And I'd think it's worth analyzing how the smaller pieces of C-51 can be broken down between the two in assessing exactly what the Cons are trying to accomplish.

In so doing, let's keep in mind that if the Cons' only goal was to be seen introducing legislation of some sort dealing with security issues, any or all of the pieces of C-51 could have been omitted. And let's also note that the Cons' choice of points to emphasize or downplay may also offer some important clues.

Part 1 of C-51 authorizes effectively unlimited sharing of information with any federal government agency involved in national security. From a political standpoint, it's likely neutral at best: while it's possible to build talking points around the value of sharing information, this is the part of the bill which most obviously intrudes on the privacy of every single Canadian, while offering no direct benefit to security.

Which means we should be taking a close look at the substantive effect. On that front, Part 1 enshrines in law the principle that security (as defined by the executive at any particular moment) trumps privacy for all purposes, while providing no apparent public recourse against the newly-created surveillance state. And as we'll see, that genuine preference for an all-knowing, unaccountable security apparatus seems to be the main connecting theme in C-51.

Part 2 sets up a new set of rules surrounding a no-fly list. It hasn't been subject to as much criticism as other parts from a policy perspective, likely due to the fact that it represents a relatively small change from the status quo: while the new bill may theoretically result in more people being facing restrictions, the absence of advance warning and accountability is nothing new, and there's no indication that the existing standards have been noticed by the public either way. So this part may be seen more as policy housekeeping than as a political wedge.

Part 3 includes C-51's amendments to the Criminal Code. But it may be subject to somewhat different analysis than most of the Cons' moves on that front.

We're familiar with what are likely seen as purely political changes to criminal law. And indeed, the Cons are now pushing another in a line of efforts to be seen as "tough" regardless of whether it can be justified from a policy perspective. 

So it might be tempting to examine the new offences under C-51 and figure that they too represent a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. And from the standpoint of actual prosecutions, that theory would hold water: particularly given the constitutional frailty of an offence expressly aimed at communication, I'd be surprised to see many people actually charged with the new offence.

But that doesn't mean the part wouldn't have some massive real-world effects. There's already been plenty of talk about the chill which could result from people fearing that protest or even neutral political commentary could result in charges, as well as the potential for material to be removed from the Internet.

Moreover, in creating an offence based on communication with a relatively low intent threshold, the Cons will make it easy for police and security forces to secure authorization to investigate people based on nothing more than their political activity. And even if that doesn't lead to charges under the new law, it could promote the principle that an individual's association with opposition to the government is grounds for constant investigation.

So I'd see Part 3 as being both a seemingly easy political win, and a sleeper policy change. On its face it fits into the Cons' general narrative of locking people up - but more significantly, it may introduce a decidedly authoritarian slant on both sides of the relationship between the state and dissenters.

Part 4 provides for the broad new powers handed to CSIS. And I can't imagine that the Cons thought the concept of creating a new security service and erasing lines which were quite deliberately drawn to protect Canadians' civil rights would pass without controversy, representing a massive political risk if any opposition materialized.

As a result, I'd consider this to be the part of C-51 which they're most determined to push through for policy reasons.

In the short term, it would provide the ability for CSIS to interfere in politics under the guise of national security. And even in the longer term (when governments of other stripes would enjoy the same potential advantage if they shared the Cons' level of paranoia and self-entitlement), it would represent a basic change in the allocation of Canada's public resources toward secretive security services - with compensating cuts presumably made to areas like regulation and social supports where the Cons are always looking for excuses to draw back.

Finally, Part 5 too fits into the theme of enhancing state control over security proceedings with a concurrent lack of recourse for individuals. In effect, the sole purpose of this part is to stack the deck in favour of the government in security certificate proceedings - both by allowing it to hide the source of information (including that obtained by torture), and by granting the Minister remarkable powers to ignore a trial judge's ruling against it pending appeal without having to satisfy an appeals court that there's even a serious question to be considered.

Based on the above analysis, there actually isn't much in C-51 which figures to be popular on its own: Part 3 is the only piece which fits the Cons' typical political strategy, and none of the bill's details figure to resonate anywhere near as much as the general theme of addressing terrorism.

With that in mind, then, it's well worth noting that instead of limiting themselves to drafting red meat for the base or legislation which fit their talking points, the Cons have chosen to include plenty of controversial provisions with massive real-world implications. And that fact is all the more reason for those of us who oppose the strict-father-state worldview to fight the bill, rather than backing down based on political calculations.

[Edit: fixed typo, wording.]

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Cam Dearlove writes a must-read column on the role of housing in building a healthy society:
For housing advocates and researchers, our nation’s inability to make headway on homelessness and housing instability is not only a moral failure, but also a financial one. Studies have consistently shown a positive return on investing in ending homelessness – one program in Waterloo Region, which combats persistent homelessness, has estimated returns of $9.45 in value for every dollar spent.

Housing for each of us is about so much more than shelter, as the quality and adequacy of housing is a key determinant of health. Crowded housing puts us at greater risk of spreading illness, while environmental issues such as mold can lead to chronic health issues. High housing costs take away from the money that could be spent on other quality of life determinants, such as healthy food, while the stress of unaffordable housing can lead to long-term physical and mental health issues.
The experience of homelessness is particularly damaging to children. Studies show the experience to be traumatic, with major emotional, psy- chological, and physiological impacts, often manifesting in behavioural challenges and poorer outcomes in school. Preventing children from this experience seemed an obvious priority, said Angela Pye, Social Planning Associate with the Region of Waterloo. “We looked at our limited resources and asked: “what could we do that would make a difference upstream?” The Region of Waterloo responded by working with community partners to redesign the local Families in Transition program to include a shelter diversion pilot, where workers intervene early to help families retain their housing or find new housing, all part of a plan to avoid ever reaching a shelter. Sometimes this work requires additional resources to support shelter diversion, such as covering rent or utility arrears.

“It makes sense to support that individual or family, because it’s the right thing to do and aligns with our values as a system – but it’s also cost-effective, as it’s much less expensive to end someone’s experience of homelessness, with costs often borne in other systems,” said Pye.
Today the poor house seems like such an outdated and archaic institution – with the will, and adequate, long-term investments from provincial and federal governments, homeless shelters could be viewed the same way tomorrow.
- Lana Payne discusses the IMF's recognition that unions are essential to combat inequality. Deirdre Fulton reports on the Congressional Progressive Caucus' work to develop trade agreements which benefit the public, not only their corporate sponsors. And Mark Barabak writes that we may soon see a Bernie Sanders candidacy for the U.S. presidency focused on empowering the public rather than the wealthy few.

- Meanwhile, Ros Wynne-Jones points out how a deliberate move toward precarious employment is making it difficult for people to survive in care-related professions.

- Finally, Alan Sears rightly questions the cult of the entrepreneur. But I'll note that the focus on the difference between large and small business may miss an even more important point: there's no reason why new ideas should have to be developed solely by individuals staking their livelihoods on long odds of success, rather than public investment in socially beneficial innovation.