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Friday, January 25, 2013

Fraser Institute ranked No. 1 Canadian think-tank

Isee where the Fraser Institute, for the fifth consecutive year, has been ranked as the top think-tank in Canada and 25th worldwide in the 2012 Global GoTo Think Tank Index published by the University of Pennsylvania and released January 17 at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

I’m a fan of the Fraser Institute, which self-describes as “one of Canada’s oldest independent and non-partisan economic and public policy research organizations,” and I often cite their reports when writing about public policy.

So often when I hear the Fraser Institute quoted on TV panel discussions—usually by a centre-right pundit—adversaries on the left will quickly dismiss the statistic or whatever as coming from an unreliable source. So much for that mischaracterization.

The 2012 Global GoTo Think Tank Index lists Fraser Institute as 5th in the world for Health Policy Research, 8th in the world for Social Policy Research, 20th in the world for Best Use of Internet or Social Media, 21st in the world for Most Significant Impact on Public Policy, and 22nd in the world for International Economic Policy.

Seems pretty authoritative to me. And here’s hoping the Fraser Institute continues their excellent research and publication; Canada is better for it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ontario’s Grits choose McGuinty’s replacement Jan 25

The Ontario Liberal party will select a new leader at a delegated convention this weekend in Toronto. There are six candidates to replace the retiring Dalton McGuinty: former Windsor-West MPP Sandra Pupatello, former education minister Kathleen Wynne, former MPP and MP Gerard Kennedy, former government services minister Harinder Takhar, former labour minister Charles Sousa and former children’s services minister Eric Hoskins. NB: Candidates had to resign cabinet portfolios before registering for the race.

Front-runner Pupatello, who quit politics in 2011, would get my vote, if I had one. She’s has 27.4 percent of the delegates committed to vote for her on the first ballot and, I believe, can count on most of Harinder Takhar’s 13.3 per cent to move to her side when he inevitably pulls out.

Takhar’s campaign has been mortally wounded by a recent news story regarding his family’s business interests, which has reminded delegates of his conflict of interest scandal of 2006. Who needs a new premier already tainted by scandal?

Hard on Pupatello’s heels is Kathleen Wynne, who represents Toronto Don Valley-West. Wynne has 25.2 per cent of delegates committed on the first ballot. She can almost certainly count on Kennedy’s 14 per cent should the former federal MP not make a strong showing in the early ballots.

Kennedy’s only hope for success lies in making a run up the middle, if and when the two front runners stall. I doubt, however, that he has the popular support among party faithful to pull this off.

Gerard Kennedy’s candidature smacks of opportunism and there’s a whiff of political-looser about the man: he lost the 1996 leadership race to McGuinty, lost a 2006 bid for the federal Liberal leadership and, more recently, lost his seat in the last federal election. I assume these guys will be looking for a winner to take on Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath as early as this spring, some believe.

I don’t see either Charles Sousa or Eric Hoskins making it beyond the second ballot, if that far. They are probably only running to increase their profile within the party and to secure a plum spot at the new cabinet table.

Pupatello is the most fiscally conservative of the lot. She’s plain spoken and shows pluck, though, she could turn out to be a pushover when it comes to organized labour’s interests. And that worries me…a lot!

Kathleen Wynne, on the other hand, is so left-of-centre one wonders why she didn’t contest the last NDP leadership. With the province’s finances and economy in such disarray, we can’t afford her. After all, she more than most seemed to stand shoulder to shoulder with McGuinty as they spent the province into have-not territory without a backward glance. Remember readers, she was one of the big guns at the table when the Grits cancelled those two electricity plants—$1-billion or more of wasted tax dollars.

To this conservative, Sandra Pupatello seems the lesser of the evils.

Krista Erickson quits as host of Canada Live

The Sun News Network’s anchor of Canada Live is reported to have left the conservative network’s daytime show. According to The Globe and Mail, “Krista Erickson quit her slot on the news network’s ‘flagship daytime show’ Canada Live late last week and moved to London.”

I’ve not been a fan myself, though it’s interesting that Ms. Erickson seems to have quit just as the network awaits news that might stem their mounting financial losses. Apparently, Sun News has asked that the CRTC grant it “mandatory carriage,” meaning it would be part of the Canada-wide basic cable package. The Globe and Mail reports that the CRTC has said “it will hold a hearing into the matter on April 23.”

The Globe writes, “With traditional pricing mark-ups, that would likely translate to $4 a year per consumer.” This would contribute about $18-million a year towards staunching the haemorrhaging from losses that have already, reportedly, reached $17-million a year at Sun News.

Ms. Erickson—it seemed to me—was always too quick to condemn organisations which depend on government assistance, and joined in the chorus of boos as Sun News’ on-air hosts criticized government-subsidized rival, CBC, when she herself worked at the CBC for years—no bellyaching about government subsidies then. I’m no fan of government subsidies, but nor am I a fan of cynical hypocrisy.

She was also super-strident in her conservatism while at Sun News, yet showed bias towards the Liberals while covering the Mulroney-Schreiber hearings for the CBC in 2008. Readers may remember that Ms. Erickson was accused back then of feeding questions to Liberal Member of Parliament Pablo Rodriguez. She was cleared by the CBC ombudsman of any charge of bias, but the incident left me with a bad taste.

Sun News Network has been a great disappointment to me. The daytime schedule compares poorly to the weak competition from CBC and CTV news networks. And, all too often, instead of reasoned conservative argument and commentary, we are offered one-sided rants hour after hour in the evenings. To be fair, though, Sun Media’s National Bureau Chief, David Akin, has a show that’s well worth watching. As to weekends, day or night the network is barely watchable.

Sun News sorely needs a top-notch Sunday morning political show (a version of US-based The McLaughlin Group would do nicely, or even a Canada-based Meet the Press or Face the Nation). We need competition to go up against CTV’s flagrantly left-biased Question Period. We also need a week-day, late-afternoon entry as direct competition to CBC’s anti-Harper Power & Politics and CTV News Channel’s dreary Power Play. I’d also like to see something with a format like CBC’s weekly At Issue, an excellent panel discussion show.

Currently, I have to look to US-based Fox News when I want to get the conservative slant on current issues.

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