Blinded by the Brand

Why are people loyal to a brand that guarantees austerity today in return for the promise of prosperity tomorrow with no plan setting out how and when austerity will morph into prosperity and despite overwhelming evidence that similar promises failed to deliver prosperity in the past?

It’s a mystery, but part of the explanation has to be that people are blinded by the brand, especially if it sets up black hats and white hats and is easy to express in memes.

For example, if the UCP stands for righteous austerity, then the NDP must stand for frivolous spending.  If the UCP believes in trickle-down economics, then the NDP are rampant socialists.

There is nothing in between.

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But here’s where loyalty to the brand becomes problematic.  People who say they support the UCP because they believe economic pain today will bring economic prosperity tomorrow fail to understand that the UCP brand is more than an economic ideology, it extends to a discriminatory position on social issues that is attractive to homophobes, Islamophobes, pro-lifers, alt-rightists and nutbars who will run roughshod over the rule of law and democratic norms if it’s necessary to implement their conservative agenda.

UCP supporters argue they can’t be tarred with the same brush as the UCP lunatic fringe, they insist they’re fiscally conservative and socially progressive.

This brings us to what Timothy Snyder describes in his book On Tyranny as the renunciation of the difference between what you want to hear and what actually is the case.

Snyder says the truth dies in four ways.  His analysis is set in the context of tyranny but in this post-Trump era it is equally applicable to the conservative movement as espoused by Jason Kenney.

Presenting lies as facts:  Jason Kenney has convinced many Albertans that Alberta is on the rocks and only he and the UCP can save it, however, Bloomberg reports Alberta led the country in 2017 with GDP growth at 4.9 percent.  GDP growth is expected to be 2.7 percent in 2018 and many economic indicators including exports, manufacturing, rig activity and wholesale trade have seen gains.  The labour market is improving, and corporate profits are expected to be higher in 2018.

Even Mr Kenney knows this to be true.  He didn’t describe Alberta as a sad sack province when he traveled to India on a bizarre little junket.   Instead he told government and industry representatives that Alberta was a low tax province with one of the best educated work forces, efficient power prices and lots of strategic advantages for investment.

Shamanistic incantation to make the fictional plausible:  If there’s one thing Kenney and the UCP are adamant about it’s that the NDP are a bunch of raving socialists.  The comment section of any article describing anything the NDP government does demonstrates this fiction has taken hold with UCP supporters who are convinced the socialists are using any means possible, including farm safety legislation and the curriculum re-write, to spread their socialist ideology to the unsuspecting masses.

If Mr Kenney and his supporters knew anything about political and economy theory or simply paid attention to the Notley government’s relationship with the business sector (particularly energy) they’d know this isn’t true.

Magical thinking to embrace contradiction:  Mr Kenney insists that cutting taxes and implementing austerity will not negatively impact public services.  He refers to the Klein era as the golden age of balanced budgets but never acknowledges the devastating impact Klein’s cuts had on education, healthcare and infrastructure.  Short-term and long-term beds were cut by 50%, nurses and teachers left the province in droves, and the infrastructure deficit is now over $16 billion.

No amount of magical thinking will reconcile a 10% flat tax with the expectation that public services will continue to be provided at today’s standards.

Misplaced faith:  Snyder says when a politician presents himself as the saviour of [insert favourite ideology here] evidence is irrelevant, his followers will support him based on faith.

UCP supporters believe Mr Kenney when he says he’s interested in economic issues, not social ones.  They believe Mr Kenney when he says the UCP rejects those who express hateful views of entire groups of people and that such people are not welcome to run for the party.  They have faith that Mr Kenney will not support policies that discriminate against certain Albertans, notwithstanding the regressive beliefs of the lunatic fringe who’ve found a home in the UCP.

And yet not a week goes by without the discovery of a UCP nominee whose social media pages are rife with Islamophobic, homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic content.  Some of these nominees are removed from the nomination process, others remain in the race.  Their supporters continue to spout the same discriminatory beliefs Mr Kenney says are abhorrent to him and the party.

UCP supporters who insist Mr Kenney will separate his fiscally conservative agenda from his socially regressive agenda* are kidding themselves.

In their desire to become wealthy at some undefined point in the future, they’ve renounced the difference between what they want to hear and what the UCP has been broadcasting in dog-whistles and overt appeals to those who want him to implement economic and social policies straight out of the 1950s.

They’ve allowed themselves to be blinded by the brand.

*See Kyle Morrow’s well researched account of Mr Kenney’s 30-year fight against women’s reproductive rights   

Posted in Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

The Notwithstanding Clause: A Gift from Doug Ford to Jason Kenney

Sometimes silence speaks louder than words.

Last week Doug Ford went straight to the nuclear option when a judge told him no Doug, you can’t downsize Toronto city council in the middle of a municipal election just because you feel like it.  Mr Ford says he’s going to invoke the “notwithstanding clause”, Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to get his way.

When a conservative politician makes a grand “I’ll show you” gesture, especially when it is accompanied by overblown rhetoric about activist judges interfering with the wise decisions of elected representatives, it is customary for all conservative politicians to pile on.

But one conservative politician, Jason Kenney, has remained uncharacteristically silent.  (Mr Kenney hits the airwaves to condemn things his own government did when it was in power, so it’s strange he’s not applauding Doug Ford for putting the judiciary in its place).

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Mr Kenney and Mr Ford

Mr Kenney could have said many things, including the comments he made 20 years ago as a Reform MP when he said the Klein government should “have the courage to invoke Section 33 [and begin] the recovery of democracy” to override a Supreme Court of Canada decision that said an employee could not be fired on the basis of his sexual orientation because it was a protected ground under the legislation.

Instead he declined to be interviewed.

It’s unlikely Mr Kenney is no longer worried about “the recovery of democracy”.

It’s more likely Mr Kenney is beside himself with joy.  Mr Ford’s decision to invoke Section 33 will give Mr Kenney a preview of what to expect if he tries to do the same thing in Alberta (assuming he’s elected in 2019).  If Mr Ford pulls it off without grave political damage Mr Kenney will deploy Section 33 as part of his legislative arsenal to transform Alberta into the beacon of the conservative movement.

It’s an incredible gift for the man who sees himself as the leader of the Canadian conservative movement.

Section 33

Section 33 has been described as “reintroducing a measure of Supremacy of Parliament” by allowing Parliament and the legislatures to “have the last word on a number of issues”.

These issues concern fundamental freedoms including freedom of thought, assembly, association, and the press (section 2), legal rights including the right not to be arbitrarily detained and arrested (sections 7 to 14) and equality rights including the right to equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion, sex, etc (section 15).

Critics of the notwithstanding clause say it renders the Charter useless.  Others disagree saying Section 33 is limited in scope (it looks pretty broad to me) and time, it must be renewed after five years or it expires.  They also say it’s rarely used and legislative bodies generally let the Supreme Court of Canada have the last word.

This may have been true in the past, but it’s not true today when the conservative movement is being led by the likes of Doug Ford and Jason Kenney.

Mr Kenney’s agenda

Mr Kenney has been crystal clear about his economic agenda.  He will bring back the “Alberta Advantage” by eliminating the carbon tax, bringing back the 10% flat tax, and reducing the deficit by imposing austerity measures.

Yes, it’s going to hurt but it can be accomplished without impacting our fundamental rights and freedoms.

Mr Kenney has been less transparent about his social agenda, preferring to boycott potentially contentious debates rather than risk a bozo eruption.

However, the reaction of UCP to NDP legislation that protects LBGTQ2S+ rights and the rights of organized labour signals a desire to reverse the progress the NDP has made on these fronts.

This is where the “notwithstanding clause” becomes important.  The UCP government could pass legislation revoking such protections and invoke the notwithstanding clause to pre-empt any attempt to challenge such legislation for violating the Charter.

And there is nothing anyone could do about it.

Will he or won’t he?  

Mr Kenney refused to be interviewed about Doug Ford’s decision to invoke Section 33, instead the UCP issued a statement saying Section 33 “is a tool available to every provincial government to use if and when it is appropriate.”

Mr Kenney won’t comment because he’s waiting to see if Mr Ford can pull this off.

If Mr Ford is able to ramrod legislation through the House using Section 33, Mr Kenney will use it at the “appropriate” time to reverse socially progressive legislation and demonstrate to Alberta and Canada that he’s got what it takes to be the true leader of the conservative movement.

If Mr Ford is hammered by political blowback, Mr Kenney won’t have to backtrack from having praised Mr Ford for trying this stunt in the first place and can hold the idea in reserve for the future.

Mr Kenney knows there’s a time to be silent and a time to speak up.

Albertans know this too.

If Albertans want to ensure their Charter rights won’t get trampled by a UCP government in 2019 we need to speak up today and most importantly on Election Day.

Posted in Economy, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 21 Comments

What Albertans Can Learn From Barack Obama

To paraphrase that old E.F. Hutton commercial, when Barack Obama talks, people listen.

Last week Obama spoke at the University of Illinois.  He broke with the tradition of ex-presidents stepping away from the podium to give the new guy a chance to get on with his agenda because these are “pivotal” times.

He was concerned Americans wouldn’t turn out for the November mid-term elections because they’d become cynical, were taking their rights and freedoms for granted and were distracted by “electronic versions of bread and circuses”.

He said their lack of attention to politics had created a void that is being filled by power seekers sowing the politics of fear, resentment, and retrenchment in order to get into power and stay there.

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Former President Obama at the University of Illinois

Obama’s message was both disturbing and hopeful.  It was tailored to the American experience but is remarkably relevant in the Alberta context.

Obama’s message

In a healthy democracy the government does not, in Obama’s view, cut taxes on its wealthiest citizens, unwind regulations, weaken worker protections and shrink the social safety net; because doing so increases inequity, diminishes economic opportunity and increases regional, racial, religious and cultural tension.

Obama says a strong democracy embraces a number of elements.  These will be familiar to supporters of Notley’s NDP, the Liberals and the Alberta Party, but not so familiar or welcome in Kenney’s conservative party.  They include:

  • a free market subject to regulations governing health, safety, and the environment (Kenney’s promise to cut red tape would make the free market paramount),
  • recognizing society’s collective responsibility for healthcare (Kenney would shift more of this responsibility to the private sector—those who can afford better care would get it, those who can’t won’t)
  • empowering workers through unions (Obama floated the European model of giving workers a seat on corporate boards, Kenney’s head would explode)
  • eliminating discrimination against minorities, women, the disabled and the LBGTQ community, (Kenny vowed to repeal legislation protecting kids who join GSAs, he and his caucus boycotted the abortion bubble zone debates and they picked fights with Pride parade organizers),
  • standing up to bullies, racists, homophobes, misogynists and xenophobes, (the UCP puts them on the ballot and gives them free rein on social media. Check out David Climenhaga’s informative blog on how far the UCP will go to tolerate intolerance).
  • increasing disclosure and transparency (Obama is still waiting for Trump’s tax returns, Albertans will wait even longer for Kenney to disclose the complete list of donors who supported his run for the PC leadership)
  • not lying about government institutions and programs (Kenney attacks the federal equalization payment scheme, the immigration process and the Liberal’s handling of Trans Mountain but they’re not really creating “western alienation”.  Alberta’s long overdue revamp of the school curriculum is not really a conspiracy to turn our children into mini-socialists),
  • investing in science, infrastructure and education (Kenney’s promise to cut the deficit ASAP will cripple these investments).

All of these elements are indications of progress.

Progress

Obama says progress doesn’t move in a straight line, it moves in fits and starts.  Progress stands on the shoulders of people who refuse to be “bystanders to history, ordinary people [who] fought and marched and mobilized and built, and…voted to make history”.

Obama encourages citizens to look for candidates who champion fresh ideas rather than those who recycle stale ideas fluffed up with fear or resentment.  He urges citizens to support candidates who are running for something, not candidates who are running against something (like the UCP candidates who promise to bring back the “Alberta Advantage” but can’t tell you what it is and vow to repeal the carbon tax without offering an alternative plan to manage climate change).

So, if you’re worried about where a UCP government would take Alberta if they win in 2019, take Obama’s advice.  Get engaged, attend fund raisers, door knock, donate, and talk to your family and friends about the progressive alternative.

Barack Obama says you will generate a “spark of hope”.  Hope leads to change and change results in progress.

It’s time to listen.

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Economy, Education, Lectures, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 34 Comments

The Trans Mountain Pipeline Court Decision

Ms Soapbox spent the long weekend poring over the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision nullifying the Order-in-Council that approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX).  Mr Bumble’s comment in Oliver Twist comes to mind.  Mr Bumble said if the court thought he could control his domineering wife, the law was an ass.

By now the entire country knows the FCA put a hold on the construction of TMX.

Everyone has an opinion, it’s a good thing, it’s a bad thing, did the Liberals learn nothing from Northern Gateway, is it another example of western alienation, etc.

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Have any of these people read the decision or are they content to misrepresent it in the hopes of drumming up votes?

Let’s look at the decision; but first some context.

Timeline 

In Dec 2013 Trans Mountain filed an application to build and operate the Trans Mountain Expansion Project with the NEB.

In May 2016 after reviewing tens of thousands of pages of evidence and hearing from 1600 participants, the NEB recommended to the GIC that the Project be approved subject to 157 conditions.

The Crown consultation process started in 2013 and ended in Nov 2016.  It was augmented by the work of a Ministerial Panel which identified “any additional views that could be relevant to the Government’s final decision” but was not part of the Crown consultation process.

In Nov 2016 the GIC accepted the NEB’s report and issued an Order in Council approving the Project subject to the NEB’s 157 conditions.

A flurry of appeals and applications for judicial review were launched and decisions were rendered.

Then on Aug 30, 2018 the FCA put TMX on hold.  It said the NEB report to the GIC was so flawed the GIC could not rely on it in making its decision and the Order in Council was nullified.

The FCA decision

The FCA’s identified two fatal flaws: (1) the NEB “unjustifiably” defined the scope of the Project to exclude Project-related tanker traffic and so avoided the need to mitigate the adverse effects of increased marine traffic on the Southern resident killer whale, and (2) Canada did not adequately discharge the duty to consult with Indigenous people.

Flaw #1:  Project Scope

The NEB said that unlike Transport Canada, Port Metro Vancouver, Pacific Pilotage Authority and the Canadian Coast Guard, it had no jurisdiction over Project-related shipping, namely tankers going in and out of Westridge Marine Terminal.

Consequently, it excluded Project-related shipping from the Project scope.  This meant it would assess the environmental and socio-economic effects of increased marine shipping under the NEB Act and conduct an Environmental Assessment under CEAA but would not address the impact of  increased marine shipping on the Southern resident killer whale under the Species at Risk Act.*   

The FCA said the Project scope should have included Project-related shipping, the Project was a “designated project” under Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) and triggered the Species at Risk Act which required the NEB to address the adverse effects increased marine traffic would have on the Southern resident killer whale.

Commentators who say it’s bloody obvious the NEB screwed up clearly haven’t read a prior FCA decision in which the FCA dismissed an appeal of the NEB’s failure to include marine shipping in the TMX Project scope because the appellant should have raised its concern at the beginning of the NEB hearing when the NEB could have considered it fully.    

They’ve also not read this FCA decision where the FCA fails to explain why it ignored its previous decision and makes a pathetic attempt to justify the inclusion of Project-related shipping in the Project scope with a bootstrap analysis that starts with a CEAA guidance document CEAA says “is for information only” (it’s not a statutory instrument) and adds Trans Mountain’s evidence of steps it’s taken to enhance tanker safety plus NEB conditions on marine safety to reach the conclusion that tanker traffic is “incidental to” the Project and should be included in the Project scope.

The NEB is an expert tribunal.  It has the jurisdiction to consider matters of fact and law.  It determined it did not have jurisdiction over Project-related marine vessels.  The FCA tied itself into knots to demonstrate otherwise.

Flaw #2:  Duty to consult

The NEB identified 130 Indigenous peoples who might be affected by the Project.  Seventy-three were granted intervenor status and six brought applications arguing Canada had failed in its duty to consult.

The FCA reviewed the principles applicable to the duty to consult:

  • It arises from “the honour of the Crown” (a promise is a promise) and the protection of aboriginal and treaty rights in section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982
  • It is fact specific
  • The depth of consultation increases as the strength of the prima facie Indigenous claim and seriousness of potentially adverse effects increases
  • Strong Indigenous claims may trigger a duty to accommodate, weaker ones may not.
  • The Crown’s duty to consult can be fulfilled in whole or part by the NEB process, but it’s up to the Crown to ensure the NEB consultation is adequate.
  • The duty to consult is not a duty to agree and does not give Indigenous people a veto.

The Crown’s consultation process started in 2013.  It had four phases and was complemented by a four-month consultation process run by the Ministerial Panel.

Critics argue Canada learned nothing from the FCA’s criticism of the Northern Gateway consultation process.  This is not true.

The Crown’s consultation process in Trans Mountain, unlike the process in Northern Gateway, did not withhold information from Indigenous applicants, it did not present inaccurate information to the GIC, it granted time extensions, it responded to information requests, it disclosed its assessment of the strength of Indigenous parties’ claims to right or title and its assessment of Project impacts and it made Ministers available.

The FCA ruled the consultation process was reasonable and satisfactorily implemented with the exception of Phase III which kicked in after the NEB closed the record and ended before the GIC rendered its decision.  Phase III was intended to address concerns not addressed in the hearing or by the NEB conditions and Tran Mountain’s commitments.

At this point everything fell apart according to the FCA.

The FCA acknowledged the consultation team was respectful and did a good job of understanding and accurately documenting the Indigenous applicants’ concerns and presenting an accurate and unbiased report to the GIC.

Nevertheless, the FCA found the consultation team failed to engage in “meaningful dialogue and grapple with concerns” so as to explore possible accomodation.

The FCA attributed this failure to the consultation team’s unwillingness to depart from the NEB’s findings and “genuinely understand” the concerns raised, as well as the GIC’s erroneous view that it could not add more conditions.

What should the consultation team have done?

Critics suggest the team should be more than stenographers.

Okay, but it didn’t have decision-making authority.  It couldn’t substitute its views for that of the NEB.  What should it have done to “meaningfully grapple” with concerns such as:

  • rerouting the pipeline to avoid an aquifer
  • implementing specific recommendations already covered in generic NEB conditions
  • reconsidering the behavior of diluted bitumen in the marine environment
  • putting a spill response centre on the reserve and funding it with a per-barrel spillage fee based on product flowing through the pipe
  • implementing a resource development tax on proponents with projects located on traditional territory

Did the team have better expertise than the NEB to make different recommendations to the GIC?  Or was it enough that the team presented an accurate and unbiased account of Indigenous concerns to the GIC?

One of the three judges in the Northern Gateway case said its consultation process was just fine.  The TMX consultation process was far better than the Northern Gateway consultation process and all three judges said it wasn’t good enough.

The courts are right when they say it’s impossible to take a “check the box” approach to consultation, but it would help if they stopped moving the goal posts in the name of “meaningful dialogue”.

What should the GIC have done?

The GIC is the final decision-maker when it comes to approving interprovincial pipelines.  It reviews the NEB report and can: (1) direct the NEB to dismiss the application, (2) accept the NEB’s report and conditions and direct it to issue the certificate, or (3) ask the NEB to reconsider its recommendations and conditions and resubmit the report.

The GIC picked door number two.  It accepted the NEB’s report and conditions and directed the issuance of the certificate.

But wait, the FCA says there’s a fourth option:  The GIC could have imposed additional conditions of its own on TMX and the fact it didn’t do so is another reason why the Crown failed to fulfill the duty to consult.

The GIC has never imposed its own conditions on a project.  When did it get this new power?  When the FCA gave it to them in the Northern Gateway (Gitxaala Nation) case.

The Supreme Court of Canada will one day let us know whether the FCA is correct.  But given the pipeline expertise at the GIC compared to pipeline expertise at the NEB it’s not clear Canadians would want the GIC to have this power.  (One shudders to think what conditions a Cabinet full of climate change deniers would slap on to an NEB project.)

Where do we go from here?

Well Ms Soapbox wants to go on vacation until this whole thing blows over…

But Canada will not be able to get a pipeline to tidewater if the FCA decision stands so it must be appealed on the grounds that the FCA was wrong to include marine shipping in the Project scope, and it was wrong to conclude the Crown failed to satisfy the duty to consult.

The feds could amend the CEAA to make it clear that a “designated project” does not include marine vessels moving in and out of marine terminals and just to be on the safe side, they could restart the consultation process.

Because as Mr Bumble pointed out, sometimes the law is an ass.

*Updated to clarify the fact the NEB conducted an Environmental Assessment under CEAA but since it decided the Project did not include Project-related shipping, decided it could not not address the impact of shipping on the Southern resident killer whales under SARA.

Sources: https://www.canlii.org/en/ca/fca/doc/2016/2016fca187/2016fca187.html

https://www.canlii.org/en/ca/fca/doc/2016/2016fca219/2016fca219.html

https://www.canlii.org/en/ca/fca/doc/2018/2018fca153/2018fca153.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/environmental-assessment-agency/services/policy-guidance/guide-preparing-description-designated-project-under-canadian-environmental-assessment-act-2012.html

Posted in Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Law, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments

Maxime Bernier Opens the Diversity Debate

What lunacy is this?

Maxime Bernier’s twitter rant condemning Justin Trudeau’s “extreme multiculturalism” policies ended with Bernier exiting stage (far) right, Andrew Scheer promising to fight asylum seekers who jump the queue and Michelle Rempel announcing the “Pathway to Canada” tour to consult with Canadians about immigration issues.

Assuming Mr Bernier wanted Canadians to take his twitter rant seriously and not as an attempt to make Mr Scheer’s life miserable, it would have been helpful if he’d been more specific about his concerns and double checked his allegations against the facts.

Illegals jumping the queue?

Most of Canada’s refugee claimants enter the country through official entry points but since the start of the Trump presidency in 2017, 31,000 people came through unofficial entry points and were transported to official entry points to make an application for refugee status.

There are two things to note about this process.

First, immigration lawyers say this is not an illegal entry, nor is it a violation of the immigration laws if asylum seekers check in at an official entry point.

Second, asylum seekers are not “jumping the queue” because the immigration stream which includes refugees coming from abroad is a separate stream from the asylum stream.  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada processes immigration claims, the Immigration and Refugee Board decides asylum claims.

IRCC is clear that asylum seekers who cross into Canada at unofficial points are not jumping the queue and taking the places of refugees because they are in a different stream.

Either Mr Bernier, Ms Rempel and Mr Scheer are unaware of this distinction or they simply don’t care that what they’re saying is not true.

Too much diversity?

It’s unclear what Mr Bernier means by “too much diversity” but surely he’s not referring to the refugees who make up less than one percent (0.13%) of Canada’s population.

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Maxime Bernier former CPC MP

Perhaps his fear that “too much diversity” will shred Canadian values is based on an increase in diversity from all sources.

In addition to refugees and asylum seekers, immigrants come to Canada as:

  • Applicants for permanent resident status after obtaining a work or study permit
  • Applicants under the Economic Immigration Program who have the required language skills, education, work experience, and financial means
  • Family sponsorship applicants (spouses, children, parents or grandparents of Canadians or permanent residents)
  • Applicants to a provincial Express Entry program which grants them 600 Comprehensive Ranking System points and virtually guarantees they’ll be granted permanent resident status

Mr Bernier has not said which class of immigrant creates “too much diversity”, all he said was “too much diversity” is bad because “Something infinitely diverse has no core identity and ceases to exist.”

He made it sound like an immutable law of physics but failed to support it with data.

The little tribes  

Mr Bernier warned that too much diversity will divide Canada into “little tribes” who “want to live apart in their ghetto” and refuse to integrate into Canadian society.  Presumably these “little tribes” would hive themselves off based on their ethnicity.

Let’s look at the data.

Visible minorities made up 22.3% of the total population in 2016.  That’s a 1.7% increase over the 20.6% reported by Stats Canada in 2011 when Stephen Harper was prime minister.  One wonders what it is about the 1.7% uptick that unhinged Mr Bernier.

Twenty-five percent of all visible minorities are South Asian, followed by Chinese (21%), Black (16%), Filipino (10%), and Latin American (6%).  They are better educated than the general population—68.9% have a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree, compared to 64.1% in the general population—and are expected to make up one-third of the population by 2036.  (Is that it? Is 33% too much? If so, why?)

Perhaps Mr Bernier’s fear isn’t how many Canadians are visible minorities but how many Canadians have a different (non-Canadian?) religious affiliation.

Christians represent 67.3% of the population and 23.9% of Canadians are non-religious.  Muslims represent 3.2% of the population, Hindus 1.5%, Sikhs 1.4%, Buddhists 1.1% and Jews 1.0%.

If Mr Bernier seriously believes that 91.2% of Canada’s Christian and non-religious population won’t be able to hold on to their identity when exposed to the 8.2% of non-Christian Canadians living next door, Canada’s identity is feeble indeed.

Road trip!  

The Conservative Party has been around for 14 years.  Andrew Scheer has been an MP since 2004.  Maxime Bernier has been an MP since 2006.  Michelle Rempel became an MP in 2011 and she’s already “bone weary” of people who don’t use facts to support their positions (aren’t we all).  They served under Stephen Harper for years and only now discovered they have no inkling of how Canadians feel about diversity.

Ms Rempel’s says her “Pathway to Canada” tour will rectify that.

Perhaps.

If the tour gives Canadians a chance to participate in a fact-based discussion, then it should reflect the findings of Ekos polls where Canadians reported a declining attachment to their ethnic groups while their “personal sense of belonging” to Canada remains strong.

If, on the other hand, the tour is a propaganda device to sow confusion and fear while slagging Liberal immigration policies in order to win the 2019 election, it will be a shameful betrayal of all Canadians.

We will know soon enough.

Sources : https://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/fact-check-diversity-doesnt-make-canadians-feel-less-canadian/

https://www.cba.org/Publications-Resources/Practice-Tools/Asylum-Seekers

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-asylum-seekers-in-canada-has-become-a-divisive-and-confusing-issue-a/

https://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/visible-minorities-canada

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

Fifteen Bucks an Hour

The government is gradually increasing Alberta’s minimum wage from $10.20 in Oct 2015 and to a cap of $15/hour in Oct 2018.  Fifteen bucks an hour.  This increase is not going to land anyone in the lap of luxury–$15/hour is $3.14/hour below the living wage for Calgary which currently sits at $18.15—and yet some Albertans are fighting the increase.

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Why?

It’s unnecessary and bad for the economy  

Critics oppose the increase because:

  • It’s wasted on the kids: Not so.  Only 30% of the Albertans working for less than $15/hour are teenagers, almost 50% of the people earning less than the new minimum wage are married adults, 40% of them have kids of their own.
  • Workers can make up the difference in tips: This assumes two things: (1) it’s okay to eke out a living dependent on the kindness of strangers and the tipping protocols of restaurant owners and (2) the majority of minimum wage jobs are in the food industry.  In fact, only 20% of the minimum wage jobs are in food services.  The remaining 80% are in sales (wholesale and retail), care providers, educational, legal, and public protection support, education and paraprofessional occupations, natural resources, agriculture, and transportation and heavy equipment operation and maintenance.  When was the last time you tipped the lawn guy?
  • The increase will damage the economy: This complaint is usually accompanied by an n=1 story of a restaurant owner who’s cut staff in anticipation of a yet-to-be-implemented increase.  It ignores the fact that only 6.4% of Alberta’s work force earn less than $15/hour and creates the impression that paying these employees an additional $1.40/hour will materially impact Alberta’s economy which is simply not true.
  • Boosting the minimum wage means all wages will increase: This is correct to some degree, but guess what, earning a living wage is not a bad thing.  In fact, it will prevent what Robert Kuttner describes as a “collective loss of purchasing power [that keeps] the entire system in a downward economy spiral and a slow-growth trap.”

The “cost of doing business” mindset   

Conservatives often argue that the cure for all that ails us is the dignity of hard work.  It’s time for them to recognize that the dignity of hard work is crushed by the drudgery of working for poverty wages.

A person is not a widget.  His labour on behalf of his employer is more than a mere input into the cost of doing business, it’s his “livelihood”.  The price of a human being’s livelihood cannot be determined by market forces alone.

A business owner who insists Albertans should be happy working for less than $15/hour has no respect for human dignity.

And a business that is competitive only because it is permitted to grind out products and services on poverty wages will not be economically viable for long.

Sourceshttps://work.alberta.ca/documents/alberta-minimum-wage-profile.pdf

Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? By Robert Kuttner

Posted in Economy, Employment, Politics and Government | Tagged , , | 25 Comments

Banning Alex Jones & InfoWars: Social Media Grows Up

This just in from the better-late-than-never department.

Last week Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify “deplatformed” Alex Jones’ InfoWars from their platforms and pages.  It took them years to acknowledge that InfoWars violated their terms of service and it was time to say goodbye to the angry Mr Jones.

The only holdout is Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, who says Twitter will not remove InfoWars because Alex Jones did not violate Twitter’s terms of service, specifically Twitter’s safety rules which require someone to “cross the line” into threatening violence before they are banned.

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Alex Jones

Dorsey and his supporters raised a number of arguments to support this position, none of which are persuasive.  Here’s the rundown:

Banning Alex Jones is a violation of free speech:  Wrong.  It’s the government, not corporations, that are prohibited from infringing one’s right of free speech, and even then, free speech is not unlimited.  It can be restricted by laws against hate speech, defamation, etc.

It’s wrong to allow giant internet companies to act collectively and become the de facto arbiter of speech:  This allegation is based on unsubstantiated assumptions.  There is no evidence these companies acted in concert.  There is no evidence these companies will become the de facto arbiter of speech.  But most importantly, there is no law preventing them from enforcing their own Terms of Service.  Mr Jones raised a similar argument, calling upon Donald Trump to deal with this act of “corporate totalitarianism”.  It sounds silly coming from Mr Jones and it sounds even sillier coming from those who support Twitter’s position.

Mr Jones did/did not violate the Terms of Service:  Rather than review every company’s Terms of Service (they’re similar), let’s focus on Facebook.  It’s Terms of Service say FB will not condone conduct that violates community standards including hate speech and bullying.  FB says it will remove content that “encourages real-world harm, including (but not limited to) physical, financial and emotional injury”.  The user agrees not to engage in such conduct or to facilitate or support others in doing so.

Twitter’s Terms of Service prohibit “behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice…[or] specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people”.  Abuse is defined as “the targeted harassment of someone” or inciting others to do so.

We could spend all day dissecting Mr Jones’ assertions that the moon landing was faked, Democrats ran a sex slave operation out of a pizza parlor, the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax and the students at Parkland are crisis actors, but in the interests of time, let’s focus on the story of Brennan Gilmore’s experience at Charlottesville.

Mr Gilmore attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville as part of his “civic duty to bear witness”.  He witnessed the car attack by a white supremacist on a crowd of anti-racist protesters and uploaded the video to the internet when people said the attack was an accident not intentional.

Within 24 hours the internet was awash with conspiracy theories.  Mr Jones amplified these theories by posting a “bombshell” investigation to his 2.4 million InfoWars YouTube subscribers that alleged Mr Gilmore was an operative in a George Soros plot to overthrow the president on behalf of the “dark state”.  Mr Gilmore and his family have been receiving death threats ever since.   

Under FB’s Terms of Service Mr Jones’ actions were a violation of the prohibition against hate speech, bullying, and facilitating or supporting others in such conduct.  Under Twitter’s Terms of Service Mr Jones’ actions could be considered “abuse”, namely the targeted harassment of someone or inciting others to do so.

Somewhere along the way since Charlottesville, Facebook decided Mr Gilmore “crossed the line”.  Twitter has yet to get there.

It’s hard to enforce the Terms of Service:  Critics complain that “community standards” are fluid and “hate speech” is a difficult concept therefore it’s difficult to police these sites and enforce these policies.  While that may be true in some cases, it’s not true in the InfoWars case.  Mr Jones is crystal clear about who the “enemy” is and what “patriots” should do about him/her.

Not my job:  When called upon to justify his position, Twitter’s Mr Dorsey said “Accounts like Jones’ can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors, so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions.  This is what serves the public conversation best.”

There are two problems with Mr Dorsey’s suggestion: (1) it’s the job of Twitter, not journalists, to enforce Twitter’s Terms of Service, and (2) journalists have enough to do to track down and document the truth without being asked to convince a conspiracy theorist to change his mind after it has been polluted by InfoWars. 

Mr Gilmore is a case in point.  He’s told journalists he is not a CIA operative for George Soros.  The conspiracy theorists say, “Well, of course he’s going to deny it.  He’s a CIA operative!”

At the end of the day

Eventually Mr Dorsey gave way on one point.  He agrees it’s not the journalists’ responsibility to clean up his mess.  Instead he adopted the suggestion made by Mike Masnick in TechDirt that social media companies should adopt a set of protocols that pass content control down to the end users.  Those who don’t want to be exposed to InfoWars can set up filters to screen themselves from the experience.

Leaving aside the obvious point that this solution renders Twitter’s Terms of Service meaningless, this suggestion makes no sense.  What’s the point of hiding InfoWars from people like Mr Gilmore when the company doesn’t hide InfoWars from the people who want to kill Mr Gilmore because they believe he’s a treasonous Soros operative?

Mr Dorsey says, “We’re committing Twitter to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress.”

It’s time for Mr Dorsey to stop making excuses and put his money where his mouth is.

Sources:

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180808/17090940397/platforms-speech-truth-policy-policing-impossible-choices.shtml

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/21/fake-news-charlottesville-215514

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-august-8-2018-1.4777255/aug-8-2018-episode-transcript-1.4778330

Posted in Crime and Justice, Culture, Social Media | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments