Saturday, September 12, 2015

On practical changes

One of the main attacks on the NDP's election platform has been the question of what support there is for the constitutional change required to abolish the Senate. But it's worth distinguishing between the relatively limited constitutional role actually mandated for the Senate which requires following the constitutional amendment formula, and other past practices and historical expenses which should be subject to change in relatively short order based on existing Senate precedents.

On that front, let's take a closer look at Kady O'Malley's criticism of Thomas Mulcair:
(F)or the time being – and, most likely, at least, the short to medium-term political future – the Senate will continue to exist. As the Supreme Court has made supremely clear, changing that reality via abolition would require the unanimous consent of the provinces, which has thus far appeared elusive
That means it will continue to have a role in the legislative process, no matter how many baleful glances an incoming NDP government might aim in its general direction.

Contrary to Mulcair’s comments this week, that role is not, in fact, to simply sit quietly and wait for the House of Commons to send over a stack of bills for automatic approval, but to review – and, if it should see fit, amend, and in some instances, vote down – legislation, including, but not limited to, proposals put forward under the aegis of a duly elected government.

On the most basic level, that necessitates, at the very least, the designation by the government of a senator to do precisely that: introduce bills that have been passed by the House of Commons — a role traditionally undertaken by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the post that Mulcair has now pledged not to fill.

Without at least one sitting senator — newly appointed, or recruited from the current selection — to serve the emissary of the executive, bills duly passed by the House of Commons would simply pile up outside the Chamber like so much undeliverable mail.

Once those bills were added to the Senate to-do list, of course, it would be left to the occupants to decide how – and when – to proceed with government business, which is typically shepherded through the pipeline by the Senate government leader.

In the absence of such a taskmaster, it’s not clear who, precisely, would set the daily schedule.
It's true that the post of Leader of the Government has historically existed and has been incorporated into current Senate rules and practices, with one of the responsibilities including the management of the government's agenda. But unlike the bare existence of the Senate, those rules and practices are subject to change without any necessity of getting into discussion of the constitution.

Moreover, there's ample precedent for legislation being considered by the Senate in the absence of a formal connection (partisan or otherwise) between the bill's sponsors in the House of Commons and the Senate. Bills introduced by NDP, Green, Bloc or independent MPs who lack a partisan link to the Senate which pass in the House are already regularly brought before the upper chamber and dealt with in accordance with its standard legislative review process.

To date, that's generally been the result of senators agreeing to sponsor individual bills on a one-off basis. But when the track record suggests that the Senate customarily doesn't stand in the way of at least reviewing legislation duly passed by the House, there's no reason to think the upper chamber will suddenly see itself as having the right to systematically ignore legislation passed by elected representatives when it reflects a government's agenda rather than private members' bills.

It could be that a process to ensure that an NDP government's bills proceed will be the result of one Senator volunteering to serve as a primary liaison for the executive without seeking the title (and added pay/expense) that comes with the formal Leader of the Government post. Or it could be that government bills would be introduced and managed through some other system - which could involve agreement between the NDP and one or more Senators, or simply an institutional choice among Senators themselves. But the most likely outcome of the NDP's plan would be for the Senate to recognize its responsibility to facilitate the passage of government legislation - as has happened in the past when an opposition party has retained a majority in the Senate, and thus the theoretical ability to obstruct the elected government's agenda.

That said, it's fair enough to note that if all of the current Senators adopt the position that they're unwilling to work with the NDP (or indeed any government), then something would need to be done to move government legislation through the upper chamber. At that point, Mulcair would have two key options.

First, he could break at least part of the logjam with his own appointments in response to that radical change from the Senate itself. But note that any plan to appoint new senators in the near future would itself fall short of giving the NDP enough votes to actually pass legislation if the remaining Cons and Libs insist on obstructing.

Alternatively, he could highlight the obstruction of unelected Senators to rally support for abolition. And if unelected Con and Lib Senators alike consider themselves entitled to prevent an elected government from doing its job in numbers sufficient to prevent Mulcair from passing any legislation, then the case for constitutional change will become much more compelling even to the premiers who might have their own political reasons to reject it when that conflict doesn't yet exist.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Thomas Walkom discusses how Canadian workers are feeling the pain of decades of policy designed to suppress wages - and notes there's plenty more all parties should be doing to change that reality. And Doug Saunders points out what we should want our next federal government to pursue to bring about lasting growth:
Many economists came to realize not only that government intervention bailed many countries out of the post-2008 recession and restored growth and employment, but that the crisis itself may have been caused, in good part, by the disappearance of active government support in the economy – the sort of direct investment and partnership that had existed in earlier decades.
Economists began noticing that the great economic boom of the 1990s and 2000s had been a direct product of targeted state investments in specific companies and sectors. The Italian economist Mariana Mazzucato, in her influential book The Entrepreneurial State, chronicled the emergence of the iPhone as a direct product of Washington’s large-scale investments in Silicon Valley – not just through state spending on technology products and tax incentives to high-tech industry, but through the specific choice of Apple, in the 1970s and 1980s, as a company Washington would invest in (though small-business investments that put $2 into Apple for every dollar of private investment). Intel and Compaq were also targets of this active state investment, much as Elon Musk’s Tesla electric-car company is today.

Dr. Mazzucato, in an interview from her University of Sussex office, describes the heavily funded state banks that have allowed Germany, China and the United States to build globally competitive companies – and notes that Canada, despite having earned a fortune in petroleum revenues in the past 15 years that could have created a similar major institution, has nothing substantial of the sort, nor any proposal to create one.

“Canada is interesting,” she said. “It is one of the most skewed countries, not only in terms of sectors – lots of emphasis on the extractive stuff – but also in terms of instruments: It’s very, very indirect. It does most of its government investment through tax incentives. Compare that to the United States or China or Germany, where it’s all direct: If they want to do something, they do it. They directly finance a sector or the most innovative companies, and they create grants or guaranteed loans to do it, not an indirect tax credit. And on top of that, these Canadian investments are not so mission-oriented: At best, there’s a list of sectors to be supported indirectly, but no targeting of specific companies or industries. And then they get surprised when they’re not on the top any more in any of the big innovations.”
- Andrew Coyne rightly argues that we shouldn't spend so much of an election campaign attacking past personal statements from candidates, while noting that part of the problem lies in the vetting authority that's been taken over by the parties' leaders.

- Meanwhile, Kevin Grandia highlights Cheryl Gallant's climate change denialism as a symptom of the Cons' real unfitness for office. And Donald Gutstein comments on Doug Black's role as an oil lobbyist within the Senate.

- Tabatha Southey writes that the Cons are offering nothing but fear, uncertainty and doubt for voters, while Sandy Garossino weighs on that message as it applies to refugees in particular. And Terry Glavin zeroes in on how that strategy involves ignoring the plain facts even of high-profile events such as the tragic deaths in the Kurdi family.

- Finally, Parker Donham sets out why Canada can't afford any more of Stephen Harper. And Fram Dimshaw reports that the veterans who once served as Harper's political cover are joining the cause in demanding more responsible government.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Musical interlude

Arctic Monkeys - Do I Wanna Know?

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jordan Brennan details (and expands on) how corporate tax cuts have served solely to further enrich the people and businesses who already had the most:
(F)ar from improving economic outcomes, there is evidence to suggest that corporate income tax reductions depressed Canadian GDP growth. I present a detailed explanation of why that's the case in a forthcoming study to be published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Given the election debate around raising the CIT rate, I thought it worthwhile to summarize my findings.

In my study I contrast three Canadian corporate income tax rates -- the effective federal CIT rate, the combined Canadian statutory CIT rate, and the weighted average effective rate on the top 60 Canadian-based firms -- with five growth variables: investment in fixed assets, employment, GDP per capita, labour compensation and productivity. Based on the findings, I conclude that there is no empirical or statistically significant relationship between CIT regime and growth. Business investment is a key determinant of GDP growth, employment and labour compensation, but over the long-term it is unresponsive to changes in the statutory or effective CIT rate.
Canadian CIT rate reductions not only failed to lead to faster growth, there is evidence to suggest that CIT rate reductions contributed to slower growth. By reducing CIT rates, Canadian governments contributed to the increased income position of large firms. Instead of investing their enlarged earnings into growth-expanding industrial projects, Canada's corporate sector -- especially its largest firms -- have increasingly stockpiled cash on their balance sheet. This "dead money," as former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney called it, is one ingredient in the heightened stagnation of recent times.

As the leading firms claim a larger share of national income through enhanced size and market power, their capacity to stockpile cash increases. By hoarding cash these firms stabilize dividend payments, thus reducing risk, and this leaves them with more liquidity for acquisition activities and to hedge against market downturn. One consequence of the stockpiling of cash, then, is that a smaller share of national income is deployed to expand employment and industrial capacity.
- Andrew Perez wonders whether Canadians will wind up voting strategically, while noting that it would be for the best if we can move past it (which, fortunately, is an option). And it's worth noting that the seemingly large pool of Canadians inclined mostly to vote for change in the identity of the Prime Minister should improve the chances of bringing at least that much about due to likelihood that late deciders will reach relatively similar conclusions as to the best option based on their observations of the same campaign.

- But then, as Jamey Heath points out, we should be demanding more than the same policies with different branding - making the NDP the better choice as a matter of principle as well as strategy.

- Jorge Barrera reports on the revelation (pointed out by Robert Jago) that the Cons saw the federal government's apology for residential schools as an "attempt to kill the story" rather than a means of rather than an actual expression of contrition. And Faisal Kutty calls out the Cons' Muslim-bashing.

- Finally, Michael Harris writes that the Cons have finally and permanently lost any benefit of the doubt from the Canadian public. And Antonio Zerbisias concludes that the refugee crisis has exposed the compassion gap between the Cons and Canadians, while Tim Harper is the latest to weigh in on Stephen Harper's crumbling campaign.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Trampling the message

So apparently the Harper Cons are panicking mid-campaign and throwing out years of preparation to bring in an Australian consultant to better pitch their messages of the importance of familiarity and the dangers of changing horses mid-stream.

Stay tuned for their new ad in which Stephen Harper takes up bullfighting while warning against unnecessary risks.

New column day

Here, pointing out that if the Harper Cons have little idea what they're doing in Canada's federal election, it isn't for lack of advantages over their opponents in planning out a campaign.

For further reading...
- Alice Funke offers a thorough look at the new strategic challenges facing all of Canada's major political parties. 
- Michael Den Tandt, David Krayden, and Andrew Coyne are among the many commentators noting that something is off with Harper and company. And Jennifer Ditchburn reports that it isn't only outside observers detecting serious problems with the Cons' campaign operations.
- Dan Leger and John Doyle each discuss how the refugee crisis in particular has exposed the Cons' utter lack of compassion - though it's worth noting that the party's position was deteriorating long before the subject was brought to the forefront of public discussion. Daphne Bramham notes that the bluster in response to a humanitarian tragedy is utterly out of touch with the Canadian public. And Murray Mandryk points out that the Cons' callousness extends to a wide range of issues.
- Finally, Lorne wonders whether there's a method to the Cons' madness, while Warren Kinsella is the rare pundit minimizing the significance of their difficulties. And Paul Wells theorizes that Stephen Harper might simply be trying to cut the Cons' losses for a new leader.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Robert Reich argues that the spread of inequality and corporate abuses is the result of deteriorating public morality and the expectation that self-interest will override any social goals:
At a time many Republican presidential candidates and state legislators are furiously focusing on private morality – what people do in their bedrooms, contraception, abortion, gay marriage – America is experiencing a far more significant crisis in public morality.

CEOs of large corporations now earn 300 times the wages of average workers. Insider trading is endemic on Wall Street, where hedge-fund and private-equity moguls are taking home hundreds of millions.

A handful of extraordinarily wealthy people are investing unprecedented sums in the upcoming election, seeking to rig the economy for their benefit even more than it’s already rigged.

Yet the wages of average working people continue to languish as jobs are off-shored or off-loaded onto “independent contractors.”
Public morality can’t be legislated but it can be encouraged. 
None of this is possible without a broadly based citizen movement to rescue our democracy, take back our economy, and restore a minimal standard of public morality.

America’s problems have nothing to do with what happens [in] bedrooms, or whether women are allowed to end their pregnancies.

Our problems have everything to do with what occurs in boardrooms, and whether corporations and wealthy individuals are allowed to undermine our democracy.
- Randeep Ramesh reports on Sir Michael Marmot's findings about the devastating effects of inequality - with upwards of 200,000 people dying in the UK every year as a result, and life spans being reduced by seven to eight years.

- Bertrand Marotte reports on the latest study showing half of all Canadian workers are living paycheque to paycheque. Duncan Cameron asks what Canada's next government will do to reverse the effects of another Harper recession. And the CCPA's latest Monitor offers plenty of worthwhile material on the election and beyond.

- Noam Scheiber notes that there's at least one step workers can take that's wholly within their control to chart a better future by pointing out the connection between unionization rates and social advancement.

- Finally, Carey Doberstein and Alison Smith write about the stagnation of housing in Canada while the Cons have been at the helm.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

On historical connections

Needless to say, we have ample reason to laugh at Justin Trudeau's attempt to cast himself as bearing any similarity to Tommy Douglas when it comes to social justice and economic management. But it may not be long before one significant link develops between the two.

Based on a quick scan, the 1962 federal election looks to have been the last time a major party leader managed to retain that position while losing his own riding: Douglas lost in Regina City in the NDP's first federal election, before winning a seat in Parliament in a Burnaby-Coquitlam by-election.

Well, Trudeau enjoys plenty of support within his own party to stay on as leader even if he loses the election. But he may be in tough to hold onto his own riding of Papineau.

Which raises the question: who's in line to be Canada's next Erhart Regier?

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Ian Welsh discusses how our problems with poverty and inequality arise out of artificial scarcity:
We either already have excess capacity or we have the ability to create more than people need of all necessities.

This includes housing, food and clothing.  We still have enough water, globally, if we are wiling to be smart about how we use it, and in those areas where there are geographical problems they can be solved, in general IF we are willing to be a bit flexible in how we grow our food.
We are also short of security.  This is another artificial shortage, though harder to fix.  But most countries which have been destroyed recently were destroyed in large part because of outside intervention: whether Western, Eastern or Jihadi.  We are in a cycle of blowback after blowback, with the first step being to stop doing things that will cause devastation.

Education is unequally spread throughout the world, but this is another problem which is solveable: we have the books, which cost cents to reproduce, the telecom networks are almost everywhere, and we can train the teachers. If we wanted to spend more money on teachers and less on finance, we wouldn’t have a problem.
Oh, and the shortage of spare time for so many; with the shortage of work for others?  Completely socially constructed.  We are doing too much of the wrong kinds of work, and too little of the right kinds of work, and those choices are also social.

Scarcity in the end goods humans need most is almost always, in the modern world, artificial: a social choice.
- Thomas Kochan writes about the importance of a new living wage norm in ensuring a more fair economy, while recognizing that any change will need time to take effect. And the International Labour Organization studies the connection between inequality, economic stagnation and a reduced labour share of income.

- Jeff Sallot rightly points out that blowing things (and people) up is not a solution to a humanitarian crisis. And Mitchell Anderson writes that one of the main factors exacerbating the refugee crisis in the Middle East is climate change which the Cons refuse to try to fight.

- Michael Plaxton examines the caretaker convention which is supposed to limit the exercise of power by a government whose support can't be demonstrated. And Kady O'Malley rightly challenges the spin that "most seats" is the only relevant question in determining which leader gets a chance to form government. But Leonid Sirota wonders whether agreement among the leaders who are in a position to seek the confidence of the House of Commons might itself change the conventions as they stand.

- Finally, Warren Bell reminds us of Robocon as another scandal which should ensure people are motivated to vote out the Harper Cons. And of course, that abuse of democracy is particularly important given the likelihood that Harper and company will try to cheat in yet another election.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Nuzzling cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Michael Hurley and Sam Gindin discuss the need for workers to organize to reverse the trend of precarious work, while the Star recognizes that the work is already well underway. PressProgress highlights the benefits of joining a union, while Tom Sandborn offers a to-do list for people looking to ensure fairness for all workers. And Haseena Manek points out the need to rebuild in the wake of longtime attacks on the labour movement by the Cons and other governments.

- Shawn McCarthy highlights the NDP's promise for far stronger action to rein in climate change than the Cons or the Libs are willing to propose.

- Dave Squires reports on the work being done to ensure that marginalized voters are able to cast ballots despite the Cons' best efforts, while Elections Canada's voter registration checkup allows people to make sure they're registered at their current address. And Colin Perkel notes that at least some of the Canadian voters living abroad who seemed to have been disenfranchised by the Cons are finding a way to participate - so long as they have the spare time and money to vote in person.

- David Climenhaga documents the Cons' long history of contempt for refugees. And Nora Loreto rejects the Cons' spin that what people fleeing war zones really need is for us to drop more bombs.

- Finally, Michael Harris sees the Cons' treatment of Canada's veterans as the ultimate signal of their complete lack of compassion.


On the one hand, there's what Canadian voters actually want...
(N)early 60 per cent of respondents support the idea of two or more parties forming a coalition government, if no party gains a majority of seats in October’s election.
And this:
By a margin of almost two-to-one, the voters of today would send Mr. Harper packing in favour of a coalition.
And this:
More than two-thirds of Liberal and NDP supporters favour the idea of the parties forming a coalition in the event of a Conservative minority in the Oct. 19 election, according to a new poll by Forum Research.
Of Liberal supporters surveyed, 68 per cent support a coalition, while 75 per cent of NDPers favour the idea –– about half of all Canadian voters.
And on the other hand, there's what Justin Trudeau is pretending we want:
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says his party is always open to working with other parties on passing legislation, but he believes Canadians aren't looking for coalition government at this point.

When asked about the possibility of joining forces with the New Democrats to take power from the Conservatives, Trudeau said on Tuesday that "Canadians aren't interested in formal coalitions."
No word yet on what two-thirds of his own party's supporters should be considered if not "Canadians". But if Trudeau is going this far out of his way to mislead people as to what they want from their parties now, we have all the more reason to doubt that he'll be any more accurate or honest if he gets to decide who governs in a minority Parliament.

Monday, September 07, 2015

On settled issues

As Dan Gardner points out, Stephen Harper is continuing to misrepresent the nature of Canada's system of government. But he's nonetheless made a noteworthy concession in doing so:

SH: Yeah that's my – that's I think how conventionally our system works and for good reason and that's – that's my position. Obviously our view is we're going to win and we're going to win strong. Ah but ah my position has always been if we win the most seats I will expect to form the government and if we don't, I won't.


SH: No. No.


SH: Yeah. Well I would not serve as prime minister. No I think you – you have to have the most seats in Parliament to go to the governor general and that's – you know, in this country in our system, we have what's called a Westminster style system, um and we don't – we don't, you know, elect a bunch of parties who then as in some countries, get together and decide who will – who will govern. We ask people to make a choice of a government. And so I think that the party that wins the most seats should form the government.
Now, the Cons have a history of turning their campaign promises into something far short of enforceable commitments once it counts. And so I'd still be concerned about the prospect of Harper trying to move the goalposts if it suits his interests.

But Harper seems to have conceded publicly that the range of interpretations as to what happens if no party holds a majority involves only a contest as to the relative importance of the ability to win a majority in the House of Commons as compared to a party's claim to a plurality of seats - suggesting that he at least isn't willing to defend the other mechanisms he could use to cling to power no matter how resounding an election defeat his party faces. And while it hopefully won't be necessary to point back to that acknowledgement, Harper's public position now should make it clear to the Governor General and the public that Harper would have no legitimacy whatsoever if he tries to reverse course later.

On changed messages

Paul Wells highlights the major change from the Cons' messaging in 2011 compared to today, as the party which spent years doing nothing about obsessing over (and demonizing) the possibility of a coalition has suddenly gone mum except in front of the most partisan of crowds. But it's worth noting that there's another factor beyond those mentioned by Wells which might explain the change - and it involves the message backfiring to some extent the first time it was used.

Wells notes - as confirmed by the polling set out here - that even at worst, roughly half of the Canadian public supported the prospect of a coalition to oust the Harper Cons. And that held true through the 2011 election campaign - even though the governing party was using all of its resources to attack the idea, the apparent default alternative did everything in its power to repudiate any cooperation, and the only strong defence of a coaltion came from a party broadly perceived as an afterthought.

By the end of the campaign, of course, the NDP was seen rather differently. And its success in convincing voters that a willingness to cooperate represented change for the better (rather than some abomination against the inherent nature of politics) forced at least some observers to recognize that discussing a coalition wasn't so toxic after all. 

Unfortunately, the Libs still haven't learned their lesson. But if the Cons are no longer pretending it's a winner for them, that's probably an admission worth noting - and it likely signals an opportunity worth taking not only for the opposition parties, but also for voters primarily concerned with replacing Harper.

On choosing one's goals

If Justin Trudeau wants to set this up as the the measure of his campaign's success...
"I look forward to support from labour unions across the country."
...I for one don't see much reason to argue.

But can we also agree with the natural conclusion that if Trudeau can't in fact point to support from unions as the election approaches, then he's failed in his campaign?

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Labour Day reading.

- Keith Doucette reports on Hassan Yussuff's efforts to highlight the continued importance of the labour movement in ensuring a more fair society for everybody. And Josh Bivens and Lawrence Mishel study the disconnect between growing productivity and stagnant wages, reaching the conclusion that workers' loss of bargaining power represents one of the two main factors.

- David Friend writes about the spread of precarious work in Canada. And Douglas Todd comments on the need to adapt to the replacement of a large number of existing jobs with automated labour, including by implementing a basic income which ensures everybody shares in improved productivity.

- Dean Beeby reports on how Canada is falling behind the rest of the world on all kinds of women's issues including pay equality.

- Gaja Maestri reviews Danny Dorling's latest book on the persistence of social inequality. The Star highlights the need to treat inequality as a major issue in Canada's federal election campaign. And Kev points out that poverty and inequality are choices resulting from our willingness to let the already-privileged warp our political and social structures for their own benefit.

- Finally, Joseph Stiglitz highlights the problem when central bankers let implausible concerns about inflation derail any shared prosperity. And Jordan Brennan writes that Canada's current recession and ongoing lack of growth demonstrate the need for a change from the Cons' corporatist policy choices:
Canadians have thus been given ample reason to reconsider the traditional assumption that Conservatives naturally have the best economic credentials. And the problem is much bigger than the present downturn in GDP. In fact, the longer-run economic legacy of the Harper Conservatives has been marked by stagnation, imbalance and inequality. Over nine long years, the core of the Harper government's economic strategy has been to accelerate a broader shift to a business-led model of economic development. This strategy included multiple elements. Cutting corporate income taxes was supposed to incentivize business investment and job creation. Signing so-called free trade deals would improve competitiveness and enhance export growth. Reducing regulations would lessen compliance costs for business and leave them free to police themselves. And by giving labour unions a good kick now and then, workers would surely learn not to ask for too much in the way of compensation and job security.

Six years into an inconsistent recovery from the Great Recession of 2008-09, Canada's slide into yet another downturn suggests that this business-led approach to economic development has failed.
The business-led vision which has been at the core of the Harper government's economic strategy has failed to deliver its promised trickle-down prosperity. Our problem is bigger than the current recession. If Canada is ever going to emerge from the prolonged stagnation which has kept us back from reaching our economic and social potential, an alternative approach to economic development is required. Policies which genuinely stimulate investment (both public and private) and job creation, and which foster participation, innovation, and productivity, are needed to help return Canada to a path of national prosperity. Just don't expect the Harper Conservatives to lead us there.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

On anticipated departures

With Canada's federal election still a month and a half away, it's obviously too early to be concluding that it will end the career of any of our current political leaders. (And we should keep that in mind given that far too much commentary treats the question of whether leaders will hold onto their jobs as a major point of speculation.)

But Ipsos-Reid's poll as to what Canadians want to see happen following the election does offer one noteworthy point of divergence:
If Stephen Harper and the Conservatives don’t win the most seats, 66% of all voters agree (40% strongly/26% somewhat) that Harper should resign as party leader, while 34% disagree (10% strongly/24% somewhat). Among Tory voters, 37% agree (12% strongly/24% somewhat) he should resign as party leader under this scenario, while 63% disagree (24% strongly/39% somewhat) and think he should stay on even if he’s no longer Prime Minister.
What makes that finding particularly noteworthy is the gap we've seen between the Harper Cons and the public's electoral choices before, and how Harper has gone all-in to ignore the latter where he sees any opportunity at all to cling to power.

The Ipsos-Reid poll then hints at yet another way Harper might seek to extend his stay on the political scene. Even if another party or combination thereof manages to form government, he might well want to stay around to pounce on any instability in that government. And while the Canadian public isn't particularly on board with that possibility, Harper's party seems to be.

As a result, we have yet another reason not to be satisfied with an election which leaves room for interpretation or spin. To the extent Harper won't listen to anybody outside of his own hand-crafted bubble, we can't expect to be rid of him unless an election result is so resounding that the people who were willing to hold Canada hostage to keep him in office see no choice but to give in.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Louise Arbour's interview with The House includes both her compelling criticisms of both the Cons' terror bill, and the Libs' failure to stand up against C-51. And the Canadian Press reports on Justin Trudeau's continued fecklessness, as he won't even take a position on whether the bill is constitutional after having ordered his party to support it.

- Crawford Kilian writes that while it's too late to atone for the death of Alan Kurdi, we should have no hesitation in making sure the same doesn't happen to other people we can help. Doug Saunders highlights three mistakes we're too prone to make in answering the needs of refugees. And Susan Delacourt rightly notes that voters can be more than spectators in ensuring that refugees find a home.

- But of course, it's also worth looking back to see how the current crisis came to pass. On that front, Lee Berthiaume reports that it was the Cons who passed the rule which they now point to as an excuse for denying entry to Kurdi's relatives (and which continues to operate as a barrier to Syrian refugees). Bruce Johnstone points out that the refugee crisis merely reflects the Cons' general dearth of will to assist anybody and a lack of competence, while Martin Lukacs writes that Kurdi's case is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the damage the Cons have done.

- Elly Alboim notes that the refugee crisis represents a clear test as to whether our political parties are willing and able to respond to important new events in the course of a campaign. Chantal Hebert points out that the Cons aren't the least bit interested in learning from their mistakes, or indeed deviating a word from their existing anti-humanitarian script. And Robin Sears sees that line of attack as the epitome of heartless and mindless message control at the expense of people's lives.

- Finally, Andrew Coyne reminds us that there are many questions as to what will happen in the aftermath of an election result which leaves any room for interpretation - which should serve as motivation to make sure Stephen Harper has absolutely no argument to remain in power.

On the rule of law

It's for the best that the Cons' use of secret orders-in-council is drawing some further attention. But the problem goes further than the Libs' response seems to suggest - even if it's obvious why they're pretending otherwise.

Here's the Libs' complaint about secret laws:
Dion likened the secret OICs to omnibus bills — another legal procedure which he said has been abused by the Harper government.
While he said a Liberal government would overhaul Canada’s access to information law — applying it to the prime minister’s office and ministers’ offices — Dion would not say what the Liberals would do about the 25 secret or unpublished orders-in-council that iPolitics discovered have been adopted by the Conservatives.
But there's an obvious contrast to be drawn between laws which are rammed through Parliament but at least subject to some meaningful public scrutiny, and those which are applied without even being known to the people bound by them. And as it happens, we can point to a recent example of exactly that distinction, as Craig Forcese and Kent Roach recognized the fact that C-51 did receive Parliamentary scrutiny...
First, we applaud the overarching fact that security issues in Canada continue to be addressed by law, and not through use of extrajudicial government power. Not so long ago, this would have been a peculiar thing to acknowledge. But in light of developments elsewhere in the world —such as the post-9/11 United States, where many anti-terror measures have not been specifically authorized by democratically enacted legislation—it is an important aspect to note. Whatever else may be said about Bill C-51, its provisions are all laid out in black and white for pundits and opposition politicians to scrutinize.
...while rightly criticizing the reality that once passed, it would set up a new legal regime which wouldn't even be subject to public awareness, let alone any prospect of a legal challenge:
When the RCMP breaks the law in the course of a police investigation designed, ideally, to result in criminal charges, that behaviour will be tested in open court. When the system works as intended, everything comes to light, and police misconduct scuttles prosecutions.

CSIS, however, faces no such prospect. Its activities come to light only when something goes seriously wrong, or when its investigations morph into criminal processes led by the RCMP.
In effect, Dion and the Libs are trying to treat secret orders-in-council as falling into the first category dealing with the adequacy of parliamentary debate and knowledge. But in fact, they're properly classified under the much-more-worrisome second one, as they involve the exercise of unknown and unaccountable authority which was never subject to the possibility of debate or knowledge in the first place.

That attempt to muddy the waters might make sense strategically in light of the Libs' acquiescence in the abuses provided for by Bill C-51: having complained about omnibus bills but not extrajudicial authority in the past, the Libs might see that line of argument fitting better into their existing themes. But it should serve as a red flag for voters who actually recognize a problem with governments claiming secret inherent powers for which they can never be held to account.