Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ezra's Wrong: Low Voter Turnout Isn't a Good Thing



Ezra Levant should have stopped immediately after his critique of Elections Canada's get-out-the-vote ads.

He had Elections Canada on the ropes: their GOTV ads were in fact, excessively political. Encouraging youths to vote is one thing. To lead them to vote in any particular direction or another was not just plumbing the line, it was outright crossing it. In retrospect of this information, the limits the Fair Elections Act would place on Elections Canada's freedoms to publicize voting -- restricting it to information on when and where to vote -- becomes much more reasonable.

Then Levant went entirely off the tracks: low voting numbers are a good thing. What?

Well, Levant's argument isn't 100% unreasonable. One of the ideas he uses to justify the argument is that lower voter turnout reflects lower numbers of low- or no-information voters participating in the electoral process. That, he suggests, is a good thing. And about that he isn't wrong.

He's not right, either. The best solution to the problem posted by low-information voters is to inform them. Not all of them will accept this; many of them will wilfully reject it.

Where he is absolutely wrong is the idea that declining voting numbers reflect voter satisfaction. The right to vote, Levant insisted, is not an obligation to vote, especially if they're satisfied with their political representation.

Yet nothing is more dangerous to democracy than complacency. Complacency is ultimately how democracies are lost. Complacency is the weakness that crooks and despots exploit in order to subvert or replace democracy. (On the other hand, the dangers of complacency are also present in the matter of voter ID -- are we really so complacent that we're content to let someone who may well be a non-citizen or non-resident vote on someone else's mere say-so?)

Low voter turnout isn't a good thing; it's a bad thing. It's a signal of a wavering of the relevance of democracy: the only political system under which freedom and justice have flourished; perhaps the only political system under which they can.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Attawapiskat Under Cone of Silence

As Canada celebrates -- with good reason -- the defeat of the LWNJ government in Quebec (not only did the Parti Quebecois lose, but leader and chief loony Pauline Marois lost her seat) there may be a sign of hope in one of Canada's other troubled regions.

Former Attawapiskat co-manager -- and current boyfriend of hunger strike-faking Chief Theresa Spence -- Clayton Kennedy has been charged with theft and fraud. And the charges date back well into Spence's tenure as Attawapiskat's Chief.

Big questions loom for Spence: how much did she know? When did she know it? If she didn't know -- and that seems like a pretty big "if" -- why didn't she know? And will she again go full-out despot and place her reserve under lock-down and threaten reporters with arrest if they dare attempt to report on what's going on there?

That's what she did a year ago after the leak of a damning Deloitte audit into the band's finances.

Of course there is another possibility: that the residents of Attawapiskat will finally toss their would-be Dear Leader out of office and onto her ear. That might depend on how well she can avoid being implicated.

As it stands, Attawapiskat is currently under a cone of silence, if not under full lockdown. How long that can hold, only band members can possibly know.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Stephen Harper Must Tell Madame Marois "Non"

A little history lesson:

The year was 1995. The place was Quebec. There was a referendum going on that would decide whether or not Quebec would seek to separate from the rest of Canada.

Jean Chretien was the Prime Minister of Canada. Lucien Bouchard was the Premier of Quebec. Chretien was reluctant to get involved in the referendum. And Bouchard took full advantage of that.

Mr Bouchard promised Quebeckers the moon: after separating from Canada Quebec would not accept its share of the national debt. Quebec would continue to use Canadian currency. Quebec would continue to benefit from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) without negotiating their way into it.

None of these things were possible. But Chretien made no forceful attempt to dispel Bouchard's delusions (some would say lies). And Quebec very nearly voted in favour of separating from Canada.

That was 1995, nearly 20 years ago. Now the year is 2014, and Quebec's is having an election. Quebec's current Premier, Pauline Marois, is making very similar promises to what Bouchard promised. Marois has insisted that a sovereign Quebec would continue to use Canadian currency, and would have a seat on the board of the Bank of Canada. She also suggests that Quebec would effectively have no borders with the rest of Canada.

It seems reasonable to suspect that Marois will also insist that not only would a sovereign Quebec not accept its share of the national debt, but won't give up the transfer payments that effectively fund its lavish lifestyle.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper must not repeat the mistakes of Jean Chretien. To all of this he must say "non."

Marois' suggestions are in now way acceptable or even possible. Given how her government chooses to manage the Quebec economy -- discouraging, if not outright refusing, economic development -- the rest of the world has a right to  its input on the desirability of doing business in Quebec. That pretty much requires a Quebec currency to fall like a stone against the Canadian dollar on international markets. With the Parti Quebecois in power, fall like a stone such a currency would. Guaranteed.

The idea of a sovereign Quebec without borders also flies in the face of the very concept of sovereignty. Having borders is a precursor of any semblance of sovereignty. Any 100-level political science student in Quebec presumably understands this, even if Madame Marois does not.

I understand that Prime Minister Harper is reluctant to get involved in the Quebec election. There is some good reason for this. But this is not an acceptable reason to remain silent and allow Marois to deceive the citizens of Quebec about what independence would mean for La Belle Province.

Ju me souviens, Mr Harper. Remember what happened in 1995. Do not repeat the mistakes of that year in 2014.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Press Progress Just Can't Play By Their Own Rules

The folks at Press Progress sure do like to play by their own rules. And like any good left-wing organization, they themselves don't play by the rules they demand other people play by.

Press Progress has been among the more obnoxious participants in the campaign to attempt to run Rex Murphy off the CBC. They insist that his failure to disclose what may or may not be paid speeches to various oilsands-friendly groups before speaking about the oilsands on CBC's The National is unethical.

So you would think that Press Progress would play by its own rules and disclose who funds their operation, or any organizational links they may have, on any stories where it could be of ethical concern, right? Right?

Well, if you read their recent sad attempt at a "gotcha" article about Jason Kenney attending Conservative Party fundraisers while also traveling on government business, you may or may not notice something missing: Press Progress' disclosure that they, as a project of the Broadbent Institute, are essentially an NDP proxy.

They do pretend to be non-partisan. The Broadbent Institute pretends to be non-partisan. And in fact they're so non-partisan that the NDP broke the law in order to fund them. Which is really not very non-partisan at all.

This probably explains precisely why the story simply fails to mention the number of NDP MPs who also attend party fundraisers while traveling for public business, on the public dime. Liberals do it too. It's quite common.

Of course, Press Progress can hardly taddle on NDP MPs while maintaining direct links to the NDP. Ethics or not, that just cannot work for them. Interesting how quickly Press Progress dispenses with its own purported ethical standards.

And besides: playing by the same rules they presume to make for others? Where's the fun in that?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The High-Tax Trojan Horse

Tomorrow, the Liberal Party will kickoff its biennial convention. Party leader Justin Trudeau insists that the party convention will flush out his party's first substantial policy proposals leading into the 2015 federal election. So far, he's only offered up one: the legalization of pot.

This was, and always has been, a blatant appeal to potheads -- the kind of sad individual who populates the typical 4/20 festival -- for votes. As I've noted before, any marijuana user who votes for the Liberals on the back of a legalized pot promise is setting themselves up for a serious disappointment. Perhaps even a disappointingly-life-changing disappointment.

But recent news out of Colorado -- one of the states to legalize marijuana -- shows just how bad it can be. Users in Colorado were already beginning to get a sense of just how badly this was going to go for them:
But as it turns out, it's even worse than they ever imagined. The tax take in Colorado has exceeded lawmakers' wildest expectations. By a whopping 21%.

To some people, this would seem like a good thing. For example, if you favour big government, and love to see the government raking in lucrative tax revenue in order to pay for it, you might love this. Perhaps not so much if you're a pot user paying for it all. And if you're a pot user in Canada thinking that you won't pay through the nose under Trudeau's promised marijuana legalization, you just haven't been paying attention. At least not to this issue. Maybe there's been a magic eye poster monopolizing your attention.

OK, I'm done being facetious. But here's the point: a Liberal government legalizing marijuana won't hesitate to tax the living bejeezus out of you. It's just what they do. And they'll find all sorts of pet projects to fund with it that won't benefit you in any way, shape, or form. Although I'd bet that the $10 in tax on the above pot buy, left in your pocket, probably would. Especially cumulatively across numerous buys.

That doesn't necessarily mean the status quo, either. Decriminalization offers pretty much all the freedom of legalization, without the government's hand digging to the bottom of your pocket.

Think about it carefully, before you wake up to find a Trojan horse in your living room.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Andrew Leslie Has Some 'Splainin' To Do...

Liberals continue to be hopping mad over a CTV report that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's prized military advisor, Lieutenant General (ret) Andrew Leslie, claimed $70,000 for a move across Ottawa. They -- and General Leslie -- insist that he's being smeared by the Conservative Party, and that he's done nothing wrong.

Yet a perusal of the Department of National Defense's policy manual for the Integrated Relocation Directive suggests that this may not actually be the case; that General Leslie's expense claim may not actually have been eligible.

Simply put, the "one last moved" allowed under the IRD is not necessarily to move absolutely anywhere:
Section 14.02.03 eventually refers the reader to section 14.08.02:
Leslie's IPP -- Intended Place of Residency -- was not in excess of 40 km away from the residence from which he moved. It was closer to four km away.

Oddly, John Geddes doesn't mention any of this in his Maclean's blogpost on the topic today.

Having spent years as a command officer in the Canadian Forces, it's not unreasonable to expect General Leslie to have a firm understanding of these policies. That he bothered to make a claim for these expenses at all is fairly questionable to say the least. That the Treasury Board approved this claim after presumably having examined it is far more than questionable.

Plenty of people have some 'splainin' to do, and Lt Gen (ret) Andrew Leslie is chief among them.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Lights Out for Michael Harris

I've noted on this blog numerous times the spectacularly-poor quality of Michael Harris' work offered via iPolitics. Errors of fundamental fact have so routinely slipped past Harris -- presuming that you invest any faith whatsoever in his care for facts -- that one begins to suspect that iPolitics editors, as they were, may have pressured Harris to simply leave the facts out of it.

After all, he's not good with them.

So in his most recent offering on iPolitics, Harris dispenses with them altogether, and instead simply throws wild speculation into the wind to see where it winds up. His current bone to pick with the Harper government has to do with the Fair Elections Act.

Certainly, the FAA isn't without its share of flaws. For example, it's prohibition against Elections Canada promoting the act of voting is, quite frankly, simply bizarre.

But the decision to determine whether or not the Elections Act has been violated -- and thus crimes committed -- from the Chief Electoral Officer to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is not one of them. Yet this is precisely where Harris chooses to assail Bill C-23, and in fairly bizarre fashion, too:

"There were some good things in Bill C-23 — the elimination of the easily corruptible practise of vouching, tighter rules for robocalls, and harsher fines for preventing someone from voting. But with this prime minister, there is always a catch. In this legislation, it is the way Harper has disbanded EC’s investigative arm.

Once that power is passed over to the Public Prosecutor, all roads lead to the PMO — just the way Harper likes it. Elections Canada reported to Parliament; the DPP reports directly to the government in power. One venue is public, the other private. In that one move, we have probably seen the last investigation into a government member’s election expenses — unless they finance their campaigns by directly removing gold bars from the Mint.

From now on, Parliament will simply never know — because Harper holds all information close. Who knows? Even Dean del Mastro might rise Lazarus-like from the muck of Peterborough politicking if they figure out a way to make all this stuff retroactive."

Incredible. What Harris has chosen to do -- with or without a preponderance of thought -- is to dispute the very basis of criminal justice in Canada. He's practically inferred that practically all criminal prosecutions in Canada are personally directed by the Prime Minister of Canada. In short, that the Prime Minister -- or at the very least the Minister of Justice -- personally decides which crimes in Canada are prosecuted, and which are not; that in Canada crimes go unprosecuted by the personal order of such.

That's literally the one and only way Harris' razor-thin argument works. Frankly, it's one hell of a bold statement, one that requires some very serious factual corroboration if it's to be taken seriously. Yet Harris doesn't even attempt to support the argument he infers.

Perhaps with good reason. If it could be demonstrated that the Prime Minister or the Minister of Justice had given such directions to the DPP, it would amount to nothing less than a Minister of the Crown committing a very serious crime. It's called obstruction of justice.

Make no mistake, this is precisely what Harris has done here: set out to raze the entire institution of criminal justice in Canada to the ground just to damage a government that he doesn't particularly care for.

Don't hold your breath waiting for Harris to back up his inferences. After all, the last time Michael Harris chirped about Peter MacKay, it ended badly for him. Very badly. As in, his home publication printing a humiliating letter badly.