Updates from December, 2017 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Jack 3:11 am on December 14, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , lee berthiaume, , , ,   


    OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is kicking off its latest bid to replace its aging fleet of fighter jets — and adding a new requirement to the procurement process by assessing a company’s overall impact on the Canadian economy.

    The government is launching a full competition to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s with 88 new fighters by as early as 2025, a move that comes in the midst of an ongoing trade dispute with U.S. aerospace giant Boeing.

    “Applications will be rigorously assessed on cost, technical requirements and economic benefit,” Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough told a news conference Tuesday.

    “Our government feels it is important to maximize economic impacts; as such, the evaluation of bids will also include an assessment of bidders on Canada’s economic interests. This new assessment is an incentive for bidders to contribute positively to Canada’s economy.

    “Bidders responsible for harming Canada’s economic interests will be at a distinct disadvantage compared to bidders who aren’t engaged in detrimental behaviour.”

    Boeing has been eager to submit its Super Hornet to compete for the contract, which is valued at up to $19 billion and expected to start delivering jets in 2025. But the new stipulation could well have an impact on Boeing if its trade dispute with Canadian rival Bombardier is still alive and ends up being deemed harmful to Canada’s economic interests.

    Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the government settled on the number of 88 fighters even though the previous Conservative government had only planned to buy 65 new planes, an effort that never got off the ground.

    “After extensive consultations and careful analysis as part of the defence policy review, it was clear that a full fleet of 88 planes are required to fully meet our Norad and NATO obligations simultaneously,” he said.

    “Our government will not risk-manage our national defence commitments.”

    The Liberals are also officially abandoning a plan to buy 18 Super Hornets to temporarily boost Canada’s CF-18 fleet, saying they plan instead to buy 18 second-hand fighter jets from Australia.

    “We have received an offer for sale of F-18 aircraft from the government of Australia, which we intend to pursue, and we have received an offer of Super Hornets from the U.S. government, which we intend to let expire,” Qualtrough said.

    Officials briefing reporters on background say that while details are still being worked out, the used Australian jets will cost significantly less than Super Hornets and can be put into action two years faster.

    Since Canada already flies a version of the same fighter jet, “the supply chain and maintenance lines required to support these aircraft are already in place,” Sajjan said.


  • Jack 3:38 am on December 13, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , shawn jeffords   

    Ontario Deficit 

    TORONTO — Ontario’s fiscal watchdog says the Liberal government will run a deficit this fiscal year, despite claims it has balanced the budget.

    In a new report Monday, the Financial Accountability Office said the Liberals will run a $4 billion deficit in 2017-2018, and will continue to be in the red over the next few years.

    More moderate growth in revenues and the increasing fiscal impact of the province’s Fair Hydro Plan, which cuts electricity rates by 25 per cent, will take their toll on Ontario’s books the report notes. It also says a long-simmering accounting dispute between the Liberal government and Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk over how to count two public sector pension plans on the ledger is contributing to uncertainty.

    “We’ve been very consistent that because of a number of factors we think the deficit will re-emerge,” said FAO chief economist David West. “Now, with this accounting debate it will become more significant.”

    The Liberals presented a balanced budget in the spring, a year ahead of the provincial election, and have promised to keep the books in balance through the next couple of years.The FAO, however, projects the government’s budget deficit will grow to $9.8 billion in 2021-2022.

    “The government is out borrowing this money,” West said. “This current year they’re going to borrow $23 billion in the markets. That’s going to rise to $45 billion in the coming years.”

    The FAO also said the government’s new hydro plan will add $3.2 billion to the budget deficit by 2021-2022.

    Last year Lysyk questioned the province’s decision to include a pair of public pensions — the Ontario Public Service Employee’s Union Pension Plan and the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan — as assets on its balance sheet.

    The FAO said in its report that since the government has not adopted the auditor’s recommended accounting for both the pension assets, and with the addition of the Fair Hydro Plan, it is becoming more difficult for legislators and the public to assess the government’s fiscal projections.


  • Jack 3:05 am on December 2, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , ,   


    OTTAWA — In a surprise twist in Canada’s shipbuilding saga, a foreign consortium is offering the country a way to build a fleet of warships at a guaranteed price of $30 billion — a potential savings of $32 billion.

    Fincantieri of Italy and Naval Group of France — major forces in international shipbuilding — don’t believe the current $62-billion Canadian Surface Combatant program, already beset with delays and increasing costs, will be successful, industry sources told Postmedia.

    Instead, the French and Italian governments have proposed that Canada’s chosen contractor, Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding, build 15 ships based on the consortium’s FREMM frigate design, which is proven and is in operation with the French and Italian navies. They are offering to guarantee the cost of the ships at a fixed $30 billion.

    The deal would use Canadian technology on board the ships, sources said, and include the transfer of technology to Canadian firms so they could be involved in future sales of FREMM vessels on the international market.

    As well as the French and Italian navies, Morocco and Egypt operate FREMM ships. Australia is considering them for its new naval fleet, and they are seen as a serious contender in the competition to outfit the U.S. Navy with modern frigates.

    Bids for the Surface Combatant program were to have been submitted by Thursday to Irving. The company has not responded to a request for comment, and it is not known how receptive it would be to the consortium’s proposal.

    The Fincantieri-Naval Group gambit is risky, as federal bureaucrats are expected to oppose it. But the potential of $32 billion in savings for Canadian taxpayers will put pressure on the Liberal government to seriously consider the offer.

    Defence industry insiders said the Fincantieri-Naval Group consortium thinks it has nothing to lose by trying to circumvent the CSC procurement process, which a number of observers believe is skewed to favour a bid by Lockheed Martin Canada and the British firm BAE. They would provide Canada the Type 26 frigate that BAE is building for the Royal Navy.

    Industry sources pointed out that Canada had originally asked for proven ship designs, then at the last minute loosened that restriction to allow the Lockheed-BAE bid to qualify, since the Type 26 was at the time still on the drawing board. (Construction on the Type 26 frigate began in the summer, but the first ship for the Royal Navy is not yet completed.)

    Both Irving and Public Services and Procurement Canada have denied any favoritism towards BAE.

    Another team, led by Alion Canada, is offering the Dutch De Zeven Provinciën Air Defence and Command frigate. Though no other bids have yet been reported, a number of other companies were expected to put their ships in the running for the CSC program.

    An aerial image of Irving Shipbuilding Halifax Shipyard. Irving Shipbuilding Inc.


    Fincantieri, the fourth-largest shipyard in the world, has long warned the Liberal government it believes the CSC procurement process is flawed. On Oct. 24, 2016, the firm sent then-Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote a detailed outline of why it thought the acquisition process was in trouble, warning that “Canada is exposed to unnecessary cost uncertainty.”

    At the time, the company proposed to Foote that a fixed-price competition be held, with the wining shipyard building the first three warships complete with Canadian systems and delivering them to Irving. The ships would have then been evaluated and, after any technical issues were worked out, Irving would have begun to build the remaining 12 vessels. That would allow work on the new ships to get underway faster, the vessels to be fully tested and the risk to the Canadian taxpayer significantly reduced, Fincantieri argued.

    Foote dismissed the company’s recommendation. However, the cost of the CSC program has steadily increased. Originally set at $26 billion, the Department of National Defence later estimated the price tag at $40 billion. Then in June, Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Fréchette estimated the CSC program would cost $61.82 billion — and warned that because of inflation, every year beyond 2018 the awarding of the contract is delayed would cost taxpayers an extra $3 billion.

    There are also concerns that plans to build two supply ships for the Royal Canadian Navy and a new Polar-class icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard are in trouble.

    The Liberals have said they can’t provide Parliament with a schedule for the delivery of the supply ships or the icebreaker because they deem such information secret.

    Public Services and Procurement Canada would not comment on the reasoning behind that claim.


  • Jack 3:48 am on November 28, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: canadian coast guard, , , , , , ,   

    Late Arrival? 

    On Friday, I had an article about the Canadian government’s refusal to provide parliament with a schedule for the delivery of the navy’s new supply ships or the coast guard’s Polar-class icebreaker because it deems such information secret.

    Conservative MP Todd Doherty had asked the federal government to supply information about the Joint Support Ship (JSS) program as well as the planned Polar-class icebreaker as a follow up to an appearance at a Commons committee in early November by Kevin Stringer, associate deputy minister at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

    Doherty had asked for the integrated program schedule in which Seaspan Shipyards, with input from the government, outlined when it was going to deliver the Polar-class icebreaker and the JSS.

    The federal government, however, has now filed its response to Doherty’s question, noting that the schedule “is subject to commercial confidence restrictions and cannot be shared.”

    The government did not explain why the delivery plan for ships being entirely paid for by taxpayers was secret.

    The government in its response also noted that “planned delivery dates are not available” since no construction contracts have been signed for the JSS or the icebreaker.

    That is raising concerns about what is being hidden by the federal government, industry officials warn.

    “This is Canadian taxpayers’ money being spent,” Doherty, the Conservative Party’s Fisheries and Oceans critic, told Defence Watch. “It is Canadians who are asking these questions and we’re not getting answers.”

    Doherty described the government’s response as a “smokescreen” to hide some of the problems with the shipbuilding program, including delays with the JSS program and the Polar-class icebreaker. Construction has not started on either class of vessels.

    “At this rate we’re not going to see an icebreaker until 2030,” Doherty warned.


  • Jack 3:12 am on November 27, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: allstate study, , car insurance,   

    Insurance Ripoff? 

    A study from Allstate Insurance shows Brampton and Mississauga are among the 20 most unsafe cities in Canada to drive in, measured by collision claims frequency.

    In its 2017 Safe Driving Study, Allstate says Brampton has the sixth highest frequency of collision claims per 100 cars, with a percentage of 7.61 within the last two years. That mark increased by nine per cent since 2015, the last time the study was conducted.

    As well, Mississauga has the 20th highest collision claim rate at 6.76 per cent, up seven per cent since 2015.

    Ninety-three cities from four provinces (Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) were included in the study. The five safest driving cities, Hammer, Ont., Spruce Grove, Alta., Chelmsford, Ont., Lethbridge, Alta. and Medicine Hat, Alta., all had a collision claims frequency under four per cent.

    Halifax was deemed the most unsafe city to drive in, followed by Ajax, North York, Scarborough and Caledon.

    The study also indicated that most collision claims come on Friday, followed by Thursday, Wednesday, Tuesday, Monday, Saturday and Sunday.

    February had the highest amount of collision claims this year at 6.8 per cent while April had the lowest at 5.2.


    See Also:

    (1) An expert weighs in on the high insurance rates in Peel

    (2) Allstate 2017 Safe Driving Study Results – Allstate Canada

  • Jack 3:11 am on November 27, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: alberta politics, , , , , canadian taxpayers federation, christine van geyn, free speech, ,   


    Political free speech is in need of a champion in Canada—and new advertising laws in two of Canada’s most populous provinces prove it.

    In 2016, Ontario broadened the definition of political advertising to de facto include any and all political speech. Any individual or organization in Ontario that spends more than $500 to publicize their position on an “issue that can reasonably be regarded as closely associated with a registered party or its leader” is now engaging in political advertising. In 2017, Alberta made a similar move, though the province’s threshold is $1,000, and its definition of political advertising is slightly different, but similarly broad—including messages that “[take] a position on an issue with which a registered party [or politician] is associated.”

    The legislation in both provinces requires any third party who engages in political advertising to register with the government, file an onerous report, and in Ontario, be subject to spending limits. And unlike the long-held restrictions on speech during the campaign period and upheld by the Supreme Court in Harper v Canada, these new Ontario requirements now apply six months before the call of the election.

    That means that in Ontario, on Nov. 9—approximately eight months before the 2018 provincial election—the registration requirement, spending limits, and paperwork began. So long-held websites dedicated to criticism of the failings of Ontario’s electricity policy, or the publication of petitions related to the decline of the Ontario manufacturing sector, are now subject to regulation. They are subject to this regulation even as the government sits and enacts new laws, tables a budget and engages in its own taxpayer-funded advertising trumpeting their accomplishments. In Alberta, things are even worse; there, the restrictions apply at all times.

    In our mind, these are in effect gag laws, limiting the ability of individuals, groups, and essentially any “non-politician” entity to support or level criticism against the government, politicians or their parties.

    The laws aimed at regulating the pre-campaign period are troubling, and—if history is any suggestion—they are in all likelihood a Charter violation. Similar restrictions on pre-campaign free expression were repeatedly found to be unconstitutional in British Columbia when the government changed their law in 2008 to include a pre-campaign period of 60 days which restricted advertising by third parties to $150,000. In the 2009 case BC Teachers Federation v British Columbia, the B.C. Supreme Court struck down the 60-day pre-campaign period as an unjustified restriction on the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Charter. This decision was upheld in 2011 by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

    The B.C. government responded by re-drafting the legislation in 2012 to re-instate the pre-campaign period restrictions, but for a shorter period of either 40 days, or 21 days after the legislature had stopped sitting. However, the B.C. Court of Appeal found that even the shorter pre-campaign restrictions were a Charter violation. As a result, B.C. now has no restrictions on third-party political advertising during the pre-election period.

    It’s troubling that, while a 40-day pre-campaign restriction on political free expression was considered in B.C. to be a Charter violation, Ontario and Alberta enacted their restrictions all the same.

    From our experience, too, the enforcement of these restrictions is being done in an incredibly heavy-handed way. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is a non-profit, citizen advocacy organization that has been speaking out on issues of taxes, waste and accountability for 27 years. We operate across Canada, have 130,000 supporters, and 98 per cent of our donations are smaller than $1,000. We also protect the privacy of our donors, and have for 27 years. But in what felt like a Kafkaesque exchange with Elections Ontario, we were told that a number of our websites constitute political advertising.

    Our issue-specific website, “Stop High Energy Bills,” acts as a host for our petitions, a news aggregator for our editorials and news releases about energy issues, facts about various energy policies, and an opportunity for visitors to contact their local MPP. The site makes no mention of the election—after all, the site is now more than a year old. But Elections Ontario has ruled that the site itself constitutes “political advertising.” We have been forced to choose between shutting down the site, or registering and disclosing the names of the people who donated to fund it a year and a half ago, before these new laws were enacted, and who were donating under the assumption that we would continue our 27-year-old policy of protecting their privacy.

    Even more troubling is the ruling by Elections Ontario that our 20-year-old organizational site, Taxpayer.com, also constitutes political advertising. In order to comply with the law, we were told we would need to determine how much we have spent on the site over this 20-year period and pro-rate that amount over the pre-campaign and campaign restriction period to determine if we spent more than $500. When we pointed out that only portions of the site are dedicated to Ontario, Elections Ontario informed us that we could calculate the percentage of the site that is dedicated to Ontario and that constitutes “political advertising,” and then determine if the apportioned and pro-rated cost of those pages exceeds $500. Hardly a minimally impairing exercise.

    When we mentioned that we are currently planning an upgrade to our website, to improve graphics and performance, Elections Ontario advised us that it would be best to wait until after the June 2018 provincial election before doing those upgrades, because they could trip the $500 threshold. How could the government forcing a national non-profit organization to put on hold an update to a website be seen as a reasonable restriction on speech?

    Seemingly, any website, anywhere in Canada that mentions Premier Kathleen Wynne, Patrick Brown, Andrea Horwath, the Ontario government or any policy with which any politician in Ontario could be associated, is now deemed political advertising and should either be shut down for the next eight months or registered with the Ontario government.

    How Elections Ontario plans on enforcing these absurd rules is unclear, but they did inform us that they have the power to compel the production of invoices if they decide our 20-year-old website about public policy issues violates their new law.

    These laws should never have been enacted. But the official opposition in Ontario allowed them to pass because in the last provincial election, they were the subject of an aggressive $2.5-million third-party ad campaign by the union-funded Working Families.

    But now that the laws are in force, we need a champion to launch a Charter challenge against them, as they were challenged in British Columbia. Courts have held that political expression is at the very heart of freedom of expression and benefits from a high degree of constitutional protection. The Ontario and Alberta legislation infringes this fundamental right that is a cornerstone of the democratic and political process. It’s time for an advocate to strike the legislation down, so that citizens can exercise their right to express political thought and opinion in a free and democratic society.


  • Jack 11:57 am on November 3, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , justin giovannetti, , , , ontario policing,   

    Progressive BS 

    Ontario is overhauling its policing laws with changes to police duties and strengthened oversight rules meant to address concerns from minority groups of unjust treatment and inadequate investigations into police misconduct.

    The 417-page bill, called the Safer Ontario Act, would define what duties officers should concentrate on and which should be handed over to civilian employees, allow police chiefs to suspend an officer without pay who has committed a serious crime outside of duty and put increased scrutiny on the actions of officers and police forces.

    “We have all heard the growing concerns that some communities, in particular black and Indigenous communities, feel unjustly harmed at the hands of police,” Attorney-General Yasir Naqvi said on Thursday as he unveiled the first significant update to Ontario’s Police Services Act in 25 years.

    Some of the changes are also intended to respond to a number of high-profile incidents in which police officers have shot and killed people who are mentally ill. “Our hope is that these changes will make people, no matter the colour of their skin, what neighbourhood they call home, or their mental-health status, feel protected and safe in their communities,” Mr. Naqvi said.

    Many of the proposed changes come from a report on police oversight by Appeal Court Justice Michael Tulloch that was released earlier in the year. Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Marie-France Lalonde said the changes reflect a world where policing issues are “far more complex than when the act was developed.”

    Critics have pointed out that the bill would do little to contain ballooning police budgets because restricting officers to their core functions could require many new employees to perform the other law enforcement duties.

    Mr. Naqvi said it was important to strike a balance between protecting the needs of the province’s police officers and chiefs and the public’s expectations of officers’ behaviour.

    The act would create an office of inspector general to oversee police forces and police service boards, with the power to investigate and audit them. Its leader must have intimate knowledge of mental-health and policing issues, Ms. Lalonde said.

    Ontario’s ombudsman would be empowered to investigate complaints against police oversight bodies, a move the ombudsman, Paul Dubé, welcomed on Thursday.

    The mandates of the three existing oversight bodies would be revamped and expanded. The Special Investigations Unit (renamed the Ontario Special Investigations Unit), which investigates incidents involving police and civilians that result in serious injury, death or allegations of sexual assault, would be able to investigate not just current officers, but former officers and those who were off-duty, as well as volunteer members, special constables and First Nations police members. Its reports would have to be made public.

    Police officers who do not co-operate with investigations could be fined up to $50,000 or jailed. The SIU’s director said the new mandate would allow the unit “to conduct more rigorous and independent investigations.” The Office of the Independent Police Review Director will be renamed the Ontario Policing Complaints Agency and would investigate all complaints against officers. The new name should make it easier for people to know where to take their concerns, Mr. Naqvi said.

    The Ontario Civilian Police Commission would be renamed the Ontario Policing Discipline Tribunal, and would take over the job of adjudicating disciplinary matters from police forces.

    The legislation would also let police chiefs suspend officers without pay when they are charged with committing a serious crime outside of duty. Ontario is currently the only province where a suspended police officer must be paid until sentenced to serve time. In past years, several police officers have collected more than $100,000 a year in pay despite being suspended over criminal charges.

    The changes are long overdue, said Julian Falconer, a lawyer who has represented families of people killed by police.

    “This has been an open sore,” Mr. Falconer said.

    Police chiefs across Ontario have complained that the public often could not understand why the law stopped them from suspending an officer without pay. The outrage was compounded when a few suspended officers retired after years of collecting pay. Mr. Falconer said the changes will stop officers “who play the system.”

    Michael McCormack, the president of the Toronto Police Association, the union that represents police officers in Toronto, said the province needs a clear definition of a serious crime outside of duty. “It doesn’t give the chiefs a sweeping power to suspend without pay at all,” he said. Mr. McCormack added that he is concerned that the government plans to pass the legislation in the five weeks before the Christmas break.

    Toronto Mayor John Tory said the proposed changes would help build trust between the police and the public. “New measures that increase police accountability and transparency are welcomed,” he said. “They ensure that the public and police officers are comfortable when interacting with each other. The greatest tool that the Toronto Police Service has is the trust of the community.”

    While the exact language to clearly define the responsibilities that only a sworn officer will perform has yet to be released, Ms. Lalonde said that, as an example, officers might not be the best people to monitor construction sites.

    She dismissed the police association’s warning that the change would open the door to privatization and put the public at risk. “When you call 911 and you need a police officer, a police officer will respond,” she said.

    The act will also create local police boards for the Ontario Provincial Police and allow First Nations police forces to create their own police services boards. The Coroners Act would be revamped to require a coroner’s inquest when a police officer kills a person through the use of force. A new Missing Persons Act would allow police to track cellphones or search homes, which they can do now only when a crime is suspected. Forensic labs would also need to get accreditation under a new standalone piece of legislation.


    • Jack 12:11 pm on November 3, 2017 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      When I first read this story yesterday I went ballistic. This is political pandering of the worst sort and if the legislation is passed the public, in my somewhat experienced view, is going to be put at extreme risk.

      There is a concept well known in law enforcement circles called FIDO (F**k it, drive on) and I can see a lot of police officers doing just that in the days ahead as they seek to avoid situations where socialist cry babies will be following them around and trying to catch them with camera’s in hand and lawyers in tow looking for their own personal big payout compliments of their deeply caring government of the day.

      My advice to young people contemplating a law enforcement career in this province at this time can be given in one simple word…”DON’T”. Caring for your fellow citizens and trying to do the right thing by them won’t save you when some arsehole on the street smells money at the end of the chase.

      There are far better careers one can choose. Safe careers where you can support a family and own a home. There is no need to put yourself or the people you love in the kind of situations I can see developing as our Liberal MAJORITY government passes this ridiculous legislation…and they will.

  • Jack 1:14 pm on November 1, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , darryl t. davies, , ,   

    Justified Criticism 

    The colossal understatement of the year has to be that from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. In a recent interview when he was asked about the idea of civilian oversight for the RCMP he commented “It would be a massive change in the way the institution has operated for over a century” and “require careful thought”. Just how much careful thought is needed to recognize and take action to overhaul the management of the RCMP at RCMP Headquarters? Consider their performance in recent years.

    First, it is now widely recognized from the ruling by provincial court Judge R. Leslie Jackson that the RCMP grossly bungled and mismanaged the delivery of equipment to front line officers, such as patrol carbines and body vests. By failing to exercise duty of care they placed their front line officers lives at risk. In the view of many this contributed directly to the number of officers that were shot and killed in Moncton in June 2014. It is remarkable that nine years earlier when four Mounties were killed in Mayerthorpe by a deranged gunman, that RCMP officers were seriously lacking in adequate firepower and body vests. Despite overwhelming evidence the RCMP did nothing substantive to address this gap in the arsenal of the rank and file. Much like our current public safety minister Ralph Goodale they claimed they needed to give the matter careful thought. For RCMP management nine years evidently was not enough time but this was not a view shared by Judge R. Leslie Jackson when he convicted the RCMP in September 2017 in a Moncton courtroom.

    Second, the RCMP paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars earlier this year to members of the rank and file who were bullied and subject to sexual harassment for years. The fact they did not fire one single officer in the senior ranks who was responsible for this predatory behaviour defies logic but then again if history is anything to go by with the RCMP they probably needed time like nine years to study the problem.

    Third, then we have RCMP management who are so out of touch with what’s going on in their organization that they were not even aware that some of their employees were running around stark naked and flashing their genitals to all and sundry at the RCMP Police College. What a ringing endorsement for an organization that is fixated on its public image.

    Fourth, this past March both the Auditor General of Canada and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP released damning reports highlighting the fact that the RCMP is in every sense of the word a dysfunctional organization. Both reports set out clear recommendations outlining what is wrong with the organization and how to fix the problem. Despite this fact the public safety minister has stated on the record that he needs to study the problem. There have been innumerable reports that have been produced in the past five years setting out a blue print for changing the RCMP and yet not one public safety minister has had the wherewithal to have their recommendations implemented.

    Any organization that operated the way the RCMP have operated would have been disbanded years ago. How many public safety ministers and how many years does it take for governments to fix a problem? In many respects we should be grateful for the fact that we have independent and impartial courts of law in Canada or nothing would change for the better. For many observers who are knowledgeable about the problems in policing, public safety ministers have been carrying around a picket fence with them for so long that the best they can offer when confronted with a major crisis is to sit on it. The fact that nothing changes is a sad commentary but it speaks clearly to the fact that when it comes to fixing the RCMP the problem is due to the four horsemen of political inaction namely inertia, ignorance, apathy and cost.

    Fifth, in recent years there have been an inordinate number of lawsuits launched against the RCMP. Many of these lawsuits have been filed by individuals in the rank and file who have endured years of horrific abuse and maltreatment. These lawsuits have been filed at considerable cost to the taxpayers of this country and this is largely due to the fact that RCMP management are so incompetent that they can’t see or refuse to see a problem when it’s staring them in the face. Earlier this year a judge called the RCMP’s treatment of a sergeant ‘outrageous’ in a bullying case. The judge described the RCMP’s actions against Sgt Peter Merrifield as reckless and awarded the plaintiff $41,000 in lost wages for delayed advancement and $100,000 in general damages. The judge slammed the RCMP for its lack of credibility and forthrightness in defending the case.

    In recent months a number of very brave and honourable members in the RCMP rank and file like Corporal Patrick Bouchard have been speaking publically about the way they have been treated by senior management in the RCMP and its inadequate leadership. Although it’s an internal disciplinary offence to criticize the RCMP in public a number of very courageous members within the Force have called out the organization for its dysfunctional and lack lustre leadership. In my view these officers should receive the Order of Canada for having the courage to speak out about the malignancy that is infecting the highest levels of the organization.

    Sixth, recently the former president of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada Rae Banwarie tendered his resignation from the RCMP. In doing so his letter chronicled the reasons for leaving the RCMP. When people of his calibre give up on the organization it should send a clear message as to why so many members are quitting the force and why the RCMP’s recruitment program is floundering. Rae Banwarie’s letter should be read in the House of Commons to every member of parliament so they and all Canadians can learn about the extent of the problems in our national police service. It’s a fair question to ask who wants to work for an organization that as BC psychologist Mike Webster stated a few years ago will make you sick?

    When you factor in the rampant patronage at RCMP headquarters and the view by some observers that they are using archaic and obsolete training methods one could cogently make a case that the RCMP is already at the point of no return. If there is any luminosity in this bleak picture it’s the rank and file. Despite serious staffing shortages that are causing occupational stress for RCMP members the vast majority of them are continuing to provide our communities with stellar policing services across the country often at great cost to their health and personal lives. This is not the time to be making political platitudes while the institution is at the edge of the abyss.

    Instead of wasting time claiming he is going to study the problem, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale should do something concrete and now. For starters, he could make major management and structural changes at RCMP Headquarters. The evidence that management is to blame for the RCMP’s Pandora’s box is overwhelming. In addition, he should immediately take measures to establish a civilian review board so that it’s in place before the next Commissioner is appointed. Finally, he can make the process for selecting the next Commissioner of the RCMP transparent, open and accountable. The time for studying the problem has long passed.

    Darryl T Davies is an instructor in criminology and criminal justice in the department of sociology and anthropology at Carleton University. Professor Davies was a crown witness at the Labour Canada trial against the RCMP in Moncton, New Brunswick.

    Source: E-Mail message.

    © Darryl T. Davies

    See Also:

    (1) ‘He’s shooting at me.’ Chilling report reveals new details about night of Moncton shootings

  • Jack 3:20 am on November 1, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , , , , ,   

    Pointless Discussion 

    Last week’s walkout by native leaders from extensive discussions with Ottawa about new rules for the assessment of natural resources and pipeline projects perfectly illustrated the vapidity of the present federal government’s policy of pretending that it meets on an equal footing with these native organizations on a “nation to nation” basis. This is what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised the United Nations last month as he converted the annual general assembly meeting of that rag-tag of largely irresponsible and uncivilized countries into a confessional where Trudeau not only conceded that this country has pursued a colonial relationship with our native people for over a century (which is untrue), but also pledged to that raddled gallery, including an inordinate number of hypocrites and scoundrels, that Canada would pursue a policy based altogether on false premises.

    I suspect, but I am not a mind-reader and don’t know, that the political strategists of the government think that Canada has an endless capacity for guilt and shame over the conditions of the native people. There is no doubt that most Canadians are concerned and distressed at the poor circumstances that afflict a great many native people, but their capacity to hold themselves responsible for it has been significantly mitigated by the scores of billions of dollars that have been directed at these problems without, apparently, making much progress to help the native people better their lot. All Canadians, and not just the natives, are frustrated and disappointed by this and are anxious to do better.

    Government policy is based on the concept that the native groups are sovereign in their spheres, in an identical jurisdictional condition to the Canadian government; that the natives have been shamefully mistreated from the moment of the first European settlements right to the present time, more than 400 years. There is implicitly a cloud or question over our moral right to be here at all. Centuries of Anglo-French and Canadian official policy toward the natives were, it is implied, culturally, if not physically, genocidally motivated; and the only answer to the material and sociological problems of the natives and the moral and psychological problems of guilt and shame that the Liberal party has generated and imputes to the entire population of Canada is to allow the native spokespeople to push endlessly on an open door, demanding more money and more jurisdiction from the country and from a position of righteous superiority.

    Every individual and all recognized organizations have rights in Canada. There is only one sovereign government in this country and it does not have to negotiate on a basis of entire equality with lesser jurisdictions in matters of inter-provincial and inter-regional interest, a field that certainly includes natural resources and pipelines and other sophisticated means of surface transport. This government has conferred on the native people the unfettered right to pose as the principal defenders of the environment and to claim that practically any modification of the virgin state of the land Leif Ericson and Jacques Cartier discovered (more than 500 years apart) constitutes a desecration of the environment that can only be palliated and expiated by herniating payments of taxpayers’ money to the natives. This makes negotiations practically impossible, as last week’s fiasco demonstrated. The native people are not the only conscientious guardians of the environment and the federal government is the only entity whose right and purpose is to advance the national interest in all respects, balancing questions of environment, prosperity, justice and national security.

    The implicit admission on behalf of Canada that the natives were victims of some sort of attempt at quasi-genocide, and their elevation to the status of chief protectors of original and natural Canada, and the entrenchment of their right to comprehensive negotiation about anything they claim affects their lives as natives, has placed the whole country in the absurd position of being held to blackmail by this nebulous community. I have commented before on the Ktunaxa affair, which the Supreme Court has been deliberating on for 11 months. In it, natives claim that 25 years was insufficient time to consult fully on the proposed development of a ski area on part of a mountain that natives assert would banish the spirit of the grizzly bear, the basis of the religion of a band of 900 people, according to a divine revelation made to a deceased elder who did not mention this apparition for years. I respect religion and imaginative improvisation, but the combination of the two in this case has reduced this country to a laughing stock.

    Every sensible and decent Canadian wishes to help the natives and assist them in being happier and more prosperous. But Canada has never had genocidal ambitions toward them or anyone else, including the preposterous concept of cultural genocide. And by a policy of exaggerating their authority, vesting the natives with the right to extort treasure, retard reasonable development and tar the 95 per cent majority of Canadians of other descent as trespassers, interlopers, and usurpers, we have created a monster that will demand more and more until we either return to other continents that our ancestors departed, submit meekly to native dominance (colonialism reversed, consistent with Justin Trudeau’s parlance at the United Nations), or come to our senses and devise a policy that is fair, but not based on unjustified moral self-flagellation, national self-impoverishment and incitement to profligate autocracy in the native communities.

    The more intelligent native leaders (and there are many of them) know that this nonsense has to end, and a number of prominent figures in the native organizations declined to sign the letter to Trudeau withdrawing from the talks. What is needed is a federal government course correction that asserts that Canada is legitimate and sovereign, and recognizes that many past treaties with natives could be fairly seen as uneven and in need of updating at least to reflect monetary inflation. But native organizations must have standards of leadership accountability consistent with the rest of the country, and all those who would rather abandon lonely and desolate habitats that have no possibility of being economically and socially sustaining should be enabled and assisted to do so and relocate. The United States treated the natives harshly, frequently engaged in wars with them, and never really conferred any special status on them. Today, they are all Americans, and some tribes are very prosperous because of oil and other resources on their lands. As the United States was never afflicted with the well-intentioned or guilt-riddled nostalgia that we were, their native policies and communities have latterly been much more successful than ours.

    We should humanely scrap unviable communities, ensure that all native people have adequate basic services, provide generous means to ease them into a new life or help them live traditionally in sustainable conditions, and have a system of eminent domain, ecological safeguards, and reasonable compensation where the national interest requires a highway or pipeline or other imposition on nature. Everyone has an equal interest in the environment, and no one group should be able to exercise such an interest as a weapon of mass destruction or hobbling of the public interest. What the country needs, we must have.

    Members of the League of Nations were amused between the World Wars by the annual “Canada speech” in which our delegate celebrated Canadian virtue and its distance from any world trouble spot. Those soporific addresses were rivetingly piercing treatises on contemporary political science compared to Justin Trudeau’s recent national self-humbling over mistreatment of our natives to an assembly many of whose member nationalities would consider the lot of the Canadian natives a foretaste of paradise.

    © 2017 Conrad Black

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  • Jack 3:56 am on October 20, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , bombardier, , , , , , , , ,   

    Trump Effect 

    The usual claque of critics could be heard jeering at Bombardier’s “sale” of 50.01 per cent of its CSeries passenger jet project to Airbus, its European aerospace rival.

    Some found fault with the sale price — zero — for a majority interest in a plane that has cost US$6 billion (so far) to develop, a third of it public money. Others grumbled at the resulting dilution of the government of Quebec’s stake in the CSeries Aircraft Limited Partnership (CSALP), from 49.5 per cent when purchased for US$1 billion two years ago, to just 19 per cent today. (Bombardier holds the remaining 31 per cent.)

    Still others pointed out the deal means a shift of final assembly of the planes, at least for the U.S. market, to Airbus’s new plant in Alabama. Perhaps this will allow the planes to escape the 300 per cent duties the U.S. Commerce Department was otherwise prepared to impose on them; perhaps not. Perhaps Airbus will continue making planes for other buyers at Bombardier’s plant in Mirabel, Que.; perhaps over time it will prefer to centralize production in non-union Alabama. Assuming there are other buyers.

    What these naysayers overlook is how neatly the deal fits with the business strategy the company has been pursuing all along. It is, after all, a fairly straightforward step from selling planes for less than they cost to make — in effect, giving away half of every plane — to giving away half of the equity in the planes. And whatever else may have changed as a result of the deal, the basic elements of the Bombardier business model — sucking subsidies from the government — have not. The CSeries will be controlled in Europe, it will be built in Alabama, but it will still be subsidized in Canada.

    Indeed, it’s not quite right to say that Airbus is getting its stake for free. In fact Bombardier is paying it to take it (much as Bombardier was effectively paid to buy De Havilland and Canadair, decades ago). Not only is Airbus paying no cash and assuming no debt, but Bombardier will remain on the hook for any future losses on the project, up to US$700 million. In addition, Airbus receives warrants to buy 100 million subordinate voting shares in Bombardier at the price they were trading at last week; those shares are already worth almost 20 per cent more than that.

    Still, if the point of bailing out Bombardier so often, at so great expense, was supposed to be to save jobs in Quebec, it’s a little galling to see Canadian public dollars now being used to create jobs in Alabama. (Which raises a question: what happens if Airbus sells the planes made there to Air Canada? Would we be obliged to levy a duty on it, as a countervail to our own subsidies?) Supposedly the federal government is going to attach conditions to the transaction requiring Airbus to maintain current levels of employment in Canada, but how binding can these be, really? What leverage does it have? If the deal doesn’t go ahead, Bombardier goes under: that much is clear, weighed down as it is not only by the U.S. tariffs but its own uncertain prospects, so far as these feed perceptions it will not be able to deliver the CSeries. In which case no jobs are saved.

    Even if the constraint were binding — that is, if Airbus could be cajoled into employing more Canadians than it would have done otherwise — that takes care of this year. What happens if, a year from now, Airbus decides it cannot afford to live up to its commitment? How will the government punish it then, the deal having already gone through? In reality, its only option would be to offer still more subsidy. As with the auto industry, the company’s Canadian workforce would essentially become hostages, to be ransomed in periodic installments.

    Not only is Airbus paying no cash and assuming no debt for its share in the CSeries program, but Bombardier will remain on the hook for any future losses on the project, up to US$700 million.

    None of which is to say the deal should not go through, or is not the best the company could have arranged under the circumstances. It is the circumstances that are outrageous. Bombardier was built with subsidy, and is vastly larger than it would have been without it. If much of the world’s aerospace industry was as well, all the more reason to stay out of a game we can’t possibly win, even if we were allowed to play it. Yet it bet the company on the CSeries, and governments in Ottawa and Quebec City bet billions it could be bailed out without inviting some form of retaliation abroad, whether countervailing duties or offsetting subsidies.

    All the Airbus deal has done is crystallize past folly. It’s obviously a great deal for Airbus. And it’s better than nothing, for Bombardier. But is it for the taxpayer, or the Canadian economy? It’s true that 50 per cent of some sales is better than 100 per cent of no sales (or as Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard put it, “selling planes makes money, not selling planes makes no money”). But so far as the planes sell for less than they cost to make, the least-cost option is not to make them at all.


  • Jack 4:17 am on October 13, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: economist, , , ,   

    On Unicorns 

    TO OPPOSE the government of Justin Trudeau has been no fun. Canada’s prime minister has shrugged off controversies that would have hurt a less charismatic politician. Few Canadians seemed to mind when he accepted a helicopter ride from the Aga Khan to holiday on his private island in the Bahamas; most yawned when the government paid C$10.5m ($8.4m) to settle a lawsuit brought by a former inmate of Guantánamo. After a flattering cover story on Mr Trudeau appeared in Rolling Stone in July, Michelle Rempel, an MP from the opposition Conservative Party, vented her frustration: the press treat him and his team as “Prince Charmings who can do no wrong, all while flying through a rainbow on a unicorn”.

    But mistakes and mishaps are starting to hurt Mr Trudeau’s Liberal government as it nears the mid-point of its four-year term on October 19th. Among the goofs are a cultural policy that enraged Quebec, the French-speaking province, and a tax-reform proposal that riles doctors, farmers and owners of small businesses. Other problems are outside the Liberals’ control. They include the renegotiation of the North American Free-Trade Agreement (a pact with Mexico and the United States that Donald Trump keeps threatening to rip up), and the cancellation of a planned oil pipeline, which angered the western province of Alberta.

    Many Canadians think Mr Trudeau has done too little to keep such promises as protecting the environment and improving relations with indigenous groups. He broke a campaign pledge to change the first-past-the-post electoral system.

    The opposition was leaderless until May, when Andrew Scheer became head of the Conservatives; Jagmeet Singh took charge of the left-wing New Democrats this month. Although the Liberals are still ahead in the polls, with the support of 37% of voters, compared with 33% for the Conservatives, the gap is narrowing. Mr Trudeau’s approval rating is still above 50% but has been trending downwards. The unicorn is flying into heavier weather.

    Tax and offend

    The issue putting the Liberals on the defensive is tax. The government wants to close loopholes that let rich people lower their bills by paying tax as if they were small businesses. Although the government began its tenure by raising taxes on high earners, its new idea has provoked a backlash. “Conservatives wake up every day trying to think of new ways to lower taxes,” Mr Scheer thundered. Liberals just think of “new ways to raise them”.

    In town-hall meetings Liberal MPs are being lambasted by constituents who say the government is painting them as tax cheats. Embarrassingly, Mr Trudeau and Bill Morneau, the finance minister, have used (legal) methods that are not targeted by the reforms to reduce the tax they owe on family wealth. The government thinks two-thirds of Canadians support its proposal and plans to introduce a modified version of it. That is a mistake, says Paul Boothe, a former finance-ministry official. It would be better to present a more comprehensive plan that would include simplifying business taxes.

    On the environment, Mr Trudeau has failed to please green activists while alienating voters in oil-producing provinces. Albertans say new environmental rules for pipelines are the reason TransCanada, an Albertan firm, this month cancelled construction of the proposed Energy East pipeline. They allege that Mr Trudeau is trying to “beggar the west” just like his father Pierre, a prime minister who in 1980 proposed a plan to hold down oil prices.

    In fact, Energy East was doomed by today’s low oil price and by overcapacity. One reason for it is that the government approved another project, an expansion of the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline through British Columbia, which alienated environmentalists. They are not mollified by a plan to impose a national carbon price. Parliament’s environment commissioner chided the government this month for implementing its climate-change policies too slowly.

    A much-touted plan to protect Canadian culture from digital invaders, especially American ones, pleased nobody. Presented by the heritage minister, Mélanie Joly, on September 28th, it turned out to be little more than a deal with Netflix, which agreed to spend C$100m a year to make Canadian programmes. Quebeckers had wanted the government to impose a sales tax on non-Canadian media firms. Some English-speakers were disappointed that the was no extra support for the CBC, the state broadcaster, or subsidy for print publications. There is speculation that Ms Joly, once a high flyer, may lose her job.

    Another black mark is a malfunctioning inquiry into why many indigenous women and girls were murdered or went missing in recent decades. This is part of Mr Trudeau’s promise to improve relations with 1.4m indigenous Canadians. The commission conducting the inquiry has lost much of its staff; its head says the government has not given it administrative support. Indigenous people are angry. An effort at reconciliation is having the opposite effect.

    What keeps Mr Trudeau astride the unicorn is the economy. It is expected to grow by 3% this year, the fastest rate among the rich G7 economies; in September the unemployment rate was a non-disastrous 6.2%. A new child-care benefit provided a fiscal boost; infrastructure spending could provide another. Most forecasters expect growth to slow in 2018 but to remain faster than in other G7 countries. Unless, that is, Mr Trump starts a trade war. That could knock Prince Charming off his mount.

    This article appeared in the The Americas section of the print edition under the headline “Trudeau’s flying unicorn hits a storm”


  • Jack 3:43 pm on October 4, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: andrew scheer, , cpc, crux of the matter, , , , , ,   

    One Term Definite 

    Given the fact that Jagmeet Singh (Dhaliwal) is now the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) leader, all bets are off as to who will be Canada’s next Prime Minister on October 21st, 2019. Hint: It won’t be Justin Trudeau.

    Why? Because neither the liberal media nor PM Justin Trudeau and his senior staff have a clue as to how to run a political campaign against a Sikh. I mean, the Trudeau Liberals constantly tell us that “diversity is their strength.” Which means, they won’t dare question Singh’s religion — like they do Andrew Scheer’s. Even though, oddly, both Scheer and Trudeau are Catholics.

    Sure, the Liberals can fight Singh on policy but that likely won’t work either because so many NDP supporters voted Liberal in 2015. I mean, it is no secret that the federal Liberals stole most of the NDP 2015 campaign!

    Take, for example, the issue of abortion and homosexuality. In both instances, the media and the Liberals are going to try to portray Scheer and the CPC as social conservative fanatics with a hidden agenda. Hmmm. Where have we heard that lie before? In fact, as this Google source says, abortion is also wrong in Sikhism and there are many differences of opinion regarding homosexuality.

    In other words, the election of Jagmeet Singh as NDP leader just made Canadian politics a whole lot more interesting.

    In fact, a Margaret Wente column in the Globe and Mail, which was also picked up by Jack at the Northern Phoenix, an online magazine, Jagmeet Singh is going to cause Trudeau an awful lot of trouble in 2019. As the first paragraph in Wente’s column states:

    Sorry, Justin. You’re not the fresh young face in town any more. You were hot, for a while. But Jagmeet Singh is hotter. You may have a huge Haida tattoo on your shoulder. But Jagmeet (also known as Jimmy) has a fuchsia turban on his head. You may know how to throw a punch. But he knows Brazilian jiu-jitsu. A few months ago, hardly anyone in Canada knew his name. Now, an entire political party is swooning at his feet, begging him to lead them from the obscurity that seems to be their semi-permanent lot in life. Half your voters could be next.”

    I love it. What we are just starting to see and hear, which will get worse during the 2019 election, is called cognitive dissonance — the mental discomfort experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. For example, if a liberal voter values diversity, when faced with a handsome Sikh, why on earth would they vote for Trudeau? Of course, the fight for the hearts and minds of progressive Quebecers remains to be seen, particularly given Singh’s views on the niqab and religious freedom.

    Nevertheless, I say bring on the dissonance! Because, if the Singh led NDP splits the Liberal vote — Andrew Scheer’s chances of winning a majority Conservative government just got better! And, yes, that is the crux of the matter.


  • Jack 9:18 am on October 4, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , david newhouse, , , , , native suicide rates, policy options   


    The Indian Act is a seriously flawed piece of legislation that has persisted for over a century and become institutionalized and entrenched. Both the Indian Act and the Indian Department have evaded every attempt at substantial reform. As such the oppressive, restrictive and discriminatory principles of this 19th century legislation have been carried into the modern era. The act does not reflect the needs of the various and diverse First Nations and has never been responsive to their attempts to redraft it in the image of their own aspirations. While First Nations are reluctant to abandon the Indian Act because it both symbolizes the duties owed the Crown and provides protection of community resources against alienation by individuals and outside interests, it does not allow for full development and self-determination. Nor is the Indian Act an appropriate vehicle for implementing historic treaty obligation and responsibilities.

    Joan Holmes, “The Original Intentions of the Indian Act,” (2002)

    The Indian Act remains one of the most visible legacies of Canada’s colonial history. Passed in 1876, it represented the thinking of the day about Indigenous peoples: that they were less evolved versions of Europeans who needed to be civilized and protected during the process. The Act’s premises were well accepted at the time.

    The effect of the Act was to create a category of a legal person over whom the state could exert its power, transforming Indians into Europeans or “civilizing” them, to use the parlance of the era. In addition to creating legal Indians, the Act created Indian reserves, Indian bands, and Indian band councils and imposed a form of democracy upon Indians. It also changed the social structures of Indian communities and tried to remake them in European fashion with men as heads of households and women mostly confined to the domestic sphere. Indian mobility was constrained, as Indians who wished to leave their reserves had to obtain permission of the local Indian agent. In the first half of the twentieth century, lawyers were prohibited from receiving funds from Indians on cases involving Indian lands.

    The Act also removed Indians residing on Indian reserves from the economic sphere, making it difficult for reserves to become self-sufficient. The location of many reserves on lands that were unsuitable for development or agriculture did not help. Moreover, the Act fostered the development of different social categories of Indians, creating a distinction between those who are entitled to be registered as Indians (“status Indians”) and those who are not. It has split families according to a set of arcane rules for determining who can be registered as an Indian.

    In no other sphere of Canadian life would we use a nineteenth-century piece of legislation to achieve twenty-first-century objectives.

    The Act has dominated Indians’ lives for more than 140 years. While it has been amended from time to time, its essential purpose has not changed: it remains nineteenth-century legislation designed to transform Indians. It is now the twenty-first century, and Indians are vigorously pursuing their self-determined objectives. Governments don’t set development goals and objectives for Indians; Indians set them themselves and Canadian governments are expected to support them. In no other sphere of Canadian life would we use a nineteenth-century piece of legislation to achieve twenty-first-century objectives.

    Indian reserves, bands and band councils still exist, but today we call them First Nations lands, communities, and councils. These new political conventions and terms mask the underlying reality that they still operate according to the provisions of the Indian Act. Indian/First Nations councils have enormous responsibilities for community infrastructure, health care facilities, schools, housing and land regulation and development, economic development corporations, and a wide variety of community programs funded through a complex maze of government and private sector resources. Managing the finances of a modern First Nations government is challenging and would tax the skills of many accountants and sophisticated financial managers.

    Furthermore, First Nations governments are part of an incredibly complex web of relationships that need to be managed and tended to, including with other First Nations, Indigenous political organizations, municipal provincial and federal governments, and private sector businesses. They must negotiate a set of financial, environmental, housing, planning, health and social regulations, ensuring compliance with all of them. Yet, the powers of band councils under the Indian Act have remained virtually unchanged since the late 1800s.

    There have been attempts to revise or amend the Indian Act, most notably in 1951 and 1985. Bill C-31 (1985) amended the Act to deal with gender discrimination. Until then, women who married non-status men would lose their status, as would their children. The legislation also gave band councils more power over determining membership.

    Recent attempts to create an environment that is conducive to modern First Nations realities have taken place outside the Indian Act. The 1999 First Nations Land Management Act (FNLMA) and the 2013 First Nations Transparency Act (FNTA) are examples of efforts to modernize the powers of First Nations councils. The FNLMA addresses the question of First Nations land use for residence and development. The FNTA creates\d a regulatory framework for the relationship between councils and their citizens, an issue not addressed in the Indian Act (in 2015, the Liberal government announced a moratorium on enforcing the FNTA).

    Land claim agreements and modern treaties often remove beneficiaries from the aegis of the Indian Act. The 1999 Nisga’a Treaty removed the Indian Act entirely from the lives of Nisga’a, who are no longer Indians but Nisga’a citizens and Canadian citizens under the Nisga’a citizenship code.

    The challenge of substantial reform is that the Indian Act has become an important and foundational aspect of many lives. It provides the structure for local community governance and community life. It defines a protected place to live and provides the basis for an identity through which many engage with the social and political world. While we now use the terms “Indigenous,” “Aboriginal” and “Native” to denote the collectivity of original inhabitants, the reality is that it is the Indian Act that has legal meaning and consequence. Reforming the Act in one fell swoop or repealing it would be enormously disruptive to First Nations.

    I like to think of Indian Act reform in the same way that I think of land reform: it is extremely complex, fraught with political danger and unlikely to succeed without significant support from the people. First Nations are modern communities, existing in a world that did not exist at the original enactment of the Act. Every First Nations council wants to take a place of power, dignity and respect in the governance structure of Canada; to be recognized as a legitimate First Nations government in its own right; and to have the resources to develop its community as a safe and healthy place to live and work. First Nations have also created new collective political institutions: tribal councils, and political representative groups such as the Assembly of First Nations and the Saskatchewan Federation of Indigenous Sovereign Nations. They are vehicles through which self-determined objectives can also be pursued by means of collective action. The political goal of self-determination was denied in 1876 and is still challenging to achieve in 2017.

    Can First Nations’ objectives be achieved with reform to the current Indian Act? Perhaps, but amending the Act is a lengthy and complex process. Experience shows that reform is challenging, as exemplified by the three-decades-long attempt to remove gender discrimination from the Act — now in the form of Senate Bill S-3. Reform may have to take place outside of the Indian Act through an opt-in approach community by community, as was used in the First Nations Land Management Act process. Proposed changes without First Nations’ consultation and buy-in have been strongly resisted.

    The Indian Association of Alberta’s Citizens Plus (or “Red Paper”) released in 1970, argued that Indian Act reform was to be undertaken at a pace to be determined by local communities. A year later, the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood, now the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, supported this position in their influential position paper Our Tomorrows, Today: Wahbung. Both papers were responses to the federal government’s 1969 White Paper on Indian policy and its plan to unilaterally repeal the Indian Act within five years.

    The Indian Act is so intertwined with many aspects of First Nations’ lives that a bottom-up, community-driven and community-specific approach is the only approach that has a reasonable hope of success. We already have experience moving away from the Act through the processes of negotiating modern treaties and self-government agreements. And we have the recommendations of the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) that set out a framework to move beyond the Indian Act.

    In October 2017, the federal government finally adopted one of the recommendations of RCAP regarding reforming the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Crown, by dividing the Department of Indigenous Affairs into two, one with responsibility for Indigenous-Crown relationships and one for Indigenous services. There are also discussions underway to modernize the financial relationship between Canada and First Nations governments. Most likely these will result in reforms outside the Indian Act.

    The visions and goals of modern First Nations have been articulated repeatedly since the latter part of the twentieth century and they remain fundamentally the same: self-determination and self-government as a means to improving the quality of life, in all its dimensions, for Indigenous peoples. These aspirations cannot be achieved using legislative tools designed in the nineteenth century.

    This article is part of the special feature The Indian Act: Breaking Its Stubborn Grip.

    Do you have something to say about the article you just read? Be part of the Policy Options discussion, and send in your own submission. Here is a link on how to do it. | Souhaitez-vous réagir à cet article ? Joignez-vous aux débats d’Options politiques et soumettez-nous votre texte en suivant ces directives.


    • Jack 1:08 pm on October 4, 2017 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Regarding this entry. I’ve long felt that the Canadian Indian Act should be repealed. These folks are not second class citizens and should not continue to be treated as such by a government long “stuck on stupid”.

      Regarding the site, tweaking is still going on but I’m finally starting to create the look I want with the information I feel is important. A new Crime category has been added and once again I’ve gone through the entries before I get to far re-categorizing those columns that had to be moved. It’s still a work in progress but I’m very close to the finished product. I hope my visitors like the presentation.

  • Jack 1:44 pm on October 3, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , margaret wente, , , , ,   


    Sorry, Justin. You’re not the fresh young face in town any more. You were hot, for a while. But Jagmeet Singh is hotter. You may have a huge Haida tattoo on your shoulder. But Jagmeet (also known as Jimmy) has a fuchsia turban on his head. You may know how to throw a punch. But he knows Brazilian jiu-jitsu. A few months ago, hardly anyone in Canada knew his name. Now, an entire political party is swooning at his feet, begging him to lead them from the obscurity that seems to be their semi-permanent lot in life. Half your voters could be next.

    Mr. Singh’s appeal transcends his party. His turbans are a brilliant (if unintentional) branding device. They make him stand out in a crowd. They mark him as exotic. Yet as soon as he opens his mouth, it’s clear that he is as much a son of Canada as anyone in the room – not the wimpy, white-bread Canada of our past, but the dashing, muscular Canada we long to be. He’s no trust-fund kid, like you-know-who. He’s a self-made guy from the suburbs. He has the posture of a warrior – brash, worldly, fearless and also supermanly. Not a beta male, as Justin sometimes tends to be. He’s an alpha, with a full luxuriant beard and a serious kirpan to match. Not so long ago, those accessories were a bug. Now they’re a feature.

    How did Canada come so far, so fast? Only yesterday, it seems, we were arguing over whether RCMP officers should be allowed to wear turbans instead of Mountie hats, and whether Sikh boys could wear their ceremonial daggers. It was only 11 years ago when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that kirpans were okay in school. Now that debate seems as quaint as the one over gay marriage. Not long ago, there was an unwritten but widely understood rule that people who wore turbans were not allowed to be bank presidents – vice-presidents, maybe, but no more. Today, nobody would blink twice. That’s how change happens – glacially, then all at once.

    A lot of people are excited about Mr. Singh for the same reasons they were excited about Barack Obama. Liking him makes us feel better about ourselves. He makes us feel hopeful that we really do live in a fairly just society. He also signals a generational and cultural shift that seems truly hopeful. Until now, Mr. Trudeau had that market all sewn up. But as time goes on, Mr. Trudeau is destined to disappoint more and more progressives – on climate change, on Indigenous relations and on other issues that are largely insoluble. A lot of them might fall for the New Democrats under Mr. Singh.

    Meanwhile, Andrew Scheer, the Conservative Party leader, can scarcely believe his luck. The more Mr. Singh divides the voters on the left, the better his shot at power will be.

    I have no idea if Mr. Singh can deliver on any of this. He has no experience in federal politics at all. He is deeply distrusted in Quebec, where his position on the niqab and religious freedom is pretty much a deal-breaker. (You may recall what happened to former NDP leader Tom Mulcair, who was crushed by it.) Don’t ask him detailed policy questions either. He’s said to be light on economic policy, and probably needs to bone up on a bunch of other subjects a prospective national leader needs to be on top of. But that’s a challenge for another day. The NDP didn’t pick him for his experience or his policy smarts. They picked him for his relatability, and his story.

    “[Being] a brown-skinned, long-haired boy with a funny sounding first name was kind of rough for a kid like me,” he said in a recent interview. It was especially tough in blue-collar Windsor, Ont., which hasn’t always taken kindly to foreigners and immigrants. Sometimes the other kids would knock him around. “Facing that unfairness was part of the reason why I care so much about social justice, about fighting for equity, for equality,” he explained. You can almost see a million new Canadians nodding in agreement. “I pushed myself harder than my friends. I knew that I would have to overachieve to prove my worth.”

    When Mr. Singh grew up, he’d never seen anyone who looks like him be elected. Now he’s that guy. And he didn’t have to cut his hair to do it. For that reason alone, Canadian politics will never be the same. Now, if only we could get him into an MMA match with Justin. That would be heaven.


  • Jack 1:39 pm on September 24, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , christy blatchford, dalton mcguinty, , , ,   

    It Begins 

    TORONTO — In the same Old City Hall courtroom where lawyer Marie Henein once tossed bombshell after bombshell in her successful defence of Jian Ghomeshi, her law partner Scott Hutchison Friday delivered one of his own.

    Hutchison was cross-examining Robert Gagnon, the prosecution’s proposed computer expert, on the first day of the so-called gas plants trial.

    Gagnon retired from the Ontario Provincial Police in 2009 as the force’s leader of the e-crime section and computer forensic guru. He was re-hired by the OPP in May of 2014 on an untendered contract to work as a technical analyst in the gas plants probe.

    Hutchison represents Laura Miller, former deputy chief of staff to former premier Dalton McGuinty, who with former chief of staff David Livingston, is pleading not guilty to breach of trust, mischief in relation to data and unauthorized use of a computer. The two are alleged to have deliberately destroyed documents at the very time the McGuinty government was under growing pressure to produce documents related to the controversial cancellation of the two gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga.

    Hutchison carefully built up a case showing that Gagnon was too deeply involved in the OPP investigation, dubbed Project Hampden, to be “sufficiently independent and impartial” to give his opinion.

    Unlike other witnesses, those who are qualified by the court as “experts” are allowed to give opinion evidence.

    That’s precisely what Hutchison and Brian Gover, who represents Livingston, don’t want him to do.

    A 2017 case called R v McManus from the Ontario Court of Appeal suggests that while police can of course testify as experts, they shouldn’t also be acting as investigators. And a 2015 Supreme Court of Canada case spells out that expert witnesses should be independent and impartial.

    Hutchison said the defence wasn’t quibbling with Gagnon’s qualifications – he has the training and experience – but rather that his enmeshment into the investigative team compromised his impartiality.

    About 30 times, Hutchison made the walk from the defence bench to the witness box to show Gagnon emails he’d sent or been sent by OPP officers running the case.

    Painstakingly, he built his argument that Gagnon was “a part of the team.”

    He showed that, as a retired cop, Gagnon worked more hours than he could be paid for as a former public servant (Gagnon agreed he had “donated” time to the case); that he’d several times provided opinions for detectives running the case; that he’d participated in multiple conference calls with team leaders and Crown prosecutors and that he had even participated in person in the execution of a search warrant carried out on the Ontario government’s cyber security branch.

    But Hutchison, as good lawyers do, saved his bombshell for his last question.

    First, he established that the investigation into Miller and Livingston was early on deemed by the police in charge to be a breach of trust case.

    “Yes sir,” said Gagnon.

    “That changes as a result of some information from you, doesn’t it?” Hutchison asked.

    “Yes,” said Gagnon.

    On Feb. 22, 2015, Hutchison said, “You write to the leaders of the investigation proposing a different charge?”

    “Different or additional, yes,” said Gagnon, agreeing that he had pointed out the additional charge – mischief in relation to data — given his own theory of what had happened, and even spelled out the appropriate section of the Criminal Code.

    Miller and Livingston weren’t charged until December 2015 and, when they were, the “mischief to data” charge was there.

    “Those are my questions,” Hutchison said, and sat down.

    The lawyers won’t make arguments on the issue until Monday.

    It’s certainly possible that senior prosecutor Tom Lemon will be able to persuade the judge that most of Gagnon’s involvement is due to the fact that he possesses highly specialized technical knowledge, and that his expertise was required by investigators as they conducted search warrants and interviews.

    It’s also clear from his day in the witness stand that Gagnon is not prickly or combative, but rather agreeable and straightforward.

    He was unfailingly civil.


    • Jack 2:01 pm on September 24, 2017 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Having been around courts “lo these many years” Christy’s very last comment said it all:

      “He was unfailingly civil.”

      Courts composed of lawyers appreciate a police officer giving a point or two to the defense. It increases the credibility of the officer and permitted the Crown to rebut the argument, at least in this case, successfully I think. Time will tell.

  • Jack 5:28 am on September 17, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , terrence corcoran   

    Tax Revolt? 

    On July 15, a beautiful 26 C summer day in Ottawa, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the Justin Trudeau government’s plan to revamp tax rules for small business corporations. The Liberals say these corporations — formally known as Canadian-Controlled Private Corporations — take advantage of giant tax loopholes that Canada’s wealthy use to dodge billions of dollars in taxes.

    The loopholes are complicated and Morneau’s proposed fixes are even more so. The minister allowed 75 days for experts and users of CCPCs to assess the proposed changes. Some say the review period is too short, but it has been long enough for a groundswell of opposition to build among tax lawyers, doctors, farmers, small business owners and others.

    As the war against Morneau’s reforms grows, it has been easy — even popular — to portray critics as loophole-seeking small business owners and greedy doctors and farmers trying to pay less tax than they should.

    One columnist dismissively described the anti-reformers as just a bunch of whiners who don’t want to “pay the same tax as others earning the same or less income.” And a report last week on CBC’s The National implied that top income earners pay “an effective tax rate of 50 per cent,” while an incorporated small business owner pays a “much smaller” corporate tax rate of 15 per cent.

    Such gross misrepresentations feed the class warfare beast at the heart of the Liberal tax agenda. The CCPC reforms may indeed close tax benefits buried in the CCPC structure, as Morneau believes, but the prime objective is to push the incomes of more and more Canadians into top marginal tax brackets.

    In one sense, Morneau has triggered something of a tax revolt among the rich — it’s about time — but it’s a revolt that will fail if wealthier Canadians and the Coalition for Small Business Tax Fairness continue to claim they’re entitled to lower small business tax rates, income sprinkling and the passive investment, capital gains and dividend dodging gambits.

    By focusing on the details of the reforms, they are missing the larger point and they will lose the long-run battle as a result.

    The tax system for decades has been much like a Hollywood epic. Political superheroes – modern day Robin Hoods — move in on the rich, seize their property and directly or indirectly redistribute it to those with lower incomes.

    Why the rich and the not-so-rich put up with this escalating expropriation of income and wealth is something of a mystery. Maybe it’s good old-fashioned Canadian guilt of being successful. More broadly, most across the income spectrum seem to accept that it is good — and right — for government to take a staggering proportion of the incomes of the so-called rich and that marginal tax rates of 50 per cent and higher are somehow justified.

    Trudeau ran a successful campaign on a tax-the-rich platform. Morneau wears his government’s increase in the top marginal federal rate to 33 per cent on taxable incomes of more than $200,000 as a badge of honour.

    The opening words of Morneau’s statement announcing the corporate tax reforms were: “One of our government’s first actions was to cut taxes for the middle class, and raise them on the richest one per cent.”

    Morneau’s tax hike raised the top federal-provincial marginal tax rate in Ontario to 53.5 per cent from 49.5 — increasing federal revenue by $12 billion over five years (or so they hope). Over the past decade or so, the top rate in Ontario has increased by 16 per cent. Rates vary across the country, but they now sit at 50 per cent or higher in six provinces.

    No wonder users of private corporations are agitated. If the top tax rate is more than 50 per cent and climbing, there’s a massive incentive to try to avoid or delay payment. You don’t even need to be a one-per-center to pay through the nose: The tax rate exceeds 45 per cent at $150,000 in seven provinces, including British Columbia, which this week announced a new 16.8-per-cent rate that kicks in at $150,000, creating a combined rate of 50 per cent.

    The Morneau corporate tax initiative is not about closing loopholes, or making the tax system more “fair,” as the minister likes to claim. Its underlying objective is higher taxes on the rich — the top five per cent, the top one per cent and the top 0.1 per cent. Having raised the top marginal rate as promised, the government is now pushing more Canadians into the top rate through the corporate reforms. And there is more to come.

    It’s these ever-higher marginal tax rates that should be the foundation for the nascent tax revolt by the rich, not the preservation of the special tax breaks and entitlements that dominate the current anti-Moreau effort.

    During the 2015 election campaign, Trudeau laid the ground for the private corporation reforms announced by Morneau. “A large percentage of small businesses are actually just ways for wealthier Canadians to save on their taxes, and we want to reward the people who are actually creating jobs, and contributing in concrete ways,” he said in a 2015 CBC interview with Peter Mansbridge.

    When those comments hit the fan, Trudeau doubled down. “There are a number of studies out there. Some have shown upwards of 50 per cent where it’s high-net-worth individuals who incorporate, professionals for example, who actually use it to avoid paying as high taxes as they otherwise would.”

    The studies Trudeau referred to are the work of a dozen or more income inequality and tax-the-rich ideological activists who have been stalking high-income Canadians for decades.

    The key recent studies appeared in the Canadian Tax Journal under editor Kevin Milligan, a University of British Columbia professor who has written extensively on income inequality. He also served as a member of the Economic Advisory Council for the Liberal Party of Canada prior to the 2015 election, and provided advice during and after the election. Along the way, Milligan published the work of others supporting action against the CCPC structure.

    One of the leaders of this movement is Neil Brooks, emeritus professor of tax at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. Brooks’ assaults on the wealthy stretch back 35 years, many of them in cahoots with leftist journalist Linda McQuaig. In 2010, they co-wrote The Trouble With Billionaires, which proposed a 60-per-cent tax rate on income of more than $500,000, and 70 per cent above $2.5 million.

    Canada is almost there on the first target. Apparently, the evils of billionaires — they don’t deserve the money, they’re bad for your health, they’re bad for democracy — can be neutralized by going after people making $500,000.

    But why stop at 60 or 70 per cent? Emmanual Saez, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, believes top marginal rates should go as high as 80 per cent.

    Brooks is the co-author of one of the studies Trudeau would have been referring to when he essentially called small business corporations a tax scam. That 2014 study was titled: Piercing the Veil: Private Corporations and the Income of the Affluent. Among the co-authors were other veterans within Canada’s class-war academia, including the University of Ottawa’s Michael Wolfson and McMaster University’s Michael Veall.

    The premise of their study is outlined in an introduction that begins with a positive nod to the Occupy movement’s attack on “the disproportionate share of income received by the top 1 per cent.” They then genuflect to the high priest of income inequality, French economist Thomas Piketty and his book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which they said “sparked concern that without significant public policy intervention, the trend toward increasing income inequality will continue.”

    Piercing the Veil goes on to describe how Canada’s private small-business corporations appear to be increasing income inequality by allowing their owners, and a large portion of the top one per cent, to shelter income.

    By crunching data from CCPC tax filings, the report’s authors claim to have found stashes of personal income that are above and beyond the incomes reported on personal tax returns. After counting the CCPC income, “the share of income of the top 1 per cent increased by about one quarter.” They also claim that the one per cent’s real share of the national personal income pie is growing at a faster rate than previously thought.

    Something, they finally conclude, must be wrong with the system.

    At this point, in 2014, no specific claim was made that CCPC owners were dodging taxes and not paying their fair share. That comes a year later when Wolfson and another academic produce what they call “a sequel” to Piercing the Veil.

    In Private Companies, Professionals, and Income Splitting, they crunch through CCPC data and conclude income splitting — the distribution of money through these small business corporations to spouses and relatives at lower than the top 50-per-cent marginal tax rate — reduces government annual revenues by $500 million.

    Put another way, Wolfson said the existing tax preferences for CCPC owners essentially sends $500 million a year to “a select group of mostly higher-income families where the objectives of supporting worthy objectives such as entrepreneurship and job creation are unlikely to be realized.”

    That is, at best, an unprovable and arbitrary statement. Who knows what motivates the owners of CCPCs and those with whom they split incomes? Maybe farmers, doctors and small-business owners — or even large business owners — produce more wealth and grow their companies so they have more income to distribute to their families. Maybe their family members are also driven to create jobs and later take over the business.

    In the tax-the-rich world view, people with money — especially billionaires — are freeloading manipulators who squander their money in unproductive activity and accumulate wealth at the expense of the rest of society. Brooks’ view of the rich, as outlined in his book with McQuaig, is no less damning: “I’d bet more fraud takes place on any given night at the SkyDome than at all the welfare offices in Ontario.”

    It is important to distinguish such attacks on private corporations from the criticisms of others. For instance, Jack Mintz, President’s Fellow of the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, argues the existing lower small business tax rate is indeed a distortion with unintended consequences, including the creation of such corporations to reduce personal tax liabilities. It could also encourage small businesses to stay small to avoid higher corporate tax rates. The Mintz solution, however, is to eliminate the small business deduction — or lower all corporate tax rates.

    More radically, the Fraser Institute proposes lowering and flattening tax rates, thereby removing the need for radical tax planning and eliminating the incentive to avoid extortionate tax rates.

    The Liberals’ corporate and personal tax initiatives have no such objective. Instead of lower tax rates on business and higher-income individuals, it wants an aggressive tax collection system that would move more people into top marginal brackets and eliminate their ability to avoid such taxes.

    The small business tax reform is not the end of the tax-the-rich campaign. The Trudeau-Liberal election platform took aim at another Brooksian fixation. “We will conduct a review,” said the platform, “of all tax expenditures to target tax loopholes that particularly benefit Canada’s top one percent.”

    Last year, Brooks wrote The Case Against Boutique Tax Credits and Similar Tax Expenditures, an outline of his plan for reforming hundreds of credits and programs that allow companies and individuals to do things with their money at lower or zero tax, such as charitable giving, pension savings, scientific research, medical expenses, education and corporate investment.

    Brooks concludes that much of these tax expenditures is a burden on the economy. The total cost to the federal government is said to exceed $20 billion. They “impair the legitimacy of the tax system and hobble it in the pursuit of its primary functions,” which is apparently raising revenue and redistributing the incomes of the rich.

    Billions could be saved if the expenditures were eliminated. But what should the government do with the savings? Maxime Bernier, when running for the Conservative leadership, proposed cutting tax expenditures and lowering tax rates, including the top marginal tax rate. Not Brooks. “The case for top rate reduction has been substantially weakened with increased high-end income concentration,” he said.

    In other words, the rich are getting richer, possibly by using tax expenditures. Brooks also approvingly footnotes another recent paper supporting a 65-per-cent top marginal rate.

    The promised Trudeau/Morneau agenda for tax expenditures has yet to be developed, but it seems likely it will follow the line suggested in their election platform of targeting “tax loopholes that particularly benefit Canada’s top one per cent.”

    The one per cent includes taxpayers earning more than $225,000 a year. The top five per cent starts at around $150,000. These are the rich that the Trudeau government is targeting with their rate increase, their private corporation reforms and their coming tax expenditure review.

    It is time for the rich to revolt.


  • Jack 5:15 am on September 17, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    Sweet Nothings 

    Within the literati there’s a quite famous exchange between two of the last century’s prominent American novelists. Scott Fitzgerald is reported as offering Ernest Hemingway the following proposition: “Ernest, the rich are very different from you and me.” To which Hemingway retorted: “Yes, Scott, they deviously take advantage of various tax loopholes, and thereby increase the burdens on middle class Canadians. Tax ‘em more, I say.”

    And there, almost to the comma, in Hemingway’s prescient comment you have a nearly exact premonition of the position Justin Trudeau is taking at this very time. “Amazing,” you might think, but it’s just one of the many illustrations of how the study of literature and politics converge. (Just as an aside, the works of P.G. Wodehouse will offer the studious inquirer a nearly perfect overlay to the politics of Newfoundland and Labrador, right up to the present day. Wodehouse’s masterpiece is impressively revelatory on federal-provincial relations during the turbulent administration of Premier Brian Peckford. Somewhere in the compendious and collected works of our own great critical sage, Northrop Frye, you will find reflections that bear on this very subject — literature as political prophecy. Literature has many faces. But perhaps I digress.)

    We see from the above that Mr. Trudeau takes a very dim view of the rich, notwithstanding his own enrolment in that shifty cohort. He sees the need to take them down a tax peg or two.    

    Trudeau takes a very dim view of the rich, notwithstanding his own enrolment in that shifty cohort

    Except, of course, for the rare occasions when he chooses to dine with Eastern billionaires and solicit their support for the good of his party. Or when he deems it therapeutic to vacation on a private Caribbean island owned by the illustrious Aga Khan. Or summits with rock stars and Hollywood royalty. Who’s to say but that he undertakes such distasteful (to him) connections under the prudential axiom of “Know your enemy.” 

    Nor should we account this an hypocrisy. For it is becoming more and more clear that there is no discrepancy between what Mr. Trudeau says on any given topic, and what he actually chooses to do — or not do, as the case may be. This is because with Mr. Trudeau the intention, and the intention alone, is the term that counts. 

    There is no one more gifted in modern Canadian politics in the art of saying the right thing, of finding the most accommodating and winsome language on almost any topic, than our prime minister.  He declares very well. And when he declares himself on any issue, that’s frequently the end of it. The doing, which we normally expect to occur after the declaring, the act which normally flows from a statement of intention, these are yokes for other people. 

    When Trudeau declares himself on any issue, that is frequently the end of it. There is no doing

    His is a government built on the statement of good intentions. Canadians have become very familiar with some of his most famous and fulsome predications: 

    “Diversity is our strength,” tops the list. It’s almost a personal incantation.

    But there are others, almost equally embraced:

    “No relationship is more important to our government and to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples.”

    “This election will be the last under first-past-the-post.”

    “The world needs more Canada.”

    “The rich must pay their fair share.” 

    Call these the Trudeau Five. Each houses a worthy sentiment, in simple language, conveying a sense of urgent, moral commitment. In lesser politicians, these plain, declarative statements would almost certainly imply a determination to link them to policies, to actions, to give flesh to their sentiments. But in a government of good intentions, this is not necessarily the case.

    His statements house worthy sentiments. They convey a sense of urgent, moral commitment

    Take, “This election will be the last under first-past-the-post.” Where is that now? Why, in the crowded scrapyard of brilliant rhetorical flashes; statements of intention that gave warmth to a campaign, but which chilled in government.

    Who was more declarative on the need for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women than Mr. Trudeau in opposition? And where is that sensitive, heart-aching matter now? In a great slough of imperfect administration, distrusted by those it sought to heal, and mired in red tape and grievous disappointment over its proceedings. Nonetheless, it would be unkind to say that the inquiry’s early failure should throw a shadow on the declaration of intention that begat it.  

    Internationally, Mr. Trudeau early and often declared that Canada could and should act as an example to the world, especially in its famous peacekeeping missions. That too stalled, and nearly two years in, remains an empty, open file. If—as another of his patented formulations has it—the world needs more Canada, well, the world is just going to have to wait for it.

    There is no modern prime minister who has a more ready basket of soft thoughts and sweet words

    As I say, there is no modern prime minister who has a more ready basket of soft thoughts and sweet words on almost any progressive concern, or who so impressively marshals the tone of sympathetic sincerity when declaring himself on the topics of the day, than Mr. Trudeau. If government were the business of declaring good intentions, and if declaring good intentions were not so damnably tied up with the need to act on them, this government would be perfect.

    The same goes for his thoughts on the rich. We know from what he says what Mr. Trudeau thinks of them: they are a dark and devious bunch of free-riders. But tax policy or no tax policy, hard words or no hard words, he will stay friends with them when it is needful. When there are funds to raise, and a party to support, the calumnies heaped on them will evaporate, the dinners will recur, and their company will be sought as eagerly as before.    

    But no mind, whatever the subject, the prime minister’s heart is in the right place. He has many bright phrases and the Air Miles to prove it.


  • Jack 5:06 am on September 17, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , ,   

    National Disaster? 

    I have done my best for this federal government and have tried hard to find merit in the recently proposed changes to the tax system. My recommendation to readers in the last federal election was to vote for Justin Trudeau, whom I like personally and did a splendid job rebuilding the federal Liberal party from a status as an unofficial opposition with fewer than 20 per cent of the vote in the 2011 election to a majority government, an achievement unprecedented in Canadian federal elections. Stephen Harper had provided pretty good government but had become a Frankenstein monster who terrorized his cabinet and caucus, insulted the country with an absurd campaign, and would not listen to anyone about anything. Justin Trudeau was and remains a most amiable man — what you see is what you get and it is impossible not to like him. Claims that he was an airhead with a pretty face and a famous name were shown by him to be nonsense and the country was right to reject that argument.

    It remains my view that my recommended vote almost two years ago was the correct one, as it was in the two previous elections to vote Conservative. It need hardly be added that the New Democrats, despite an engaging effort by Jack Layton and a solid professional performance as leader of the opposition by Thomas Mulcair, who deserved better than the virtual assassination he has received from the Neanderthal left of his (hastily adopted) party, cannot possibly be entrusted with the government of the country. They can’t get more than a term at a time at the head of  a prosperous province, and could not, altogether, run a two-car funeral, which is what this country would receive if the NDP were in charge of it for long.

    Seen from this perspective, the strongest argument to be made for the proposed tax changes, and presumably one of the motives for them, is that they should slice the NDP off at the ankles in the eyes of all those who oppose commerce in general as grubby, and wealth accumulation, the transfer of what wealth people have made to their heirs, and any planning to moderate taxes as greedy and uncivil. I don’t doubt that those responsible for this initiative have analyzed it carefully from a tactical political standpoint and believe that the government will pick up more votes than it loses. I have no standing to contradict them, and learned many decades ago not to underestimate the envy and malice of vast sections of the public, but I am not so sure.

    Like all people in this country, I have been waiting for this government to do something important, apart from the partial legalization of marijuana, after taking office from a regime that had become so dyspeptic and sclerotic and cranky, it could not even fill vacancies in almost a quarter of the Senate. The proposed tax changes are important and groundbreaking, but after careful study, I must conclude that they are almost entirely bad for the country. They constitute a violent assault on small business, the self-employed, private companies, and individual tax-paying high income people such as lawyers, as well as on financial continuity in families. In a word, it is an assault on the whole range of traditional values, though it is, like all tax increases, dressed up in the threadbare raiment of fairness and elimination of “loopholes,” which have come to mean any abatement of taxes on all categories of income below about 90 per cent.

    If I believed that the Prime Minister’s strategists had really got over their intellectual life support connection to former Dalton McGuinty and Barack Obama political strategist David Axelrod, I could believe this seismic lurch to the left was because they saw that U.S. President Donald Trump was going to bring in his tax changes and achieve 3.5 per cent economic growth, raising the North American tide no matter what crown of thorns was impressed on the perspiring and hoary heads of Canadian income tax payers. Such a stretch and act of faith is now beyond my always limited athletic talents and hard-pressed access to spontaneous uplifted optimism. And Trump’s tax reductions are also likely to drain investment, and some people, from Canada.

    There is nothing for it but to sketch out the major problems of this proposed dawn raid on our material lives. Dividends to family members will be subject to an unimaginably intrusive and costly analysis by tax collectors of whether the recipients have earned these dividends, and of whether intra-family asset sales or sales of businesses are at fair prices. Taxes on estates, where ownership of businesses is involved, become very complicated and costly, and any utilization of trusts, no matter how traditional, becomes a tenebrous jungle full of hostile beasts and serpents employed by the federal government to impoverish you and your heirs. An arm’s length sale of such a business will attract a tax of up to 26 per cent, while an intra-family sale could be taxed at up to 45 per cent. Combined with proposed vote-buying (and job-losing) increases in the minimum wage in Ontario, this will cut deeply into small business profitability, the permanent principal source of any country’s economic strength and growth.

    In the last federal budget, the minister of finance promised to facilitate the continuity of family businesses; the proposed measures are a 180 degree turn from that declared objective. He also promised tax simplification; what is now proposed is a nightmarish labyrinth that invites tax inspectors to ransack the entire private corporate sector demanding payments aggressively before the new rules have been judicially interpreted, with, no doubt, their customary courtesy and discretion (which could put much of the population unused to such official harassment on suicide watch).

    Proposed treatment of passive income will discourage savings and retention of earnings in small and medium businesses, and assert pressure to avoid prudent reserves for contingencies or unforeseen opportunities and problems and restrict the ability of management in small and medium businesses to manage sensibly. The administration of these changes and their interpretation by the courts, and any experienced taxpayer knows to fear the worst in these areas, will take many years to adjudicate and clarify, even in the absence of further changes, which cannot be assumed. It required 17 years for the Supreme Court of Canada to settle the impact of the original general avoidance rules, and there is no reason to believe that measures as complex, meddlesome and authoritarian as these will be less time consuming for the establishment of a comprehensible framework. Such uncertainty will create very difficult conditions for corporate planning as it will be impossible to be confident what rate of tax will be applied to different categories of income and assets.

    It is entirely likely that the cost of imposing and collecting and adjudicating these taxes will exceed the revenue to the federal government. This approaches the salt tax in the last days of the Bourbon monarchy in 18th-century France, which required 250,000 agents to collect and helped bring on the French Revolution. Canadian taxpayers are unlikely to have the satisfaction that the French had then of sending those responsible for this tax to the guillotine, or of being exalted by the glorious victories of Napoleon (unacceptably costly in all respects though they ultimately were).

    Lawyers and some doctors will be singled out for particular oppression, which to opponents of this nasty and dangerous legislation is welcome, given their political influence and the bar’s skill at lobbying. If implemented, these rules could drive large numbers of doctors out of the country, and Canada is already the 27th out of 35 advanced economies in its per capita number of doctors. About half the deficiency of 25,000 doctors just to get to the 35 country-average was caused by Pierre Trudeau and Monique Begin’s abolition of private medicine (“over-billing”) in 1983. The imposition of these measures would aggravate this shortcoming and cause even the most complacent Canadians, who imagine they have a brilliant health-care system, to see and feel its deficiencies, which would become starkly more obvious, especially long waiting lists for many services and the outright (though unadmitted) rationing of health care to lower income groups.

    These are bad measures, proposed by a fiscally incontinent government in mid-summer and with a condensed 75-day consultation process. If adopted as they are, it may enable the regime to squiggle through the next election, greasing its way with slippery claptrap about egalitarian fairness, but it will be a national disaster of slow economic growth and a reaccelerated brain drain that will take a generation to redress. This beastly set of proposals should be strangled in its cradle, but the willing hands to give it what the Supreme Court could eagerly recognize as death with dignity are not now visible.

    Note: I would like to thank many people for making research available to me, especially Eddy Burello and John Hughes of MNP, and the former minister of finance, my friend of many years, the Honourable Joe Oliver.

    © 2017 Conrad Black

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  • Jack 1:15 pm on September 9, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: canada 150, ,   

    Left’s Lament 

    Like a lot of others I’d guess, I have the feeling the great sesquicentennial didn’t come off with the élan and charge that it should have. Even the climatic evenings on Parliament Hill lacked the full effusion of clear joy that living the harvest of our 150 years should have easily brought forward. And it wasn’t just the “tactical” miscues over security, the Styx-river length lineups to get to Parliament Hill, or the lack of any confident theme in the celebrations that dimmed things.

    It’s hard to say, in any particular way, why the events of this July 1st weekend didn’t reach an appreciably different tone or pitch than that of the non-sesquicentennial celebrations of previous years. Maybe we’re just celebrated out. Maybe it’s because so many good causes now spatter the calendar. Or maybe there are so many festivals of “concern,” so many corporations, associations and institutions wishing to avail of this day or that day, for this cause or that group, that we can’t segregate the artificial from the authentic. Politicians flock to these ritual moments with that necessary zeal that comes with the longing to court a particular constituency, or to exhibit an easy commitment to the right donors or identity group.

    We’re in an era where celebration has adopted a peculiar mode: that of the confession of sins not our own

    So now, when a special moment comes about — a moment when we need to pause and commemorate a genuine instance of sacrifice or achievement in our common national endeavour — how can it stand out and alone from the blur of the routine and predictable?
    We are also in an era where celebration has adopted a peculiar mode: that of the confession of sins not our own. The form has become too familiar. The preacher of the day puts on a mantle of showy humility and soulfully takes on the “responsibility” for all the dim deeds of our past. He chants the litany of past wrongs, and turns his affluent, virtue-ripe eyes to the derelictions and cruelties of the unenlightened generations that went under the Earth without an iPhone.
    That the past had its sins and crimes is beyond all denial. But the rather zealous recounting of them implies a curious exemption from like failings in those who so piously enumerate them in our present.

    The zealous recounting of past sins implies a curious exemption from like failings in those who so piously enumerate them

    There is an unavoidable charmlessness in sermons that take as their theme: “We thank thee Lord, that we are not like those who were before us.” Sermons that mine the histories of peoples past, to isolate their flaws and moral squalors, and detach them from the stream of their own time and circumstance, in order to judge and condemn them — now.  But, quite wonderfully, implicit in the apology for the sin of another is that it is not one’s own, or indeed ever could be. It is the cry of the Pharisee. Every such apology is the vessel for a sly boast.

    They were not as we are, and we are not as they were, is the sermon’s crux and burden. The preacher at such doings bathes lavishly in the waters of righteousness, at no cost. There is no moral turmoil in apologizing for the sins of someone else.

    But to view the past as exemplary, to see its actors in the round as men and women subject to the codes of their day, is to invite a different kind of comparison. In the days before affluence and technology, was it perhaps more difficult to live those virtues that come so easily to us? Should we not partner gratitude with judgment when it comes to our common past and those who lived it?

    Should we not partner gratitude with judgment when it comes to our common past and those who lived it?

    In our celebrations there was one note that was missing or certainly underplayed. Gratitude for the moment we have inherited. That however far those who came before us fell from the present codes of virtue and its fashionable display, they did, nonetheless, through war and peace, in the main with admirable stoicism and daring, ultimately provide for what we now have the good fortune to enjoy.

    Maybe that’s why this 150th didn’t have the right feel. It was so very much about now, so little reflecting on then. We didn’t reach this fine moment on our own, and we should temper our judgments about those who gave it to us with a little of that current sensitivity about difference with which we seem so abundantly endowed.

    National Post


  • Jack 11:37 am on September 9, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , , mia rabson   

    Omnitrax Ultimatum 

    OTTAWA — The federal government laid down an ultimatum Friday to the U.S. company that owns the only rail line serving the isolated northern Manitoba town of Churchill: Fix it or sell it to someone who will.

    If they sell, Ottawa is prepared to help with interim funding to fix the rail line, said Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

    Omnitrax’s Canadian CEO applauded the move, saying the company already has an agreement in place to sell the rail line to a consortium of First Nations and the deal has only been awaiting federal support.

    The news suggests an end is near for the months-long ordeal that saw the 900 residents of Churchill cut off from their main supply chain for food and fuel.

    “This is a very positive development,” said Churchill Mayor Mike Spence, who is part of one of the groups poised to buy the rail line.

    “This is exactly what we’ve been talking about.”

    The Ottawa plan includes telling Omnitrax that if it refuses to honour its commitment to maintain the line, Ottawa will help facilitate the sale to a new owner, as long as that owner pays a reasonable price, has support from First Nations along the line and has a viable business plan.

    If those conditions are met, Ottawa will help with interim funding to fix the line so it can get up and running before winter hits. It did not say how much it would be prepared to pay or what the conditions would be for the funding.

    “Time is of the essence here and quick action from all parties is needed now,” said Carr in a news release.

    Churchill, which sits on the shore of Hudson Bay and is best known for its polar bears, has no permanent access road. The 820-km rail link to The Pas is its main source for all its supplies. Major flooding in the spring washed out at least 20 sections of the line.

    Last week, an engineering assessment estimated it would cost $43.5 million to fix.

    The federal government has repeatedly said Omnitrax is obligated to fix the line under a 2008 agreement that saw Ottawa offer financial help to the company in exchange for Omnitrax maintaining the rail link until at least 2029.

    Omnitrax, which has owned and operated the line since 1997, says it can’t afford the repairs and argues the 2008 agreement is no longer applicable because of events since then, including the closure of the Canadian Wheat Board, which used to be the main customer for the Port of Churchill.

    That stalemate went on all summer. But now, the chips are falling into place to see it end.

    The two separate groups competing to buy the line joined forces last week, removing one of the stumbling blocks to progress.

    Now the merged group, which includes two northern Manitoba First Nations and Mayor Spence, are working on their plan to be ready to buy the line and the Port of Churchill, which Omnitrax also owns.

    Omnitrax Canada CEO Merv Tweed, a former Conservative MP from Manitoba, said the company is “pleased” Ottawa has offered to pay for the repairs and support the consortium’s efforts to purchase the line.

    “We have come to a fair and reasonable agreement to transfer the assets to the Missinippi Consortium and our mutual agreement is waiting only for federal government support,” he said in a written statement.

    Ottawa has appointed former Privy Council clerk Wayne Wouters as its chief negotiator to bring everything together.

    Spence said although winter is fast approaching, he believes there is enough time to get the deal done and make the repairs before ice and snow halt construction until spring.

    “We’ve got some work to do but we’re up to the challenge,” he said.

    Churchill has been reeling since Omnitrax said last year it was no longer financially viable to operate the port, shutting down one of the biggest employers in town.


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