Thursday, March 31, 2011

No coalition in 2004: Harper, Duceppe and Layton

Day 5 Policies

Conservative: Extend Accelerated write-offs for business
Liberal: Changes to the CPP
NDP: Revamped Corporate Tax Measures & Job Creation Tax Credit

Today we're going to start off with the Liberal's proposals.

The Liberal Party announced a plan to negotiate changes to the CPP which includes gradually increase benefits over time and to allow for voluntary contributions to the CPP.  It should be no surprise that I don't like the CPP and I don't think it's a very good investment.  Having said that, it's not up to me to tell others how they spend their retirement, as long as those increased benefits don't put an increased burden on my contributions, and as long as my benefits in the future don't put that same burden on my kids and grandkids.  I will point out to the Liberal party that we actually have this plan in a limit form - in Saskatchewan it's called the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, but I would also point out that RRSPs do exactly the same thing.  So why don't they just increase the amount you can contribute to your RRSP or make changes to make it more attractive to invest in an RRSP?
Cost: Unspecified

The NDP threw out a heavy policy and to be honest, I think that they got their policy book mixed up with the Liberals again.  The NDP proposal is to increase large corporate tax rates to the level they were at in 2007 (a tax hike of 3% to 31%) and then drop the small business corporate tax rate by 2% (to 9%).  The NDP also put in a job creation tax credit of $4500 (no word on details) and the same accelerated CCA rates that the Conservatives are offering, but for longer.  In this package, the only thing that I don't like is the corporate tax hike for large corporations.  Otherwise, I'm actually impressed that the NDP are the ones that are putting forth this proposal.  Not too long ago, when the Liberals were actually fighting with the Conservatives for the center of the spectrum, this would have been (with small changes) a policy put forth by the Liberals.  Score one for Mr. Layton today.
Cost: Unspecified

The Conservative announcement for the day was to extend accelerated write offs for equipment purchases for two years.  They also announced a continuation of a pilot project to support collaboration between colleges and businesses.  On the whole, this is a pretty low key day for the Conservatives - both announcements are currently in effect and today just pledges to continue what is already working.
Cost: $600 Million for the extension plus $80 million in new funding for the pilot project

On the whole, I think that the NDP wins the day with an interesting proposal to revamp corporate taxes.  I don't agree with widening the gap between large corporate tax rates and small business corporate rates, but on the whole, the rest of the proposal is a winner.  The only problem is that we don't know what it costs.  On a trend, the Conservatives continued their string of using tax cuts to stimulate business investment.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Disco Duck

Just to turn the page from politics for a little bit...

Rick Dees -Disco Duck 1976

Quebecers want in? Don't vote for the Bloc

Quebecers want in? Don't vote for the Bloc

Finally someone actually speaks truthfully to the people of Quebec:

The Conservatives tried mightily in their first term to win over the Quebec vote. They got parliamentary recognition of Québécois nationhood, they put paid to the alleged fiscal imbalance, they gave Quebec a seat on the Canadian UNESCO delegation and Stephen Harper pointedly spoke French first at every formal public appearance, even abroad. And yet, when the Tories made a relatively piddling cut to arts funding before the last election, Quebec threw a collective hissy fit and gave the Bloc even more seats than before.

The lesson for Quebecers here is that if they don't participate in national affairs through the national parties, their concerns will predictably get short shrift. Bite the hand that reaches out to you too often and the hand will inevitably be withdrawn.

This is the first election in a long time that is actually bringing up this point to the people of Quebec. Let's hope that they listen, or else they may just become as irrelevant as the party they support.

Of websites and information

In doing my round up post this morning, I got the brainwave that I should just take the press releases from the parties themselves rather than attempting to sift through the media's accounts of what the leaders promised.  So I decided that I would grab the press releases from the parties and that way I don't have to search for the information.

First stop was the Conservative website.  It was clean, loaded quickly and I could find what I needed right away.  I also note that the Conservative press releases are a lot longer than the others simply because they put a backgrounder on each policy announcement.  Next stop,  To open that web site it was like night and day compared to the Conservatives.  For a party that claims to have a lot of creative people, I think all that creativity is getting in the way.  It took a full half a minute to load and even then all elements weren't working at normal speed, and not only that, I couldn't find an RSS feed at first blush.  I went straight to where again, the site was clean, loaded quickly and I found the feed right away.

After I got the NDP one, I went back to and searched for another couple minutes before I finally found the press releases.  After that, there was no indication of an RSS feed so I finally took a shot in the dark and just signed up the press release page as an RSS.  We'll see how it works in the future.

Day 4: Tories & NDP

Conservatives: New Hire Credit
Liberals: No new policy
NDP: Credit Card rate limited to no more than 5% above prime.

Let's look at the Conservatives first.  The pledge for the day is to reintroduce the tax credit for businesses to hire new employees.  It works out to almost all of the employer's share of the EI premiums that would be payable on the new hire's salary.  For the second day in a row, the Conservatives are targeting a tax break in order to achieve certain goals - in this case to reduce unemployment by giving an incentive to hire a new employee. Cost: 165 Million

The Liberals spent the day fleshing out their previous pledge to give future university or college students an extra $1000 per year in cash.  This will be paid for by a direct cash injection as well as eliminating the tuition and books credit currently attached to the tuition slips.  The assumption would be that this will also cover trade schools.  One of the caveats of this is that you must have an RESP open for each child, and that they will receive $1000 per year from age 14 to 17 into their RESP.  This makes it much less beneficial for older current students.  Cost: Already counted yesterday

The NDP made their first policy announcement by pledging a cap on Credit Card rates to 5% above the prime rate.  As a person who owes money on credit cards, I at first was willing to give this one a chance.  Currently I'm in the process of paying down my credit card debt, and this cap would help me achieve that goal sooner, however there is one thing that Mr. Layton and the NDP don't realize.  By reducing the rates that credit card companies are able to charge, you will increase every individual's willingness to make that purchase today and pay for it later, and (2) you will decrease the willingness of credit card companies to issue a new card without a very high credit rating.  Many credit cards of people who have less than stellar credit ratings will be cancelled, and the remainder are ones that don't normally pay interest on their cards anyways.  Cost: Unspecified

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 3: Policies Start Rolling

Conservatives: Income splitting for families with minor children - postponed until balanced budget
Liberals: Low income tuition bursaries.
NDP: No policy reported
Bloc: No policy reported

The first real day of the campaign started off with an announcement from Mssrs Harper and Ignatieff.

Mr. Harper announced income splitting for parents with minor children to be implemented as soon as the budget is balanced (estimated to be in 2014).  Mr. Ignatieff countered by announcing a bursary for low income university students.

First, Mr. Harper's proposal.  First off, I agree with delaying his proposal until the budget is balanced.  Secondly, this proposal has a chance to take some pressure off the number of child care spaces by encouraging a parent to stay at home rather than going out to work and pay for childcare.  Third, this proposal is universal - it does not rely on concentration of population in order to create child care spaces.  Fourth, this proposal plays to one of Mr. Harper's strongest bases.  The downside of it, other than having to wait for it, is that it doesn't help a single parent except to possibly free up child care spaces and reduce their cost overall.  Mr. Ignatieff attacked this by questioning why not now - roll back the corporate tax cuts (yes, roll them back - they're already legislated and enacted) and do it now.  Cost $2.5 Billion per year

Mr. Ignatieff's proposal is fairly simple.  Cut a cheque to lower income students.  Great.  More lower income students maybe get to go to university.  Subject to their grades, acceptances, availability of the program they want and other intangibles like availability of student loans.  It is a simple proposal, and plays to young people and their parents.  The downside?  We have a massive deficit - any spending will involve either putting more debt on the backs of students through the national debt - the alternative is raising taxes - which is one of the themes of the campaign for the Liberal.  Here are the details - Cost $1 Billion per year

It should be no secret that I prefer a government to find a way to let me keep more of my money than I prefer one that will cut a cheque.  For this reason, I give the Conservatives a win on this day.

Monday, March 28, 2011

No one believes Iggy on coalition issue: Poll

No one believes Iggy on coalition issue: Poll | Decision 2011 | News | Edmonton Sun

Not really a surprise here, although if only 2/3rds of Liberal voters support a coalition - one that would bring the Liberals back to power after 5 years, then that could work out to be good news for the Conservatives later in the campaign. As it sits right now, even though the Coalition is going to be a major campaign theme, I would appreciate Mr. Harper and company actually releasing policy and winning people over with good ideas.

Of course, that's just my thought.

In any case, there was something else that came out of this poll that I had to comment on:

Moreover, the coalition idea is much more popular in Quebec than it is in the rest of Canada.

"There is only region of Canada where we get majority approval for coalition, in Quebec and that's at 52%. All other regions are in the high 20s and the mid-30s," said Bourque.

My comment? OF COURSE QUEBEC FAVOURS A COALITION. THEY'RE THE ONES THAT KEEP VOTING FOR A PARTY THAT HAS NO CHANCE TO SIT ON THE GOVERNMENT SIDE. Not only that, of course they want to be in a coalition - every single decision is an opportunity to exhort more money and benefits for Quebec to the detriment of the rest of Canada. I would also point out that all other regions are unsupportive of a coalition primarily because the Conservatives hold most of the seats outside of Toronto, Vancouver and Quebec.

Again, all this poll really shows is that Mr. Harper should move along to promote policy along with the Coalition talk.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Further to the 2004 Coalition questions

From Mr. Layton's mouth to the internet for spread.

h/t CAW Worker's voice of Reason,

Blue Like you

& Steven Chase

Earth Hour: Why I will leave my lights on

Earth Hour: Why I will leave my lights on

Correction: Why I DID leave my lights on.... and did laundry.... and sat in front of a natural gas fire... and watched TV.

Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of hot water. Many of the world’s poor suffer brutal environmental conditions in their own homes because of the necessity of cooking over indoor fires that burn twigs and dung. This causes local deforestation and the proliferation of smoke- and parasite-related lung diseases. Anyone who wants to see local conditions improve in the third world should realize the importance of access to cheap electricity from fossil-fuel based power generating stations. After all, that’s how the west developed.

The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity. Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity. People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour. And pop down to the cardiac unit at the hospital and shut the power off there too.

I don’t want to go back to nature. Travel to a zone hit by earthquakes, floods and hurricanes to see what it’s like to go back to nature. For humans, living in “nature” meant a short life span marked by violence, disease and ignorance. People who work for the end of poverty and relief from disease are fighting against nature. I hope they leave their lights on.

Hear hear!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Boy who outed porn star threatened with charges

Boy who outed porn star threatened with charges | Canada | News | Edmonton Sun

... and now you know the rest of the story.

Not only did the (14 year old) kid tell his friends about her, he created a Facebook page without her consent.

I don't buy the clerical worker needing to be suspended. What she does on her own time is her own business. She isn't in the classroom. Students rarely encounter her outside of the school's office, and unless she's dressing improperly or acting improperly in the school's office, she really shouldn't be considered a role model.

The problem is that now that she's been "outed" with her moonlight career, she can't remain in the same school she was at. Regardless of if she would be considered a role model there, her presence in that office would be disruptive for the remainder of the school year. The best thing for her would be to move her to the division office where she isn't in direct contact with students for a few years. After a few years, she may be able to move back into a school's office after the older students have moved along, allowing her a fresh start.

When is a coalition not a coalition

When is consultation not consultation? Some would have you believe that Mr. Harper never consults with anyone on his policies, but it's clear that there is a difference between "consulting" with the opposition and actually doing everything that they tell you to do.

This campaign is inevitably going to bring out many rebuttals to Mr. Harper's assertion that a Coalition is illegitimate.  Those rebuttals will point out that Mssrs. Harper, Layton and Duceppe jointly sent a letter to the Governor General in 2004 reminding her to consider all options if the Prime Minister discussed a dissolution of Parliament with her.  Those rebuttals will also inevitably include the fact that Mr. Harper began discussions with Mr. Duceppe in 2004 when it appeared that he might win a minority government, including consulting with Mr. Duceppe about what he might want to see in a Throne Speech.

Consulting with Mr. Duceppe is fine. Giving Mr. Duceppe a veto on anything that gets done is different. It's surprising how many people don't understand that point. Because Mr. Dion was not in a position to govern without the Bloc's support in 2008, EVERY decision had to be something Mr. Duceppe and his party wanted. EVERY decision would have been a chance for Mr. Duceppe to exhort more benefits from the Rest of Canada in favour of Quebec. Mr. Duceppe may have been smart enough not to exercise that power with every decision made, but his sole electoral responsibility is to extract more from the federal government for Quebec, and the more often he did this, the stronger he would have become.  Quebec will reward, for a time anyways, those who bribe or attempt to bribe them.

This isn't a matter of Mr. Harper being now hypocritical, this is a matter of Mr. Harper knowing this reality and understanding that no minority government will survive without the occasional support of such a strong regional party. A coalition may be legitimate. A coalition with the Bloc may even be legitimate. What isn't legitimate is when the three losing opposition parties attempt to subvert the will of the electorate without at least attempting to work with the incumbent party before they attempt to pull the trigger.  What happened in 2008 was planned long before the Throne Speech was ever written.  I have no doubt that the same parties will attempt it again if Mr. Harper does not get a majority.

Earth Day 2011

My only regret is that I have too many LED and CFL bulbs to actually make a difference.

h/t SDA

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dear Media "Pundits"

The question isn't whether a coalition would be acceptable now that Canadians have gotten used to the idea. No.

The question is whether a coalition which excludes the largest party in parliament, the party which wins the largest plurality of seats in the next parliament, likely by a factor of 1.5 to 2 will be allowed to lead the coalition.

THAT is the question which should be answered. People have brought up that the United Kingdom now has a coalition government, but the fact of the matter is that the coalition government INCLUDES the party with the plurality of seats in parliament. The discussion began with Labour (which lost the election to the Conservatives but retained the right to continue governing through a coalition by right of incumbency) and ended with the Conservatives leading the coalition after a revolt of Labour MPs over the thought of a coalition.

So, I have a humble suggestion. If the media are going to speak of a coalition of losers, they should at least cite the situation where the incumbent wins a minority in an election and is refused the opportunity to honestly form government through the actions of the losing parties (King-Byng was about the incumbent losing the plurality and attempting to govern without a coalition). THIS is the true use of a coalition. Anything else would and should be considered illegitimate.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Meat Cars - Epic Meal Time

"We ditched that corn for something more cheesy..."

Beer: Saskatchewan budget includes first beer discount since 1993

Beer: Saskatchewan budget includes first beer discount since 1993

Honestly though, couldn't they have decreased the wholesale price for everybody?  Really?

Just sayin'

It's your money....

...Tune in to see how they're going to spend it.

At first, I didn't like how that sounded.  This afternoon, I realized why.  It's not necessarily a knock against any particular government, but government in general.

Today, the Saskatchewan Government handed down its 4th budget.  While not specifically an election budget, this budget does address a few items and sprinkles around a few goodies which might make people more inclined to be well-disposed to the government in power.

Budget day is always an interesting day for me.  I generally wait with baited breath to hear what little goodies I'm going to have to remember and let my clients know about.  Last year, I was disappointed but relieved because there was nothing in either the Federal or the Provincial budget that substantially changed things for my clients.  This year, the Federal budget was about the same.  I'm not going to write a post on it because, well, until it passes a confidence vote I'm not going to waste my breath.

The Provincial budget yesterday, on the other hand, shows the difference between a government in good times vs a government in bad times.  As a strong fiscal conservative I keep getting disappointed that the government won't actually CUT spending, but as a fiscal conservative, I am happy that the government didn't need to increase taxes in any way in order to balance the budget.  I could rationalize the deficit of last year, and it was rational (yet stupid) for the government to expect that potash revenues would increase by 900% and that they could balance the budget based on it.

Having said that though, after reviewing the numbers (not just the propaganda the government puts out) I was satisfied that they did good this year.  I'm concerned that they are using an average price of almost $100 per barrel to estimate oil royalties, and an almost par dollar to estimate exchange,but I can't dispute that the US government won't do anything over the next year to actually strengthen their dollar and push us down again.

In the end though, it comes down to tax cuts (corporate down, personal credits up, education tax down) and a sprinkling of additional spending with the net result being a surplus budget - a real one.  Who could really have asked for more?

High school worker suspended after she's outed as a porn star

High school worker suspended after she's outed as a porn star Canada News Edmonton Sun

The administrative employee was recently confronted by a student who had seen one of her films. She refused his request for an autograph and told him to keep quiet about her double life. He instead told his friends and word eventually got back to the administration.

Okay first off, the reaction shouldn't have been to deny the autograph and tell him to keep quiet, because to be quite frank, knowing a porn star is something that every 18 year old boy would tell the world about.

No, the reaction should have been to deny the second job. Deny it vehemently and act disgusted. Doing this would have downplayed the odds that the kid would go to his friends and say she LOOKS like that porn star, and not she IS that porn star.

That was the mistake.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I have absolutely no doubt...

If people actually had to save their money throughout the year and actually write a cheque for their tax bill in April, we would have a lot less government spending.

Exhibit "A"

I mentioned to a client the other day, and I've mentioned on this blog in the past, that it's time to treat governmental budgets like you treat your household budget - The household budget has to include principal repayments of outstanding debt, and debt repayment obligations are generally limited to 40% of income. Why doesn't any government have to follow that same guideline?  Paying down or off debt requires surpluses.  Why is it as politically suicidal to continue to generate surpluses in order to pay down debt as it is to deficit spend?  How much less often would a person say "let government do it" if a person actually had to write a cheque to the government each spring in order to help them continue to spend your money the way they feel it should be spent?  This year, I would have written a check for just about $19,000.  I get very little out of this payment - infrastructure is covered by the fuel tax on fuel.  If I had to cut a cheque for that amount all at once in the spring, I would be even more unhappy about taxing and spending than I currently am.

Judging from the Federal Budget today, I suspect more people might be unhappy as well.

Full Pundit for today

It’s worth noting that the Grits do have an “open government” platform, which is pretty darn good on paper — for example, it promises to restore the mandatory long-form census and make disclosure the default position for access-to-information requests — but we never seem to hear them talking about it. 

Uhhhh Mr. Selley?  How does allowing a government agency to force private citizens to answer intrusive and unnecessary questions under threat of imprisonment or fine without informing the public as to exactly HOW they are going to use the data collected constitute "OPEN AND HONEST GOVERNMENT"?

I don't understand, perhaps you can explain it to me. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Arab League criticizes West's strikes on Libya

WAMC: Arab League criticizes West's strikes on Libya (2011-03-20)

Arab League chief Amr Moussa called for an emergency meeting of the group of 22 states to discuss Libya. He requested a report into the bombardment, which he said had "led to the deaths and injuries of many Libyan civilians."
"What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians," Egypt's state news agency quoted Moussa as saying.
Arab backing for a no-fly zone provided crucial underpinning for the passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution last week that paved the way for Western action to stop Gaddafi killing civilians as he fights an uprising against his rule.
The intervention is the biggest against an Arab country since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Withdrawal of Arab support would make it much harder to pursue what some defense analysts say could in any case be a difficult, open-ended campaign with an uncertain outcome.
It's time for the Arab League to put up or shut up.

Gaddafi isn't worried about civilians. Gaddafi is fighting his civilians. Gaddafi is fighting in civilian areas and using those same civilians as human shields. If the Arab League truly is decrying the fact that there are civilians among the casualties, then perhaps they should put jets in the air to help establish and maintain the no-fly zone. If they can't or won't do this, then there are 2 options. Either shut up about the civilian casualties or shut up about having the Western nations' help. It's that simple. The west contains the culture(s) that seek to minimize civilian casualties and don't attack their own allies or people, often to the detriment of effectiveness. Can any government in the Middle East say the same in the last 3 months other than Israel and Egypt?

Thought not.

Oh, and note to Reuters and AP:  If they won't let you investigate their claims, you probably shouldn't be reporting the numbers as accurate.  Just sayin'

A Smarter, Less Duplicative Federal Government

A Smarter, Less Duplicative Federal Government: FCPP - Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The budget challenges of the 1990s necessitated disciplined austerity
measures that eventually produced a string of federal surpluses, catapulting
Canada to the comparatively strong fiscal position it presently enjoys.
Unfortunately, from 2005 on, federal spending has increased at a rate exceeding
economic growth. According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, had
program spending been limited to the combined rates of inflation and population
growth (2.7%) since Paul Martin's first budget in 2003-04, there would be a
surplus now of $25 billion.

It should be no secret that I am hoping for an austerity budget brought down by the federal government. I sincerely hope that if the Conservatives believe they will be going to an election this spring anyways, that they will bring down a budget that sets the tone and gives all Canadians tired of deficit spending and increasing federal debt a party which is setting the tone fiscally.

In 2008, when the "Coalition" crisis occured, the Conservatives attempted to force parliament to lead the way by giving up some of their entitlements. I hope that they revive some of those ideas along with incorporating some of the FCPP's suggestions in order to bring the books under control and show the country that government spending CAN be cut without affecting the average person.

The truth about Hedge Funds

The Truth about Hedge Funds

Myth 1: Hedge funds are highly leveraged.
Fact 1: The market exposure of most hedge funds is less than twice the percentage of assets under management.

Myth 2: The hedge fund industry’s tendency to take excessive risks, combined with a lack of regulation, was an important cause of the financial crisis.
Fact 2: Not only did hedge funds not precipitate the financial crisis, they did nothing to exacerbate it. If anything, hedge funds have helped the economy to recover more quickly.

Myth 3: Most hedge fund managers are billionaires.
Fact 3: Who cares? But if you must know, the average hedge fund manager’s yearly earnings are $336,000.

Definitely worth a whole read

Meat Building 101 - Epic Meal Time

"Get a secondary Bacon Cart"

"I heard someone say that's too much bacon"


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saskatchewan rights'bill is regressive

Saskatchewan rights'bill is regressive

So says Amnesty International and a professor of Social Work, but happily, they give all the reasons why the Bill (160) is necessary and important.

Tribunals were set up to hear human rights complaints -in Saskatchewan and across the country -for two key reasons: expertise and accessibility. Both are vital when something as fundamental and vulnerable as human rights is on the line.
A tribunal with a mandate focused on human rights can develop expertise in ways that even the most talented provincial court judge, whose docket spans a dizzying array of issues, can simply never achieve. Specialization helps strengthen human rights protection.
A tribunal is also a much more relaxed and less expensive setting than the formality and complexity of a courtroom. Rules of evidence are not as stringent. Claimants are not faced with the intimidation that comes with such trappings as lawyers and judges wearing robes. Given that human rights complainants very often come from marginalized, low-income communities, this informality goes far in boosting both comfort and confidence.
There is wide agreement that the human rights tribunal has faced challenges. Notoriously underfunded for many years and lacking basic institutional support, it is perhaps not a surprise that the average time for processing a case has climbed to a reported 21 months.
What is perplexing is to leap from recognizing the tribunals need repair to Bill 160's extreme proposal: get rid of them. There are many other possibilities, including increased funding, different approaches to appointing tribunal members, new rules of procedure and providing the tribunal with badly-needed infrastructure. There is no indication those options have been explored. If they have, there is no explanation why they were rejected. In the absence of that basic information one is left with the worrying prospect that this may be less about the professed concerns about efficiency and more about animus towards the tribunals.
So let's start with their first point: Specialization helps strengthen human rights protection. Except it all depends on WHOSE rights you are worried about. Personally, I'm worried about not just the complainant's rights, but also the accused. There have been some high profile cases across Canada which demonstrate that the last thing anybody in the Tribunal room, other than the defendant and his/her lawyer, is worried about are the rights of the accused - the right to a fair proceeding, the right to view all of the evidence against the defendant, and of course, the right to a reasonable defense of actions. None of these are present in the Tribunal, and with a virtually 100% conviction rate, there has been no effort to include these elements in the proceedings. Specialization does not strengthen human rights protection, it takes away those same protections at the hands of a group of people with no interest in fairness.

Rules of evidence are not as stringent. Personally, I would like Watkinson and Neve to explain to me how this can be a good thing. The rules of evidence in court are stringent precisely to ensure that basic fairness and civility exist for both parties. The rules of evidence exist to ensure that people can not be wrongfully convicted on hearsay or circumstantial evidence.

Third, average time for processing a case is 21 months.  That's just about 2 years after the tribunal has been handed the case from the the Human Rights Commission's attempts at mediation and settlement.  I don't see how this is a reason to keep the Tribunals given that if the case goes through the regular courts, it would be settled within that time.

The minor points put forward include the fact that defendants would feel more comfortable in this setting than in a regular courtroom setting, but to be quite frank, the last thing EITHER party should be is comfortable in the courtroom.  The Human Rights industry doesn't need people employed full time in it.  The Human Rights industry doesn't need people who specialize in these cases.  The Human Rights industry doesn't need more resources or infrastructure.  What the Human Rights industry needs is a devotion to mediating disputes between injured and injurers.  It needs a devotion to weeding out true victims of prejudice or racism from those with hurt feelings and an axe to grind.  It needs an incentive for the "victims" to only risk their case going before a judge if they are sure that no other outcome will do.

Also preoccupying are two new grounds for rejecting human rights complaints before they even reach the stage of a hearing. One is the open-ended possibility that "having regard to all of the circumstances" the commissioner concludes a hearing is "not warranted." Surely something as serious as dismissing someone's human rights complaint deserves less arbitrary criteria.

The other is that if, during mediation, a complainant turns down a settlement offer that the commissioner considers "fair and reasonable" that is the end of the road. The complaint will be dismissed. It's a decidedly coercive approach to mediation. Of course it is beneficial to persuade complainants to accept reasonable settlement offers. But the bottom line is that the human rights at stake belong to the individual who made the complaint, not to the commission. If he or she makes an informed decision not to opt for a full hearing instead of settlement -that choice should be respected. That is what human rights are all about.
As it sits currently, there are no reasons why a Human Rights case does not go before a Tribunal.  ALL cases go before the Tribunal, regardless of merit.  By giving Commissioners two "outs" to avoid a Tribunal, the new law gives the Human Rights Commission the power and the ability to weed out the cases with merit from the cases without, possibly reducing the workload of the judges who have to hear the cases.

As for this:

A tribunal with a mandate focused on human rights can develop expertise in ways that even the most talented provincial court judge, whose docket spans a dizzying array of issues, can simply never achieve. Specialization helps strengthen human rights protection.
There is no law which supersedes the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  A Judge on the bench spends day after day interpreting and judging cases based on these very documents.  To argue that a judge can not properly judge a case simply because he or she doesn't judge these cases regularly diminishes the knowledge and experience of those same judges.

The most important part of these changes, is that it takes the power away from the Human Rights industry and puts it into the hands of those who have absolutely no stake in retaining the status quo.  It's no wonder that Amnesty International opposes the legislation.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Canadian fighter jets heading to Libya

Canadian fighter jets heading to Libya Canada News Edmonton Sun

Now if only there were a reason to replace these jets before they drop out of the sky.... hmmmmm

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Science: Offshore Wind Farms Kill Whales

Science: Offshore Wind Farms Kill Whales - By Greg Pollowitz - Planet Gore - National Review Online

Has anyone else noticed the gentle irony here? Well, let me explain with the help of my magic sledgehammer: save possibly the polar bear and the mighty snail darter there is no creature on the planet more totemic of green values than the whale. Saving whales is what greens do. Or rather what they used to do in the days when greens were actually interested in caring for the environment instead of, say, trying to destroy the capitalist system.

Read it all

Electrical Power cable progress at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 and one diesel units is working again

Electrical Power cable progress at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 and one diesel units is working again

Update on the anti-catastrophe operations.

Interesting to know exactly what injuries and casualties there have been in the worker crews that are actually at so-called ground zero:

Casualties among power plant workers

* Two Tepco employees have minor injuries.
* Two contractors were injured when the quake struck and were taken to hospital, one suffering two broken legs.
* A Tepco worker was taken to hospital after collapsing and experiencing chest pains.
* A subcontract worker at an "important earthquake-proof building" was found unconscious and was taken to hospital.
* Two Tepco workers felt ill whilst working in the control rooms of Fukushima Daiichi units 1 and 2 and were taken to the medical centre at Fukushima Daini.
* Four workers were injured in the hydrogen explosion at Fukushima Daiichi 1. They were all taken to hospital.
* Eleven workers (four Tepco workers, three subcontract workers and four members of Self Defence Force) were hurt following a similar explosion at Fukushima Daiichi 3. They were transferred to the Fukushima Daini plant. One of the Tepco employees, complaining of pain in his side, was later transferred to hospital.
* The whereabouts of two Tepco workers, who had been in the turbine building of Fukushima Daiichi unit 4, is unknown.
* Only one casualty has been reported at the Fukushima Daini plant. A worker in the crane operating console of the exhaust stack was seriously injured when the earthquake struck. He subsequently died.

Contamination cases

* One Tepco worker working within the reactor building of Fukushima Daiichi unit 3 during "vent work" was taken to hospital after receiving radiation exposure exceeding 100 mSv, a level deemed acceptable in emergency situations by some national nuclear safety regulators.
* Nine Tepco employees and eight subcontractors suffered facial exposure to low levels of radiation. They did not require hospital treatment.
* Two policemen were decontaminated after beng exposed to radiation.
* An unspecified number of firemen who were exposed to radiation are under investigation.
All of these people are heroes, along with all the workers who have stepped up to do the job when the original workers needed treatment.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Just a note for all university students

Not just their leaders:

It doesn't matter how "high" you think your tuition is as long as you stay in Saskatchewan after graduation.

If you graduate from U of R or U of S and you continue to live in the province for 7 years after you graduate, then you will receive a rebate on your tuition to a lifetime maximum of $20,000.  This is a refundable rebate which means that you get it as long as you stay in the province, regardless of if you pay provincial income tax.

Currently, tuition costs about $2700/semester x 8 semesters = 21,600 of actual tuition costs.  That means if you graduate and stay in Saskatchewan for 7 years, you will have effectively paid $1600 for your 4 year degree.

Now seriously.  Tell me again how your tuition fees are too high?  Explain to me why I should subsidize your education if you plan is not to stay in the province after graduation?  Enlighten me as to why your university experience should be any different than mine and countless others has been who did NOT get this advantage?

Somali Pirates practice inventory management

If I didn't know any better, I would think that this came from The Onion:

“A group of Somali pirates announced Sunday that they’re cutting their asking prices for hostages by 20 percent — to speed up the negotiation process, make room for more hostages and take in more cash,” reports Wired.  ”We want to free ships within a short period of time instead of keeping them for a long time and incurring more expenses in guarding them. We have to free them at a lower ransom so that we can hijack more ships,” one pirate spokesperson told Reuters.
I still have to go with Neo on this one:

One bullet + One Somali Pirate = 1 dead Somali Pirate

Teen Bully Video Fallout -- Both Kids Suspended

Teen Bully Video Fallout -- Both Kids Suspended

I don't think the retaliator should have been suspended. I DO think that the kid instigating should have been suspended, as well as the camera operator, although thanks should be given to the boys for video taping their own misdeeds.

When it comes down to it, it's good that the bully didn't get seriously injured, but it's also good that he ended up limping away from the incident. The pain in his leg gives him direct correlation between punishment and crime, and he will be more likely to think twice the next time he wants to bully someone - especially if that someone is much larger and potentially much stronger than he is.

The suspensions really aren't a good punishment - you're just giving the perpetrator a holiday for a month, but the physical injury will do a world of good.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

IAEA Update on Japan Earthquake

IAEA Update on Japan Earthquake

Everything you need to know to keep up to date on the Japanese nuclear status.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Debt Free Saskatchewan

Debt Free Saskatchewan | Canadian Taxpayers Federation

I agree, why NOT have a debt free Saskatchewan? Why not fund those "unfunded" pension and benefit liabilities as well, just to make sure that there aren't any surprises in the future.

I mentioned something similar to a client the other day - that I would prefer to see a party run on fiscal austerity. I would prefer to see a federal party run on a promise that they will mandate a set debt and interest repayment (just like a mortgage) of 35-50 Billion per year, and that the budget isn't legally balanced if that repayment amount isn't met. This will take the pressure off any governmental party to ensure that they can generate the proper "technical" surpluses to pay off the debt within 25-30 years without having the electorate screaming about being overtaxed and demanding tax cuts or more programs.

When Trudeau and Pearson started us on the path of deficit spending, the reasoning seemed sound. "It's okay to spend a little extra here and only pay the interest on the debt because the value in future dollars will be much less than in current dollars". And they're right. Ten Billion dollars today is a drop in the bucket compared to his deficits during the 60s and 70s. What they weren't right about is that they weren't spending that money on one-off items, they were spending it on ongoing programs. Programs that were underfunded. Programs that in some cases are STILL underfunded. It also didn't help that Mulroney adhered to the idea that a deficit is okay as long as you aren't borrowing to pay for programs (and give the man some credit for at least funding the program portion of his budgets, if not the interest on his predecessor's debt).

Now that we're sitting on a $550 Billion timebomb, it's time to do something about it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Maximum Protein Experience - Epic Meal Time

This one's for Famine...

".... and bacon, 'cause we ALWAYS use bacon"

It's a pity

Jews were slaughtered, have a candy.  From the linked article:

Gaza residents from the southern city of Rafah hit the streets Saturday to celebrate the terror attack in the West Bank settlement of Itamar where five family members were murdered in their sleep, including three children.

Not to be a murderous thug or anything, but if a bomb or two just happened to be lobbed in those streets while people were celebrating the murder of a family, would it be justified?  Is there necessarily a link between people rejoicing that a murder has been committed and those who would commit that murder themselves?

I know, I know... the conflict goes deeper than this.  It goes down to a core of lifelong enemies and prejudice and whatever else, and I know that violence would just justify more violence on Israel and the Jews in Gaza and the West Bank in the name of those killed.  I guess when it comes down to it, it's a case where there is nothing that you can say to these Palestinians that will change their mind from the narrative that they have been indoctrinated to, and it's a pity that another generation will be lost through more of the same.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

‘Toba MPs Vote Against Accountability

‘Toba MPs Vote Against Accountability: FCPP - Frontier Centre for Public Policy

A good explanation of why these four MPs should have voted for the bill rather than against it (or abstained). One thing is missing from this story, and I think that it is something that needs to be clearly stated:

Pat Martin and Anita Neville are NDP MPs.
Niki Ashton and Kevin Lamoureux are Liberal MPs.

As is stated several times in this article, these 4 are standing with the Aboriginal leaders who have a stake in the status quo with no transparency and against the average Aboriginal person who may find it absurd that their leaders are being paid more than other leaders in Canada for much less responsibility.

As is also stated in the article, the CTF didn't just take this on on a whim. They have received complaints from many aboriginals who are sick of the system as it is. Perhaps these MPs should be listening to the average person in this case and not just the leaders.

Toronto’s Backward on Public Housing: Get ’em Out, Not In

Toronto’s Backward on Public Housing: Get ’em Out, Not In: FCPP - Frontier Centre for Public Policy

I can't argue with a thing that Margaret Wente has written in this article. Public housing shouldn't be a right, and it shouldn't be intergenerational. Public housing should be a step up, not a support, and those that make use of public housing should know that from the start. Policies should be clear that there is a certain time limit on benefits at which point tenants are expected to graduate to lesser and lesser helpful programs. Policies should be in place to ensure that all working age households do not have the majority of their income coming from government sources (welfare programs, etc) for an extended amount of time.

Now, here's the kicker. Policies should be in place to reduce the number of senior housing units over time, not increase them. I disagree with Ms. Wente's assertion that many elderly and disabled will always require subsidized housing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, the current crop of seniors may always need subsidized housing, but that is because their rulers have been telling them since the 60s that it's okay, that the government will take care of them for the rest of their lives - that they don't need to sock anything away for retirement. Sadly, for the last 20 years, people of my generation have been told the exact opposite, and as a result, you will see a larger and larger number of the current generation retiring in 25-30 years with no dependency on the retirement systems in place. This should have the effect of reducing the number of social housing units necessary. Moreover, if we add in the introduction of RDSPs and other wealth transfering vehicles for disabled persons, it is entirely likely that in a generation no disabled persons should require any subsidization.

At least, that's the dream.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

F-35 purchase could cost double: reports

F-35 purchase could cost double: reports | Canada | News | Edmonton Sun

The Parliamentary Budget Office is expected to release a report on the purchase of the planes Thursday.

In it, it is reportedly estimated each F-35 could cost $149 million plus $450 million in service costs over 30 years.

The government, though, has maintained the costs of $70 to $75 million per aircraft and $200 million for 20 years of service were firm.

Just a thought...

Of COURSE it's going to cost more if you use different assumptions.

The original assumptions were for the current purchase price plus maintenance for 20 years. Twenty years, I assume, is the reasonable useful life of a fighter jet. Now I don't know where the Parliamentary Budget Office is getting their figures, but assuming the purchase price figures are accurate, the contract would come out to $21 Billion over 20 years, not $29.3 Billion.

The real disparity in numbers is that the PBO seems to be including the refurbishment costs to extend the useful life of the jets to 30 years, and in a case like that, then OF COURSE your contract is going to have a heinous cost overrun. The planes aren't designed to run for 30 years under normal maintenance. Technology changes. Technology advances. It costs almost as much to refurbish a 20 year old plane to use new technologies as it does to purchase a new plane. Not only that, the fuselage has undergone 20 years of stress which would make the refurbished plane less capable than a new counterpart.

At the end of the day, the PBO is trying to add 10 years and make the contract look worse than some people think it is. None of it really casts doubt on the governments numbers unless the PBO actually recalculates THEIR numbers based on a 20 year timeframe rather than their 30 year timeframe.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Audit of band's finances underlines need for accountability

Lorne Gunter, National Post
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
As near as I can tell, the federal Indian Affairs and Northern Development department is at war with itself over whether or not to hold First Nations bands accountable for the billions they receive each year from Ottawa. About a third of the department's bureaucrats favour greater transparency and accountability - regular outside audits, reporting ...
Read more »

Read the whole story - In essence what it comes down to is a case of "Indian Giving".  And yes, I'm going to use THAT politically incorrect term.

You see, the term was coined because the Europeans didn't understand that what the Natives termed as "gifts" were actually part of their economic system of trading and bartering.  They didn't realize that when the "gift" was first given there was an expectation that a "gift" of similar value should be returned.  (From Wikipedia).  As such, the term became synonymous with someone taking back a bestowed gift with little or no explanation.

So realistically, this is what needs to happen with the Aboriginal communities now.  They need to realize that the "gifts" bestowed from the Grandmother don't come without expectations, and that if those expectations aren't met, then the gifts may need to be returned.  This is not racist, because NO OTHER GROUP gets these payments in the first place.  This is a simple matter of holding these groups accountable and saying that they need to do better for their constituents or else they won't receive the funds that they are expected.

A wise band leader (Clarence Louie) once told an audience that he does everything he can to develop without the federal government's involvement.  That the less he has to deal with INAC, the better he is.  I believe that this is an attitude that ALL bands should adopt, and I would submit that if all bands DID adopt this attitude, life for all aboriginal peoples would improve rapidly.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Wood File with Murray Wood - March 7, 2011 | News Talk 650 CKOM

The Wood File with Murray Wood - March 7, 2011 | News Talk 650 CKOM

Uhhhh Murray? You guys in the media have been calling it the Harper Government for years. The only difference here is that he's actually giving you permission to do so now.

Just sayin'

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What will we do when the piggy bank's empty?

What will we do when the piggy bank's empty? | Mindelle Jacobs | Columnists | Comment | Edmonton Sun

It hasn’t happened. Instead, even though oil is about $100 a barrel, the province hasn’t changed the royalty regime to reflect higher oil prices. Drilling companies are laughing all the way to the bank on account of the absurdly generous royalty incentives, and Alberta is saddled with a multibillion-dollar deficit.

“We’re just leaving all sorts of money on the table that we should be entitled to,” says Ricardo Acuna, executive director of the Parkland Institute.

“It just seems counterintuitive that we’ve got this incredibly valuable resource with prices going through the roof and we’re actually putting into place a mechanism that’s charging them less royalties than we would otherwise,” he says.

Another columnist that doesn't pay attention to history. Perhaps Ms. Jacobs would like to research what happened in Alberta after Mr. Stelmach made adjustments to the royalty rates a few years ago.

The fact is that Alberta is getting all they asked for in royalties from oil and gas, but the problem isn't that they aren't getting enough, it's that they're SPENDING TOO MUCH. It's a simple fact, and one that many people don't seem to grasp - if you increase my cost of ANYTHING, I may start looking somewhere else. It's nothing against you, per se, but many people have to remember that corporations don't have emotions. Corporations don't have a personality. Corporations aren't going to stay with you for any real sentimental reasons.

I'm going to say that again, because it's important: Corporations will not stay with you for sentimental reasons.

A corporation is there to receive maximum benefit for their shareholders (that's you and me). If a corporation figures out that they can send their drilling rigs to, let's say, a neighbour because it's cheaper than leaving the rig at home and paying higher extraction costs, the corporation will only consider how long that will be the case before they jump to the neighbour. And given that drilling an oil or gas well is a very short process compared to building a mine, that becomes an opportunity cost to your province because the money spent to drill that well is never coming back in any tangible form.

So, Ms. Jacobs, would you like to raise your royalties again, or would you like to tell your government to stop spending like a bunch of drunken sailors on shore leave? Seriously? We'd love to have all the extra work in Saskatchewan that comes with Alberta raising its royalty rates again, but we're also going to need more of your people too. I'm sure that we'd be happy to headquarter your oil companies too if you want to mess with your corporate tax rates too.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Sloppy Roethlisberger - Epic Meal Time

From the comments:

Just in case any one wanted to know how much 138,000 calories is; if you could perfectly convert the potential energy in this burger into kinetic energy, it would have the same actual kinetic energy yield as roughly 350 pounds of TNT.

This burger will kill you and everyone you love. That is all.

Wisconsin GOP state senator | Capitol pigsty

Wisconsin GOP state senator | Capitol pigsty | The Daily Caller - Breaking News, Opinion, Research, and Entertainment

“Well, we’re trying to keep some people out of the building because right now the building’s becoming a pigsty,” Grothman said. “People are staying overnight, the building smells. We used to have nice little groups of fourth grade children walking through the building. There was something called the ‘Senate Scholar’ program in which high school kids could track us around. All that is being shut down by a bunch of slobs taking up the building. We can no longer continue to have all those slobs in the building.”

Host Lawrence O’Donnell proposed the possibility that school kids might be able to learn something “more interesting or valuable” with the pro-union protests inside the state Capitol. Grothman dismissed that possibility.

“No, it would be embarrassing for me to take my child through that building today,” he added.

If that's the case, maybe it WOULD be extremely educational for school kids to take a swing through the Capitol, if for no other reason than to show this slovenly bunch for what they are.