Friday, May 27, 2016

This Weekend The Conservatives Can Start Winning or Keep Losing

The federal Conservative party is having it's policy convention this weekend. It's a convention that will, even more than their leadership race in the coming year, decide whether the Conservatives will win or in 2019.

Several things have to happen for the Conservatives to win the next election. An electable leader is, of course, one of them. But what the party stands for matters much more at this point. A smiling leader of a party that has policies the public doesn't like will be a smiling leader who loses. Say what you like about Justin Trudeau, the Liberals are party that has put themselves in start contrast to the Tories. They are for government intervention in the economy. They are for taxing the rich more. They are against pipelines and oil development (despite their rhetoric...the actions speak volumes). So what will the Conservatives stand for? Here are some things they need to do:

1. Support gay marriage.

This train left the station 15 years ago. Canadians support LGBTQ rights. They see this as a human rights issue because it is. No religious belief can justify denying human rights. Being gay, lesbian, transgendered is not bad, evil or harmful no matter what any holy text says. If the Conservatives don't get rid of their opposition to gay marriage they will lose in 2019 no what the other policies are and no matter who the leader is. They will make it easy for Trudeau.

2. Admit climate change is real.

Yes, the science is settled. Yes, there damn well is a massive scientific consensus on climate change. It is real and humans are at least partly causing it. This doesn't mean abandoning the resource sector. But it does mean that there is an expiry date on some elements of that sector. Plan realistic policy around that and you can win over Canadians. Keep acting like it's a commie hoax and you will lose in 2019.

3. Defend the job creators.

Tax-the-rich schemes sound good to people who aren't rich. A blend of jealousy, blind ideology and a disregard for economic liberty can create economic stagnation. It is quite possible that the Liberal policy of taxing more and spending more will result in a worse economy 4 years from now. Canada must remain competitive, but for the Conservatives to be competitive they must shed the image that they are protectors of corporations and fat cats. Instead they must clearly communicate why competitive taxation and responsible spending make sense to people who rely on Canada's public services.

Stephen Harper may well be correct that in 2019 Canada will need a strong Conservative party more than ever. Looking at the Trudeau Liberals it's hard to argue.

But that's just how I see it.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Electoral Reform Will Require An Investment In Technology

Is Elections Canada ready for electronic voting machines? They should be. We all should be.

Many municipalities have used ballot machines for years. Why hasn't Canada? If you have a fillable ballot that is fed into a machine that counts it (much like many school exams have been doing for 40 years) you open up your elections to many different ways of balloting as well as complete portability. The results will also be tallied much faster.

Using electronics in voting has been shown to be safe and is much less likely to be taken advantage of by those seeking to commit electoral fraud. The ballot is fed into the machine and counted. The results are transmitted. Clean. It's 2016. The next federal election should occur in 2019. In 2019 we shouldn't be counting paper ballots with scrutineers and waiting 5 hours to find out who's won the bloody election!

Electronic balloting makes other kinds of electoral systems more easily possible. An electronic ballot machine allows instant tabulation of single transferable votes. With STV you rank the candidates in order of preference. If a candidate doesn't get a majority of votes then the last placed candidate is dropped and their votes are re-counted using the second preference. Rinse and repeat until you have a winner. more winners without majority consent.

Using technology to enhance your elections would also allow people to vote in their riding from another riding. This would be exceptionally valuable for post-secondary students and communing workers. It eliminates a burdensome process of applying for special ballots and mailing them in.

There, of course, would be a cost to adding this kind of technology to our elections. But we spend all sorts of money on things that matter less than our democracy. It would be money well spent.

So, the Government of Canada should be looking at this prior to changing the electoral system. Spend the money, have the hearings, get public input, choose a system and then put it to a vote. And yes, Mr. Trudeau, you have to have a referendum. You can't change the way we vote without our consent. If you don't know that then you're not qualified to be dogcatcher, let alone Prime Minister.

But that's just the way I see it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

After Seeing The Left in Power, Can We Say They Are Better Than The Right?

Yes, I know. It's been forever since I posted on this blog. But sometimes you need to take a break and accumulate some topics to write about. In this instance I'm not sure I can keep my big mouth shut.

Okay, I admit it. Full disclosure here. I live in Alberta. I'm a red Tory. Which means that for years and years I voted Progressive Conservative. Federally I was a Reform/CA/Conservative supporter for years. But in 2015 not only did I vote for Trudeau's Liberals, I voted for Notley's NDP. Both of those votes were a response to my disinclination to reward bad behaviour. In both instances the party I voted for seemed like the only possible alternative. So, there you have it. Pissed off at my brand, I punished them. But in some ways I cut off my nose to spite my face.

That's not to say that a good beating behind the woodshed won't improve Canada's conservative parties. But in 4 years a party can do a whole lot of damage. We're seeing it both in Edmonton and Ottawa.

Let's start in Edmonton. The Notley NDP seemed very reasonable during the election. But since then we've seen some unbelievably bad choices. These are deliberate choices based on blind ideology, not reason or reasonability.

Nowhere in their 2015 election platform did the NDP mention a carbon tax. This is really a just a revenue generator, and a pretty shabby one. Any economist can tell you that fuels, especially fuels in a winter climate, are inelastic. That means that increases in price do not decrease consumption to the same degree. Fuels are extremely inelastic. So we're going to pay more to run our vehicles and heat our homes, while not one bit of CO2 will be reduced.

We also have the decision to cease all coal-fired power. Yet the plan for what it will get replaced with and how that will be paid for is nonexistent. Don't tell that to the NDP, since they'll just tell you that a combination of wind and solar should do the trick. But nowhere in the world has that kind of power fuelled a place the size of Alberta. We don't have hydro power. And nuclear power creates nuclear waste, which only takes millions of years to not really environmentally friendly. The costs will be staggering. The results will be catastrophic. It simply cannot be done with current technology.

Finally, we're seeing a continuation of the lousy budgeting practises started under Allison Redford. They're posting an $8 Billion deficit this year. But that's just in their operational spending. They are also borrowing $5 Billion more for capital projects, which are conveniently separated out in the budget. That's $13 Billion in one year, not $8 Billion. In one year. They say we won't have a balanced budget until 2024! That's 8 years of deficits. That's irresponsible. Had they simply held the line on spending (not cut, just freeze) the deficits would have been much less. Once you reach balanced books you can start looking at spending again.

Increasing taxes on job creators doesn't help with economic recovery or diversification either. So how do you diversify? It's not exactly easy. If you want different kinds of industries to locate to your jurisdiction, then you have to attract them. You have to offer them a competitive business environment and the labour to match. So you have to invest in education and bribe them with tax breaks and subsidies. But where does the money for that come from? Trees? And does this sound like the NDP program?

Moving on to Ottawa and our selfie-taking Prime Minister, I just just get the feeling that grown-ups aren't in charge. Cutting defense spending while we're facing more threats from extremists and aggressive states is foolish. We have a huge arctic area that is defenseless to an aggressor like Vlad Putin. Our allies are fighting a barbaric Islamic extremist movement while we talk about...talking. Brutal. Embarrassing.

But while keeping Canada safe doesn't seem to be a spending priority, the Trudeau Liberals are spending heaps on other things. Saddling us with huge deficits while, like Notley, punishing investors and job creators is the order of the day. A puny "middle class" tax cut was the bribe we all fell for, isn't it? Meanwhile the Parliamentary budget officer has stated that the budget process under the Liberals makes transparency more difficult. So much for a more honest government.

Lastly, Trudeau's pathetic insistence that as Prime Minister it's not his job to "cheerlead" pipelines is the same thing as saying "keep it in the ground". His refusal to bring crooked Montreal mayor Coderre to task over his hypocritical comments on Energy East shows he doesn't have the nation's interest clearly in mind. He doesn't really give a shit about the west either, as evidenced in the selective EI increases that left out the Edmonton area. The fact is that even if the whole planet reduced CO2 emissions we would still have an energy sector. We're going to need oil for some fuels and for lubricants and other products. Those pipelines are essential to Canada, not just Alberta. And shipping resources through Energy East has the potential to help Europe get out from under the resource thumb of Russia. I guess Trudeau, Coderre and his cronies would rather have trains full of oil in flames.

Stephen Harper deserved to be voted out. So did the Alberta "look in the mirror" PCs.

But can we really say that what we got instead is any better? There's no evidence showing that.

But that's just way I see it.

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.

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.