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Accidental Deliberations: On half measures

Having written this column a couple of weeks back on electoral financing in Saskatchewan, I’ll take a moment to address this letter to the editor in response from R. Curtis Mullen.

It’s indeed true that Saskatchewan has spending limits which apply during an election campaign. But the Canada Elections Act does in fact regulate both donations and campaign spending, leaving little room for anybody to argue that it’s an “either”/or situation.

More importantly, though, campaign spending limits fall short of addressing the principled basis for donation restrictions on two fronts.

First, they do nothing about the problem of concentrated donations.

(Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Apparently they’ll let anybody blather away on the intertoobz

Here, for instance, is me chatting with Paul Dechene.

(And to correct myself, the impending provincial election is the second under fixed election dates – though the first where it’s lining up with an associated federal election.)

Accidental Deliberations: On powers of appointment

Andrew Coyne has rightly pointed out the gall the Senate is showing in nixing Michael Chong’s watered-down Reform Act (even if there’s something to a few of the criticisms). But let’s not miss the most absurd suggestion of all as to who should be given increased power over a party’s leadership (emphasis added): “I just don’t think this kind of things should be left in the hands of caucus, when our process for electing leaders [is] in the hands of the grassroots,” [Con Senator David] Wells said. He suggested the bill be amended to require a minimum consent of 50 (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On fitting results

It will be some time yet before we see how Rachel Notley translates the Alberta NDP’s election triumph into policy. But we have had a chance to see Notley’s response to frivolous attacks on the NDP’s newly-elected MLAs – and she’s had absolutely the right reaction so far in not letting those attacks undermine elected representatives: Premier-designate Rachel Notley says she doesn’t see Drever’s Facebook photos as a big problem for the NDP.

“I think transition and the challenges that come with transition are what happens when governments change, which is something that happens in normal, healthy democracies,” Notley said.

(Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: The democratic alternative

Some time ago, I put together this list of principles worth considering when talking about structured cooperation between political parties. And consistent with Ian Gill’s own warning about his lack of connection to party structures, his proposal for a secret pre-election pact manages to fail on nearly every front.

But while there’s some reason for question about Gill’s intended direction, the bigger issue is his presumption that we need our political parties to drag us there. So let’s clarify the options available to Canadians who want to further an “ABC” agenda in the lead up to this fall’s election.

While (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Joe Gunn argues that it’s long past time for Canada to live up to its climate commitments. And Carol Linnitt writes that further delay will do nothing but damage to our economy and our democracy as well as our planet: Taking meaningful climate action would mean increasing green infrastructure, prioritizing sustainable cities and investing in renewable and low-carbon sources of energy.

It would also mean slowing the rate of expansion of oil and gas projects including the oilsands, which would eventually put a stop to new pipeline projects. That would come with (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On conventional choices

Following up on this post, other commentators are starting to raise questions about what will happen after the impending federal election.

Based on the Harper Cons’ track record, the default assumption has to be that they aren’t about to consider themselves bound by mere conventions or if there’s a chance to cling to power by using thir incumbency to their advantage.

In a worst-case scenario, that could mean that regardless of how Canadians vote, the Cons could continue to exercise all manner of executive power (as bolstered by the ability to “disrupt” peaceful activity under C-51), while freezing (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On transition planning

I’ve previously highlighted the need for media and citizens alike to press our opposition parties on how they’re willing to cooperate to replace the Harper Cons after the next federal election. But let’s note that there’s a similar question which still needs to be directed at Stephen Harper at every available opportunity – even if we can’t expect much more than instructive non-answers.

As Andrew Coyne notes, it’s still an open question how far Harper would go in trying to cling to power under all kinds of circumstances: As prime minister, Mr. Harper would retain a number of prerogatives (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On full information

Michael Harris’ latest is well worth a read in offering a guide to avoiding the worst consequences of election-year spin. But it’s worth noting that his most important advice is only presented as an afterthought: Final note on street-proofing your vote? Inform yourself. Look at what the people who want their power renewed have done with it so far, and at what those who seek power say they will do if they get it.

Above all, don’t cast your ballot out of fear.

While the warnings found earlier in Harris’ piece may be helpful as examples of what candidates shouldn’t do (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Scott Santens links the themes of health and equality by suggesting that we treat a basic income as a needed vaccine against poverty and all its ill effects.

- Erika Eichelberger and Dave Gilson highlight how U.S. corporations are siphoning money offshore to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. And Kate Aronoff warns us that the mindless extraction of profits is producing environmental and financial crises alike: Between debt and our slowly roasting planet, we’ll be lucky to walk away from the next 25 years with just one crisis. There (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- John Hood discusses how the privilege of the political class makes it difficult for elected representatives to understand, let alone address, the problems of the precariat. And Lawrence Mishel and Will Kimball document the continued connection between the erosion of unions and income inequality.

- Lizzie Dearden reports on one proposal to rein in corporate abuses, as Ed Miliband intends to crack down on tax cheats and the jurisdictions which harbor them. And Carol Linnitt suggests that Canada’s public corporations should be required to disclose their political expenditures.

- But unfortunately, the Harper (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Kate McInturff and David Macdonald address the need for an adult discussion about how federal policies affect Canadian families. And Kevin Campbell writes about the importance of child care as a social investment. 

- Vincenzo Bove and Georgios Efthyvoulou study how public policy is shaped by political budget cycles – with more popular social spending getting emphasized around election time, only to face a threat as soon as the vote is held. And Scott Clark and Peter DeVries identify a distinct increase in the smoke and mirrors being used by the Cons (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Sunday reading.

- Nicholas Kristof writes about the empathy gap which causes far too many wealthier citizens to devalue those who don’t have as much. Jesse Singal observes that the primary effect of wealth on well-being is to reduce downside rather than improve happiness – signalling that we might be best served pursuing policies aimed at improving financial security across the income scale. And Lucy Mangan discusses what’s missing from the people who refuse to understand the effect of poverty – particularly when they’re best positioned to do something to alleviate it: Politicians, for example, are (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

 - Emma Woolley discusses how homelessness developed into a social problem in Canada in large part through public neglect. Judy Haiven is the latest to emphasize that charity is no substitute for a functional society when it comes to meeting people’s basic needs. And Ed Lehman is rightly concerned that Brad Wall and company are still determined to avoid acknowledging the fact that there are plenty of Saskatchewan residents trying to make do with nowhere near enough.

- Emily Badger reminds us how inequality early in life can shape – and block – opportunities (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that to start your year.

- Ian Welsh comments on the challenges we face in trying to turn wealth increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few into a better world for everybody: The irony is that we have, again, produced a cornucopia.  We have the potential to create an abundance society, the world over and eventually off this world.

We have much of the technology necessary, and we could direct our research and development towards the remaining technology we need.

Instead, we rely on markets controlled by oligarchs and central banks captured by oligarchs to make (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Ryan Meili examines why Craig Alexander of the TD Bank is calling for a move toward greater income equality in Canada: The OECD reports that income inequality is at the highest level in 30 years, and that economic growth has been slowed by as much as 10 per cent in some countries as a result. A 2014 IMF study showed that redistributive policies through tax and transfers not only do no harm to the economy, but can improve performance in the long-term. In fact, it appears that public investments in child care and (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On representative units

Does anybody remember which particularly prominent political pundit went far out his way to trumpet the idea that basic unit of political legitimacy is the caucus – to the point of repeatedly advocating a legislated requirement that a caucus vote override the decisions made by the whole of a party’s membership?

I ask only because he seems to have been replaced with a far more reasonable impostor.

By the majority-of-caucus standard set under Michael Chong’s Reform Act (or the stronger forms suggested by Andrew Coyne among others), the decision of a majority of Wildrose Party MLAs to join up with (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On targets

Shorter Chantal Hebert: And just think how much more successful Jack Layton could have been as the NDP’s leader if only the Cons had spent years attacking him rather than Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff!

Of course, it’s true enough that Canada’s political scene has changed – and indeed for the better in terms of the NDP’s position. But if the NDP can engage its supporters, keep itself in the consideration set of potential governments and build further support for an already-popular leader in relative peace, I’m at a loss as to why Hebert thinks it should envy the (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Oxfam studies the spread of extreme inequality around the globe, as well as the policies needed to combat it: Oxfam’s decades of experience in the world’s poorest communities have taught us that poverty and inequality are not inevitable or accidental, but the result of deliberate policy choices. Inequality can be reversed. The world needs concerted action to build a fairer economic and political system that values everyone. The rules and systems that have led to today’s inequality explosion must change. Urgent action is needed to level the playing field by implementing policies (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Paul Krugman writes that the ultra-wealthy’s contempt for anybody short of their own class is becoming more and more explicit around the globe – even when it comes to basic rights like the ability to vote: It’s always good when leaders tell the truth, especially if that wasn’t their intention. So we should be grateful to Leung Chun-ying, the Beijing-backed leader of Hong Kong, for blurting out the real reason pro-democracy demonstrators can’t get what they want: With open voting, “You would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Adam Lent highlights the strong majority of respondents in the UK who see the political system as serving the powerful rather than the public. And Elizabeth Warren explains why the same conclusion applies in the U.S., while making the case that there’s room to improve matters simply by emphasizing the choices voters face: The system is rigged. And now that I’ve been in Washington and seen it up close and personal, I just see new ways in which that happens. But we have to stop and back up, and you (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Don Pittis makes the case for a guaranteed annual income on economic and social grounds: The young would be some of the biggest beneficiaries. Students could use the money to pay for their education, thus eliminating student loan programs. Students from poor families could afford to take courses to improve their skills.

The old age security system could disappear. So would the baby bonus itself. The demogrant would supplement government programs such as minimum wage, EI, CPP/QPP, disability allowance – all resulting in bureaucratic savings.

But going back to my original question: if (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On redemocratization

Adrian Morrow reports on Andrea Horwath’s speech to the Ontario NDP’s provincial council. And there’s certainly plenty of reason for relative optimism about a message which both reflects a clear argument for big-picture progressive thinking, and recognizes at least part of the importance of the NDP’s base. That said, I’ll note that there’s still one area which leaves something to be desired in Horwath’s message: Party sources say the election campaign was too undemocratic, run by a handful of people close to Ms. Horwath who decreed there would be no big picture pledges. The campaign also focused too strongly on (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On broken connections

The CP reported here on Sana Hassainia’s resignation from the NDP caucus and the immediate aftermath. And it’s worth taking a look at both the narrow view that seems to have led Hassainia (among others) to choose to be isolated from party politics, and the unfortunate response from the NDP.

I haven’t commented much personally on the Gaza crisis, so I’ll quickly summarize my take on the NDP’s official position. Initially, Mulcair did seem all too eager to take the same line as the other federal leaders: the NDP’s position included no questioning whatsoever of Israel’s incursion into Gaza, and (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On permanent campaigners

Plenty of people have pointed out other pieces of Paul Wells’ interview with Justin Trudeau. But one exchange seems particularly telling in defining Trudeau’s perception of leadership and politics: Q: What do you have to get done when Parliament comes back?

A: Continue to do what we’re doing, which is build the team, build the plan. Draw in great, credible candidates from across the country and put together a set of solutions and policies that are going to give this country a better government. Q: So the campaign’s already begun?

A: I think the way politics is done these days—certainly, (Read more…)