Saturday, October 17, 2020

On limiting partnerships

I haven't spent much time discussing the smaller parties in Saskatchewan's provincial election, and I don't see much basis to think any of them will be in serious competition to win any seats. But it is worth pointing out how a few aspects of their platforms fit into Saskatchewan's political picture - particularly as they may hint at weak spots for the Saskatchewan Party.

While the NDP has focused directly on the Sask Party's propensity for sending public money to out-of-province operators and workers, both the PCs and the Buffalo Party focus in on one of the possible causes of that trend in promising to leave the New West Trade Partnership. And that rejection of an existing regional trade deal is of course particularly striking in the case of a party whose primary message is one of western independence: even a party whose core goal is to be more closely tied to the West generally doesn't see the NWTPA as a desirable mechanism for that purpose.

Since the issue hasn't received a lot of recent attention, though, it's worth offering a reminder at how the NWTPA came to be.

The NWTPA itself is a repackaged version of the TILMA, a monstrosity of a deal cooked up between British Columbia and Alberta. 

The Calvert NDP government engaged in consultations as to Saskatchewan's position on the deal when it was first developed. And not only was it convinced to avoid the TILMA by strong local opposition, but even the Saskatchewan Party was forced to agree not to sign on.

Of course, once Brad Wall took power, he got away with slapping a new title on the same agreement - with the effect of severely limiting the ability of any provincial body to take Saskatchewan's interests into account in procurement and policy-making when a corporation thinks it could make more money off a different choice. And since then, the NWTPA has served as one of the excuses for the Sask Party's habit of shipping money out of province.

Based on that history, the NDP's opposition to the NWTPA (and the contrast between it and the Sask Party) is well-established. And the NDP's plans to boost local procurement may imply taking a critical look at structures developed to prevent that type of choice. 

That means that to the extent voters anywhere on the political spectrum recognize the problems with the NWTPA, they'll find that concern well represented by one of the leading parties, rather than needing to support the PCs or Buffalo Party to be heard. And we'll have far more space to discuss a full range of policy choices once we break the habit of letting foreign corporate interests limit the terms of our public debate.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The CCPA Monitor interviews William Carroll about the fossil fuel elite's control over far too much of Canadian politics, and the barrier that creates to any meaningful climate action. And Thomas Gunton takes note of the reality that new pipeline projects can't be justified on any economic basis (other than a belief that dirty fossil fuels should somehow be singled out for subsidies), while contributing to readily-avoidable harm to our planet. 

- Meanwhile, Andrew Leach and Blake Shaffer write that Alberta's transition away from coal power has been a resounding success in reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs. 

- Kenny Stancil reports on yet another planetary temperature record caused by our climate breakdown, with September 2020 ranking as the hottest one in recorded history.

- David Climenhaga writes that the UCP's health-care cuts - like most austerity schemes - figure to produce far less savings than promised (at far greater expense to public well-being). And in a prime example of what happens when we let corporations dictate the terms of access to health care, Ryan Tumilty reports on threats by Big Pharma to abandon Canadian patients if we don't agree to pay exorbitant prices. 

- Finally, Luke Savage writes about the liberal propensity to declare elections matters of life and death while then pleading an inability to change anything for the better if they happen to win power.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Musical interlude

 PVRIS - White Noise

On starting points

It's certainly been interesting to see Saskatchewan's local corporate media go out of its way to trample coverage of the leadership debate with a poll which was outdated from the moment it was released. And I'll have plenty more to point out about the coverage of the campaign generally.

But for now, let's start from the assumption that it's important to know where polling stood prior to the event most likely to change people's minds - and take a look at what that actually included.

In the week before the debate, two polls of voter intentions had been released. One showed the Sask Party ahead among decided voters, but the NDP cutting into a third of the margin of victory from the previous two elections; the other showed the NDP making up about a sixth of the ground needed to get back to even.

Obviously that's not where a party would want to be at this stage of the campaign. But the fact that the top-line numbers hadn't yet moved far enough doesn't represent a valid reason to presume they couldn't continue to move in the right direction. 

Meanwhile, CBC's Vote Compass has also been providing information about where people stand on specific issues (in a context where all of the polls show policy as a primary driver of voter intentions). And its survey of over 4,000 respondents shows majorities in favour of the NDP's positions on issues including class sizes, child care, safe consumption sites and an increased minimum wage.

In other words, it's not hard to see where the polling released to date shows ample room for the NDP to make up ground: both in the debate as the one event offering a direct contrast between the two main leaders and platforms, and in the prospect that people would shift their focus to issues where the NDP is offering what they want to see. (And that's aside from the reality that an election with two first-time leaders represents an obvious opportunity for public perceptions to change.)

Presumably, there will be additional polling on its way which will help us see exactly where the parties stand as people have had the opportunity to learn more about their options during the campaign. But the pre-debate starting point was already one which showed some progress and a ready opportunity for more - and there's every reason to keep pushing toward an NDP government, rather than accepting anybody's view that there's no point in trying.

[Edit: fixed typo.]

Friday #skvotes Links

 The latest news and notes from Saskatchewan's 2020 election campaign.

- Nicholas Frew reports that a majority of Saskatchewan's voters are willing to fund a reduction in class sizes. And PressProgress highlights how Scott Moe is insisting that the public health measures required in every other indoor space be waived in order to allow for classrooms to remain overcrowded and underfunded.

- Jen Quesnel, Winter Fedyk and Tammy Robert offer their take on this week's leadership debate. 

- The Canadian Press reports on the NDP's outreach to - and support among - voters who have supported the Saskatchewan Party in the past. 

- Merle Massie challenges the new, provincially-appointed firearms officer to pay attention to the real threat of gun suicides. 

- And finally, Ahmereen Salim and Peter Gilmer write about the need for legislation to move us toward an end to poverty. 

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Chris Giles reports that even the IMF is warning governments not to engage in avoidable austerity. And Richard Kozul-Wright and Nelson Barbosa write that governments face a choice between investing in a recovery now, or facing years of stagnation and uncertainty - which is particularly worth noting as a deficit hyena demands to be kept in power in Saskatchewan due precisely to his refusal to invest in people:

[I]nflationary hawks and deficit hyenas are once again warning of dire consequences if fiscal consolidation – “austerity” to the general public – is unduly delayed.

This was the policy advice followed after the 2009 crisis with damaging consequences – not only in terms of growth and incomes but also public finances, as governments took on more debt to compensate stagnant or falling tax revenues.

Recovering better this time will need to follow a different path, with an emphasis on jobs, wages and public investment. But an accompanying increase in public-debt ratios should not be a reason for panic or doomsday scenarios, provided that the purchasing power created by the government is put to good use. In the long run, the additional public debt incurred to finance a better recovery will be paid for by the increase in the potential output of the economy.


With these conditions in place, policymakers can get down to the real business of shaping their spending plans to build back better. There is no shortage of challenges to be met: repairing the environment degraded biosystems with massive reforestation and heavy investments in recycling and waste management systems; regional renewal and transformation, especially through better and greener transportation links and improving local housing, water and sanitation conditions; decarbonization of power generation and increased energy efficiency; and expansion and improvement in public health and education.

In UNCTAD’s recently released Trade and Development Report 2020, we showed that a strong public spending package combined with wage rises tied to productivity growth and a progressive reworking of tax structures will not only boost incomes and jobs over the coming decade compared with a turn to austerity – it will also guarantee a fairer distribution and leave government finances in better shape.

- Meanwhile, Lachlan Carey points out that investing in a just transition today will help reduce the environmental and fiscal challenges we're already facing down the road. And Mitchell Anderson points out that we can fund some of the steps required to meet people's basic needs by cracking down on tax avoidance.

- Brandon Doucet writes about the need for national and universal public dental care. And Dave McGinn reports that instead of being funded as part of a recovery plan, child care is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain.

- Linda Nazareth warns that one of the effects of an increase in remote work will be to allow employers to try to attack wages and working conditions under the threat of moving jobs offshore.

- Finally, Kate Kelland writes about the devastating effects of "long COVID" at a point when much of Canada is facing alarming outbreaks. And Emily Pasiuk reports on the mental health impact of coronavirus-related restrictions on people alone in long-term care.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Gloria Dickie documents how the Arctic region may already be in a death spiral caused by climate change. Katharine Murphy reports on IMF research showing that current policies and plans are woefully inadequate to address the climate crisis. Joseph Winters notes that the default position of U.S. residents is to recognize the danger and demand action - though of course even the most optimistic prospects for next month's elections won't see that reflected in policymaking. And Paris Marx writes about the need to challenge the inequality of wealth and power in order to make meaningful strides to avert a climate breakdown. 

- Meanwhile, Carbon Brief notes that solar electricity is now the cheapest form of energy ever available.

- Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean responds to the UCP's plans to privatize hospital services by pointing out how the inevitable result of inserting corporate actors into medical functions (with a motive to skimp in order to pad a bottom line) is for the public to pay more and get less. And Danyaal Raza and Naheed Dosani highlight how pay-to-play COVID testing serves to break down common interests and purposes within an pandemic.

- Finally, Duncan Kinney reports on the openness to outright Naziism on the part of some prominent Wexiteers. And PressProgress exposes Saskatchewan Party cabinet minister Greg Ottenbreit's propensity for reinforcing the message of anti-Semitic and outright lunatic figures who have been condemned even by U.S. Republicans.

#skdebate Notes

 For those who weren't able to watch Saskatchewan's leadership debate last night, it's well worth a look:

Many viewers seem to have been surprised by Ryan Meili's effectiveness. And he certainly moved past what I'd seen in the NDP's leadership campaigns in terms of managing the debate environment, making full use of the opportunity to talk directly to viewers while also challenging Scott Moe calmly but effectively.

But neither Meili's command of policy, nor his ability to tie it into personal experiences and messages, should have come as news to observers who have paid attention to his path to the NDP's leadership.

If anything, the most important room for improvement lay in his occasionally looking to hit a checklist of messages, rather than responding directly to questions which already lent themselves to effective answers. But that mostly served to rearrange the issues, rather than resulting in his missing any of the points which needed to be made. 

In sum, for those of us who have long wanted to see Meili have the opportunity to lead the NDP into an election, this was exactly why. And it will absolutely be to the NDP's benefit if an electorate which claims to want to vote based on the policy visions of the two parties makes its call based on the one opportunity to have them compared and tested directly.

As for Scott Moe, he appeared to have two basic strategies. The first was to try to filibuster his way through most of the open debate segments, talking loudly over Meili (and anybody else who might try to intervene) in order to prevent most points from landing as strongly as they would have otherwise. 

Of course, in that process Moe wasn't as boorish as Donald Trump. And that led to far too many commentators giving him undeserved credit.

The other noteworthy plan underlying Moe's performance was the introduction of a made-up, untestable new claim in the middle of the debate about uncosted elements of the NDP's platform - featuring a loud headline number, but not so much as an example to allow for a meaningful response.

Now, I'd think we should expect a leadership debate to operate based on shared facts to the extent possible - which would generally mean not making wild new claims in the middle of proceedings, especially if that means trying to force another leader to disprove them while being unable to even view the source (which was of course the most biased one conceivable).

But sadly, at least some reports fully bought into the ruse, treating the number as as a primary takeaway from the debate and the NDP's quick rebuttal as merely "claimed". 

Unfortunately, the media's reaction to Moe's antics signals its continued small-c conservatism - treating the Sask Party as the in-group which is protected but not bound by principles of fair play and civility, and the NDP as the out-group which is bound but not protected. 

Aside from his distraction tactics, Moe was woefully unprepared to deal with many of the questions that were raised. In particular, faced with questions which were supported by well-known details as to current conditions - including students' backsliding while in quarantine, Saskatchewan's shameful rates of suicide and violence against Indigenous women - his answer was to smugly demand credit for what hasn't worked, rather than offering any indication he's open to finding out what would.

The end result was a debate where the main question was whether Meili's victory will matter. But the answer to that will have to come from the voters who watched the debate, and the analysis which flows from it. And last night should serve as a fairly compelling indication that the people who have been so dismissive of Meili take that stance at their own peril.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Wednesday #skvotes Links

Saskatchewan's election day is rapidly approaching (and indeed voting is already underway). And with plenty of content being generated, I'll plan to offer some link posts dedicated to news of interest to voters.

- PressProgress has been providing plenty of important election news - even if it has regularly been ignored by the mainstream media even after it's been reported and thoroughly documented. In particular, it's exposed how a SaskParty donor was handed a $60 million contract to take over services formerly provided on a profitable basis by STC, and highlighted W. Brett Wilson's shamelessness in insisting that outside money should be able to define Saskatchewan's political debate.

- The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has surveyed voters about their views on climate change and the environment, including finding a strong majority supporting a transition to 100% renewable energy over the next 20 years. And John Klein's latest update highlights the utter failure of the Saskatchewan Party to meet the emission reduction targets which it chose to set for this year. 

- Jason Hammond offers his take on tonight's leadership debate and what comes next.

- And finally, the Leader-Post and Star-Phoenix' editorial boards highlight the importance of voting, even as COVID-19 has made it more difficult to do so. (And I'll offer a reminder that the deadline to apply to vote by mail provincially is tomorrow.)

On diverging paths

Tonight's Saskatchewan leadership debate will include plenty of back-and-forth as to whether we should vote for a better government, or settle for staying the course. And in answering that question, it's worth taking a look at exactly what the status quo involves.

Back when Scott Moe was threatening a spring election, the Saskatchewan NDP released this (based on the state of household finances prior to COVID-19:

Yet even that understates the depth of the challenges now facing Saskatchewan's residents after 13 years of Sask Party rule.

It's bad enough that a relatively large number of people were getting pushed into bankruptcy even before the pandemic struck. But Saskatchewan now ranks second in Canada in the rate of mortgage deferrals since those became available in March, with nearly one in seven mortgages being put off. 

At best, that means many people have been forced to accept terms which will likely prove costly in the long run. And at worst, it means homeowners will see repayment obligations resuming at a time when there's little hope of meeting them.  

Similarly, as Mickey Djuric noted in reporting on this year's pittance of a minimum wage increase which leaves Saskatchewan's workers behind the rest of the country, the Sask Party's refusal to consider a living wage has overlapped with a period of exceptionally high inflation - meaning workers are facing higher costs on Canada's lowest incomes.  

No wonder then that our food bank usage - already the highest in the country - only figured to be increasing during the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet after all that, the Sask Party's response remains one best expressed in the form of tumbleweeds.

Oh, they've found money in their platform for large power users, profitable businesses, and people who can afford major home renovations. But if you're struggling to pay your mortgage in the first place - or relying on charity to put food on the table due to exceptionally low wages - they're promising little other than cuts for another four years.

And a path which sees much of our province forced into such desperate circumstances isn't one we should be looking to follow.

Wednesday Morning Links

 Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- John Michael McGrath warns that the second wave of the coronavirus is once again moving much faster than the governments charged with controlling it.

- Vitor Gaspar, Paolo Mauro, Catherine Pattillo and Raphael Espinoza discuss the value and importance of public investment as a driving force for our COVID recovery.

- The Canadian Press reports on the millions of Canadians whose (often already-precarious) financial situations have been made worse by the pandemic.

- Will McMartin writes that it's British Columbia's most vulnerable people who would pay the price if Richard Wilkinson's Libs were able to take power. Nick Falvo studies the relationship between social assistance levels and take-up - with only a small correlation existing between the two. And Robson Fletcher reports on the Albertans living with disabilities who are trying to make do while their government attacks their primary income support.

- Carolyn Ferns discusses how Doug Ford's plan to deregulate child care is exactly the opposite of what parents desperately need. And Victoria Gibson reports on Ford's exploitation of COVID-19 to rezone land for developers' purposes without public input or appeal processes.

- Finally, Geoff Leo provides another major update on the Sask Party's GTH scandal - this time including details about the promises made to Brightenview in order to try to present a false picture of the project during Saskatchewan's previous election campaign.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Stacked cats.


On anachronisms

Taking another look at the respective platforms of the Saskatchewan NDP and Saskatchewan Party, it's striking to see how little of the policy content - as compared to the surrounding wording - appears to have changed in light of the coronavirus pandemic. And with both parties having had to ramp up for a possible spring election due to Scott Moe's threats, it's understandable if relatively little has been modified since then.

But if the platforms are largely the same now than they would have been in March, it's worth noting that's true for very different reasons between the two parties.

In the NDP's case, many of the priority issues featured in the election platform are ones which are all the more important in the wake of COVID-19 than before - even as they were entirely justified before we faced an ongoing public health emergency.

It was a year ago that the NDP announced that a commitment to cutting class sizes would be a central theme. And the rest of the party's policy proposals read like a checklist of necessary steps to ameliorate people's lives during a pandemic: improved health staffing as our system of care wrestles with a particularly severe threat; investments in mental health, addictions and suicide prevention as those become all the more pressing; child care to alleviate the gendered impact of the pandemic; funding for a "housing first" strategy to make sure people have safe places to live; investment in rural Internet service as that becomes all the more vital to enable full participation in social and economic life; and an end to predatory lending when people are particularly vulnerable to it.

Meanwhile, the Sask Party's platform looks to have stayed the same despite its being entirely unresponsive to the new reality caused by COVID-19.

Others have pointed out that the tax credit for children's activities is one which the Sask Party itself cut in 2016. But even if one overlooked both the regressiveness of the credit and the lack of credibility of the party proposing it, one would have to be completely oblivious to reality to think the primary barrier to access to activities is an incremental cost, rather than the fact that many existing activities have had to shut down altogether or limit their operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Similarly, a tax credit for major home renovations could hardly be timed to be less effective. It's bad enough that the credit applies only to substantial expenses when people have every reason to be cautious with their money in the face of an impending second wave. But with people needing to shelter in place as much as possible in order to limit community spread, it's particularly bizarre to think that many families will be in a position to engage in major tear-downs and reconstruction as winter approaches. 

And a small business tax reduction doesn't help one iota for anybody who isn't already bringing in profits - making it useless for the businesses struggling even to stay open (due in no small part to the Sask Party's failure to support them financially, or to take readily-available steps to make community activity safer).

Those three promises which are ill-suited to the circumstances of this month's election, together with the wasteful SaskPower rebate which I discussed yesterday, make up the bulk of what the Saskatchewan Party has on offer. (And most of their further spending is in areas where the NDP has put more on the table.)

As a result, voters who take the time to see which party's platform actually fits the moment will arrive at an inevitable conclusion. And we'll all be better served if enough citizens make that comparison to ensure Scott Moe doesn't get to barge ahead with his outdated plans.

Tuesday Morning Links

 This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Douglas Jang discusses how a bias toward slow and limited government has made our response less effective. Pouyan Tabasinejad points out that we shouldn't allow politicians to blame the public for their own fecklessness. And Morgan Kelly writes about new research showing that children are quite likely to be superspreaders.

- Arindrajit Dube and Attila Lindner study the effect of municipal minimum wages, and find that even at the local level there's no evidence of more fair wages meaningfully distorting economic activity. 

- Frederik Schlingemann and Rene Stulz study the decoupling of the U.S.' stock market from its real economy.

- Scott Schmidt sets out the cost of a provincial police force in Alberta at over $150 million per year - which is particularly appalling at a time when the Kenney UCP is slashing health staff in a pandemic to save a similar amount. 

- Finally, Danyaal Raza, Amina Jabbar, Jeffrey Ansloos, Kofi Hope and Gregory Marchildon examine (PDF) what we should be looking at if we want our health system to be more effective and comprehensive - with pharmacare, mental health accessibility and long-term care ranking at the top of the list of areas crying out for improvement.

Monday, October 12, 2020

On distributive options

Both the Saskatchewan NDP and Saskatchewan Party have released their election platforms. And for all of the electioneering around what might be anticipated outside of those, we can already tell plenty from how each party has framed its flagship promises.

Take, for example, how the parallel Crown rebate promises from each party actually work.

 The NDP's plan involves using SGI's existing surplus to provide lowered rates and rebates:

Lower SGI rates by roughly $85 per vehicle and provide an immediate $100 rebate to all policy-holder...

Those benefits would then reach 800,000 licensed drivers: see SGI's latest annual report (PDF). The total cost is projected at $120 million (see the fiscal tables here) (PDF).

The Saskatchewan Party, meanwhile, is offering a 10% rebate on SaskPower bills:

A re-elected Saskatchewan Party government will introduce a one-year 10% rebate on electricity charges on power bills for all SaskPower customers...

The 10% rebate on the electrical charge on customer’s SaskPower bills will come into effect on customer’s December 2020 bills. Customers will receive monthly savings on their bills for 12 months starting in December 2020.

But while that has been framed in terms of its effect on residential and farm customers, the vast majority of the effect - and cost - involves incentivizing the use of power in the commercial and industrial sectors.

According to SaskPower's latest annual report, the province's $2.6 billion in electricity sales include $792 million to 130 power utilities (e.g. Saskatoon and Swift Current's local utilities); $571 million to just under 399,394 residential accounts; $521 million to 63,757 commercial accounts; $451 million to 19,466 oilfield accounts; and $190 million to 57,978 farm accounts.

The average benefit of $260 million in rebates would then be: $142.97 per residential customer (not the $215 specified in the platform); $327.71 per farm customer (not the $845 stated in the platform); $817.17 per commercial customer (unmentioned in the platform); and $2,316.86 per oilfield customer (unmentioned in the platform). And in the latter cases, it's not hard to anticipate that the availability of the rebate would actually incentivize the use of less-efficient power use options for as long as the price of power is being artificially held down.

The end result is that the Sask Party's plan costs twice as much as the NDP's to reach just over half as many people directly, with a built-in bias toward commercial interests generally (and the oilpatch in particular). Needless to say, it's not hard to see which of those options is better targeted at making life more affordable for people

Now, I'd think it's fair to question whether either of these planks should be considered a top priority given all of the other areas in desperate need of public investment. 

But it's certainly worth noting that the Saskatchewan Party is looking to spend far more Crown money to smuggle giveaways to the oilpatch and the corporate sector. And both the province's balance sheet and those of its families will be far better off with the NDP's choices.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Richard Warnica discusses the end of a summer in which we've been far too lax about limiting the foreseeable effects of COVID-19. Aaron Wherry writes that the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic will hurt all the more since we've learned - but all too often ignored - how to limit its spread. Devi Sridhar points out that irregular lockdowns in response to dangerous flare-ups aren't the same as bringing the virus under control. Rebecca Solnit highlights how a misleading focus on individual responsibility rather than public policy has resulted in damage that we could have avoided. Sara Mojtehedzadeh examines the Ontario workplaces which have seen outbreaks. And Pam Belluck writes about the lingering effects of COVID-19 on people who are classified as having recovered.

- Kim Siever argues that rather than viewing union wages as unduly high, we should be demanding wage fairness through all kinds of workplaces. And Jeffrey Clemens and Michael Strain find that increased minimum wages increase union density - and not so much among the lower-wage workers who benefit directly, but among other workers who recognize the value of collective action.

- Paul Haavardsrud talks to Miles Corak about the options and opportunities in developing windfall taxes on the wealthy. And Alex Ledson reports on new research showing that the elimination of France's wealth tax hasn't produced economic gains, but has instead has served only to turbocharge the growth of inequality.

- Finally, Jeff Goodell writes that the U.S.' fracking boom has never been based on anything more than a Ponzi scheme. Javier Blas and Grant Smith discuss how OPEC is planning to flood the oil market, making Canada's reserves even less economical even if we ignore their environmental and social costs. And Ben Lennon notes that while many oil and gas workers haven't been presented with the offer of a just transition to cleaner energy, they tend to be enthusiastic about the prospect once they know it exists.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

On silent threats

The science of COVID-19 (italics in original, underlining added):

Are pre-symptomatic carriers more contagious before or after they get symptoms?

"People tend to be the most contagious before they develop symptoms, if they're going to develop symptoms," CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said.
"They call that the pre-symptomatic period. So people tend to have more virus at that point seemingly in their nose, in their mouth. This is even before they get sick. And they can be shedding that virus into the environment."

Scott Moe's response to that science when it proves mildly inconvenient for his campaign:

Now, it would seem to be a simple enough matter to ensure the people at a known potential transmission site to get tested ASAP, and pull back from public appearances only until the results are back. But that's more trouble than Moe and company are willing to bother with in order to avoid becoming disease vectors. 

So for anyone meeting with Moe, or his entourage, or anybody who's been exposed to them: know that they're choosing to put your health at risk by continuing to campaign, and failing to get tested, while they know they may be at the greatest risk of spreading the coronavirus. 

On non-disclosure

Much of the pushback against any discussion of Scott Moe's patterns of drinking and driving, vehicle accidents and general refusal to own up to anything of the sort boils down to two themes. 

The first is that somehow, the authority to decide whether to discuss Moe's harm to others lies with him alone - so if he wants to keep incidents hidden, or refuse to apologize to the victims of his actions until it's politically convenient, we somehow owe it to a person clinging to power to defer entirely to his whims and interests.  

This sadly fits with a pattern of kissing up and punching down within far too much of the province's media throughout the campaign. And it's difficult to respond to such a flawed assumption as to the media's role, other than to consider the results of allowing politicians to pick and choose how their own gross actions are to be discussed even when their own past disclosures have bee of that racen faulty or incomplete.

But that leads to how we can engage directly with the second one: namely, that the fatal accident caused by Moe was dealt with in the Saskatchewan Party's leadership campaign.

Let's keep in mind that while there was plenty of uncertainty about the outcome, Alanna Koch was generally perceived as the front-runner. And so to the extent there were critical comments within the Sask Party itself, they were primarily aimed at her.

Moe, on the other hand, wasn't seen as one of the primary competitors. But he did have a strong contingent of rural MLAs and supporters behind him - leaving his opponents with an obvious aversion to raising questions about whether he was fundamentally unfit for the leadership.

It's in that context that Moe's convictions on the public record became a one-day story which was never much discussed again during the leadership campaign. And we can now see the direct results of Moe's competitors and the media failing to ask followup questions, along with Moe's own choice not to be open about related issues. 

It's entirely possible that a third example of dangerous driving - this one before the one which cost Joanne Balog her life - might have resulted in meaningfully different perceptions of Moe. And more significantly, some attention to the damage Moe did to Balog's family could have both had a powerful impact on the soft down-ballot supporters who eventually propelled Moe to victory, and represented a strong basis for people to organize against him more than they actually did.

So it's not accurate to say Moe is an accidental premier.

Instead, he took the job through calculated non-disclosure within his own party. And his only plan to hold onto power is to use the same secrecy against the voters of Saskatchewan - both when it comes to the life he took, and in his planned cuts for the province.

Sunday Morning Links

 This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Matthew Yglesias discusses how the Republicans avoid having to answer for antisocial plans (such as wanting to limit access to health insurance based on pre-existing conditions) because voters simply don't believe they could possibly be as evil as they act when given the opportunity.

- Corey Ranger discusses how the UCP's position on opioids - eliminating harm reduction based on puritanical moralization while contributing nothing to any additional services - represents nothing more than social murder. And Miriam Katawazi highlights how appointment-based COVID-19 testing serves to limit access by the vulnerable populations who most need to be included.

- Aaron Wherry writes that increased taxes on those who can most afford them would be a popular move - but rightly questions whether the Libs will have any interest in applying them when they rely on appeasing the corporate sector. 

- Yves Engler wonders why we don't see far more outcry about the use of public money to promote the export of arms to human rights abusers.

- Finally, Grace Blakeley writes about the need for organized labour to be one of the driving forces behind any social change for the better.