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Immigration: Canada needs to get it Right
12.02.09 (2:04 pm)   [edit]
An aging population and not climate change is the biggest threat we face as a nation. In fact it is not even close.

The average Canadian in 2004 was 39.7; that makes Canada one of the oldest nations on earth. However bad things are now things promise to get a lot worse. The percentage of Canadians over 65 is set to go from 14.7 now to 27.6 in 2050. If the situation was ever allowed to get this bad, the economy would at best be stagnet, the federal government would surely be in deficit, and virtually every public entitlement program would be under enormous pressure or would have already collapsed. Most notably our health care system would be in serious trouble.

The problem is this. People in their 60s cost the health care system more than twice as much on a per capita basis than any of the younger demographics. People in their 70s cost the health care system more twice that as people in their 60s on per capita basis. People in their 80s cost the system twice as much per capita basis and on it goes. In US, since 1975 half of every health care dollar spent has been spent on the last year of life. It is not without reason that some commentors recast the health care crisis in the US in Canada is really being a demographic one.

The notion that this problem can be addressed by encouraging Canadians to have more kids is unrealistic. There is not one Western nation with a fertility rate above the replacement rate yet alone one with a fertility rate high enough to withstand the aforementioned increase in the number of seniors as percentage of the total population.

http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=wb-wdi&met=sp_dyn_tfrt_in&idim=country:CAN&q=fertility+rate+canada


To think that Canada has a chance of nearly doubling its current fertility rate of 1.6 -- and that is what it would take -- is pie in the sky nonsense. Moreover, far from making things better a massive baby boom would only increase an already mushrooming dependency rate for a good number of years. There is something perverse about wanting Canada to become a country of the very old and very young supported by taxes on a rapidly shrinking working population.

Canada has no option but to continue with a high rate of immigration.

Immigration is allowing us to make some headway. 2001 study found that based on 1996 census if Canada did not allow any immigrants, then the number of seniors as percentage of the population in 2050 would be 29. 8. If on the other hand Canada let in 225,000 annually, then that number would drop to 25.4. Finally, if Canada let in 450,000 annually that number would drop further still to 22.9. http://sociology.uwo.ca/popstudies/dp/dp03-03.pdf Of course, if 450,000 annually is good, somewhere between 500,000 and million is even better. Finally, the latter number and more of an emphasis on youth would be best of all.

That is the good news. The bad news is that Canada's immigration system needs to be reformed.

Take family reunification. There is no reason why an immigrant should be able to bring in anyone other than his spouse and dependents. After all, if the main point of a high rate of immigration is to lessen the effects of an aging population, what sense does it make to allow immigrants to sponsor their parents and grandparents?

Eliminting the ability of immigrants to sponsor their parents and grandparents is obvious place to start, but there are other less obvious reforms that need to be taken. One of the biggest concerns is that the ratio of skilled principle applicants as percentage of the over number of immigrants to Canada is way too small. Currently less than one in 5 immigrants is a skilled principle applicant. And however much I am loath to admit it, the Mark Steyns of the world are right about one thing. Allowing someone to immigrant to Canada has a huge potential cost associated with it. This espeically so with regard to any other category of immigrant other the skilled principle applicants. After all, it is only skilled principle applicants that earning anywhere close to what their Canadian peers are earning and skilled principle applicants are the only category of immigrants that are working in numbers that even approach the Canadian average.

"At 26 weeks after their arrival, 50% of all immigrants aged 25 to 44 were employed. This was 30 percentage points below the employment rate of about 80% among all individuals aged 25 to 44 in the Canadian population. ... At 52 weeks after arrival, the employment rate among prime working-age immigrants was 58%. This narrowed the gap to 23 percentage points. At 104 weeks, or two years after arrival, the employment rate among prime working-age immigrants was 63%, 18 percentage points below the national rate of 81%. ... Immigrants admitted as principal applicants in the skilled worker category had an even better record for employment. At 26 weeks after arrival, the gap in the employment rate between them and the Canadian population was 20 percentage points. By 52 weeks, this had narrowed to 12 points, and by two years, it was down to 8 points."


http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/051013/d051013b.htm

If you tease out the numbers, 55% of non principal skilled applicants in the 25 to 44 age group are working after 2 years! Canada needs to do a better job of ensuring that immigrants are able to succeed and while some bleeding hearts will no doubt claim that a complete turn around is possible, an approach that is far more likely to bare fruit is eliminating or greatly limitiing those categories of immigrants that are not likely to succeed economically. To say that Canada needs immigrants is only half right. We need young well educated immigrants who are proficient in English. Indeed, we need a lot more than what we are allowing in now. We do not, however, need their parents and grandparents. We also do not need refugees. Most of all what Canada does not need is cheap unskilled guest workers.

Given Jason Kenney's stated desire to avoid “the kind of ethnic enclaves or parallel communities that exist in some European countries” and Mark Steyn's rantings about second generation Islamic exterminism in Europe you would think that Kenney and Steyn would reel back before the subject of guest workers like vampires before garlic. Instead, Steyn's musings reduce to an infintile and bigoted ethnic essentialism and Kenney seems hell bent on allowing more guest works than Germany, Netherlands and Austria did in the 1960s and 1970s combined.

Indeed, whereas the typical guest worker was once an American transferred to a branch office in Canada, the fastest growing category of guest worker is now the unskilled type with poor language skills. Under the Conservatives, Canada has allowed in some two hunderd thousand plus unskilled workers a year. In other words, the average Canadian tax payer now pays through the noise to have cheap labour sent in from other countries for the sole purpose of cutting his wages. Forget Conservative talk about such provincial programs bringing in much needed skilled workers, this was the kind of positions Alberta was hoping to fill through its guest worker programs this summer: Front desk clerk, short order cook, baker, maid, assembly line worker, server, buser, bellhop, valet, and cafeteria worker, laundry attendant, pet groomer, general labourer, and hair dresser. All that is required of such would be immigrants is that they score 4 or 24 on the language assessment. In other words, they can still be functionally illiterate and still get it in.

Pace Mark Steyn, Integrating immigrants is really quite simple. If you bring in young well educated immigrants that are fluent in English, they will integrate. It will not matter a lick what their background or skin colour is. On the other hand, if you bring in non English speaking uneducated immigrants to clean toilets and serve donuts at Tim Hortons, you have recipe for what happened in Europe, viz, poor race relations, xenophobia and illegal immigration. It is really that clear cut and Kenney should know this. Every expert on immigration does.

It takes a great deal of chutzpah to Kenney to talk about wanting to avoid “the kind of ethnic enclaves or parallel communities that exist in some European countries” and then go about encouraging the very thing that led to the creation of these communities in Europe, viz., importing gobs of unskilled guest labour.

In addition to letting in more skilled immigrants and less of everyone else, Canada needs to refine what it means to be skilled applicant.

The point system is a mess. It is weighted, accidently I am sure, in such a way as to favour older applicants over younger ones. A premium is placed on experience, being married is advantageous and age is not penalized much at all. For example, a 49 year old is given the same number of points for age as a 21 year old! Not only is all this is completely at odds with the stated aim of using immigration to mediate some of the stresses of having a low birth rate, a shrinking supply of labour and a graying population, the very kind of skilled worker most likely to fail, viz., older workers is the one most likely to qualify.

Indeed, while everyone agrees that Canada needs to be a better job of recognizing foreign credentials, what has gotten less attention is just how hard it is establish oneself in a particular field without any contacts in that field and work contacts are what many new immigrants lack. As various studies have shown, for immigrants outside of the Western world, work experience counts for virtually nothing as at all. For this reason alone, Canada needs to redo its point system such that it looks to attract younger skilled workers who are not at such a disadvantage contact wise as their peers.

Above all else though Canada need put more of an emphasis on language proficiency. After all, although Jason Kenney may let in hundreds of thousands of unskilled guest workers with little or no English, he is right to say that language proficiency is best predictor of economic success.

It should be noted that by language proficiency I mean one's ability to converse in either French or English. Currently, moderate proficiency across the board in both English and French is amounts to the same thing high proficiency in one! This is akin to thinking an average switch hitter is not the equal to all star who bats only right handed.

All that being said, in order to get at appreciation for some of the short comings of the current points system consider this. Under the current formula, a single 26 year old who has just completed a PHD in Canada, and who speaks perfect English, but who lacks relevant work experience and is not proficient in French would likely not qualify. Indeed, assuming no family ties and no relevant work experience, they would score 56 out of 100. In other words, if they were not able to quickly secure a job in one of the relevant fields, they would be heading back to their country of origin in short order. Even, if that same applicant spoke perfect French and English they would still not qualify. They would score 64 out of 100.

By contrast a 49 year old who has never set foot in the country and speaks no French but has a BA, 3 years experience, moderate English skills a spouse with a 1 year diploma, and a cousin in distant Canadian city would score 67! This is absurd.

7 Comments
 
Liberals ignore Non-Religious Voters at their own Peril
10.16.09 (8:50 am)   [edit]
It is high time those Liberals who encourage the party to court evangelicals address the non-religious elephant in the living room. When it comes to religion, by far the quickest growing group in absolute terms is non-religious Canadians. 16.2 % of Canadians describe themselves as non-religious in the 2001 census; this represented a 44% increase since 1991 and increase of nearly 1.5 million. According to 2008 stats Canada study by 2005, that number had reached 22% amongst those over 15. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-630-x/2008001/article/10650-eng.pdf There are far more non-religious Canadians than there are evangelicals Canadians and non-religious Canadians are younger. Your average non-religious person is 31. Your average baptist, for example, is 39. Furthermore, the extent of such a trend is masked by the fact that the overwhelming majority of Quebecers still identify as being Catholic even as Church attendance in Quebec continues to plummet there and 43% of Canadians did not attend a place of worship in the last year. Add to all of this the fact that growth of non -religious voters is concentrated in the very areas in which the Liberals stand a chance of winning some seats. For instance, 42% of Vancouverites describe themselves as non-religious.

7 Comments
 
Political Consquences of Means Tested Social Policy and how to make Early Childhood Education Pay Politically
10.12.09 (12:47 pm)   [edit]
Under Martin and Chretien the Liberals abandoned universality in favor of means tested programs. This pleased Stephen Harper. "Universality has been severely reduced: it is virtually dead as a concept in most areas of public policy…These achievements are due in part to the Reform Party" Dion continued in this vein and today Michael Igantieff also does. By turning every social program on offer into a form of welfare, the ability of the Liberals to offer anything other than tax cuts is very limited. It goes without saying that means tested social programs do not win elections; the populace is not going to get excited about paying for a service that only a small percentage of the public can use. Without returning to the concept of the universality the Liberals are destined to become virtually indistinguishable from the Conservatives on all but social issues and Ignatieff seems hell bent on changing that.

Of course, the one exception to such a dispiriting turn is the Liberals early childhood proposal. However, even here there are major problems. First and foremost, it is unclear as to what the Liberals are offering. The goal of the program was ostensibly to work with the provinces to set up an early childhood education program for children under 6. However, to the average voter this amounted to little more than a vague promise to provide more daycare -- which the Liberals said early childhood education was not --- at sometime in the future; they could not figure out what this would mean for their lives. To add insult to injury, Liberals willingness to consider different deals for different provinces has muddied things all the more.

If the Liberals reintroduce such a program in the future, they need to present it in a form in which voters can understand. This is what they should do. They should promise to provide all day preschool and kindergarten for every 4 and 5 year old in Canada.

0 Comments
 
The Liberal Ads are Stupid
09.26.09 (2:08 pm)   [edit]
The Liberals think they can win by being dull, boring, middle of the road and above all nice. The Liberals strategists seem convinced that if only the Liberals successfully put the Canadian people asleep, when they wake they will vote Liberal in droves. This is the only way of making sense of those moronic Michael in the woods ads and party's complete unwillingness to release interesting policy.

Of course the ads are more than just a complete waste of money. It is hard to think of an ad campaign that could do more harm. Ignatieff has all the charisma of a funeral home director --- and rather than distract Canadians focus they draw attention to this very fact. To add insult to injury, the ads build on the campaign the Conservatives unleashed against Dion. The Conservatives successfully painted Dion as a wimp. Apparently, the Liberals decided that why stop with Dion? Why not portray the entire Liberal party as wimps? The Liberals can support any number of brain dead Conservative crime bills. It will not do a lick of good if the Liberals are spending millions having Igantieff say some motivational crap in the middle of a forest. He is sweater short of Mr Rogers. Nothing says soft on crime like a forest setting, cheesy music and promise that "we can do better".

If the Liberals truly wanted to counter the Conservative ad campaign, then they could first unveil some bold new policy. With no Liberal platform to speak of, the Conservatives are having a easy time portraying Ignatieff as in it only for himself. The Liberals can also start firing back. That would at least show that public that Ignatieff was not a wimp like Dion was. Be more like Trudeau. He literally told his political opponents to fuck off.

The Conservatives have made Ignatieff's past an issue. So make Stephen Harper's past an issue. Juxtapose Harper's serial Canadian bashing with Ignatieff's academic, and journalistic achievments. Yes I know that would mean bringing the cosmopotain Ignatieff out of the closest. However, the notion this was something to be downplayed and did play well in seats that the Liberals actually have a chance of winning is ridiculous. For the hundred time the Liberals need to regain what they lost in suburban Toronto, and Vancouver and hope for breakthrough in Quebec. The flip side of dragging the cosmopotain Ignatieff out of closet is that doing so might stop Ignatieff from turning every other speech into a talk about his long dead relatives.

0 Comments
 
The Down Turn: Europe, America and unemployment benefits
04.17.09 (12:44 pm)   [edit]
Yes Yanks do not have the pension liabilities that the Europeans do and generous social programs leave Europe vulnerable if tax revenues go down.

However, far from being hindrance to recovery generous unemployment benefits in Europe help protect European real estate and credit markets, serves as an economic stimulus and generally prevents things from snowballing out of control. Specifically such payments insure that those most unlikely to default on their loans do not and serves as an economic stimulus by putting money into hands of those most likely to spend. Europe’s social safety net also means that Europeans are better positioned to weather the storm in other ways too. Indeed, not only has such a safety net resulted in European families having more savings, fewer debts and fewer expenses than American families, because the state provides many services that employers provide in the US, Europeans that lose their job do not face rising costs -- health care being the most notable -- associated with unemployment in States.

 



0 Comments
 
The Politics of Pot: it is time to question orthodox opinion
04.17.09 (12:38 pm)   [edit]
It is often said that legalizing marijuana is not politically possible. It is high time this orthodoxy be challenged.

Legalization is not supported by the public.

This is simply not true. The last 5 polls that I have seen on the subject show that a majority of Canada’s support legalization and by a fairly large margin. Moreover, it is something that is particularly popular with the Liberal base. According a 2007 poll, for which the complete breakdown is available, support is 55-41 nationally and is favoured by Liberal supporters 68-29 and by NDP supporters 71 -27.
http://angusreidstrategies.com/uploads/pages/pdfs/2007.06.27%20Drugs%20Press%20Release.pdf

Legalization would have no political payoff

Not only is legalization popular with the public, it is easy to see how it would indeed be a winner. Lining up behind the Liberals would be legions of academics, pundits, and celebrities. Canada would again be cool. Lining up behind Conservatives would be legions of social conservatives. Such a move would fracture the Conservative ranks like no other issue can. Red Tories and libertarians will balk at Charles McVety and James Dobson and the government being so closely aligned.

Legalization is also one of those rare issues that the public likes to talk about and has the wherewithal to talk about. What is left of the reefer madness arguments will be quickly tore asunder. The process of debate will lead to an up surge in support while at the same time leave the Conservatives badly mauled.

The Americans would Never Let it happen

If Canada were legalize marijuana the US would be engulfed in debate. Not only would Canadian boldness flame US domestic debate, most notably on the west coast, but should Canada have the guts to go through with such a move various European countries (e.g., Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands) Australia and most important of all Mexico would soon follow Canada's led. There is no question Mexico is seriously considering legalizing marijuana as it is. They have moved beyond outright denials to non denials coupled with comments about it being a "debate that needs to be taken seriously" Watch this interview with the Mexican Ambassador to the US.
http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle_blog/2009/apr/14/ The international dominos would start falling one by one. This in turn would further embolden domestic proponents, especially those in California.

Politically, Obama's ability to push back would be limited. His hands are tied in ways another leader hands would not be. He freely admits to having marijuana in the past ("I inhaled frequently. That was the point") and his marijuana use is not a part of some redemption narrative, a la George Bush. It was a path he choice not to continue going down. Drug use was never presented as a demon he had to overcome yet alone one he still struggles with the way an alcoholic does with drink. This would leave him open to the charge of hypocrisy. Far more importantly though, the war and drugs, especially with regard to marijuana, has had a profound impact on the African American community in the States. If Obama was to toe the standard line in the face of Canada promising to end the war on drugs, he would be in a world of hurt politically. The African American community would not, of course, abandon him, but they would be unhappy and their unhappiness would have the potential to throw his whole presidency out of whack politically. His whole message of being the candidate of change would be called into question. Finally, the war on drugs is expensive and already there are plenty of calls in the US to end prohibition on the grounds of saving money. Take what is happening now with regard to the fiscal cost of the drug war and magnify that by a thousand.

Obama’s recent comments notwithstanding there are indications that Obama is sympathetic to the cause. He has said “the War on Drugs has been an utter failure“, promised to stop raiding medical marijuana dispensaries during the lead up to the election and he made good on that promise. This is big. In the month and bit since Obama took announcement 10 states are debating medical marijuana provisions. Once the number of States with medical marijuana provisions (currently there are 13) reaches a critical mass, marijuana will have to be reclassified. It is currently classified as a schedule one drug, i.e., an illegal drug with no medical benefit. A federal show down as to what place marijuana has in US society is, in other words, already in the works.

It is also big for another reason. Unlike in Canada, in California, for example, one does not have to be afflicted with a particular aliment to be eligible. A doctor can proscribe marijuana for whatever they see fit. Needless to say, the Bush administration was right to see California's medical marijuana program as a Trojan horse and that is why they cracked down so heavily. The system is ripe for abuse and with medical marijuana users and dispensaries no longer being targeted the medical marijuana industry in California will eventually grow so large as to leave no alternative but legalization.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/11/AR2009041100767.html?hpid%3Dsec-health    
  



1 Comments
 
Jason Kenney Playing the Conservative Base for Suckers
04.17.09 (12:32 pm)   [edit]

 Jason Kenney

"There continue to be acute labour market shortages in certain businesses, certain industries and certain regions. And our government believes that the worst thing we could do during this time of economic difficulty is to starve those employers, who are growing, of the labour that they need fuel their prosperity in these difficult times."
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2009/04/15/cgy-mexicans-kenney-immigration.html


Let there be no mistake about what the Conservatives are doing.

The number of guest workers allowed in has exploded since the Conservatives came to power and whereas the typical guest worker was once an American transferred to a branch office in Canada, the fastest growing category of guest worker is now the unskilled type with poor language skills. The Conservatives have not done this directly. They have turned over a greater percentage of the immigration file to the provinces and Western provinces in particular have used the program to undercut labour. The Canadian tax payer has paid through the noise to have cheap labour sent in from other countries for the sole purpose of cutting wages of the Canadian tax payer. Forget Conservative talk about such provincial programs bringing in much needed skilled workers, this was the kind of positions Alberta was hoping to fill through its guest worker programs this summer: Front desk clerk, short order cook, baker, maid, assembly line worker, server, buser, bellhop, valet, and cafeteria worker, laundry attendant, pet groomer, general labourer, and hair dresser. All that is required of such would be immigrants is that they score 4 or 24 on the language assessment. In other words, they can still be functionally illiterate and still get it in.

It takes a great deal of chutzpah to Kenney to talk about wanting to avoid “the kind of ethnic enclaves or parallel communities that exist in some European countries” and then go about encouraging the very thing that led to the creation of these communities in Europe, viz., importing gobs of unskilled guest labour.

Jason Kenney

"That would indicate to me that the vast majority — something like 90 per cent of these claimants — are actually trying to immigrate to Canada through the back door of the refugee system and I think that's unacceptable. That's basically queue jumping."



This is just a lot of hot air designed to play to a Conservative base that does not read a lot and so does not know when it is being pandered too. The National Post Chris Selley nailed it. http://www.financialpost.com/scripts/story.html?id=1431668

I can't say I'm totally sure what he's talking about. As designed, the system is pretty much incapable of being abused or violated. Its guiding principle is: get your feet on Canadian soil and you can claim refugee status-period, no exceptions. Forget not-so-badly-off Mexicans and Colombians. If George Galloway had been allowed into Canada, he could have claimed asylum. Britney Spears could have thrown herself on our mercy after her show in Montreal last week. President Barack Obama, during his visit to Ottawa. Alexander Ovechkin, when he played in Toronto on Tuesday. Anyone, no matter their means, where they came from or how they got here, can claim refugee status in Canada, and they can pretty safely count on being here long enough to make the threat of eventual deportation worthwhile. If nothing else, any children born while they're here would automatically be Canadian citizens. That's a lot of reward for not much risk.


Selley also alluded to the elephant in Kenney living room. Namely, the biggest hurdle to reforming the refugee system is insuring that refugees are processed quickly, that they cannot delay deportation with endless appeals and that there is mechanisms in place to insure they leave the country when they are ordered out. Regardless of the merits of their case, the longer refugees remain in country the greater the likelihood that they will stay. Under the Conservatives things have gotten worse much worse. It now takes a refugee claimant a year and half to 2 years to get a hearing. Under the Liberals that number was one year. The problem is that the Conservatives have failed to fill vacancies on the immigration and refugee board at a time when more claims were pouring in than ever. Moreover, the Conservatives flatly refuse to even consider increasing the size of the board.   



0 Comments
 
Jason Kenney, Multiculturalism and Integration
04.05.09 (12:25 pm)   [edit]
Canada has been able to avoid some of the problems other countries have had into integrating immigrant ethnic minorities into the fabric of their societies. One reason for Canada’s success in this regard was the Official Multiculturalism. By stating that the State did not favour a founding narrative about what it means to be Canadian, Official Multiculturalism helped reduce what it means to be Canadian to its bare essence. In English Canada, with the notable exception of the Aboriginal Canadians who are legally and stupidly defined as other, being a Canadian means having Canadian citizenship and no more than that. Without such a founding narrative or definitive sense of who we are, any attempt to distinguish between true Canadians from fake ones falls still born from its author’s mouth. The lack of rigid identity or founding narrative, so often lamented, is actually a strength. It has helped paved the way for integration.

That said, having helped establish Canadian identity as a becoming and only definable in retrospect, Official Multiculturalism can now be retired with a pat on the back for a job well done. We should feel free to drop the pretence that encouraging immigrants to try to embalm their respective cultures --- that will invariably diverge greatly from their parent cultures ---, is anything other than perverse. Jason Kenney is right. "We don't need the state to promote diversity”. The government was right to cease funding heritage language classes for example and I think most Canadians would agree with sentiments he said with regard to this manner. "I think it's really neat that a fifth-generation Ukrainian Canadian can speak Ukrainian -- but pay for it yourself.”

As I said countless times before, Kenney is also right about language. "Someone who has been here for 15 years and can't speak English or French is basically locking themselves out of the vast majority of jobs and is isolating themselves socially, and that is a tragedy."

However, Kenney has gone off the rails in talking about how "Canada isn't a hotel” and need for immigrants to integrate. Pace Jason Kenney, integration is not something that is accomplished by mere force of will. It is not a choice ---- or if you read the Conservative subtext, a compulsion that immigrants will feel once the multicultural “option” is off the table. Having the government foster a narrative about how immigrants need to become just like “us” not only demonstrates a lack of understanding as to why the legacy of Official Multiculturalism is largely positive, such actions are enormously counterproductive. Forced integration is an oxymoron and the damage it does is directly proportional to just how strongly it is felt.

Now, I believe it was Brian Mulroney who once said that integration is a job. He was not far off. Integration is a social economic by-product. So long as the economy is not racially segmented, national identity too rigidly defined and social mobility blocked, integration is inevitable for those that speak English. Race, ethnicity and even religion are not formidable barriers to friendship and hormones certainly do not care about such things. Put a group of kids from similar social economic backgrounds together in the same place and whether one is jock or nerd will be far more relevant to them then whether they were born in Cairo or Toronto or whether they wear a turban as opposed to ball cap.

So the kicker is this. When it comes to providing social services to immigrants, and encouraging social mobility generally, the Conservatives fail miserably. In other words, they fail to promote integration.

1 Comments
 
Conservatives do not Practice what they Preach on Immigration
03.28.09 (12:37 pm)   [edit]
Jason Kenney has been saying some sensible things about our immigration system. Most notably, he has said that Canada needs to place more emphasis on language skills. As studies have shown, the best predictor of how well an immigrant will do financially is how well they speak French or English. It is neither in our national interest to have immigrants lag behind economically or in the interests of the immigrants themselves. As Kenney said "Someone who has been here for 15 years and can't speak English or French is basically locking themselves out of the vast majority of jobs and is isolating themselves socially, and that is a tragedy."

The problem is that Conservatives do not practice what they preach. Indeed, while there is ample evidence (e.g., Turkish guest workers in Germany) that armies of disenfranchised workers, whether they be illegal or guest, are a recipe of disaster, the number of guest workers allowed in has exploded since the Conservatives came to power. Moreover whereas the typical guest worker was once American transferred to branch office in Canada, the fastest growing category of guest worker is now the unskilled type. The problem is that Conservatives have, in true Conservative fashion, turned over a greater percentage of the immigration file to the provinces and Western provinces in particular have used the program to undercut labour. The Canadian tax payer has paid to have cheap labour sent in from other countries for the sole purpose of cutting wages of the Canadian tax payer. Forget Conservative talk about bringing in much needed skilled workers, this was the kind of positions Alberta was hoping to fill through its guest worker programs this summer: Front desk clerk, short order cook, baker, maid, assembly line worker, server, buser, bellhop, valet, and cafeteria worker, laundry attendant, pet groomer, general labourer, and hair dresser. And every time to Kenney gives lip service to importance of language, someone should remind him that all that is required of such would be immigrants is that they score 4 out of 24 on the language assessment. In other words, they can still be functionally illiterate and still get it in.

Needless to say, despite the downturn there is no talk of reducing the number of guest workers from likes crony capitalists like Gordan Campbell. Indeed, the situation is such that even though the stated purpose of the stimulus plan is to get money following gain locally and to provide Canadians with jobs there is talk using guest workers (primarily Mexican) on the extension of the federally funded sky train extension; Canadian federal stimulus money could be flooding into Mexico.

Now Kenney’s talk of limiting the number of refugee mess is equally welcome, but just as with language skills Conservatives making things worse and not better. Yes Canada needs to dramatically reduce the number of refugees it accepts. I would personally like Canada to cap the number of refugees it accepts at 5,000 a year including dependents. However, fixing the problem goes far beyond drawing up tougher standards. The biggest hurdle to reforming the refugee system is insuring that refugees are processed quickly, that they cannot delay deportation with endless appeals and that there is mechanisms in place to insure they leave the country when they are ordered out. Regardless of the merits of their case, the longer refugees remain in country the greater the likelihood that they will stay. Under the Conservatives things have gotten much worse. It now takes a refugee claimant a year and half to get a hearing. Under the Liberals that number was one year. If Kenney was truly serious about reforming the system he would see to it that such hearings happen in a manner of months, limit or eliminate appeals and ensure that there is a system set up to insure that failed claimants have left the country. I am not going to hold my breath though.

0 Comments
 
Some Thoughts on SSM and the 2006 Election
03.27.09 (1:25 pm)   [edit]
I always thought the Liberals straight man’s burden talking point disingenuous. The Liberal argument was that you cannot cherry pick rights and whether SSM was a cherry is really beside the point. I was told this position focus grouped far better than anything else.

However given what happened with the promise to ban using the notwithstanding cause, I doubt it moved anyone. Indeed, the reason SSM worked for the Liberals in places such as Vancouver had very little to do with what the Liberals were saying and much more to with what the Conservatives were saying, Reform party stereotypes, and ideological similarities between the Bush administration and Conservatives. In terms of likely voters the numbers may have been with the Conservatives, but the debate hurt the Conservatives more than issue helped. The arguments the Conservatives offered up were pathetic and worse some were down right silly. Paul Forseth’s flyer warning not only of ‘moral decay’ but economic decay as well was laughed at by the media. The same fate greeted Rob Anders ‘homosexual sex marriage’ flyer. If that was not enough, the SSM debate enabled Conservative opponents to draw a straight line from Harper to Rove and Bush.

By switching the debate from one about ‘homosexual sex marriage’, volumes of homophobic comments by Reform MPs, pictures of Stephen Harper dressed up to look like one of the Village People and prideful talk about Americans fleeing “Jesus Land” to something that was utterly abstract, the Liberals allowed the Conservatives to at once save themselves from themselves and to distance themselves from Bush.

6 Comments
 
If you want to reduce the number of abortions, promote Sex education and Contraception
03.24.09 (12:12 pm)   [edit]
The delicious irony of the abstinence only sex education programs in the States is that not only do they contribute to teen pregnancy rates that dwarf anything found in Europe, the percentage of US teens having abortions is several times greater than the rate at which European teens are getting pregnant. For example whereas the rate of US teenage girls getting pregnant is 79.8 and the abortion rate 27.5 per thousand, the rate at which teenage girls are getting pregnant in Holland is 8. 7 and abortion rate is 4.2.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/pregadol.htm

0 Comments
 
Drug warriors' Gangs can not walk and chew gum at the same time argument
03.24.09 (12:05 pm)   [edit]
One of the arguments that I have repeatedly come across recently is that should marijuana be legalized then the gangs will move onto other things. I prefer to call this the gangs can not walk and chew gum at the same time argument.

The problem with this argument is that the gangs are already into other things and it is profits from marijuana that are helping them do that. In the context of Canada, marijuana profits and sometimes even marijuana itself are providing the seed capital the gangs need to expand operations into the States, for example, and to diversify operations (e.g., cocaine, heroin, human trafficking and guns). This is one of the main reasons why we need to nip this in the bud.

Do not take my word for it though. Take the RCMP's or VPD's or any police force that you can think of.


Allan Castle, head of the RCMP's criminal analysis section in B.C "B.C. bud . . . was really the industrial revolution of organized crime in B.C.," Mr. Castle said. "It made a lot of bad guys very, very wealthy. And it developed international networks that hadn't existed before."

http://www.nationalpost.com/story.html?id=1358262


Special Agent Jeffrey Wagner of DEA "What happens is the organizations, instead of smuggling currency over the border to pay for cocaine to bring up and then again smuggling ecstasy or marijuana over the border, they look at it as a way to pay their debt."

http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5hnxQOGggeYOIUe9dUv2Jb1GWM3-Q

Attributed to RCMP Cpl. Norm Massie "He said gangsters trade weapons and drugs, often with ecstasy and marijuana heading to the U.S. in exchange for guns and cocaine."
http://www.bclocalnews.com/tri_city_maple_ridge/tricitynews/news/40814583.html

0 Comments
 
Tim Geithner Disaster
03.23.09 (10:50 am)   [edit]
I will let a couple of Nobel Price winning economists, first Paul Krugman and then Joseph Stiglitz explain why Tim Geithner plan is a disaster and why nationalization is way to go.

Krugman

It goes like this: the government secures confidence in the system by guaranteeing many (though not necessarily all) bank debts. At the same time, it takes temporary control of truly insolvent banks, in order to clean up their books.

That’s what Sweden did in the early 1990s. It’s also what we ourselves did after the savings and loan debacle of the Reagan years. And there’s no reason we can’t do the same thing now.

But the Obama administration, like the Bush administration, apparently wants an easier way out. The common element to the Paulson and Geithner plans is the insistence that the bad assets on banks’ books are really worth much, much more than anyone is currently willing to pay for them. In fact, their true value is so high that if they were properly priced, banks wouldn’t be in trouble.

And so the plan is to use taxpayer funds to drive the prices of bad assets up to “fair” levels. Mr. Paulson proposed having the government buy the assets directly. Mr. Geithner instead proposes a complicated scheme in which the government lends money to private investors, who then use the money to buy the stuff. The idea, says Mr. Obama’s top economic adviser, is to use “the expertise of the market” to set the value of toxic assets.

But the Geithner scheme would offer a one-way bet: if asset values go up, the investors profit, but if they go down, the investors can walk away from their debt. So this isn’t really about letting markets work. It’s just an indirect, disguised way to subsidize purchases of bad assets.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/23/opinion/23krugman.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

STIGLITZ

the question isn’t just whether we hold them accountable; the question is: what do we get in return for the money that we’re giving them? At the end of his speech, he spent a lot of time talking about the deficit. And yet, if we don’t do things right—and we haven’t been doing them right—the deficit will be much larger. You know, whether you spend money well in the stimulus bill or whether you’re spending money well in the bank recapitalization, it’s important in everything that we do that we get the bang for the buck. And the fact is, the bank recovery bill, the way we’ve been spending the money on the bank recovery, has not been giving bang for the buck. We haven’t gotten anything out.

What we got in terms of preferred shares, relative to what we gave them, a congressional oversight panel calculated, was only sixty-seven cents on the dollar. And the preferred shares that we got have diminished in value since then. So we got cheated, to put it bluntly. What we don’t know is that—whether we will continue to get cheated. And that’s really at the core of much of what we’re talking about. Are we going to continue to get cheated?

Now, why that’s so important is, one way of thinking about this—end of the speech, he starts talking about a need of reforms in Social Security, put it—you know, there’s a deficit in Social Security. Well, a few years ago, when President Bush came to the American people and said there was a hole in Social Security, the size of the hole was $560 billion approximately. That meant that if we spent that amount of money, we would have guaranteed the—put on sound financial basis our Social Security system. We wouldn’t have to talk about all these issues. We would have provided security for retirement for hundreds of millions of Americans over the next seventy-five years. That’s less money than we spent in the bailouts of the banks, for which we have not been able to see any outcome. So it’s that kind of tradeoff that seems to me that we ought to begin to talk about.

....

AMY GOODMAN: So, you say Obama, too, has confused saving the banks with saving the bankers.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: Should the banks be nationalized?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Many of the banks clearly should be put into, you might say, conservatorship. Americans don’t like to use the word “nationalization.” We do it all the time. We do it every week.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, if banks don’t have enough capital so that they can meet the commitments they’ve made to the depositors, at the end of every week the FDIC looks at the balance sheet, and it says, “You don’t have enough capital. You’re not allowed to continue.” And then what they do is they either find some other bank to take it over and fill in the hole, or they take it into government control—it sounds terrible, to take it into government control—and then sell it.

And that’s what other countries have done when they faced this kind of problem—the countries that have done it well. One of the important lessons is this is the kind of thing can be done well, could be done badly. And the countries that have done badly have wound up paying to restructure the bank 20, 30, 40 percent, even 50 percent of GDP. We’re on our way to that kind of debacle. But that shows you how bad things can be, how costly it can be, if you don’t do it well.

http://www.democracynow.org/2009/2/25/stieglitz

The bankers need to be told something. Say after me America. "You screwed up. We own you. Your fired."

1 Comments
 
Immigration
03.22.09 (3:09 pm)   [edit]

Aging Population

Forget globing warming, an aging population is the biggest problem facing the country. Canada has to get younger. The average Canadian in 2004 was 39.7; in other words Canada is one of the oldest nations on earth. However bad things are now things promise to get a lot worse. The percentage of Canadians over 65 is set to go from 14.7 now to 27.6 in 2050. If the situation was ever allowed to get this bad, the economy would be at best stagnet and likely in sharp decline, the federal government would surely be in deficit, and virtually ever public entitlement program would have collapsed or would be close to. Public health care system would surely have collapsed under the demands placed on it. People in their 60s cost the health care system more twice as much on a per capita basis than that of any the younger demographics. People in their 70s cost the health care system more twice that as people in their 60s on per capita basis. People in their 80s cost the system twice as much per capita basis and on it goes.

The fertility rate (the average number of babies born to a woman in Canada over a life time) in Canada is not very high (1.57) and well below the fist world rate of replacement (2.1), but even if the fertility rate was to double, something which is simply not going to happen, we would still be looking at a massive increase in the amount of seniors as percentage of the population. Canada is that old already. The number of women between 15 -44 is not large as percentage of the population enough to rapidly turn things around. The fertility rate of Canadian women in 1950 was more than double what it is now and the first of the baby boomers turns 65 in 2011.

The fertility rate is one part of the problem.  The other part of the problem is that average immigrant to Canada (37.1) is not much younger than the average Canadian (39.7). The situation is akin to baling out a boat by moving water from one part of the boat to another.

It is imperative that Canada undertake such a project now. After all, Canada is not alone in having to deal with aging population. Some European countries have an even worse problem.


"World Bank projections show that the working-age population of the present EU will drop from 230m now to 167m by 2050, a fall of 63m. Most of this is concentrated in the 12 current euroland countries, where working-age population is projected to drop from 186m to 131m. The worst-hit individual countries are Italy , with a 15m, or 42% fall, from 36m to 21m, followed by Spain and Germany. Britain is not immune but fares relatively well. The World Bank projects a 5m fall in working-age population, from 35.2m to 29.9m In general, though, Europe's position is dire. As Lombard Street Research writes: "The last demographic shock on a similar scale was the Black Death of the late 14th century. Even two world wars did not stop Europe 's population rising by nearly a fifth in the first half of the 20th century."


If Europe continues on as it is, the median age in Europe will go from 37.7 today to 52.3 by 2050!
As professor Charles Kupchan notes,

"today there are 35 pensioners for every 100 workers within the European Union.
By 2050, current demographic trends would leave Europe with 75 pensioners for
every 100 workers and in countries like Italy and Spain the ratio would be 1 to 1."

The average immigrant to Canada needs to be under 30 and we need to bring in far more than 250,000 each year. More like 500,000 plus are needed.

Economic Plight of immigrants

Another area of concern is that the ratio of principle skilled principle applicants as percentage of the over number of immigrants to Canada is way too small. Currently less than one in 5 immigrants is a skilled principle applicant. This is a huge concern for a whole host of reasons not the least of which is that it is only skilled principle applicants that earning anywhere close to what their Canadian peers are earning and skilled principle applicants are the only category of immigrants that are working in numbers that even approach the Canadian average.

"At 26 weeks after their arrival, 50% of all immigrants aged 25 to 44 were employed. This was 30 percentage points below the employment rate of about 80% among all individuals aged 25 to 44 in the Canadian population. ... At 52 weeks after arrival, the employment rate among prime working-age immigrants was 58%. This narrowed the gap to 23 percentage points. At 104 weeks, or two years after arrival, the employment rate among prime working-age immigrants was 63%, 18 percentage points below the national rate of 81%. ... Immigrants admitted as principal applicants in the skilled worker category had an even better record for employment. At 26 weeks after arrival, the gap in the employment rate between them and the Canadian population was 20 percentage points. By 52 weeks, this had narrowed to 12 points, and by two years, it was down to 8 points."

http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/051013/d051013b.htm

If you tease out the numbers, 55% of non principal skilled applicants in the 25 to 44 age group are working after 2 years! Canada needs to do a better job of ensuring that immigrants are able to succeed and the natural to place to start is eliminate those categories of immigrants that are not likely to succeed economically. The earning power of immigrants is such now that the possibility of large urban immigrant underclass, a la Europe, exists. Canada needs to nip this situation in the bud. The low earning power of immigrants will eventually affect our ability to attract immigrants to Canada as well as the affect the general population’s willingness to accept them.


Guest Workers

For similar reasons Canada must resist the siren song of business and the provinces demanding that the government allow in guest workers under the pretext of meeting labour shortages. Never mind the fact that in many cases such demands amount to little more than a request from business that government assist them gaining a leg up on labour such thinking is short sighted. There is ample evidence that armies of disenfranchised workers, whether they be illegal or guest, are a recipe of disaster. It is great way to, create an underclass, suppress wages, encourage black marketing, increase xenophobia and racism. A quick look at the types of positions being advertised on the Alberta government website shows bad the situation is that the Conservatives are allowing what happened in Europe to happen here. Indeed, in the summer this was the kind of positions Alberta was hoping to fill through its guest worker programs: Front desk clerk, short order cook, baker, maid, assembly line worker, server, buser, bellhop, valet, and cafeteria worker, laundry attendant, pet groomer, general labourer, and hair dresser. All that is required of such would be immigrants is that they score 4 or 24 on the language assessment. In other words, they can still be functionally illiterate and still get it in.


Needless to say, the use of guest workers hardly stimulates the economy in a down turn --- the money flows out of the country -- and yet there is talk in BC of allowing contractors to use guest workers to extend federally funded sky train extension.

Points System

The point system is mess. It is weighted, accidently I am sure, in such a way as to favour older applicants over younger ones. A premium is placed on experience, being married is advantageous and age is not penalized much at all. For example, a 49 year old is given the same number of points for age as a 21 year old! Not only is all this is completely at odds with the stated aim of using immigration to mediate some of the stresses of having a low birth rate, a shrinking supply of labour and a graying population, the very kind of skilled worker most likely to fail, viz., older workers is the one most likely to qualify.

Indeed, while everyone agrees that Canada needs to be a better job of recognizing foreign credentials, what has gotten less attention is just how hard it is establish oneself in a particular field without any contacts in that field and work contacts are what many new immigrants lack. For this reason alone, Canada needs to redo its point system such that it looks to attract younger skilled workers who are not at such a disadvantage contact wise as their peers.

Language proficiency portion is also a mess. Not only is not nearly enough emphasis placed on language proficiency, moderate proficiency across the board in both English and French amounts to the same thing as high proficiency in one! This is akin to thinking an average switch hitter is the equal to all star who bats only right handed. Strangely moderate proficiency in a second language is also considered just as good as being highly proficient. Go figure.

All that being said, in order to get at appreciation for some of the short comings of the current points system consider this. Under the current formula, a single 26 year old who has just completed a PHD in Canada, and who speaks perfect English, but who lacks relevant work experience and is not proficient in French would likely not qualify. Indeed, assuming no family ties and no relevant work experience, they would score 56 out of 100. In other words, if they were not able to quickly secure a job in one of the relevant fields, they would be heading back to their country of origin in short order. Even, if that same applicant spoke perfect French and English they would still not qualify. They would score 64 out of 100.

By contrast a 49 year old who has never set foot in the country and speaks no French but has a BA, 3 years experience, moderate English skills a spouse with a 1 year diploma, and a cousin in distant Canadian city would score 67! This is absurd.

Family unification

Put simply Family unification is political boondoggle. Given that the express purpose of the immigration system is mediate some of the stresses of greying population, particularly the on the health care system, there is no cause to let someone sponsor yet their parents yet alone their grandparents. Family unification must be limited to spouses and dependents under 18.

Wait Times

Somehow the Conservatives have been able to perpetuate the myth that current system requires applications to be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. This is simply not true. As Guidy Mamann of the immigration law firm Mamann & Associates notes the immigration minister is not required by law to process applications as they come in.


“In an interview last week with CTV’s Mike Duffy, Finley confirmed that our backlog now stands at about 925,000 applications. The government maintains that the Minister needs these powers to cherry pick applicants who are needed here on a priority basis. She was asked by Duffy, if under the present system, the department was able to fast track, say a welder who was desperately needed in Fort McMurray . Finley answered “The way the law stands now we have to process the oldest application first. If that person is number 600,000 in line we’ve got a lot of applications to get through before that”.This is simply not true. Our current legislation states that the federal cabinet “may make any regulation ... relating to classes of permanent residents or foreign nationals” including “selection criteria, the weight, if any to be given to all or some of those criteria, the procedures to be followed in evaluating all or some of those criteria… the number of applications to be processed or approved in a year” etc. In fact, in the case of Vaziri v. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Federal Court held in September 2006 that our current legislation “authorize[s] the Minister to set target levels and to prioritize certain classes of PR applicants” without even aregulation being passed. Accordingly,
Finley has more than enough power under our current legislation to make virtually any changes that she wants subject to the Charter.”

Not only does the government have to cherry pick who it wants, saying that there is massive black long that is nearly a million long is also flat wrong.

There are is not one massive line, but many lines as there are embassies and consulates. How long someone takes to get processed does not depend upon how many people are applying to immigrant to Canada world wide but among other things how many are applying at a particular location. It may take someone in Warsaw 1.8 years to be processed, but someone in Bogotá over 16 years.

Another thing is that Canada puts a quota on the number of people taken in at each local. In other words, to present the problem as if Canada were processing people as fast as they could but we lack the right number of tellers is wrong. Those bottlenecks that do exist, exist because the government wants them to exist.

Conservative dishonesty does not stop there. While acknowledging that more visa officers would speed up the process at many locations, the Conservatives cut staffing levels and reduced the number of places where people can apply. To add insult to injury they and told reporters something that beggars belief, viz., that it costs $900,000 to $1 million to send a visa officer abroad.

There is no cutting corners. Canada has to greatly increasing the number of visa officers in second world countries with large pools of young educated English or French speakers. Brazil is good example. Currently interviews in Brazil are only held in Brasilia and Sao Paulo, but not in Rio.

The flip side of the coin of course is that Canada needs to limits to limit applications to skilled worker class immigrants and their immediate families. People to apply for refugee status only in Canada and not abroad

Needed Reforms

1) rework of the points system so that more emphasis is placed on youth, education and language skills and that bonus points are assigned if the applicant has his or her professional skills pre-recognized by the appropriate regulatory body and or the applicant has a university degree from Canadian university

2) grant citizenship to foreigners earning a graduate degree in Canada

3) lift the cap on the number of immigrants allowed in each year.

4) limit family unification to spouses and dependents under 18

5) Insure that it takes no longer than a month for refugee claimants claim to be heard

6) cap the number of refugees at no more than 5000 a year including dependents

7) allow people to apply for refugee status only in Canada and not abroad

8) stop allowing people in on humanitarian grounds and compassionate grounds

4 Comments
 
The world Sees Goodyear and thinks of Bush
03.18.09 (2:27 pm)   [edit]
In the post Bush era Canada can not afford to look like it is going down the same road with regard to science that the Americans did under Bush. Right now that is exactly the message we are sending out to the world.

0 Comments
 
Goodyear Does not Understand the first thing about Evolution
03.17.09 (8:01 pm)   [edit]
After being outed as a creationist, Goodyear says he believes in evolution and the theory has "potential". It is too bad for Goodyear that it is readily apparent that he does not understand the first thing about evolution. To wit:


“We are evolving every year, every decade. That's a fact, whether it is to the intensity of the sun, whether it is to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels, of course we are evolving to our environment. But that's not relevant and that is why I refused to answer the question. The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong.”
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090317.wevol0317/BNStory/politics/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20090317.wevol0317


You heard it. Some of us are not adapted to "walking on cement versus anything else" and that as we die off (COD pounding the pavement) we will be replaced by people who are adapted to "walking on cement versus anything else". It is disc thing I think. Their discs have more squishy stuff.

1 Comments
 
Marijuana as Gang Seed Capital: We Need to Nip this in Bud
03.16.09 (9:46 pm)   [edit]

Mark Tonner, The Vancouver Province  "Gangsters are killing each other for the right to market cocaine, heroin, meth and more. Even if weed could be taken from the menu, they'd continue. They're bad people who enjoy being bad."

http://www.theprovince.com/news/Legalizing+gangs/1391551/story.html

Of course legalizing marijuana would not magically transform hardened criminals into model citizens, but while being "bad" is part of what it means to be a gangster it is not the reason why they became gangsters. There are whole host of reasons why people join gangs but by far and away the biggest draw is the money. However, if there was a lot less product to move, the gang world will down size just like any other sector of the economy experiencing a down turn. The difference being that jail and death will do what a pink slip would normally do. Members who ended up in jail or who died or who simply moved on would not be replaced the way they once were. The gangs will not recruit as much.  The less gang members there are the less shootings there will be.

Then there is this. Breaking into the marijuana industry is relatively easy and that is why there are so many small players. It is not just that it is grown locally and so there are not the complications and costs associated with smuggling, for example, cocaine or heroin, into the country. The demand is so much larger and it is spread over virtually every demographic in ways that demand for other drugs is not. People might not know a single person who uses meth or heroin, but they certainly know people who smoke dope, i.e., potential customers. Robbed of the seed capital that marijuana profits provide, fledgling groups would have a difficult time breaking into the market. They would simply not have enough capital, cache and connections to survive. The less players there are the less violence there will likely be.

This brings me to another point. The experience of other countries has shown that the more profitable the gangs the more the gangs expand their operations as well as branching off into other directions. In the context of Canada what is happening is that marijuana profits are providing the seed capital the gangs need to expand and diversify. Hence the importance of nipping this in the bud.



0 Comments
 
Harper: conservatism is "Freedom Family and Faith"
03.15.09 (2:40 pm)   [edit]
There are two things that bother me about the media's coverage of Stephen Harper. One is lauding him for being an "economist" simply because he has an MA in economics and the other is calling him a social moderate. There is nothing about Harper that is moderate. He is holds extreme free market views which qualified him to head up the NCC. And weather it be AIDS research, SSM, a moralistic approach to illegal drug use, corporal punishment, or state child care, he is right there with the fundamentalist nuts. Hell, just the other day, "Harper told the group that his version of conservatism is summed up 'in three Fs:freedom, family and faith.'" http://www.nationalpost.com/story.html?id=1383013

4 Comments
 
Harper is not an Economist
03.15.09 (2:38 pm)   [edit]

Harper has but a Masters degree in economics and no body of professional work. No one would ever think to call every Tom Dick and Harry an economist simply by virtue of the fact that they have an MA in the subject, but in the Prime Minister's case the media make an exception. Now maybe it because the Republicans have tried to make educated and conservative an oxymoran and so the media feel the need to acknowledge him as being a rare duck, but still the lack of educated conservatives does not magically transform the most educated of them into experts. When stacked up against Irwin Colter, Stephen Dion, Michael Ignatieff and John McCallum Stephen Harper is academic pip squeak and there is no cause to treat him as having anywhere near the academic credentials as they do. It is particularly asinine to talk about the Prime Minister being an economist and not pay the same homage to John McCallum. McCallum has a PhD, has taught at various universities and was the chief economist for the Royal Bank.



0 Comments
 
308 Approach misguided: Build beachheads
11.20.08 (2:53 pm)   [edit]
Dean’s point was that if the Democrats only focused on just at States the Democrats were competitive in 2004 and wrote the rest off to bad debts, fundraising numbers would be retarded and more importantly so too would the party’s potential to grow their base of support in these States.  The Dean plan makes sense in so far as there are huge pools of Democratic voters in the redest of states and party can use these pool of voters as beach head and slowly move out from where these voters are concentrated to counties beyond.  The Democrats took 42% of the vote in South in 2004.  

 

The way this has been translated into a Canadian context is that the Liberals should not be writing off ridings, but should aim to be competitive in all 308 ridings.  This is no plan at all.  It is pie in the sky.  An ideal is not a plan.  Yes, the Liberals should be looking to establish and or reinforce beachheads in provinces in which they have historically not been strong.  Edmonton and Calgary are a great case in point.  Sooner our latter Albertans will follow the rest of the country and stop voting down strictly regional lines. Indeed, there may be signs that they may be starting to do just that. Edmonton Strathcona should have gone NDP given its demographic makeup and for once did.  However, the Liberals should not dream of being competitive in huge swaths of BC, and Alberta and any time soon.  Outside of the major urban centers in these two provinces the Liberals were fighting it with the Greens for 4th place in 2008.  The Greens beat them in 8 seats in BC and 10 in Alberta.  To further complicate matters is this.  There are three major parties in Canada and not two. Now, I know this does not mesh with some people’s belief that the left right spectrum drives voting patterns, but historically, Western rural voters swing between the NDP and the conservative party de jour. Moreover, there are slew of working class neighborhoods (e.g., Surrey North, Nanaimo Cowichan) were voters do the same.  The Conservative’s loss is not likely going to be the Liberal’s gain. 
   


0 Comments
 
Obama and the Prospect of Canada Legalizing Marijuana
11.18.08 (11:25 am)   [edit]
The strongest argument against legalization of marijuana is that the Americans would fly off the rails. However, a Democratic president will soon be taking power and the Democratic base is open to such an idea. Moreover, Obama’s hands are tied in ways another leader hands would not be. The war and drugs, especially with regard to marijuana, has had a profound impact on the African American community in the States. If Obama was to toe the standard line in the face of Canada promising to end the war on drugs, he would be in a world of hurt politically. The African American community would not, of course, abandon him, but they would be unhappy and their unhappiness would have the potential to throw his whole presidency out of whack politically. His whole message of being the candidate of change would be called into question.

 


If the Liberals were to draw out how Obama’s message of change is not consistent with a hard line on marijuana, they should be able to tie Obama hands. As for any noise the Republicans might make, the more noise they make the better it would be for the Liberals. Let Republicans scream their opposition from the rooftops.

After all, Harper has been trying to create distance between himself and his social conservative base and the Bush administration ever since he became Prime Minster. If the Liberals promised to legalize marijuana, not only would Harper find himself in lock step Palin, John Walters, Fox news, the Washington Times, James Dobson, and the faculty at Bob Jones University and rest of the Republican apparatus that Canadians love to hate, but so too would Campaign for Life, Charles McVety and Real Women line up behind him. The Liberals could play the nationalist card and social conservative card all at once. The thought of being able to strike a fatal blow the
US war on drugs will make Canadians a little giddy. If that was not enough, on the flip side of things, a legion of rock stars, intellectuals, movie stars, and high brow magazines, such as the New Yorker will line up behind the Liberals. John Stewart would eat such a proposal up. Canada would again be "cool".

Finally, such a promise would tear the Right apart. Libertarians and social conservatives would be at each other's throats and the National Post and great swaths of the Sun Media chain will side with the Liberals on this one! The National Post,
Canada's flag ship of Canadian conservativism, has repeatedly called on marijuana to be legalized and has heaped scorn on the Conservative position.

 



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Harper as Dr. Frankenstein
11.18.08 (11:21 am)   [edit]
American “conservatism” today is largely a byproduct of Republican talking points and campaign tactics and strategy. Elitist liberals are effeminate snobs; by contrast conservatives are your average person completely unburdened by facts. It is talking points such as this that are conservatism’s first principles and not anything that Burke or even William F. Buckley wrote. In this sense the Republican Party is literally writing dissent out of the script of what it means to be conservative.  It has also created a situation wherein manifestly unqualified persons for high office can become leader of the party. Fitting the stereotype is more important than ability, education and experience.   Palin and Bush are cases in point.   In this sense, Bush and Palin are not the authors of the Republicans decline. The Republican Party’s backroom boys have played Frankenstein and Bush and Palin are their monsters.
Something similar is happening to Canadian conservatism under Harper. Only it is Harper who is the lead author of such a transformation.  Harper is redefining what it means to be a conservative and he is doing so by borrowing liberally from the Republican party. Indeed, it is hard to find a Conservative talking point or tactic that has not been borrowed from the Republicans. Republicans warned about “cutting and running”; Conservatives followed suite. The Republicans equated a government surplus as over-taxation; the Conservatives followed suite. The Republicans portrayed Kerry as effeminate elitist snob; the Conservatives did the same with Dion. The Republicans baited Michael Dukakis and kept him off message by telling out right lies about him; the Conservatives did the same with Dion and Dion’s Green Shift. The Bushies were all about message control; so is Harper.  The list goes on and on. 

If affects of such an approach to politics was only limited to the party or parties that practiced it, I would not be concerned.  However, the affects can often be widely felt.  Just look at Bush.  


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How the Conservatives successfully branded Dion as a Wimp
10.21.08 (1:23 pm)   [edit]

Everything Dion said and did fit perfectly with the Conservative caricature of him. They played him like a fiddle. The Conservatives painted Dion as an indecisive wimp in their ads. The worst thing Dion could do once the Conservatives started making everything into a confidence motion was to talk tough and then abstain. That is what a wimp would do. The worst thing Dion and Liberals could have done when the Conservatives started playing bully boy was to get high and mighty and self righteous, but that is exactly what the Liberals did every single time. In the hopes of getting a rise, the Conservatives literally shit on him.  The way to handle Conservative bullying is to roll your eyes and mock them. Think of the fun Trudeau would have had with an – intellectual-- lightweight like Peter Van Loan. Tell John Baird that he looks like he is going to stroke and that putting Harper in a sweater is about as strange a sight as Paris Hilton carrying around a dressed up pit bull instead of one of those puntable breeds. Do not demand an apology. An apology is what a wimp would ask for.

Then there is election itself. Dion said he was going to take the highroad and like any wimp he did. He wanted to show that if he could not beat Harper in the trenches at least he would show that he held the moral high ground. So instead of doing the smart thing and rolling out one hard hitting negative ad after another, Dion gave us the odd negative ad and a lot of sunshine, butterflies, flags and happy people. In other words, the Liberals rolled out just the kind of useless ads wimps would roll out.

What happened in the English debate was even worse. Dion needed to have some zingers reader. He needed to be brief and not verbose. He needed to hit Harper hard, the way big sister Elizabeth May did. Instead, Dion was hopelessly cheerful when not filled with righteous indignation. His accent was strong throughout, revealing why a bully might have taken notice of him in the first place. I thought I was watching a Conservative ad every time he spoke and “Do you think it is easy to make priorities?” stuck in my head the rest of the night.

So it is only fitting that Dion signs off by talking about the successful smear campaign against him and promising that he will do everything in his power to make to sure this does not happen to next Liberal leader. That is exactly what a wimp would do.  



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Dion Should Leave Now
10.20.08 (6:46 pm)   [edit]
The good news is that Dion is leaving. The bad news is he is not gone yet. Another 6 months of near incomprehensible sound bits and tactical errors awaits us. I am giddy with excitement. At least the leadership race will generate publicity and the candidates will be able to take some shots at Harper.


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Defining Dion: why it worked
10.20.08 (6:44 pm)   [edit]
The Conservative were successfully able to define Dion for one simple reason. Dion’s English is not good enough and his accent is strong. Half of Dion’s sound bits are incomprehensible even to people whose first language was English. As for people who struggle with English, many would have hard time understanding a word his says.  ESL students have a terrible time with accents and Dion’s is particularly pronounced. His inability to communicate turned him into a blank slate on which the Conservatives could write anything they pleased. 

 

Of course, Dion’s poor English hurt him in other ways too.  It rendered him a complete after thought in the English language debate.  It is unconceivable that he would have been able to score points against Harper the way Elizabeth May did.  He had enough trouble thanking those that asked the questions.  This is a shame; for, Dion can debate; he just can not debate in English.  And it rendered him almost painful to listen to in interview.  Finally and to add insult to injury, Dion does not have any of the redeeming features that Chrétien, for example, had.  He has no skill as politician. He might even be the worst politician of his era.  And he has no charisma.  He has nothing that would allow him to compensate for his inability to communicate in English. 

 

The Liberal support in English Canada went down nearly 950,000 as a result. The Conservatives tried to pull the same thing off in Quebec, but Dion speaks French. The Liberal vote went up 94,000 there.

 

The next Liberal leader must be able to speak both official languages flawlessly. That rules everyone from the last leadership convention out except for Rae and Ignatieff. Quebec will be key next election. Having a leader who speaks better French then Harper gives the Liberals the advantage there.


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