A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘federalism

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Andart’s Anders Sandberg links to a paper of his examining the ethics of brain emulations. How ethical is it do make very life-like simulations of minds?
  • blogTO notes a public art movement tracing the former path of the Don River.
  • The Burgh Diaspora’s Jim Russell notes that population change in the US is a consequence of migration and natural change.
  • Centauri Dreams considers intergalactic travel. Given the huge travel times involved, travelling on a hypervelocity star ejected from a solar system may be more secure.
  • The Cranky Sociologists’ SocProf notes that not caring about a particular social issue until it affects you actually isn’t good for society as a whole.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to one paper suggesting between 5.3 and 10% of Sun-like star ssupport Earth-sized planets in their circumstellar habitable zones, and another identifying HIP 114328 as a solar twin.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the latest developments in marriage equality in Finland.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen notes that Scottish devolution hasn’t changed much policy, perhaps passing over the possibility that perhaps devolution has prevented change.
  • Patrick Cain maps the 2014 Ontario election.
  • Torontoist notes that the Toronto Star has given the Toronto Public Library more than a million of its vintage photographs.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that, according to a recent court ruling, smartphones in the US are safe from arbitrary search.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine is steadily losing its position there.

[BRIEF NOTE] “PBO says Ottawa is shortchanging Ontario”

I noted back in 2008 that Ontario, its economy beset by slow growth and deindustrialization, was set to become a have-not province, a net receiver of funds from the federal government to . (This happened in 2009.) MacLean’s now shares news that apparently Ontario might be short-changed.

This will not serve the Conservatives well come election time, I think.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer says changes to federal equalization payments makes Ontario the big loser among provinces, while Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick gain double-digit increases.

The report finds total equalization payments transfers from Ottawa to the provinces and territories rose about 3.5 per cent this fiscal year.

But the distribution is wildly different from province to province, with Ontario seeing a 37.3 per cent decline, or about $1.2 billion.

Meanwhile, Quebec will see transfers under the program increase 17.5 per cent, Nova Scotia, 11.5 per cent, and New Brunswick by 10.2 per cent.

The report notes that the federal government this year chose to stop a program ensuring no province receives less in a given fiscal year in combined transfers than it received in previous years.

The PBO says Ontario would have been the only province to qualify in 2014-15, hence has missed out on $640 million in revenues.

The Ontario Liberal government has been vocal in complaining that Ottawa is shortchanging the province, but the federal government has said it has been fair in calculating transfers.

During the election campaign that delivered Premier Kathleen Wynne a majority government last week, the provincial Liberals accused Ottawa of slashing Ontario’s latest share of equalization payments by $641 million.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 24, 2014 at 7:34 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • James Bow mourns the loss of the Northlander train route connecting northern Ontario with the south.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a Saudi Arabian announcement that it will be boosting military spending by 20%.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World blog notes growing Brazilian confidence in the outcome of the World Cup.
  • At A Fistful of Euros, Alex Harrowell notes the complexities of governance and procedure in the European Parliament.
  • Language Hat notes the long and changing history of ethnic identity in the Crimean peninsula.
  • Language Log’s Victor Mair notes from first-hand experience the complex language and script situation in Macau and Hong Kong.
  • The New APPS Blog features suggestions for institutional reform in the European Union.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that, to ingratiate itself with the European Union, Albania won’t accept transit fees for the impending Trans-Adriatic pipeline.
  • Spacing Toronto remembers the time when Toronto’s subway network was the best in North America.
  • Strange Maps’ Frank Jacobs notes how a steamship disaster helped erase the Manhattan neighbourhood of Little Germany from the map of New York City.
  • Torontoist fact-checks an Olivia Chow speech, finding it boringly accurate and unambitious.
  • Towleroad notes how a Dutch town proposed setting up a gay ghetto to call out local homophobia.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how Ukrainian Orthodox Christian leaders are rejecting the Russian church’s authority, and observes that the Ukrainian government is now demanding that ethnic Ukrainians in Russia receive good treatment as an ethnic minority.

[LINK] “South Ossetia’s unwanted independence”

Open Democracy’s Stephen Jones takes a look at South Ossetia. Nominally independent since the 2008 Russo-Georgian war like Abkhazia, South Ossetians seem inclined to favour unification with their co-ethnics in North Ossetia, in the Russian Federation. There’s little prospect of that, though.

‘[I]ndependence’ will bring little to most South Ossetians – they will be condemned to isolation, marginality, and dependence. The prospects for cooperation with Georgia, its natural economic partner, and contacts with the rest of the South Caucasus through traditional seasonal work and cross border trade, are closed. In the 2012 South Ossetian presidential elections, all four candidates declared they would not engage with the Georgian government. Local migration to North Ossetia and Russia has accelerated, particularly among youth, adding to the SOAO’s demographic decline (villages are disproportionately made up of older women).

the 2012 elections, Alla Dzhioyeva, an anti-corruption crusader against Eduard Kokoity, the outgoing president (unrecognised by Georgia and the rest of the international community), had victory snatched from her by the South Ossetian Supreme Court. Dzhioyeva’s challenge had been unexpected, and she was not Russia’s preferred candidate. Although Dzhioyeva was later given a cabinet post, it illustrated the region’s limited political autonomy, underlined by the intimidating and unchallengeable presence of the Russian military. That court decision supported the Georgian contention that South Ossetia is a not a real state, but a Russian vassal, subject to Russia’s strategic goals. South Ossetia’s borders remain under Russian control, and South Ossetian foreign policy simply does not exist.

South Ossetia does not have the autonomous functions of a state able to provide for its citizens, 80% of whom hold Russian passports. There is constant talk (which goes back to irredentist demands made in the early 1990s) by Putin and local South Ossetian parties for a simple solution – union with North Ossetia. This means annexation by Russia because North Ossetia is part of the Russian Federation. United Ossetia, one of the nine parties running in the June 2014 South Ossetian parliamentary elections, has made union with North Ossetia central to its platform. It would be a popular decision. In a rare independent survey of South Ossetians in 2010 by Gerard Toal and John O’Loughlin, over 80% expressed the desire for union with the Russian Federation, and 82% wanted Russian troops to remain in South Ossetia permanently. Unlike Abkhazia, there is, paradoxically, little support for independence.

[. . .]

There are, in addition, potential repercussions in the North Caucasus if annexation takes place. The North Caucasus, which consists of six non-Russian autonomous republics (which contain significant ethnic Russian populations) and over 40 national groups, is crisscrossed with conflict between clans, regions, religions and republics; there are multiple border disputes – between Ingushetia and Chechnya, North Ossetia and Ingushetia, between Kabardins and Balkars, and between Kumyks and Chechens in Daghestan, to mention just a few. Changing borders in the Caucasus is rarely accomplished peacefully, and right now Russia does not want to endanger its precarious control over the North Caucasian Federal District.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 11, 2014 at 6:57 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly comments on her search for belonging.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper that estimates the number of flares among brown dwarfs based on observation of red dwarfs.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a Foreign Affairs article arguing that Eurasian integration has been hurt by Ukraine.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that the Pet Shop Boys have called for a mass pardon of Britons convicted of violating past laws banning gay sex.
  • Language Log’s Victor Mair notes the widely variant translations of different Chinese languages and registers by online translators.
  • The New APPS Blog notes that Switzerland would be a good model for the democratic European Union.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that Mexico is on the rise.
  • Understanding Society’s Daniel Little studies the public opinions towards welfare states and the role of the market in the United States and Nordic countries.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers the limit of the treaty powers of the American federal government. Could the US sign over Alaska to Russia?
  • Window on Eurasia notes that the Ukrainian crisis has reenergized NATO and links to a Russian writer who argues that Russia is set to become a civilizational empire, not a nation-state.

[BRIEF NOTE] On the birth of the state of Telangana

On Monday the 1st of June, India formed the new state of Telangana out of the still-existing state of Andhra Pradesh. The Telugu-speaking districts of the former princely state of Hyderabad turn out to have retained enough of a collective identity to merit the subdivision of a state. The Times of India has a potted history.

Today is a new dawn in the history of the Indian Union. For the first time — outside the Hindi- and Bengali-speaking areas — two states speaking the same language have been created. Both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the two successor states to Andhra Pradesh, that come into existence on Monday, swear by Telugu.

This knocks down the basis on which the internal map of the Indian Union was redrawn in the first decade after Independence. With the linguistic basis of states — language being assumed as the indicator of a homogeneous culture — being challenged, there is scope for another exercise to redraw the internal map of India. Whether this will happen or not is a moot point but the question is why did this “Telugu state” break down. And what are the lessons for the future?

Although there was a demand for a composite Telugu state from before Independence, the Nehru-led government created Andhra Pradesh due to Congress’s political interests. History has thus come full circle. In Andhra state (which was carved out of the Telugu speaking areas of then Madras state in 1953), the Congress was facing a tough electoral contest from the Communists.

So it was decided to merge Andhra with the Telugu speaking areas of the dominion of the deposed Nizam of Hyderabad. This would create a larger entity where the communists could be defeated.

[. . .]

The second unstated reason was that the Nehru government, chastened by the experience of the integration of Kashmir, did not want to leave the territories of the Nizam as they were. Therefore, while the Telugu-speaking areas went to Andhra Pradesh, the Marathi and Kannada speaking areas went to Bombay and Mysore provinces.

But the Congress chief ministers did little to promote rural empowerment or land reforms. The only chief minister who tried — Narasimha Rao — faced opposition from vested interests and was axed. Growing rural angst led to Maoism striking deep roots.

Alienation led to separatism and eventually a separate state.

Where will this lead? I’ll note, from my perspective as an outsider, that the ability of the Indian government to divide existing states indicates Indian federalism is highly centralized indeed. Canada, to name a single example, lacks completely the ability to subdivide a federal unit without that unit’s full consent.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 4, 2014 at 3:56 am

[LINK] “The secret short list that provoked the rift between Chief Justice and PMO”

The Globe and Mail‘s Sean Fine reports on the background behind the clash of Prime Minister Stephen Harper with the Supreme Court, in the failed nomination of Marc Nadon. It turns out that Harper really wanted to stack the Québec seat with an ideological peer and couldn’t find one, hence the procedurally sketchy nomination.

Early last summer, Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin sat down with five federal politicians at the stately court building on Wellington Street, just down the road from Parliament.

The Supreme Court selection panel – three Conservative MPs, a New Democrat MP and a Liberal MP – had come bearing a list of six candidates to replace Justice Morris Fish of Quebec, who was nearing 75 and about to retire.

That list, crafted by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Justice Department, was so troubling to Chief Justice McLachlin that she phoned Justice Minister Peter MacKay and took initial steps toward contacting the Prime Minister. These attempts to raise potential eligibility issues would later trigger an unprecedented public dispute between the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice, a coda to the ultimately failed appointment of Justice Marc Nadon.

Until now, the list of six candidates has been a closely held secret. But The Globe and Mail has obtained both that list, and the short list ultimately chosen by the selection panel. The names on those lists not only shed light on Justice Nadon’s appointment but the larger political machinations behind it – and its fallout. A judge rejected. A court short-handed. A Prime Minister’s public accusation of impropriety by a Chief Justice.

The lists also show how the government, though aware of the risks, worked the selection process to find a more conservative judge than it believed was available in Quebec. The province’s top judges and lawyers were largely ignored for a job reserved by law for Quebec candidates because of the province’s unique civil code. Four of the six judges put forward were from the Federal Court in Ottawa, even though it wasn’t clear judges from that court were eligible. Adding salt to Quebec’s wound, one of those judges had been publicly rebuked by an appeal court for copying from government briefs.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 23, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Posted in Canada, Politics

Tagged with , , , , ,

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Antipope Charlie Stross examines the myth of heroism and its origins.
  • blogTO comes up with ten fun things to do on the Toronto Islands this summer.
  • Crooked Timber’s Corey Robin doesn’t think much of the American tendency towards charging criminal defendants the costs of their case.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that the viral MERS epidemic in Saudi Arabia has killed 173 people and infected more.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World blog doesn’t think Russian-Western relations will improve.
  • Geocurrents’ Martin Lewis notes the extent of the BJP’s electoral success across India.
  • Language Hat links to a new online archive of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts.
  • Steve Munro, again, is unimpressed with the political short-termism in Toronto that keeps sabotaging subway lines.
  • Torontoist warned us of the fragility of the cherry blossoms of High Park.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that the autonomy of Washington D.C. is limited by Congress in that it can’t pass its own budget laws backed by citizen referenda.
  • Window on Eurasia links to a Russian writer who suggests that while many on the European right might support Putin opportunistically, few support Russia’s ideological vision.

[BRIEF NOTE] On the Québec general election yesterday

The outcome of the Québec general election yesterday–a Liberal majority and a Parti Québécois route, incumbent premier Pauline Marois even losing her seat–came as a pleasant surprise to me. As noted by the Ottawa Citizen‘s Robert Sibley, the results were decisve.

Canada — the rest of it, that is — can relax. As voters resoundingly rejected the Parti Québécois and restored the Liberals to power with a majority government, the prospects of a third referendum on Quebec sovereignty in less than four decades has receded for the foreseeable future.

About six million Quebecers were eligible to vote in Monday’s elections, and within half an hour of the polls closing at 8 p.m. it was clear that Philippe Couillard’s Liberals were heading toward a solid majority. It was a surprising, if not stunning, turn of events for a party that only 19 months ago was ignominiously turfed from office amid the Quebec construction industry scandals and replaced by the minority government of Premier Pauline Marois. This go-round, it was Marois’s turn for ignominious defeat.

[. . .]

By 10:30 p.m. Monday, the Liberals had won 71 of the 125 seats available in the provincial legislature — ensuring that soon-to-be premier Couillard would be able to for a majority government. The Parti Québécois was a distance second with 29 seats, while the right-of-centre Coalition Avenir Quebec, which is nationalist but not sovereigntist, held 22. The left-of-centre Québéc Solidaire, with its staunch pro-separatist agenda, appeared to be confined to two seats.

[. . .]

When Marois dissolved the Quebec legislature in early March to call the election — less than two years after taking power — the PQ held 54 seats, the Liberals 49, the Coalition for Quebec’s Future 18, and Québéc Solidaire two.

The results may well reflect a prediction Couillard made during the campaign. “The Parti Québécois eclipse is over,” he said. “Political uncertainty has been lifted.”

Paul Wells argued in MacLean’s that the Parti Québécois and Québec separatism general face severe structural problems.

Its share of the popular vote, as I write this, is solidly below the 28% the party won in 2007 when André Boisclair was its leader. This is, in fact, the PQ’s worst election result, in share of popular vote, in 44 years. The only time it ever did worse was in 1970, the first campaign the party ever fought.

[. . .] It is now 15 years since the party won more than 40% of the popular vote; the Liberals did so in 2008 and again tonight. This is because the PQ sits on a policy it cannot sell: secession from Canada. But now it has added a second unsellable policy to its kit bag: a plan to fire librarians and emergency-room physicians if it is possible to tell by looking at them which religious faith they practice.

It would be all right if the PQ could simply abandon its Charter of Values, perhaps in favour of a milder policy of more limited punishments for departure from the state religion of atheism, or of a simple rhetorical preference that provincial employees dress without kippahs and hijabs. But it is not that easy. I hope soon to link to the weekend poll I saw that showed which issues were important to supporters of which party. The Charter was not top-of-mind for supporters of any party — except the PQ. The PQ’s shrunken voter base now encompasses just about every Quebecer who insists the full force of provincial coercion intervene if he cannot spot a clerk’s ears at the license bureau.

We can, in fact, add a third policy lemon to the PQ’s pantry: frozen university tuition. The two young PQ candidates who ran on nostalgia for 2012′s summer-long tuition protests were defeated tonight too. So PQ supporters will not give up on tuition freezes, but the broader population supports the notion that students should contribute to the increased cost of their ever-more-expensive educations.

On all three policies — secession, coercive state atheism, and university tuition — the PQ is stuck between an electorate that doesn’t agree, and a party base that will not retreat. Compounding the near-guarantee of further PQ grief still further is its insufferable belief in its own infallible mind meld with the Québécois collective conscience. The PQ knows better than anyone on sovereignty, secularism and higher education. Or so its members tell themselves. So it will not abandon policies the broader Quebec population, including much of the francophone majority, finds risible.

The PQ is in clear danger of becoming Quebec’s Tea Party: a fringe movement in thrall to esoteric mail-order theorists and proud of it, ensuring continued defeat and resistant to any attempts to fix it. I won’t be predicting the death of separatism; that’s a cliché. But I do predict an extended purgatory for a PQ that will wonder, for a very long time to come, why everyone points and giggles when its leaders proclaim the things they believe most profoundly.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 9, 2014 at 3:32 am

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • At Antipope, Charlie Stross wonders why we need to work so long when productivity and per capita wealth have skyrocketed.
  • At the Broadside Blog, Caitlin Kelly describes a week in her life as a writer.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that ancient Population III stars could, in theory, have rocky planets.
  • The Dragon’s Tales warns that the Japanese economy is about to tank.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that young conservative Ben Shapiro is now boycotting Mozilla after Brandon Eich’s departure.
  • Savage Minds has an essay by anthropologist Elizabeth Chin suggesting that Lamilly, a new anatomically-correct doll, won’t take off because issues with beauty are much more deeply embedded in the culture than the designers believe.
  • The Signal examines the proliferation of E-mail storage formats.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s Jonathan Adler doesn’t like the pressure applied to Brandon Eich.
  • Window on Eurasia has two posts warning that Crimea’s annexation to Russia will destabilize the Russian Federation, one arguing that ethnic minorities and their republics will be put in a state of flux, the other arguing that Russian nationalists will be upset by the concession of so many rights to Crimean Tatars.
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