Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Re: ILO blasts anti-labour laws adopted by Saskatchewan

ILO blasts anti-labour laws adopted by Saskatchewan

So I have a few questions to ask, the first and foremost among them is "Who is the ILO" and the second being "Why do I care what they think?"

A quick google search shows that the ILO is a UN Agency that "promotes decent work for all". The second question is not so easy to answer.

The fact that organized labour felt that they needed to go outside of the province's court system. Outside of the country's court system, to an international organization who has no jurisdiction and little power to make changes tells you all you need to know about what organized labour thinks its chances are in a regular court system.

The laws as they are promote greater democracy and make a union work harder to organize a group of workers. The laws as they are protect general society in the event of a strike to ensure that those people who are essential will continue to do their jobs. Bill 80 promotes choice among workers as to whom they want representing them.

None of these are evil goals unless you are a union leader who has never had to deal with these issues before. For the workers they represent, however, these changes may be a godsend.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The case for legalizing

In the Drug War, Drugs Are Winning

The case for legalizing drugs

Reading the article, I noticed that it made some valid points. I think that it also misses some valid points as well.

Yes, legalizing and taxing drugs might be a solution to escalating violence in other parts of the world as well as in North America. Yes, decriminalizing drugs would remove a criminal record from those people who have only been caught with drugs for personal use. Yes, decriminalizing drugs might even reduce the usage rate.

But there are some points that this article does not make. Drugs today are much more potent than even 20 years ago. Drugs today may have unintended long term effects, or so a Nature of Things documentary tells us. Drug addicts constantly search for a new and better feeling high, often with disastrous results.

What it comes down to is that the pro legalization points come down to an improvement in society through enhanced freedoms and a reliance on the individual to regulate themselves. The con arguments are all about one person telling another what they can and cannot do.

I can't say that I necessarily would push for legalization without certain changes to other parts of the laws. I would advocate that, very much like a co-pay for smokers and other classes of people, medicare be limited for treatment of those problems caused by the use of these drugs. I would advocate an education program to ensure that people know what the current consequences of drug use would be. I would encourage research into the drugs and interactions of currently illicit drugs in order to better educate physicians and the public on the dangers of use.

When I look around today's world, there are many things that I can not fathom being effectively governed by a statute first passed 70 or 80 years ago. I believe that there needs to be a different approach taken as the current approach is clearly not doing the proper job.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Why I didn't bother with university...

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

... Or, why the university grads of today have changed from yesteryear.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Barbara Kay: The suicide double-standard

Barbara Kay: The suicide double-standard

I think that this quote hits home on the point:

If the figures were reversed, and women were committing suicide at the rates of men, we can be sure that it would be considered a national crisis, one on which a great deal of money, media attention and authentic concern would be lavished. As of now, the only research being carried out on male suicide is being done by activists in the fathers’ rights movement.
Now, I don't want to belittle the women's movement here, but I think that it is sad that the focus is on women's suicide rates when on a pure numbers basis, the increase to men's suicides was still greater than the increase to women's. Men commit suicide 4 times more often than women, and I think that the focus of the research should revolve around why that is. Hopefully Barbara's column takes a step in the right direction.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Earth Hour 2010

National Post editorial board: Leave your lights on

My only regret is that my house is fairly new and I have CFL bulbs in most of my light sockets, so turning all my lights on won't effectively use as much energy as it should. That notwithstanding, my lights will be on, my fireplace lit up, my furnace fan running and I'll be sitting on my deck drinking a beer and seeing how many other lights are on.

We have enough blackouts in our area to know what a completely dark city looks like. Hopefully it won't look like that tonight.

U of R professors against Project Hero scholarship for dependents of fallen soldiers

U of R professors against Project Hero scholarship for dependents of fallen soldiers

A thought occurred to me about these professors and their letter of insistence that the University of Regina cancel Project Hero scholarships at the University.

They want the President of the University to cancel a scholarship program in order to devote all available resources to pressuring both levels of government into providing free education for all under the guise of "universal access".

So I have a thought on that. It's a whacky thought, I know. Given that a university tends to spend one-half to two thirds of their funding on salaries and benefits, and given that a large portion of this goes towards Professors, if you TRULY believed in the idea of universal access to a post-secondary education, then the first step should be to remove your cost which is one of the largest barriers to universal access. Your second step should be to pressure book authors and retailers to forego their profits on the textbooks so that students don't have to spend more than $100 for a book they are going to (maybe) use for 3 months. Your third step will, of course, be to ensure that your classes are not limited to a particular size, because after all, universal access means that EVERYONE should be allowed to receive your wisdom directly from the source whenever they want it.

You do these three steps, then I guarantee that we will be much closer to "universal access" than if the president of your university devoted their valuable time to pressuring governments for billions more in funding. If you don't do these steps, well, we have a philosophy around here about treating things as serious only when the people crying out for change act like it is serious.

Friday, March 26, 2010

There ought to be a law

Normally I don't say that there ought to be a law. I usually subscribe to the theory that any time someone uses that phrase, that really, there ought NOT to be a law.

But in this case, there is an exception. I think that there should be a law stating that any person properly convicted of a crime in a court of law should not receive ANY government cheques. No GST Rebates, no pension payments, no CPP, no supplement. They shouldn't receive Child Tax benefit cheques or the Universal Childcare Benefit. They shouldn't receive ANY of it. These cheques should be confiscated by the government as partial repayment for room and board and the cost of other benefits like free education. It's only fair.

Corrections Worker Fired For Leak

Corrections Worker Fired For Leak (Newstalk) or if you prefer, CBC

I find it odd from reading the news reports, that the NDP feel that they have to be the de facto union for these corrections workers.

That notwithstanding, here's the thing. The Ministry has every right to fire someone if proper procedure isn't being followed. The Ministry has every right to fire an employee if that employee notifies an MLA, ANY MLA before they notify their supervisor about a problem that has occurred. Especially when the problem can be fixed or their supervisor has already made a decision about the situation.

There are people who would spin this as "he did what he thought was right", but in the real world, that decision wasn't up to him, it was up to his supervisors to determine what the right course of action was. As a result, the deputy minister too is doing what he thinks is right - making an example of the employee who not only leaked confidential information and went outside of the chain of command, but did so in such a way that the situation became politicized.

I don't think that the examples should go far enough, however. I think that an example should have been made of the MLA who, instead of receiving the information and attempting to resolve the issue through proper channels, took the information directly to the Legislature where it was used to attempt to embarrass the government for decisions that were made within the departments themselves.

Saskatchewan NDP foresee utility rate hikes due to government using Crown corporation profits

Saskatchewan NDP foresee utility rate hikes due to government using Crown corporation profits

So ummmm, Mr. Lingenfelter? Just one question for you, and you can maybe think on this for a bit...

You despair for the individual Crowns who are being forced to pay dividends to the government, and you assert that some of those Crowns may be hamstrung by having to pay the dividend.

Except that the only Crowns that actually generate any profits to pay a dividend would be Liquor, Gaming, Tel and Gas. SLGA doesn't need any money for expansion or renovations, and apparently they just increased their profits. Gaming isn't expanding anything and doesn't need money to reinvest. Sasktel is in a marketplace where it constantly has to upgrade it's equipment, and as such, budgets upgrades as part of its rates. SaskEnergy buys and sells natural gas, and doesn't seem to be expanding its infrastructure right now, nor does it need to upgrade its infrastructure at this time as it has just built its lines.

So really, Mr. Lingenfelter, that leaves all four available to pay a dividend no greater than your governments expected them to pay in your hayday.

Might want to find another line of attack, the last two really haven't been able to really change anyone's mind.

Oh, and Duane? The Saskatchewan Party is treating the Crowns just like any investor of a closely held company - they expect the profits, less suitable reserve for capital, to go to the owners.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Saskatchewan Budget 2009

Rather than linking to the pundits and show you what everyone else thinks, I'm going to link to the original documents and tell you what I think.

At first blush, this isn't a very surprising budget. The large themes have been leaked through the Opposition's preemptive outcry, those being belt tightening and reduction of the civil service. The larger theme has also been that the budget will be balanced.

Now the NDP will tell you that that's not the case. They will say that transferring money from the "fiscal stabilization" fund does not balance a budget. Unfortunately, they too balanced the books in that way for years, and as such, they really don't have the moral authority to really stress that argument. They are right, but they have no moral high ground from which to speak.

The cuts to the civil service is a little better than what was leaked - assuming you like the civil service. A reduction of 15% over 4 years would seem to be a major change, except that it will be more than that if you take into account increases in salaries and benefits over those years. Still the idea is sound, and the reason why comes down to simple economics.

The reason why a person's wage increases year over year isn't an altruistic attempt to let the employee keep 100% of their purchasing power as inflation acts to decrease the employee's purchasing power. No, the reason why a person's wage increases is because in theory, they get more efficient at their job the longer they do it, and that efficiency is what earns them a raise. The civil service has doubled in the last 50 years despite the population of the province remaining fairly flat, and as a result, it is reasonable to assume that there is a little bit of bloat in government. This is normal in a venerable institution that gets everything it wants when it asks for it.

The increases to tobacco and liquor taxes, while unexpected, aren't something to get excited about unless you happen to be an aboriginal person who suddenly can only smoke a pack a day without paying taxes. Of course, considering everyone else in society says smoking is bad for you, and research generally backs up that position, it makes sense that the provincial government would attempt to influence through taxes the behaviour of a people who until this point have been markedly unaffected by previous attempts to reduce smoking statistics.

With everything else, it seems like it's business as usual. A cut here, and reinvestment there. This, quite frankly, is what every budget should look like. It's nice to see a government that isn't attempting to buy votes between elections.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

FNUC Fight Continues | News Talk 650 CKOM

FNUC Fight Continues | News Talk 650 CKOM

... and ends with a whimper...

Province restores Funding to FNUC

All I can say is that I sincerely hope that there's an agreement signed between the First Nations University and the University of Regina.

Oh, and one other thing... If the students spent more time protesting the lack of accountability from First Nations leadership and less time protesting the federal and provincial governments HOLDING First Nations leadership accountable for their decisions, then everyone would be much much further ahead.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

FSIN Fuming Over Proposed Exemption Change | News Talk 650 CKOM

FSIN Fuming Over Proposed Exemption Change | News Talk 650 CKOM

Perhaps this is a can of worms that Mr. Wall shouldn't have opened at this time.

But then again, perhaps he is right.

This country is founded on the fundamental principle of one law for all (later revised to one law for all unless you're a special voting block that the Liberal Party can exploit, but I digress). It doesn't make sense that First Nations can have different rules in their establishments than general society has, but that's how it is now.

Now I don't know if Mr. Wall scores more points for being concerned about the health of First Nations individuals, or if he loses points for attempting to limit a "right" that the First Nations have. I think he should come out even in the end.

Let's do the math for the sake of showing how absurd the reaction is. One carton of cigarettes contains 200 cigarettes. Each aboriginal person, be it man, woman or child, can purchase three cartons each week without paying provincial sin taxes on them. That's 600 cigarettes. One week contains 168 hours. This translates into 10080 minutes.

Assuming a person were to stay up all week, he or she would have to smoke 1 cigarette every 16.8 minutes in order to smoke all of them in a week. Assuming 8 hours of sleep each night, a person would have to smoke 1 cigarette every 11.2 minutes in order to reach their max of 600 cigarettes per week.

Now, if someone is smoking that many cigarettes per week, I would submit that they are going to have worse problems than worrying about how many cigarettes they can buy tax free, but that's a different problem for a different day.

What it really seems like Mr. Wall is doing is stepping in and doing what the leadership of the First Nations aren't doing - putting rules in place to ensure that their people are healthy and productive members of their society. Maybe they should listen to what the rationale is before they jump to conclusions.

Monday, March 22, 2010

CBC News - Canada - MP3 tax bill opposed by Conservatives

CBC News - Canada - MP3 tax bill opposed by Conservatives

It likely would come as a surprise to many if I said that I actually supported the original levy. The reason was simple - it's a hidden tax that I didn't know I was paying, and by ponying up those extra few dollars, I could rest assured that my downloading activities would be allowed.

The problem with a levy like this is that it uses a pretty wide stroke to paint everyone as an intellectual property thief and make you prepay your penance for "stealing from the artists". If I use one of those CDs or DVDs that I paid the levy on for my own home movies, or to create my own music, or to write data that I can then transfer to other computers, then I have essentially given the artists a small payment with no benefit to myself.

Most Conservatives are fighting this as just another tax increase, and to be quite frank, it is. The NDP sponsor of the bill calls this an "update" to the previous levy bill which didn't include today's media like SD cards, multifunction devices, or indeed, even cell phones. He states that many people merely download music and store it on their devices without actually putting it on a cd or dvd, and thus, these additional devices should be included in the levy.

I say "no" to this. I wouldn't expect an NDP party member to understand the fundamental truth of our economic system - that artists really do make much money on royalties. And realistically, that would not change regardless of how many levies you impose on the average consumer. No, artists make money when they sell tickets to view their work, be it the garage band touring clubs or bars, the superstars playing to full stadiums, the comedian playing to a packed house, or the sculpture or painter showing their work in an exhibit. All of these people benefit more from the exposure that a particular download of the art (be it music, video, etc) brings than they would from the actual sale of the art itself.

Kevin Smith, a personal favourite writer/director states very clearly that his theatrical releases are just one large extended commercial for his movie's DVD sales, that as long as his films do moderately well at the box office, then they will clean up in DVD sales and he will continue to be fed money to create new movies. Nickelback earned $200,000 US per show 7 years ago when they hit it big. All of their royalties combined on all of their record sales from the beginning of their career wouldn't match what they make on one 100 date sold out tour in 1 year.

I understand what the NDP are trying to do here, attempting to become more friendly with their base while adding yet another feather to the "Conservatives hate artists" tar and feather parade, but in reality, they are driving more and more people to new gadgets that may not have the levy while adding resentment to those who have to pay the levy unjustly.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Robert Fulford: How unions stifle privatization

Robert Fulford: How unions stifle privatization

There's really not much to add to Mr. Fulford's excellent essay on unions except one thing - Unions really do make the bed that they lie in.

Mr. Fulford is absolutely right that the public sector can't move fast enough, can't truly compete with the private sector in any business, simply because the private sector is always more engaged because it has a dog in the hunt. Someone in the private sector has invested their own money in the business being run, and so will be faster and more responsive when a good, possibly risky, idea comes along. With the public sector, it's more about covering my butt first before engaging in a risk that may not pay off. Then, with the unions, it's about extracting every single drop of blood that they can out of whatever enterprise they are in (see: General Motors bankruptcy, Chrysler bankruptcy).

I agree with Mr. Fulford that there comes a time when an anachronistic government owned monopoly needs to step out of the way and let the private sector move in - that time is usually when the private sector steps in and commits resources to competing with the government. I have no doubt that Canada Post is at one of those points now.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

CBC News - Politics - Union head furious with proposed civil service cuts

CBC News - Politics - Union head furious with proposed civil service cuts

Okay, so maybe he's not FURIOUS, maybe he's just angry, or disappointed or just plain upset, but there are some things that are taken as fact that shouldn't be.

Fact 1? Private contractors are getting paid three times as much as a unionized employee for the same work. I'm sorry to tell you this Bob, but when you factor in the EDOs, the vacations (that a contractor doesn't get paid for), the benefits, sick time, pensions, all of a sudden the average employee that is being paid $20 an hour costs the government another $6 or $7 in benefits. All of a sudden, your three times turns into two times the price, which leads me into point 2:

Private contractors give the government something that a locked in, wage earning, union dues paying public sector worker can't give the government - flexibility. The government can contract the private worker to do 1 specific job or solve one specific problem. After that job or problem is done, then they can tell the contractor to kiss off or they can choose to hire that contractor to solve another problem if they can. What it comes down to is that the government could use the same amount of money that it would cost for one employee (say $50,000), and access the skill sets of 6 different people on a temporary basis to get work done.

See Bob, there is something that happens in the real world that you maybe don't understand, but that you should come a realization about. In a marketplace, it isn't the workers or their leaders who necessarily determine what one hour of a person's time is worth, it is the purchaser of that hour. If a purchaser isn't willing to pay that price for a particular worker, then they may find someone else who will take what they are asking, very much like if a worker doesn't like what they are being paid, they can always go somewhere else and get closer to what they think they are worth. If the purchaser can't get anyone at the price they want, then they may have to reevaluate how valuable that work actually is to a person. Similarly with an employee - if NOBODY wants to pay what they are asking, then they have to reevaluate their own asking price to determine whether it is worth it to take a position at less than what they want to work for. This happens automatically in the marketplace, as purchasers and sellers come together to fill their needs.

Bob is obviously concerned that the government is going to start filling unionized jobs with private sector employees. He is SAYING that he is concerned because the government is paying as much as three times too much for these workers, but here's the thing that Bob is missing - the government's budget was set last spring, and will be set again at the same level of spending next Wednesday (24th). So what the government is saying is that they won't spend more than what they projected to spend despite not filling those extra jobs. That means (assuming Bob's math is correct) a two thirds less bodies to replace the 480 being lost through attrition this year.

What I'd be concerned with if I were Bob is how a private sector worker could do work that much more efficiently than one of my unionized workers that it makes sense to hire one.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Privacy, it's the new fraud

Via The Retired Educator (formerly Crux of the Matter)

A comment I couldn't post at the originating article:

I think there's a simple answer to the NSERC not revealing the names citing the Privacy Act:

"We are referring this matter to the Justice Department, the Auditor General and the RCMP for further investigation. Have a nice day."

I can't say that they are wrong to stay silent, but they should be doing more to ensure accountability on the grants they distribute.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hidden Homelessness in Sask?

Hidden Homelessness in Sask | News Talk 650 CKOM

"People say well we don't have homelessness, it's not like Vancouver. Well, it's just not as visible here because of the cold weather. It's relative homelessness where you get people in overcrowded houses, you get people living in unsanitary or unsafe conditions."
Actually, Mr. Spooner, people living in overcrowded houses isn't homelessness, it's people living in overcrowded houses. There's a difference.

A truly homeless person has no place to go. No warm shelter that they have a right to be in, and no place to store their worldly effects.

What you are calling homeless, Mr. Spooner, can be found in every city and town throughout the world. You are assuming unsanitary conditions, and in some cases you may be right, but just because a place is "overcrowded" doesn't necessarily mean that it is "unsanitary" - that can only happen when the people living in that space let it happen. This isn't something that the state should necessarily be involved in, other than the condemn the property when it becomes uninhabitable and unfixable.

Rather than advocating on the issue of fake homelessness, Mr. Spooner, why don't you work on the problem of REAL homelessness? Why don't you work on the few people who don't or can't find a place to live and inhabit each and every night? Why don't you try to make a difference in helping those people to find a place in this world, rather than working to create a new class of people who are downtrodden and "need" our help.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A note to First Nations...

FNUC Funding Frustration | News Talk 650 CKOM

I know that this is going to sound like I'm a condescending jerk but hear me out...

It's great that you want to get educated, and it's great that you have the same goal as most others - that being to become productive members of society. But I thought that over the past 200 years of dealing with governments and the crown you would have learned one fundamental truth:


Seriously. It took them several years and someone with backbone to put a stop to the financial mismanagement at FNUC by giving real consequences to the actions being taken. Did you HONESTLY think that all you had to do was wave a magic wand, say "we'll stop and let the U of R manage the finances", and the money tap would be restored? Sorry guys, it doesn't quite work like that.

The idea is good. Become a federated college of the University. They accredit your degrees anyways, so it's not that big of a leap. But the decision that you made to do this was only the first step in a process that will go at a snails pace. First comes the memo of understanding, then comes discussions and approvals and more discussions and more approvals. A system has to be put into place to ensure that you are getting all the funds to operate that you are supposed to be getting, and provisions have to be made so that those systems are accountable to you the People as much as they are to we the people. Only then will the taps be reopened and money flowing again. At some point along the way, there will be an agreement in principle to say how much money is flowing, but it won't be at the start of the process.

Now here's what you need to do to make sure the process goes smoothly. You need to cooperate and negotiate in good faith. You need to stop calling the rest of society racists just because we want some accountability for the money we're putting into your institutions. I know that is just a small portion of your people that are doing this, but it's really starting to galvanize the public against your point of view. Finally, you need to help the government get their process done without creating any problems - this is the fastest way to restored funding.

If you can do that, then I have no doubt you will continue to have your own university come September. If you can't, well, I hope FSIN has some extra money to throw into the university... it'll be tough sledding without it.

Kevin Libin: Alberta backs off on oil royalties

Kevin Libin: Alberta backs off on oil royalties

And all we will hear is the sound of crickets.

There was a line of thinking not too long ago, just after the last provincial election, that the SaskParty would open the taps and a whole bunch of Alberta money would flow in to develop the oil and gas industries in Saskatchewan, now that a more business friendly party was in power. This thought was struck down by many in the oil industry that said the flow wouldn't be all that much just simply because Saskatchewan has a history of electing socialists, and that eventually the NDP would come back to power again. All the oil industry, like ANY industry, is looking for is stability and a business friendly attitude from the government. They got it for decades in Alberta as Social Credit followed by the Progressive Conservatives provided that.

All of that changed after Mr. Stelmach came to power. One of the first things Mr. Stelmach did after getting re-elected was to mess with the oil royalty structure in Alberta. He attempted to paint oil executives as rich and greedy fat cats - the normal drill for a government looking to exhort more money from those honestly trying to make a buck. So now, two years later, "Steady Eddie" has a problem - a big image problem. That oil money has started to fly the coop as those "rich greedy fat cats" began investing in Saskatchewan and BC - provinces absolutely more stable than Alberta and it's string of royalty structure changes (5 in 2 years).

So now when we read about Alberta changing its royalty structure again, you have to feel for them. You almost have to hope that THIS time, unlike the other 5 times, that the "oil barons" will be appeased, and the money will start flowing to pull Alberta out of the recession. At least, you have to hope that if you're an Alberta resident. The problem is that the oil barons aren't going to trust anything that "Steady Eddie" says. After all, on a whim tomorrow he could change it back to 2 years ago when he thinks that the oil companies are getting too much off the backs of "normal Albertans" again.

From my perspective, I just hope that the NDP are paying attention. I KNOW that there will be a time when they get back into power. I KNOW that there will be a point where the brainwashed masses will decide that the government isn't doing enough for them, AGAIN, and will vote to create a larger pit to throw money into. I KNOW this because Saskatchewan has a long history of going back to the well when the "right-wing" option tries to push us beyond ourselves.

My hope is that it will be a long time before that happens.

Monday, March 15, 2010

If Judges had to live with their decisions - the Hell's Angels edition

Hells Angels to face sentencing Friday and the sentences.

Not much to say about this one except wow. Just wow.

B.C. Justice Peter Leask decided a number of mitigating factors would reduce the sentences of Hells Angels members John Virgil Punko and Randy Richard Potts, including Potts' chronic back pain and a recurring abscess on his buttocks that causes him considerable pain and discomfort.

The judge sentenced Potts to one year in jail, which was much less than the 12 years requested by federal prosecutor Martha Devlin.

Punko, 43, was handed a 14-month sentence. The Crown had asked for 16 years.

I guess we know what defense should be used in court now. "I did it your honor, but you should go easy on me because of my recurring abscess on my buttocks", or maybe this one:

During sentencing, Leask said both bikers were "pawns of police" because they were low-level targets used to try to get to high-level targets within Vancouver's East End chapter of the Hells Angels.
"I did it your honor, but you should ignore the fact that I was actually manufacturing and selling drugs worth hundreds of thousands of dollars because the police were just using me to get to my buddies."

Seriously though, did the judge even THINK when he handed down this decision? Did he know what the impact of this decision would be after he rendered the verdict?

I only hope that these boys get caught selling drugs outside Mr. Leasks residence next time. Maybe THEN he'd give them enough time in jail to actually think about the harm they're causing to others.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A little cheering up as the Conservative's budget passes through the House of Commons

British government urged to follow the Canadian debt reduction strategy.

The problem is that Canada's strategy in the 90s really doesn't help the British government reduce their deficit now. It wasn't that Canada necessarily reduced the size of it's bureaucracy in the 90s, it's that the federal government had the benefit of the GST growing into its own (the original deficit reduction strategy, brought in by Mulroney's Conservatives to erase the deficits which first started in the 60s), added to by a reduction in transfers to the provinces, which more or less forced them to increase taxes or make due without.

Y'see Mr. Butler, Canada's federal governments at the during the late 80s and mid 90s DID make some tough decisions to their budgets in order to erase the deficits, but those choices weren't just a matter of reducing the size of the bureaucracy... they were more about raising taxes (some of which should have been raised in order to make a couple of programs self-sustaining) and off-loading expenditures to the provinces than they were about real cost cutting.

If Britain truly wanted to follow Canada's model, then they should take a good hard look at emulating our future, not our past.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

CBC News - World - Canadian wheelchair user beaten in Australia

CBC News - World - Canadian wheelchair user beaten in Australia

What it REALLY comes down to, is respect. Respect for your elders, and respect for society as a whole.

This sentiment isn't necessarily limited to conservative or liberal. The problem is that neither side really knows how to fix this.

But when you look at it, the first thing a conservative minded friend of mine wanted to do was impose a curfew. His liberal minded friend agreed with him. I have to humbly disagree with both. A curfew may fix the problem, until our young people recognize that police can't be everywhere at once. Once this realization sets in, then a curfew will become a non-issue, and something more for us to roll our eyes at.

No, the solution boils down to respect. I may sound like an old geezer here, but kids these days aren't developing respect for their elders, and it starts with kids around my age. It was right when I was in the middle of my formative years that they removed corporal punishment from the schools. After that point, it seems that kids growing up have had less and less respect for property and for others.

So what's the simple solution? Make the parents serve the same punishment as their children if their children do something wrong? Perhaps beef up the Youth Criminal Justice Act? Keep criminals in jail longer for crimes, reducing the risk and opportunity of recidivism? Maybe it comes down to the state taking the gloves off parents to raise their kids as they see fit. Perhaps in the end, it comes down to giving parents real consequences for not teaching their children properly.

CBC News - Saskatchewan - No Florida trip for Farm Credit workers

CBC News - Saskatchewan - No Florida trip for Farm Credit workers

Finally a government organization that acts like the rest of the economy thinks. It's too bad they blew 160Gs on the same trip last year before they woke up.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Rallying For Chiropractic Care | News Talk 650 CKOM

Rallying For Chiropractic Care | News Talk 650 CKOM

So the Chiropractors are concerned about the affordability of their services to lower income people. They contend that lower income people may choose to burden the health system rather than pay the extra $12 to go to a Chiropractor.

I say follow the money.

Chiropractors don't like this because all of a sudden, the true cost of their services is revealed to their clientele. It is harder for them to take a rate increase. It is harder for them to collect, and yes, they may even lose clients in the early going.

Those clients will be back though. I'm personally not a user of chiropractic services, but I do know some people who swear by them. For me though, it's about pure business. These people will come up with the money if they truly need the service.

In my business, I too have a high charge out rate. I too run an office and pay salaries. I too am in an industry where people can choose whether or not to engage my services. The difference is that my services don't get subsidized by the government. People choose to come to me because I am useful, and some people may get a reduced rate if I don't feel that they are able to pay the full rates. But that's the difference - I make those decisions.

Now, this may be the politics of envy, but the local Chiropractor has a very nice house and very nice vehicles. He isn't doing poorly, and quite frankly, even if he loses 10% of his clientele - the bottom 10% that his association says can't afford his higher rates - he will still be able to work just as hard and will have just as nice assets, it's just that he won't be taking money out of my pocket to buy them.

In the end, that's what it all comes down to.

Another sky is blue moment

Havana food production fails to meet expectations

This moment brought to you by the letter "C" and all the other "isms" in the world.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

RCMP name those arrested, charged in investigation of trafficking of drugs to Regina Provincial Correctional Centre inmates

RCMP name those arrested, charged in investigation of trafficking of drugs to Regina Provincial Correctional Centre inmates

I hate to say it, but Gormley put it best when he said that if this is true, then there needs to be a housecleaning at the Regina Correctional Centre. There have been many escapes from that Centre over the last couple of years. There is obviously a problem with drugs (although this is alleged), and there is a culture which has trained corrections officers to report any problems to politicians before they report to their manager.

This last part disturbs me most of all.

More Financial Allegations At FNUC | News Talk 650 CKOM

More Financial Allegations At FNUC | News Talk 650 CKOM

I would be lying if I said that I was surprised at this. Given the problems in FNUC over the years, I am not surprised one bit about it.

I am also not surprised to see this little quote in the story:

Anaquod writes "this was the practice of the previous administration" and will not be tolerated under any circumstances now. He asks for $100,000 to top up the scholarship fund, but Norris says more details are still needed before that happens.
So, ummmm let me get this right. The Board of FNUC alledgedly misused both restricted and non-restricted funds under their control. The funding has been cut off from both the provincial and federal governments. Yet he is asking for more money.

So I have a message for ANYBODY out there looking for government funding. It's simple and logical. The last thing you should do to end a letter detailing alleged financial mismanagement is to ask for more money. Simple, yet so complicated.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An article from

Rahim Jaffer

The name used to stand for fighting substance abuse and a good young MP.

No longer though

Now I, unlike so many others, actually read the article in depth to surmise what happened in this case. The problem is that too many readers read the headline and not the substance of the article. The comments section was rife with people who did just that.

If the cocaine possession is true, then it is absolutely true that Mr. Jaffer caught a break. The question is, what did the officer do to him in order to give him that break? What happened that the prosecutor, after meeting with the defendant and his lawyer, decided not to pursue the charges?

If the full story is released, then we will know what happened, but we can certainly be sure of one thing - the federal Conservatives weren't involved in this decision.

Harper was right, it WAS a buying opportunity

Harper was right, it WAS a buying opportunity

The sad thing is that this is one of the things that lost him a majority in the 2008 election, as his opponents beat up on him for not having a heart.

But to be honest, I'd prefer a Prime Minister without what they consider a heart to one without a brain. At least this Prime Minister has proven that he will make a tough decision every once in a while in order to do the right thing.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Barbara Kay: A niqab is not a fashion statement

Barbara Kay: A niqab is not a fashion statement

My opinion? Reasonable accommodation is a two way street.

This is something that many people forget. That is a line that too many cross in the name of reasonable accommodation and multi-culturalism. Why is that line crossed, you might ask? Because of the fear of being labeled if you DON'T cross that line.

When our forebearers began to build this country, they were predominantly British and French, and they welcomed all races (and were bigoted towards some). Respect had to be earned, and accommodation and acceptance had to be gradually achieved over time. When the next flood of immigrants from Europe and Asia came in, they too were gradually accepted and respected as they came with the expectation of inclusion through integration, not division. It is only in the last 30 to 40 years, when rights became an industry, that immigrants came to this country without the expectation that they would have to integrate into the larger society as a whole. It is because of this lack of expectation that we are now finding ourselves having to bend over backwards for someone else, merely at their say so.

So back to Barbara's original article. The Niqab is a cultural practice, not a religious one. That that one religion has generally adopted it for use (although it is not required within the tenets of said religion) does not necessarily mean that it is a religious practice.

Paragraph 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives all peoples protection under the law regardless of your race, creed, colour or gender. It is generally assumed that the "majority" must accommodate a minority if they have a request. The problem is that sometimes the request isn't all that equal.

Let's look at the case again. She decides to take a class to learn to speak French. She wears a Niqab. Her first request was reasonable - the teacher wanted to see her face when she was pronouncing words so that she could be properly taught, and the student agreed to lift her veil as long as no males saw her face. This is reasonable, except that it didn't work for her after all. The next request involved moving herself and the teacher to the back of the class in order to perform the pronunciation. This would be a little harder to accommodate, but the teacher did so in order to be agreeable, and because this too was a fairly easy (if not annoying) step to take to accommodate - it took (I assume) seconds to complete and no real additional time would be taken from the rest. This too became unreasonable imposition on the students and as such, she asked for accommodation to move all males to one side of the room while she practiced pronunciation with her teach on the other side of the room. At this point, the teacher called this little bit of "accommodation" what it was - unreasonable. To force several people to move from one side of the room to another just to absolutely guarantee without question that there were no males able to see her face takes more time and effort than just a simple manoeuvre by student and teacher. It takes time away from the other students, and depending on the size of the class, forces the classroom to be unproductive for a period of time - time that could be spent on additional teaching for the entire class. Time that is wasted because 1 person thinks that they need absolute guarantees that no other males can see her face. Time that does not benefit, indeed hinders the progress of the class as a whole.

As a result, it should go without saying that the school may not want to continue their relationship with the student in this particular class. It can't do it's best to educate the student, not because of it's failings, but because of the student's demands. In a case like that, there should be no doubt that the student could be judged to be hindering their own progress, and as such, should seek education in a school where her needs can (and will) be accommodated. It's only fair.

Monday, March 8, 2010

They're paid to teach....

Not to preach...

There used to be a time when children were taught civics and were expected to go out and make the world a better place on their own. They were expected to take care of their little corner of the world, and they were taught that if each person takes care of the situation in their little corner of the world, that overall the world will become a better place.

Apparently, that time is dead.

I don't have a problem with children getting out and trying to improve their little piece of the earth, what I have a problem with it, is having that be mandated by the school district and the school's administration. Some people feel very strongly about a particular issue. Some people feel strongly about the issue of "social justice" as a whole. But to have it mandated that everybody in the school must work on a "social justice" project hand picked by someone else goes too far, and I would venture a guess, teaches the wrong message to children.

That message? That it is perfectly all right to meddle in someone else's affairs. That it is not only their right to do so, but also their responsibility. And what does this message turn into? It turns the children into people so wholly dependant on someone else to make their choices and decisions, that there will be no personal responsibility left.

I know, I know. That's a slippery slope argument, but in this case, it's a very valid one.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Budget day in Canada Pt 2

It's a little known fact that the more ridicule a subject has in the media, the closer it is to being what the media person wanted in the first place. So too with the most recent budget.

There are many people who have had many interesting views on the budget. There are people who think that the Conservatives didn't cut enough spending. There are many on the opposition benches who say that the government didn't spend enough. There are people who say the Conservatives shouldn't have cut the GST to 5% from 7%, and there are people who are also deriding the Conservatives for sprinkling around 1.6 Billion in new spending during the budget.

But the fact of the matter is that the budget was a good first start for a fiscally responsible government that was forced at gunpoint to spend into deficit and now has to work its way out of the hole that's been dug. Some may have thought that the Conservatives had to raise taxes and cut deeply into spending in order to get there, offloading to the provinces and municipalities, but instead the Conservatives are taking the same tack as they originally did with "greenhouse gases" - reduce the intensity first, and then make real cuts while the economy grows us out of the hole.

Many don't understand how this could possibly work, but I note that very few economists have spoken out about the plan. Maybe it's because they realize that the Conservatives are led by someone with a Masters in the subject. For the naysayers, however, here's why their particular brand of bitching and moaning is irrelevant:

GST Cuts - while they were panned at the time, many mistakenly think that the GST cuts were bad fiscal policy. They might be right, except that the purpose of those cuts was NOT necessarily to stimulate an economy or to do an effective tax cut. Those were cuts that accomplished 2 purposes - to kneecap the ability of any successive governments to implement a larger spending agenda without spending political capital, and to give a tax cut back to the middle class who have bore the brunt of the GST since its inception in 1991.

Not spending enough - What these people are ACTUALLY saying is that "you didn't spend enough on what I want you to spend on". It started before the budget when Mr. Ignatieff was talking to the press and said that the government "needs to cut not only with its head, but also with a heart". I'm sorry to tell all the opposition MPs, but a good manager doesn't cut with a heart - a good manager will make the tough decisions that need to be made, regardless of the optics or the "heart" of the matter. Unfortunately, Mr. Harper wasn't in a position where he could make those cuts without finding himself in a quick election as an unpopular politician (see Clark, Joe).

Didn't cut spending enough - What they are ACTUALLY saying is "Please Mr. Harper, commit suicide so that we can be led by a government that will spend at will and continue deficits into eternity". Because quite frankly, that's what would happen if he did that. He lost his majority in the last election over a few million dollars of arts and culture spending, what do these people think would happen if he cut a program that more people care about? What it comes down to folks, is that Mr. Harper and Flaherty did what they could to ensure that they would have some support for the budget - as they need to do in a Minority Parliament.

Sprinkled some money around - of course they did. But when you look at it, the government is actually showing remarkable restraint, considering that what they sprinkled was less than 2/3rds of 1% of the total budget.

To make a long story shortened, I'm not happy to see this much spending from a Conservative government, but I don't think they have much of a choice in this Parliamentary situation. I would like to see them implement Maxime Bernier's suggestion that Federal governmental spending should be limited to $250 Billion total (including interest and an actual, planned debt repayment). After all, everybody has to live within their means, and when I see that my governments are spending $17,500 per person per year on programs and other spending, I get a pit in my stomach (not to mention my pocket book) and question where all those dollars are going.

Syncrude lawyer at duck trial questions effectiveness of noise cannons

Syncrude lawyer at duck trial questions effectiveness of noise cannons

All Syncrude has to do at trial is show videos of birds being killed in other, supposedly green, activities, like windmills.

Of course, that may not be admissible in this trial, but if you can argue that thousands of birds are killed annually because of windmills and their byproducts, then there should be an argument for equal treatment under the law.

Then again, what do I know, I'm not a lawyer.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

10 Ways WoW will take over the world...

I'm guessing that if you started this article thinking it was a joke, this is the point when you sobered up and realized that, as author H.G. Wells predicted, "the future will accost us with boob-slapping ferocity."

An article from Cracked regarding online gaming... an old but a goody

Friday, March 5, 2010

Not debating climate change...

Al Gore came out of hiding on Sunday to write an op-ed for the NY Times.

He really hadn't been heard from for the last couple months as freezing temperatures and abnormal snow fall in such places as Florida and Arizona. I can't say that I blame him though, I mean really, after climate gate, how many times can you say that the science is settled when there is lots of evidence that the science wasn't science at all.

I really wouldn't have written this post, but something that Mr. Gore said in his piece really got to me:

But what a burden would be lifted! We would no longer have to worry that our grandchildren would one day look back on us as a criminal generation that had selfishly and blithely ignored clear warnings that their fate was in our hands. We could instead celebrate the naysayers who had doggedly persisted in proving that every major National Academy of Sciences report on climate change had simply made a huge mistake.
So essentially what he was saying is that the science is now NOT settled, and that he would be happy if global warming wasn't happening, but that he doesn't want his generation to be viewed as having done some harm to future generations by ignoring warnings.

Except that's EXACTLY what he and his ilk were attempting to do by shoving a global warming, excuse me, CLIMATE CHANGE at an unsuspecting and trusting population. He and his cohorts have been attempting to levy new taxes, punish those they view as polluters, make loads of money on the whole deal, and putting severe brakes on the further development of the First World.

Well, I'm sorry to say, Mr. Gore, but by doing anything other than merely adapting to any changes in climate which occur, whether man made or otherwise, does more harm to future generations than if we did something to curb climate change. It harms by stemming the research and storage of information. It harms by reducing society's capacity and ability to maintain our level of comfort in future generations. It harms by reducing the amount of accumulated capital which can be used by future generations.

And THAT, Mr. Gore, would be considered criminal.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Emphasis on job creation dominates throne speech

Emphasis on job creation dominates throne speech

While some of the items in the throne speech were good ideas, and I sincerely hope that many of them get acted upon (including the wage and departmental budget freeze), there is one item that I actually thought "What the heck were they thinking" when I read it.

Wanna guess which one?

The government will, for example, seek to change the English version of the national anthem to make it gender neutral, possibly by replacing the line “in all thy sons command” with “thou dost in us command,” a line that was in the original lyrics from 1909.

Budget day in Canada

Today's post will come in later than usual with analysis and my reaction to the budget.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rex Murphy: Somehow, we survived prorogation

Rex Murphy: Somehow, we survived prorogation

A timely read for a day like today.

I think that we should celebrate the "return of democracy" to Canada by phoning the nearest "progressive" and explain to them what prorogation REALLY meant.

Some people think that the government of Canada shut down during prorogation, but that's not true. Some people thought that prorogation meant that the Prime Minister was exercising a coup on the government to become a dictator, but that isn't true either. The Prime Minister worked throughout the break. The Finance Minister worked throughout the break. Other senior ministers too worked through the break. What happened is that the work of the government continued, but the opposition didn't get a chance to keep beating a dead horse. And really, THAT'S what everyone was howling about.

So now the government has used a perfectly legitimate and constitutional device to give it some breathing room in order to prepare a spring budget and a new direction for the government.

And to those who felt that it was an unethical misuse of power... I'd like to know what you thought of the coalition debate of 2008, because realistically, this break was more ethical than that attempt to usurp power was.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Remind me again why we need Quebec?

I know, I know... that's not a very polite thing to say, but seriously, what really binds Quebec to the rest of Canada? They speak a different language, they have different ideas about the role of government in society.

Or so it would seem

The answer? Quebec is bound to the rest of Canada for money and power. You see, Quebec got used to a few things during the 20th Century, and the majority of that comes down to power being granted through an inordinate number of Prime Ministers being from Quebec, and through Quebec's large proportion of the population through most of that century. It also comes down to money being transferred from the rest of Canada to appease their appetite throughout the latter half of the century.

The problem is that Quebec's population proportion has been decreasing as Alberta and British Columbia have grown rapidly. With population growth, those two provinces have also grown their economies to the point where they rival Quebec's in real GDP, and beat Quebec's economy by all measures other than aggregate total. Considering each province is between 50 and 60% of the size of Quebec, I would think that Quebec's economy should be roughly twice the size of each provinces, rather than barely being the same size as Albertas and much less than twice the size of BCs.

Now what does it mean? As one of Canada's oldest and most populous provinces, it should be one of the provinces that is leading the way with per capita GDP, not languishing near the bottom of the list. It should be helping the lesser provinces around it to provide services comparable to the rest of Canada, not helping them to develop new social programs to waste their money on.

Of course, that's just my thought. I think that Quebec should have their bluff called if they even think of leaving Canada - they wouldn't be able to survive on their own.

Alberta, Saskatchewan and BC on the other hand...

Update: is it a surprise that all of the biggest "have not" provinces over the past several decades have the highest percentage of workers in the public sector?

On the first measure, which excludes federal employees and only counts publicsector employment at the provincial/state level (characteristic 1a), Nevada tops the list of Canadian provinces and US states with the lowest percentage of its employment in the public sector (8.6%). Rounding out the top 11 rankings are three Northeastern states (Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island), four Midwestern states (Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri), two Southern states (Tennessee and Florida), and two Western states (Nevada and Colorado).

Alberta was the highest-ranked Canadian province; it ranked 41st with
14.4% of its total employment represented by the public sector. British Columbia followed Alberta, taking 44th place with 14.8% of its employment in the public sector. Saskatchewan occupied the last position, with public-sector employment representing 24.6% of its total employment, nearly triple the rate of topranked Nevada. Seven of the bottom 10 jurisdictions were Canadian provinces (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Saskatchewan). Ontario ranked 48th. (Pg 37)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Nova Scotia's ruling NDP fined for trade union donation

Nova Scotia's governing New Democratic Party was fined $10,000 Thursday for accepting an illegal campaign donation from a trade union group, prompting the resignation of the party's provincial secretary and an apology from its president.

Of all the things that I agree with in federal elections law, I agree with the idea that unions and corporations are specifically denied the ability to donate to parties most of all.

Now that doesn't mean that I believe that corporations and unions should be silenced from speaking out during and between elections - by all means, do what you want to advertise and speak. What it means is that the less money given to political parties is the less favours that are owed to the union or corporation after the election. If a union gives money to a political party, this influence can be hidden. If a union must attach their own name to their message, then this gives members an opportunity to decide whether the union leadership is doing what is best for ALL union members.

Of course, for many unions, it doesn't matter what the membership thinks, but I digress.