2011, 2012, Economics, Politics, Society

The Conservative Majority: One Year Later (2011-12)

CBC had a very helpful little piece about what the Conservatives have and haven’t done in their first year. Here are my thoughts:

What they have done so far:

“Hiring credit for small business — offering a short-term break from EI payments for those who increase payrolls.”

Nothing wrong with this measure provided EI isn’t cut.

“Extension for: work-sharing program (helping employers avoid layoffs by providing part-time EI benefits); the “targeted initiative for older workers” (programs to help older unemployed workers); temporary accelerated capital cost allowance rate for manufacturing equipment; mineral exploration tax credit; ecoENERGY retrofit program for homes (one more year only.)”

No problems with this.

“Funding for: Canadian youth business foundation; Canada student loans program; 30 new industrial research chairs at Canadian colleges and polytechnics and ten new Canada excellence research chairs for universities; northern adult basic education program in territories; student loan forgiveness for medical professionals willing to work in rural/underserviced regions.”

Fully support.

“Funding for: all-season road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk (to complete Dempster highway); two new national parks in Labrador and urban Toronto; snowmobile trails; small-craft harbour repairs; plus support for an agricultural trade commissioner and market access secretariat to “expand international markets for farmers;” as well as funding for an “agriculture innovation initiative.””

I support everything but the snowmobile trails. For me it depends on where they are as to whether the federal government should have anything to do with them: it’s one thing to help fund them in the north, it’s another to help fund them for recreation purposes down here.

“Funding for: Royal Conservatory of Music (to launch a national examination system); Canada periodical (magazines) fund; “youth gang prevention fund” to support projects in high-need communities.”

No problems.

Tax credits: children’s arts (up to $500/child in qualified arts/culture programs); family caregiver tax credit ($2,000 for those caring for an infirm family member); volunteer firefighters; plus a top-up for guaranteed income supplement for low-income seniors.”

Don’t really have a problem with any of this. [Riley From the Future (2019) has huge problems with tax credits, as they just complicate the tax system needlessly.]

“Phase-out of taxpayer subsidies to federal political parties”

IhHave a huge problem with this. Perhaps the biggest problem with modern politics is private money. The best way of avoiding this without having to actually ban contributions is to provide a substantial amount of public money for political parties. This movie is designed to hurt the Green Party and other single issues parties. To summarize my objection briefly (instead of writing an essay): the only thing this does is hurt political competition. It benefits the incumbent only. It is therefore highly suspect.

“Government-wide spending review, as reflected in the 2012 budget, implementing over $5 billion in spending and job cuts across all federal departments and agencies, representing some 6.9 per cent of total government spending.”

It all depends on what is cut, right? If it’s unnecessary stuff, then it’s good. If it’s cuts for the sake of cuts (and who can doubt that) which is harmful to the bureaucracy’s efficacy, then we have problems.

“Repeal of legislation forcing mandatory retirement at a specified age for workers in federally-regulated industries”

I know this one is controversial but personally I don’t have a problem with it, at least in theory. When these rules were put into place, life expectancy was significantly lower. Now, that being said, nobody wants bureaucrats who are too old to work working.

“Financial assistance (loans) to help immigrants get foreign credentials recognized”

No problems with this at all.

“”One-for-one” rule for business regulations arising from work of “red tape commission,” now requiring government to eliminate a regulation for every new regulation implemented”

This is beyond dumb. This is one of those things that is done for show. Who can possibly know the effects of this law until way in the future?

Necessary regulations will be eliminated just because this rule exists.

Unthinking, reactionary nonsense.


Embodies everything I hate about this political party.

“Successful bidders chosen for shipbuilding procurement strategy”

At the moment, I have no opinion. But that’s because I haven’t done any research.

“”Single desk” monopoly of Canadian Wheat Board dismantled and farmer-elected board dismissed, enabling an open market for Prairie wheat and barley effective 2012 crop year.”

This depends. Though I am in theory in favour of the move – I am opposed to monopolies and corporate welfare, in theory – things that work in theory don’t always work in practice. We shall see.

“Pooled retirement pension plans implemented”

Do not know enough to comment.

“”Helmets to hardhats” program to help military veterans find civilian work after deployments”

Have no problem with a program like this. My problem is rather with the continued increases in military funding, and Canada’s international role. But for those who have already participated in that, good to have something for them. It is a problem, after all.

“18 more First Nations signed on to the First Nations land management regime, opting out of land-related sections of the Indian Act (March 2012).”

Do not know enough to comment except to say my gut tells me to distrust this as the party that is behind it pretty much hates indigenous Canadians.

“Quebec sales tax harmonization agreement (signed in Sept. 2011).”

Don’t care one way or the other. Unless it makes beer more expensive when I travel there. Then I really care!

“Increase health transfers to provinces by six per cent annually until 2017, with the rate tied to economic growth and adjusted for inflation after 2017 (platform pledged to not “cut transfer payments to individuals or to the provinces for essential things like health care, education, and pensions” while working “collaboratively with the provinces and territories to renew the Health Accord and to continue reducing wait times”).”

Don’t rightly know what economic growth has to do with healthcare.

“Loan guarantee for Lower Churchill River hydro project (memorandum with Newfoundland and Labarador signed in Aug. 2011).”

No comment.

“Legislation to make the “gas tax fund” a permanent form of infrastructure funding to municipalities (passed Dec. 2011).”

Like it.

“Alberta’s elected Senate nominee Betty Unger called to Senate in Jan. 2012 (no other provinces have elected Senate nominees eligible for appointment).”

Is a very, very, very small step in sort of the right direction. Sort of.

“Omnibus crime legislation (C-10), which included new mandatory minimum sentences, stiffer penalties for drug crimes, stiffer penalties for child sex offenders, an end to house arrest/conditional sentences for a range of offenses, elimination or delay in eligibility for pardons, stiffer sentences for repeat or violent young offenders, new roles for victims of crime in parole decisions, measures to protect vulnerable foreign workers, new criteria for the transfer of Canadians convicted of crimes abroad, and new measures to seek justice for victims of terrorism (received royal assent March 2012, within the “100 sitting days of Parliament” deadline pledged in the platform).”

Perhaps the worst piece of federal legislation I have seen in my (adult) life-time. It’s not just the actual changes in the law, most of which are objectionable on some level. It is the way the legislation was created, detailed here.

The Conservatives thought “this is what we want to do” and did it, despite all evidence to the contrary. It is the best proof of Harper’s autocratic style, and it is the best proof of the whole party’s “personal beliefs before everything else” approach to politics. There is virtually no evidence to support the effectiveness of most of these measures – almost all criminological and sociological evidence proves that approaches like this are disastrou – but what is worse – at least for the party’s own supporters – is that this bill is guaranteed to cost the government more money.

Parties like this get elected on economic reform and then consistently doom themselves to be unable to deliver simply because of their moralistic bent, which forces them to enact ridiculous, expensive and dangerous legislation like this heaping pile of dog shit.

It doesn’t matter what else they have done right. This piece of legislation is their legacy and it is a terrible one. Though I am not one to use the rhetoric of progress, it is a giant step in the wrong direction and will only harm our country, as a whole and on an individual basis.

“”Wanted by the CBSA” web site launched, to help find and facilitate deportations of foreign criminals (July 2012, and ongoing).”

Propaganda plain and simple.

“Employment insurance benefits for parents of murdered or missing children (announced April 13).”

Wonderful idea.

“Legislation to end the long-gun registry (received royal assent April 5, but implementation stalled, subject to court injunction in Quebec).”

This is another issue that requires a post unto itself. Yes, there are major problems with the registry. On the other hand, not every “long gun” in Canada is used for hunting animals, contrary to what they want us to believe. Gun control is necessary. It shouldn’t need to be dumbed-down for people. The United States lacks gun control and has the worst violent crime rates of any “developed country”.

Those two things are related. Gun control is not about rights. It is about public safety. (Unlike the omnibus crime bill, which is about moralizing and imposing a belief system that a small minority of people in Canada subscribe to.)

“Office of religious freedom created in department of foreign affairs, to monitor and promote religious freedom as part of Canadian foreign policy.”

Fine idea, provided we don’t spend too much money on it.

“Legislation to reallocate House of Commons seats to “restore fair representation” (C-20 received royal assent Dec. 2011).”

Don’t know enough about this to comment except to say that the authors of this legislation have a proven track record of manipulating the rules for their continued success (as we would expect power-hungry politicians to behave): the prorogues, the lack of funding for other parties, the belief that Harper should be allowed to judge when MPs can and cannot vote on certain issues, etc

Promises they haven’t (yet) kept:

“Canada-European free trade deal (pledged for 2012).”

Have no problem with this, in theory.

“Canada-India free trade deal (pledged for 2013).”

Do have a problem with this. My problem is that it should harm wages and Stand of Living here.

“New border agreement with the United States encompassing trade, travel and security regulations (negotiations ongoing).”

Certainly I have many, many issues with the continued integration of the draconian US CBP and our own CBSA.

“Copyright Modernization Act (special committee reviewing C-11 reported back to House on March 15).”

This is something that deserves its own post. Needless to say, I am on the side of the mix-tape makers.

“Maternal and child health initiatives, to be implemented in collaboration with other countries (the “Muskoka Initiative,” launched in Nov. 2010 –$82 million for specific Canadian projects announced in Sept. 2011 ).”

Don’t know anything about it.

“Post-combat efforts in Afghanistan, focused on “the education and health of children and youth; advancing security, the rule of law, and human rights; promoting regional diplomacy; and delivering humanitarian assistance.””

Support, in theory.

“F-35 stealth fighter jet purchase (a new secretariat will now oversee the procurement of replacement fighter jets for the CF-18s, following controversy surrounding the disclosed costs of the F-35 program).”

Canada does not need stealth fighters, nor fighters. The last time this country was invaded was 200 years ago. Denmark is not taking over the North. Nor is Russia (over the US’s dead body, I would assume). Our biggest threat is probably the US, honestly (and I don’t regard them as a threat in any shape or form). And we could never stop them, even with the best equipment.

All I can say to this is, ‘to what end?’

“New air expeditionary wing at CFB Bagotville, including 250 new personnel by end of 2011 and 550 stationed there by 2015 (undisclosed number of personnel added last year to “establish core” of new expeditionary wing, minister’s office says, and the government is “committed to adding personnel as the operational tempo permits”).”

To reiterate: I am opposed to all increases in defense spending, especially at the same time as cuts to other more essential departments.

“Long-term plan or program, with municipalities and provinces, for building public infrastructure once the Building Canada plan expires in 2014.”

Support wholly, in theory (and provided there is some kind of vision which forces inter-municipal cooperation on transit as a condition of receiving the funds, for example).

“National securities regulator (Supreme Court ruled in December a national regulator would infringe on provincial jurisdiction, but federal efforts to negotiate a deal with the provinces continue).”

Have no problem with this provided the position is staffed effectively (do you trust the deregulation party to do that?) and backed up by the appropriate force of laws (do you trust the deregulation party to do that?)

“Income-splitting for families with children under 18 years of age — allowing couples to share up to $50,000 in income (to be implemented when/if the federal deficit is eliminated).”

No comment.

“Children’s fitness tax credit to be doubled and made refundable (contingent on eliminating federal deficit).”

Good idea. [Future Riley disagrees.]

“Adult fitness tax credit (up to $500 of eligible activities, contingent on eliminating federal deficit).”

Good idea. [Future Riley: “No. Tax credits are stupid. If you have a simple tax system you don’t need tax credits and it’s far cheaper to administer.]

“Tax-free savings accounts to see doubling of annual eligible savings, up to $10,000 (contingent on eliminating federal deficit).”

Support, provided it doesn’t have a significant impact on federal revenue. [Future Riley has one and so does basically every other adult in Canada. So this was a good idea.]

“Employment insurance benefits for parents of gravely ill children (nothing announced to date).”

Absolutely support.

“Relocation for the head office for the Canada economic development agency for Quebec regions “to a centre or centres appropriate to all regions of the province” (it’s still in Montreal, and the minister’s office says “we are at the stage where we are considering all of the options”).”

No comment.

“Legislation to implement the Canada-Quebec accord on offshore resources (brief mention in text of 2012 budget).”

No comment, though the name makes me laugh. Would ours be “Canada-Ontario”? No way.

“New national farm and food strategy (no announcement yet).”

Can’t comment.

“Anti-terrorism legislation to reinstate powers like preventative arrest and secret investigative hearings, and make it illegal to leave Canada to participate in terrorist-sponsored training or other activities (S-7 currently before Senate committee).”

A terrible idea, but what would I expect from these people? Belief before evidence, always.

“Legislation to streamline the process for deporting foreign criminals, including the opportunities for appeal (not introduced yet, expected “in a few short months”).”

It depends how it works.

“Doubling of victim surcharge that convicted criminals must pay (bill C-37 introduced April 24).”

Wholly against. Great idea in theory. Terrible idea in practice: most criminals are not criminals because they are loaded.

“Legislation to combat elder abuse by adding it as an aggravating factor in sentencing (bill C-36 introduced March 15).”

I still don’t buy that this is an epidemic.

“Legislation to clarify self-defense and property rights/citizen’s arrest provisions (bill C-26 concurred at report stage April 24).”

Well it certainly depends how they “clarify” self-defense etc.

“Legislation to “give law enforcement and national security agencies up-to-date tools to fight crime in today’s high-tech communications environment” (bill C-30 introduced Feb. 14, but stalled after receiving negative feedback). The campaign platform pledged to fulfill this within “100 sitting days of Parliament,” which suggests a March deadline, now passed.”

Like all their other “justice” legislation, it is ridiculous. Canada is not crime-ridden. Accept it already.

“Measures to combat drug abuse in prisons (no announcement yet).”

I’m sure those measures will be entirely punitive and have nothing to do with harm-prevention.

“End to sentencing discounts for multiple child sex offenses and child pornography charges (no announcement yet).”

Pedophiles don’t suddenly stop being pedophiles by longer jail sentences. They need a ridiculous amount of therapy just to control themselves. Again, there is evidence of this but they don’t care.

“Mandatory jail sentences for those with repeat convictions for contraband tobacco, and a new RCMP anti-contraband force of 50 officers (no announcement yet).”

Hahaha, I guess it’s important to revenue streams. But this seems like a waste of money. So the RCMP isn’t the source of the above cuts either…

“National action plan to combat human trafficking (no announcement yet, but private member’s bill C-310 to amend the Criminal Code to strengthen measures against human trafficking passed at third reading in the House April 27 and is now before the Senate).”

Human trafficking is bad. But me thinks they are more targeting illegal immigration than prostitution-slavery and of course this approach will reek of punishment instead of prevention and harm-reduction, as usual.

“New law enforcement mandate for Canada’s Coast Guard, to allow them to enforce federal laws on oceans and the Great Lakes, including new armed capabilities on board Coast Guard vessels and armed boarding teams (no announcement yet).”

Eek. Is this necessary? What problem is this solving? Can someone tell me?

“Legislation to allow sentencing courts to order the deportation of convicted criminals upon completion of sentence or parole eligibility, and to remove the requirement of the prisoner’s consent for transfer to complete a sentence abroad (no announcement yet).”

A rule like this will work sometimes and not work other times. In theory I have no issue but in practice it is likely to lead to at least a few issues.

“National conservation plan (consultations currently underway at Commons environment committee).”

I don’t trust these people to conserve anything except their unscientific beliefs

“”Social impact bonds” to help raise money for worthwhile community projects (2012 budget said HRDSC was “exploring social finance instruments” for an announcement at a later date).”

Problem is that the Conservatives will be using their morality to determine what is worthwhile.

“Funding for a “volunteer-matching” service through Volunteer Canada (2012 budget ends federal funding for the national volunteer community service organization Katimavik).”

No comment.

“Defibrillators for every hockey rink in Canada, and training for using them (no announcement yet).”

Support only if money is available. Otherwise this is a publicity stunt.

“Hunting advisory panel, to consult with environment minister on issues concerning hunting and fishing (no announcement yet).”

It all depends on the scope.

“Review of the Species at Risk Act to ensure landowners receive fair compensation when their property is affected (no announcement yet, however the 2012 budget implementation bill does amend the Species at Risk Act).”

I suspect this will be ridiculous – honestly, if an endangered species is eating your grass, I think you’ll just have to suck it up, as aesthetic concerns are ephemeral – but I cannot judge it yet.

“Legislation to set term limits for senators and provide a framework for Senate elections (C-7 introduced June 2011 but has not progressed further — and on May 1, Quebec government announced a constitutional challenge of this Senate reform bill).”

It’s about fucking time. All I can say is this:

‘Dear Quebec, The federal Conservative government, which seeks to do away with much of what you have fought for over the years, is giving you the opportunity to put your own people into the Senate where you can stymie that same Conservative government. And you oppose this? Just because you don’t like Harper doesn’t mean you should be stupid about it. Sincerely, Me’

“Legislation to publish the salaries of First Nations chiefs and councilors (C-27 introduced Nov. 2011 but has not progressed further).”

This seems unnecessarily vindictive, though I am always in favour of transparency. So though I support it, I do not support the motivation behind it.

“Measures to implement Canada’s commitment to the “open government initiative” (ongoing).”

Whatever they do on this regard will likely be half-assed and dishonest. This is the party whose leader studied at the so-called “Calgary School“, many of whom love Leo Strauss. And what did Strauss love? Secrecy. You, my dear fellow citizen, are too dumb to know what is good for the country. Our brave leaders, on the other hand, are not only smart enough, but more importantly they are good enough. They know best.


  1. Reblogged this on Riley Haas' blog and commented:

    I was struggling with writing a long post about the current legislation in parliament and this government’s history of caring not for the rules of the game. However, this open letter says what I think with more detail than I could have possibly mustered.

  2. Reblogged this on Riley Haas' blog and commented:

    I was struggling with writing a long post about the current legislation in parliament and this government’s history of caring not for the rules of the game. However, this open letter says what I think with more detail than I could have possibly mustered.

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