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Friday, January 31, 2014

U.S. State Department does not object to TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline

The Canadian Press reports “the [U.S.] State Department raised no major environmental objections” to the proposed construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada through Montana and South Dakota before reaching Nebraska, from which oil would travel via existing lines through Kansas and Oklahoma and on to Texas.

Keystone XL must be the most studied pipeline of all time in any country. It also represents a blatant example of the disrespect, perhaps contempt, with which Canada is held by some quarters in Washington. A recent campaign by American environmentalists implies our oil sands is controlled by China and that our bitumen is destined for that country.

This is far from the truth, of course. Investment by the U.S. and the U.K. far outpaces that from China, and Canadian oil is overwhelmingly consumed by Americans. But truth is always the first casualty in any battle with our “friends” south of the border.

There is a huge financial advantage to American players, of course, if our oilsands products cannot reach markets outside the United States.  As things stand, Canadian oil sells at a significant discount—some claim this may be as high as 50% of the world price. So the current de facto embargo imposed by Present Obama on the oilsands by holding up or rejecting the Keystone XL oil pipeline is benefitting players in the U.S.

One wonders, then, weather this latest State Department study will change Obama’s mind and get his, at least, grudging approval. Of course, approval will take many months more as the Environmental Protection Agency and other U.S. government departments now have 90 days to comment on and delay/obstruct the report.

Obama may be many things, but a friend of Canada he clearly is not.

Unintended consequences of unilateral political grandstanding

The bold move by Justin Trudeau to eject all Liberal senators from his caucus will have, as do all actions, consequences, some of which, in all likelihood, will harm the Liberal party in the long run.

Justin’s decision has all the markings of a typical Liberal party backroom deal cooked up by the innermost of inner circles advising/steering the leader of the Grits.

Wide ranging decisions made in secret with limited consultation—in this case none, apparently—with stakeholders will seldom escape unpleasant consequences. But these are Liberal specialties. Despite the fact Michael Ignatieff had obviously adopted, first the United Kingdom and later the United States, as his home for over 30 years, a small cadre of Liberal insiders sort out the professor to be the future prime minister of Canada.

The plan didn’t work. The Liberal insiders had not sought the opinion of enough ordinary Canadians to understand they would never accept a man for whom Canadians had become strangers with whom he had little in common and of whom he had little understanding.

Still Liberal insiders persisted in their folly—in secret meetings. After Prime Minister Stephen Harper formed his minority government in 2006, the Grits were desperate to dump their leader-by-miscalculation Stéphane Dion and crown Ignatieff. But first they tried a “bold” gambit: form a coalition with the Dippers and get the separatists support in writing. This was done—not through open debate—but through party backroom deals. And again it was roundly rejected by ordinary Canadians.

And again the Liberals resorted to secret backroom deals when they installed professor Ignatieff as their leader, forcing other candidates for the job to step aside.

Now we have this most recent bold move by a Liberal leader who made his decision with a minimum of stakeholder, let alone public, consultation. Something like five Liberals decided to drastically change the nature of half Canada’s parliament and the rest of us have to lump it or leave it.

Alberta Ardvark blog makes some interesting points, writing:

… with no elected Liberal MPs and now with no Liberal Senators, when the Liberal caucus gathers together to discuss issues or formulate policy etc, Albertans will no longer have anyone in the room to represent or speak for them.

And what of future senators elected in Alberta by Albertans? Will Justin’s new group of elites override the democratically elected with choices of its own? Think about the Order of Canada selection process which he seems to think so highly of: old politicians, party bagmen and other party “faithfuls,” journalists—have I missed anyone? Wait a minute, aren’t these the very type of folks we already have in the senate?

What hubris it must take to believe you—and only you—know best about how Canada’s political institutions are to be constituted. The Conservative notion of Triple-E or similar senate reform was develop in open forums, not by five or so Liberal party operatives in a backroom somewhere.

I’ll wait for the Supreme Court to give us some advice on how to make it so.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fantino disses veterans

The Minister of Veterans Affairs, Julian Fantino, did little to endear himself to Canadian veterans when he showed up “very late” for a scheduled appointment with a group of them who had gone to Ottawa to discuss their concerns with the minister.

For the record, I lost respect for the former police chief after he pretty much disgraced himself—as commissioner of the OPP—during the crisis at Caledonia a few years back, and have not understood why the Conservative government would give this inept politician such a sensitive portfolio. As far as I’m concerned, he is, as Christie Blatchford described him recently, a bully.

His late arrival at a scheduled meeting and take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards the veterans is just another example that supports Blatchford’s assessment of the man. He showed neither an once of respect to veterans—men more worthy than he I suspect—nor compassion for those who served their country and proved they were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Even Fantino’s mealy mouth apology screams:  dump this looser before he damages the Conservative brand any more than he already has. I agree with NDP leader Thomas Mulcair (and it hurt to say that) when he said to the National Post:

If Stephen Harper believes even a fraction of what he says he believes about the courage of our veterans, he must relieve Fantino of his duties immediately and apologize to our veterans.”

The federal government, apparently,  plans commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings and the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. There are several other examples of the prime minister acknowledging the contributions and sacrifices these men and women have made to and for our country.

So we know the Stephen Harper government will talk the talk as they say. But when will the Tories begin walking the talk and start treating veterans as the national treasures they are?

Is Justin Trudeau trying to scrape Liberal mud off his political shoes?

The leader of the federal Liberal party seems intent on ridding his party of potential contamination from sitting in the same caucus as the 32 senators who were appointed by previous leaders of his party.

CTV’s Canada AM website reports:

Referring to the Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright scandal, Trudeau said partisanship has been ‘a real interference’ to ensuring that the Senate remain independent of the House of Commons.

“So what I’ve [Trudeau] done is remove any sort of link or control by the Liberal Party of Canada over those formerly Liberal senators. And what that means is that the only people who get to sit in the Liberal Party caucus are people who were elected by the people of Canada,” ….

Curious, is it not, that Justin seemed to have a different value system back when members of the Liberal caucus—members of federal parliament, i.e., MPs—were caught with their fingers in the proverbial cookie jar. When the recent senate scandal broke, there were a lot of Liberal MP pots calling Conservative kettles black, reminding us that they remained curiously silent when members of their own number were found to be doing more or less the same sort of things of which senators were being accused.

It never seemed to bother Trudeau’s sensibilities when three former Liberal cabinet ministers—Judy Sgro, John Cannis and Wayne Easter—had to repay a reported $175,000 in false housing claims. He didn’t disassociate himself from those guilty MPs, did he? Last May when then Heritage Minister James Moore pointed out in the House that three Liberal MPs had run afoul of the rules, I didn’t see Justin blush or squirm at his own hypocrisy. [Story here]

Liberal MPs have suggested breach of trust has occurred in the senate, but made no such charges when their own members did much the same thing. Liberal MP made “mistakes” while senators committed criminal acts, apparently. Liberal MPs had to pay back the money, but that’s not good enough for the senators. They must undergo an RCMP investigation and outside audit.

Justin must have had a road to Damascus moment sometime recently and decided to give his senate colleagues the boot.

Trudeau steals a march on Tories and Dippers

Justin Trudeau has in a bold political stroke left us wondering, “What’s he up to?”. This move must be especially mystifying to his rivals, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and opposition leader Thomas Mulcair. Certainly Tory spokesman MP Pierre Poilievre, Minister of State (Democratic Reform) seemed caught off-guard, though, I’ve never heard this junior minister utter anything that could be construed as an original thought.

Mulcair was taking credit, with some justification, for first floating the idea last October of no senators in the MP caucuses; and claiming Justin and his guys pretty much ridiculed it back then, but now embraces it so wholeheartedly.

PM Harper must also wonder about Justin’s sudden change of mind. As Tim Harper writes over at thestar.com:

This is a man [Trudeau] who had been stuck in the middle as the face of the Senate status quo in a nation which no longer wanted the status quo, with Conservatives waiting for guidance from the Supreme Court on one side and the NDP under Tom Mulcair, blissfully senator-free, campaigning to abolish the Upper House.

Now, according to Trudeau, “There are no more Liberal senators.”. No more Liberal senators? Well sort of: the Senate Liberal leader James Cowan said his group will still sit as a Liberal caucus of their own and represent the values, etc., of that party. So Justin said, Go!, and James Cowan said, Hell no! We won’t go. 

We’ll wait to see if Justin’s move really makes a difference in the upper house. I do not want to see the upper house abolished for I believe it can, once reformed, add substantial value to our Westminster-system of parliamentary government.

Let’s see what the Supreme Court has to say (later this year, hopefully) about the Conservatives’ proposals for senate reform. Until then, Justin has just one-uped the other guys, for a day or two anyway.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How does Wynne’s loading of social costs onto businesses bring jobs back to Ontario?

The Liberal premier of Ontario seems determined to load social costs onto the backs of our job creators. Ontario has shed jobs in the tens of thousands in recent years, but still the premier insists on making it more expensive for businesses to operate in the province, and employ workers—a strategy that not only won’t bring jobs back to the province, but will most likely cost us many more jobs in the future.

Firstly, there are electricity rates, which have been forced up more for social than economic reasons. Most recently, we heard of a billion-dollar mismanagement paid for by Hydro ratepayers. Why should hydro ratepayers be forced to shoulder the costs for an ineffective government put in place by voters at large? These should be classified as social costs to be borne by all taxpayers.

Earlier, there was the gas plant fiasco in the GTA, which had to do with winning a general election. The additional costs, which may go over $1-billion, are social costs not true costs of generating and delivering energy.

And earlier still was former Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty’s wrong-headed Green Energy and Economy Act, which delivers sweet deals to Samsung and others for solar and wind power using massive subsidies—paid by ratepayers. This initiative is all to do with social policy (i.e., “greening” Ontario’s economy) and was implemented as a sop to left-wing environmentalists.

Secondly, we have a proposal by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government to raise the minimum wage, and to bake in the inflationary nature of regular future increases. Earlier this week, we had news that the Grits are planning to raise the minimum wage to $11, and tie future increases to inflation. Folks, this is bad news for Ontario businesses and—to the extent it increases inflation—bad news to seniors and others on fixed incomes.

The minimum wage was frozen at $10.25 about four years ago by, guess who? the Liberal government. I assume increases during that time were considered ill-advised. So why now? Why not last year? Is Ontario’s economy more robust this year? The simple answer to these questions lies in the Premier’s leftist world view.

Birds fly, fish swim and leftist premiers do things like raise minimum wages. Such decisions are based on ideology, not sound economic management, and, therefore, should come out of general revenues and not be the sole responsibility of businesses.

Thirdly, Premier Wynne has announced her intention of imposing a forced retirement saving plan on all Ontario workers, even those who cannot afford it or who have no wish for such a program and have—from their points of view—better use for their money, at least, at this point in their lives.

The federal Conservatives rightly claim that increasing pension contributions or adding a new one to the current payroll tax  is a job-killing strategy. As one might expect for a leftist, though, Premier Wynne disagrees. She says, “This is not a tax. This is an investment in the future ….” [Italics mine] Not a tax indeed. What a lot of boloney. A tax is a tax is a tax….

It’s always the same with leftists governments who want to do something that’s unpalatable to voters: do it anyway, but call it something else. Remember how Tom Mulcair and his team denied vehemently that “Cap and Trade” is nothing more or less than a carbon tax.

What leftists seem not to understand is businesses have a limited source of funds from which to pay for labour. Ask them to pay out more in government mandated pension premiums (i.e., payroll tax) and over time, one of the following will occur, or more likely a combination of all:

  • Businesses won’t come to Ontario.
  • Businesses will close their doors and leave the province.
  • Businesses will pay less in wages and other benefits to make. up for the increase in payroll tax.
  • Business will employ fewer workers or use them for fewer hours.

Unlike in the public sector, for businesses, there really is only so much juice in the lemon; there is no such thing as a free lunch. Every new expense has a consequence. And the likely consequence here is fewer jobs for Ontarians. If giving Ontarians a more attractive retirement plan is a social priority for the Grits, then budget for it directly and find the money from some other program with a lessor priority.

Forgive one more cheesy cliché. Let’s call a spade a spade. We all believe in social responsibility and know that someone has to pay. But when it comes to government mismanagement and general welfare, let the costs be spread out among us all and not piled onto one group, especially a group like businesses (job creators) who we look to for our jobs.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Affordability tours and consumer-first agendas are a sham

The recent emphasis being shown by federal New Democrats and Conservatives surrounding “affordability” and “consumer-first” priorities are little more than a shameful political sham being perpetrated on an unsuspecting Canadian public. And we shouldn’t look to the Liberals for more sincerity on the issue.

Let’s start with the Liberals. Make no doubt about it, whether one means provincial Wynne Liberals or federal Trudeau Liberals, one is talking about the same people. Oh, those in the seats in the respective legislatures are, obviously, different and the parties may be separate legal entities, but they are the same core voters and the same strategists, staffers and apologists who move back and forth between Ottawa and Toronto.

But, frankly, these folks are too confused to be taken seriously on this topic. Liberal Deputy Leader MP Ralph Goodale told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday morning that his party wants to lower payroll taxes. At the same time, Ontario’s premier Kathleen Wynne is bringing in former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin to help structure an Ontario pension plan, which will undoubtedly—you guessed it—raise payroll taxes. Go figure.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair has just wrapped up his “affordability tour.” His jaunt could just as accurately been called the “blast Harper, Banks and Big Oil tour.” Nothing new here, just the same tired old claims about oil company collusion and bankers getting rich on the backs of ordinary Canadians. Dippers have wanted to nationalize banks for decades so one can take comfort from their new approach, which is only to tell the banks what they can charge for their services.

As to the charge that oil companies collude to keep gasoline retail prices high. Time and again, civil servants who are not in the pay of the oil companies have investigated and have been unable to support such charges. Time to move on.

Many of the NDP complaints seem to be shared by the Conservatives. And I notice some of those are discretionary expenses that can be avoided/minimized by consumers who find them too high. Lets see:

  • ATM fees: pay cash instead. I have never used an ATM machine and wouldn’t know how to use one.
  • Credit card: don’t use them (would also help solve another pet peeve of NDP and Conservatives, excessive household debt). I use credit cards for emergencies and convenience and never accumulate credit on them. For mid-term credit, I use a low-interest line of credit.
  • Household debt: governments can’t hold interest rates at historically low levels for years and not expect high debt levels. Better monitory policy management on the part of governments could favourable influence this level of household debt.
  • Cable TV: Government could, but won’t, open up cable TV to full competition, with no CRTC interference or control, i.e., let the market decide.
  • Cell phone charges: Government could, but won’t, open full competition to foreign providers, i.e., let the market decide.
  • High gas prices: over 30% of the price is taxes and the amount of tax goes up each time the gas price goes up. Governments rail about high pump prices while sucking in the revenue with obnoxiously high taxes. And Ontario is talking about increasing gas taxes even more to pay for Toronto public transit. 

So it seems that consumers are desperately in need of help on expenses they could, in some cases, relatively easily avoid. And in other cases, the main reason for the high cost is government mismanagement, intrusion, interference and control.

What we don’t hear the Dippers or the Tories taking about is the obscenely high costs of staples—virtual necessities—such as milk, cheese, butter, eggs and chicken. Domestic prices are artificially high and are supported by import duties of up to nearly 300% in some cases. And what about those of us who enjoy a glass of wine with our meals? How affordable is that with artificial minimum prices, crippling high taxes and luxury-level mark-ups at government-owned stores.

The cost of government in general is crippling most ordinary Canadians economically. Sky-is-the-limit benefit plans with top-hat sick leave and pension plans are the norm in the public sector, and this is on top of wages well in excess of those in the private sector. In 2013, tax freedom came June 10. Need I say more?

Yes, it is shameful—a real disgrace—to tax our food (near-necessities) in such a manner and then for politicians to preach to ordinary Canadians about how concerned they are about “affordability.”

At CTV anti-Harper bias seems systemic

Watching CTV’s Question Period on Sundays, I often wonder how the host and quests can find so much to criticize and nitpick when, if fact, Canada is enjoying widespread prosperity and praise from around the world.

Have things ever been better? Perhaps, but only by a few degrees. Are there problems? Sure, but has there ever been a period in Canada’s history when there were no problems?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just returned from a visit to Israel where he was cheered at virtually every turn. Yet all Laurie Graham, CTV’s Deputy Bureau Chief filling in for regular host Robert Fife, wanted to talk about was the poor attempt at humour by Conservative MP Mark Adler who made his now infamous “This is the million-dollar shot” comment.

The prime minister scored big-time on the international stage in Israel, addressing the Knesset, the Jewish state’s parliament. PM Harper enjoyed several rounds of applause with but a couple of hecklers to mar the occasion. By the time he had wrapped up his speech, the room was on its feet giving the PM a standing ovation, with no descent that I could see. In other words, it was not solely the conservative members cheering the PM—the hecklers had walked out during the speech.

In his speech the PM made several statements that drew wide applause. Andrew Coyne, not normally a Harper cheerleader, described the speech in the National Post as “passionate, sincere, and—for the most part—right.” So what had CTV’s Deputy Bureau Chief  Laurie Graham to say?

You guessed it. Graham highlighted the charge that the trip to Israel was all about internal politics, and showed a video clip, twice, of the Adler incident at Old Jerusalem’s Western Wall. From a delegation of somewhere between 150 and 200 people, one short video clip emerges as the main item for two segments of Question Period.

We heard from CTV that the PM faced some “hecklers” as if implying there were a few, but I counted only two on the TV coverage, suggesting to me that many left-wing Israeli parliamentarians were enjoying and cheering the PM’s speech. But CTV chose not to showcase on their flagship weekend political show even one video clip of the historic speech.

How about the part when PM Harper said, “Israel is the only country in the Middle East which has long anchored itself in the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.”? Or this one, “Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is absolute and non-negotiable” Or even this, “a Palestinian state will come … when the regimes that bankroll terrorism realize that the path to peace is accommodation, not violence”? [Credit: quotes from National Post]

Is it any wonder we right-of-centre bloggers believe CTV News is guilty of political bias in their broadcasts?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Scraping the grease off the skids under Ontario’s economy

The upcoming by-elections in February is a chance for, at least, a few Ontario voters to tell Premier Kathleen Wynne they are “fed up and won’t take it anymore.” [Apologies to the 1976 movie, Network.] No more scandals like eHealth, ORNGE Air Ambulance and the power plant fiasco. Or the recent billion-dollar waste due to poor electricity planning.

No more pandering to public sector unions and playing footsy under the bargaining table with teachers’ unions. It’s time for our politicians to man-up and provide the responsible leadership needed to get us out of the current fiscal mess.

There is a formula for turning the province around, of course, but it would take the sort of political will  and courage that is beyond the governing Liberals and, perhaps, the current leadership of the Progressive Conservatives. I won’t even bother to mention the New Democrats as the cornerstone of their support plays a major role in the problem and no positive part whatever in the solution. The NDP are, after all, the “useful idiots” of the trade union movement.

There is no secret here; others have faced similar situations—a critically ill economy—and found a cure. Margaret Thatcher rescued the United Kingdom from the brink of an economic cliff and brought  prosperity back to that nation in the 1980s. And, of course, Mike Harris did something similar for Ontario in the 1990s.

Yes, their medicines were bitter; effective medications often are. Yet, even after doing in office what they had promised on the campaign trail, the electorate voted for them in subsequent elections. Thatcher ended up as the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century and Harris won a second term as a majority government.

More recently, we have Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and other governors in nearby American states who are also faced with similar economic woes. Scott Walker (I was reminded recently by the blog at http://miltonconservative.blogspot.ca/) is an interesting example. Here’s part of the comment I left there:

Apparently, [Rep. Gov. Scott] Walker is the only governor in U.S. history to win in a gubernatorial recall election—despite a vile smear campaign against him—so it seems voters support his hard stand on state and local government workers’ healthcare plans and pensions, and his public sector union reforms, which have transformed the state’s finances and avoided a Greece-like fate.”

Tim Hudak and his team can take heart from this. Right of Centre, common sense fiscal policies are often embraced by the public at large. Former Liberal finance minister Paul Martin’s slashing of the federal government’s expenditures to balance its budget helped his boss Jean Chrétien rack up a trio of majority terms in the mid 1990s through the mid-2000s, and budget-slashing is more conservative than progressive in nature.

One thing that stands out to me was the brick wall-like opposition those conservative (and conservative-minded) leaders faced from labour unions. And the same sort of opposition, mainly entrenched union interests, is gearing up to oppose any effort by Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak to right the sinking ship that is Ontario’s economy. (See Sandy’s warning here.)

Among Hudak’s ideas is to bring in “right-to-work” legislation. It’s helped other jurisdictions to improve their economies, but anything that impacts unions’ strangle hold on our public sector must be opposed by the likes of Sid Ryan. And the rest of us be damned!

“Margaret Thatcher brought in right-to-work legislation in the United Kingdom 30 years ago and unions are still thriving there,” the Sun’s Christina Blizzard reminds us. But still the Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan spreads his fear mongering.

Former Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty tried to go head-to-head with our law-unto-themselves public sector and teachers’ unions and lost, miserable. He then did the honourable thing and quit his job, leaving Kathleen Wynne to manage through his economic (and ethical) mess. Unfortunately, Wynne’s government seems even more committed to—and beholden to—those very same unions, leaving our only hope resting with Tim Hudak and his PC team.

Right-to-work is necessary if we are to wrestle control of our economic future from the greedy talons of the public sector unions and their enablers. Make no mistake about it. And right-to-work has been sold to other North American voters who are not so very different from Ontarians.

Solutions are abundantly clear for all to see—all who have open minds, that is. What we need is the courage to elect those who, themselves, will have the courage to implement those solutions.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Another Liberal billion-dollar bamboozle

The Canadian Press reported earlier this week that, according to the New Democrats, Ontario ratepayers paid $1-billion in 2013 to subsidize the sale of excess power to Manitoba, Quebec, New York, Michigan and Minnesota.

Ontario has contracts calling for ridiculously high subsidies for solar and wind power, as we all know—one need only mention the word “Samsung” to see most energy critics cringe. To be fair, the Grits have tried to mitigate some of Dalton McGuinty’s folly and that received a full public airing.

Less known, though, is the latest revelation from the NDP. It’s a bit of the pot calling the kettle black to hear Dippers complain. As PC energy critic MPP Lisa MacLeod is reported to have said:

It is awfully hypocritical for the NDP to complain about high hydro rates when they [NDP] themselves have been a big obstacle in ending what I consider the biggest subsidization of power in the province, the [feed-in-tariff] program through the Green Energy Act, and they supported that.

Hypocrisy notwithstanding, these recent charges by the NDP’s energy critic Peter Tabuns has gotten media exposure and that’s a good thing.

The mainstream media carps and complains about every time Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government says or does anything, even though Canada continues to rank highly on most international measurement scales. The most recent example is a report in the Financial Post telling us that Canada “has swept past the U.S., Germany and Japan in a Bloomberg ranking of the best countries for doing business. … Canada rose four places to reach second place, behind only Hong Kong.”

Consequently, one wonders how much of the criticism of PM Harper’s government is really justified and how much is simply the built-in bias against the Conservatives that many of us believe is present in much of our daily media reports.

On the other hand, Ontario seems to be in a race to the bottom (most recently the results on math tests1) and its manufacturing communities are dangerously close to becoming the next “Rustbelt” as has happened with Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, et al. Then there are the scandals: eHealth, ORNGE - Air Ambulance and the power plant fiasco. And, of course, this NDP charge of a billion-dollar waste due to poor planning.

Yet, after Dalton McGuinty quits and runs for cover, the Grits elect a senior member of his team to run the shop, and most of the media acts as if Ontario is under new management and cheers her on as she goes about business as usual.

Time for a change in government here in what was once Canada’s powerhouse and engine of prosperity and growth, our Ontario.

 

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1Test results from Ontario’s Education and Accountability Office show almost one in five Grade 6 students do not meet the provincial math standard, even after meeting the standard in Grade 3. Only 57 per cent of Grade 6 students and 67 per cent of Grade 3 students met the provincial standard in math this year. [Source: CTV News, Jan. 8, 2014]

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Social responsibility is stifling Ontario’s wine industry

The Ontario Government through Premier Kathleen Wynne claims it wants to help the Ontario wine industry. This is not at all surprising considering the main centre of the industry is the Niagara region and there is a by-election scheduled there for February 13.

The jewel in the crown of Wynne’s latest political bribe wine strategy is a new allocation of $75-million over five years to support the industry. Here’s an excerpt from a recent report by in Toronto Star:

“They’re [wine industry] local, they’re good for our economy, and they support good jobs,” she [Premier Wynne] told winemakers at the Niagara College Wine Visitor and Education Centre in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“In the last 30 years, this industry has just burgeoned. Your sector is an Ontario success story. We can set our heights higher and take this industry to the next level.”

The report also tells us that Wynne will allow the sale of Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wines (from Ontario-grown grapes), at farmers markets. It wasn’t that long ago the Liberals were trying to justify their stranglehold on the distribution and sale of wine by claiming that government stores were the only ones able to apply social responsibility regarding sales of alcoholic beverages.

Apparently, the operators of farmers markets are more trustworthy and socially responsible than those Ontarians who run grocery stores and convenience stores. Go figure.

This is all such crap. At every turn, Ontario governments have utilized tax and pricing strategies designed to turn plonk into a luxury item available—at least in an affordable way—to only the well-off in the province. I say “plonk” because good wines have been out of reach of the pocket books of ordinary people for decades.

Before wine even reaches the clutches of the monopoly—the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO)—it’s loaded up with sales-dampening taxes in the form of federal tax, Basic (Ontario) Tax, Volume (Ontario) Tax and Environmental (Ontario) Tax—over 30% of Ontario-levied taxes. Then, to that, LCBO adds a whopping 65.5% mark-up and, when you purchase a bottle, they add a further 13% HST. Oh, yes, a huge tax-on-tax rip-off. Of course, when governments rip you off, it’s called social responsibility. I kid you not.

If Kathleen Wynne really wanted to support Ontario’s wine industry, she would:

  • eliminate tax up to the point of sale to consumers, i.e., retain the HST;
  • allow free market distribution and sale, i.e., no LCBO monopoly;
  • eliminate government-mandated mark-ups and minimum pricing.

Unions won’t like this, of course, and part of the reason the Grits want to hang onto LCBO retail stores is that they provide over-valued, cushy jobs to their union friends. Unions, of course, provide millions of dollars in various forms of election support for the Ontario Grits. Continuing with the LCBO is part of the tax-payer funded payback to the unions.

If the premier did as I suggest above, Ontario wines would be on the same playing field as tens of thousands of other products consumed in the province and the Niagara (and elsewhere) wine industry would thrive and she’d not have to use tokenism to buy votes in the region.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Upcoming by-elections in Thornhill and Niagara Falls

The upcoming provincial by-elections in Thornhill and Niagara Falls ridings on Feb. 13 seem to be the Tories to lose at this point. I say that for three reasons:

Firstly, the NDP have hardly ever held the ridings, and the Greens are unlikely to be a winner, getting perhaps 10% of the vote. Niagara Falls may very well be smack in the middle of union-friendly country, but NDP candidates have only won the seat in rare instances.

Secondly, the record of the ruling Grits has been so abysmal and scandal-ridden, one can hardly be criticized for assuming they will find it difficult to hold onto the Niagara Falls riding this time around or, for that matter, pick up the Thornhill riding from the incumbent Progressive Conservatives.

Thirdly, a recent Forum Research survey has found the Conservatives leading the Liberals and the New Democrats. In Thornhill the Tory lead is 8% (44% to 36%) over the Grits. In Niagara Falls, the Tory lead is also 8% (36% to 28%). [Source: thestar.com]

While polls have not always been reliable in predicting recent provincial contests, the Forum Research survey does seem to confirm what locals on the ground are feeling regarding the relative chances of the front-running candidates.

Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who regularly rails against the ruling Conservatives for what he sees as their scandal-prone government, is supporting Yeung Racco the Liberal candidate in Thornhill and, apparently, plans to campaign with Premier Kathleen Wynne in Niagara Falls this week.

Curious that Justin Trudeau does not see the inconsistency of actively campaigning for a party guilty of similar things to those he claims he’s against in Ottawa. Perhaps he does see the contradiction, but simply doesn’t care. After all, he saw no moral questions when accepting five-digit speaking fees from charities, at least one school board and other non-profit organizations while acting as an MP and critic for his party.

One thing this shows: climb into bed with an Ontario Liberal and you’ll wake up beside a Federal Liberal. Clearly they’re the same thing—they’re interchangeable.

We’ll keep an eye on these races. They could very well prove to be referendums on Wynne and PC leader Tim Hudak.

Mayor Rob Ford at it again—this time he thinks he’s Jamaican

Toront’s Mayor Rob Ford is at it again, providing late-night talk show hosts material for their monologues and news media outlets something to say, mostly of the tut-tut variety. The mayor, apparently, had too much to drink and used his version of Jamaican patios—a very low, expletive-laden version I might add—to sound off about the police chief. All of which was caught on a video, which ended up on YouTube.

The whole Rob Ford affair has been rather tawdry, both from the point of view of his erratic and sometimes bizarre behaviour and that of some of the media coverage he has received. All in all, not Toronto’s finest moments.

Much of what I’ve read and heard in the past twelve hours has had more to do with Ford’s attempt to speak Jamaican patois than the words themselves. Some on the radio suggest it is somehow disrespectful to imitate the language of a minority group. I hope not, for I often try to speak with an Irish or a Scottish accent, and I certainly mean no disrespect.

On the other hand, Ford’s choice of words would offend many from Jamaica. At least many of the people I know from that island.

I notice the Toronto Sun singled out “bumbaclot” for special mention. Many in Canada, even some Jamaicans here, understand the word to mean roughly “used toilet paper,” though, it is often used in the same context as the more common word, “fuck,” which the mayor also uses. Actually, if you go back to the original meaning of “bumba” and “clot,” you find an even more offensive definition of the terms.

“Bumba” is a slang word for both “ass” and “vigina”—one discerns which by the context in which it is used. “Clot” or more often, “clart” means cloth in the context of the Jamaican slang expression, “blood clart,” meaning an early version of a female sanitary napkin. So saying “bumbaclot” would roughly be equivalent of saying, “tampon.”

Ford seems to slur his words quite a bit on the video, but I hear him using the ultimate of Jamaican “bad words” a couple of times—that being, “rass” and “rass clart,” an even more offensive synonym of “bumbaclot.”

As my wife remarked earlier today, Rob Ford has the perfect right to say whatever he wants to on his private time, and he obviously has the right to be mayor of Toronto, but he can’t do both at the same time. Using swear words has become common practice these days, even in what I think of as polite conversation. Surely, though, there is a point where this practice is so offensive it should be condemned. I think Rob Ford’s performance is at or beyond that point.

Here’s the video, decide for yourselves.

 

Rob Ford’s video performance

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Harper builds bridge over troubles waters

There is little or nothing Prime Minister Stephen Harper can really do to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians, he can, however, assure the former of his government’s unswerving friendship with the Jewish State.

Does this mean that the PM, as a consequence of his friendship with the Israelis, holds ill will towards the Palestinians? The evidence suggests, no he does not.

Canada has been accepting Palestinian refugees since, at least, 1955. Canada’s Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, though, was questioned about our country’s current policy on Sunday’s CTV’s Question Period and replied, “With respect to Palestinian refugees, the objective we all share is for them to become citizens in a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.”

Apparently, some Palestinian sources expected our prime minister to assure  Mahmoud Abbas’s government that Canada pledges to absorb refugees from neighbouring Arab countries as part of a final peace settlement with Israel. I believe Chris Alexander was anxious to dampen down such rumours and unrealistically high expectations.

Nevertheless, while there may not be a new initiative to accept displaced Palestinians, Canada includes many people from the region annually as part its normal refugee and immigration program.

As further evidence of Canada’s official support of the Palestinian Authority, as reported by CBC News:

Canada was contributing [to the Palestinian Authority] $300 million over five years, or $60 million a year, in a program that expired in June.

Since the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993 and the creation of the Palestinian Authority, Canada has provided more than $650 million in development assistance for the West Bank and Gaza.”

And, during his visit to Mahmoud Abbas’s compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, PM Harper announced a further $66-million in humanitarian aid and economic development funding.

That Canada would favour the only democracy with the rule of law in the region should surely come as no surprise. And since Canada has supported Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state for several decades, PM Harper’s position is consistent with those of past Canadian governments. Moreover, that pretty broad support for international terrorism has come from, as the PM points out, many of Israel’s enemies, certainly precludes Canada from taking the side of others over Israel, or even remaining neutral. Canadian lives, after all, have been lost to international terrorism.

Time will tell what, if any, part Canada plays directly in any eventual peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. In the meantime, PM Harper has proved his statesmanship here. Sure, there were a couple of hecklers during his historic speech to the Knesset, but his words were applauded enthusiastically by an overwhelming majority of those in attendance—progressives and conservatives alike stood as they applauded the PM.

A final thought regarding the notion that criticism of Israel’s government policy can be construed as anti-Semitism. From what I see on the Internet from Arab and other Middle East media sources, and from what I’ve learned firsthand from those who have travelled in the region in the last decade, anti-Semitism is rampant there as is criticism of Israeli.

The tone in the region was set when—until 1967—Jordan controlled the holy places and cultural institutions in Jerusalem, not only Israelis were barred form visiting the area, but all Jews from all countries. In fact, they were barred from entering Jordan period. Tourists entering East Jerusalem had to present baptismal certificates or other proof they were not Jewish. “The Jewish Quarter and its ancient synagogues were systematically destroyed, and gravestones from the Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives were used to build latrines for Jordanian army barracks.” [Wikipedia]

Try living as a Jew in most Arab countries—probably, most Muslim countries—and you’ll quickly understand what bigotry means. Vile cartoons and news media articles and reports—even passages in children’s text books—malign Jews. That is they refer directly to Jews, and are not limited to Israelis. Every form of discrimination against Jews was and continues to be practiced and wildly condoned, including expulsion and death.

Moreover, no other country in the world but Israeli is so singled out for harsh, biased censure in the United Nations and by Canadian labour unions and college campuses when—God knows, there’s no lack of cause from all regions of the Globe to do so. So, yes, some—perhaps a lot—of anti-Israeli criticism raises to the level of anti-Semitism.

On this trip, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has proved again he is a  statesman of abundant talent.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A news mountain out of a teenager’s pipe bomb molehill

The news story about the pipe bomb security lapse by a Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) guard at Edmonton International Airport is but the latest example of a mainstream media blitz on a story that’s more about personal stupidity than it is about airport security.

Air transport security in Canada is about as effective as its likely ever going to be or, for that matter, needs to be. No one can guarantee humans will not do very stupid things for the simplest of reasons. And all the training in the world will not shield security agencies from occasional lapses.

When things do happen, of course they need to be thoroughly investigated and corrective action needs to be taken. And then we all need to put the incident behind us and move on.

The young lad at the centre of the news storm has confessed in court and been sentenced for his stupidity. Yes, boys and young men occasionally do things that they later regret and acknowledge to be pretty senseless. I know I have.

The CATSA has, apparently, told CBC News that a review was done and “…changes were made to ensure this type of security failure could not happen again, and employees were disciplined, including being suspended.”

But the story won’t die. Or rather the news media won’t let it. All that really needs to be known already has been reported. Perhaps, if this was a trial in a court of law, every minute detail of what went down might be relevant for the record. But for everyday lives, who needs to know what sort of wrapper was around the bomb, its graphic description and measurement or all the other minutiae relating to the incident?

When all is said and done, nothing came of the incident—no one died, the bomb never exploded. The security guard or guards have been disciplined and the young man has been scolded by a judge and been sentenced. Let’s stop trying to make this into some kind of major scandal.

Has the incident raised legitimately troubling questions about safety of air transport and how the incident was handled by CATSA? Sure it has. But it was a one-of. And it’s highly unlikely that one can train one-ofs out of existence.

Finally, the news media and the opposition parties need to back off and stop trying to blame the federal government for this.

Nothing more to see here, so let’s all move along.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chris Christie virtually defines the “political apology”

As most of you know by now, the New Jersey Republican governor, Chris Christie used the political apology to extricate himself from a controversy over a pretty blatant case of political payback in his state engineered by, at least, one of his senior staff members.

By “political apology” I mean a mea culpa that accepts responsibility for the actions of others while making it clear you don’t plan to accept any of the negative consequences that might follow such actions. It’s not really a phoney apology like the one Rob Ford made to Toronto’s city council recently or the I’m-sorry-I-got-caught type with which we’ve become so familiar. It’s more clever than that.

To be effective, the political apology has to seem like it comes from the heart, and one must seem contrite and offer media representatives a plausible narrative and ample opportunity to exhaust themselves asking questions of diminishing levels of pertinence. All this, of course, while promising listeners or readers that you’ve fixed the problem so nothing like it can ever happen again. Sound familiar?

Pundits here in Canada, especially those on the left, are saying Prime Minister Stephen Harper—regarding his role in the Senate Spending Scandal—could well learn a thing or two from Christie’s style of crisis management. You know, get out in front and come as clean as you dare without permanently damaging your brand.

I disagree.

For what has Prime Minister Stephen Harper to apologize? Chris Christie’s office has been caught in a serious act of petty political retribution, one that could very well be criminal in nature. The PMO has been involved in a payback of an entirely different stripe. The “crime” of PMO’s boss was his offering of an act of extreme personal generosity that was, apparently, intended to minimize the damage to his party’s brand being inflicted by a reckless high-profile appointee.

Michael Wright, the most powerful unelected political operative in Ottawa—and someone with a long-held reputation for integrity—apparently made an error in judgement and quickly acknowledged his mistake, apologized, took full responsibility for his actions and resigned, thereby accepting the consequences for them. End of story.

For our PM to also apologize would have been over the top. The responsibility of the PM was to provide an explanation of his role in the affair, and he has done that…repeatedly.

Chris Christie and his political handlers did not invent the political apology, though, they do seem to have used it skilfully. Let’s leave it at that and not try to apply it to our prime minister.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Neil Young’s anti-oilsands/Harper rant

The rock star Neil Young claims that the Canadian government has “a huge problem with science and the understanding of it. …[and is] a government that is completely out of control, [and where] money is number one, integrity isn’t even on the map.”

This verbal assault was delivered by someone who is isn’t really Canadian any longer except by the accident of his birth. I, frankly, am not impressed. There’re plenty of problems in Neil Young’s chosen country—the United States—for him to solve before he comes to Canada to scream insults at our legally-elected government.

Young’s attack on our oilsands development and on our Conservative government was as savage as they are unfair. And it was particularly galling coming from someone who left Canada to move to another country all the way back in 1966. So, for over 45 years he hasn’t even lived in the country he claims to care so much about.

As far as I’m concerned, Neil Young has no skin in this Canadian game and is simply a Yank interfering in our internal Canadian affairs. After a quick trip through his country, one could easily identify enough environmental challenges to keep him busy for several lifetimes. We who chose to live in Canada and help shape this country do not need Neil Young’s interference or his bad-mouthing our government.

Neil Young could have made a good living in Canada—many others in his profession have done so—but he chose to live in the United States. So is money “number one” for him? He accuses: “Canada is trading integrity for money.” Didn’t Young himself trade Canada for money?

Damned hypocrite!

Neil Young, go home and take your nasty rants with you.

Friday, January 10, 2014

How to self-generate news for your newspaper

The excellent blog, BC Blue brings to our attention the crass attempt by The Toronto Star and one of its reporters, Marco Oved, to shakedown Peter Kent, the Conservative MP for Thornhill, back in mid-December.

Peter Kent has published on his Website a copy of a letter from The Toronto Star newspaper, which is a blatant attempt to blackmail Mr. Kent into joining it’s (the Star’s) crusade to bring down Toronto’s beleaguered mayor, Rob Ford. The letter claims to have been sent to “70 of Toronto’s civic leaders for comment”, and uses unusually strong language to solicit responses.

Apparently, John Hendrich, the chair of the board of Torstar, had written a column “… decrying the silence [regarding Rob ford] of Toronto’s elite.” I guess the column was not resonating sufficiently to satisfy the folks at the Star, so I’m guessing they sent out the letter to generate comments that they could later publish to further blacken Rob Ford’s name and sell more newspapers.

That’s quite a business model, eh? The big boss picks a fight with a local politician and condemns the politician in a newspaper column, after which he gets one of his staff to write to newsworthy citizens, demanding they respond to the boss’s column or be shamed in a latter edition of the newspaper. All in an effort, I suppose, to bolster sagging ad revenues.

I thought I would no longer be shocked by anything the Star did, but I was premature in my assessment. The content, and especially the tone, of the Star’s letter, signed by Marco Chown Oved, is shocking.

Read the letter on Peter Kent’s Website and decide for yourselves.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A look back at 2013, Part II: the Senate Scandal

The Senate spending scandal stands out as a news story for, at least, a couple of reasons. To start with, it suggests we have a shifty-shady group—well four anyway—in our upper house.

I’m sure there are many honest, hard-working, honourable men and women serving in the Senate, but we’ve been careless with appointments, placing loyalty-and-past-service to a party ahead of a best-suited-for-the-job ethic.

I’m not in favour of shutting the place down, however. But we do need to press for serious reform to make the Senate effective. We already have far too much power concentrated in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), and that’s not serving Canadians very well at this time—at least, not from where I sit.

Senate reform and new parliamentary rules similar to those suggested in MP Michael Chong’s private member’s bill, Reform Act would go a long way in strengthening our democracy.

It’s all there, isn’t it? Chong’s Reform Act and a senate that is equal, elected and effective. Sound familiar? Think Triple-E Senate. All that’s required is a country-first initiative from our federal government with some political will behind it and we’d be there in no time. I pretty sure the Conservative Party of Canada or one of its predecessors has already promised as much. It’s now time to deliver the goods.

The other point I want to make is about how overblown the coverage of the Senate scandal has been. Good grief! Allegations, accusations and real police arrests due to possible the most serious and widespread corruption scandal in Canadian history  have been almost daily news stories in Quebec, yet seldom do these displace repetitious rehash stories on the Senate scandal. Not even multiple stories of scandal and malfeasance in the Ontario Liberal government—the gas plant scandal alone will cost Ontario taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars—could overshadow the Senate scandal—at least, not for long. It took the similarly over-hyped Rob Ford scandal in Toronto to edge out the Senate scandal at many media outlets.

Four senators have acted badly. Some may even eventually be charged with a criminal offence. This was news, yes. Big news even. But really, is this the worst or most news worthy thing to happen in Canada in the past 12 months? Hardly.

Most puzzling for me is that the biggest part of the story seems to be questions about who knew what when, and did the PM know about his chief-of-staff’s head-scratching decision to cover personally Senator Duffy’s repayment of nearly $100,000 in disputed expenses.

The Senate spending scandal has shredded four senators’ careers and caused resignations in the highest office at the PMO. Time to move on now and await the RCMP’s decision as to whether any of this bad behaviour rises to the level of criminal acts.

I believe, if certain allegations are proven, some senators could face charges. On the other hand, I fail to see how anything reported so far about the PMO’s part in the affair comes close to being criminal.

But we’ll see soon enough. In the meantime, can we get back to business and concentrate on parliamentary debates and committee affairs that might actually help Canada to move forward?

Monday, January 6, 2014

A look back at 2013, Part I: the Rob Ford story

The Canadian mainstream media’s attention was pretty well fixated on the various antics (and there were some dillies) of Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, for much of the last half of 2013. The public has a right to know and all that.

It was clearly Mayor Fords own fault, of course. After all, he seems to have confirmed as true the various rumours and allegations that dogged him in the first half of 2013—most of which he had vehemently denied earlier.

Imagine that: a politician who lies when first confronted about some embarrassing or incriminating event or situation and later reverses course and admits the whole thing. I’m shocked.

At the same time, who in their right mind wants a liar for a chief magistrate of the largest city in the land? Ford says he didn’t lie—the media just didn’t ask the right question, he claims. Thank goodness my kids outgrew that sort of silly word-game argument when they were about twelve years of age…or was it when they were nine? Apparently, Mayor Ford thinks we Canadians are idiots.

Ford’s behaviour was inexcusable on any level and may even have been criminal, and if doing the right thing really mattered to him, he would probably have resigned months ago. I can’t think of any rational or reasonable excuse that could make his behaviour tolerable. Admitting to being “in a drunken stupor” and smoking crack cocaine begs the question: just what does he consider acceptable behaviour for Toronto’s mayor?

That all being said, I believe the behaviour of the mainstream media—especially that of The Toronto Star—regarding the Rob Ford story was appalling. Rob Ford was targeted the day he was elected—how dare a right-of-centre politician take office in leftie Toronto, eh?

And what of the mayor’s family? Doesn’t the media realize he does not live alone and camping out on his lawn and driveway hurts them as much as anyone. What is their wrongdoing?

Or how about Mayor Ford being ambushed early in the morning by the CBC’s loudmouth Mary Walsh filming 22 Minutes? I’ve heard this program referred to as satirical news, but that’s something CBC producers call their shows when they know they are in poor taste. I’ve seen Mary Walsh in action as Marg Delahunty, Princess Warrior, and didn’t find it particularly amusing.

Would Mary Walsh and her CBC crew like Rob Ford to ambush them early in the morning in the driveways of their private homes while brandishing a plastic sword and intimidating their children, or would they feel that was crossing some sort of line of accepted decency? But perhaps they wouldn’t mind…perhaps they have no concept of accepted decency.

Furthermore, there have been attempts, at least, on the cable news political shows to tarnish Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s name by linking him to the Rob Ford story. Fortunately, this tactic has not found much traction, as far as I can tell.

Even Chantal Hébert—usually a favourite journalist of mine—can’t seem to help piling on. In a piece in The Toronto Star, the headline is: “Rob Ford making ex-Montreal mayor look good…”. Really?

Amid allegations and accusations of widespread corruption involving tens of thousands of dollars coming out of a public judicial inquiry for several months, a year ago the mayor of Montreal resigned (his former municipal political party disbanded) and his replacement was arrested, and we are told that Rob Ford makes the ex-mayor “look good.”

Wow. Life may not be fair, but surely we should expect, at least, a minimum amount of balance in reportage on such a serious subject. Nothing that Mayor Ford has done or is alleged to have done—at least that I have heard about—rises to the level of widespread corruption and collusion we have heard about from the Charbonneau commission in Quebec. Nothing! Yet, according to Toronto media Rob Ford is making Montreal’s disgraced ex-mayor look good. This about takes the proverbial cake.

I’m no fan of Rob Ford, but can’t we get some basic fairness in our political coverage?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

On playing fair

Growing up, I was regularly told to play fair, be fair, deal fairly with others, and so on. I was British so was expected to have a “sense of fair play.” One never cheated nor did one “run up the score” or be too vocal in a victory celebration. In sum, being a good winner was more important than being a good loser.

Life, though, cynics will tell you, is not at all fair. And I agree that “life”—to the extent it is generally ruled by chance—can hardly be considered fair. I do believe, however, that humans can, and should, be fair in their dealings with one another. Moreover, I believe that there is a moral imperative for governments to deal fairly with those they govern. And it is with these latter that I now take issue.

My city, Burlington, Ontario and the Regional Municipality of Halton to which it belongs has in place a plan to force certain residents on our “beach strip” to sell their homes so a park can be expanded. And, although there is mounting evidence that Burlington residents in general and most of our City councillors do not favour this course, the Halton Region has apparently voted in favour of moving forward with the plan. This is all very legal, of course, but is it fundamentally fair? I do not believe it is.

Taxes, one would think, should be levied fairly. Yet the Province of Ontario and federal government single out alcohol as a “sin” and try to tax it out of existence—or, at least, control its distribution and consumption. On some alcoholic beverages the taxing and profit-taking of governments exceeds the underlying (real) cost of the product. How can this be fair to the millions of Ontarians who drink responsibly, don’t drive when drunk, and see wine as a form of food and beer as an afternoon refreshment—the perfect ending to a perfectly mowed lawn, for example?

To many, the end (control of alcohol) justifies the means. To me, however, even the noblest of ends cannot ennoble unfair means to that end. Take motor vehicles: they are involved in thousands of deaths, but no one is suggesting we double or triple their price to curb ownership or use—or, at least, I haven’t heard of any such plans and hope this won’t give Premier Kathleen Wynne any ideas to do so. In my view, fairness dictates that taxes should never equal or exceed the the real cost of a product.

As to our federal government, they tax food, books, clothing, fuel, transportation and housing—as, of course, does the province—pretty much the necessities of life. Fairness must be an expletive to be deleted at the Canada Revenue Agency.

Not satisfied, the government has also set up what is known as supply management to control the availability and price of milk, cheese, and other dairy products plus eggs and poultry in Canada. The system benefits 13,000 to 20,000 farmers, while the rest of us 32+ millions of Canadians pay twice or more for these important dietary staples. And, to support this cruel system, our federal government levies external tariffs to prevent foreign imports from undercutting domestic production. To quote Andrew Coyne, “These range from 168 per cent for eggs, to 238 per cent for chicken, 246 per cent for cheese, all the way to 299 per cent for butter.”

What manner of moral compass would one use to condone such gross unfairness? Isn’t it time we demanded our governments play fair with us—all of us, all the time?

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