A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘politics

[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

[NEWS] Some Monday links

  • Al Jazeera notes the inequitable terms of a trade agreement between the European Union and West Africa, observes that so far north Kazakhstan isn’t vulnerable to Russian irredentism in the same way as east Ukraine, explores the Northern Gateway pipeline controversy, detects Kurdish-Turkmen tension in the city of Kirkuk, and looks at the Japanese-Brazilian community.
  • The Atlantic explains why poor American women increasingly don’t wait for marriage or even relationships to become parents (what else do they have to do?) and notes the successful treatment of a mentally ill bonobo.
  • BusinessWeek notes that authors of best-sellers tend to be successful American presidential candidates, comments on potential problems of Russia’s South Stream pipeline project in Serbia, and notes that more airlines are cutting service to a Venezuela that doesn’t want to pay their costs in scarce American dollars.
  • CBC notes that Scottish independence could cause change in the flag of the United Kingdom, observes the beginning of peace talks in eastern Ukraine, notes the contamination of a salmon river in eastern Quebec by a municipal dump.
  • MacLean’s examines the collapse of the Iraqi military, looks at the psychology of online abusers, and explains the import of some archeological discoveries in Yukon.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • blogTO comes up with a shortlist of some of the most noteworthy Giorgio Mammoliti controversies.
  • Centauri Dreams has a couple of posts (1, 2) talking about how nice it would be to have space probes orbiting the ice giants of Uranus and Neptune.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to an analysis suggesting that Russia is going to annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia to punish Georgia.
  • Language Log tackles a myth that vocal fry is caused by stress.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the superexploitation associated with prison labour.
  • Steve Munro notes the latest delays with reopening Queens Quay to streetcars.
  • The Search has a fascinating interview regarding what it takes to archive electronic art, including video and programs.
  • Torontoist shares photos of the Monday night storm.
  • Towleroad notes the story of two Texas gay fathers who not only weren’t allowed to cross-adopt the other’s biological son (each father having one child, both children product of the same egg donor), but who weren’t registered as the fathers of their own biological child.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that up to a quarter-million people were displaced in Brazil to make way for the World Cup.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the weakness of Russian liberalism.

[LINK] “‘I never took anything for granted.’ Kathleen Wynne in conversation”

The MacLean’s interview conducted by Jonathon Gatehouse with Kathleen Wynne touches the basic points about the newly-elected premier of Ontario. (Questions about her sexual orientation and her wife are at the end, if you’re curious.)

You underestimate Kathleen Wynne at your peril. Since taking over as Ontario premier from Dalton McGuinty 16 months ago, she has rejuvenated a scandal-ridden Liberal government by making big promises and tacking hard to the left. On June 12, voters rewarded her activist vision with a majority that few pundits or pollsters saw coming. She spoke with Maclean’s about what lies ahead for the country’s biggest province.

Q: You seemed surprised by your majority win. Why? Were your pollsters wrong too?

A: I think I was more pleased than surprised. We hadn’t known where we were going to land. There were polls all over the place: we were going to lose, or we had a majority, and everything in between. So I never counted on anything. I never took anything for granted.

Q: It was a campaign of stark choices: You were promising a lot of government stimulus; the Tories were promising austerity. So what message do you take away from this majority?

A: I think that people looked at some very clear differences and they chose the plan that was going to invest in them. Whether it’s the transit and transportation infrastructure they need in their communities, or whether it’s in a retirement pension plan that they, or their children or grandchildren need. They saw themselves reflected in the concerns and the investments we were talking about. That is what they want to see implemented.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 19, 2014 at 3:32 am

[LINK] David Kopel on Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia

Libertarian David Kopel posted a review at the group blog The Volokh Conspiracy of Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, a documentary on the life of Gore Vidal that I’d seen this February. Kopel quite approves of the man and the documentary both.

Many people first saw Vidal in 1968, when Vidal and Buckley were commentators for ABC News during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The scene outside the convention hall looked like the last days of the Roman Republic. Abbie Hoffman and other “Yippies” successfully carried out their plan to turn peaceful protests against the Vietnam War into a riot; Mayor Richard Daley and his Chicago police department reciprocated by staging, in effect, a counter-riot, beating rioters, law-abiding protesters, the media, and others indiscriminately. On ABC, Buckley expressed his disgust with people who were expressly supporting the killing of American troops in Vietnam; Vidal then called Buckley a “crypto-fascist,” and Buckley fired back, “Listen, you queer.” Vidal was an early and ardent advocate of gay liberation, but he had not yet revealed his own personal sexual identity to the public.

Vidal delighted in acerbic criticism of anyone who disagreed with him, so Amnesia is filled with his barbs–some of them brilliant, some of them self-indulgent.

From the Truman administration to the present one, Vidal was a relentless critics of the national security state. He called himself an “anti-anti-communist,” and spoke forcefully against the mass surveillance society which has been created in the name of national security. My only contact with Vidal involved a November 1998 article he wrote for Vanity Fair, “The War at Home.” As the summary of the article states, “The U.S. Bill of Rights is being steadily eroded, with two million telephone calls tapped, 30 million workers under electronic surveillance, and, says the author, countless Americans harassed by a government that wages spurious wars against drugs and terrorism.” Compared to now, those were the good old days for privacy.

According to Vidal, my co-author Paul Blackman and I had “written the best and most detailed account of the American government’s current war on its unhappy citizenry in No More Wacos: What’s Wrong with Federal Law Enforcement and How to Fix It.” Vidal even sent me a nice letter. For me, that was a good lesson in how it’s possible to find common ground with someone whom you disagree with on many other issues. So when you think that somebody is wrong about nearly everything, it’s best to argue against their ideas, rather than anathematizing them personally.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 19, 2014 at 3:27 am

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • blogTO notes that the Global Village Backpackers building on the northeast corner of King and Spadina is up for sale.
  • Centauri Dreams and the Planetary Society Blog both comment on the almost last-minute search by the Hubble space telescope for Kuiper belt objects to be targets for the New Horizons probe after it passes Pluto.
  • Crooked Timber’s Corey Robin speculates that the alleged boredom of Obama in office might be taken as a marker for imminent revolutionary sentiment.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that the protoplanetary disk of protostar IRAS 16293-2422 is composed of two segments, both rotating in opposite directions.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money approves of Mattherw Yglesias’ argument that some wars, like a proposed intervention in Iraq, are unwinnable.
  • Marginal Revolution has more on the court decision against Argentina for the benefit of its creditors.
  • Registan describes what the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is doing in Pakistan. (Putting down roots.)
  • Savage Minds features a post by a pair of anthropologists advocating that the discipline take part in a boycott of Israel.
  • Torontoist profiles the #parkdalelove Twitter campaign mounted after Mammoliti’s ridiculous statements.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy reports on a lawsuit by a convert to the church that converted him, alleging that because they publicized his conversion from Islam contrary to his request his life was threatened in Syria.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that Russia annexed Crimea because it thought alternative separatist movements in Ukraine were budding.

[LINK] Three links on the newly approved Northern Gateway pipeline

I’ve blogged in the past about the very controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, planned to connect the controversial oil of the tar sands of northern Alberta to a port on the coast of British Columbia. British Columbians are reluctant to have the pipeline, fearing environmental catastrophe, while the Canadian government has been pushing the pipeline heavily, even attacking critics as agents of foreign influence on occasion (!). The pipeline is politically controversial, and it has just been approved.

First comes CBC’s report.

The federal government has agreed to let Enbridge build its Northern Gateway pipeline, subject to 209 conditions recommended by the National Energy Board and further talks with aboriginal communities.

Enbridge wants to build the pipeline from Bruderheim, Alta., to Kitimat, B.C.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair called it “folly” and “pure madness” to think anyone can put supertankers in British Columbia’s Douglas Channel.

Both Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said they would reverse the decision to accept the National Energy Board’s pipeline approval. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, environmental groups and First Nations reacted quickly to news of the federal approval, releasing statements opposing it.

[. . .]

Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford, whose office announced the decision to allow the pipeline, wasn’t available for interviews on Tuesday. The announcement was made in a news release with no ministerial press conference.

Next comes National Geographic‘s reaction.

The $7.9 billion pipeline would carry 525,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands in the east to the British Columbia coast, where it could be exported to markets abroad. As part of the project, the port of Kitimat, located on a coastal inlet, would be expanded to accommodate about 220 oil tankers every year.

Canadian oil producers are seeking new markets for their oil, 99 percent of which goes to the United States. The Northern Gateway decision “is another important step for Canada to access global markets and world prices, and earn full value for our oil resource,” said Greg Stringham, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, in a statement.

A joint review panel convened by Canada’s National Energy Board recommended approval for the project last December. But unlike in the United States, where many have been waiting for a verdict from the Obama administration on the Keystone XL project, an approval from the federal government does not amount to a green light for construction in Canada. Instead, Enbridge must meet 209 conditions—an exhaustive list covering everything from environmental impact to detailed filings about construction and operation—before it can start building the pipeline.

“Today constitutes another step in the process,” said Greg Rickford, Canada’s minister of natural resources, in a statement announcing the approval. “The proponent [Enbridge] clearly has more work to do in order to fulfill the public commitment it has made to engage with Aboriginal groups and local communities along the route.”

Enbridge expects that the effort to meet required conditions for the project will take 12 to 15 months, said Janet Holder, the Enbridge executive leading the Northern Gateway effort, on a media call Tuesday. After that, the National Energy Board would need to review and approve Enbridge’s work. “We are working hard on those [conditions],” she said. “We are required to meet them, and we intend to do that.”

Finally, MacLean’s emphasizes the political controversy and the potential for it to bring down the Conservative government.

Harper claims there is a dire economic need to expand Canada’s energy markets beyond the U.S. to Asia, but the issue is certain to stick to his government like a giant ball of bitumen as it treads into the next election in 2015. For Harper, who cut his teeth as an Alberta Reform MP on the western alienation of the Ottawa-dictated National Energy Program of the Trudeau Liberals, Gateway is both a crisis and an opportunity. It is certain to win approval from his base in Alberta, pinched by generally low oil prices caused by an overreliance on U.S. customers. The decision is also consistent with his determination to win approval from a skittish Obama administration to green-light the 1,900-km Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska.

[. . .]

The political risks, however, are substantial. Both NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said they would kill the project if they win the next election. Mulcair said the 21 Conservative MPs in B.C. are already “hiding under their desks” fearing the electoral fallout. An array of well-funded environmental groups and dozens of B.C. First Nations vowed to fight the project in the courts and, for some, through civil disobedience. Already First Nations and environmental groups have five legal challenges of the NEB decision on hold in Federal Court—cases certain to be reactivated and expanded now that the cabinet decision has come down. “Today we unequivocally reject the Harper government’s decision to approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway tanker and pipelines project,” said a joint statement from many First Nations in northern and coastal B.C. They vowed to “vigorously pursue all lawful means” to kill the project.

Larger public opinion in B.C. is also tilting against the project. A recent poll by Nanos Research for Bloomberg News shows a majority of British Columbians favoured either blocking the project or delaying it for further study, while 29 per cent wanted it approved. A majority of residents of Kitimat, B.C., the proposed site of the shipping terminal, also rejected Gateway in a non-binding plebiscite earlier this year. The twin pipeline is only part of the concern; for many the greater threat is the risk of an oil tanker accident in the narrows of Hecate Strait fouling the coast.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 18, 2014 at 1:57 am

[LINK] “What’s Next for Ontario Politics (We Hope)”

I rather liked Christopher Bird and Hamutal Dotan’s Torontoist essay advising the three major political parties–the Liberals with their majority, the Progressive Conservatives after their weakening, and the NDP left remarkably intact–what they can do to reenergize themselves and democracy here in Ontario.

Ontario has elected, in defiance of most predictions, a Liberal majority. We will have four years of stable government, and Kathleen Wynne will have the chance to show us the kind of premier she really wants to be—as opposed to the cagier kind many think she has been until now, fighting to keep her minority government alive. If Wynne has been holding back—if, as many progressives and urbanists hope, she has been restraining herself on some issues (ranging from Toronto transit to sex-ed policy)—now she will have the chance to pursue those issues more aggressively.

The outcome is useful, in this way, for the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives as well: they each have the opportunity to define themselves more clearly. Free of the hedging that comes with minority governments, the Liberals can define themselves by their governance; the NDP and Tories can do so by the nature of their opposition, and in their approach to rebuilding their respective parties.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 17, 2014 at 2:59 am

[BRIEF NOTE] On the sorts of reactions that are unhelpful for struggling political parties

NOW Toronto‘s Susan G. Cole has just posted an article, “Toronto NDPers got played”,

NDPers who voted Grit in Toronto last night must be in shock. If not that, then at least red-faced.

Thanks to their decision, they can say goodbye to three accomplished MPPs (Rosario Marchese, Michael Prue and Jonah Schein) look at the rest of the province and realize how brilliantly they got played.

Let’s start with Kathleen Wynne, who got Toronto voters in an all-out panic about a possible PC victory. T.O. NDPers fell for that big time, showing no confidence in the fact that there’s nothing about Ontario 20 years after Mike Harris to suggest the province has a taste for a right-wing agenda.

But the famous letter sent by NDP dissidents to Horwath plainly had a huge impact. Most of the signees were well-known Torontonians with major influence. I’m not sure exactly what they were trying to accomplish. The letter was sure to be leaked – signers encouraged those who received it to send it to “all their contacts.”

The NDP platform did not come out of the blue overnight but was part of a strategy developed over years. Did signatories honestly think that they could just dictate party policy from on high? How would NDP leader Andrea Horwath look if she caved? Not like much of a leader, in my view.

And what did those who signed the letter get out of it? The party lost three seats in Toronto.

Horwath has no responsibility for her flawed policy choices or her bad campaigning. It’s all the fault of the electorate that doesn’t recognize her brilliance.

You know that Bertolt Brecht quote is entirely appropriate, here.

Some party hack decreed that the people
had lost the government’s confidence
and could only regain it with redoubled effort.
If that is the case, would it not be be simpler,
If the government simply dissolved the people
And elected another?

Written by Randy McDonald

June 14, 2014 at 3:59 am

[LINK] “Ontario’s rising voter turnout bucks 24-year trend”

Last night I shared speculations that lower-than-expected turnout in the advance polls signalled even lower turnout in the regular elections. Global News’ Patrick Cain and Erica Vella shared the news–with plenty of infographics!–that voter turnout has increased, and this increase is responsible for many of the noteworthy victories.

Ontario voter turnout, which had fallen steadily for five provincial elections in a row, reversed a generation-long trend yesterday and rose above 50 per cent.

Before last night, turnout in Ontario elections had fallen steadily since Bob Rae’s upset victory in 1990. Five elections in a row saw smaller and smaller turnout, and elections in 2003, 2007 and 2011 each set a new Ontario record for low turnout.

Unofficial results say voter turnout for Ontario’s 2014 elections was 52.1 per cent. That is 3.9 percentage points higher than the 2011 elections, which brought out the lowest voter turnout Ontario has ever seen, with 48.2 per cent.

Low voter turnout in this year’s advance polls led some to predict a fourth record low turnout in this election, but that turned out not to be the case.

The NDP met some setbacks in the 416 area code last night, losing Davenport, Trinity-Spadina and Beaches-East York, barely scraping by in Parkdale-High Park, and losing thousands of votes in stronghold Toronto-Danforth, once represented federally by Jack Layton.

All these ridings saw sharply higher turnout yesterday than they did in 2011. Trinity-Spadina, where Liberal Han Dong defeated long-time incumbent NDP MPP Rosario Marchese, saw a 23 per cent increase in voter turnout, the highest in the province.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 13, 2014 at 11:09 pm

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