Friday, 31 May 2013

Please welcome new contributor Art Cramer

Image Source: Modified YMCA image
The Winnipeg RAG Review has a new contributor, left-progressive and New Democrat Art Cramer. You may have seen his first post, taking on Justin Trudeau and detailing his case for why the Papineau MP is not the progressive hope for Canada. In the upcoming year they'll hopefully be more insightful, provocative posts coming from our newest team member.

The Winnipeg RAG Review aims to provide a diverse array of left-progressive and social democratic viewpoints. There's a few other people with the power to contribute, but thus far pretty much all of the posts have been from yours truly (The Analyst). Hopefully, with some assistance from Art Cramer and others who may come to contribute, this blog will have a more multi-perspectival quality.

I can't guarantee that I'll agree with everything Art Cramer writes and I certainly can't guarantee that he'll agree with everything I write, but multiple voices should serve to broadened and deepen the discourse on this blog.

Best of luck to our newest contributor, Art Cramer!

New Blog Contributor takes on Justin Trudeau

Let me start from the outset by stating that I am a card carrying New Democrat, will always be a card carrying New Democrat, have never, and will never vote anything other then New Democrat.

OK, so now that is out of the way, lets get down to brass tacks. Justin Trudeau is being trumpeted as the new "Progressive Hope". However, he has taken a number of stances that suggest this is truly  open to question.Today, I want to focus on correspondence I had with Mr. Trudeau's Office regarding FIPA, another "Free Trade" agreement that will lock Canada into trade relations with China, where trade "disagreements" will be negotiated in secret by anonymous international "Trade Tribunals", capable of enforcing binding judgements that will place the wants and desires of Corporations ahead of Canadian citizens and their government.

I partook in an online petition campaign which solicited responses from Mr. Trudeau as follows:

Date: Mon, 29 Apr 2013 11:33:01 -0400
Subject: Liberals demand a public debate on the Canada-China FIPA

"On behalf of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, I would like to thank you for your email regarding the Canada – China Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA).

The Liberal Party of Canada believes that foreign investment is good for our economy, but we must always work to protect Canadian interests and the interests of Canadians. The Harper government’s approach appears to be that by “signing” trade agreements with virtually any willing country, it somehow translates into a trade strategy. This is simply not the case, and we must ensure that any international trade agreement that Canada signs will be of net benefit to Canadians.

In order to attract foreign investment to Canada, both domestic and international business communities need to know that the investment rules in Canada are clear and that business deals must adhere to these guidelines rather than be subject to the political whims of the government of the day. As well, Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (FIPA) are important for Canadians investing abroad as well as businesses here at home.

China is rapidly growing into a dominant global player, and is Canada’s second largest trading partner. China is also a centralized economy and operates state-owned enterprises for unfair advantage.

The Liberal Party does acknowledge that there are concerns with this agreement. It is clear that the Canada-China FIPA is different from previous ones that the Conservative government has signed, but we believe that the agreement needs to be improved, not completely discarded. Liberals have raised concerns about provisions of this agreement, particularly on the issues of transparency during arbitration, termination of the agreement, and the length of time the agreement is in force.

But we also see benefits. For example, Canadian companies will be able to resolve disputes outside of the Chinese courts, in independent arbitration tribunals, and beyond that, China commits to treating fairly any Canadian companies investing in China. These company level benefits reduce business uncertainty and encourage the economy level benefits that can come from mutual foreign investment.

The motion that the NDP presented in the House of Commons on April 18, 2013 called for an outright rejection of the Canada-China FIPA and that is something that we cannot support.
The only way for the Canadian people to properly weigh the pros and cons is to have public scrutiny and debate, and the right place to have that is in a House of Commons committee. This is the reasoning behind the Liberal Party position on Canada-China FIPA, and that is why we did not support the outright rejection of FIPA embodied in the NDP Opposition motion
The Liberal Party continues to call on the government to have public hearings on the implications of this agreement so that Canadians can have their say. Regrettably, the Harper Conservatives refused to defend their agreement to the Canadian public and have blocked discussion on it. On April 18, the Liberal Party presented a motion in the House of Commons calling for the International Trade committee to conduct public hearings across Canada prior to the ratification of the Canada-China FIPA to ensure that the agreement is in the best interests of all Canadians. Regrettably,the NDP joined with the Conservatives and opposed this Liberal amendment calling for public hearings, which sought to allow discussion of the investment agreement to occur across Canada. These hearings would have given Canadian voices like yours a chance to be heard.

The Conservatives and the NDP are silencing Canadians and fueling the misinformation and fear-mongering surrounding the agreement. The role foreign investment plays in the Canadian economy will remain hugely important going forward. This does not, however, detract in any way from the serious need for Parliament to fulfill its obligation to seek input from Canadians. The Conservatives and NDP must guarantee that this investment agreement with the world’s second largest economy is widely supported and will result in a clear net benefit for Canadian families.

FIPA marks a significant step in our trade relationship with China, and it is important that we have a discussion on the concerns raised by Canadians about issues of transparency, the arbitration process, and the role of state-owned enterprises in our trade relationship.

Thank you for writing to the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Yours sincerely,

Colin McKone
Office of the Liberal Leader"

While, I am about to give you my response, notice a key part of their justification for supporting FIPA, " China commits to treating fairly any Canadian companies investing in China. These company level benefits reduce business uncertainty and encourage the economy level benefits that can come from mutual foreign investment". It used to be Liberals crowed about trade being the way to foster the growth of political freedom and increasing democracy through the fostering of trade relations. Notice this assertion and tired old sop of a justifcation, is missing this time.

Well, being able to think for myself, I decided to reply back directly and sent Mr. Trudeau's "Office", the following:


Thank-you for your reply.

I simply cannot let your assertion that the NDP is complicit with the Tories in wishing to suppress the debate over FIPA go unchallenged. Your assertions that Mr. Trudeau wants Canadians involved in debate and hence voted, with, the Tories has not been reported in any significant way in the press. Your reply is disingenuous, at best.

I am old enough to remember how many Liberal Government inspired Commissions have travelled across Canada to collect "voter input", only to see the result disappear into the dusty storage shelves of Liberal Party Insiders, Libearl MP Offices, or those of the Parliamentary Library. The NDP has in fact outlined in great detail its opposition to your agenda and that of Mr. Harper, and has offered legislative counter, all of which have failed to garner the support of your party, or its leader. I am sure you know that. The selling point on the behalf of trade with China on the part of your party and its leadership has always been that trade will bring democratic liberalization within China's borders and foster greater trade between our two countries in a balanced fashion. You know full well this has not been the outcome in any meaningful way. To expect that the NDP will allow you to foist this tired Old Liberal Canard on Canadians yet once more, is to say the least, an expectation that borders on the fantastic.

While I appreciate your reply, I simply cannot believe that you would attempt what is basically a proverbial "pulling of the wool over my eyes" in the hope that you would placate my concerns and win me to your cause. I remain unconvinced, am aware of the lack of sincerity in your reply, and convinced even more now just how much a danger to national economic security the Liberal Party of Canada remains. Please communicate my reply to your Leader.

In closing, allow me to inform you that I intend to distribute your reply to my many acquaintances, asking that they pass it along as well. I think it is very important people see your reply as it represents your party's position, along with my reply, which in its counter shows the inherent intellectual and moral weakness of your party's position and the reason why the re-election of a Liberal government poses a real threat to the future well-being of all Canadians.

Yours Truly.

Arthur Cramer"

I haven't received a reply of any kind, if  I do, I'll post it.

But, wait, there's more......

I forwarded a copy of my email reply to Tom Mulcair, who replied to me directly, and who has given me permission to post his reply in full anywhere I have opprtunity. it is:

"Dear Mr. Cramer,

Thank you for sharing your follow-up email regarding the recent vote on our motion to reject FIPA.
As you state, the Liberals are being disingenuous on this issue. We introduced a motion in Parliament to reject the Canada-China FIPA deal. On April 18th two votes on our motion took place. The first vote was on a Liberal amendment to our motion which called for - non-binding - public hearings. We voted against their amendment because we know the time for public consultation has passed. Holding public hearings at this stage will not have any effect on FIPA. NDP Critic for International Trade, Don Davies, repeatedly called for consultation and discussion on this deal, but the Conservatives showed no interest in seeking any input.

As it stands, FIPA has been signed by both the government of Canada and the government of China. The next step is simply to ratify the agreement. It is not possible to renegotiate it at this stage. The Liberals know that compromise on this matter was not possible and their suggestions to the contrary are disingenuous.

The second vote was on our motion that called on Canada to reject the deal. The vote represented the one opportunity for Parliamentarians to let Canadians know where they stood. New Democrats voted to reject FIPA while the Conservatives and Liberals voted together against our motion. As you already understand, the Liberals do not support the outright rejection of the Canada-China FIPA. This flies in the face of what we heard from the tens of thousands of Canadians who signed the petition and the many Canadians who have spoken out against this deal.

Canadians deserve better. They deserve a party that is listening to their concerns. New Democrats will be their voice in Parliament.

Again, I appreciate hearing from you.

All the best,

Thomas Mulcair, M.P. (Outremont)
Leader of the Official Opposition
New Democratic Party of Canada"

NOTE: It is SIGNED by Mr. Mulcair, himself. That is to say the least, extrardinary. The Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Oppostion replied directly himself. to correspondence sent him by an ordinary citizen. I should say at this point, I am not the member of any NDP study group, guiding group, or Executive, at least at the time of this posting. Given  how reportedly "angry" Mr. Mulcair is, at least that is what Mr Trudeau says, one has to wonder how he managed to even write  me back without having a heartache or trashing his PC by throwing it across his office, after reading my email detailing the Trudeau Office reply.

This correspondence is a real insite into how Mr.Trudeau, and thus the Liberal Party of Canada, views the electorate and what they think people will believe. It is a deliberately crafted message aimed at confusing Canadians by deflecting their support of FIPA onto the Opposition in the form of accusations that somehow the Loyal Opposition is preventing Canadians from have an open discussion of FIP. Given what acutally happened, that is "one whale of a tale".

 Given how well NAFTA has worked out, and Jean Chretin's refusal to reopen NAFTA when he had the chance and had promised to do so, that is, to say the least, a real stretch.

Grilling a squirmin' PM

It's been argued here that, in spite of all of Federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair's virtues as a parliamentary debater and interrogator during Question Period, he really has a bland public image. His leader defining ads have been short, generic, and boring while his public appearances have been concentrated at elite political institutions, where the Very Serious People congregate.

His exposure and image in the minds of the vast majority of Canadians is very weak and shallow. He's not well-defined compared to charismatic figures like Jack Layton or Justin Trudeau or polarizing figures like Stephen Harper.

But the recent Senate expense scandals serves to highlight his strengths. The Federal Dippers would be wise to showcase these strengths in youtube montages and perhaps the odd "fighting for you" TV ad.

The Senate expense scandal, to recap, involves many Senators - including CON Senators appointed by Harper to clean up the joint - claiming ridiculous expenses. One such Senator was Mike Duffy.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Blasts from Manitoba's Past

Elections, 1969 and 1981. Moderate social democrats actually felt comfortable talking about equality of condition in '69.

Adele Wiseman's discussion of "cooking our own food" is certainly ironic given Winnipeg's current high concentration of restaurants.

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Monday, 27 May 2013

Katz dislikes CUPE & wastes $90K in public funds

Sam Katz is kicking the public in the face with his
reckless disregard for our money.

Image Source
Like all well heeled, fake populist rightwingers Sam Katz has a hate-on for organizations that democratically represent workers.

In the past, our Mayor has claimed that P3 accountability measures - measures to ensure private contractors don't fleece the public purse for private gain - are based on "union interests".

Public sector unions, like the rest of the public, seem concerned that private companies don't legally loot our city. This, apparently, is a bad thing in his worship's mind.

Now, however, our mayor has taken his hatred of labour organizations to a new low and squandered $90,000 in public funds.

How so?

Well, after launching the $90K ad campaign to drum up citizen support for privatizing our golf courses before a council vote, Katz claims he "knew" he'd lose the vote.

Sam Katz, enjoying a hard day's work
at the open house of the  St. Charles Country Club (top)*.

The St. Charles Country Club is a place
Winnipeggers with means can go for golf if all the city
courses are sold off..

The nefarious men and women of
CUPE. (bottom).

Image Sources: Winnipeg Free Press (Top)
CUPE Manitoba (Bottom)

*Don't know that Sam Katz is an actual
country club member (tho' it wouldn't be surprising).
 Does have country club conservative mentality, though.

His rationale for spending $90K on a highly questionable ad campaign coming up to a council vote he "knew" he'd lose?

Because CUPE!!!

Katz said the ads were meant to ensure Winnipeggers had all the facts, and to counter an anti-privatization campaign launched by CUPE, the union that represents many city workers.

Katz said several councillors who were elected with union support would never endorse a proposal to lease city facilities, but it was important Winnipeggers know the plan is one response to significant budget challenges.

("Katz knew golf plan doomed 'months ago'". Mary Anges Welch (May 24, 2013). Winnipeg Free Press)
It's funny that Katz is so concerned about prospect of undue labour influence on council. Funny because he had rather harsh words to say about the provincial legislation that prevents labour organizations from donating to council campaigns.

Of course, he had harsh words about said legislation because it also prevented big corporate players from giving money to council campaigns!!

It apparently made it "more difficult for people who are right of centre" on council. 

This seems to indicate that the right-faction of council is much more captured by corporate interests than the left-faction is by labour interests. I guess the right's support among the public really is so thin that they're desperate without big corporate bucks. 

The extreme power of private interest over the civic right really shows with the proliferation of questionable deals with businesses under the Sam Katz mayoralty. One can only imagine in their worst nightmares how much worse matters would be if these interests were funding Katz's re-election campaigns.

Municipal politics can be a scary business, eh?  

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Thursday, 23 May 2013

"Mayor Selinger" vs Mayor Katz

Sam Katz responsibly deciding to fund community
groups instead of new 'burbs & political ad campaigns?

Now that's funny!

Image Source
Borris Minkevich/Winnipeg Free Press
The Winnipeg Free Press has an editorial out titled "Mayor Selinger". It's about the Province funding community initiatives and centres throughout Winnipeg.

The Freep editorial, written by a "staff writer", claims that the Province is intruding on the City's rightful turf as distiller of grants to community organizations. According to the Freep editorialist, this is bad because the Province can use such grant money for political purposes like shoring up support in south Winnipeg swing ridings.

The proper and less problematic grant distributor, so the column seems to imply, is the City.

There's some holes in that reasoning.

For one thing, the municipal government really has no constitutionally guaranteed role. They're able to do whatever the Province lets them do and derive their authority from the fact that the Province sees it fit to delegate certain tasks to them, for logistical purposes.

The buck stops at Broadway.

Illustrating this point is a discussion I had with a Manitoba Green Party supporter about the Winnipeg Citizens Coalition. 

The person claimed that the problem with the Coalition was that there were too

Financial axeman & Katz's number two man
Russ Wyatt wants to cut the Broadway Community

Centre grant. 

Image Sources

many NDP partisans affiliated with it. This was a problem because if the organization really disapproved of City Hall they should criticize the Ledge. This is so, the person reasoned, because the Ledge can fix any problems with the City by amending the City Charter or overruling its decisions.

In short, to solve civic problems my fellow discussant recommended trampling over what the municipal rights people hold dearest. It appears that the Province has, partially, followed suite.

The Freep also fails to argue exactly why the City is in a better position to dole out grant money than the Province. Given that Manitoba's population is less than that of Toronto's and that the provincial government is located in Winnipeg, it doesn't seem like there's a "too much distance from the governed" problem. Indeed, Winnipeg's diverse swath of neighbourhoods and communities are likely better represented by the 31 MLAs in Winnipeg versus only 15 councillors at City Hall.

And the notion that there's less politicking at City Hall is ridiculous. As the campaign to privatize the golf courses shows, there's pretty much NO distinction between politics and bureaucracy in the municipal government. Heck, prior to suggesting that the City slash and burn essential inner city programs, our deputy mayor secured generous money for pet projects in his ward. This is the exactly same shoring up support with grant money problem the Freep bemoans.

 The City suffers just as much, if not more, from the problem of pandering to the outer suburbs as well. Just look at the extension of roadways to the city's fringes, the plans of constructing new outer-ring fringe suburbs, and the enormous sway developers have with City Council. If anything, the Province (with it's greater revenue capacity) might be in a better position to resist pro-sprawl forces.

Responsible, wise, and impartial with public funds City Hall is not.

Municipal governments, on the alter of subsidizing suburban sprawl, seem itching to cut community programs and sensible public investments. Despite massive partnership deals from the Feds and Province, the Katz administration has done very little on Rapid Transit. His number two man, meanwhile, wants to axe countless community programs while Council plans for a new 'burbs.

Urbanists rightly criticize the fetish for mega-projects in this province. What could be a better antidote, in the Freep's own words, than "micro-promises" and "micro-announcements"?

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The "religious freedom" issue

A past logo of the Frontier Centre
for Public Policy.

Image obtained from the
Green Market Oracle
Waaayyyyyy back (by blog standards) at the end of March I discussed the hard right Frontier Centre for Public Policy's article on Bill 18. There I noted the (unwarranted) claim that the Safe and Inclusive schools measures in Bill 18 would impede discretion and sound teacher judgement.

Part of the two-pronged approach of rightwing opponents - particularly the Pallister CONs - has been to claim that this bill is too weak by not mandating specific penalties while simultaneously claiming it's too strong because it grants protections to all supportive, anti-bullying student groups - regardless of whether religious bullies approve.

The later half of the Frontier Centre's policy note details their opposition based on this "religious freedom" issue:

Privatize the campaign to privatize Golf courses

The importance of sound judgement when it
comes to the use of public funds is no
laughing matter.

Image Source:
Borris Minkevich/Winnipeg Free Press
Well, the country club conservative of Tuxedo and mayor of Winnipeg Sam Katz wants to privatize city golf courses. Deputy mayor and fiscal axman Russ Wyatt says we have "no choice".

There's likely little benefit to the city in having a plethora of public or private golf courses. It'd make more sense for golf courses be converted into multi-use public parks, some used for the development of cooperative housing, others for mixed-used development or market-driven housing development, and a few retained as affordable public golf courses for all Winnipeggers.

A good way to conduct a review of our City golf courses would be to run a thorough public consultation. That way we could get citizen input on a broad range of alternative uses.

But the City doesn't seem to be conducting such an open-ended, listening exercise. Rather, it looks like the Katz administration is telling the public that City Hall should privatize golf courses. He's trying to use such ads to get constituents to pressure critical councillors to pass his measure.

The ads say they're from a group called Responsible Winnipeg.

Problem is that the $90,000 ad campaign of Responsible Winnipeg is funded with public money!!!

It's a City initiative, though initially the City logo didn't accompany the ads. Katz called this an oversight and subsequent ads now have the logo.

What this means is that the City bureaucracy is getting involved in a political, City Council debate - trying to influence a vote through public messaging and pressure politics.

If this isn't illegal then it should be. This is bloody obscene.

The civil service side of our City is supposed to be about implementing the policies of council, not making council chose certain policies. The City budget isn't Sammy's to use for whatever he wants, it's our money. Russ Wyatt should be swinging his financial axe at this waste of public money.

 Meanwhile, the "independent advocacy group" known as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is deafeningly silent on this issue.

Strange that this use of taxpayer money for a political campaign hasn't caught their attention. I mean, as a taxpayer federation they're all about the prudent use of public monies, right?

It's almost as if the "Taxpayers Federation" cares more about an ideological, slash-and-burn agenda than the appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.

But that couldn't be right, could it?

Regardless, I suggest our Mayor and the financial axeman respect the spirit of this initiative. If we're going to save big bucks privatizing public golf courses, why not start saving bucks now by privatizing the campaign to privatize golf courses?

I'm sure Sam Katz could fund the campaign for this deeply-held conviction of his. Heck, maybe Wyatt could give some of his salary to make this media blitz happen.

After all, one must make great sacrifices in the call of public service.


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Monday, 20 May 2013

New blog Poll: How often do you follow Manitoba political news

Well, have a new readership poll out asking how often you follow the political news of this province. Think it'll be interesting to see the results.

Give'r a try.

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Stop it with the 'burbs, Province!

Ridgewood South Precinct Area

Image Source:  Ridgewood South Precinct Plan
The Province is hiking the PST and Winnipeggers (along with the rest of Manitoba) are angry. Our Mayor has denounced this hike while renewing his call for one percentage point of the PST to go to the City so as to deal with the "infrastructure debt". Sam Katz keeps noting that this situation is desperate.

Meanwhile the City's in the stages of approving yet another suburban development: Ridgewood South. The City Council's Committee on Property and Development has unanimously approved this nonsense plan without debate.This development hasn't inspired protests like the PST hike or opposition on City Council, but it should.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Axman Wyatt

Channelling his inner Wyatt.

Image Source: Initially from film
The Shining, obtained by this blogger
from tumblr
Transcona Ward City Councillor Russ Wyatt is a man Sam Katz seems to trust. After all, our mayor gave him the second top job at City Hall of deputy mayor. Now, what type of sane and sensible things has Katz's number two man done?

Wyatt threw a temper tantrum and called the NDP "socialists" for not redistributing provincially collected wealth to the City of Winnipeg.

 This anti-socialist Wyatt is the same man who chaired Steve Ashton's campaign for NDP leadership in 2009. Yes Ashton, the most left-leaning candidate in the race!

Yeah, that was what Wyatt, the "social progressive and fiscal conservative" thought was needed for our province then.

Nowadays, however, he's scheming about axing away civic services for the inner-city and hard-working poor Winnipeggers with drastic cuts. Such cuts he's proposing include:

Wyatt says that the Province's refusal has forced his hand. Obviously, he doesn't want to go hacking away at city services like a madman. But it has to be done 'cause the City just doesn't have enough money and needs to fix roads.  

Wyatt's all for axing the Arlington Bridge (top), 
pictured second from the right at a Plessis
 Underpass funding announcement

Image Source: CBC (top)
Adrian Alleyne/Canstar (bottom)
The funny thing about Russ Wyatt, the axman whose policies would afflict the afflicted, is that he seems to be sparring some folks from his plans. People like those who'd use his pet projects:

It is rather convenient that during Wyatt's hack-and-slash tirade, he avoided the Plessis underpass at $77 million and the expansion of the East End Community Centre for another $12 million. These are his projects, though, and one supposes do not require the same level of scrutiny.

Also, it's ironic that Wyatt is the same elected official who spent over $100,000 in taxpayers' money developing and promoting an arena and healthy-living centre project in Transcona when there was a similar plan approved and already on the table by another local volunteer group. But that wasn't his plan. So the $100,000 was worth it?

("Coun. Wyatt spares his 'legacy' projects from cuts". Scott Donald (May 1, 2013). Winnipeg Free Press)
But I'm sure all that is much more important than the ability of North Enders to travel to western
downtown or the West End for jobs they might have there. The $77 million Plessis underpass is just so much more important than a currently existing bridge North Enders have grown to rely on for their livelihoods.

Thanks, Axman Wyatt, for treating all Winnipeggers as equal citizens of our city.

I'm sure you'll all like to thank Wyatt for his bold and fair vision for our city's future. If so, you can send your graditude to him using this contact info.

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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Today's NDP embraces flat taxer "fairness"

Greg Selinger, Manitoba NDP Leader
and current Premier of Manitoba.

Image Source: Wikipedia
There've been many warning signs for left progressives and social democrats when it comes to Premier Greg Selinger.

We all know that Gary Doer was uninspired, unprincipled, and singularly obsessed with appealing to suburbanites in southern Winnipeg. Be it boutique tax credits or boosterism for unsustainable suburbs like Waverley West, Doer sacrificed the long-term sustainability of our province for short-term political gain. It's quite fitting that he's now a oil sands salesman down in D.C.

When Selinger became Premier some thought he would lead slightly from the left. After all, he has an inspiring enough background. He's the son of a working, single-mom who started her own business in a poor, inner-city neighbourhood (which, come to think of it, might explain the 0% small business tax). A relative of his struggled with mental health problems. He's been a social (as opposed to party) activist in the past. To top it all of he had the wonkish acumen to make credible policies for the betterment of Manitoba.

But, sadly for the progressive left, there's signs of a more regressive Selinger.

Current finance minister Stan Struthers.

Thinks flat rate taxes are "fair"
because the "cost [will] be shared by
everyone". Fails to note the "regardless
of ability" caveat.

Image Source: The Manitoba Chambers
of Commerce 
First he backed Harper's E.I. deforms, effectively throwing unemployed workers under the bus.

Later, he hiked regressive user-fees after running an election campaign offering boutique tax credits to appeal to suburbanites.

Now, he's effectively throwing the working poor under the bus with a 14.3%, no low-income rebate, sales tax hike.

His finance minister Stan Struthers has embraced the flat-rate taxer conception of "fairness" to defend this.

"The PST is the fairest way to reach these goals because the cost will be shared by everyone," Struthers said, adding Manitoba's sales tax will remain the third-lowest in the country.

("Sales-tax hike to boost flood protection, but province first has to rewrite balanced-budget." Bruce Owen and Larry Kuschlaw (May 4, 2013). Winnipeg Free Press )
Selinger's finance minister is striking a stake through the moral centrepiece of fiscally progressive thought: that  those with less ability to pay should pay less. Struthers's flat taxer idea of fairness implies that a working poor janitor and a millionaire heir paying the same flat rate on their purchases is fair because "the cost [is] shared by everyone", regardless of financial capacity.

New fairness: Everyone shares the cost equally,
regardless of ability to pay.

Image Sources: Statigram (top)

J.G. Janitorial Services LtD (bottom) 
Without rebates (which the provincial Liberals have rightly argued for) the PST is grossly regressive. This is so because any small purchase will make up a larger share of a working poor Winnipegger's income than a wealthy heir's. Thus, flat rate sales taxes are regressive on the basis of income.

The 14.3% or 1 percentage point increase in the PST, along with the accumulation of user-fee hikes over the years, will disproportionately hurt the poor. This sharing of costs theme sounds a lot like the hollow pleas south of the 49th parallel for "shared sacrifice".

The weak, powerless, and those with broken backs do most of the hauling while the able wealthy carry a lighter load. Some "fairness".

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Monday, 13 May 2013

Readership by riding

Distribution of The Winnipeg
RAG Review reader responses to the poll
question "which riding do
you live in?"

Image Source: Modified
Wikipedia image
Well, the readership by riding unscientific poll has been done for a while. Might as well go over it.

Table of responses constructed by The Analyst.
Sample size was 29 and a plurality of respondents (slightly above 27%) reside in the riding of Winnipeg Centre. Other ridings with a high portion of the poll respondents (each with just under 14% of all respondents) were Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia, Winnipeg South and Kildonan - St. Paul. Each of these other ridings were markedly less central.

Graph of responses constructed by The Analyst.

The Median number of respondents for a given riding was 3.5. Elmwood-Transcona (1), Saint Boniface (2), Winnipeg North (0), and Winnipeg South Centre (3) scored below this.

Of some interest, the riding with the most reader respondents is heavily New Democratic Winnipeg Centre, but a plurality of reader respondents from Winnipeg (or 69% of 'Peg respondents). The remaining just over 30% of 'Peg city respondents are those in Winnipeg Centre.

One respondent doesn't know or care, another is from out've Winnipeg, and a third prefers not to say.

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Our roads.

Image Source: Access Winnipeg

Obtained from comments to the Freep's website version "Growing pains: The debate over Winnipeg residential development"

swindleman 10:15 AM on 5/11/2013  
Widespread development, dilapidated infrastructure & poor public transportation are what Winnipeggers want, so that's what you're going to get. 
Katz/Shindleman 2014
Honestly, Katz has embarrassed us with countless flip flops and poor plans on rapid transit.

And under his mayoralty our suburban sprawl problem is just getting worse as our infrastructure budgets are being spread thinner and thinner.

Hopefully, Winnipeggers will prove that they want better in 2014.

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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

"Mr. Angry" becomes "Mr. Bland"

A february 5-6, 2013 Abascus poll showed that
43% of Canadians had a "neutral or unsure"
view of Tom Mulcair, compared to 21%
for PM Stephen Harper.

Image Source: Wikipedia
Good news, Tom, you're no longer "Mr Angry!

The bad news is that you're consider blander than whole wheat bread.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

PST Hike

PST hike of 1 percentage point
will hit Manitobans, particularly
low income consumers, where it hurts:
the wallet.

Image Source: Winnipeg Free Press/
Correction May 5, 2013: Steve Lambert notes that I misuse "debt" when I mean "deficit". Noted & corrected.

The Provincial Sales Tax goes up from 7% of pretax purchase value to 8% of pretax purchase value in the 2013 Manitoba Budget. Here are some more facts:

Selinger burns through
political capital with regressive
user-fee and sales tax hikes.

Image Source: Ministerial Conference
of the Canadian
The Ledge might have the right to arbitrarily chuck out laws guaranteeing citizen input at their whim (as, it seems, the Federal parliament does), but they shouldn't. It runs contrary to the populist political culture of our province where we expect respect, humility, and collaboration from our elected representatives. Selinger rightly opposed Harper's circumvention of farmer-input Wheat Board legislation. For the shake of integrity and the principle of participatory democracy he should hold a referendum.

The people of Manitoba are pissed off. The Canadian Federation of Taxpayers Prairie director Colin Craig, the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce, and provincial Conservative leader Brian Pallister are all leading calls for a referendum on the issue. And they're right - for the shake of citizen participation, there has to be a referendum on this hike. Given the pre-election promises of "no tax hikes", it's doubly important that the Premier gets our consent before charging ahead.  

This tax hike and the way it was brought will dramatically influence Manitoba politics moving forward. The populist right is already acquiring lots of political capital over this issue, with Brodbeck advising readers on the tax protest and the previously mentioned trio of Craig, MB Chamber of Commerce, and Pallister rallying opposition. Hundreds of Manitobans showed up to the May 2 PST hike protest at the Ledge.

While there's certainly some diehard reactionaries in that crowd (anyone who compares the Manitoba NDP to  Soviet communists is only a few parallels north of Tea Party nuttiness), mainstream Manitoba is also ticked. Given that the NDP was sliding before the budget release, this can only spell bad news for the Dippers and good news for the Pallister CONs. It'll be hard for even Goertzen to screw this up.

With the fiscal situation in mind, what would I have done? Part of me thinks it would be tolerable to just wait to get out've annual deficits - both the "deficit-free by 2014" and "no PST hike" promises were reckless  given future economic uncertainty. Nobody wins promising tax hikes (as Judy found out), but promising both for your entire term was foolhardy. As the economy booms and global demand upticks, Manitoba's revenues will naturally increase - reducing the debt annual deficit. Obviously, though, I would have to review the provincial finances more closely to see which parts of the debt annual deficit are cyclical and which are structural.

When it comes to quick, revenue-side fixes through consumption taxes I have a few ideas:
An inheritance tax on $300,000 + estates is a
progressive means of collecting more taxes.

Image Source: Welcome to the Wellington

  • Listen to provincial Liberal leader Jon Gerrard: give the poor a PST rebate. Nay, give the bottom 60% of income earners PST rebates (smaller percentages as income increases, that is, to make the rebate scheme progressive).
  • Established a $100/tonne carbon tax to deal with Manitoba's subpar environmental record. Likewise, a rebate scheme for the bottom 60% could make this tax progressive. 
Another progressive revenue policy that could work would be inheritance taxes on estates exceeding $300,000. US data seems indicates that inheritance taxes have a mild to nonexistent effect on the savings and work effort of present day earners and will likely incentivize heirs to work more.

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