Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Unanimous Decision

The Supreme Court has ruled that security certificates violate some Charter rights. This was an easy decision, and it makes for very interesting times. I would've liked to have seen the Liberals take the lead on this one, but at least our path is clear from here.

The question is how might the government react to the ruling. The recent debate over the Anti-Terrorism Act suggests absolute intractibility. Harper has declared his willingness to take "any action necessary" to maintain Canada's post-911 national security regime. If he's serious, this could only mean the notwithstanding clause. This is still a relatively remote possibility, but the alternative is scuppering what has been the major definining effort of the past two weeks (i.e. 'strong' leadership on national security). Whether the security certificates were specifically debated or not, words will have to be eaten.

This could mean turning the tide of an argument we seem to be losing. Those who opined that our security regime doesn't violate the Charter were wrong outright. I wish that hadn't included so many Liberals, but alas. Our message now: strong leadership means standing up for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

David Sweet Watch

The ludicrous charade draws to an end (hopefully). David Sweet Watch is launched/revitalized. For those who don't know, Sweet is the Conservative MP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale. He is a leader of the hard-line religious right. He is on a singular mission. He represents only those of whom he approves and this leaves a number of Canadian groups here in West Hamilton entirely in the cold. Where I come from this rules one out as a candidate for public office. However, through careful political silence he stole a riding which he shouldn't have had a hope at.

It is lovely to see concerned Hamiltonians taking matters into their own hands. It looks like there has been a lot of worthwhile effort on this. I plan on visiting the site early and often. I recommend the same. Marvel at what didn't make the news last election.


Elsewhere, Justin Trudeau announces that he will pursue the Liberal candidacy in Papineau. This is a legitimately steep challenge, and a great entry point. Pity - so many smarmy rank-and-filers were really looking forward to bellyaching about "the path of least resistance", not paying dues, etc.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Charest's autonomous regions

Fine. Will Kahnasatake be invited? How about James Bay Cree country?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Tory gets his star candidate

I commented many months ago about John Tory addressing the radical Ontario Landowners Association. He must have made a pretty strong case, as co-founder Randy Hillier has now elected to seek the Tory nomination of Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington. For the sake of review, Hillier's organization opposes any governmental encroachment. These include The Nutrient Management Act, Environmental Protection Act, Species at Risk Act, Fish and Wildlife Act, environmental buffer zones annd drinking water regulations.

Here is the OLA's treatment of the Clean Water Act, for example:
"The perfect storm of injustice is tracking for, and is soon to converge over rural Ontario. Powered by the winds of deceptive environmentalism, and a rising tide of regulated fascism, the heavy squalls of social apathy approach, at the storms eye is Bill 43 "The clean water act." When the storm hits, pounding rains of tyranny will overcome the dykes and walls of common sense that surrounds and protects Canadians from injustice."

Hillier's own Lanark Landowners' Association decries "using taxpayer's dollars [to] support and promote Quebec, Native, Arts, Homosexual, Urban and Multi cultures." (Most of that isn't a sentence but the spirit of the thing shines through).

The association also dabbles in political leader satirizing. The federal Conservatives had "Mr. Dithers". The Liberals has "Mr. Muzzle" or something. The HLA has the cleverly rendered (see below) Dolly McGuinty. They refer to him as a her. Get it? Pretty sophisticated stuff. "She" (giggle) says stuff like "It's just not fair that people who don't have a degree and wear work-boots should be able to own land, and have guns, and vote, and scare us." Yup - they got his number.

John Tory undertook a concerted effort to moderate his party when he became leader. What is remarkable is that headed into the '07 election, the Ontario PCs have in some respects never looked more extreme.

Friday, February 02, 2007

$10 minimum wage makes too much sense

It's time for a $10 minimum wage in Ontario. I've struggled with this for some time now, but it's becoming increasingly clear to me that the provincial Liberals ought to swallow their pride and throw their energy behind the NDP motion.

Imagine that, according to research done in 2002, someone has to work nearly full-time hours all year at $10/h just to remain above the poverty line. Of course, minimum wage jobs very rarely offer consistent full-time hours. So even assuming full-time hours all year, which is a rarity in the minimum wage world, we are condemning workers to live no less than 20% under the poverty line. Doesn't that make an $8 minimum wage seem terribly arbitrary, as well as insufficient?

Even more striking is the fact that a household with a single child needs to produce 75 hours of labour a week at $10/h to remain above poverty. This means 94 hours of work a week at only $8. Even if the child does have two parents, they each must somehow produce 47 hours of labour a week. With a child to care for, this is well beyond possible.

Some business Liberals have rejected the notion on impulse. The automatically-generated response is inevitably : 'think of job loss!' A reasonable protestation, but one which research doesn't bear out.

In 2003, about 85 Canadian economists and labour policy experts, including the former chief economist at TD Bank, released a comprehensive report which demonstrated that "Modern economic research has indicated ... the negative employment effects of minimum wages are negligible and can be overwhelmed by the positive impacts of minimum wages on labour force participation and consumer spending." This is the most recent, most comprehensive investigation of the issue, and its conclusions fly in the face of conventional business wisdom.

The same findings are echoed by the OECD, as well as a coalition of 650 US economists - including 5 Nobel Prize winners - who have nearly succesfully wrested a 30% minimum wage increase from Congress.

At worst, some studies have found around a 1-3% rate of job loss roughly corresponding with a 10% increase in minimum wage. However, this job loss is usually associated with teenagers, who have statistically less need for employment.

Another argument is that businesses will relocate if faced with a large hike in the minimum wage. The ludicrous aspect of this argument is that small businesses are supposedly the most affected, and small business don't uproot themselves. Boutiques on Queen East aren't going to up and head for Manitoba. Niether are the big minimum wage employers - fast food restaurants, etc. - going to abandon Canada's most populace province. That's just a bizarre assertion. Look to this case study of Washington State, if you need more convincing. Washington has the highest minimum wage in the US, and has experienced zero economic blowback. Small businesses have flourished and people come from neighbouring states for employment, which has meant Idaho has also had to raise the wage.

Finally is the peculiar distinction that some Liberals make between government programs and labour regulations. The suggestion is that businesses shouldn't be expected to socially responsible, becacuse this is the government's job. The welfare state has always meant a combination of labour regulations and government expenditures. A minimum wage hike is an alternative to extracting tax dollars from businesses then delivering them to the working poor through a vast circuitous bureaucratic network. A wage hike has the same effect, but is more direct, more immediate, more efficient and more logical.

It's easy to dismiss this as pie-in-the-sky NDP politic'n, but it is far more difficult to dismiss the facts. A minimum wage is completely arbitary if it doesn't guarantee against poverty. We can make sure it does that without incurring any serious costs. Indeed, we will be unburdening ourselves of the costs associated with the working poor - housing issues, health issues, etc. Expect more non-Dippers to come on board - starting, I predict, with Art Eggleton. This is a powerfully important issue, and one where partisanship should be put aside.

Margaret Wente - tell us what you know!

Today Margaret Wente's legend grew just a little bit larger. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a vast network of scientists from around the world, released its landmark report. It predicts dire consequences if we don't take our green responsibilities seriously.

Why am I left so impressed with Margaret Wente? If she can stare down such an impressive array of scientists, then she must know something spectatcular. Just a couple days ago, via an online Globe and Mail conversation, she tantalized us with this:

"The scientific consensus certainly says that human activity contributes to climate change. But my own reading (and interviews with scientists and other experts) has led me to conclude that there is great uncertainty about what impact climate change may have, how serious it might be and what we can do about it. I think that climate alarmists have had a terrible influence on what should be a rational debate.
So chalk me up as a climate realist. Do we need to take climate change seriously? Yes. Is it a planetary emergency? In my view, no."

What is it that she reads? Who does she talk to? What does she know that all those world-renowned scientists in Paris do not? It's a fascinating thought. Firstly, she must have attended some impressive journalism school, if it equipped with the tools necessary to evaluate critically a complex scientific consensus. Most of them just teach you how to write.

I'm particularly fascinated with this secret panel of experts she seems to chair. Perhaps they meet underground, laughing at our deluded public and smoking their cigarettes (which they know actually cure cancer). Perhaps they meet on the ocean's floor. After all, they can tell you what the Confederacy of Dunces at the WHO will not - that humans are perfectly capable of living and breathing under water.

Or maybe she just fits squarely into the lineage of the "world is flat", "Darwin has lost his mind" types. The most difficult aspect of a conservative existence must be that as sure as you are about this one, you have to live with the fact that your kind has been on the wrong side of every debate in human history.