Monday, June 15, 2015

Beware The Dangers Of Over-Socialism

There seems to be a movement, especially here in Canada, to turn away from conservative political movements. In Ontario it didn't matter how awful the Dalton McGuinty Liberals were that party was re-elected with a new leader. In Alberta the NDP has won power and the Progressive Conservatives now sit in the wilderness. In fact, there isn't a real conservative government in a Province in Canada. Federally the Harper Conservatives can't seem to get ahead of the left-wing competition. What's telling is that Stephen Harper should be kicking the crap out of the Justin Trudeaus and Tom Mulcairs of the world, but he's not. In the US they are gearing up for election season with Hillary Clinton the front-runner. The Republicans are struggling to put forth a candidate that might beat her. So after 7 years of Barak Obama's directionless leadership the Democrats look poised to retain the White House.

So while we lurch to the left and leave conservatives to re-invent themselves as something that isn't anti-gay, patriarchal, or parental, let's remind ourselves of the dangers of embracing the left too much, shall we? Yes, we shall.

There was, for a little while, a political mode in North America that prescribed that deficits were bad, raising taxes was verboten, and free trade was advantageous. That fashion seems to have passed. That's really too bad. Just take a look at what's happening in Europe and you can get an idea of how bad overspending and borrowing can get. Those of us trying to save for retirement are seeing our savings stagnate thanks to what this European crisis is doing to the market. Overspending and debt has had a disastrous effect on the global economy. While the Europeans strutted with their noses in the air claiming that they cared so much about the working class and the poor, they were, in fact, helping to destroy the global middle class.

The current crisis involving the Greeks is a despicable mess. Greece's debt is now over $378 Billion USD, which is approaching 200% of their GDP. In Canada, where debt to GDP sits just short of 40%, we panicked in the early 1990's when it was approaching 80%. The Chretien/Martin Liberals managed to sort that out by cutting spending. In Europe, citizens riot when governments talk about austerity measures. They want their cake and to eat it too. Here in Canada we should learn the lessons and not be like that (are you listening Quebec students???).

What huge amounts of government debt can do is put extreme pressure on central banking agencies to keep interest rates low. In the USA, where debt to GDP is now well over 100%, they pay 7% of their budget ($224 Billion) in interest payments. In Canada we will pay over $25 Billion in debt charges this fiscal year. To their credit, the Harper government has stopped the bleeding and presented a balanced budget. To do so that had to cut spending. But the austerity measures in the early 1990s combined with the low tax policies of both Chretien and Harper have put Canada in an enviable position. No other G7 country has a balanced budget. Within Canada, Ontario is a sore point. Ontario's debt is approaching $300 billion! That's almost $12 Billion in interest payments per year. Even a 1% increase in interest rates would have major budgetary implications for governments. In Europe an interest rate hike could cause insolvency for some governments.

So before you go praising the left's "big heart" take a look at the ramifications of policies that have high taxes and high spending as their central principles. Low interest rates have inflated housing costs, pushing many young people either out of the housing market or into unsustainable levels of debt. Those low rates have made saving for retirement much more difficult. High debt rates have caused huge amounts of government spending that might otherwise go towards education or health instead being spent on debt servicing costs. Then, to try to pay for unsustainable levels of spending governments borrow even more (and then the banks get vilified) or they raise taxes on "the rich". You know what? I never got a job from a poor guy. Rich people aren't evil. They invest and that creates jobs. Corporations also create jobs. And the idea that corporations don't leave anything behind is nonsense. 60% of Canadians work for what can be classified as a corporation. That's a lot of wages left behind. That's a lot of infrastructure. That's jobs. And a majority of Canadians have investments. It's not just the "rich".

Let's think twice about what kind of country and world we want. There are some things that people can bloody well do for themselves. Countries like Greece, France, The USA ad others will have to learn that they can't have it all on the credit card forever. The sooner this correction happens, the better. There is no possibility of this happening under a left-wing regime. When it comes to socialism, moderation is a wise policy.

But that's just the way I see it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The First Three Weeks Of NDP Aren't Encouraging

It's been three weeks since the Alberta election. Oh...sorry...the historic Alberta election. **rolls eyes** Sorry...I've heard enough of that.

What I've seen in the last three weeks isn't encouraging. I know that politicians like to sell hope, but what people ultimately want is professional government. The first three weeks look like amateur hour to me.

To be fair, the Alberta NDP haven't ever formed government. They have no knowledge base except that available to them from the legislature apparatus. But what I want and expect from an elected political leader is intelligence. I'm seeing things that make me second guess my initial rosy assessment of Rachel Notley.

1. Vet Your Candidates

Sure, Ms. Notley didn't expect to win when she set out on the campaign trail. That doesn't excuse her or her party from vetting candidates properly. How the left in this province howled over the improper vetting done by the Wildrose in 2012. What's good for the goose.....

2. A Small Cabinet makes No Sense

Perhaps Ms. Notley doesn't see a depth of talent on her team (see point #1). Perhaps she really does believe that she can save the taxpayer some money by having fewer ministers. But those of us who follow politics closely know how badly rookie ministers can struggle to find their legs. Ms. Notley is now giving untested, inexperienced MLAs not one, but two or three portfolios to wrestle with. This is a recipe for a disastrous first year. I also have to wonder what the thinking is behind deliberately putting people in portfolios that don't match their experience. David Eggen knows healthcare, yet gets Education. Sarah Hoffman knows Education but gets Health. Lori Sigurdson has no elected experience and gets two of the biggest ministries in government at once in Advanced Education and Labour. Maybe she should ask Stephen Khan how that turned out for him. None of this makes sense.

3. No Budget Until The Fall

The Prentice budget was never passed. The fiscal year began April 1. So we'll have to wait until half way through the fiscal year before we know what's what fiscally. In the mean time school boards and post secondaries have no idea what to do for September. Nobody has a clue what they can count on for a budget. I can get not throwing something together in three weeks. But it seems that Ms. Notley has a pretty good idea what she wants to do. Why wait 4 months? It's not responsible.

People can stand out in the sun cheering like these politicians are rockstars if they want. And it is great to see young people engaged and hopeful. But life has a way of being real. Ms. Notley will, as a matter of course, disappoint many of those young hipsters. She's not going to give them everything they want. And in time she will will be the one vilified and accused of being in bed with oil companies and corporations. Fair or not, it will happen. This is politics. Bank on it. After all, why would voters or partisan politicos be fair? That would mean accepting reality and paying attention to the details. Complaining is much more fun.

But that's just the way I see it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why Conservatives Are Losing In Canada

Progressive Conservative. Wildrose. Conservative. Call it what you want, conservatives in Canada are losing ground. I even read a poll today that put the federal NDP ahead of both the Conservative Party and the Liberals. What is causing such a problem in conservative parties in Canada? There are several smaller symptoms that point to a much larger one, and it's all very simple, really.

1. They don't listen.

Conservative parties have gained a well deserved reputation for not listening to the public. The federal Conservative Party has gained it's own reputation for not even listening to Parliament. In fact, their distain for our democratic house is the one thing that has been loud and clear from them. They have miscalculated that Canadians won't notice. In fact, even conservative voters are made very uncomfortable by the disregard for Parliament and public opinion.

In Alberta, the Progressive Conservative government under Jim Prentice even did an extensive survey of Albertans, and then ignored the results. Voters, finally having had enough of such behaviour voted against them. **Note to Rachel Notley: they voted against Jim, not FOR you.**

Voter after voter complained to the Alberta government regarding their handling of Gay-Straight Alliances. Instead of being magnanimous and supporting Laurie Blakeman's bill, they killed it and presented the "we'll allow Catholics to discriminate against gays and lesbians" bill. Big mistake.

In Ottawa, Stephen Harper doesn't seem to be learning from what happened in Alberta. Counting on Tom Mulcair or Justin Trudeau to self-destruct isn't a good campaign strategy. It's arrogant. Start listening or pay the price!

2. They're not transparent.

What's the power bill going to be like for the Alberta Legislature? All those shredders working overtime. Government documents being destroyed makes it look like there's something to hide. 44 Years of rule must have caused there to be some skeletons. And they wonder why they lost the election.

In Ottawa the Harper government's reputation for muzzling dissent and opposition makes Canadians queazy. Silencing scientists because you back the oil industry isn't what's best for Canada. Behaviour that isn't consistent with a freedom-loving country will make voters panic. They value their freedom. When governments act this shady Canadians worry that they're next.

3. They're out of step with voters.

If you were at a train station and you were waiting for the trains to gay marriage, abortion, public health insurance and public education I would have to tell you that those trains had already left the station.

There are always people fighting for the future and people fighting for the past. Inevitably those fighting for the past lose. If your party, its candidates or volunteers are fixated on things like "family values" or "climate change skepticism" then you're going to lose the left and the centre. 98% of all scientists in the world agree that climate change is real and influenced by human behaviour. That train has left the station. A majority of voters also believe that either gays and lesbians are born that way or at the very least that it doesn't matter a hill of beans one way or the other. That train has left the station.

Sticking to the past makes you look bigoted or stupid. Quite often its true.

The BIG Symptom

The bigger symptom that seems to be causing all of this is quite simple. When you peel away the onion's outer layer and get to the layer that smells and makes you cry you find problem. It's the motivation. The politicians, the advisors, the sycophants, the win-at-all-costs power brokers. In conservative parties in Canada they have shown themselves to be one thing consistently:


Mean spirited, arrogant, uncaring and devoid of purpose other than to win and crush enemies with vitriol.

It's one thing to get bad advice from someone who means well. It's quite another to get advice from someone who doesn't have the bests interests of your country or province or city at heart. It causes politicians to stop listening. It causes politicians to become secretive. It causes politicians to lose touch with the public they represent and swear to serve.

This is where conservatives in Canada find themselves. If they want to get back on track they need to get back to basics. If you believe in smaller government, then explain why and give evidence to support your case. Don't do what the Alberta PCs did and say that Alberta's post-secondary system is "unsustainable" after cutting grants in real terms by 10% over 5 years. Don't claim you care about smaller government and do what the federal Tories have done and spend with vigour and attack the Parliamentary Budget Officer for sounding the alarm on false claims.

In Alberta people voted in the NDP. In Canada the Conservatives have put themselves in the position to lose later this year. Is this a good thing for Canada beyond the replacement of people we don't like? What abut the policies? Do we want apprenticeship training to be politicized and done by unions or by post-secondaries? Do we want to be fiscally responsible or do we want to throw cash at problems and not find real solutions and efficiencies?

Canadian voters are centrist. In Alberta. In Ontario. In BC. Everywhere. When when the left looks risky and the right looks evil, they'll go with risky. Conservatives have work within the parameters of public health insurance, public education, the reality of climate change and the fact that sexual orientations are not evil. If they cannot do that then Canada will cease to benefit from the things that they bring to the table that DO make sense.

Voters are increasingly willing to take chances on risky policies simply because conservatives have worn out their welcome with their own behaviour.

But that's just the way I see it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

6 Things You Should Know About Your Facebook Posts

Most people I know are on Facebook. But not everyone I know is on my Facebook friends list. Some people I don't have on Facebook because I don't think it's smart for me to have them. Others I don't have because I only know them in a professional way, so I keep them on LinkedIn instead. Finally, there are some whom I am not friends with on Facebook because I unfriended them either because I didn't converse with them ever, or because they simply annoyed the shit out of me. This leads me to the 6 things you should know about your Facebook posts.

1. Not all of your friends will see your post.
You may not realize this, but some of your friends have your posts blocked from their news feed. You simply don't show up. It's their way of unfriending you without risking you noticing and getting offended. What? you thought that friend with 780 other friends is paying attention?

2. Nobody gives a shit about your workout.
Posting about how awesome your workout was will lead to people doing what they do in #1, above. In the end, nobody is impressed with how long your run was, how many reps you did with how many pounds or how sore you are now.

3. When you send game requests your friends hate you.
Sending out requests to play Candy Crush Sage, Farmville or any other game on Facebook is as good as saying "please unfriend me…please!" It is annoying. You are annoying.

4. When people say "Aw! That's so cute" they don't mean it.
Your friends really don't want to see pictures of your kid puking on the floor, torturing your cat, or slopping food all over a high chair. But in order to stay in your good graces they post that it's cute and then hide it from their news feed forever. It's true.

5. People roll their eyes when you post sentimental bullshit.
Posting pictures of clouds with some pseudo-intellectual semi-inspirational saying on it makes people throw up in their mouths just a little bit. Posting things like "A friend is…." makes people ditch you on Facebook.

6. You look stupid when you post superstitious nonsense.
"Re-post this 20 times and good luck with come to you" is so obviously ridiculous that your friends think, "Jeebus, he/she must be desperate/stupid to resort to doing that". Yes, they really think that about you.

You can call me negative if you want, but somebody had to say it.

But that's just the way I see it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bill 10 Has Made People Examine Faith's Justification of Bigotry

Christopher Hitchens once said that of all the so-called virtues the most over-rated is faith. I couldn't agree more. Faith is always painted as synonymous with goodness. It is praised. It brings tears to people's eyes. When someone dies people will proclaim that that person is with God now regardless of whether that person was faithful to any religion. Faith is also used to make bigotry seem acceptable. The ruckus over Bill 10 has made many in Alberta question this "safe zone" for homophobia. It's about time.

Catholic school boards want to be able to ban Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in catholic schools, as it doesn't fit with their faith. This has given the average taxpayer the perfect opportunity to question whether public funds ought to go to a school system that uses faith to discriminate against a segment of the population.

Make no mistake, people are born homosexual. Period.

Since people are born homosexual no religion should get away with discrimination against those people. It's morally wrong. It's unethical. It's flat out disgusting. Yet the idea that it's okay as long as it's justified by faith still seems to sit well with some people. That kind of thinking needs to be fought tooth and nail.

The Government of Alberta spends $6 billion supporting school boards, in addition to the education portion of property taxes. People can choose which system their property taxes go to, but not the provincial funding. So what we have is a school system that takes public funding yet discriminates against homosexuals. This is wrong on every level. It shouldn't be happening. If you take public money you need to adhere to public standards.

If people want to have Catholic schools or other religious schools they should be allowed to have them. But if they are taking public money then they should not be allowed to discriminate against homosexuals.

But that's just the way I see it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The 5 Lobbying Commandments

In the beginning, there was anarchy. And then humans said "let there be government". They then said "let there be revenue and expenditures" and politics was born. And from politics' rib lobbying was created. And it was good.

Then the powerful humans saw that among the multiplying masses there were some who were inadequate at lobbying. So they sent their 5 commandments, which read:

1. Thou shall not substitute regular personal meetings, phone calls, letters and social functions for shouting cheap slogans at rallies.

2. Thou shall hire a lobbyist if you want to do lobbying. Like surgery, thou shall not do-it-yourself.

3. Thou shall praise as well as complain. If thou only complaineth ye shall sow the seeds of drought.

4. Thou shall act like a grown-up. The holders of power need not pay you any heed if thou ignoreth. A photo with a politician does not maketh you important.

5. Thou shall understand budgeting restrictions. If thou shall reacheth understanding, thou shall find fairness.

And it was good.

But that's just the way I see it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Racist Sports Team Names or Political Correctness Run Amok?

Yesterday the US Patent Office cancelled the trademark of the Washington Redskins. The battle over the Redskins name is not a new one and is sure to stir the pot regarding what is appropriate to name a team. Well, for those of you who are bored, here are my thoughts on the matter….

The idea, in my mind, that naming a team after a group of people is inappropriate is not well thought out. Many sports teams are named after groups or kinds of people. That doesn't make the name disparaging. I don't think that the Vancouver Canucks name is disparaging of Canadians. Neither is the Montreal Canadiens (les habitants).

What about teams named after races or ethnicities? Again, it matters if the name is disparaging. The Cleveland Indians isn't a name that is disparaging of aboriginals. Neither is the Edmonton Eskimos or the Chicago Blackhawks. Is calling a football team the Vikings disparaging of Scandinavians? Certainly not and those who think so simply have too much time on their hands and should find something more useful to do than looking for cheap ways to be offended. Neither the Eskimos, Indians, Vikings or Blackhawks names make a negative reference or call attention to any negative stereotype.

There is only one example I can think of of a sports team name that is actually a racist or negative term and that is the Washington Redskins. The term "Redskin" is offensive because it mentions skin colour in a negative (and inaccurate) way. It is a negative term. So while the NFL team from Washington DC may end up having to change their name in time (and likely should) using one team's inappropriate name to justify open season on any team named after people is silly. That is political correctness run amok.

In the meantime, Go Eskimos!

But that's just the way I see it.