A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘politics

[LINK] “Why peace won’t come quickly for Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador”

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MacLean’s shares this Canadian Press report talking about the chilly relations between Québec City and St. John’s.

They are arguably the least friendly neighbours in Confederation.

Newfoundland and Labrador has been feuding with Quebec since before the Atlantic province joined Canada, with a barely hidden animosity driven by border disputes and hydroelectric power feuds that have wound through courts for decades.

Which is why headlines were made last month when Quebec began talking about possibly “burying the hatchet” on an epic scrap over the lopsided Churchill Falls hydro deal. Premier Philippe Couillard told reporters that it’s not just energy issues — the two provinces can collaborate on other things and need to build more neighbourly ties.

But there is deep skepticism in Newfoundland and Labrador, which has a population smaller than metropolitan Quebec City and a collective wariness borne of distrust.

Premier Dwight Ball says he’s open to talks with Quebec, if they help his province. But any real rapprochement sounds far off.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 5, 2016 at 8:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “How John Tory went from calling tolls ‘highway robbery’ to crusading for them”

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The Toronto Star‘s Betsy Powell explains how John Tory came to embrace the idea of road tolls for the Gardiner and the DVP.

To Mayor John Tory’s trusted advisers, it seemed an incongruous end to months of internal debate and strategizing on how to address Toronto’s financial challenges, build transit — and not hurt his shot at re-election.

Jet-lagged and still wearing the Christmas-themed, Don-Cherry-style jacket from his appearance at the Santa Claus parade, Tory delivered an impassioned speech on his willingness to back road tolls, even if it meant putting his political career at risk.

“This is the right way forward. This is the right time and it’s the right thing to do,” Tory told his relieved staffers gathered in the boardroom of his second-floor office at city hall, four days before announcing the proposal publicly in a speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

The road to that watershed moment — and raising Tory’s comfort level to make the boldest, most significant decision of his mayoralty — took months of preparation of all those assembled: chief of staff Chris Eby; principal secretary Vic Gupta; Siri Agrell, director of strategic initiatives; Amanda Galbraith, director of communications, and Luke Robertson, director of council and stakeholder relations.

They began laying the groundwork with Tory’s call for 2.6 per cent reductions from city departments and agencies. But that narrative of the right — cutting waste and finding efficiencies will solve all fiscal challenges — doesn’t build subway lines.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 5, 2016 at 7:00 pm

[LINK] “The U.K.’s Industrial Policy Is Bound to Backfire”

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Victoria Bateman’s Bloomberg View article arguing that the post-Brexit United Kingdom’s proposed economic policies aren’t likely to work out well, at all, feels plausible.

Industrial Strategy is making a comeback. One of Theresa May’s first acts as prime minister was to create a new “Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.” That may sound impressive, but history is littered with equally well-intentioned but unsuccessful industrial strategies. For every case of success one can find more than one case of failure.

Previous attempts at industrial strategy in Britain include disastrous interventions during the 1920s and 1930s. An “Industrial Transference Scheme,” aimed at moving unemployed industrial workers to new jobs in expanding regions. Other policies sought to encourage mergers to help “rationalize” industry and exploit economies of scale, all with the aim of catching-up with the U.S. From 1932, a 10 percent general tariff on imports (later raised to 20 percent) was imposed. The policies arguably provided some short-term relief, but they stored up competitiveness problems for the future.

New interventions followed World War II: more state-supported mergers in everything from shipbuilding to computing, industrial subsidies, a public campaign to “buy British”, a policy to create “national champions” and nationalization. The result was a 50 percent Anglo-German productivity gap and a rapid decline in Britain’s share of world manufacturing exports to 9 percent by 1973 from 25 percent in 1950. By the end of the 1970s, a shakeout of inefficient resources was required, one which set the stage for Margaret Thatcher’s showdown with the trade unions.

Most if not all of these past strategies would today run afoul of the European Union’s state aid rules or the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures. Subtler tools, however, remain, including support for research and development and support for companies in declining regions, policies that most economists feel are justified by “market failures.” But what is often forgotten is that a similar defense was used in the past to justify all other kinds of interventions. Getting it right is no easier today.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 3, 2016 at 9:40 pm

[LINK] “The day after Brexit”

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John Quiggin’s Crooked Timber post imagining likely outcomes for the post-Brexit United Kingdom feels depressingly possible. The discussion is largely good, too.

I’m finding it hard to see that anything will happen to justify the massive effort involved. The Poles and other EU citizens whose presence was the biggest single justification for Brexit won’t go away. On the contrary, it seems pretty clear that all EU citizens will get permanent residence, even those who arrived after the Brexit vote. Even with a hard Brexit, the benefits of consistency with EU regulations will be overwhelming. The terms of any trade deal with non-EU countries won’t be any better than the existing EU deals and probably worse.

Even symbolically, what’s going to happen? Typically, national independence is marked by a ceremony where the flag of the imperial power is lowered, and the new national flag is raised. But, from what I can tell, the EU flag is hardly ever flown in the UK as it is. The same for national currency, passport, official languages and all the other symbolic representations of nationhood.

So, after a successful Brexit, Britain will be a little poorer and more isolated than before, but otherwise largely unchanged. Will that count as success in the eyes of those who voted to Leave. I don’t know. Maybe those closer to the action could comment.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 3, 2016 at 9:20 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Don’t scapegoat foreign buyers for unaffordability, says CMHC”

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MacLean’s shares Laura Kane’s Canadian Press article which shares a warning about not housing crises to start tensions over immigration.

The president of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is warning against an “us versus them” mentality in Vancouver, where he says foreign buyers are not the major factor driving unaffordability.

Evan Siddall delivered a pointed speech on Wednesday to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, where he said housing should not become a wedge that divides newcomers from long-time residents.

“When a white person buys a house, we don’t notice. When somebody of a different colour does, we do. That’s not good economics,” he said.

Vancouver’s skyrocketing housing prices have increasingly been blamed on foreign capital flowing from China. The British Columbia government introduced a 15-per-cent tax on foreign buyers in July in response to those concerns.

Asked by reporters whether he believed racism was playing a role in the housing debate, Siddall said he wouldn’t use such a “strong term,” but the contrast between “us and them” was a factor.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 3, 2016 at 8:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • At Apostrophen, ‘Nathan Smith talks about how he made a tradition out of Christmas tree ornamentation over the past twenty years.
  • blogTO notes that Toronto’s waterfront has major E Coli issues.
  • Crooked Timber notes the potential for the recent by-election in London, fought on Brexit and lost by the Tories, to mean something.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze reports on a search for radio flares from brown dwarfs.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that China has been installing ecologies on its artificial South China Sea islands.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers what it means to be an ally.
  • The LRB Blog looks at the complex peace negotiations in Colombia.
  • The Map Room Blog shares a map of American infrastructure.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a one-terabyte drive passed from person to person that serves as a sort of Internet in Cuba.
  • Towleroad notes a film project by one Leo Herrera that aims to imagine what prominent AIDS victims would have done and been like had their not been killed by the epidemic.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the complexities surrounding Brexit.
  • Arnold Zwicky has had enough with linguistic prescriptivism.

[LINK] “The death of Mohsen Fikri and the long history of oppression and protest in Morocco’s Rif”

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At Open Democracy, Imad Stitou places ongoing anti-government protests in Morocco in their proper context, in the long-standing dissidence and dissatisfaction of the northern region of the Rif.

On the evening of October 28, a garbage truck crushed Moroccan fish-seller Mohsen Fikri to death in al-Hoceima city in Morocco’s Rif as he tried to protect his produce. A month has passed since the incident, but protests are still ongoing in the city. While investigations seem to be at a standstill, protesters in al-Hoceima continued their action against the authorities, end of last week. They demanded the punishment of the culprits in this crime, which they believe is premeditated, instead of offering scapegoats to alleviate the pressure in the streets. The protesters were referring to some employees and garbage collectors whom the authorities arrested on the grounds of being implicated in Fikri’s killing.

The flame of public anger in al-Hoceima city is still burning, although the situation has relatively calmed down in other Moroccan cities. In fact, relations between the Makhzen a.k.a the federal state and al-Hoceima city, or the Moroccan Rif in general, have been shaky for decades.

The protests started out with slogans demanding a transparent and impartial investigation to expose the circumstances of Fikri’s death. But they soon escalated into calls for a comprehensive trial of the political regime as a whole, its politics and its behavior towards a marginalized region that has been deliberately shunned from the state’s general policies. This reaction did not come as a surprise. In fact, by exploring the Rif’s rebellious history against the authorities, one realizes that the crushing of Fikri was an opportunity to evoke this painful past and the feelings of oppression, disdain and discrimination that are deeply-rooted in the consciousness of Rifians since the country’s nominal independence in 1956.

Between 1958 and 1959, an uprising broke out as a natural reaction to the behavior of the new authorities that rose to power as a result of the Aix-Les-Bains negotiations. These authorities disbanded the Moroccan Army of Liberation and killed many of its men, in addition to oppressing, abducting, and torturing their opponents, especially sympathizers with the military leader Mohammed Bin Abd El-Karim El-Khattabi and those espousing his thought. Many Rifians were also forbidden from participating in regulating their region’s affairs or contributing to the rule of their country. They were not integrated in the different governments that were formed during the years 1955, 1956, 1957 and 1958.

The uprising was fiercely oppressed by the army, even using aircrafts flown by French pilots. Hundreds were killed and thousands were arrested and wounded. Abd El-Karim estimated the number of detainees in the wake of the Rif uprising at 8420. After that, the region was under a tight economic and security blockade until the January 1984 uprising that erupted as a result of the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions in Morocco. The January uprising, which students in several Rifian cities spearheaded, was also violently oppressed by the authorities of King Hassan II who gave a famous speech in the wake of the incidents which claimed the lives of many and wounded others. In his speech, he described Rifians as “scum” and other slurs that are still engraved in their memories. One cannot ignore the sporadic events that Rifians lived through during the so-called “new era” such as the al-Hoceima earthquake in 2004 and the arson of five men in 2011 inside a bank in the city during the February 20 protests.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 2, 2016 at 7:15 pm