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Debt

Distracting, dissembling, deflecting – lest you forget

Posted January 17, 2015 by Norm Farrell
Are you unhappy with rapidly increasing electricity rates and the general state of BC Hydro finances? Are you looking for the party responsible? Well, the Vancouver Sun has the answer. It’s a person named Clark, but not the one presently in the Premier’s office.

Vaughn Palmer thinks readers should be reminded of past NDP sins so he offers Gordon Campbell’s words from 2001:

“Under the New Democratic Party, BC Hydro has been viewed as little more than a cash cow for the government,” declared Opposition leader and soon-to-be premier Gordon Campbell on the eve of the 2001 election campaign.

“Since the NDP was elected, it has siphoned almost $2.5 billion out of BC Hydro into general revenue. This is $2.5 billion that could have gone to reducing the debt of BC Hydro, into the construction of new generation facilities, or been left in the pockets of customers.”

Shocking, isn’t it. Kudos to Vaughn Palmer for providing key facts.

He gives this additional information:

Turns out Hydro has paid $5.4 billion in dividends to the province since 1992, of which 60 per cent — or $3.2 billion — had to be borrowed.

Presuming Hydro had been able to use that money to offset its own borrowing needs, the Crown corporation’s current debt ($15.4 billion and counting) would be that much smaller and the upward pressure on rates from interest payments would be reduced as well.

However, that turns out to be a rewording of government press notes and it is not entirely accurate. Since 2001, BC Hydro payments to government total almost $10 billion and it does not take a graduate degree in finance to know, had that money not been paid out, the crown corporation’s borrowings would be reduced by the same amount. It is an illogical fiction to pretend that only $3.2 billion had to be borrowed to make payments to government during the past 23 years.

Mind you Palmer could also have reported that when Glen Clark became Premier, BC Hydro’s long-term debt was $7.496 billion and, when he left the office three years later, it was $7.474 billion. When Christy Clark became Premier, the utility’s debt was $11.712 billion. According to the September 2014 financial statements, the debt was $16.588 billion, not the lesser amount from ten months ago noted on the BC Liberal’s press notes.

That’s a 42% increase in long-term debt of BC Hydro, but the amount is chump change compared to borrowings planned in the next few years and the over $50 billion increase in contractual commitments to private power producers, which were non-existent during the days of Glen Clark’s profligacy.

Another illustration of the different approaches to debt and spending during different times follows. It should be noted that quarterly statements of BC Hydro in the current fiscal year show long-term debt rising at a monthly rate of $171.5 million. That is the fastest ever rate of growth in BC Hydro debt.

Liberal policies aim to eliminate elements of a progressive tax system to impose the financial burden of government on lower and middle income citizens. Had BC Hydro been able to use the “dividends” and water rentals extracted from it by government, the utility could have eliminated the tier-1 residential rate for the first 1,350 kWh used over an average two-month billing period. Instead, residents are hit with increases well above the rate of inflation. This is reflected graphically but not show is the 28% rate increase announced in 2014. 9% took effect April 2014, which will cause another upward move when the numbers for fiscal year 2015 are added.

Dropping the irony, I can say this Palmer article leaves me thinking the newspaper’s masthead could accurately describe the Vancouver Sun purpose to be,

Comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted.

Maybe I’ll suggest it to Vaughn if I see him entertaining Liberals at some corporate speaking engagement or encounter him resting in a quiet pasture.

H/T Rob S.

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General

Michael Den Tandt is wrong: Mulcair knows what a mess of pottage is

Posted December 31, 2014 by CuriosityCat
Den Tandt: Muclair cannot count

So, what will our next federal government look like? Today is the last day of the year 2014, and most commentators have hidden their heads in the sand rather than venture a public guess.

Michael Den Tandt is one of the braver ones.

In an article in the National Post he forecasts a minority government for Stephen Harper, without any attempt by the two opposition parties – which combined will have more MPs than the Tory minority government – to vote him out in a no-confidence vote.

Den Tandt believes that Harper will survive for at least 10 months (which means a new election if he is voted out then), because Mulcair will prop him up in return for “concessions”.
This is Den Tandt’s forecast:
“The reason is simply that the current crop of New Democrats and Liberals viscerally dislike and mistrust each other … Given his druthers, Mr. Mulcair will be inclined to keep Mr. Harper in power, with concessions, rather than allow Mr. Trudeau to road-test himself as prime minister.”
Den Tandt then sees leadership bids being prepared within the Conservative and NDP parties, but not within the Liberal Party.
I don’t think this gives Mulcair enough credit for strategic thinking.

Mulcair only has to look to what happened with the LibDems in the UK, and with Horwath’s NDP in Ontario, to have second thoughts about supporting Harper for a mess of pottage.

It is clear to even the most obtuse observer that Horwath blew it big time when she cooperated with the provincial Tories to bring down the Liberal Government. She did not gain power; nor did she improve the position of the NDP. Instead, the NDP lost its power of voting for the Liberals in return for meaninglful concessions, and has been relegated to the backwaters of Ontario politics. She will most likely go down in history as a seldom-noticed footnote.
As for the LibDems in the UK, they bargained for concessions from Cameron’s Conservatives that really amounted to very little, and neglected to nail down the one thing that really mattered: electoral reform to strengthen their party.
Mulcair can count.
And he knows very well that as long as the first past the post voting system is our way of electing our MPs, then a party can gain power with less than 40% of the vote and can stay in government.
Mulcair’s other example of short-term thinking resulting in illusory gains is that of Jack Layton’s pact with the devil: his bringing down of the Martin-led Liberal government. This resulted in Harper gaining power, and we’ve seen the results for Canada: a retreat into Luddite-like nostalgia, and vicious attacks on our democratic rights.
Mulcair will have learned from these examples. If he does a Layton, or does a Horwath, he will be brushed aside by angry Dippers when his pact with Harper shows little return.
But he stands to gain a step-change in the power equation in Canada, which will forever benefit those who support the NDP at the polls.
It is within Mulcair’s grasp to change the FPTP system of electing our MPs into a more democratic one, involving some form of modified proportional representation.
Such a change will mean that a party such as the NDP will definitely play a major role in all future decisions by any minority government. The Conservatives will most likely remain in minority territory under such a system, as will the Liberal Party (at least for the foreseeable future).
This means the advent of cooperative, reasoned governance in our country, replacing the mean-spirited, divide-and-conquer governance that is the Harper legacy.
I do not expect Mulcair to fail, as Horwath did; I expect him to take advantage of a minority government and go for a game-changing alteration of our political contours.
That way he will not only make history, but be able to exert pressure to gain meaningful policies for his party’s supporters.
We will soon see if Den Tandt is right, or if The Cat is right.
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General

Mulcair leads the way to a more democratic Canada

Posted December 21, 2014 by CuriosityCat
Mulcair: The man who would bring democracy to Canada

Thomas Mulcair, that very capable MP who is leader of the NDP, has publicly committed himself to remedy our democratic deficit, as this post indicates.

Mulcair is to be commended for two things.
First, for signing the Fair Vote Canada declaration (click herefor the full text).
Second, for strongly coming out in favour of a modified proportional representation system of electing our federal MPs.
The Fair Vote Canada declaration has this very important commitment:

What is important about the Fair Vote Canada declaration is that it is the modern equivalent of cutting the Gordion Knot, and in so doing, giving all voters – BEFORE THE 2015 ELECTION – and all MPs elected in that election, a clear route towards significant electoral reform.
Note that the declaration does call for public consultation.
IT DOES NOT CALL FOR A REFERENDUM on any proposed reform of our electoral laws.
Note too that the Liberal Party resolution adopted at the last Convention, and supported by the new leader, Justin Trudeau, calls for immediate action by the next parliament, through consultation with Canadians and then a decision by the next Parliament (that is, by elected MPs) to pass laws reforming our system.
What is significant about the policies and public commitments by our two main opposition parties is that – PRIOR TO THE 2015 ELECTION – voters know that these two parties will undertake meaningful electoral change early in 2016, so that the next federal election in 2019 will be held using a system that makes all votes count, and results in a parliament that truly, fairly and democratically reflects all voters in all parts of Canada.
The 2019 election will be the first truly democratic election in Canada’s history.
Voters – in their hundreds of thousands and millions – who in the past cast votes in ridings that did not result in their views being represented in parliament, will now have a system that does just that.
Those voters who vote for Liberal or NDP candidates in ridings in Alberta, for example, will in 2019 be better represented than ever before. The same applies to Conservative voters in areas such as Quebec and elsewhere, where the FPTP system makes their votes meaningless.
A new era of civility in the practice of our politics is near, given the commitments of the NDP and Liberal Party to meaningful electoral reform. Voters considering their choice in the ballot booths in the 2015 election will know in no uncertain way that Canada will be changed dramatically in the following 18 months. By casting their votes for the LPC or NDP, they will be ushering modern democracy into Canada.
The 2015 election will therefore be one of the most important elections ever held in Canada.
Thank you for your signing of the Fair Vote Canada resolution, Mr. Mulcair.
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General

Will Canada have a snap election over new anti-terrorist laws and ISIS?

Posted October 26, 2014 by CuriosityCat
Big Brother is watching …

There is a clear fault line between the two opposition parties, and PM Stephen Harper’s policies with regard to how to combat ISIS.

The Conservatives favour actual fighting (planes dropping bombs etc.), while the opposition parties are against this.

The NDP is further from the government’s position, while the Liberal Party would have Canadian armed forces join the anti-ISIS coalition led by the US and help its efforts (including transporting goods for the coalition), but short of Canadian planes dropping bombs on ISIS targets.

Now another fault line has appeared: the Conservatives want to tighten legislation to combat the use of the Internet by terrorists, while the two opposition parties want to slow things down, and check what is not working before passing new laws.
The police and security arms have voiced concern about their ability to actively monitor dozens of identified potential terrorist threats, without increases in their numbers and funding.
Tom Blackwell has an article that refers to the views of some experts that our laws need tightening:

Does that mean Canada’s counter-terrorism policy contains fatal flaws? Or did the two lone-wolf attackers slip through a net that can be made only so tight — without unacceptable curbs on freedom?

Experts and advocates said Thursday there may be cause to draw that net a little tauter, even if it does mean some further limits on civil liberties…

“Apparently we can do a good job of detecting them, apparently we can do a good job of doing surveillance on them, we can do a good job of removing their passports,” he said.

“But somehow we can’t put them in jail and keep the public safe. That’s the hard question.”

In fact, a Canadian law passed last year allows police to temporarily detain suspected, would-be terrorists under what are known as preventive arrests. Police seem reluctant to use the power, however, likely because they fear judges would require ironclad proof the individuals would otherwise commit terrorist acts, said Prof. Leuprecht.

John Ivison writesthat the Conservatives, which have the majority in the House and can pass any laws they wish to, have been considering changes to our laws:
The Conservatives are understood to be considering new legislation that would make it an offence to condone terrorist acts online.

 There is frustration in government, and among law enforcement agencies, that the authorities can’t detain or arrest people who express sympathy for atrocities committed overseas and who may pose a threat to public safety, one Conservative MP said. “Do we need new offences? If so which?”
Sources suggest the government is likely to bring in new hate speech legislation that would make it illegal to claim terrorist acts are justified online.
The Prime Minister told the House of Commons on Thursday that Canada’s law and policing powers need to be strengthened in the areas of surveillance, detention and arrest. He said work is already under way to provide law enforcement agencies with “additional tools” and that work will now be expedited…

The Criminal Code already prohibits “hate propaganda” and it is not clear how any new legislation would dovetail with existing provisions.

The new legislation is likely to prove controversial with the opposition parties and shatter the harmony that emerged in the House Thursday, after the terror attack on Parliament Hill.
David Cameron, PM of the UK, recently announced new laws designed to come to grips with terrorist-tourism:
Among measures announced:

  • Legislation will be drawn up to give the police statutory powers to confiscate the passports of suspect terrorists at UK borders
  • The UK will challenge any attempt by the courts to water down these powers
  • Plans to block suspected British terrorists from returning to the UK will be drawn up on a “cross-party basis”
  • Terrorism prevention and investigation measures (Tpims) will be extended, to include the power to relocate suspects
  • Terrorists will be required to undergo de-radicalisation programmes
  • Airlines will be forced to hand over more information about passengers travelling to and from conflict zones
The home secretary already has executive powers to seize the passports of those travelling abroad in certain cases but Mr Cameron said the police needed greater discretion to act where needed.
How far will the Canadian government go in its new laws? 

We clearly have a problem with the use of the Internet to spread terrorist propaganda, which raises the question of what legitimate limits we can put on the use of the Internet in the public interest. 

We also have a problem with potential terrorists whose behaviour gives our security forces cause for concern.

Will Harper extend the list of new laws to include some of the proposed UK new laws (such as forcing terrorists to undergo de-radicalization programmes, and giving police the power to relocate suspects)?
Given the clear fault lines between the government and the other parties, will Harper decide to table a comprehensive set of new laws and other provisions, and then, if these are opposed by the other parties, decide to go to the people to gain their blessing for the new measures, and also for the government’s decision on our forces going to war on ISIS? 

Coupled with the reduction of the deficit and the cutting of government costs, he could run a two-pronged campaign (best choice to manage the economy, and best choice to keep Canadians safe from terrorism), during a very short election (say, 4 weeks, with election day in late November).

We will see soon if he decides to do this.
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Election

I Am Hoping for NDP Voices in the NB Legislature to Help Families Advocate for An Adult Autism Care Facility

Posted September 21, 2014 by H L Doherty

The picture above is from Conor’s 2nd Birthday on February 2,  1998.  The next day we received his autism disorder diagnosis, described initially as Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified,  six months after various test…

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General

Today I Voted For My Autistic Son’s Future; Today I Voted NDP

Posted September 15, 2014 by H L Doherty

Conor 18 1/2 with severe autism disorder, profound developmental delay, seizures, sensory issues and self aggressive behavior.  Few, if any group home staff would be able or inclined to provide the care he needs, A residential care andtr…

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