Thursday, 31 May 2012

Selinger throws unemployed workers under the bus

Well, Greg Selinger met with the other Western Provincial Premiers to discuss various challenges facing Western Canada, such as developing a "pan-Canadian" energy grid.

While Selinger obtained key support in his fight against Harper's deforms to Manitoba's Provincial Nominee Program for immigration (Manitoba's PCs have been shilling for the Harper Government™ 's attempts to deform the made in Manitoba program by taking federal control of it), it seems that it came with a price tag. He threw unemployed workers under the bus by backing Harper's E.I. deforms.
In a joint statement, Redford, Selinger, Wall and representatives from B.C, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut called the Harper government's newly announced reforms to employment insurance a "good first step" while suggesting more could be done.

("Redford's energy plan supported by western premiers." May 20, 2011. CBC)
At least, I think that's the reason Selinger's supporting regressive deforms of Employment Insurance. There's other possibilities, though. Some other possibilities are he doesn't care about the issue at all, didn't read the statement before signing it, did it after being bargained with by some other chip the more rightwing premiers had, or genuinely thinks E.I. deform is a good policy. The last option is the most damning for a supposedly social democratic premier.

While there's six workers for every job opening overall in Canada, there are some particular cases where "labour shortages" exist. A lot of resource sector industries are such cases. There's a shortage of petrol workers affects Fort McMurray , but the mining sector is also facing a skilled worker shortage. Thompson, Manitoba and other places in the North of this Province are sites of mining operations. Good-paying mining jobs have attracted many workers into the sector in Thompson, which has left the retail sector understaffed. Perhaps Selinger thinks that with poorer E.I. benefits more people would be filling up the jobs in Thompson, MB and other resource cities/towns in parts of Western Canada. I'm really not sure that E.I. benefits would are lucrative enough to make this a big factor, though (the mines/other resource companies eating up most of the labour force with lucrative jobs are probably the biggest if not sole factor).
Regardless, sacrificing countless workers across Canada to satisfy a few employers in smaller, highly untypical labour markets is disgraceful. If Selinger is doing this, he lacks the moral integrity to be a good social democratic Premier.

The Return of Winnipeg Mosquitoes?!!

Image Source: 

Go Green Winnipeg
Well, mosquitoes might be back this summer in big numbers. The municipal entomologist is advising people to dump standing water, so I'd recommend following what he says. This year might get ugly and the temperature's risen recently and it looks like we'll see a lot of it.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Latest from the RAG Maclean's

Stay classy, Maclean's!

Image Sources: Marginal Notes (Top)
Huffington Post Canada (Bottom)

Well, Maclean's is taking aim at the "ruling class" of "entitled students" in Quebec. Because, when I think power I think students protesting tuition hikes. It's normal behaviour for a government leader to crack down on the ruling class, just like they do all the time with country club conservatives who they meet (rather than granting them extra-special permission to come to Canada).

For relevant info on the tremendous intergenerational inequity in these cuts targeted at students by a serious writer, see John Moore's column in (of all places) The National Post. For more info on the toxic effect of tuition hikes in terms of social class and marginalized groups, see Nick Falvo.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Introducing the tried & untrue technique of unscientific polling

Most Winnipeg blogs that fit onto the left-right ideological landscape1 seem to be right-leaning. Sure, there's a few blogs by people in the local labour movement, one by CCPA Manitoba, Gauche Manitoba (which posts infrequently), and the now defunct "Just Damn Stupid", but by and large the big left-right ideological blogs in this city are rigthwing (The Black Rod immediately comes to mind). Winnipeg's small left-leaning blogs generally don't post as often as the right-leaning blogs - at least that's what my highly anecdotal observations seem to indicate.

Conversing with some other bloggers, there were some ideas presented:

  • Perhaps the fact that a party which is generally regarded as centre-left is governing this province has motivated right-wingers to complain via blogs and induced left-wingers into a sense of contentment so as to have little desire for political blogging. 
  • Perhaps left-wingers prefer offline tactics to vent fusterations with various policies.
  • In lieu of Saskatchewan's more developed leftwing blogsophere, perhaps politics is less heated overall in Manitoba.  
Well, that got me thinking to what the views of this blogs readership are. So, I decided to introduce the tried and untrue technique of unscientific polling. While the results will be much less reliable than a standard opinion poll, one can rest assured that after a few more Harper deforms to StatsCan this poll will be more reliable than the Census.  

1 As opposed to the many urbanist blogs, which I view as possessing an ideology but not one on the left-right dimension

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Economic Issue of Climate Change

Human caused climate change is very much an economic issue. While this fact has been obscured in the public consciousness, it is important to realize that the effects of climate change are disastrous in large part due to the enormous economic pain they'll inflict on humanity. There's a reason 250 top economists in Canada advocate for a carbon tax, after all. 

Last year, the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy (a group whose funding Harper's dumb government Conservatives have slashed) released a report detailing the costs Canadians will be forced to pay thanks to climate change. 

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Harper's E.I. Deforms

Seasonal Agricultural work: Ideal Flaherty Job -
low wages, poor job security, and few rights.

Image Source: CBC

Well, in a weak job market, with six Canadians out of work for every one job opening, Harper and Jim Flaherty have decided to deform Canada's E.I. program.

According to Jim Flaherty, there is "no such thing as a bad job" and labour shortages have to be dealt with. Job shortages not so much, I guess.

It should be noted that Harper & his team painted Michael Ignatieff as an elitist for drinking espresso.

Harper's gang are now officialy mirroring the stuff of Marie Antoinette myth.

Life's funny, eh?

Let them eat dirt, Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Harper?

Image Sources

TheSpec (Harper, top)

Macleans (Flaherty, bottom)

Dutch Disease/Enviro Link: Good Politics, Great Policy, third Decent Analysis

Thomas Mulcair: Leader of the Official Opposition. Recently made statements that angered rightwing politicians in parts of Western Canada

Image Source: Wikipedia
Mulcair is linking Dutch Disease and sound environmental policy, advocating pricing carbon at the oil sands & encouraging a sustainable development of them. This is good politics (as even Andrew Coyne recognizes, in the comical National Post), even better policy (as Coyne fails to recognize), and a third decent analysis.

Mulcair's argument basically boils down to this:

  • The cost of Canada's oil sands extraction to developers is under-priced. The cost generated in terms of environmental degradation, particularly through it's greater-than-crude -oil-extraction greenhouse gas emissions, isn't factored into the cost to developers.
  • This leads to an over-extraction of oil, which leads to greater harm to the environment than we'd otherwise like. 
  • Underpricing oil also leads to upward pressure on the Canadian dollar, which hurts our nation's manufacturing (Dutch Disease).
  • By factoring in the environmental cost of oil sands development (through various schemes, perhaps the cap-and-trade system that the Federal NDP advocated in the 2011 election), Canada won't  be overproducing oil from the oil sands. 
  • By stopping the overproduction of oil from the sands, Canada's dollar will lower and manufacturers will benefit.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Where are the attack ads against Harper?

Stephen Harper and his Conservative minions have been doing one stupid thing after another. Thomas Mulcair, quite wisely, preempted CON attack ads on him with his own image defining ads. Some people are asking where the anti-Mulcair ads are. I have something to ask as well: WHERE ARE THE ANTI-HARPER ADS?

I mean, think about it. Harper spends years sullying Leaders of the Official Opposition on some rather petty stuff (such as the beverage of choice of a certain former Official Opposition Leader). It takes a lot of work to successfully instil a public perception about a politician in the public consciousness, but the Conservatives have succeeded at it enough to win big enough pluralities in Canada's winner-take-all system to win a majority of the seats.

 Since Harper has mastered mixed personally-based/issue-based negative campaigning, using pretty dishonest tactics, why can't the NDP start honestly reminding people of the many piling scandals the Federal CONS are embroiled in right now? Maybe it's party finances, but some good issue-based attack ads against Stephen Harper and his pals are needed right now.

Moron posts sticker downtown

Well, I was walking downtown a few days ago and lo' and behold, found this on a city sign.

The sticker then has a link to a website hosted by a US conspiracist and egomaniacal talk-radio host. The fact that nuts are placing this sorta crap downtown is a disgrace. If you know any nut who believes this BS, than please show them this link:

Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

And now, for your viewing pleasure, here's some high quality ownage of a 9/11 conspiracist.


Mulcair's Dutch Disease Warnings: Nothing New

There's been a lot of hay made recently over Thomas Mulcair's concerns about Dutch Disease. While I'm currently over midway through a substantive post on the merits of his arguments, I would like to remind all those folks in the media of something: THIS IS NOTHING NEW!!!!

Friday, 18 May 2012

A Great one leaves

The Walter Krawec of the One Man Committee is closing shop. I'm going to miss that blog. The One Man Committee was a nice addition to Winnipeg's blogosphere, with a mellow yet piercing tone and deep analyses of civic development. I can't help but wonder if he's also leaving Winnipeg Internet Pundits. First the Endless Spin Cycle (ironically of finite life) and now Walter Krawec, I hope Winnipeg's blogosphere doesn't contract anymore!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Ticketgate with Katz, friend of big money in politics

Ticketgate was, in a perhaps worse form, going on at City Hall. It's arguably worse because, not only were some outside companies buying tickets, but Mayor Sam Katz (a country club conservative who could easily afford tickets on his own) has been using taxpayer dollars that fund his office to buy tickets for colleagues on council. This may, ever so subtly, result in a tit-for-tat relationship at City Hall, where certain swing councillors feel the need to return favours to the mayor on issues.

If one looks at the CBC table showing which councillors received tickets and from who, it seems that Katz gave most of his tickets to soft supporters - people he'd recently swung over with Executive Policy Committee appointments (Rush Wyatt, Dan Vandal) yet still pose a risk of defection - and one went to the new councillor, Brian Mayes. This represents a great risk of leading to a "tit-for-tat", "we're all friends, right, and friend help each other out"attitude at city hall, where the Mayor can sway councillors with quasi-monetary incentives.

Katz personally doesn't seem to get how corruptive an influence money can be. In 2009, the country club (small-c) conservative of Tuxedo called provincial bans on corporate and union donations a "slap in the face to city council". In the campaigns for the 2010 municipal election, Sam Katz had even stronger things to say.

Katz also accused the NDP government of meddling in civic politics by introducing campaign-finance reforms that ban both union and corporate donations. 
"By eliminating corporate donations, they now make it more difficult for people who are right of centre," said the mayor. "It won't affect me, but people should give them credit for being a lot smarter than they thought they were." 
("NDP to field council candidates". Bartley Knives. Dec. 11, 2009.Winnipeg Free Press).   
Yup. The mayor is as utterly clueless as Dave Chomiak about why big money & fraternizing with corporate donors/gift providers in politics is wrong.

Since the premier can't backbench Katz, Winnipeggers will have to put up with him for a few more years - hopefully, City Council will have the sense to keep this incompetent mayor on a very short lease from now on.

"City Circus" on Shaw TV

Well, Marty Gold of The Great Canadian Talk Show and Graham Hnatiku have a Tuesday, 9:30 PM community access program on Shaw - which should run for at least 13 episodes. Looks like the first episode aired this Tuesday and a rerun will be airing tonight at 9:30 PM.

While I haven't listened to a lot of Marty Gold (or talk radio in general, for that matter -aside from Winnipeg Internet Pundits podcasts), this should be interesting. It'll ad diversity to Shaw's community lineup and get some local political analysis on the channel. From the stuff I've read on his blog, Gold can be quite sensationalistic from time to time (and I've had my share of personal spats with Graham), but it should be interesting local coverage nonetheless.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

What's a "super-ironic bicycle"?

Through the Winnipeg O' My Heart blog I found this amusing video. It's Hot 103's variant of the "stuff/s*it people in ______ say" internet meme.

Overall, pretty interesting - can't say I have a problem with "hipsters" riding bicycles and I still have no idea what a "super-ironic bicycle" is. Is it a bunch of bicycles towing a truck that usually carries bikes, as that'd be "super-ironic"?

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Jets Tickets & Regulatory Capture

Money has influence in politics, even with effective campaign finance laws in place. This is clear in "ticketgate", where various Ministers received Jets ticket gifts from Crown and private sector corporations. This is particularly disturbing in the case of private sector corporations that can use tickets to soften Ministers who oversee their industries - because small-ticket gifts are the first step towards American-style buying of politicians, where oil company and hedge fund lobbyists regularly use their organizations' deep pockets to influence public policy for private gain.

Sadly, one member of the supposedly social democratic New Democratic Party of Manitoba fails to understand this. That man is provincial energy minister Dave Chomiak.

Earlier Friday, Selinger said he would not ask his energy minister Dave Chomiak to resign over Chomiak’s acceptance of free Jets tickets from an oil exploration company. 
Chomiak attended a game at the MTS Centre last Feb. 14. 
Chomiak said in an interview with Global News that he did nothing wrong in accepting the tickets. 
"It's doing business, you can’t not do business with companies that are in Manitoba, it has to do with jobs, job creation, there's several thousand people working in the oil field in Manitoba, I think it's appropriate to meet with these companies," he said, adding he also also accepted free tickets from telecom provider MTS last October. 
Global News also reported that Chomiak had just that day disclosed he’s received the tickets from Tundra. MLAs are required by law to disclose gifts over $250. Tundra did not return calls from Global.
        ("13 MLAs received 33 free Jets tickets: Selinger". Staff writer, May 11, 2012. Winnipeg Free Press)

Chomiak's lack of regrets for having an old boys club relationship with people he's supposed to be regulating is abhorrent. Selinger must reverse his decision and backbench Chomiak immediately. A man who thinks fraternizing with oil companies is okay because they employee people, regardless of whatever long-term negative consequences or corruption can result from it, has no place representing a government in Manitoba. If Chomiak wants, I might be able to procure a time machine that'll lead him back to Ralph Klein's cabinets - he'd be right at home there.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Manitoba Hydro & the domestic market

Policy Fix has a new post out about Manitoba Hydro, called "Time to Expand the Manitoba Advantage". It speaks of Provincial Crown Corporation, despite recent controversies over the fesability of future export plans, as a great economic institution. The "below market rates" afforded by the crown corp's economies of scale and less single-mindedly profit driven nature have been key to the affordability of Manitoba. Other benefits from Manitoba Hydro noted include more equitable access to Hydro power that results from delivering services to unprofitable, remote communities across this Province as well as an ability to incur costs from "risker" yet more innovative projects due to its economies of scale than private companies could.    

Policy Fix argues that export markets and their future is uncertain, though there are a few positive signs with hydro-electric power meeting the environmental standards of some US state governments. The crux of the strategy Policy Fix recommends, though, is a domestic focus - a "green development" program integrated into the nascent Rapid Transit plan and encouraging technological & manufacturing development of electric vehicles. This will,in the mid to long term, create a larger and more stable domestic market for Manitoba Hydro's power and could lead to value-added exports from Manitoba.

Worth a read.


The spectacle of Harper and his Manitoba MPs espousing his government's stupid policies, day after day, is great morbid comedy. Vic Toews is at the forefront of defending Canada from Tamil refugees, Harper has some pretty questionable ads in Quebec, and CON MPs shower Manitoba's legislature to shill for Harper's deforming of a successful made in Manitoba immigration program. With all these troubling trends in terms of Canada's immigration policy, it's pleasing to know that a convicted white-collar criminal who renounced their Canadian citizenship a decade ago is green-lighted for entrance into this country.

This is Harper's Canada, folks. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The "Bloated Public Sector" Meme

Public Workers as a share of Manitoba's workforce. 

Image constructed by The Analyst, with data from ENAP's comparison
of provincial governments.

Well, I've been having quite a heated political quarrel on Winnipeg Zoom with The Purple Rod (LRT) and Riverman over the share of public workers in Manitoba's workforce. The notion that a crippling, oversized, parasitic, unproductive public administration obsessed solely with redistribution has grown beyond all measure in Manitoba has been quite popular in rightwing circles and has gained a larger audience thanks to the hack analyses the Frontier Centre for (Privatizing) Public Policy has been putting out. Sadly, the story has little relation to reality. A new spin on this meme, particularly popular by people suffering from hysterics after the NDP won the 2011 Provincial election, is that Selinger and Doer have deliberately grown the public service to win elections.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Call out to prospective guest posters

We here at The Winnipeg RAG Review are always eager to diversify our talent pool and increase the robustness of this operation. Since it's only a matter of time before a pickup driver kills me, part of that entails ensuring that The Winnipeg RAG Review can survive any one author. Guest posters may be added as full posters later on.

If you're interested, please contact with your submission ideas and the name (or pseudonym) you'd like to be recognized by.

'Peg forum

A few months ago I stumbled across the web forum Winnipeg Zoom. While not a hyper-active forum, it's good for some discussion and perspectives on all the interesting news about this city. I frequent it from time to time. It certainly is a nice addition to the expanding Winnipeg cyber-community. Definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

User-fees for public services suck

I've had to put a fair share of posts and ideas on the back-burner as my schedule's overloaded. My idea for doing an in-depth analysis of the the 2012 budget is one such thing that's taken a backseat, which is unfortunate. But there's one thing I just have to make clear: user fees for public services truly suck.

Death, marriage, and birth certificate fees are going to increase with this budget. Finance Minister Stan Struthers has touted what a "modern" way the overall approach to trying to balance the budget by 2014 is. User fees aren't and they really defeat the whole point of public services (as opposed to private commodities).

The whole point of public services (which includes necessary Vital Statistics documentation like birth certificates) is to provide all citizens with equitable access to given services without discrimination based on the ability to pay. Single rate user fees, like the fees Vital Statistics charges for birth, marriage, and death certificates, disproportionately hurts working poor Winnipeggers who need to get documentation, like replacing a birth certificate, changing a name, or getting death certificates, out the way to deal with a vast array of administrative issues which they can't afford to pay lawyers to deal with. Regressive user-fees just ad one more pain to the process.

This regressive revenue strategy disturbingly parallels a strategy at the municipal level in this city, where under country club conservative Sam Katz's watch this city has hiked user-fees to avoid raising property taxes. One of the most nefarious instances of the rise in regressive user-fees has been questionable photo radar ticketing, which started under mayor Murray but has expanded under Katz' watch (with help from statutory changes backed by the Manitoba NDP at the provincial level).

"Today's NDP" has truly betrayed it's progressive legacy through it's extended use of regressive user-fees to finance the public sector. Sadly, this is part of a larger trend, of shifting from progressive public financing to regressive financing all in the name of saying "this government hasn't raised (visible) taxes" - or, in this case, haven't increased income taxes that much. Hopefully, Tomorrow's NDP will be better.


 Postscript: The "No Deficit-financing" rule for (most) US States referenced in this video doesn't apply to Provinces, like Manitoba. But a similar trend of user-fee hikes in place of tax increases is present in this province as it is in other jurisdictions, so the video's relevant enough to warrant inclusion. Given the tuition freeze, the ballooning cost of public university (in the US, "State universities") is less exaggerated in Manitoba compared to the US State University referenced. Many of the specifics are different from Manitoba, as Canada in general isn't spiralling as far down the regressive toilet drain as the US is right now, but this nascent trend is still disturbing.