News at 15:00 EST

What is the PM going to say at 15:00EST?
“Sorry, I was just kidding.”
“We’re not in a recession, but if a coalition takes over we will be.”
“Okay, you win. But please don’t open the books to see where the finances are really at.”
“I’m taking off my sweater, firing the Minister of Finance, and no one is allowed to speak or ask me questions.”

Sound Economics

It’s always been my understanding that one of the big draws to the Conservatives is their supposed sound economic policies. Over the last few evenings I’ve tried to find some balanced, non-partisan overview on the Harper government’s economic performance. Overwhelmingly the information I’ve found has shown these economic policies are about as sound as a canvas covered canoe, minus the canvas.

This conservative Harvard economist thinks Harper’s energy tax policy is the opposite of correct.
Bad GST cut? Did the GST cut decrease your product pricing? There are too many examples of disagreement with the GST cut as being good economic policy, I’ll sum it up with this excerpt from a Maclean’s article:

It is, though, a move that annoys most experts on tax strategy, who tend to see value-added taxes on consumption like the GST as a much better way to fund government than taxing personal or corporate earnings. “It’s bad tax policy, bad economic policy,” said James Milway, executive director of the Toronto-based Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity.

I’ve also heard quite a bit recently about Canada’s drop in productivity.progressive-economics has an article on it, I suppose there are many other sources.
Added to the above is the deficit the Conservatives have racked up in the last 4 months. I’m not sure that is sound policy?

The one thing that Harper is good at is choosing policies that are extremely popular. If it’s simple and immediately pleasing to Canadians, then Harper will put it in his mandate. That is his economic plan. The GST cut, pretty much panned by all economists, was very popular with the voters and helped his party win a minority government. More recently the Conservatives are dishing out money leading up to the election, even though Harper insists “this is not money being thrown around on the eve of an election.”
Aside from economics, the Conservatives thrive on popular issues in all sorts of areas. Their “tough on crime” policy resonates with voters but a lot of it is doomed to failure. The USA is a prime example of how “tough on crime” doesn’t work. The Greens put it more succinctly than I.

Back to economics, the most frustrating thing about the Conservatives is that they don’t even come close to the very good record of the Liberals. As Chantal Hébert points out, despite what we think of Paul Martin the Prime Minister, there is a lot of good things to be said of Paul Martin the Finance Minister.

If you’re looking for some different viewpoints on the above issues, it’s not so easy finding them. For example, do a google search for Conservatives “tough on crime” and your first and second hits are pretty typical of what is being written on the web.

If you have any thoughts, idea, or links that are contrary to the above I’d like to hear from you….

Does Harper Deserve It?

Before Canadians sit down and really think about who they want to be the next Prime Minister, a good exercise for everyone to do is answer the question, “Does Stephen Harper deserve to have a majority government?” I think this question is fundamentally different from comparing parties, policies, and personalities, which is typically how the run into the election will be covered by the media.

I’ve been trying to take stock of the achievements of the Harper government, and what they mean to me and what they might mean to Canada. I am quite critical of how Harper has concentrated power in his office and manhandled his ministers. Rhonda Ambrose anyone? Similar to this, Harper’s disdain for interviews, the media and the public in general is also undesirable. His obsessive control on the media was typified by today’s little showing in Richmond. Similar to this is his bundling public diplomacy, such as his no-show at the China Olympics. On the other hand, Harper does come across as a very intelligent guy and I don’t think anyone would mistake him for a wimpy pushover. Overall I would say that his human interaction skills are terrible and it would be difficult to imagine even a hardcore Conservative supporter being pleased with this aspect of Harper and his government.

When it comes to the economy I think the Harper government is probably around the 50/50 mark. The down side includes the reduction in the gst and the $100 family allowance cheque. In fact, don’t get me started on the $100 cheque, it drives me insane. Here’s the summary of the $100 allowance. Families that can afford to have only 1 working parent love it because they now get $100 per child, as opposed to them getting nothing while other parents would get some affordable daycare. Meanwhile, back in the land of everyone else, families struggle to make ends meet and therefore need to send their kids to daycare, which is really tough because there aren’t enough spots. On the positive side of the economy I can say that the Harper government hasn’t ruined it. I have no doubt that a crappy federal government couldn’t step in and royally screw things up, so that’s why I give the Conservatives credit. They didn’t sink the ship (yet). I believe there are a lot of criticisms of the economy (ie slowest growth of the G7), but let’s just call it 50/50. And that’s being generous.

Okay, here’s an easy one. Everyone that thinks Harper has done a positive job when it comes to social issues, raise your hand. Just one of you? Oh, you just wanted to go to the bathroom? Alright…

Other remaining issues that we can judge Harper’s current performance by include the military, government integrity, and health care. Health care is probably another 50/50 proposition. I could be wrong, but I think the provinces have most of the leverage when it comes to health care. The feds dole out the money and can try to mandate programs but overall I’d say that it’s a provincial matter. I’m not sure Harper has done anything terribly positive or negative for health care. As for the military, I would say that Harper is on the backside. I really don’t know much about his fascination with the arctic, and the debacle in Afghanistan admitably is not of his origin. Make no mistake about it though, if Harper had his way 6 years ago, there would be many more Canadians dead in the Central Asia, only it would be in Iraq and not Afghanistan. As for government integrity, Harper has done poorly on this too. If I was comparing him to other governments (such as the Liberals) it wouldn’t be so bad, but this article isn’t about a comparison. Harper has that whole hyprocasy thing going for him. Some prime examples are Emerson’s defection, Michael Fortier’s appointment, and the Grewal affair when Harper refused to meet with the Ethics Commissioner.

Lastly there is the issue of the environment. I really hope that I don’t need to explain too much on this one. The Harper government is not environment friendly or progressive in any manner. I’ve heard Conservatives give interviews in which they think the world is 8000 years old, and it’s this kind of attitude and belief system that perhaps poses the biggest risk to all Canadians of all different political and ideological backgrounds, for generations to come.

On his merit alone, Stephen Harper hasn’t done enough to warrant a majority government. Is he a better Prime Minister than what Dion or Layton would be? That’s a question for another time.

Spare Me the “Get Tough” Crime Bills!

It looks like the Conservatives are hell-bent on proving that there are only two things that matter: pushing a conservative social agenda and giving in on ideals as long as they benefit politically. As far as I can tell, the Conservatives’ new anti-drug bill shows that they are completely ignorant of science and statistics when it comes to social values. They really need to face a few facts:
the war on drugs (not there really ever was one) was lost
tougher drug penalties do not decrease drug crimes (USA has shown this)
tougher drug penalties will likely benefit criminals the most by increasing their profits
tougher drug penalties increase the cost to tax payers with incarceration costs (USA has shown this)

I think most people would agree that the world is a better place without your average heroin dealer, be it street level or top gang level. Most people don’t want those people hanging around. Tougher penalties just do not accomplish that though. It is so predictable, it’s just sickening. Does anyone really believe that if this bill passes that in a few years we’re going to see less drug dealers, less dealing, less drug addicts, etc?

The continued battle against pot boggles the mind even more. Study after study have shown the decremental effects of criminalizing pot. The sheer number of Canadians that have tried pot or continue to use pot is significantly large which most reasonable people would take as a signal to its social acceptance. Why pot would be criminalized while alcohol or cigarettes are not makes no sense at all. It takes a small mind to not see how a historical law-making decision has completely demonized pot. Consider some of the reasons why pot is illegal:
1. it is perceived as addictive
2. it has no acceptable medical use
3. it is historically linked to narcotics
4. it was originally associated with ethnic groups: blacks and mexicans
5. it has liberal lifestyle associations
6. historically linked to psychotic effects
#1 and #2 are very generic in nature and alone, consider how many things fall into these categories (booze, smokes, coffee, chocolate, etc. Studies have shown how pot is grossly exaggerated in terms of addiction. The truth of #3 is surely false: I bet there are about 10million Canadians that will attest that smoking pot does not lead to the use of narcotics. #4 was a big issue in the US in the anti-mexican and anti-black movements of the 30’s. #5 obviously fits in nicely with the views of social conservatives.

Here are some quotes from Harry J. Anslinger, the first Commissioner in the US Bureau of Prohibition, who lead the charge against pot (for his own political aspirations):
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”

“…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”

“Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

“Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”

“You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”

“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”

The thing that is truly crazy is that the above quotes still reflect beliefs that people carry today! On occasion I speak with people that for whatever reason have had very limited exposure to drugs. They tell me things like “pot leads to hard drugs,” “it makes people crazy,” “you just want more.”

It’s not really a war on drugs, it’s a war on truth.

(having said that… Grady & Emma May: If I catch you kids doing drugs you’re in for a world of trouble!)

Even losers can win

Leading up to the 2006 Federal Election, I wrote this post on Canadian Values which discussed what many consider to be a darker aspect of the Conservative Party. Luckily for Canadians (at the time), Darrel Reid lost in the election. But even losers can win. Environment minister Rona Ambrose recently appointed Reid as her chief of staff.

I can’t say for sure, but I bet Reid is one of those guys that thinks that the earth is 8000 years old. I don’t find a lot of comfort that a person like Reid is in a position of power when it comes to Canada’s environmental policies. I can only imagine the disregard he has for certain accepted scientific theories in favour of his Christian beliefs.

Rick Mercer summed it up in his “Rick’s Rant of the Week” from October 10.

Rick gave another scathing assessment of the Conservative’s environmental policy in his October 17 Rant of the Week.
You sure get the feeling that Harper appointed Reid as the chief of staff and that Rona is just doing his bidding.

In contrast to these two rants, check out Rick’s Skinny Dipping With Bob Rae. Rae certainly echoes values that are much closer to my heart.

The Plan: How The Conservatives Fooled Canadians

That’s the kind of title you may expect to see in a few years. At least, that is what some people think. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem all that unrealistic.

I was speaking with my neighbour the other day and we got around to talking about Stephen Harper. Joe referred to Harper as “scarey guy.” I guess that’s not that unusual really. Many of my friends would consider that to be a compliment. The basic premise behind this thinking is that Harper is going to do his best to not rock the boat in an attempt to win a majority government. That’s why issues such as gay marriage are not even being talked about. Those sticky social conservative agenda issues are off the table for the time being and it seems to be working. Harper is showing himself to be very shrewd by avoiding all controvercy and improving upon our previous PM’s shortcomings. It’s all adding up to a majority government. Heck, the Conservatives are doing everything that Canadians want: less taxes, no scandals, no stealing, tough on crime, etc. Sounds peachy, doesn’t it?

What happens after the next election if the Conservatives get a majority is less peachy. Issues such as gay marriage will be front and center, and they’ll get rammed through. It’s reasonable to predict that the Conservatives will pull a Republic/GWB, only they’ll get their asses handed to them faster than Bush will (Bush will last 8 years, I doubt Canada will stand for 8 years of Harper). The reason for this will be because it is likely the Conservatives will push hard for changes that majority of Canadians will not like. It’s just so happens that the majority of Canadians are too apathetic about government right now, and that’s how this whole process will get started.

Why Could The Conservatives Do That Would Be So Bad?
I’m not entirely sure just yet. However, these guys are the same people that think the Earth is only 8,000 years old. For crying out loud, I don’t want to trust this country to people that are that far out of touch with reality. If you have ever heard any of the right-wing Conservatives speak at public functions (I’ve seen a few videos on the web), you’ll know what I’m talking about. They’re crazy, and they have agendas. They say shit that is so far out in left field, but has far-reaching consequences socially. To list a few:
ban gay marriage
ban abortions
continue the war on drugs (shut the door on legalization of pot and other drugs)
So if you like lower taxes and think banning gay marriage isn’t such a bad idea, hold on tight because it could be you that causes the mess we’re going to get into.

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