Saturday, 31 March 2012

More small dollar, big impact cuts

Last post I spoke of Harper's Fabian Neo-Conservatism and told a commenter that I'd follow up on OAS. This is not the OAS post, but rather a look at some of the other cuts that, while small, carry huge negative consequences.

Harper's dealing crippling cuts to the National Council of Welfare - an organization that provides crucial insight into problems facing low-income Canadians and challenges that the social assistance system has to address. This organization has a budget of $1.1 million, or 0.0003% of program spending in 2011. 

Getting into slightly bigger territory, Statistics Canada - an agency internationally renowned for its professional, quality work and the lifeblood of many government agencies, social advocacy groups, and businesses via it's role at providing information will be slashed by $33.9 million (a number that's 0.01% of last fiscal year's program expenditure). This compounds the disasterous blow of scrapping a mandatory long form census.

 First Nations - a rapidly expanding population in many places, including this Province - are serviced by the First Nations Statistical Institute (FNSI). Info about the issues and demographics of remote First Nations communities come out of this organization, which the government will eliminate funding for within 2 years.  FNSI, while doing valuable work that'll help enhance Canada's social capital, amounts to only 0.002% of 2011 program expenditures. 

The Harper Government™ is also engaging an assault on environmental groups, both with its threats to cut off charitable status for "partisan" activity, and by devastating cuts to the National Round Table on the Environment and Economy. The roundtable's budget is $5 million, again a mere 0.002% of 2011 program spending. 

Contrary to what Calgary Grit thinks, these aren't small moves just because they're small-dollar items. Threatening environmental groups, for instance, goes against some of the core conditions necessary for a health democracy. Harper's move is pretty Nixonian, as Richard Nixon plotted to use his country's federal revenue agency to target policy opponents - though he didn't end up doing so in the end.

These cuts are small bucks, but have impacts above their weight. They cripple the information gathering process of the federal government. This inhibits the ability for policymakers to craft well-designed, targeted and efficiently ran programs to address socioeconomic issues. It disables the Canadian state. Harper's band is nothing less than a US-style conservative wrecking crew due to the disorder they've caused to competent public administration in this country. Cutting into the bone of one small program at a time, Harper's disabling the social safety net. 

Harper's $9 Billion F-35 deal will amount to a size that's 3% of the 2011 Budget's program expenditures, btw.   

Friday, 30 March 2012

The Fabian Neo-Conservatism of Harper

Calgary Grit has made quite a bit out of Harper not drowning the social safety net in a bathtub with this budget and for the amount being spent:

OK, so it wasn't exactly the "transformational" budget we'd long feared or hoped for, depending on our allegiances. But it does provide a good look at what kind of Prime Minister Stephen Harper truly wants to be. 

This budget should tell us once and for all, that he's not a guy who wants to fundamentally change Canada. Sure, he's tossed a few symbolic gestures to the base, in the form of CBC budget cuts, the death of Katimavik, and a warning to environmental activists. But Harper remains the head of the biggest spending government in Canadian history, even after accounting for population growth and inflation.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

No Baird vs Martin clips

Ottawa West-Nepean's John Baird and Winnipeg Centre's Pat Martin are two MPs known for a confrontational and bombastic rhetorical style. They were also in the top two best orators in Parliament for 2011, according to a Maclean's survey. John Baird is the best orator according the survey and Martin was the runner up. Some quotes from the Maclean's article detailing the best orator reveal interesting dynamics hidden by the everyday theatrics of the House.

“The first rule of Canadian politics is, never ask him a question, because you’re going to get your head handed to you,” says NDP MP Pat Martin. “You couldn’t actually maintain that level of choleric, or it would eat you alive,” says Martin, who knows of bombast and faux indignation, as evidenced by last week’s profane Twitter tirade. 
Baird enjoys repartee with Martin; other MPs, not so much. “When I was government House leader and taking questions for the PM, I would always dread when I looked across the aisle to see Michael Ignatieff wasn’t there—and Bob Rae was,” he says. 

The mention of Michael Ignatieff as a fun, challenging opponent makes sense given he was ranked by the Maclean's survey of 2007 as "best orator". Still, Martin's polemical rhetoric probably better mirrors Baird's, so it'd be interesting to see their exchanges in Question Period. But, try as I may, it doesn't seem there's videos online of it - I guess I'll just have to resume heavy watching of CPAC to find such an exchange.

Martin seems more outraged when giving angry speeches, whereas Baird just seems more drily petty and vindictive. That's one thing to keep in mind while viewing the primary material.

Pat Martin

  John Baird

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Brodbeck doublethink

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Tom Brodbeck is a provincial disgrace.

In this piece from January the editorialist touts the hypocrisy of social activists for not tearing into Andrew Swan and "Today's NDP" over their Dumb on Crime policies. The problem is that a few months earlier he told the Occupy Winnipeg activists that they were stupid for protesting outside Andrew Swan's office due to his support for dumb on crime policies. So the problem with social activists is that they don't attack dumb on crime NDP politicians, except when they do and it's therefore stupid? Sounds like typical Sun reasoning to me. 

Incidentally, when speaking of mandatory minimums in the article Brodbeck always talks about the least controversial ones. The fact that drug offenders- even nonviolent ones - will also face counterproductive sentences doesn't phase the hack writer one bit.

Mandatory minimums, even for more serious crimes like carjacking, are just stupid. If the convict needs to be locked up for a long time, the Judge can discern that - if they don't, mandatory minimums just tie hands and (especially when applied to younger offenders) create lengthier terms in a school for criminals.

"Tough on crime" is a misnomer for Harper-style crime policies as - while tough on criminals (they brutalize a lot of offenders) they don't actually reduce crime. Creating training camps for criminals - which imprisoning unhardened offenders can do - might even make it worse. Dumb on Crime is a more appropriate term.

Andrew Swan represents all that is wrong with "Today's NDP" and has been criticized by social and community activists, regardless of Brodbeck's selective amnesia. Hopefully, Tomorrow's NDP will be better and smarter on crime, to the chagrin of Sun columnists.        

Mulcair Leader of Canada's NDP

Thomas Mulcair is the leader of the Federal NDP, winning on the fourth ballot. Based on his post-victory press conference, social democrats have reason to be cautiously optimistic. Mulcair emphasized going on the attack against the Conservatives on healthcare issues - particularly fairness when it comes to healthcare for low-income families - and spoke of focused messaging to counter Con attacks. Something I'm particular concerned with - sustainable development and Dutch Disease - were core features of his economic agenda.

In an earlier conversation with the Winnipeg Free Press, which I just found on youtube, Thomas Mulcair speaks of using cap-and-trade and gas tax revenues to fund municipal infrastructure deficits - like the one Winnipeg faces. When it comes to crime, he's not going to back the Federal Con/ "Today's" Manitoba NDP dumb on crime agenda. That is refreshing.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Federal NDP Leadership Race Down to the Wire

Well, the Federal NDP Leadership race is down to the wire, now, with Thomas Mulcair facing off against Brian Topp. Mulcair is running on an ill-defined platform of party "modernization" while Topp vows to fight for social democratic values while cooperating with emerging social movements. In an era of increasing income inequality and a renewal of leftwing populism, New Democrats can only hope Mulcair doesn't mean political half-heartedness and unprincipled capitulation. New Democrats should hope that he displays his combative rhetorical skills against the Conservative manufactured majority and not social democratic activists.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

My bike's ball bearings hate me

Image Source: Photo taken by "The Analyst".
Well, I finally got my bike fixed. Winter roads were pretty harsh on the ball bearings in my bicycle's bottom bracket. Turns out the bearings exploded open.

Bottom bracket of a bike. Normal ball-bearing
(second row, far-left).

Image Source: Alibaba profile
 Normal ball-bearings, evidently, look quite different. 

I call that Progress

Probably five months ago, down in City Place, there was a newspaper stand with complimentary copies of the Winnipeg Sun. Is it still there? Well, I looked, and low and behold I found this:

Image Source: Photo taken by "The Analyst".

In the market of easy reading news it looks like the Sun has met the new kid on the block. The free-to-consumers Metro - geared towards a younger demo - is competition for the Winnipeg Sun. 

Can this city's far-right trash tabloid survive? Will the Sun move towards a model where all their revenue comes from ad sales so as to compete with the costless (to consumers) Metro? Only time will tell. 

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Blogger .ca-ification of Canadian blogs

Well, it looks like various Canadian blogs hosted by blogger are getting ".ca" in their names. See here and here for evidence (and just try typing in "Canadian blog's" and see what happens).The Winnipeg RAG Review has been another beneficiary to this process.

Well, this is an interesting (if trivial) development. Great to know that my blog is even more clearly Canadian

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Manitoba Political Underdog

32 year old family University Student and former paramedic is Shane Geschiere plans to run for Federal Liberal Party leadership.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Fact checking Anti-Maloway Claims: Fund for the Nonexistent Office

Riverman has recently accused Jim Maloway of some pretty heavy things.  So I've decided to do some fact checking. As the responses would be too heavy for a reply I'm compiling them into a series of posts.

The first claim I'm going to check in this series involves Maloway's "fund for a non-existent office".

Riverman's Charge
Maloway took money for a constituency office for most of the time he was an MLA, without having one. No money was returned. It was on CTV news.

The Truth: River's claim is true. Maloway did use a fund for constituency offices for other things - like multiple phones. It is somewhat misleading, though, as that wasn't improper under Manitoba Provincial law at the time.

Currently there are two "constituency allowance" expenses that are office expenses - office space expenses and office operation expenses. Office operation expenses includes communication expenses - not all of which imply the existence of an office.

communications equipment* including:

- cell phone under the Legislative Assembly cell phone plan,
- Blackberry under the Legislative Assembly Blackberry

- cell phone signal booster for a location where the signal is

- conference call equipment,

- hands-free phone equipment for a vehicle such as a
Bluetooth device for use of a cell phone.

Arrangements for cell phones and Blackberries must be made through
the Members’ Allowances Office. These devices are property of the
Legislative Assembly and must be returned to the Assembly when no
longer in use or when ceasing to be a Member.

*The number of communications devices and related services listed
above are limited to the:

a) Member - one cell phone, one Blackberry, one installed car
phone (must be permanently installed – e.g. OnStar).

b) constituency office - a telephone land line, a fax line and
Internet service.
c) constituency assistant (whose salary is paid out of the
Constituency Assistants Allowance) - either a cell phone or a

d) Member’s home (only if necessary for constituency purposes -
there is a requirement to monitor these expenses) - a telephone
land line, a fax line and Internet service.

telephone services including:
- installation,
- telephone rent,
- directory listing,
- answering service,
- 800 service,
- long distance,
- charges related to the use of cell phones, Blackberries,
PDAs or other mobile communication devices,
- automated calling services (telephone blasts) subject to
content requirements for an advertisement or message.
(Constituency Expenses - Government of Manitoba)

Maloway's Defence 

"It's just a more I think reasonable and creative way of using the funds," he said when confronted with the information by CTV's Kevin Armstrong. "My caucus staff went through and they double checked to make sure that we are okay."

MLA's are not required to have a constituency office.

Maloway said an office itself was a waste of money, so he decided to spend his allowance in other ways.
              ("MLA claims expenses for office that doesn't exist". CTV. Jan. 18, 2008)

Moral Verdict: That was a bit too "creative". I probably wouldn't have done it. Generally, unless you have a really well-organized home office in your constituency, it's best to have an actual office - something he was planning on setting up before getting elected MP. Jim Maloway's use of the funds for phones -- key to communicating with and being accessible to his constituents  - does make sense. There was some problematic expense accounting when it came funds used for political instead of non-partisan advertising, though. It's fair to say that Maloway should have practised more diligence, but he didn't do anything too egregious. In light of new evidence and pending further investigating, I will withdraw the verdict.- March 20, 2012

Monday, 12 March 2012


Bgilchrist has a post where he accuses me (as well as Graham Hnatiuk, though not by name) of moderating away comments we disagree with. I don't know why his comments didn't appear, but there's a few guesses & remarks I have.

  • When re-editing my HTML template in an attempt to move my long list of Winnipeg bloggers to a separate page, I cut a giant block of text out and tried placing it here. When that didn't work I just settled for a half-assed attempt to cobble the list together again. It's still a work in progress, but editing the template may have fucked up the comments. 
  • Bgilchrist claims that it happened with several other bloggers. I don't know who these other bloggers are, but if they have any problems posting comments you can always email me and I will try to get back to you promptly.
  • If the same thing happened on another blog it might just indicate a problem unique to bgilchrist (maybe blogger thinks his comments are spam or something). 
Lastly, in the spirit of fairness, I have bgilchrist's reply to the issue of Maloway's usefulness. This response mirrors Riverman's.

..., the point of my rebuttal was to look at the historical voting trends in each of the ridings you mentioned. St. B and Transcona seemed to be following the individual MP ( Blaikie, Duhamel). In all ridings, Conservative vote trends were increasing. And in Transcona, Maloway actually increased his vote – it was collapse of Liberal vote that killed him. Now, if Liberal voters got a message indicating they should be voting conservative instead, there may be an issue. As it stands right now, seems like sour grapes from Maloway to me. Other than that, nothing from the historical voting numbers would suggest that these ridings were in anyway influenced by robocalling. As for Maloway specifically – 20+ years as a backbencher – why was he never a provincial cabinet minister? His learning curve for parliament would be smaller than 98% of the rest given the amount of time he spent as an MLA. And his contribution as an MP? Introduce a private Member’s bill that would have fined airlines for inclement weather! 

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Call out to Elmwood-Transcona Readers

When I discussed potential voter suppression in Winnipeg, I received this reply from bgilchrist:

You seem to insinuate that there was a significant change in seats in Winnipeg, when in fact there were only two seats that changed. One seat that the Tories had been targeting for years and another where people got fed up with the useless tool 'Maloway'.

Conservatives' Structural Advantages

Racknine is a small Edmonton-based firm which seems to be the epitome of efficiency, making 10 million robocalls out of 200 accounts last election. That's 50,000 robocalls per account! They're just one small part of the Cons Machine.

The scale of public messaging in Canadian politics is on the rise. Last election spending was caped at $21 million per party with a full slate of candidates. Assuming no in-and-out style dirty tricks this time round, the Conservatives went to work with laser-focus and a machine that put every dollar to use.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Reporting an Error to the Toronto Star

Just read this article and noticed something potentially egregious.

Holding on to as many ridings as possible in Quebec in the next election has to be an absolute priority for the NDP. In the short-term, doing better in Quebec may be the only realistic path to a Liberal recovery. But an opposition heavily invested in a war of attrition in Quebec could be a winning condition for the ruling Conservatives.
They already hold 72 of 92 Western Canada seats. That’s twice as many as the NDP. As for the Liberals, they barely salvaged four seats west of Ontario last May.

My "report an error" submission:

Article with error:

Twice as many as the NDP? Assuming by "Western Canada" you mean BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba than the Tories got 72 seats (that's right). But the NDP got 12 in BC, 1 in Alberta, 0 in Saskatchewan, and 2 in Manitoba. That's 12  + 1 + 2, which is 15. That's not half of the Tory seats in the West, that's 3/18 5/24 of what the Tories got.

Voter Suppression probably skewed the results in a few Western ridings (like Elmwood-Transcona), but still.
Postscript: Do'h! Just realized the error after sending the elementary arithmetically errant error report to the Toronto Star. Came about due to a memory confusion - namely, when adding up the seats (12 + 1 + 2) I remembered the 12 NDP seats from BC. Instead of dividing 15/72 to the simplest form (5/24), I divided 12/72 to the simplest form (3/18).

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

One fifth of the way there ...

The country club conservative of Tuxedo (who just "feels your pain" so very much in Arizona) hiked various city fees/taxes - just two years after demonizing the supposed "home no more" tax increase proposal of Judy Wasylycia-Leis. Now city council might reverse one of his fee hikes - the transit use one. A significant number of transit users aren't particularly wealthy, so it'd makes sense for the supposed "champion of Winnipeg's working class" to find more progressive ways of financing the city's transit services. 

While the entire Public Works Committee voted to rescind the fee hike, the ultimate showdown will happen on March 20 - the day of the debate on the 2012 City Operating Budget. Katz's Executive Policy Committee might reinstate the hike, so let's hold our breathes.

All in all, though, the reversal shows the power of a little grassroots organizing at the municipal level. Community members, students, and even city councillors all protested this hike. People power can go a long way in a mid-sized Canadian city.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Cloudy Day Blues

This city's weather patterns are insanely erratic. And - particularly when it comes to sunny days giving way to cloudy ones - that hasn't been good for my body, at all.