May 24, 2013 | No Comments
And I want him to remain a Senator for years and years and years.
Don’t get me wrong; this whole affair is an insult and embarrassment to Canada, but the problem here is not Mike Duffy; it’s not Nigel Wright; and it’s not Pamela Wallin. The problem is our Senate.
It’s a rotten institution. It’s been a joke for years. It eschews representative government and assumes us all children. This type of legislative body is contempt for democracy manifested. Sticking the institution with the likes of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin is wonderfully appropriate.
So don’t blame Duffy, Wright or Wallin (though feel free to blame the Prime Minister), blame the institution.
May 8, 2013 | 4 Comments
Is there any more annoying chatter than two people arguing about how to fix something that is, by design, fundamentally broken? That’s what we have been subjected to recently with all the arguments about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
For those not familiar the TFWP allows Canadian employers to import non-Canadian workers. These privileged few are allowed to enter our company, work their job and, eventually, leave. They are given no greater tie to the nation; they’re just hired guns.
This program rubs some people the wrong way. With so Canadians looking for a job, why, we might ask should we bring in foreigners to take the relatively few jobs there are? Even if we ignore shortages of specific skills, or job openings in regions of low unemployment, there’s a very simple answer.
“Foreigners” are people.
Our current immigration system doesn’t worry about this. We have established a system in which we automatically value Canadians more than we value anyone else. We determine worth based on your citizenship. When you break it down, it’s pretty abhorrent. It may not be bigotry, but it’s right next door. Read more
May 1, 2013 | No Comments
It’s May Day, so what better time to go over some labour issues that are currently making news?
What’s the value of Peter Mansbridge?
The Tories have made the decision that Crown Corporations need a new strategy when dealing with upcoming collective bargaining (contracts will be ending in 2015). The government will be taking a fairly hard line in negotiations as they attempt to bring compensation levels in line with the private sector. The government has listed 49 Crown Corps that will be subject to this new strategy, but Canada Post, Via Rail and the CBC have been called out specifically. There is, as you can imagine, much hand-wringing about this. The government will be taking a much more hands-on approach, potentially even sitting in on negotiations. Labour activists see this as inappropriate intrusion into the collective bargaining process. Personally, I’d much prefer organizations like Via Rail and the CBC become self-sufficient, private entities.
What’s the value of privacy?
The Canadian Constitution Foundation has announced that they have been given intervener status in Elizabeth Bernard vs. Attorney General of Canada, et al. Ms. Bernard is federal civil servant. She has refused to join public sector unions during her time working for the government (as is her right). However, since she is covered by the collective bargaining agreement (and, thus, forced to pay union dues), her employer (the government) has been compelled to give the unions her private information, including home address and phone number. The CCF notes that there have been cases in the past where such information has been used by unions to bully workers. It is a sad statement that we have put greater value on the power of unions than on the rights and freedoms of workers. That’s not the sort of thing the labour movement is supposed to be fighting for.
What’s the value of safety?
After a five day wildcat strike, a deal has been reached to get workers back into Alberta’s prisons. The government will, thankfully, begin a review of the health and safety issues in Alberta prisons. This should be seen as a modest win for the union (though at a cost of $350 000 in fines). It doesn’t appear that any concrete steps have been taken to make things safer for jail guards, but a review is better than nothing. Hopefully, this strike has made it clear that the workers aren’t going to suffer silently. That might, just might, encourage the government to actually do something.
What’s the value of booze?
We’re about 5 minutes to midnight on the doomsday clock. May 17 is the strike deadline for workers at Ontario Liquor Stores. Talks are, allegedly, ramping up, but is it possible that we’ll see a dry long weekend? Well, at least beer and wine stores will be open.
April 29, 2013 | No Comments
I recently published an op-ed in my local newspaper discussing energy politics and environmentalism, and how Canadians share much more common ground on these issues than most people realize, citing the examples of federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and former Reform Party leader Preston Manning.
Comments and feedback are of course welcome.
As a sidenote, please note that the editor chose the title for the article as it originally appeared, not me.
April 22, 2013 | 2 Comments
The current government has experienced some bad press regarding the treatment of soldiers recently. First, there was the heretical notion that the danger pay for conducting training programs need not be as high as the danger pay received for fighting on the front lines. Don’t worry, the Tories stepped in and slapped down the rogue bureaucrat who made that crazy suggestion.
Now, it turns out, there was a clerical error that resulted in soldiers receiving danger pay accidentally. There was an administrative error that lead to an extra, now we can say bonus, payment to some members of the Armed Forces:
“This issue results from an administrative error and not from any fault on the part of these soldiers,” MacKay said in an e-mail sent by his office. “It would not be right to penalize these families for the department’s error, so we will not be asking soldiers to pay back the difference. Our government is eternally grateful for the dedication and sacrifice by our men and women in uniform who serve and protect our country.”
The letter demanding soldiers reimburse the defence department is separate from the recent controversy over a recommendation to cut the level of danger pay military personnel get.
Once again, the white hats in the Conservative Party came to the rescue.
Tell me, though, is this appropriate? This was a simple mistake. It was separate from the proposed policy change. The government was not asking people to return danger pay that they had earned. Why should they not be asked to repay it?
Is this a policy throughout the government? If your average Joe Bureaucrat got overpaid, would the government let it go, or would they demand repayment? If it was someone in the private sector, how do you think such a situation might be handled?
If you think soldiers deserve special treatment, try to reflect on why they deserve it.
If you think soldiers deserve special treatment, what does say about what they’re fighting for?
April 19, 2013 | No Comments
There’s an interesting case going on right now in Toronto. A man is on trial for assault because, among other things, he threw spice at the alleged victim. As much as the spice angle makes this attention-grabbing, the case itself is quite interesting, as it brings together issues of self-defense, vigilantism and the fallibility of eye witnesses. Here is the defendant’s, Naveen Polapady, view:
“He got a lumber, or some kind of big thing… and then charged me. I had this chicken masala and I threw it on him. He was pushing me, holding my neck and grabbing me. Then I broke free and I ran out of my backyard,” Mr. Polapady said in a 2012 statement on the incident.
Now, unfortunately, the article I’m citing isn’t particularly clear in presenting the events of that night, but it appears that Mr. Polapady reacted as he did in part because he had been recently robbed. When he saw his past assailant back again, he became understandably worried.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the same person:
As it turned out, the victim of Mr. Polapady’s spice-throwing, Manuel Belo, was not the car thief Mr. Polapady believed he was. Days earlier, Jason Mitchell — who ultimately pleaded guilty to the crime — had broken into the Bloor Street West restaurateur’s car and stolen several items, including a laptop and GPS device.
It is unclear if Mr. Belo was, in fact, a thief. From the various reports I’ve read, he may have been, or he may have just been loitering. What is definitely clear, however, is the Mr. Polapady thought he was Jason Mitchell and confronted him, broomstick in hand. I caught a lot of flack a couple years back when I argued that infamous shopkeeper vigilante David Chen should be found guilty for chasing a man down, tying him up and throwing him in a van, hours after he had been shoplifting, but my main concern was exactly what has happened in the “Spiceman” case.
We cannot assume that every citizen will perfectly remember the appearance of someone who committed a crime either hours or days ago. Mr. Chen tried this and got the right person. Mr. Polapady tried this and did not. We know that Mr. Chen attacked a guilty person. It is not so clear with Mr. Polapady. And even if Mr. Belo was a thief, Mr. Polapady’s mistake demonstrates that these sorts of vigilantes could easily attack innocent people.
Now, there may be more to the story than has yet been reported, so perhaps Mr. Polapady was truly acting in self defence. But from all the information we have right now, he should be found guilty. Just as David Chen should have.
April 18, 2013 | No Comments
Last month, I published a couple of new articles on Vive Le Canada:
The second is a commentary that examined the issue of “judicial activism” so frequently decried by conservative commentators, and compares it to the investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms in NAFTA.
Comments are of course welcome.
April 15, 2013 | 2 Comments
Maybe it would be for the best if LCBO employees carried through on their recent strike vote and walked out. Maybe that would bring some sanity to Ontario’s liquor laws, and a bit more balance to its labour laws. I would imagine any strike would put a lot of pressure on the provincial government to allow private liquor sales.
This matter is a long time coming. In recent months, there have been more and more calls in the mainstream press to open up liquor sales. There is also a more tangible campaign afoot. Go into local convenience stores and you are likely to find a petition sitting on check-out counter asking the government to allow the sale of alcohol in corner stores. And it wouldn’t be such a dramatic change; the province already allows limited private alcohol sales (both in niche stores and at wineries/breweries/distilleries).
However, the rather interesting part of this potential strike is the messy entanglement of government monopolies and labour law. Needless to say, the shuttering or reduced service of LCBO stores would be a significant inconvenience for average Ontarians, as well as a number of businesses whose only outlet for retail sales is The Liquor Store. I have little doubt that a strike would prompt someone to cry out for back-to-work legislation. However, I think we can all agree – when we take our tongues out of our cheeks – that the Lic-Bo is not an essential service. There’d be no valid grounds for the government to force these workers back to their cash registers.
But there’s no valid reason to why LCBO workers should have the power to hold Ontario consumers hostage. The monopoly power of The Liquor Store is ridiculous; we may think there are may benefits, and there may be benefits, but the underlying absurdity will come into sharp relief if stores are closed during a prolonged work stoppage. The longer a strike would go on, the more reasonable it would be for the government to consider forcing them back to work.
The union has monopoly power on the supply of labour (management aside, I assume) for liquor sales in Ontario. There is no way any union should have such power. We generally don’t let any private collective have that kind of monopoly power. Yes, unions wield that kind of power in other industries, but if Loblaws employees decided to collectively walk out, we could turn a plethora of other grocery stores for our bread and veggies.
As a government entity, it is quite reasonable to suggest that the workers of an entity like the LCBO do not have the right to strike. Collective bargaining is meant to act as a balance against the inordinate power often held by employers. But now we have swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. We have a situation of rent-seeking, in which the employees – and the LCBO – are trying to extract benefits by virtue of the special status bestowed by government.
But it is ridiculous to suggest that retail workers have too much power and should be allowed to organize… almost as ridiculous as it is to suggest that the government is the only acceptable retailer of spirits.
Let’s stop all this. Let the workers organize. Let them strike if they want to. And let the rest of us choose somewhere else to purchase our booze.
March 15, 2013 | 2 Comments
By now, everyone’s probably heard about the sickening comments conservative academic Tom Flanagan made about child pornography. The backlash was swift and immediate-the provincial Wildrose Alliance party of Alberta fired Flanagan, the CBC dropped him from its Power And Politics political news show, the Manning Centre for Building Democracy dropped Flanagan from its list of guest speakers, and Stephen Harper’s Director of Communications, Andrew MacDougall, tweeted a condemnation of Flanagan’s comments. Some few voices did defend Flanagan, however. Flanagan’s fellow political scientist Barry Cooper condemned the response to Flanagan’s comments, calling them “a lesson in free speech.”
At the same time that the Flanagan saga was unfolding, anti-gay Christian pastor William Whatcott was charged with hate speech. The Supreme Court of Canada subsequently upheld the ruling, which led to a fierce criticism from free speech advocates like Ezra Levant, who questioned whether it was even necessary to censor Whatcott, who Levant called a “goofy and harmless eccentric who has likely turned more people against his cause, than to it”.
Levant arguably has a much stronger case than Cooper, because of a subtle but important difference between the Flanagan and Whatcott cases. In Whatcott’s case, the criminal justice system and the courts were making use of state power to retaliate against Whatcott’s activism. That type of response to public expressions that people don’t like has been fiercely criticized for years. However, all of the individuals and organizations that have retaliated against Flanagan have done so on their own initiative, without any legal requirement from the courts or any other state apparatus. The CBC’s decision to fire Flanagan was made by the corporation’s own internal management, rather than ordered by any court or elected official. The decisions of the Manning Centre and the Wildrose Alliance to drop Flanagan were also internal decisions, not legal requirements. To the extent that they felt compelled to let Flanagan go, it was because they judged it was in their own best interests to do so.
The Flanagan case reminds me of the case of U.S. broadcaster Don Imus, who was fired by CBS in 2009 after he called a team of female basketball players “nappy-headed hos”. Once again, there was no state compulsion involved. CBS chose to fire Imus of their own voltion, as a private company acting in what it decided was its own best interests. The pressure it felt to do so came from other third party organizations who used their own free speech rights to criticize Imus.
This ultimately illustrates the rights and responsibilities of free speech, and how state power relates to them. People who use free speech to say sickening or bigoted things are often punished by civil society at large without any intervention from the state, as Flanagan and Imus have shown. It’s one thing to have a dissenting opinion on something like the values of public or private health care, but it’s quite another to be dismissing the effects of child pornography on the children who are exploited in it, or using an ethnic slur to refer to a team of athletes. In many respects, then, state intervention is often not necessary and often less effective than enabling individual people and society at large to respond directly on their own initiative. In the United States, the Patriot Guard Riders offer an excellent example, who have used their own freedoms of speech and assembly to shield the grieving families of deceased servicemen and servicewomen from the evil of the Westboro Baptist Church.
March 6, 2013 | No Comments
Canadain music icon Stompin’ Tom Connors passed away Wednesday at the age of 77. His contribution to the Canadian identity cannot be understated. His appeal spanned time zones and generations; he was loved across the country by fans of all ages.
Rest in peace, Stompin’ Tom.