Friday, January 25, 2013

Mayor Ford Gets to Keep His Job

Friday morning the three Judges hearing the Mayor Ford's appeal handed down their decision on Magder v. Ford. A lower court had ruled Rob Ford to have contravened the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, he appealed that decision; the judges hearing the appeal have found in his favour and overturned the lower court ruling. Clayton Ruby the lawyer for Paul Madger indicted he will appeal this decision to the supreme court; odds are that Court will decline to hear the case; so Rob Ford gets to be mayor for a little longer. Apparently he has another tussle coming up this one an audit dealing with the 2010 election expenses.

Rob Ford has had his share of problems in the last two years; ranging from the picture of him driving and reading; allegedly proffering his middle finger to a constituent to the the more serious court cases involving libel (he won) and this case of conflict of interests (also won).  These incidents and a few more have members of Ford Nation and the conservative press feeling their Mayor is being pursued by "leftist" presumably bent on the Mayors destruction. I'm not the conspiratorial sort, so I'm likely to attribute Ford's problems to His own mistakes; while not denying that there are people happy to take advantage of seemingly endless number of Fordian miscues.

The ruling came as a surprise to many, including Ford and his supporters. It would appear as many of his detractors were taken unawares by the reversal. I thought he would be turned down on appeal as well; the original decision against him was a good one; the Justice Hackland was thorough and even a bit reluctant in handing it down.

The appeal succeeded from my reading and that of many more expert opinions on the finding that the City Council had no right to financially sanction the Mayor;

 That Act, in s. 160(5), permits only one of two penalties or sanctions: a reprimand or a suspension of remuneration

so it must follow that everything arising as a result of that Council sanction becomes void. The last line in the decision as pointed out by Ms Doolittle says it all; 

[96]           In light of our conclusion that Decision CC 52.1 was a nullity because of the nature of the financial sanction it imposed, the appellant has not contravened s. 5(1) of the MCIA.  Therefore, the appeal is allowed, the judgment of the application judge is set aside and the application under the MCIA is dismissed.

The Court also said that it was that Ford did not have a pecuniary interest in the $3150 donations he had solicited.

I'm satisfied with the verdict; I can live with it. Now I'm not a Rob Ford supporter; I don't think he's a good Mayor. I am in my inclination Liberal-Left; Ford is just to conservative for my taste. I wasn't concerned that a failed appeal might mean an election. I'm on the record as loving elections; the more, the better. I wasn't worried that his removal might prompt a backlash against liberal-left interests. I didn't not think Ford being tossed from office meant the DEATH OF DEMOCRACY. I have always viewed this proceeding and others like it as part of the accountability infrastructure. The Courts and those citizen-activist that use them are part of the system of checks on authority. Those members of Ford Nation who thought the Mayor was innocent; that he was the subject of leftist malcontents, should not be angry. They should instead hail a system that insures that our elected officials act in accordance with the law is working fine. 

The entire affair maybe broken down thus; Ford solicited money for a good cause through his office->People thought that was a code of conduct breach->Council sanctioned Ford-> Ford disagreed and sought to overturned it and in doing so was accused of violating conflict of interest guidelines->Ford taken to court by citizen->Ford loses-> Ford appeals and wins. 

Ford was accused and was in the end  vindicated. I find nothing so beautiful as a system designed to address potential  abuses by those who hold our trust, working. Rather than bemoan the cost of the hearing or the abuse of an innocent Mayor, instead rejoice that the system designed to protect us works.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On the Sun Media Corp and Mandatory Carriage

The globe and Mail reports that the Sun Media Corp has applied to the CRTC for mandatory distribution. The application maybe found here, the relevant portion is

10.   TVA Group Inc. and Sun Media Corporation, partners in a general partnership carrying on business as Sun News General Partnership
Across Canada
Application 2012-0687-1
Application by TVA Group Inc. and Sun Media Corporation, partners in a general partnership carrying on business as Sun News General Partnership, for mandatory distribution on the digital and analog basic service pursuant to an order issued under section 9(1)(h) of the Broadcasting Act of the national English-language specialty national news Category C service Sun TV News.
The Commission notes that the programming of this service is devoted to English- and French-language mainstream national news and information programming. The applicant also provides updated news reports every 120 minutes, as required by Conditions of licence for competitive Canadian specialty services operating in the genres of mainstream sports and national news – Implementation of the Accessibility Policy and other matters, Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-562-1, 18 June 2010.
The licensee states that it meets all the criteria set out in paragraph 11 of Criteria for assessing applications for mandatory distribution of its service on the digital basic service, Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2010-629, 27 August 2010 and proposes that its service be offered for a per subscriber monthly wholesale rate of $0.09 in the French-language market and $0.18 in the English-language market.
Licensee’s address:
1600 Maisonneuve Boulevard East
Montréal, Quebec
H2L 4P2
Fax: 514-380-4664
Website to view application:

Currently there are ten broadcasters that are mandatory carriage:

  • CBC News Network (in French-language markets): $0.15
  • Réseau de l’information (RDI) (in English-language markets): $0.10
  • Avis de recherche (in French-language markets): $0.06
  • Weather Network/Météomedia: $0.23
  • TVA: offered without a wholesale rate
  • Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN): $0.25
  • Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC): $0.10
  • AMI audio, formerly known as VoicePrint: $0.04
  • Accessible Media: $0.20
  • Canal M, formerly known as La Magnétothèque: $0.02

What mandatory carriage is and the reason behind it can be found here. The idea is that basic cable programming should contain certain elements. It is in section 10 that you find what those elements are and what Sun Media must demonstrate they provide in order to qualify for mandatory distribution. The CRTC provides a list of what a broadcaster should be bringing to the table; this is I imagine not complete; allowing the CRTC some flexibility. 

Does Sun media Corp deliver on any of these elements? The first listed is: 

serves to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada;

That covers a broad swath. It certainly enriches and strengthens the political fabric of Canada; simply by providing another political voice; it is a conservative opinion network, I mean they offer pointed political critique of everything  "Centre and left thereof" the quality of the critique varies. So it qualifies on that score.They do provide work to Canadians and so probably get a plus for that. I am less convinced of its contribution socially or culturally to the fabric of Canada. I think they don't measure up on the first criteria. 

is varied and comprehensive, providing a balance of information and entertainment programming at an affordable cost;

Sun new network schedule is a mix of news and opinion. The opinion shows are the bread and butter of this station and the job of the "newsier" sections of the daily broadcast are to feed the viewer into meaty portion of the evening commentary. This station is not varied. They are 24 hour a day conservative. Their is no entertainment programming to speak of it's pretty much news and politics. Whether its affordable, well they wouldn't be asking for mandatory distribution if it was.

is drawn from local, regional, national and international sources;

They nail this one pretty hard, but again it's narrow news and politics.

includes educational and community programs; and

I can't recall seeing any of that sort of thing when i tuned in; but it's been awhile maybe they have added content. Though a quick look at the schedule doesn't reveal anything.

reflects and contributes to Canada’s linguistic duality and ethno-cultural diversity, including the special place of Aboriginal peoples in Canadian society.

I think on this one they may be in trouble. Most of what is mentioned above are often the subject of the Suns News critiques. It's this kind of social-feel-good stuff that many of the big names on this show cut there teeth on. The Suns raison d'être is to rebut that whole sentence, it is unlikely they will get a pass on that one and quite possible one of the things that will sink the application.

The Sun Media Corp is going to have a hard time justifying their case for mandatory carriage based on the above formula. The ten stations that already have it bear absolutely no resemblance to Sun Media Corp but some to each other. But as stated earlier it is some of what is looked for, but not all, the CRTC has flexibility. I would be surprised if they were granted mandatory carriage but not of the earth shattering variety. 

The Sun Media Corp is losing lots of Money. They have a business model that doesn't seem to work. It would seem that the thirst for hard hitting conservative news wasn't as great as anticipated. Low audience numbers,makes it hard to attract advertisers and it's the advertisers that pay the bills. A successful application will make that fact irrelevant. It will either lessen the loss a lot or turn the red ink to black. Mandatory Carriage means they get paid whether the basic cable subscriber watches or not. I don't know if this means every one's bill goes up the 9 or 18 cents they are asking for or whether the cable provider eats it; my money is not on the latter. 

It is funny that a conservative entity that one might conclude as having free market capitalistic sympathies would go and apply for what is essentially a monopoly. The market is speaking and telling you that maybe they don't like your product, normally that means you change the product. Or maybe you just make the choice irrelevant.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How may we define "going to war"?

Yesterday Doug Sanders asked on twitter if Sending a plane in support of a multilateral NATO mission counts as "going to war?"

Mr. Sanders left open what "going to war" means; allowing that the meaning be defined in the reply. I think Canada is "going to war" in Mali. Going to War has two components, a physical commitment and an political commitment. The physical pertaining to the commitment of persons and material. The political part being an awareness of the war by the leadership and citizen and its impact on them.

The minimum threshold of war making is at the political level in the providing of  approval and moral support to the nation(s) involved. If a country does not give it's approval, it maybe said they not involved; therefore any nation that does approve has committed to the proposition of war.

The maximum level of "going to war' is the full application of all physical assets; persona and material  for an indefinite period of time; the full awareness of leadership and citizen of the war.

Once a nation commits to war, nature of that commitment must be further defined. Approval and moral support being the lowest level of going to war is exemplified by the " Coalition of the Willing" which included nations that gave there moral and political support but varying degrees of material support.

The minimum threshold of physical support is providing planning support. Canada has committed to logistical support. Canada by offering a transport plane has breached the threshold level of both the physical and political support required for it to be said we "are going to war".

At this level of commitment our personnel and material face the absolute minimum of risk. The risk is of the general sort faced by being in a combat zone or areas where combat is possible. Also by taking France's and Mali's side against the rebels we have, however remotely become a target of the those rebels.

I recognize that there are levels of "going to war". Canada occupies near the bottom of that threshold. France is at the top; having committed fully to the action in Mali; physically and politically and maybe more properly approach the proposition  more commonly thought of as "going to war".

This opinion is offered on how we might define the phrase "going to war" and apply it to Canada's action a general sense; not on whether Canada's involvement is good or bad.

Update 29/01/2013

Canadian special forces are now in Mali to protect assets. This increases our commitment a little further. I do not expect Canada to send combat troops; but any of our soldiers in a combat zone are at risk. Harper is providing the minimum of support in order to maintain at a minimum the ability to speak on or  influence affairs in Mali.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sarah Polley Singing 'Courage' from movie The Sweet Hereafter

Sarah Polley singing "Courage" by the Tragically Hip. It appeared in the film "The Sweet Hereafter". It is an amazing cover of the original song.


Friday, January 11, 2013

She as opposed to He, Word Choice

I was reading an essay by Paula Gottlieb when I noticed that Ms Gottleib used She instead of He when the gender was immaterial. I paused there and wondered why I should notice such a thing, what does it mean and how important a thing is pronoun choice? Is there anything we can or should do?

The first part of that question; why should I notice, is easily answered; It is the nature of human beings to ignore sameness and notice difference or less appetizing I noticed it because it seemed wrong. I'm used to the default use of He. In my writing, where the pronoun is left to choice I inevitability pick He. Most everything I read, whether the writer is a man or a women, the pronoun of choice seems to be He. Of course that might have more to do with what I read rather than an actual representation of pronoun choice.

So why the use of He over She, when gender is irrelevant? A man may be more likely to unconsciously choose He, but that would not answer to why would a women might use He more often. It might be that writing has been a predominately a male occupation since its inception; the under representation of women in writing turning habit into convention. Over time He has attained the air of "rightness" over She. It is part of the legacy of a male centered world; along side Man, meaning men and women or a sexless God referred to in the male gender.

What does it mean that He is the unofficial convention? Does using He for instance, alter the way we see the world. I think it so and in a similar way that casting characters in movies did and still does. When all Doctors, no matter how integral to a story are all white males; it is saying something about being a Doctor. It is an unconscious expression that the profession is not for minorities or women. I stress the word unconscious because I don't think such conventions are/were deliberate, they merely reflect established notions. The predominate use of the pronoun He over represents the concept of maleness; reducing the space for femaleness. Unconsciously or not in conceding space to one gender reduces the notion of equal participation in what ever milieu the writing takes place.

This is a problem that will find resolution over time. The male voice isn't better suited for conveying ideas; the choice of He over She arose from the predominance of male writers. Educators can create assignments that call for the use of the female pronoun to young writers, male or female. This has the effect of normalizing the She; making it a legitimate choice for regardless of the writers gender. I expect that with the increased participation of women in writing it is only a matter of time before a new equilibrium is found. The hoped for end are writers conveying their message in the voice that is most natural to them, or to the story they are telling. And that She never comes as a surprise to anyone.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Red Light Cameras and Photo Radar in the News, Again

A quick Google search will tell you at least two things about Red Light Cameras-RLC and Photo Radar-PR, they are always in the news and always a contentious issue. The issue of RLC made the headlines Toronto the other day. Police Chief Bill Blair has suggested that that RLC and PR could replace officers now on traffic duties and free them up for more important tasks; reduce gridlock which costs the Toronto a great deal of money in lost economic activity. Let us not forget the cash from fines that would accrue tom the city something acknowledged by all but often not expounded upon by proponents; who are more often promoting the safety aspects of such a plan. Rob Ford has stated his opposition to the idea noting that "the people don't support it, the taxpayers don't support it, I don't support it..."

The questions of Safety and of Money are at the centre of automated traffic control/prevention programs. Are they just a "cash grab" or an element of public safety. Is it a "cash grab"?. Sort of yes; sure, more tickets will be issued because an automated system is more efficient at catching violators than a patrol officer. Sort of no; because guess what, you violated the traffic code, which is punishable by a fine. The notion of  "catch me if you can" traffic enforcement is ridiculous. You want officer only supervision because your less likely to be caught.

The larger issue is traffic safety and I guess ensuring a efficient flow of traffic. I submit two studies among the probably thousands commissioned or undertaken on RLC. As always please note who did the study,  Chow it was done; and who is promoting it. Against RLC. For RLC. This one is in a neutral  voice as befits a government study.

The narrative of the studies depends a lot on the agenda of the authors or promoters. They don't lie; they emphasize certain findings of a study rather than others or commission one to look a one aspect among many.  Anti-RLC groups focus on the increase in rear end accidents, which obvious enough increase in RLC areas; sudden stopping to avoid going through a red and getting ticketed. Pro-RLC groups not a decline in T-Bone crashes and the fatalities that often occur with that form of accident.

The question of the utility, beyond income generation for cash strapped municipalities, whether RLC and PR work to lower accident rates; costs associated with accidents. A quick look says they do. That indicates it's worth while doing it, but, if it is unpalatable to your citizens then you need to do more than just throw up a camera and tell driver to "eat cake".

If we want safer roads we need to get the citizens on board and not have them feel like livestock. We new campaigns to promote better driving practices. Engineer better roads and intersections.

Short Commentary on Friedrich Hayek's-The Road To Serfodom

I finally got around to reading The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek. It seems to be a foundational book for many modern conservative/libertarian; one that informs their world view to a large extent. If I wanted to understand, to any degree how conservatives/libertarians arrive at their positions this book would be helpful.

It was written during the body of the Second World War, beginning at a time when Germany and Japan appeared invulnerable, defeating country after country; the allies, England and her commonwealth but not yet including the United States were pushed to the brink of defeat; it was finished in 1943; the beginning of the beginning of the end for the Axis powers. The Book published in Chicago in 1944. The book feels a bit prophetic, which I think has as much to do with its content as the time and place it was written. The Road to Serfdom is not really apocalyptic; the changing fortunes of the allies over the course of its writing made sure that it would be a warning for Democracy and not a eulogy. Chaos is a breeding ground for such tract. The purpose of Hayek's book is to inform us about totalitarianism; its origins and nature and provide a prescription for its avoidance.

The book within well argued. Hayek is not as shrill as the modern conservative that draw heavily on it in support of more radical positions. The Road To Serfdom is about the rise of Socialism as a Political force as a curative to inequality; primary economic equality by reducing poverty. Socialism aims to reduce poverty through planned economies which necessitates taking on huge powers to regulate the individual and so curtail that freedom to act of the citizen. The transition from socialist to totalitarian state is considered by Hayek as unavoidable; Hayek is of the opinion that economic planning will fail to achieve the desired results through consent; and having disabled the Free Market and Individual freedoms; socialist who sought to govern with consent will be pushed aside those willing to use force to attain their goals. Fascism and Communism are the unavoidable heirs to Socialism. The Road to Serfdom is a book for its time, but less so our time.

Modern conservatives take many liberties with Hayek's major themes. They consider any government involvement in the economy as anathema; though many will ignore subsides to corporation. The planned economy that Hayek feared would erode personal liberty and the efficacy of the Free Market is no longer seriously proposed by any modern liberal democracy and is mostly ignored by those governments that call themselves social democracies. When everything government does comes to be defined as Socialism then the meaning is lost and so is Hayek's warning. Hayek did understand that there are things that governments must do because it is impracticable for private interests to undertake; roads and the like. It is safe to say that among moderns, the list of good government interventions are seriously limited.

Hayek believed that the Free Market was integral to a free society; when you impinge on the former the latter is impaired. I agree that their is a relationship between the two; but see it as a co-evolution. We have the beginnings of political freedom, however narrowly and tenuously applied with the advent of the Magna Carta. The Black Death and the decline of Feudalism; in England, inadvertently gives rise to new economic possibilities, by way of labour mobility and technical innovation. It is hard to give precedence to either economic or political changes that account for the Freedoms we presently enjoy. Modern conservative have a tendency to put forward the Free Market as the fount of our freedoms, in that the are steady with Hayek.

They part ways again on the issue of government support for the citizen. Hayek understands that the Free Market; can unpredictable and may leave labourers destitute and it is in the interest of government to ameliorate as much is possible where doing so doesn't impact the impartial workings of the Free Market. The modern conservatives in an orgy of personal responsibility diatribes seem willing to cut lose the citizen almost entirely.

The Road To Serfdom is an important book, historically and as a way to understand the thinking of the Modern Conservative. Do yourself a favour and read it, but I recommend borrowing a copy from the Library.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The NHL Strike is Over, and a Dash of Context

It appears that the NHL strike is nearing and end. A draft agreement is in the hands of the interested parties; seeking only their approval. Once signed, an abbreviated training camp, followed by a shortened season will be there for all fans to enjoy. I like hockey; it's not the centre of my life but i do like listening to the games, and truly hope it will be Toronto's year.

I won't spend a lot of time wondering if the strike was worth it. Millionaires fighting billionaires, I didn't care. If asked I'd say paying people millions to play hockey was foolish. In the next breath would follow, $200 seats, $20 beer and a hot dog and a Toronto Maple Leaf jersey upwards to $250 is equally unreal. The ridiculous follows the absurd. It is however what comes from of living in a free market country, I shrug my shoulders, if I don't want to pay I won't go to games or but the clothing.

You know what else happened during the strike. The Harper government voted down Bill C-398. A piece of legislation that would have made it easier to get life saving drugs to those in need in poor countries. Why did Harper do that? Was it too rigid an ideology? Maybe it was because they are engaged in trade  negotiations with Europe that involve pharmaceutics patents and didn't want to send mixed messages. The outcome is not mixed, some that might have lived thanks to this C-398, will now die.

The papers will be filled in the next few days with commentary on the NHL strike, this content will push other content aside, old news for new. Like the Gang Rape and death of an Indian women Delhi and it's follow on protests. I'll quote a statistic I found, a woman is raped in India every 21 minutes. Horrible isn't it? The social stigma attached to rape is almost as debilitating as the rape itself. So much that it is not reported in the numbers that it must be occurring. Victims are made to feel it's their fault, face pressure from the police: the people there to help you, to press charges. Even when reported, the conviction rate is 26%.  Now before we begin to preen ourselves here in the West, on how we handle the issue of rape let's revisit some commentary on the act. The God intended rape; you haven't been raped if you get pregnant or the vile notion put forth by a Judge, that if the victim's body shows no sign injury, can't be rape. I make no assertion that the level of violence faced by women in India is equaled here in Canada; I simply wish to indicate the attitude that a women is somehow complicit in her assault is alive and well in some corners of our community.

In Canada there was an attempt by members of the Harper Government to open a window into Women's Reproductive Rights; and this stealthy little motion M-408 on sex selective abortion; in order to close a door on a women's right to chose. While not disgusting to the same degree as revealed in the proceeding paragraph, it is an indication of how precarious the notion of security of person can be for women.

So we'll get together with our friends for a launch party and celebrate the salvaging of the NHL season and try not to think of the 26 deaths in Newton CT; or the NRA response; more guns mean more safety. Both of which have already moved down the page, be it paper or electronic.

A news broadcast can quickly overwhelm a normal person, and deliver a weeks worth of pain and anger in thirty minute; so I don't begrudge anyone their entertainment. I'm not trying to scold people for being happy their favourite game is back, or tell them that any celebration is out of order. It's just that hockey is a game and in the scheme of things less important than it would appear to be.

Go Toronto Maple Leafs, it's our year.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Rick Dykstra, M.P. Riding Boundary Changes and The Complaint

I received a missive in the mail yesterday from my Member of Parliament Rick Dykstra. It wasn't the usual kind where he is informing the riding of what the Harper government is doing and how it affects us and/or whether we approve of all the work they are doing on our behalf. This one was titles "Stop the division of our City" It begins with a quote from Welland MP Malcolm Allen,
"St Catharines needs to be divided up no matter what...We should take St.Catharines and divided it up into three different areas".

It goes on to say that the Welland M.P., who is a New Democrat, wants to "carve up" the city before the 2015 election. That Mr. Allen has "Hatched a Scheme" to divided the riding. Adding that there was no consultation with anyone; you, the Mayor, Liberal M.P.P. Jim Bradley (provincial ridings generally conform to federal ridings, so he would also be affected) or Himself. The jeremiad continues, asserting that the citizens of St. Catharines are being ignored; there interests going unrecognized. It finishes with a flourish, Informing the by now outraged citizen that "the new hospital our city has needed for years would become part of Niagara West...". Are we being invited to conclude that because the hospital is in a new riding, the fine citizens of St. Catharines will find their enjoyment of that facility impaired? I leave presumption to you , gentle reader. The big finish has Mr. Dykstra asking for our support for his efforts to keep the boundaries unchanged and thus preserve the hospital present location within the boundaries of this riding.

The denouement, a few question that solicit the citizen's opinion; the kind of yes or no questions that direct a reader to answer in the affirmative, if only because it's the sensible response.

I'm not a conservative. If a Harper M.P. loses his riding to boundary changes I'd likely not lose any sleep over it. But in the interest of fairness, I would think that a conservative supporter might not feel as I do. So let's look at the issue and see what truths can be found. 

Riding boundary changes happen from time to time; they are not radical or political. They result  most often due to population changes. The purpose is to ensure as much as possible that riding populations are of similar size; so that all Canadians get the representation they require. The federal government is adding seats to the the House of Commons and it is the Boundary Commission's job to draw the new lines. 

The present St. Catharines' riding boundary is described here. The proposed change is shown here. The new riding is leaner, conceding some of the present population to Niagara West and Welland. The Boundary Commission has not proposed the dissolution of the St. Catharines riding as indicated in  Mr. Dykstra's handout. So how come it makes up the body of his mailing? That is because Mr. Allen did suggest that very change. Here in this article he can be found the unmodified quote used by Dykstra. 

"'St. Catharines needs to be divided up no matter what because it's so big,' said Allen 'We should take St. Catharines and divide it up into three different areas, have parts of it in all the other ridings'"

The full quote is unlikely to mollify a conservative, but it provides a context ,Mr. Allen's proposal appear practical as opposed to a political. Allen is a member of the NDP caucus, an opponent. Dykstra unskillfully suggests this is a political attack. Keep in mind that Allen's proposal is not the official boundary change, just something he would like to see. The very banal nature of boundary changes takes on a different aspect when couched in partisan terms. It would appear that Dykstra would like to see his constituents register their disapproval of the suggested boundary changes based on Allen's statement rather than the actual proposal. That is disingenuous. When you add the anxiety stoking over the removal of the new hospital from the St. Catharines riding it sinks his position further; as if the shifting of a Map line would imperil the health and welfare the citizens of St. Catharines. 

I note here that public hearings on boundary changes were held, which should address the suggestion that there was no consultation. It may not be as extensive as you might like, but that is a separate issue entirely. 

Invoking community solidarity is an argument aimed at the heart not the head. I submit that there will be no rending of garments over the separation, by an imaginary line draw on a map, of beloved family members. The change will hardly be noticed by 61% riding members that bothered to vote

Dykstra's concern can be encapsulated in the 2011 election results. He received a majority 50.86% of the 61% of eligible voters that bothered to show up at polling stations. A rare majority in a multiparty system that utilizes the first-past-the-post electoral system. A healthy electoral win, they may be imperiled if the voters being carved off are his. I'd expect that Dykstra's people would have a good idea of whether he is losing supporters to the proposed changes, if not, get new people. 

So what seems to be at stake here is Dykstra's seat, either from the not quite likely to be adopted suggestion by Allen to erase the St. Catharines riding; to the real proposal of the boundary commission to tweak the lines. I don't begrudge Dykstra the desire to remain an MP or to oppose changes that might make a difference in the realization of that end. But I disapprove of the way the case was made in the handout.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Liberal Riposte to Hudak's LCBO Gambit

Earlier this year the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, Tim Hudak, proposed privatizing the LCBO. The LCBO is short for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. The LCBO is a government run liquor retailer. If you want hard liquor this is the only place to get it. Mr. Hudak decried the government monopoly on liquor sales, as I suppose a great injustice to and a burden on the citizens of Ontario.

The very notion of a government run business, much less a monopoly is anathema to the roiling conservative spirit; What can be subject to the free market, should be subject to the free market. After we move past the basic ideology the details of his complaint come into focus; the LCBO leads to higher cost, reduced variety and fewer retail locations. It about competition and Hudak maybe right on those points. It would take little time for Free Market entrepreneurs to erect a multitude of Liquor Outlets; where the vast forces unleashed by competition would work wonders on the price of alcohol; market forces directing the price of spirits to its natural level; which I imagine would be lower. While I accept more locations and lower prices, I think greater product variety might lag or not come to pass. 

My opposition is not primarily ideological, though it's that is there too; it comes from on a number reasons. I consider alcohol a drug. It is used for recreational purposes; medicinally and by some to drown in. In moderation it has few harmful effects health wise and may even be beneficial. If used to excess it will kill you, destroy your relationships and damage your community. So in my opinion it's not in anyone's best interest to have alcohol widely available and at the cheapest possible price. So if alcohol is that bad why sell it? Prohibition perhaps? That is a strategy that has been tried and with complete failure. I believe that in an adult society the Government should not be telling you what to do for fun, like conservatives,sort of; (though conservatives dislike government standing between a citizen and their booze, they are quite happy to oppose reforming the law in regards to our other drugs and sex.) What I don't accept is the notion that any Government should place so dangerous a substance like alcohol in the hands of the Free Market, especially if it doesn't have to.

Among the benefits of State owned liquor retailers in quick succession, LCBO profits go to us, the citizen, good paying jobs for our neighbours. Importantly the ability of the government to forgo the frantic product promotion that a private business can't afford to do or doesn't at their peril. The LCBO doesn't really compete, except for The Beer Store; which by the way is a privately owned monopoly of a completely different stripe and wine retailers. It does not need to push liquor on Ontario Citizens, for that I'm glad. Liquor is dangerous and has a creeping cost, a cost that a government retailer can keep in mind because the it is part of a larger entity whose job it is to look after the interests of its citizens. I understand that is an ideal that is met less often in practice, but it is a concern that private businesses don't even have theoretically.

It is always important to ensure that ideology is a guide but not a barrier to good sense.

This brings me back to the Liberal Riposte. The McGuinty government announced it will look into expanding  LCBO retail locations. They will look into placing LCBO outlets in super markets and such. This would answer at least one Tory complaint, that of limited locations their attendant difficulties. It is a riposte, not a scoring point. Hudak conservatives will snarl and moan "that it does nothing" for the problems they claim to exist. I can live with that since I'm not in favour of bigger changes. It will make buying liquor more convenient, that's handy, without being harmful. It won't lower the prices. It will keep the monopoly intact. More importantly it is a measured response to Hudak's free market charge. It suggests a government that is responding to a perceived need, at least some of them. For a government that has disappointed and even outraged us in a wide variety of ways, it is refreshing change. Give and take is much better than bulldozers.

If I was inclined to give advise to the Progressive Conservatives it might go like this, put down the "The Road to Serfdom" and start asking yourselves one question "how can I help improve the lot of my neighbours". Being Conservative doesn't have to be as harsh as you people see to make it.

Happy New Year One and All

To any and all that find their way to my here, I wish you a Happy New Year and a wonderful,super excellent 2013.
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