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15 Oct 08: Challenges for the Next Canadian Government

Kirkhill

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milnews.ca said:
.... but I wrestle with the issue of democracy being what it is re:  majority rule while living in a part of the world with nowhere near enough voters (even if they do all turn out) to make huge differences or call enough attention to the area.

And that is where a reformed senate would be a worthy addition.  A couple of days ago I suggested that maybe Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal should be declared their own provinces with their own Senate representation and their own taxing powers.  Maybe there is a way to divide and conquer and serve real needs.  Split Quebec and Ontario (and BC) along Urban / Rural lines and give the various societies their own champions in the national debate.  Redefine Regionalism.

Of course Queen's Park and l'Assemblee Nationale will squawk ..... but think what it would do to McGuinty-Miller.  It might also necessitate a new Ontario Parliament as Queen's Park is clearly the Toronto Parliament.

Peterborough's a pretty nice place, although Wawa might be more central.
 

The Bread Guy

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Interesting idea on the Redefined Regionalism (constitutional amendments notwithstanding - no pun intended).  I know every so often, there's rumblings, "why doesn't northwestern Ontario separate?" (to get provincial clout) or "why doesn't NW Ontario join Manitoba?" (to be a larger fish in a smaller pond).

Kirkhill said:
Of course Queen's Park and l'Assemblee Nationale will squawk ..... but think what it would do to McGuinty-Miller.  It might also necessitate a new Ontario Parliament as Queen's Park is clearly the Toronto Parliament.  Peterborough's a pretty nice place, although Wawa might be more central.

If you draw a straight line between the southernmost and northernmost points of Ontario, and another between east-west extremes, those lines would cross pretty damned close to Wawa, indeed.  Then again, if that was the criterion, the House of Commons should be in Hudson's Bay....  ;)

- edited to fix spelling mistake -
 

a_majoor

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milnews.ca said:
Interesting idea on the Redfined Regionalism (constitutional amendments notwithstanding - no pun intended).  I know every so often, there's rumblings, "why doesn't northwestern Ontario separate?" (to get provincial clout) or "why doesn't NW Ontario join Manitoba?" (to be a larger fish in a smaller pond).

If you draw a straight line between the southernmost and northernmost points of Ontario, and another between east-west extremes, those lines would cross pretty damned close to Wawa, indeed.  Then again, if that was the criterion, the House of Commons should be in Hudson's Bay....  ;)

The tour of the parliamentry library in scuba gear would be the high point, followed by the syncronized Swimming of the Guard during the summer month... ;D

Really, our national obsession with regionalism is costing us dearly as a nation. Prime Minister Harper (or any other Prime Minister to be) cannot gather up the best talent to become ministers of the crown (I'm currently free, and I will accept the position of Minister for Everything Else, since Ministry of Silly Walks and Minister for Nothing in Particular have already been spoken for  ;)). Since he has to appease all the regions, he may (will) find himself in a situation where there are only a small number of candidates for Ministerial office from a particular region, and they may not be suitable due to lack of political experience, lack of real world experience, limited smarts, etc.

Damned if he does; everyone will complain that Minister "x" isn't the person capable of handling the portfolio, while damned if he dosn't; some region or group will feel shortchanged if Minister "y" has the position because he/she/it clearly is the smartest person on the block but dosn't come from the region or belong to the group. I would like to appoint HAL 9000 to the Senate and give it a portfolio; so long as you avoid conflicting directives, everything will be fine....
 

a_majoor

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Although the conclusions Steven Staples draws are not grounded in the same reality that most of us inhabit, the questions are valid and worth considering (don't ask how I ended up on the mailing list, but this is a sweet conduit into what the "other" side thinks):

Canada After Bush: How the Next U.S. President Could Affect our Country
Tell us your opinion on Ceasefire.ca
 
Dear Ceasefire.ca supporter,

Our country is entering a new political moment with the re-election of Stephen Harper's government two weeks ago, and the U.S. presidential election next week, on November 4.

The Rideau Institute, Ceasefire.ca's parent organization, has published a dossier on the U.S. election called Canada After Bush: How the Next U.S. President Could Affect Our Country.

The report looks at free trade, climate change, human rights, and the war on terrorism, including in Afghanistan. You might be surprised by what we have learned.

This is the first opportunity I have had to write to you since the terribly disappointing Canadian election on October 14. Within days of the result, giving Stephen Harper another minority government, I embarked on an 18-city tour to talk with Ceasefire.ca supporters and other friends.

I am now travelling the country to hear what Canadians are thinking about the election and what steps we need to take to continue our work to make Canada a leader for peace and human rights. I hope that you will be able to join me at an event near you.

It has been a busy time for us. The Rideau Institute also released a report by our board member, Kathleen Ruff, on Canada's little-known asbestos industry, and the government's shameful promotion of this deadly substance in the developing world. It's titled Exporting Harm: How Canada Markets Asbestos to the Developing World.

In the coming days I will be visiting British Columbia, Alberta, and
southern Ontario. I hope that you might consider meeting me then. If I am not scheduled to visit your community, and you would like to organize an event, please drop us a line and we can explore what is possible.

 
In peace,
 
Steven Staples
President of the Rideau Institute and
Founder of Ceasefire.ca
 

OldSolduer

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Thucydides said:
Although the conclusions Steven Staples draws are not grounded in the same reality that most of us inhabit, the questions are valid and worth considering (don't ask how I ended up on the mailing list, but this is a sweet conduit into what the "other" side thinks):

I'm a big beleiver of "following the money" Who funds Mr. Staples et al? I'm sure it would be interesting.
 

Edward Campbell

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Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail is a report on Obama’s (lack of) influence an Canada’s decision to change our Afghanistan mission in 2011:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081105.wcannon1105/BNStory/National
Obama win won't affect Afghan troop pullout: Cannon

The Canadian Press

November 5, 2008 at 1:36 PM EST

OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says the election of Barack Obama will not affect Canada's decision to pull its troops out of Afghanistan.

The president-elect has promised an influx of U.S. troops into the chaotic central-Asian nation, which he describes as the central front in the global struggle against terrorism.

But every political party in Canada has said this country's 2,500 troops should leave once their current assignment expires in 2011.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made his own view explicitly clear during the recent federal election, when he said it was time to put an end date on Canada's military commitment.

Mr. Cannon was asked today whether Mr. Obama's arrival in the White House would change that — and he replied with a categorical ‘No.'

He told The Canadian Press that Canada's position “will not change with respect to our decision to withdraw our troops in 2011.”

The United States already has 36,000 troops in Afghanistan, and Mr. Obama has promised to send up to 12,000 more while scaling down operations in Iraq.

Not even Barack Obama is going to persuade Québecers, Torontonians and Vancouverites that Afghanistan is an appropriate mission for Canada.

 

Old Sweat

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I suspect, based on no more than cynicism, that Canadians will indeed get their wish and we will end the Afghanistan mission in 2011. However by then some other horrible place will have erupted and we will find our forces in some miserable miasma fighting as part of an international coalition. In fact, we will probably have no real choice. Taking on this new mission will be the price for removing ourselves from Afghanistan without fear of international criticism or sanction.
 

Edward Campbell

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And that, of course, is how we found ourselves in Afghanistan (for the second (and subsequent) tours): trying to avoid being called upon to join the Americans in Iraq.

As you know I am persuaded that the next ”miserable miasma” will be found in Africa when the Bottom Billion finally collapses - because rich, sophisticated countries like Canada are unwilling to come to the rescue of Africa and Central Asia, including Afghanistan, and Haiti and Bolivia and Yemen and Burma and so on because aid to the poorest of the poor might take away from our pogey.

We need to get at least our combat forces out of Afghanistan because we need to rebuild and transform the Army (and Air Force) for a long, long, bloody campaign – 20 years, at the very least – in Africa.

 

GAP

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We need to get at least our combat forces out of Afghanistan because we need to rebuild and transform the Army (and Air Force) for a long, long, bloody campaign – 20 years, at the very least – in Africa.

After 2-3 years they'll be crying to get out of there too!!
 

Rifleman62

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Africa is a big powder keg. There are not many stable governments south of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Many, many are corrupt, and it does not matter a hoot who takes over the countries government next, as it then becomes "my turn now".

I hope Canada never again gets involved in Africa. It is hopeless. The Colonists were kicked out, freedom gained, then chaos. Maybe I am generalizing too much.
Let that esteemed body, the UN sort it out. (Thats a joke.) China and Russia will veto a Western force supporting African "forces". Western countries will not want Chinese/Russian to re dominate in Africa.

Anyway, to preclude Canadian military participation, all the rebels have to do is get the media to file several stories on child soldiers.

I sure don't want my grand daughter there in a couple of years.
 

a_majoor

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"We" have been warning of this for some time now, but perhaps this will give the issue of defense some traction:

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2008/11/04/pf-7302916.html

Fiscal crisis raises spectre of defence cuts
By Murray Brewster, THE CANADIAN PRESS


OTTAWA - Ottawa's tumbling fiscal fortunes and the possibility of budget cuts could not have happened at a worse time for the battle-worn Canadian military, which is still waiting on replacements for its tired and aged planes, ships and vehicles.

All across the federal government, preparations began in earnest this week for next year's budget and even some of the Conservative government's most ardent supporters in the defence community are gloomy.

The Conference of Defence Associations, an Ottawa-based military advocacy group, recently questioned the federal government's "ability and willingness" to live up to plans outlined in its defence strategy.

Most of the noises coming out of the federal government, including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's quest to limit equalization payments, have sent a shiver down the backs of many defence observers.

"If the financial crisis gets worse, there is bound to be some demand for some cuts in defence in order to pay for other programs - or not to go into the red," said the association's executive director, Alain Pellerin.

"That's a big issue. They don't want to face a deficit."

The military was "badly burned" by the Chretien government and the budget cuts of the 1990s and has just started to make up ground, said Pellerin, whose organization has received small grants from the Defence Department.

Douglas Bland, chair of defence management studies at Queen's University, said he expects the defence budget will be a tempting target because for bean counters its easy money.

"The defence budget provides - or is - the largest discretionary budget that the federal government has; in other words they're not obliged by agreements with the provinces or statutes to spend on defence," said Bland.

"Therefore it is often tempting for governments under financial stress to reach for the defence budget to make up for deficiencies and deficits."

The Conservatives have cast themselves as defenders of the military, embarked on an ambitious rearmament program and promised regular funding increases.

But behind the rhetoric, pragmatic political and fiscal considerations have tempered the enthusiasm.

A 2006 campaign promise to increase the size of the regular and reserve forces to 75,000 and 35,000 members respectively was quietly scaled back last year for want of funding.

Critics have pointed out the Tories' much-hyped defence budget increases - 1.5 per cent per year until 2011 and two per cent each year after - barely keep up with inflation and could, depending upon the economy, leave the military further strapped in the future.

When the Conservatives came to power, funding for most of their big-ticket purchases was backloaded to the budget years after 2009-10.

A number of capital projects on the books are stuck - or hopelessly sidetracked in the bureaucracy.

Bland said the economic downturn couldn't have come at a worse time in the rebuilding process.

"We're in a position where time is running out on these pieces of equipment and there might not be any money," he said.

"All of this happening in the middle of a war."

However, both Pellerin and Bland said that they don't expect the budget woes to affect funding of troops fighting in Afghanistan.

A request to interview Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who was apparently to receive an update this week on the status of major projects, was turned down and his office issued only a terse one-line statement.

"The minister is not prepared to speculate on the budget process," spokesman Dan Dugas said in an email.

Pellerin said he's had no indication that entire programs would be cancelled.

But Bland said postponing is almost as good as scuttling some of them and the navy's needs are a particular concern because it takes so much lead time to construct new warships.

Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, the head of the Senate security and defence committee, said the government should be looking at defence industries and spending as an economic development tool in these tough times.

A national shipbuilding program to keep the navy afloat would help bolster the economy, he said.

In August, the Conservatives quietly killed the $2.9-billion process to replace the navy's 1960s vintage supply ships because the bids were more than what Ottawa was prepared to spend.

Unofficially, National Defence has talked about relaunching the joint support ship program next year, but has been silent on plans to replace the country's aging command and control destroyers.

The Tories have awarded a $3-billion contract to Lockheed-Martin to modernize the country's 12 patrol frigates.

But defence sources said Tuesday that a long-term air force program to purchase high-endurance, unmanned surveillance aircraft for coastal surveillance - known as Project JUSTAS - was being bumped back two years, possibly to 2013-14.

A proposal to buy 65 Joint Strike Fighters - a roughly $8-billion venture to replace nearly 30-year-old CF-18s fighter-bombers - must be considered by cabinet soon.

Another project that has been delayed because of money and contract delivery times includes the $3.4-billion purchase of 28 CH-148 Cyclone helicopters to replace air force Sea Kings.

It's unclear what is happening with the $4.2-billion purchase of 16 CH-47F Chinook battlefield helicopters from Boeing; the $1.2-billion acquisition of 2,300 new medium-sized logistics trucks; and the $1.3-billion plan to purchase 15 new fixed-wing search-and-rescue planes.

There are also projects that haven't even hit the drawing board, including the Tory promise to build six to eight light icebreakers to patrol the Arctic.

 

Edward Campbell

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And here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyrioght Act from today’s Globe and Mail is a sure recipe for allowing the Liberals to do an Obama in Canada:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081108.wtories1108/BNStory/politics/home
Grassroots Tories urging PM to move to right
Demands at next weekend's policy convention could challenge Harper's effort to soften party's image

BILL CURRY

Globe and Mail Update
November 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM EST

OTTAWA — Grassroots Conservatives are urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to act on long-standing demands of the Canadian right, such as less government and more health-care privatization, as they head into the party's second-ever policy convention next weekend in Winnipeg.

Resolutions from Conservatives across the country have been whittled down to a few dozen that will be up for debate on the convention floor.

The final list includes demands that, if adopted, could challenge Mr. Harper's efforts to soften the party's image among those who aren't traditional Conservatives.

"I think people are becoming impatient and they want to see some action. They want to see this government deliver a real, small c, conservative agenda," said Gerry Nicholls, a conservative commentator with the Democracy Institute.

Mr. Nicholls said he expects traditional conservatives will be more vocal in their demands now that the party has two consecutive victories under its belt. He predicted resistance to Mr. Harper's view that conservative policies must be adopted slowly so as not to alienate Canadian voters.

That tension may surface at the convention over several issues, including extra legal penalties for individuals who commit violence against a pregnant woman. The item is up for debate in spite of the fact that Mr. Harper distanced himself from the idea just days before the last election. His move blunted criticism that the measure, advocated at the time through a Conservative private member's bill, could criminalize abortion indirectly.

The last time Conservatives gathered to vote on policy in 2005, Mr. Harper was spotted backstage kicking a chair in frustration as his young party threatened to unravel. In the end, Tories emerged united with a platform that sidelined thorny issues such as abortion and capital punishment.

Don Plett, the president of the party's national council, said he expects lots of lively debate but pointed out the majority of the resolutions simply update policy to reflect the government's decisions.

"Much of what we have there [in resolutions are] things that we have campaigned on in the past and the Conservative government has in fact implemented," said Mr. Plett, who helped merge the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance in 2003.

Conservative Party spokesman Ryan Sparrow played down the potential impact of the convention resolutions on government decisions.

"They're just like any other consultation you would have with any stakeholder group," he said, confirming the government will not be bound by the Winnipeg decisions.

Neither Mr. Plett nor Mr. Sparrow would comment on specific resolutions.

Delegates from Calgary are proposing 10-year, renewable term limits for Supreme Court judges and a reaffirmation of Parliament's power to ignore the court's rulings through the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution.

The two resolutions relating to the Supreme Court fit with long-standing concerns expressed within the party over the power of the courts to change Canadian law.

The proposal to limit Supreme Court justices to renewable 10-year terms is among the few major new ideas to be discussed at next weekend's convention.

But the debate over the Supreme Court will be largely symbolic, given that term limits can't be imposed without changing the Constitution, said University of Alberta law Professor Joanna Harrington.

Liberal MP Marlene Jennings said the proposal would also politicize the judiciary, as they would be dependent on government for renewals.

"It would cast a pall over their independence," she said.

***

Resolutions up for debate

Supreme Court judges  - Supreme Court of Canada judges should serve 10-year renewable terms.

Health care - Provinces should be encouraged "to further experiment with different means of delivering universal health care utilizing both the public and private health sectors."

Auto emissions - Canada should match California's more stringent standards.

Military parents - If they die while serving Canada, their children should be given free tuition to postsecondary institutions.

Human Rights Commission - The Canadian commission's authority to investigate complaints related to hate messages should be removed.

Streamlining - The government should "streamline government services and eliminate waste, unnecessary overlap and duplication between the levels of government."

Free votes - Replace current party policy that all votes, other than the budget and main estimates, are free votes, with the policy that a Conservative government will make "most votes free."


It is OK, just, to allow some of these resolutions to be debated this year, but not next year or beyond - as we get closer and closer to an election. The right is always more than welcome to vote Conservative but if they are allowed out in public they become Liberal weapons of mass (Conservative) destruction.

Regarding the current resolutions, here is my take:

Supreme Court judges  - Supreme Court of Canada judges should serve 10-year renewable terms. X

Health care - Provinces should be encouraged "to further experiment with different means of delivering universal health care utilizing both the public and private health sectors." , but carefully.

Auto emissions - Canada should match California's more stringent standards.

Military parents - If they die while serving Canada, their children should be given free tuition to postsecondary institutions. , but “die while serving Canada” in action.

Human Rights Commission - The Canadian commission's authority to investigate complaints related to hate messages should be removed. but very, very carefully.

Streamlining - The government should "streamline government services and eliminate waste, unnecessary overlap and duplication between the levels of government.

Free votes - Replace current party policy that all votes, other than the budget and main estimates, are free votes, with the policy that a Conservative government will make "most votes free." X

 

Edward Campbell

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Thucydides said:
"We" have been warning of this for some time now, but perhaps this will give the issue of defense some traction:

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2008/11/04/pf-7302916.html


Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Ottawa Citizen, is a good piece by our old friend (Liberal) Senator Colin Kenny:

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/story.html?id=437f4d9a-cbf3-4091-9eea-d3b5c0572ddf
Don't touch defence spending
In tough times it's tempting to slash military budgets -- but that spending is a key to cross-border trade and prosperity at home

Colin Kenny

Citizen Special

Saturday, November 08, 2008



The federal government is looking for ways to scrape up some new money to help bolster the Canadian economy and keep at least a few Canadians employed.

The forestry industry and the auto industry have been shedding jobs at a staggering rate. Both have asked for a billion dollars from Ottawa. Whether or not the feds cough it up, they are going to have to do plenty of financial stimulation if they hope to staunch job losses.

Unfortunately, the Harper government has already squandered $12 billion a year to shrink the GST from seven to five per cent. It was a political gesture that appalled economists and left most Canadians yawning. It also left the government's financial cupboard decidedly bare.

So where will the government try to cut spending -- and where will it subsequently invest to help create jobs?

My fear is that this government will emulate its predecessors, both Liberal and Conservative, and try to steal from the Canadian military budget to raise funds.

This would be a huge mistake. If the Harper government wants to create jobs, it would be far better off to invest more in the Canadian Forces.

A Conservative government under Brian Mulroney and Liberal governments under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin combined to eviscerate the Canadian military in the name of reducing the national debt. That's a worthy cause, but starving the military is counter-productive to Canada's survival as a prosperous, sovereign nation.

The current government has talked as though it takes the security of Canadians seriously, but it hasn't come through. Early commitments to recruit and grow appear to have been abandoned.

Canadians seem sanguine that their military is robust because we have soldiers engaged on the battlefront in Afghanistan. But hiding behind the muscular Afghanistan image is a military without the people or resources to defend Canadians and better their lives.

Yes, Canada has proven that it can keep 1,000 fighting troops in the field at any given time, but that's miniscule if we intend to protect and advance Canadians' interests. Even the modest Afghanistan deployment has all but hamstrung efforts to grow and modernize the Canadian Forces, which this government had promised to do.

And by honouring that promise, the government could go a long way toward solving the jobs crisis it is currently faced with. Everyone knows that exports create jobs. Everyone also knows that Americans are by far our most important customers, but we're having trouble selling to them lately.

It's not just because the U.S. economy is sagging or that the Canadian dollar has been overvalued. U.S.-Canadian border crossings are clogged. One suspects that many American politicians are thrilled that the thickening of the border reduces Canada's attractiveness as an investment location for firms that want to serve American as well as Canadian markets. After all, if the borders are a problem, why not locate in the U.S. instead?

Those clogged borders are non-tariff barriers to trade. What to do? It's going to be a chore to convince a Democratic administration with a protectionist mantra that it is in both countries' interests to make those border crossings workable again.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2008​


Kenny doesn’t go back far enough. The detailed, intentional evisceration of the Canadian Forces began, in earnest, in 1969 and continued – albeit with slightly less enthusiasm under Mulroney – until 2002. That’s 30 years worth of policy vandalism – initiated by Trudeau whose aim was nothing less than unilateral disarmament, by stealth.

It is good of Sen. Kenny to take our side; it would be better if he was just a wee bit less partisan.


 

Edward Campbell

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This report, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail web site, has strategic implications:

http://www.reportonbusiness.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081108.wzoellick1108/BNStory/Business/home
World Bank head warns financial crisis could drive up number of poor

HEATHER SCOFFIELD

Globe and Mail Update
November 8, 2008 at 5:54 PM EST

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL — The global financial crisis threatens to radically drive up the number of poor people around the world unless countries work together to control the contagion, says the head of the World Bank.

“We need to make sure the financial crisis doesn't become a human crisis,” Robert Zoellick told reporters after the first day of a two-day meeting of the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers.

“All countries are moving into a danger zone,” he warned – a zone where frozen credit is preventing global trade, hurting countries' balance of payments, and slowing down remittances from foreign countries that many families in developing countries depend on to make ends meet.

G20 countries are increasingly looking to fiscal policy and government stimulus as a key way to fix the global financial crisis and prevent it from undermining the global economy, Mr. Zoellick said.

But he pointed out that stimulus packages can work for the United States, China and European economies, but not all emerging markets are in a position to afford big spending, since it may provoke inflation.

G20 countries are also becoming more worried about the “second order effects” of the financial crisis, he said. Advanced countries have taken such extreme measures to buoy up their banking systems that countries who can't afford to buy their banks' commercial paper or guarantee loans are now being penalized.

He was referring mainly to emerging markets, but that phenomenon is happening in Canada as well. The federal government has guaranteed wholesale loans, but for a high price, and it has not taken many of the other measures adopted by the United States or the European Union, where the banking system is in tatters.

Now, Canadian banks complain that they can't compete internationally because they don't have a government-backed guarantee for everything they do.

So the pressure is on the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe to put a quick end to their bank subsidy plans.

“You need to think of exit strategies,” Mr. Zoellick said.

Talks at the G20 have turned into a showdown between advanced countries – who caused the financial crisis – and emerging countries, who are feeling the effects but lack the global power to do much about it.

Brazil's president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, kicked off the day's meetings casting all the blame on rich countries, and telling them to take a lead in fixing them, while also giving emerging markets a much bigger say in international organizations.

But the discussion in Sao Paulo on Saturday focused on finding a conciliatory route that would see the expansion of the Financial Stability Forum to include more countries, as well as a bigger role for the International Monetary Fund in overseeing stricter banking regulations.

Eventually, all financial institutions and their leveraged activities will face some form of regulation, be it light or heavy, Mr. Zoellick said.

But not all countries will not agree to cede authority for such regulation to an international body, he added, and so the FSF and IMF will advice, set standards and conduct surveillance rather than enforce.

The advanced countries do not disagree that emerging markets need a bigger voice in the world's decision-making organizations, Mr. Zoellick said.

“A lot of the discussion is how it will happen.”


First: Robert Zoellick is not some kind of left-wing bleeding heart; he is a hard-nosed lawyer/negotiator with special expertise in trade; he is a Republican and a free trader.

Second, and parenthetically, in saying “You [the US, UK and Europe] need to think of exit strategies [from the bank subsidy programmes],” Zoellick has zeroed in on an issue of great importance to Canada. The American and European bank subsidy programmes are hurting well managed, high quality Canadian banks and we want them gone ASAP. They constitute illegal subsidies and if they are not gone soon we, Canada and a few others, will need to haul the US and Europe into the WTO and seek big, damaging sanctions.

------------------------------​

However, the BIG issue is poverty and its strategic implications.

The ”Bottom Billion” is already the home of many of the world’s troublemakers, allowing it to get even poorer is not a good idea, not good at all.

Poverty breeds despair – especially in our age of instant, mass communications. Young men and women in the world’s poorest countries can see, they can almost feel and taste the ‘good life’ in the West (and East Asia – China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, etc). These are not stupid people, nor are they lazy. Because they are not stupid they can see that no matter how hard they work their chances to ‘grab the brass ring’ and live our ‘good life’ are almost non-existent.

Despair makes one easy prey for those with a siren song that combines desire for what we (the West and East Asia) have with hatred for us because we have it. Like the original siren song in Homer’s Odyssey, the new one leads those who listen to their doom - but it is so seductive that they cannot resist.

The ‘message’ of the new sirens is compelling, especially when, as is so often the case, it is wrapped in the cloak of Islam. The West (and East Asia), poor Muslims are told, stole the knowledge that allowed them to create their great wealth from the Muslims back in the 15th century. The Muslims of old, the story goes, used the knowledge for the benefit of all believers, but the kafirs used it only to advance our secular, anti-Muslim goals – in so doing we provide our people with baubles and ‘bread and circuses’ in order to keep them placid.

(There is a lot in the message that would be familiar to Karl Marx, his modern acolytes like Sandra L. Smith, and (former) Trotskyites like Judy Rebick. In fact, a very similar ‘message’ was propagated in Africa and around the world in the 1950s – on orders from Moscow. The Communist party line was assiduously toed, here in Canada, by very ‘respectable’ people like Stanley Brehaut Ryerson. There were equally ‘respectable’ versions of Ryerson all over the world – including Australia, Britain and the USA.)

With the message firmly implanted, thanks to e.g. Saudi/global Wahabi funded madrassahs, the poor and desperate are only a very short, even easy step away from taking up arms (or bombs) against the kafirs.

Why not? It’s been a long time since I was in Accra or Kinshasa (Leopoldville when I was there!) but I’m told (by people who go there often) that the situation is worse than it was 30 or 40 years ago – the only places in the whole world where, over about a half century, things have gotten measurably worse for the people who live there. Why bother working and struggling against hopeless odds when something good might be had with a gun?

To a potent mix of poverty, despair and radical Islam we can add AIDS which is killing Africans, especially, at such a rate that soon – within a decade -  we will se societies bereft of adult leadership. In other words we will have big, poor, desperate, indeed hopeless children (for all practical purposes) with equally big guns.

An explosion is just a very tightly spaced series of individual little fires. What we are seeing in Africa and West Asia (and parts of the Caribbean, too) are those fires – in Rwanda, Afghanistan, Darfur and Congo – growing increasingly close together. Soon they will not be individual fires – each amenable to some sort of  solution; soon they will be so close together – in time and space – that they will be a literal explosion – right in our faces.

I can argue that the West (and East Asia) can and should do nothing. We should wait out the chaos and enter, with massive humanitarian aid when the Africans, West Asians and Haitians have exhausted their murderous rage against whatever and are ready and able to accept our help and guidance. I can ague that, but I will not because I am convinced that our own basic humanity will not allow such a course of action. Faced with a humanitarian crisis of proportions equalled only by he Holocaust we will be morally compelled to act.

I would prefer that when we decide to confront the crisis of the bottom billion that we, in the American led West, ante up the money (many, many hundreds of billions of dollars – more than we will spend buying our way out of the current credit crisis) and let others, especially India, do the ’work’. India is an ally and a democracy but it has a fundamental geographic problem: no hinterland – defined as essential for geopolitical success by e.g. Mackinder. There are many, many reasons – one or two even good reasons – why this is unlikely to happen. Reason one is that China will not allow it.

That leaves option three: the West, the OECD, really, plus China and India will have to form a coalition of the willing and able nations to send expeditionary forces to Africa (and keep them in West Asia) to rescue the Bottom Billion from the fate to which we, through inaction, have consigned it. There is no point in sending militarily incapable nations to do the sort of heavy lifting that will be required when, inevitably, the Bottom Billion move from problem to threat.

And, we’ll you’ll have to do that while the defence budget is under attack because Canadians want whatever money there is spent on them.

 

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Kirkhill said:
And that is where a reformed senate would be a worthy addition.  A couple of days ago I suggested that maybe Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal should be declared their own provinces with their own Senate representation and their own taxing powers.  Maybe there is a way to divide and conquer and serve real needs.  Split Quebec and Ontario (and BC) along Urban / Rural lines and give the various societies their own champions in the national debate.  Redefine Regionalism.

Of course Queen's Park and l'Assemblee Nationale will squawk ..... but think what it would do to McGuinty-Miller...

This, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail is an opinion piece that echoes what I have been saying – Senate reform, electing senators, once begun becomes an irreversible process, formal Constitutional amendments are not required:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081107.wcosenate10/BNStory/specialComment/home
COMMENTARY
From unelected to elected: Senate reform by stealth

BRUCE HICKS

From Monday's Globe and Mail
November 9, 2008 at 11:34 PM EST

In the last Parliament, the Harper government introduced two bills designed to transform the Senate into an elected body without engaging in federal-provincial negotiations and altering the Constitution.

In fact, the government tried this not once but twice. And it has committed to trying again once the new Parliament has convened.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper even mused recently that he might be willing to "burn the village in order to save it": that contrary to his commitment to never again appoint unelected senators, he is considering stacking the chamber with party appointments in order to force through this legislation.

This would seem to reflect a strong determination to change the Senate on the part of the government. Yet, little attention has been paid to either the proposals or their consequences. And the reason? Nothing is more uninteresting to Canadians than the Senate. This appointed body lacks credibility and, since senators know they lack credibility, they rarely challenge the House of Commons or the government when push comes to shove. So who cares what this largely ineffective body does? Or what is done to it?

There's two reasons we should care: First, the body is constitutionally as powerful as the House. While it may choose not to exercise its power, that does not mean it is not there. Second, the body was part of the constitutional compromise that was Confederation. Substantive changes to it should not be made unilaterally by one level of government.

Yet, this legislation is designed by the federal government so it can unilaterally - one could even say surreptitiously - transform that chamber from an unelected to an elected body.

In the future, elections for senators are to be held provincewide using a form of proportional representation known as single transferable voting. There is much to commend this proposal. But it is deserving of scrutiny, debate, negotiation and, only then, commendation.

Senators elected in provincewide votes will have substantive support among the population in a province, and will have spent millions of dollars to win that election. This will dramatically alter Parliament.

If a provincewide vote were held today to fill the two Senate vacancies for Ontario, for example, the two winning candidates would need to be elected by at least 1.8 million votes each, under the government's proposed rules, and would have raised and spent perhaps as much as $8-million each on their campaigns.

No prime minister would dare ignore the outcome of such an election, even if the Harper government does call these elections only "consultative." (They have to be called consultative since making the Senate "elected" would be altering the Constitution, and seven provinces would have to agree to such a change.)

Assuming Mr. Harper gets this legislation passed without resorting to filling the current vacancies in the Senate, then a quarter of the Senate could be elected immediately.

This would irreversibly change the way the Senate operates. No prime minister would ever again be able to do anything but hold Senate elections when vacancies arose. By 2014, more than half the Senate would be elected. The Senate would no longer be the meek second chamber unwilling to challenge the House. It would have a mandate to use all of its constitutional muscle. And why wouldn't an elected senator be willing to flex that muscle?

While Mr. Harper was elected to Parliament with an impressive 73 per cent of the votes cast in the riding of Calgary Southwest (38,548 votes), a senator would be running provincewide in as many as 106 ridings simultaneously and would have a personal mandate of perhaps as many as two million votes.

There are many arguments in favour of this change, and it might actually make Canadian democracy - and the Prime Minister and his government - more accountable and representative. But again, such a change is too important to be undertaken without a great deal of public discussion.

Bruce Hicks teaches Canadian politics at Concordia University in Montreal. He is the co-author of the study "Restructuring the Canadian Senate Through Elections" (www.irpp.org).


My position has been, and remains (based on no formal Constitutional changes being possible):

From: http://forums.army.ca/forums/threads/25692/post-495206.html#msg495206

•  No change, for now, to the equality of Senate representation – that would require reopening the Constitution, a prospect which, while welcome to me, personally, ought not to be on the agenda of level headed Canadian politicians;

•  All currently serving senators to be invited to submit a letter of resignation to be effective on the date of the next (applicable) provincial general election; and

•  Provinces to be advised that, in addition to respecting all the current senatorial qualifications, the PM will select only senators elected on a proportional basis during a provincial general election who, in advance, provide a letter of resignation to be effective on the date of the next provincial general election.

This would result in an elected Senate.  Imagine that, an elected legislature in Canada, in the 21st century!  Not overnight, of course: some serving senators would refuse to resign right away – but they would surely reconsider as soon as they (the (mostly Chrétien) appointees) were outnumbered and rendered toothless by the elected senators.  It took the US several years, starting just after the turn of the last century, to get from an appointed to a fully elected Senate.

The newly elected Senate would, soon, become effective, too – elected politicians tend to do that sort of thing.

I had a bit more to say and I have amended it, here, based on the most recent data:

------------------------------​

This system would play havoc with the current caucusing system.  I did a very rough calculation this morning and I guesstimate that an elected (by my system) Senate of Canada, circa end Oct 2008, would look like this:

•  Bloc Québecois – 10
•  Conservatives – 30
•  Green – 0
•  Liberal - 41
•  NDP – 17
•  Other (ADQ)/Independent - 7

Based on current provincial ‘preferences’ the Liberals would have minority control of the Senate, but, equally clearly, the Liberals would be unable, on their own, to block government bills but the Liberals plus the NDP could form a majority coalition IF all the Liberals caucused together.  But, it is not obvious to me that the BC Liberals, for example, would caucus with the federal Liberals or that the NF Conservatives would caucus with the federal Conservatives.

My elected Senate becomes a ‘House of the Federation’ and, effectively, undercuts (but does not totally negate) the ongoing, interminable federal/provincial first ministers’ conferences.

Being, broadly, representative of provincial legislatures, the Senate (elected on my terms) could be expected to give the government-of-the-day real heartache on matters in which the federal government has intruded into areas of provincial jurisdiction.

------------------------------​

As I have also mentioned before, my reading of the Constitution shows that there are only a very few formal qualifications for an appointment to the Senate – property being one* - so the PM can, if he wishes, slice and dice senators by region within provinces. The problem would be that is the system is based on equality of representation then Vancouver, Calgary/Edmonton, Saskatoon/Regina, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax will have most of the senators. If it is done ‘fairly’ – to ensure a loud, clear voice for remote and rural regions – then it will be less democratic, more gerrymandered.


--------------------
* I remember a bit of excitement a few years ago when one putative appointee was rushing about Atlantic Canada to buy a cottage or even a wood lot in order to meet the property requirements of §23 (3) of the Constitution - the bit that says that one must own, free and clear, $4,000.00 worth of real property in order to be "called" to the Senate. 
 

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As I have also mentioned before, my reading of the Constitution shows that there are only a very few formal qualifications for an appointment to the Senate – property being one* - so the PM can, if he wishes, slice and dice senators by region within provinces. The problem would be that is the system is based on equality of representation then Vancouver, Calgary/Edmonton, Saskatoon/Regina, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax will have most of the senators. If it is done ‘fairly’ – to ensure a loud, clear voice for remote and rural regions – then it will be less democratic, more gerrymandered.

Eschewing silly notions like equality, fairness and justice for a moment then would you think this scenario possible?

A quiet word in the ear to David Miller that at the next municipal election he consider running an election for a Senator-in-Waiting.

A nominee is created by popular vote.

PM appoints nominee to Senate.

PM appoints fully democratically backed Senator to Cabinet to represent GTA interests.

Lords have been Prime Ministers.  Senators have been Ministers.  And the current Prime Minister can pick his Senators on whatever grounds he likes so long as he has 24 from Ontario and Quebec. 

How about a "democratically" determined nominee from a Union of Rural Municipalities?   Or for that matter a "democratically" determined nominee from the CAW?

The nominees would have bona fide Ontario constituencies.  They just wouldn't be geographical constituencies.

Anointed for one 7 year term with no do-overs.

As you say though: it would play hob with the caucus system ( and federal-provincial relations).  But that wouldn't necessarily be all bad.



 

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Kirkhill said:
And that is where a reformed senate would be a worthy addition.  A couple of days ago I suggested that maybe Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal should be declared their own provinces with their own Senate representation and their own taxing powers.  Maybe there is a way to divide and conquer and serve real needs.  Split Quebec and Ontario (and BC) along Urban / Rural lines and give the various societies their own champions in the national debate.  Redefine Regionalism.

Going back a little further - fascinating idea.  We grouse about changing up the "rules of the game" (or at least restoring them) in order to create a more responsive and effective government, but we've never really considered changing up the gameboard as well.  This would also recognize the fact that urban metropolis' (we have 3) and everything else are, really, two seperate contingents in Canada.
 

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Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, is more relative to my stimulus/anti-bailout recommendations here:
--------------------
http://business.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081215.wrcsuite15/BNStory/Business/home

How to get things moving
Slash taxes and interest rates, spend on infrastructure and training, feel free to run a deficit – and do it quickly. That's what Canada's pessimistic business leaders are telling Ottawa

RICHARD BLACKWELL

From Monday's Globe and Mail
December 15, 2008 at 4:37 AM EST

Canadian business executives want tax cuts, further interest rate reductions, infrastructure spending and money for training to pump the economy as they plan cutbacks of their own.

In the latest quarterly C-Suite survey of top executives, which shows those in the corner office are hunkering down for a major rough patch, respondents called on Ottawa to get the economy moving and pull it out of the downturn as fast as possible.

The survey was conducted in November for Report on Business and Business News Network by the Gandalf Group.

In their responses, executive presented a list of actions they would like Ottawa to take. At the top of that list are corporate tax cuts and interest rate cuts, both considered "very helpful" or "somewhat helpful" by almost 90 per cent of those surveyed.

Infrastructure investments and funding for employee retraining are also crucial, most executives said, and a large majority said a federal budget deficit should be permitted to get stimulus spending flowing.

The advantage of infrastructure programs, said Harvie André, a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and now chief executive officer of Calgary-based Wenzel Downhole Tools Ltd., is that they involve one-time capital spending that shouldn't contribute to continuing budget deficits in the years ahead.

Another benefit: Virtually all the spending will remain in Canada.

Whatever the recipe to fix the economy, most executives surveyed are pessimistic about the next 12 months. Fully 85 per cent expect a moderate or strong decline in the Canadian economy over the next year, by far the most negative projection since the C-Suite survey began three years ago.

After 21 years in Parliament, including almost a decade in cabinet, Mr. André is in a unique position to suggest what Ottawa should do to help Canada recover from a projected recession.

In Mr. André's view, tax cuts and infrastructure spending are the best tools to get the economy moving again. Bailouts to large industry players are less effective, although he acknowledged they are inevitable in this political climate.

It is "futile and horrendously expensive" to try to stop the job losses that are certain to take place in a recession, Mr. André said.

However, it is possible to help with job creation, particularly among small enterprises that can respond quickly to tax cuts by expanding their businesses, he said. In addition, "their horizons are primarily domestic," so Canada gets the direct benefits of any new jobs.

Still, Mr. André, who served in Progressive Conservative cabinets from 1984 to 1993, acknowledged that there is tremendous - and irresistible - political pressure to try to help big companies with large numbers of employees, even though that action may "not really be that productive."

In response to the downturn, executives are taking actions of their own. More than 80 per cent said they will likely trim operating expenses, possibly through job cuts. Three-quarters said they will likely cut capital spending, while more than half said they may dispose of non-core assets.

About half of those who responded, however, said they'll likely consider using the economic downturn as an opportunity to make purchases on the cheap.

One company in that boat is Questerre Energy Corp., a Calgary oil and gas exploration firm that was fortunate to have completed a $75-million financing just before the market turned down. It now has no debt and positive cash flow, plus excess cash in the bank, said CEO Michael Binnion, so it is in a position to go shopping.

"We're actively thinking, analyzing and looking at ... where we would want to buy, and what we could buy," he said.

The problem, he said, is that Questerre will likely be spending its money on assets that are already drilled, rather than doing new drilling itself. "That doesn't create any employment, does it?"

Over the long term, Mr. Binnion hopes any weaker company his absorbs will eventually grow and contribute to job creation when the economy recovers.

Many companies are not in same enviable position as Questerre. Almost all executives surveyed said it is harder to get financing now than it was two years ago, and more than two-thirds said it was "significantly" harder.

"The single biggest challenge we face is the access to capital," said Michael Pyle, CEO of Winnipeg-based Exchange Industrial Income Fund, a diversified trust that owns small airline and industrial manufacturing operations.

Exchange Industrial is a "serial acquirer," Mr. Pyle said, so its activities have been crimped by tight credit markets. Bank financing is still available, he said, although increases in pricing by financial institutions are offsetting the drop in the prime rate. But the alternative - going to the equity markets - is extremely difficult now.

Many executives are preparing for a long siege. More than 90 per cent of those surveyed said there will be no turnaround for at least six months, and 44 per cent said there will be no growth for at least another year.

David Yager, CEO of HSE Integrated Ltd., a safety service company based in Calgary, hopes things begin to improve in the second half of 2009. At the moment, he said, "everybody is in the end-to-life-as-we-know-it camp," but oil prices should rise next year, giving a boost to companies in that sector.

Mr. André, of Wenzel, is even more optimistic. He said he thinks "we'll be feeling a little bit better about the future come March, although we won't yet be out of the slower times."

The massive amount of government support should have had some impact by then, he said. "There's been a colossal amount of money put into the system around the world by all kinds of governments, and it is hard to believe that's simply going to go down the sewer with no effect."

Mr. Pyle of Exchange Industrial said he thinks one vital element for a turnaround is for politicians and economists to "stop talking the economy down."

Consumers and business people are being constantly admonished to stop spending, he said, and that is making a long downturn a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Recessions, he said, "happen because people think they're going to happen."

*****

ABOUT THE SURVEY

KPMG

The quarterly C-Suite survey was conducted for Report on Business and Business News Network by Gandalf Group, and sponsored by KPMG.

The survey interviewed 158 executives between Nov. 6 and Nov. 27. Respondents were split evenly by company size, and represent all parts of the country.

The margin of error in the survey is plus or minus 7.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

In rounded numbers. executives in resource industries represent 44 per cent of the sample, the service sector 36 per cent, and manufacturing industries 18 per cent.

Each quarter, a $1,000 charitable contribution is made on behalf of a survey participant. For the September survey, a donation was made to the Canadian Cancer Society on behalf of Cameron Ritchie, chief financial officer of Phoenix Technology Income Fund in Calgary. For the June survey, a donation was made to Community Living Toronto on behalf of Duncan Jackman, chief executive officer of E-L Financial Corp. Ltd. of Toronto.

Want to know more about what the nation's leaders think? Join host Andrew Bell tonight on Business News Network for the C-Suite Survey at 8:30 p.m. (ET).

*****

EXECUTIVE OUTLOOK

Economy

Executives' confidence in the economy has taken a nosedive, with a large majority expecting it to shrink next year. Those predicting growth have fallen to 15 per cent from 40 per cent. Sentiment about the U.S. economy is even worse, with an almost unanimous expectation of a decline, and more than half looking for a strong drop. Companies are responding by cutting spending, trimming capital outlays and considering asset sales.

Q: What are your expectations for the Canadian economy over the next 12 months?

November, 2008

Strong decline: 15%
Moderate decline: 70%
Moderate growth: 15%

September, 2008

Strong decline: 1%
Moderate growth: 39%
Moderate decline: 59%
Strong growth: 1%

*****

Q: What are your expectations for the U.S. economy over the next 12 months?

November, 2008

Strong decline: 54%
Moderate decline: 42%
Strong growth: 1%
Moderate growth: 3%

September, 2008

Strong decline: 17%
Moderate decline: 59%
Moderate growth: 22%

*****

Q: Is it likely your company will make these changes?

Cutting operating expenses: 81
Reducing capital expenditures: 75
Disposing of non-core assets: 57
Growing through acquisitions: 49
Looking to merge: 43

*****

Impact

Corporate credit is tighter than ever, executives report, with almost all saying that it is harder to get financing than it was two years ago. A surprising two-thirds expect their firms to grow in the next year. But the usual corporate optimism has been tempered sharply since the last survey, with more than 30 per cent predicting a decline in business. About of quarter of companies will be increasing staff, while a third will be cutting employment.

Q: Is the credit crunch making it harder to access financing?

November, 2008

Not at all: 3%
Slightly harder: 9%
Somewhat harder: 20%
Significantly harder 69%

September, 2008

Don't know: 2%
Not at all: 7%
Slightly harder: 11%
Somewhat harder: 31%
Significantly harder 49%

*****

Q: What are your expectations for your company over the next 12 months?

November, 2008

Strong decline: 3%
Moderate decline: 28%
Moderate growth: 58%
Strong growth: 9%

September, 2008

Moderate decline: 10%
Strong growth: 25%
Moderate growth: 60%

*****

Q: Will you be changing your company's staff levels over the next 12 months?

Reducing: 36%
Keeping as now: 37%
Increasing: 27%

*****

Response

Business leaders' impressions of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty have improved, after slipping in the past two surveys. A turnaround in the economy is not coming soon, most say, with almost everyone expecting the upward movement to begin in the third quarter of 2009 at the earliest. Ottawa can best help by cutting corporate taxes, trimming interest rates and helping fund infrastructure spending and training programs, executives say.

Q: What is your impression of Jim Flaherty in his role as minister of finance?

November, 2008

Very unfavourable: 12%
Somewhat unfavourable: 14%
Neither: 30%
Somewhat favourable: 34%
Very favourable: 9%

September, 2008

Very unfavourable: 18%
Somewhat unfavourable: 16%
Neither: 31%
Somewhat favourable: 25%
Very favourable: 5%

*****

Q: How long do you think it will be before the Canadian economy starts to turn around?

Don't know: 1%
3 to 6 mos.: 6%
6 mos. to 1 year: 49%
Longer than 1 year: 44%

*****

Q: What policy initiatives would be helpful to increase economic growth?

Reduce corporate income tax: 89
Further interest rate cuts: 89
Allow a deficit to maintain stimulus: 83
Fund training and skill programs: 82
Increase infrastructure investments: 81
Fund retraining and retooling: 81
Ease rules around pension shortfalls: 77

NOTE: CHARTS MAY NOT ADD UP TO 100 DUE TO ROUNDING

KATHRYN TAM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL; SOURCE: GANDALF GROUP

--------------------



 

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Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, is a report on the latest step forward, or backward or to one side or the other in Iggy’s dance with Harper and the already aborted coalition:
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http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081215.wlibs1215/BNStory/politics/home

Liberals want details from Flaherty

KEVIN CARMICHAEL

Globe and Mail Update
December 15, 2008 at 12:08 PM EST

Ottawa — The federal Liberal Party's economic spokesmen are making more detailed information about the state of the country's finances a condition of their co-operation with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's effort to design a budget that will pass Parliament.

In a letter released to reporters on Monday, John McCallum, the head of the Liberals' economic committee, and Scott Brison, the party's finance critic, say they have little faith in the numbers Mr. Flaherty released in his economic and fiscal update last month.

They ask in the letter that Mr. Flaherty provide them by Friday with an updated economic forecast and further details on his plan to save $10.1-billion over five years by trimming departmental budgets and selling federal assets.

“If the Liberal Party is to be actively involved in the budget process, the first thing the Liberal caucus and all Canadians need to know is the true state of the government's books,” Mr. McCallum and Mr. Brison wrote. “Meaningful discussion and input requires honest budgetary numbers.”

Mr. Flaherty surprised many economists and members of Parliament by predicting a $100-million surplus in his Nov. 27 update even as Canada enters its first recession in almost two decades.

That document, which included aborted plans to scrap a subsidy for political parties that would have disproportionately hurt the government's opponents, sparked a political crisis that forced Prime Minister Stephen Harper to suspend Parliament to avoid being toppled by a united opposition.

The Finance Minister balanced his books largely by promising to end unspecified programs and sell unspecified assets.

“We do not consider it fiscally prudent or credible to break generally accepted accounting principles and book asset sales before the sales have occurred,” the Liberal letter says. “We require a detailed plan of which non-financial assets the government plans to sell and at what price.”

The two Liberal critics took their demands to Mr. Flaherty in person at a meeting Monday morning in Toronto. The finance minister initiated the meeting with his Liberal counterparts, reflecting the threat posed by a united opposition.

Mr. McCallum and Mr. Brison also said they back Mr. Flaherty's pledge to design an economic stimulus plan to fight the recession, saying any program should last for two years and focus on helping troubled industries such as forestry, housing and skills training.

Still, they said they want to know more about how much Mr. Flaherty is willing to spend before they take budget discussions seriously.

“If we are to enter into greater detail on this issue, we need to know more about the scale and composition of the fiscal stimulus your are preparing for budget 2009,” the wrote.

--------------------

I agree with Brison/McCallum that:

• Everyone – not just Liberals – need updated economic projections but I thought Flaherty was aiming for a revised update at end Dec. Why is end of this week so important? Are three or four working days – all that’s left between Friday and the end of the year – all that important?

Possible asset sales ought not to be counted – it’s counting chickens before they hatch which, if I remember, is an accounting ‘No no!’

Contrary to Brison/McCallum and the Globe and Mail/CBC etc: The stimulus program ought not to be designed to last beyond two years – we’ll be recovering by 2011 and stimulus will be the last thing we need. It ought to focus, primarily, on infrastructure that has, thanks to inept and, too often, corrupt politicians at local, provincial and national levels, declined shamefully – making us akin to some second and third world nations.

But the real blame for the sad state of our infrastructure rests with lazy, stupid Canadians (the majority) who reward politicians who build rather than repair. We Canadians deserve the inept and corrupt government we get because they reflect us so well. 

 

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Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the CBC web site, is more – with a slightly different spin – on the Con/Lib budget dance:
--------------------
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/12/15/flaherty-liberals.html

Brison 'confident' government will address Liberal concerns

Last Updated: Monday, December 15, 2008 | 1:45 PM ET
CBC News

Opposition Liberals say they're hopeful Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will move quickly to address their concerns following "constructive" pre-budget discussions on how to stimulate the economy.

Flaherty met with Liberal finance critic Scott Brison and John McCallum, who is chair of the party's advisory committee on economic strategy, for about an hour in Toronto on Monday as part of pre-budget consultations happening throughout the week.

Both said they informed Flaherty of the need to be straightforward about the state of Canada's economy if the minority Conservative government wants to put together an effective stimulus package.

Brison, who called the meeting "very constructive and businesslike," said he's hopeful the government will respond quickly.

"I would hope that prior to Christmas, we can have our concerns addressed and realistic, up-to-date and honest fiscal numbers for us to work on," said Brison.

"I'm confident that we will get the information that we need to proceed."

The Liberals on Monday released a letter they sent to Flaherty last week outlining their demands. Signed by Brison and McCallum, the letter asks for:

• "Honest budgetary numbers" and an updated economic forecast.
• A detailed plan on any Crown assets the government is considering selling.
• A Finance Department briefing for the parliamentary budget officer.
• A commitment to a two-year, multi-industry economic stimulus package.

The letter asks for a response from the government by Friday, Dec. 19.

Brison said the Liberals are looking for the government to present its figures in a way that doesn't include revenues from Crown assets yet to be sold, which he said is a generally accepted accounting practice for the government and private sector.

Flaherty has publicly mulled the possibility of selling some Crown assets as a way of avoiding a deficit, although he hasn't been specific about what might go up for auction.

The Opposition is also seeking an indication of the scale and scope of the stimulus package the government will present in its budget, Brison said, noting that the Liberals are pushing for investments in infrastructure, industries, housing and training.

"We want to see meaningful stimulus that not only helps Canadians get through this economic downturn but builds a more competitive and productive Canadian economy in the future as we move back into a period of recovery," Brison said.

Confidence vote for budget

While meetings with industry representatives and interest groups are usually a routine part of constructing any federal budget, there is an added urgency to this year's consultations, the CBC's James Fitz-Morris reported Monday.

The minority Conservative government will face a highly anticipated test of confidence when it tables its budget on Jan. 27 — a day after Parliament resumes following its prorogation earlier this month.

If the opposition parties vote against the budget, as they threatened to do with the November fiscal update, the country could find itself facing another general election or see the Conservatives replaced by a Liberal-NDP coalition government.

Budget consultations are normally carried out by the House of Commons finance committee, which has been prevented from meeting since the government asked for Parliament to be suspended. Instead, the job has been left to Flaherty, who is also slated to meet with NDP finance critic Thomas Mulcair.

Mulcair said he plans to give Flaherty "our view of what's gone wrong in what the Conservatives have done for the last three years, and what we plan to do taking it forward."

Mulcair has also accused the finance minister of not being forthcoming with the economic numbers.

NDP Leader Jack Layton warned Monday that the government risks "facing the coalition again" if it's not willing to open its books.

He said the New Democrats have been clear with the Conservatives about their ideas for economic regeneration, including immediate help for key industries, tougher rules on banks to loosen credit and assistance for senior citizens.

In the fiscal update delivered at the end of last month, Flaherty projected balanced budgets and small surpluses through 2012-13, but warned that world economic uncertainty made it impossible to rule out future deficits.

Opposition parties have lambasted the Tories for failing to include a stimulus package for the slumping economy in the fiscal update, accusing the Conservatives of using tumultuous times to try to push through ideologically driven measures they said attacked women and public servants.

Aid, stimulus packages in works

Meanwhile, there are reports the Conservatives are preparing to offer aid to Canada's beleaguered mining and forestry sectors in the budget.

In an interview with CTV's Question Period on Sunday, Industry Minister Tony Clement said a number of other industries are "under distress" and "other industrial sectors, other extraction sectors are on the table for our budget coming out on Jan. 27."

Support for resource industries wasn't included in the fiscal update or Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent throne speech.

Harper told CBC News last week that the federal government may have to produce sector-by-sector stimulus measures to ease Canada's economic pains in the weeks ahead, but that the "big stuff" will have to wait for the budget.

Clement announced Friday that the federal government and Ontario had reached a deal to offer proportional funds to Canada's auto industry if a proposed $14-billion US aid package is approved in Washington. That aid would amount to approximately 20 per cent of the U.S. proposal, or about $3.3 billion.

The approach has been met with criticism from some opposition members who say that while Canada should work in some measure of harmony with the U.S. in providing financial assistance for the auto sector, stronger steps must be taken to protect Canadian jobs from being moved south.

"The Canadian government's approach is after these discussions [in the U.S.] are over, Mr. Harper and Mr. Clement hope that somehow we're going to dovetail in and add on at the end and somehow we'll get good consideration in terms of jobs in Canada and in terms of product mandates," Brison said.

"And I think that's very naive."

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Uh, Jack and Gilles; Iggy has a message for you: here.

The budget passes, parliament remains in session. The question then becomes: can Iggy convince Harper to hold off an election long enough to give the Liberals a coherent policy and some money?

 
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