Saturday, November 14, 2015

Fixing Harper - Part 3 - The Freeing of Science

One of the most insidious of Harper's attacks on information was how scientists were muzzled.  The story is well explained here, in this article from the Globe and Mail.

Other academic publications, such as this one also weighed in during recent years, providing a well-referenced expose of how science was treated under the Harper regime.

The new government has lost no time in starting to reverse this, as announced recently by the new Prime Minister.

Of course, there could be some down-sides to this, as explained by The Beaverton.... Sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for. 


Monday, November 02, 2015

More Astonishing Conservative Rationalizing

A recent article in Maclean's trotted out the usual Conservative talking points, referencing the strong, stable, competent fiscal leadership and the principled stands on international issues.  Anyone who was actually paying attention would have a very hard time reading the whole article without gagging.  As a rationalization for why the Conservatives lost on October 19th, it only shows why they may take some time to learn much from the loss.

One FB commentator, a "CM Nancy", wrote the following in response, and I quote below:

Actually the writing is what I consider a piece of dangerous writing that will plant the seeds to brainwash Canadians that Harper and Company were the best economic managers and "Prime Minister Harper’s record is one of competent, effective, and conservative governance. " 

Could not be further from the truth, but the article really wants Canadians to think it is all about the manipulation of Canadians by the political parties as to who had the better story while reinforcing the Harper government's narrative of competent, effective and conservative governance. But more importantly reinforcing the neoliberalism principles of low taxes, no deficits, balanced budgets while cutting government funding and services to facilitate sustained economic growth, job creation, and wage increases. 

Take note, the audience must have no knowledge of the past. Such as Sean Speer and Ken Boessenkool bending history to make the Liberal government of the 1990s appeared to be the same kind that Harper and Government ran. "The political outcome was a durable consensus in favour of balanced budgets. The federal government ran eleven consecutive fiscal surpluses until the 2008-09 recession. Provincial governments, by and large, did the same."

If anyone follows the international news, Speer and Boessenkool are playing the same games as their counterparts across the world are playing. The politically far-right neoliberalist conservatives are waging a war against the politically left-leaning parties across the world. Bernie Sanders in the US. And Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. "“At a time of mass income and wealth inequality throughout the world, I am delighted to see that the British Labour Party has elected Jeremy Corbyn as its new leader,” U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told the Huffington Post. “We need leadership in every country in the world which tells the billionaire class that they cannot have it all.”

Speer and Boessenkool - "Mr. Trudeau’s calls for “investment” seemed more compelling than our musings about “being in the black.” We were unable to persuasively argue for the concrete, real-life utility of not spending more than the government collects. A return to deficit spending, the anti-consensus, won the day."

Sure unable to bullshit Canadians in another round of austerity in the form of government social funding cuts and services. And for what? All in the name of balancing the budget? The veterans paid a steep price of not having services and donated to the cause of balancing the budget of 1.2 billion dollars. It is why the rising of the left is occurring across the world and for very good reason. The inequality - 

To which this is total bullshit on Speer and Boessenkool - "The result has more to do with conservatives’s inability, or perhaps unreadiness, to communicate the case for balanced budgets and fiscal probity. We took for granted that we won this intellectual conflict. We assumed that Canadians instinctively understood the importance of fiscal plans that reconciled." 100 % bullshit.

To which the next paragraph can only be delusional - "We must explain how a limited, less activist government promotes individual choice and creates the space for community and civil action. And we must argue that going backwards to failed ideas of the past would undermine the economic and fiscal gains that we have made. In short, it means following Samuel Johnson’s adage about how “men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.”

Hoping that the readers have no concept of what reality is and buys into the Con bait while ignoring the fact that the Harper government had the worst economic record since the 1930s. 

Over at the Tyee - Let's Help Canada's Newspapers Stop Embarrassing Themselves In this post-Harper era, our democratic institutions must be fixed. Start with media.

"It should come as no surprise that the National Post and the Globe should rank the Harper government as having a "solid" economic record. They don't mention in their assessment the many aspects of the economy that are not solid -- aspects that affect ordinary people: unemployment, growth, job creation, youth employment, job quality, real personal incomes, inequality, or personal debt.

Those who run the country's daily newspapers reveal themselves as concerned only about "the economy" in the narrowest sense, using it as a code word for the corporate elite, the one per cent -- not the economy of ordinary wage and salary earners. They throw their support behind a government that simply facilitates economic growth by getting out of the way of business, by signing "trade" deals, gutting corporate and wealth taxes, and driving down wages."

Why the political left is rising across Canada and the indeed the world.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Letters to the Editor - The Conservatives Deserved to Lose

I came across this today, presenting the reasons why the Conservatives deserved to lose.  Reasons the Conservatives seem to be avoiding.  The original story appeared in the Star Phoenix on October 27th, 2015.  I post it here in its entirety.

On election night, Conservative MP Brad Trost said he didn't know why his party lost; Canadians just wanted change for change's sake, he guessed. Could anyone be that clueless?
Stephen Harper's government was consistently self-serving, hard-hearted and mean-spirited. It was anti-democracy (omnibus bill, prorogation, spin - repeat), anti-transparency, anti-accountability, antipress, anti-immigrant, antidiplomacy, anti-knowledge (goodbye long-form census), anti-scientist (hello muzzling), anti-environment (only tree huggers hate C-38), anti-conservation, anti-CBC, anti-culture, antifreedom (only terrorists hate C-51), anti-oversight, anti-Obama, anti-UN, anti-Palestinian, anti-gay, and anti-aboriginal.
It was pro-gun, prowar, pro-business, pro-oil, and pro-Israel (one-sided support, regardless of the diverse views of Jews and Israelis, let alone the world). 
Alternative opinions, dissenting views, and provincial premiers were ignored or ridiculed. Harper's MPs were minions who read from scripts. 
For Harper, business trumped science, nature and compassion; photo ops trumped action; punishment trumped rehabilitation, authority trumped dissent, and lies trumped truth especially during election campaigns (the brothels are coming). Throw in Harperappointed corruption-prone senators, self-benefiting electoral changes, voter suppression, financial hits to retirees, cynically targeted tax breaks, millions wasted on self-promoting condescending government advertising. 
Those were just a few items in their well-stocked shop of horrors. 
It was the most polarizing, fearmongering, partisan and hypocritical government ever. The Conservatives were looking out for themselves, not Canadians. Any means justified their ends. 
Harper's style was cruel and vindictive. The Harper years have done irreparable damage to Canada. Why were the Conservatives booted out? The real question is why it didn't happen sooner. 
W.G. Potter 
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Fixing Harper - Part 2 - Electoral Reform

The first thing the new government can do along this line is scrap the Harper Conservatives' "Fair Elections Act".  There was nothing fair about it.  In fact, it deliberately attempted to disenfranchise as many people as possible and removed investigative powers from Elections Canada.  If we want fair elections, a good first step would be to move in exactly the opposite direction.

The second step would be to bring in a new system of voting in federal elections.  Let's start with this:

The main thrust of many groups is towards some form of Proportional Representation.  Some of those groups are:

Talk of a new system has already started.  
So what are some of the differences between the various options?

Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)

This system can be easily understood by watching this short video:

Single Transferable Vote (STV)

This was the system recommended in British Columbia a few years ago and which was actually voted on in a referendum.  In fact, it's often referred to as BC-STV.

An explanation can be found in Wikipedia about the system.

This short animation helps to explain how it works.

The Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform in BC still has much information on it's website and a good animation to explain how the system is supposed to work.

The P3 System

A good YouTube video explains how this system would work.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fixing Harper - Part 1 - The Long-Form Census

With the defeat of the Harper Conservatives on October 19th, the rebuilding of Canada can begin.  Here begins a series of posts that will look at what could, should or might be done to reverse the worst of the decisions made during the past 10 years.

The website is still active and outlines what it sees as the damage done to Canada and it's institutions.

The Facebook page called 78 Days, 78 Reasons lists the long-form census as Reason # 6 for dumping the Harper Conservatives.

One of the oft-mentioned dumb things that the Harper Conservatives did, announced in 2010, was to end of the mandatory long-form census.  A  bit of history about the census in general can be found here.  This was, according to the Conservatives, to put an end to the terrible intrusion into people's private lives, despite the clearly evident fact that there had been very, very few complaints about the survey and, so far as I know, no prosecutions for non-compliance.

The Liberals even set up an on-line petition to ask the government of the day to bring it back.  In the end, it seemed easier to just defeat the Conservatives and get on with the job.

Back in February of 2015, Macleans published an article that disagreed with the Chief Statistician's assertion that the voluntary survey was just fine.

The voices against this clearly ideological move were many and varied.  Examples here, and here.... among many, many others.

The elimination of the census, of course, was only part of the damage done, which extended to budget cuts and other dismantling of information sources that government and industry used.

Despite the nay-sayers, there is plenty of enthusiasm for the return of the long-form census.

In response to these nay-sayers, someone posted the following comment:
"Just amazing how so many people seem to think the census is intolerably intrusive but are OK with Harper's far more intrusive bill C-51, which grants unprecedented and excessive powers to government departments and agencies, opening the door to collecting, analyzing and potentially keeping forever the personal information of all Canadians, including every instant of a person’s tax information and details about a person’s business and vacation travel. All with no oversight from Parliament so CSIS or the PMO can use the info any way they want. 
You like the idea of CSIS or Justin Trudeau having a gander at your tax info, your travel, your internet browsing history? If so, you can thank Stephen Harper."

It appears that the long form census will be coming back, hopefully in time for the 2016 census.  A good early step.

Analyzing the Harper Defeat

Since the defeat of the Harper Conservatives on October 19th, there has been plenty of "analysis" floating around to explain exactly what went wrong.

ThinkPol just today posted an article discussing why Lynton Crosby's wedge issue "dog-whistle politics" didn't seem to work here in Canada.  Their main conclusion?

  "On October 19, the good people of Canada did something to prevent evil from triumphing. They voted."

Then, of course there were the expected comments from some of the very same journalists who, mere days before, were endorsing either the Conservatives without Harper, or with him, or a hope that he might leave if we voted for him, or who knows.  Their comments can be summarized like this: 

Andrew Coyne opined that everything Harper were not outgrowths of conservatism.  Dawg's Blog begged to differ.

Was it, as this article suggests, because Harper surrounded himself with people who wouldn't stand up to him.  Interestingly, I understand this article was originally posted, then removed and is now available only from an archive copy.  Who knows?

The election seems to have exposed a less tolerant underbelly of Canadian attitudes, as this article from HufPo suggests.  The niqab issue would seem to highlight that point, as did some people's response to the Syrian refugee crisis.  The Tyee also weighed in on this unhappy side of some of us.

It could be something in the Canadian psyche that caused us to respond to Harper's "fear and loathing" campaign tactics the way we did, as discussed here.

The NDP lost in a big way.  This could be explained by voters swarming to the Liberals, seeing them as the best bet to defeat the Conservatives, or it could be the change in direction of the NDP that people disliked.  The NDP, then, also has some self-analysis to go through, as discussed here.

These were at least some of the things that could explain what happened on October 19th.  No doubt some of them are closer to the truth than others.  I may post a few more in the coming days, but the reality is that, as a bumper sticker I saw some years ago put it: "End of an Error".  It's over and it's time to move on.  That's what coming posts will address.

Importing Harper's Tactics in BC

The news here in BC over the past week has been all a-twitter over how the Clark government (Liberal in name but Conservative in policy and actions) has been "managing" government e-mails.  The law says that they are supposed to save these things, as part of the record of how governments make decisions.  In some cases, assistants have been "triple deleting" e-mails, all of them, so that NO records remain.

The CBC has this story about "delete, delete, delete".  Accountability?  Not so much.

One government worker is being investigated after the Information Commissioner discovered him lying repeatedly under oath.

The full report Access Denied: Record Retention and Disposal Practices of the Government of BC can be read here.

Obviously getting rid of the Harper Conservatives was only the first step of the process....