Saturday, October 26, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- George Monbiot makes the case for popular sovereignty mechanisms to supplement systems of representative government which fail to reflect the will of the people. And Ian Bremmer reports on Chile's mass protest seeking a public voice to end economic unfairness.  

- Katrina Miller notes that Canadian voters looking to solve affordability concerns prefer progressive solutions. Ilya Banares reports on new polling showing that a strong majority of voters who would rather see cooperation between the Libs and NDP than watch Justin Trudeau implement Conservative policies, while Rick Salutin points out the agreement on broad principles among two-third of voters. And Andrew Nikiforuk writes about the need for more cooperative politics if we're to have any hope of transitioning toward a sustainable society.

- Zane Schwartz reports on one interesting bit of discussion about worthwhile public investments, as the Canada Infrastructure Bank (flawed though it is) has been examining the possibility of a national public utility for telecommunications.

- Lisa Johnson examines the utter implausibility of the UCP's claim that its giveaways to big corporations will result in anything but the further accumulation of wealth by people who already have more than they need. And Hannah Kost reports on Naheed Nenshi's reply to an Alberta budget positively calculated to maximize the pain caused to people and public institutions alike.

- Finally, Taylor Kubota points out new research confirming the problems with carbon capture as anything but an excuse to avoid transitioning away from fossil fuels. Fatima Syed reports on Saskatchewan's indoctrination of students with oil industry propaganda while ostensibly teaching about climate change. And Dennis Gruending highlights how Scott Moe and Jason Kenney are speaking only for the oil sector - rather than for their constituents or the public good - in their climate denialism and gaslighting.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Musical interlude

Pale Waves - There's A Honey

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Robert Frank reports on the latest galling threshold in wealth inequality, as millionaires consisting of less than 1% of the population now control effectively half of the wealth on Earth. And Steven Greenhouse asks why actual workers aren't being included in talks about the future of work and the economy.

- Neil Macdonald warns Justin Trudeau that he can't keep substituting evasion for meaningful answers and conversations about his poor decisions. And Andrew Jackson is rightfully aghast at the Libs' choice to prioritize tax cuts over anything which might actually help Canadians:
The major reason to not support this tax cut is that it is costly since a small cut is spread across so many people. Annual federal government revenues will fall by about $6 Billion per year, a significant chunk of change which will increase each year as and when the economy grows. Moreover, the federal government’s fiscal base is likely to be ratcheted down in perpetuity since it is unlikely that any party will propose a future across the board increase in personal income taxes.

Most progressives would prefer the Liberals to abandon their tax cut, and use it to fund other priorities such as investment in affordable housing, clean and renewable energy, public transit, public health care, child care, or post secondary education. $6 Billion added to seriously inadequate Liberal promises to fund a national pharmacare program would be sufficient to make the promise a reality.

The opposition parties in Parliament, the Conservatives aside, would likely agree. But the Prime Minister seems to have already made up his mind.

Call me a cynic, but this looks like yet another case of the Liberals campaigning from the left, and governing from the right. After just two days!
- Linda McQuaig notes that Jason Kenney is trying to crush the climate concerns of two thirds of Canada (not to mention the well-being of our living environment) in the name of a fabricated threat to unity. And Aaron Wherry notes that it's the Cons who have an obvious reason to revisit their functional denialism in light of this week's election.

- Andrew Coyne offers a reminder how first-past-the-post turns elections into high-stakes bets for unaccountable power, rather than meaningful opportunities to discuss policy choices. And David Kilgour writes that this week's results in particular demonstrate how Canadians would be better represented under a proportional system.

- Finally, Michal Rozworski comments on both the missed opportunities to move our political discussion further toward social and climate justice before election day, and the prospect of building the needed movement now that our political leaders face a minority Parliament.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Klaus Schwab comments on the importance of making decisions with far more of a long-term focus, rather paying attention only to short-term dollar calculations:
(W)e should develop scorecards to track our performance on these long-term priorities. To that end, I have three suggestions. First, we need to rethink GDP as our “key performance indicator” in economic policymaking. Second, we should embrace independent tracking tools for assessing progress under the Paris agreement and the SDGs. Third, we must implement “stakeholder capitalism” by introducing an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scorecard for businesses.
Adopting these three scorecards – new global growth metrics, a climate tracker, and a measure of ESG – would go a long way toward addressing the world’s greatest long-term challenges. It would also help us alleviate today’s economic crises and avoid future ones, by demonstrating to a disgruntled public that political and business leaders really are working for everyone’s interests, and not just their own. I invite every stakeholder in the global economy to join in these efforts to end the era of short-termism.
- Karl Nerenberg suggests that the Libs should be willing to work with the NDP and the Greens in a collaborative government. And Paul Wells argues that it's time to prove that it's possible for our politics to be better than we're currently being forced to accept.

- Elizabeth Renzetti writes that this week's federal election result only increases the desperate need for a proportional electoral system. And David Beers discusses the continued fallout from Justin Trudeau's broken promise to implement one.

- Finally, Sarath Peiris rightly criticizes Scott Moe for stoking separatism and ignorance. And
Murray Mandryk writes that Moe's temper tantrum about the federal election results is the last thing Saskatchewan needs.

On legacies

For all the campaign talk about how this year's election campaign could have proven a parallel of the 1972 result, we've instead ended up seeing Justin Trudeau repudiate his father's response to another contentious result.

When he won a majority government in 1980 which lacked representation from the western provinces, Pierre Trudeau - to his credit - made an effort to seek cooperation from MPs in the region on a specific means to remedy the problem.

Faced with a regional wipeout along with the potential instability of a minority Parliament, Justin is instead responding by rejecting any form of structural cooperation whatsoever.

Instead, he's insisting that the same platform which underpinned his party's prairie losses is somehow a response to their cause - while planning to try to govern through perpetual games of chicken in Parliament like his most recent Liberal prime ministerial predecessor. And any outreach to the areas lacking representation is being limited to closed-door political maneuvering which figures to be as ineffective as it is cynical.

That sets up a thoroughly unflattering comparison between Justin and his father. And it certainly won't do anything to make the Trudeau name any less toxic for many.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your election day reading.

- Jagmeet Singh makes his case for Canadians to vote for what we believe in. Don Martin discusses how Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer have hurt their own causes as well as each others' by focusing on negative messages. And Nora Loreto discusses the need for traditional political parties to reinvent themselves to speak to and for people rather than merely reciting focus-tested talking points at them.

- Herman Rosenfeld discusses how free public transit is an essential element of any effective Green New Deal. And Angela Carter, Truzaar Dordi and Yonatan Strauch write that the federal election represents a crossroads for Canada's energy future (save for the incumbent trying to go in all directions at once).

- Katherine Scott examines what the federal parties have on offer to fight against poverty. Karl Nerenberg assesses their respective plans to address inequality. And the Tyee offers election readers on issues including pharmacare and dental care and electoral reform,

- Finally, Nav Persaud and Danielle Martin write about the cruel experiment being performed on Canadians who can't afford necessary medications - and the need for a universal pharmacare system to make sure nobody faces that predicament.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Canada 2019 - Election Notes

With Canadians going to the polls tomorrow, I'll offer a few thoughts on what to watch for on election day and beyond in a campaign whose early stability seems to have given way to some late shifts. 

First, a minority Parliament seems likely. But of all the predictions and expectations which can go awry based on unexpected late-campaign movement, few are more precarious than the balancing act required to create a minority situation. And 2015 offers a recent precedent where a seemingly close race turned into an unexpected majority.

By the same token, the seat projections which have shown effective ties for first and third place based on median expectations shouldn't be seen to make those into particularly likely outcomes in any event. The end of the campaign matters in ways which won't have been caught by earlier polling, and the default expectation should be that they'll be off somewhat (even if we can only make the most educated guesses possible as to how, with Frank Graves for one already reporting that a Lib majority might be in sight).

Second, if a minority does result from the vote, the next crucial question will be which party or parties hold the balance of power - or which might instead be dismissed as unworthy of any say due to being just short of the mark. (See Paul Martin, 2004.)

There, the most important swing factor is one which has received relatively little attention in mainstream coverage, even if it seems to be the subject of plenty of individual-level interest.

The Bloc has undoubtedly regained strength in Quebec compared to the previous two election cycles, with some models hinting at prospects of winning half the province's seats or more. But the NDP has pushed its way upward in the polls at the end of the campaign as it challenges the Bloc directly for the support of progressive voters.

That matters in two key ways: a relatively small shift may be decisive in Quebec seats with multi-party splits (as can be seen from the sharp turns at the end of both the 2011 and 2015 campaigns), while also determining who emerges with the larger caucus and the balance of power in Parliament as a whole. And for voters who want to see the Libs forced to act on the national progressive promises they're again trumpeting on the campaign trail after neglecting them in office, it's crucial for the NDP to be in a position to set the terms of any governing arrangement.

Plenty of other battleground regions could also substantially change the balance of power with relatively subtle swings. And most importantly, a strategic vote against another neoliberal majority now looks to involve ensuring that other, more progressive parties get the upper hand on the Libs wherever possible.

But particularly given the lack of much organization on that front, it doesn't appear likely that any attempt to be strategic will overcome the two main forces in the campaign, being the NDP's surge and the Cons' collapse relative to the Libs. And so the main questions for tomorrow seems to be which of those factors will have a greater impact in electing MPs.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Andrew Jackson calls out the Cons for their platform of taking from the many to further enrich the most privileged few. David Macdonald studies what the unspecified cuts promised by the Cons could mean in terms of losses to public services. And Mike Moffatt points out the absurdity of obsessing over nominal deficits - rather than value for public investment - as the sole measure of fiscal responsibility.

- Meanwhile, Canadians for Tax Fairness offers (PDF) a report card for voters looking at tax fairness as a key issue. And Toby Sanger looks in detail at the parties' plans for taxing digital giants.

- Meghan Bell joins the ranks of wealthy people who recognize the need to pay more taxes to support a functional society, while Jon McPhedran Waitzer, Claire Trottier, David Gray-Donald, Daniel Hoyer, Bronwyn Oatley and Sylvie Trottier propose to pay more to address the climate crisis in particular. Henry Aaron makes the case for an inheritance tax to reduce inequality both within and across generations. And Alex Williams writes about the bizarre motivations behind the accumulation of extreme wealth.

- Anne Gaviola laments the lack of discussion of housing as a major election issue - though of course it's not for lack of ambition and commitment in the NDP's platform.

- Finally, Amara Posslan argues that Canadian voters need to take collective action toward meaningful change rather than settling for a mediocre "strategic" option. Toula Drimolis hopes that the current campaign will be a first step toward being able to vote generally for what we believe in, rather than against what we're told to fear. Farzana Hassan writes that it's past time for our government to reflect the voters responsible for electing it. And Gloria Galloway weighs in on the unfairness of facing another first-past-the-post election after we'd been promised better.