Wednesday, July 26, 2017

So Many Possible Labels, None Of Them Positive

There are many labels one could affix to the Conservative Party of Canada: opportunistic, divisive, demagogic, dishonest and principleless are but five that readily come to mind. However, perhaps the most immediately appropriate and withering is hypocritical.

Hypocrisy is to be found in political parties of all stripes, but it appears that the others are mere pretenders to the crown worn by the Conservatives. Cloaking themselves in the self-righteous garment sported by the morally weak, it is surely only the untutored mind that fails to see through their shameful dissembling.

Take, for example, the recent displays of Peter Kent and Michelle Rempel, pretending to channel Canadian outrage over the Khadr settlement as they practised their own political opportunism through American media.

That, according to the Star's Tim Harper, is a damning indictment of their seemingly endless capacity to speak out of both sides of their mouths.

Citing the time that Tom Mulcair went south to express his opposition to the Keystone pipeline, Harper reminds us of the Conservative fury that met his return:
A senior minister of the day, John Baird, accused Mulcair of “trash talking” and “badmouthing” Canada. Another former minister, Joe Oliver, marched to the microphones in the Commons foyer to denounce Mulcair for not leaving politics at the border. He also took to the keyboard for the Globe and Mail to tell the country “a responsible politician would not travel to a foreign capital to score cheap political points.”
You can see where this is going, of course.

Speaking specifically of the quisling-like behaviour of both Rempel and Kent, Harper says,
Both Kent and Rempel have ignored an old, time-honoured dictum which has now been repeatedly discredited — you stash your partisan politics on this side of the border.

For years, Canadian prime ministers did not take partisan shots at opponents back home while travelling abroad because they were representing Canada, not the Liberals or the Conservatives.

Rempel didn’t need to fly to the U.S. to tell Tucker Carlson on Fox that Canadians were outraged. Kent didn’t need to write an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal to be, as he said, “honest” with our allies and inform them.

Yes, this is the same Kent who, as Harper’s environment minister, attacked two NDP MPs, Megan Leslie and Claude Gravelle, for speaking about Keystone in Washington — yes, that issue again.

According to Kent, they were taking “the treacherous course of leaving the domestic debate and heading abroad to attack a legitimate Canadian resource which is being responsibly developed and regulated.”
Perhaps the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. They are, after all, only doing what their former leader and master, Stephen Harper, did:
As leader of the Canadian Alliance, he and Stockwell Day took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal in 2003 to assure Americans Jean Chrétien had made a mistake in staying out of George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing” invading Iraq, and to tell them Canadians stood with them. (They didn’t.)

When he represented Canada at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, Harper couldn’t wait until his plane landed in Canada to take a poke at Trudeau over the then squeaky new Liberal leader’s comments about “root causes” of terrorism in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

No one in the press pack asked him about Trudeau’s comments. Harper raised them unsolicited.
Those who follow politics closely are not likely to be surprised by any of this, given that faux outrage and deceit are two of the black arts practised so adeptly by the Conservative Party of Canada. However, even the uninitiated and the cultishly Con Party faithful should at least occasionally put on their underutilized critical-thinking caps to see the massive and shameless manipulation being perpetrated on them.

It beats being mindless mouthpieces for a party that hardly has their best interests at heart.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Whose Sovereignty Is It, Anyway?

He’s loved of the distracted multitude,
Who like not in their judgment, but their eyes.

-Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 3

For a long time I have found little to fault in Justin Trudeau's tactful dance around the Trump administration. Rather than denigrate a particular benighted American initiative like the Muslim travel ban, for example, the Prime Minister promotes Canada's openness to the world and impressive acceptance of Syrian refugees. Why provoke the Orange Ogre for no good reason?

However, scratching beneath the surface, one must wonder if there might be more at work in this dynamic.

Take, for example, the opaqueness that has enveloped Canada's priorities on the upcoming NAFTA renegotiation, about which I posted the other day.
The Liberal-dominated House of Commons trade committee has quashed a move to invite the prime minister and other high-ranking cabinet members to answer questions about Canada’s NAFTA renegotiation priorities, as calls continue for more transparency about how the government plans to handle upcoming talks on the deal.
Couple that with the worrying assertion made the other day by Canada's ambassador to the U.S.
Canada needs to allow U.S. President Donald Trump to “declare victory” on the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton said Thursday.

“This was such a big part of the president’s campaign last year, and I think for any of us to think that we can sort of just ignore that would be crazy. We have to find ways where he can declare victory without it being seen in either Mexico or Canada as being a loss,” MacNaughton said.
Appeasement, by any other name, is still appeasement.

Then there is the recent announcement by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland that, on the one hand, seems to suggest that Canada is forging an independent foreign policy direction because the U.S. can no longer be relied upon:
Canada's new foreign policy will involve spending billions on "hard power" military capability because the country can't rely on an American ally that has turned inward, says Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Sounds impressive, doesn't it (although one can only imagine vividly the howls of outrage that would have ensued had this decision been made by the Harper government)? And this apparent independence of policy initiative certainly appears to be at odds with the theme of this post.

However, seen through the lens of critical thinking provided by Linda McQuaig, this new commitment to massively increased military spending is not what it seems.
... the Trudeau government’s announcement last month that it would dramatically increase Canada’s military spending — as Donald Trump has loudly demanded — was risky, given the distaste Canadians have for big military budgets and for prime ministers who cave in to U.S. presidents.

But the Trudeau government’s pledge to hike military spending by a whopping 70 per cent over 10 years succeeded in winning praise from Trump while going largely unnoticed by Canadians. Sweet.
Much of the media seemed swept up in Ms. Freeland's words, ignoring the fact that Canada is doing exactly what Trump wants, massively increasing its military spending:
It sounded feisty and bold, with a touch of swagger, a willingness to defy The Man.

Meanwhile, all was quiet on the Canadian front where the media, still high on Freeland’s soaring oratory, was awash in stories about the Trudeau government’s determination to “set its own course” and “step up to lead on the world stage.” Its keenness to please Trump mostly got lost in the hoopla.
And lest we forget,
The military spending hike, although introduced without much controversy, is in fact a major development with devastating consequences, imposing a massive new $30 billion burden on Canadian taxpayers over the next decade and relegating pressing social needs to the back burner.

It’s also a significant departure for Trudeau, who made no campaign promise to increase Canada’s military spending, which, at $19 billion a year, is already the 16th largest in the world.
Doubtless, that money could be used for something better:
My guess is that, given a choice between spending that money on fighter jets or on social programs, most Canadians would favour social programs.

But then, they’re not holding the leash.
In the play Hamlet, the title character is described as being loved by the masses, despite the fact that he has killed the King's counselor and threatened the life of the King. That mindless adulation, says the King, affords Hamlet considerable latitude.

Are we seeing the same phenomenon unfolding here at home?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

What A Mess

I suspect that most people in the West realize to some extent the self-indulgence of drinking bottled water, not to mention the many other liquids that are conveyed to the consumer in just the same manner.

The next time we reach for one, we should all feel suitably ashamed of and disgusted with ourselves.
Industry has made more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic since 1950 and there's enough left over to bury Manhattan under more than two miles of trash, according to a new cradle-to-grave global study.

Plastics don't break down like other man-made materials, so three-quarters of the stuff ends up as waste in landfills, littered on land and floating in oceans, lakes and rivers, according to the research reported in Wednesday's journal Science Advances.

Plastic waste in water has been shown to harm more than 600 species of marine life, said Nancy Wallace, marine debris program director for the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. Whales, sea turtles, dolphins, fish and sea birds are hurt or killed, she said.

"It's a huge amount of material that we're not doing anything about," Wallace said. "We're finding plastics everywhere."

Friday, July 21, 2017

Open And Transparent, Eh, Justin?

While no one would argue that the government should conduct an open-house on their impending NAFTA renegotiation, the cone of silence that has characterized Mr. Trudeau's approach to the talks is disquieting, especially given his pre-election promises to conduct an open and transparent administration.
The Liberal-dominated House of Commons trade committee has quashed a move to invite the prime minister and other high-ranking cabinet members to answer questions about Canada’s NAFTA renegotiation priorities, as calls continue for more transparency about how the government plans to handle upcoming talks on the deal.

The committee, instead, approved a Liberal plan to hear from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is the lead member of cabinet for NAFTA and Canada-U.S. relations. She is slated to attend a meeting on Aug. 14, two days before negotiations are set to begin in Washington.

NDP MP Tracey “not happy” with the result of Friday’s meeting, especially after Trudeau said this week that he would be willing to share Canada’s strategy on NAFTA with the opposition.

“We’re not asking for the specifics on how they’re going to negotiate every item, but we can clearly see from the 18 pages of priorities with the U.S. that they’ve made public — we could do the exact same thing,” Ramsey said.

Like the secret study he has commissioned to study airport privatization, one must ask an unavoidable question: Exactly what is Mr. Trudeau hiding from the voters?

The Creep Of Corporatism

Responding to my post on the secret study conducted by the Trudeau government on privatizing our major airports to raise much-needed cash, BM offered the following, which I am featuring as a guest post today:

Well, this is the usual way corporatism works. Change a capital investment into an eternal loan with rent due sharpish at the beginning of each month, paid for by the citizens. When paper money is abolished in the next five to ten years (already started as an experiment in India by withdrawing low-denomination notes to see what happens - disaster - but who cares, they're brown people and not in the West; full story on the Indian site last fall, studiously unread by white men in the West of all political persuasions), we'll be well on the way to mere electronic representations of our paid-for labour. Every transaction under full surveillance by our masters, no under the table cheapy house-painting, no cash at the farmer's gate for decent veggies and real eggs, taxes paid in full, citizens in thrall, and so on. It'll be sold as the Bright New World, like a super-duper schmarty-phone. All will cheer at how advanced we are.

No wonder Bitcoin thrives.

But as Amazon flogs groceries online, takes over Wholefoods, ruins supermarkets, what happens to old people? I see it all the time when I run from my rural lair into Halifax, old ladies carrying full shopping bags miles. Halifax is a food desert city, bus routes are organized at right angles to where people live to get to a supermarket, that is, they are 100% utterly useless. These old folks don't have PCs or even mobile phones. They're screwed in our brave new world, slain on the fields of corporatism. I drive them if they'll accept a lift, those old gals still dressing up to look presentable, living on OAP and a supplement if they're lucky, trying to keep up appearances. Makes me weep in frustration. The destruction of civil society on the bed of profits and eff-you attitude.

Don't know if JT has the brains to understand the consequences of flogging off public property, or doing the Canadian internal equivalent of an ISDS governed free trade pact called the Infrastructure Bank, I really don't.

But Morneau does, look at that Economic Council of his, set up in February last year with all the corporate and university academic wannabe rich types "advising" him. Telling him, more like. A $1 a year each, such noble types donating their valuable time, reduced to eating sandwiches from the caff at their Ottawa meetings in order to do their bounden duty for Canada, chaired by a man from a big accounting firm. It was then that I knew we were truly effed, seduced by hair and a smile.

Nothing has occurred in the last 18 months to make me change my mind at the neoLiberal's canny backing of JT, the intellectual waif with an aw shucks um and an ah at public speaking events that makes people buckle at their knees in abject adoration. Behind his back, the people that matter are planning ways to pilfer our back pockets.


And we love it!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Canadians Are Outraged

The outrage is once again stoked by Omar Khadr, but, as I wrote the other day, it is Peter Kent's shameful performance that is earning their scorn. These two letter-writers reflect that scorn:
Re: Omar Khadr payout gains traction in U.S. media after Conservative MP’s op-ed, July 17

It seems that Conservatives and their base just don’t want to let this go. And now some of Canada’s politicians are taking to American media outlets to air out their beefs.

It’s bad enough that the Conservatives have made this an issue they are going to ride until the next election. But now, Thornhill MP Peter Kent has decided to go play partisan politics in the right-wing American media. Shameful, shameful, shameful!

I find it incredibly un-Canadian that Conservatives would go anywhere abroad and sell out their own government for the sake of pandering to their hateful, racist base. The right-wing media outlets down there are, of course, going to milk this for U.S. President Donald Trump’s own base. It seems that reporting facts has long been forgotten for the sake of partisan politics.

If Kent wants to continue making this an issue, he has a seat in Parliament where he can do as part of his job. It is disgusting that he chose to put down his own country through the American right-wing media.

Phil Marambio, Oakville

Peter Kent is following in his old boss’s pen prints with his opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

How is it he feels entitled as a representative of Canadian citizens to bring back his flawed journalist skills to disagree with the federal government, using an American newspaper?

How is this in the best interests of Canada, with NAFTA negotiations in full gear? Is he using his past journalist code of ethics? Did the good voters of Thornhill implore him to write it? Who paid him?

Mr. Kent is entitled to his opinion on any issue. But he is certainly not thinking about Canada, which pays him his salary.

J.L. Isopp, Nanaimo, B.C.

And speaking of village idiots, one from Alberta, Michelle Rempel, displayed her bona fides the other day on Fox. If you haven't seen the report, here is her stomach-churning Fox News debut:

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Justin's Secrecy

There will always be those unable to see beyond the obvious when it comes to Justin Trudeau. His sunny smile, his platitudinous assurances that we can have our pipelines and climate change remediation simultaneously, and his opaque insistence upon the necessity of an Infrastructure Bank seem to carry the day for some, apparently happy to suspend whatever critical-thinking capacities they may possess.

Unfortunately, this blanket belief in Trudeau's sincerity means that his neoliberal agenda is being under-scrutinized by the public. One of its most egregious manifestations is the secrecy around which the government has hired consultants to study the deliverance of our airports to private interests.

H/t trapdinawrpool for his twitter alert about the following:
A secretive project to generate billions of dollars from the sale of major Canadian airports is pushing ahead with the hiring of consultant firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The firm is to "act as a commercial adviser assisting with additional analytical work with respect to advancing a new governance framework for one or more Canadian airports."
The shield of secrecy was peeled back only due to a freedom-of-information request from the CBC, coupled with some stellar sleuthing. The very fact that this project was withheld from public eyes is the first red flag.

But wait! There's more!
The new contract follows a report delivered last fall by Credit Suisse Canada on how Ottawa might gain billion-dollar windfalls through the sale of its interests in Canada's Big Eight airports and 18 smaller airports. The eight are in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Halifax.

Credit Suisse was hired by CDEV, [Canada Development Investment Corp.] acting on behalf of Finance Canada, in a contract announced in a terse two-sentence release on Sept. 12.

The Crown corporation and Finance have since refused to release the Credit Suisse report, the contract terms or even the cost to taxpayers, despite requests by an opposition MP and by journalists.
And, again typical of the neoliberal orientation, private entities were given veto power over the release of information:
... the contracts with Credit Suisse and PwC contain clauses that give the firms vetoes over the public release of any information, including the cost of the work.
Why should any of us be bothered by any of this? There are many reasons, but Craig Richmond, the president and CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority, recently addressed one of them when he said,
... prices for airlines and passengers would only increase as for-profit entities seek to make back their investments.

[He understands] the attraction of a one-time big profit for Ottawa, but "that's like selling the furniture in your house to cover your credit card debts."
Mr. Trudeau's government euphemistically refers to this whole process as "asset recycling." Those less enamoured of the Prime Minister and his band of sunny men and women, I suspect, would call it something else entirely.