Thursday, May 29, 2014

Canada's New Parliamentary Budget Officer Doesn't Disappoint - Stephen Harper

After former Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page locked horns with the Conservatives over their voodoo math, he was replaced by someone whose inexperience would be much easier to manipulate.

Not that Jean-Denis Frechette isn't a nice man, but as Michael Warren noted of his appointment, in the Star:
... the appointment of Jean-Denis Frechette as Page’s replacement should come as no surprise. Frechette, who was plucked from obscurity in the bowels of the Parliamentary Library, lacks almost any relevant experience. His appointment leaves the future of the PBO in doubt.

That’s a shame. From the outset Page showed the courage to speak truth to power. Despite persistent efforts by the government to reduce his budget and diminish his role, he attracted a small cadre of highly qualified staff.
Frechette's office has just released a report that could have been drafted in the Conservative Party war room.

Apparently taxpayers have saved thirty billion dollars in taxes, most of the breaks for the low-middle class. We should be overjoyed, right? Hmmm
Dennis Howlett of Canadians for Tax Fairness quarrelled with the interpretation. He noted that in actual dollars, most of the savings when to Canada’s rich.

According to figures supplied by the PBO, the top 20 per cent of income earners got $10.9 billion, or 36 per cent of the total, while the bottom 20 per cent got $1.9 billion, or only six per cent. “That’s a huge amount and who has got that money? Most of that in dollar amounts has gone to upper-income Canadians...."
David Akin over at Sun media couldn't wait to sing the praises of the Harperites. Under the ridiculous headline: Middle class, not rich, reap most from Harper tax cuts
... And the PBO says "low-middle income earners" have benefitted the most among all groups. The tax savings for these folks amount to a 4% increase in their after-tax income. For the richest 10%? An improvement of just 1.4%, the smallest of any income level ... notes that "low-middle income earners" live in households where annual income is between $12,200 and $23,300 a year.
More troubling however, is where the report places the low-middle class. There is no official poverty line in Canada, but in 2009, it was determined that to stay out of poverty, the following incomes were required

1 person: $18,421
2 persons: $22,420
3 persons: $27,918
4 persons: $34,829

The median level of this new definition of low-middle class, is $17,750.00, which sits below what even a single person requires to stay out of poverty.

According to a 2008 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the rate of poverty in Canada, is amoung the highest of the world's wealthiest industrialized nations.

And Canada has the second worst infant mortality rate amoung those nations, topped only by the United States; which begs the question: why aren't the pro-lifers marching against these state sanctioned late term abortions?

Cuts to the GST again only benefit those with disposable income and in Ontario and other provinces, Jim Flaherty's HST was put on things that we never used to have to pay tax on.

The Ontario government did help to alleviate some of the stress with a monthly Trillium fund benefit, but it still hurt the average citizen.

Another tax benefit touted by the disillusioned, is the Working Income Tax Benefit. But according to Carlton University economics professor Frances Woolley
The stated goal of WITB is to provide "tax relief for eligible working low-income individuals". This makes little sense, as many of those eligible for WITB will pay no federal income tax. The WITB recipients who do pay federal income tax will find that WITB adds to their marginal effective tax rate, because an extra dollar of earnings will reduce their WITB payment. But I guess everyone wants a tax break, even people who don't pay much by way of taxes.
People earning between $12,200.00 and 23,300.00, don't need lower taxes. They need a raise.

And what of the thirty billion dollars in lost revenue? Frechette's report doesn't address that. While the Conservatives have put our National Healthcare on life support, we need to discuss what throwing money at the rich has done to the average Canadian, not to mention our fiscal sustainability.

When the Harper government came to power, they inherited a surplus of 13.8 billion dollars. Even before the economic crisis the Conservatives had already spent through that with their misguided tax policies. Yet at the time they refused to even admit that we were in trouble, only acting when the prospects of a coalition government threatened to topple their power.

Even if they manage to balance the books. (I'm not holding my breath), our debt is now through the roof. According to the International Monetary Fund's 2013 forecast, Canada’s gross combined government debt sits at 87% of GDP, or the 13th highest among the 30 most advanced economies.

Are tax cuts really the answer? It's pretty clear that we should be increasing government revenue, not depleting it.

But the New Parliamentary Budget Officer has done his job. He's made Stephen Harper look good.

Don't taxpayers already fork over a bundle for that?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Should Hudak Be Running on an Anti-Union Platform Before he Has His Hands on the Public Purse?

In 1999, Mike Harris ran in Ontario on an anti-union platform, promising to get tough with union bosses.

The backlash was immediate, but Harris wasn't worried. He had a secret weapon. Deceit.

In the run-up to the election he had pulled out all the stops, beginning with advertising at the expense of the Ontario taxpayer.
"... the log for three stations in the 12 months before the campaign, shows the Tories advertised in the months before the campaign at unprecedented levels ... The Tories used government advertising as part of their overall re-election campaign .. Government advertising ran at unprecedented levels during the campaign, bathing voters in feel-good spots and positive imagery. (1)
In fact, under the direction of Guy Giorno, the Harris government spent 42 million tax dollars in self promotion. Later Giorno would do the same for the Harper government, though their abuse of our tax dollars is now well over 100 million.

Tim Hudak is yet to have that kind of access to our money.

Another factor in Mike Harris's victory was in turning on the taps of the wealthy and corporate sectors, by increasing the amount of money he could hit them up for.
Party contribution data demonstrate that the government's near doubling of the legal limit on contributions to political parties in an election year (from $14,000 to $25,000) was prompted by the Tories' dependency on contributions from wealthy individuals and large corporations who give the maximum donation possible. The higher limits on contributions brought the Tories an additional $2.2 million, while the Liberals took in $277,000 and the NDP $103,000 as a direct result of the changes.

To almost all Ontarians, the higher contribution limits are irrelevant because they cannot afford to donate such large sums ... both previous and existing contribution caps are not a restraint on, but rather a licence for, the very wealthy and corporate interests to try to influence government. (1)
Mike Harris himself bragged that he had the support of 100 corporations, pleased with the corporate welfare state that Harris had created.
More than two-thirds of the money the Conservative central campaign raised came from corporations. MacDermid calculates that 16 per cent of all the money raised came from just 19 corporate conglomerates. For example, TrizecHahn and its subsidiary Barrick Gold made 17 contributions worth a total of $121,000, and the Latner conglomerate, which includes companies such as Dynacare, Greenwin Properties and Shiplake Investments, gave over $100,000. Over all of the contribution periods in 1999, TrizecHahn and related companies gave to the Tories $255,000, the Cortellucci (see story of Adams Mine Scandal) and Montemarano companies $254,000 and Latner companies $220,000. (1)
They also shortened the period of time for campaigning which benefited them immensely.
When the government shortened the campaign period from about 40 days to 28, it benefitted fund-raising that depends on large donations from relatively few individuals and corporations. The Tories raised $4.9 million dollars without spending a penny on fund-raising, while it cost the NDP $206,000 to raise just over $400,000. The shorter campaign also brought the unregulated pre-campaign period closer to election day and allowed the Tory campaign to advertise in the pre-campaign period as much as in the campaign period without any concern for spending caps. (1)
Perhaps more importantly was the removal of seats that Harris knew he couldn't win, under the guise of cutting costs.
The government's 21 per cent reduction in the number of MPPs, from 130 to 103, has resulted in few cost savings to the taxpayer because of increased members' spending and a projected salary increase. MacDermid argues that this measure has in fact cost Ontario citizens, reducing their chances of receiving timely services and assistance from their elected representative. (2)
Stephen Harper has gone the other way, gerrymandering with thirty new seats at the expense of the Canadian public.

In their book: The provincial state in Canada, Keith Brownsey and Michael Howlett, also wrote of the Harris government:
"As in 1995, the Tory campaign was a well-executed, generously funded and probably the most undemocratic Electoral campaign that post-war Ontario had witnessed." (3)
Yet even with the overt cheating, the Tories lost 23 seats, and that was because of the unions and other groups, who launched a campaign against Harris's stealing from the poor and middle class, and giving it to the already wealthy.

It was only the reduction of seats that gave Harris another majority.

Tim Hudak is posturing with unions now, but without the benefit of our money, it could cost him.

His over the top Million Jobs promise (there are only 555,000 unemployed)' has been debunked as a work of fiction, supported only by a right- wing Republican strategist.

Hudak is now toning down his dire message of one million unemployed, but showing the tape of his "one million unemployed Ontarians" could be a feather in the cap of the Ontario Liberals.

If we had 1,000,000 unemployed and now only 555,000; that means that they created 445,000 jobs after the economic crisis.

He's clearly not the brightest bulb on the tree.

With unions and other advocacy groups promoting a Stop Hudack campaign, he may have picked on the wrong people.

But then if he does win, not to worry. He'll pick on us all.


1. . York U. Political Scientist Reveals Secret to Conservatives' Electoral Success, York University Press, September 5, 2000

2. How Charles McVety moves money, By Bene Diction Blogs On, April 24, 2008

3. The Provincial State: Politics in Canada's Provinces and Territories, by Keith Brownsey and Michael Howlett, UTP Higher Education, 2001, ISBN-13: 978-155111368, p. 193

Monday, May 26, 2014

I'm so Damn Sick of Junk Politics and Hopefully Trudeau is Too

There is a good book by Benjamin DeMott Junk Politics: Trashing of the American Mind

DeMott laments the loss of intelligent debate in the political arena, being replaced, in part, with "touchy, feely personal testimonials" and "feel your pain" forced empathy.

In the current Ontario election campaign we've heard party leaders tell us that they worked their way through school, were a grandchild of immigrants and like to run.

Who cares? How is that relevant? Any identification we may have with them should end there. Our concern before we give them control of our money and in some respects, our lives; should not be about inconsequential shared life experiences; but the bigger picture of how they are going to create a better place for everyone.

During the 2008 federal leadership debate, when the topic was unemployment, Stephen Harper claimed that he understood the difficulties facing those out of work, having once been unemployed himself for eleven months.

However, when the media questioned him about it later, turns out that he wasn't really unemployed at all, but sat home for eleven months planning for an upcoming election, while his wife earned money printing material for his Reform Party. Hardly the same thing.

Later, when interviewed about the hardships facing Canadians as a result of the economic crisis, after suggesting that they could grab up bargains in the stock market, he said that his own mother was worried about her stock portfolio.

He was trying to suggest that he felt our pain, but couldn't pull it off. Not that it mattered. We shouldn't elect our representatives to feel our pain, but to alleviate it.

The growing reliance on soundbites and expectations of "just like us", are overshadowing the important issues, by "minimizing large complex problems" (DeMott), and redefining the traditional values of a just society.

Justin Trudeau and the Abortion Debate

I've been doing a lot of eye rolling over this media pet peeve of the week, but when someone I respect and admire weighs in, I pay attention.

Susan Delacourt entered the fray recently, and while I agree in part, I think she has missd the point.

Delacourt states that in 2005, when Stephen Harper was leader of the Opposition, he held a meeting with Hill journalists where he stated that his party
"... would not be having any policy at all on matters such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Members would be totally free to hold their views, but the Conservative party would have no stated position on these matters."
Delacourt was not surprised by this, believing that Harper was a Libertarian. Rather amusing given that he had campaigned against Same-sex marriage, and did not allow his MPs to hold an opinion contrary to any that he deemed the party should hold.

Take the case of former Harper MP Larry Spencer, who in 2003, made some pretty disparaging remarks about homosexuals.

According to Spencer, Harper called him into his office and ripped into him: "You knew we wanted to run on the preservation of the traditional definition of marriage in the next election. Now we can't do that." Spencer went on to say that 'Is it any wonder that the Alliance Party was often being charged with having a secret agenda? When the truth cannot be disseminated, even to caucus members, just what should one believe?'(1)

Spencer's was not an isolated incident, as Stephen Harper has taken complete control of his caucus. Not even his cabinet ministers are allowed to speak to the press until they get their talking points from the PMO.

Calling Stephen Harper a Libertarian is like calling calling George Bush a humanitarian.

Perhaps Trudeau could have rephrased his message, but when the issue is simply messaging, then the problem lies not with the politicians, but with us.

If We Hope to Stop the Rise of Neoconservatism We Need To Think Big

There is little argument that one of the biggest problems we are facing today is income inequality. The rich continue to get richer while the rest of us are expected to keep them in the lifestyle they've grown accustomed to.

Lowering corporate tax is a form of corporate welfare, that rewards the top for refusing to work for the money we give them. Any downturn, no matter how slight, and the workers are the first to go. Profit trumps all.

Richard Henry Tawney (1880-1962), economist and historian said: "A society which reverences the attainment of riches as the supreme felicity will naturally be disposed to regard the poor as damned in the next world, if only to justify itself for making their life a hell in this."

In their book Tax is Not a Four Letter Word, the Himelfarbs write: "American ambivalence turned to anger in the aftermath of the financial meltdown and the massive government bailouts."

And yet the Bush Tax Cuts were still implemented while government services were cut by a trillion dollars. And where were the cuts directed? At the poor, who were blamed for the economic situation, focusing attention away from the Wall Street gamblers and corporate freeloaders.

Tawney believed that the only way to implement real change, was not to focus on single inhumane acts, but the entire notion of social injustice. That's why the Civil Rights movement was so successful.

Justin Trudeau has to do the same. He wants to change the way that the Liberals do politics, focusing on Canadians and not the Party's woes.

The NDP are shifting to the right, to take up what they see as a vacant middle. Unfortunately, Canada's Conservatives have taken us so far to the right that the middle is now just to the left of Genghis Khan.

Progressives have lost their voice and the Liberals have an opportunity to be that voice. But no JUNK!

I want intelligent answers to addressing climate change, poverty, income inequality, racial discrimination and women's reproductive rights, to name a few.

So for the record Justin: your wife is lovely, your children are beautiful and you like to box. Good for you.

But what I want to know is how you're going to do things differently and steer Canada back to the way we were before the Neocon menace. And if that means laying down the law with your party, so be it.


1. SACRIFICED? TRUTH OR POLITICS, By Larry Spencer, Kayteebella Productions, 2004, ISBN 13-9780978057404

Friday, May 23, 2014

Death and Taxes. How Did We Get it So Wrong?

The old adage that nothing is certain but death and taxes, was first used by author Daniel Defoe, but in a different context.

In his The Political History of the Devil (1726), Defoe dismisses the popular notion that the Devil has a cloven foot, or any other characteristic bestowed on him by humans.

He suggests that the Devil himself must laugh at "... the frightful shapes and figures we dress him up in ... especially to see how willingly we are first to paint him as black, and make him as ugly as we can, and then start at the spectrum of our own making."

By believing in this spectrum so infallibly, they refused to see the Devil working in anyone not fitting the description. Thus, the cloven foot et al, became as certain as death and taxes.

This week I attended a Canadian Club luncheon, where Kevin Page, former Canadian Parliamentary Budget Officer, was speaking. I have a lot more to say about his address later, and thank my friend Norma for inviting me to be her guest.

I had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Page personally and asked him how we get governments to take raising taxes seriously, when tax is now a four letter word. He said that it was funny I asked, because in fact, there was a book published recently, Tax Is Not a Four-Letter Word, that addresses that very topic.

In the introduction, editors Alex and Jordan Himelfarb, ask how paying taxes went from ".. being an irritant to a four-letter-word, not to be uttered in public or spoken of favourably in politics".

The problem of course is in the counter revolution of Neoconservatism and Libertarianism, with their message of personal freedom and reduction of "government control". Government is bad, so why should we be giving them our money?

And because of the enormous benefits to corporations, and the wealthiest citizens due to this new philosophy; they had a lot of money to sell their platform to those who would be hurt the most by its implementation.

Taxes became dark and ugly with cloven feet, and that notion has become so embedded in our thinking that we now gravitate to those promising to free us from them, without seeing how devilish the whole thing is.

The idea that reducing corporate taxes as a way to create jobs is nonsense. Research has shown that corporations are hoarding their money and headlines of "record profits" have become the norm. Jobs are still being outsourced overseas, and as we have seen recently, corporations are depending more and more on Temporary Foreign Workers.

As Alex Himelfarb states in his book promotion for the Star, we need to ask what we will have to give up to pay for those tax cuts. They'll tell you that they'll only get rid of the gravy, but all that gravy was sopped up long ago, in the name of austerity.

But What of that Cloven Hoof?

The upcoming provincial election in Ontario, is a good place to start questioning the logic of further tax cuts.

Tim Hudak is promising an additional 30% reduction in corporate taxes. (10% for us but only if he balances the budget).

We need to ask him what we will have to give up, setting aside the ridiculous notion of firing 100,000 public servants, wiping out the, albeit fictitious, jobs created through his cuts.

When he was with the Mike Harris government, their 30% tax cut had to be borrowed, increasing our debt by 40%. Cost of borrowing for taxpayers was 800,000,000 a year.

Yet 57% of those tax cuts went to the top 10%' income earners, while only the top 25% saw any gain at all. The average household actually lost ground because of increased user fees and the downloading of services to municipalities, which increased our property taxes.

Harris came to power at the end of a damaging recession. We were already rebounding by 1995. But during the eight year PC reign, from 1995-2003, wages stagnated, especially for lower income. According to the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, the minimum wage in Ontario was the highest in Canada in 1995. By 2003 we had dropped to 5th place.

Instead of the minimum wage going up, the number of those earning minimum wage skyrocketed, as privatization swelled the ranks of the working poor. And while Harris refused to raise the minimum wage, the buying power of the $7.89 per hour, was reduced to $6.85 by 2003, due to inflation.

So what did that 30% gift to the wealthy cost us?

Remember when a political platform includes cuts to Public Service - WE ARE THE PUBLIC!

The Ontario Liberals plan to raise taxes for those earning $150,000 a year. A small step in the right direction. However, we need to make this an election priority for all parties challenging the Neocon Revolution.

NDP leader Andrea Horvath, after quoting George Bush's "job creators", is suggesting that taxpayers need to be respected. Part of showing us respect is treating us like adults.

We're not stupid. We know the deficit has to be dealt with and as with any budget, that means increasing our revenue. That's the conversation that has to take place. Lowering the HST at this point will be just as damaging as lowering the GST was.

We have to decide what kind of province, and indeed country, we want to live in. One where the rich keep getting richer or one where we all reap the rewards from our vast natural resources.

We don't need lower taxes, we need fairer ones, so that everyone can prosper.

Defoe wanted his readers to remove the imagery of the cloven hoof or they might not recognize the Devil when he appeared. We need to remove the image of the Devil in taxes, or we might not recognize their good.

"Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society" Oliver Wendall Holmes

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Randy Hiller and Being Careful What you Wish For

We were in the Napanee area on Saturday and I noticed the Randy Hillier signs. Not a lot, but a few. Hillier is the Conservative incumbent for the riding of Lanark - Frontenac - Lennox and Addington. This riding was only created in 2003, so for the 2007 election, all candidates were new.

He won by a narrow margin of less than 1000 votes. But Hillier had the help of a controversial group called the Ontario Landowners Association, whose mandate is " preserve and protect the rights of property owners and to enshrine property rights within the Constitution of Canada and the laws of the Province of Ontario."

I had written before of an experience I'd had with the OLA. We had taken our grandson on an overnight to Peterborough to visit the zoo. When leaving our hotel we noticed that a rather large group of protesters had lined the drive. I was first drawn by their signs "This Land is Our Land", and assuming that they were First Nations, I told my husband to honk the horn in support. But then after a closer look, I realized that they were all Caucasian.

Later in the day I saw that the group had moved across the road, so I asked the desk clerk who they were and why they were protesting at the hotel. She explained that there was a young hockey team from a Native community staying there, in town for a tournament. They were trying to send them a message: 'keep off our land'!

How ridiculous. The kids just wanted to play hockey, not get caught up in a land dispute, real or imagined. As the OLA's president; Hillier led the charge. He stepped down as President to run in the election, but remains true to the cause.

The Property Rights Movement

The Ontario Landowners Association is part of a larger movement espoused by libertarians, conservatives and patriot groups like the Tea Party.

They claim to be fighting for land owners' rights to do what they want with their property, without government interference. But according to Libertarian and Republican Donovan D. Rypkema, that is rarely the case. As a real estate developer he has had opportunity to deal with many from the movement and found the opposite to be true (1).

He cites as an example demonstrations made by one PR group over the prospective opening of a nudist bar in their neighborhood. The protesters were not opposed on moral grounds, but the fear that it would drive the value of their property down.

The bar owner had to relinquish his right to do what he wanted with his property, because of how it would impact those around him.

What if your neighbour wanted to turn his home into a junkyard? A sex toy shop? A half-way house for sex offenders? Fortunately, you have the right to seek protection through government interference.

Rypkema also points out that rural property values can increase with the building and maintenance of roads and highways. In urban centres, the proximity of schools, public transit, parks, etc. all factor into the value of your real estate and all require government interference.

Hillier knows this but always contends that his Property Rights people would call them if they needed them.

So What is the Movement Really About?

Many people have tried to define their goals, suggesting everything from mineral rights to taking the law into their own hands when it comes to intruders.

Randy Hillier once gave a peek into their agenda when he emailed photos of a dead deer with bullet holes in its belly to Ontario Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky, stating “The attached pictures are the direct consequence of government injustice, and when individuals no longer fear the tyranny of legislated abuse and intimidation. In keeping with tradition, all nuisance animals are consecutively named, enclosed are pictures of ‘Leona'".

How frightening for her. It almost looked like a death threat even if it was only meant as a sick joke.

But why target her? She wasn't the Natural Resources Minister. It was because she was female so he could get the best bang for his buck. Mysogyny 101.

However, back to the Property Rights Movement and its agenda.

Did Ontario really need such an organization fighting for farmers? There is already the Ontario Farmers’ Union handling their affairs in a sane and intelligent manner, looking at the broader picture of government and agronomics.

As Helen Forsey wrote in This Magazine:

The LLA*, however, either misses this larger analysis or deliberately rejects it. In private conversations and even in the occasional flight of rhetoric, members will say they’re against big corporations, but their public complaints and protests consistently target government, not corporate power.

Like the authorities they despise, the LLA* lets the big fish get away. Worse, members don’t seem to realize that the property- based solutions they propose actually represent a welcome gift to those very corporations. Deregulation and enhanced private property rights are strategies that could have—and quite possibly did—come straight out of right-wing think tanks or political party war rooms. In any case, such schemes are an integral part of the overall corporate agenda of privatization and the undermining of government. The rural revolution’s current groundswell of vocal support for these policy directions is a major achievement that the suits must be celebrating.

Stephen Harper's Reform Party called for property rights to be added to the constitution, and in fact, Harper himself attended an Ottawa rally of the OLA, in April of 2004, where he ' addressed the crowd, endorsing property rights.' (3)

But the day '... when a handful of men met in the office of Scott Reid, Conservative MP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington' proved a windfall for the local Conservatives, their think tanks and the corporate sector. (Reid's family owns the Giant Tiger discount store chain)

Soon Reid was touting property rights in Parliament and with Reid by his side, Hillier joined the ranks of provincial politicians.

What I found interesting about Randy Hillier, when he started his group, was that his writings were not as much to do with rural issues, but his new found libertarian ones.

He fought for the repeal of public smoking laws, helmets for motorcycles and bicycles, seatbelt laws and corporal punishment ban for children. All things that could have been issues brought forward by the Fraser Institute.

There are several things I like about Randy Hillier, including his passion and willingness to stand up for what he believes in. Unfortunately, that passion has been exploited by those with an agenda.

So if you're voting for Hillier to have your voice heard in the Legislature, be careful what you wish for. It might not be your voice at all.

Racism by Any Other Name Still Stinks

As seen with the protest in Peterborough, that targetted an aboriginal hockey team; Hillier is also on a mission to challenge Native land claims. After breaking with the OLA over an executive decision, he has joined CADANCE (“Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality), a militia group claiming to be protecting the streets of Caledonia from "lawless natives".

This was in response to the conflict with the Six Nations’ reclamation of Douglas Creek Estates (Kanonhstaton) in February of 2006. The conflict did turn violent, but the Natives did not throw the first stone, nor the only one.

It's interesting that Hillier condemned police brutality during the G-20 but is pushing for police to brutalize protesters wanting a few land considerations of their own. They have since changed their message to promoting "peaceful Native protests", which is in itself a racist mandate, suggesting that Natives can't be peaceful without their guidance.

And CANACE suggests that they only want the same rights as our First Nations.


What rights would they be?

The right to have your daughters, mothers and sisters disappear with little more concern than if you'd lost your car keys?

The right to have someone come onto your land anytime they wanted with a bulldozer and blueprints for unwanted development?

The right to live in slums without clean clean drinking water?

The right to belong to a group most likely to be incarcerated?

The right to a high infant mortality rate?

Again I say: Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it.


*Lanark Landowner's Association - sister group pf OLA


1. Property Rights, Land Use Planning and the Competitive Community ULI Idaho, October 30, 2006; Donovan D. Rypkema

2. Betting the Farm by Helen Forsey, This Magazine, July-Aug, 2005

3. Wikipedia

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sorry Timmy. Been There Done That and the T-shirt was a Knock Off

On October 2, 1995, Tim Hudak stood up in the Ontario Legislature to make the following announcement:

"I am delighted to relate to the assembly some very good news that has recently transpired in Stevensville, Ontario, home of the Tim Hudak Action Centre.  

Ronal Canada, a local manufacturer of wheel rims, has announced a $10-million capital expansion, including 120 new jobs -- a 100% increase in employment -- at its Stevensville plant.

In concert with the expansion, a new level of cooperation between union and management has been achieved, guaranteeing labour peace through 1999. According to the plant manager, Rick Visser, Stevensville has been chosen as the expansion site because of management-union cooperation and the new political climate in the province.

This new government in Ontario has chosen to strike a bold new path, eliminating corporate welfare. Instead, we will let the marketplace reward ingenuity, innovation and skill.  The result is that the Stevensville plant has been chosen over international competitors as the expansion site based on the talents of its own workforce and management, not because of government intervention.

The Ronal expansion demonstrates that management and union cooperation and the plans of this bold new government to restore a positive economic environment for business, investment and long-term job growth are already having an effect in the Niagara " 

I doubt that the "new political climate" had as much to do with their decision to expand as the 30% tax cuts, but if this created jobs and a good work environment, maybe they really were on to something.

However, the "long-term growth" and "management and union cooperation" would be short lived, despite the corporate welfare in the form of those massive tax cuts.

Ronal soon stopped producing wheels in Stevensville, instead importing them from their plants in Poland and Mexico.  They laid off all 120 "new" workers and then locked out the rest when they refused to accept revised contract terms, which included wage cuts of up to $7.00 per hour; the elimination of Cost of Living (COLA) wage protection; a five year contract with no wage increases; substantial cuts to overtime and other wage premiums; 30% reductions in health benefit coverage and pension plan contributions; elimination of nine paid holidays; serious erosions to workers seniority rights and the virtual elimination of health and safety contract provisions, to name a few.

Hudak's idea of a new business friendly environment meant the end of anti-scab legislation and the demolition of workers rights.  And he plans the same thing today, threatening to bust the unions, which will further gut the middle class.

Hudak's old boss and current mentor, Mike Harris,  created a train wreck in Ontario.  Coming out of a recession, we were already in a deficit, so every penny of his tax cuts had to be borrowed.  The provincial debt went from 90.7 billion to 132.6 billion by 2002.  And with many good paying union jobs being replaced with minimum wage paying non-union jobs, Ontario's coffers were not being filled fast enough to cover any shortfall.

So for those out there jumping on the Hudak union busting bandwagon, remember; if you have a business and people have less money in their pockets, there will be less money to go around.  Can your business survive that?

If you're a worker in the private sector and suddenly there are thousands of ex-union workers with years of experience, hitting the market; can your job survive that? Timmy was wrong then and he's wrong now.