28 April 2010

BC Municipality Enacts Canada's First Living Wage Bylaw

It's New Westminster, which has been at the forefront of other poverty-reduction campaigns.

Living wage bylaws set a wage 'floor' above the minimum wage for workers who work directly for the city, for firms that receive contracts from the city, and firms that receive economic development money from the city.

"Once the policy is implemented, all direct and indirect workers (contract workers, etc.) performing work on City premises will earn a wage no lower than $16.74," [Dave] Tate [of BC ACORN] said in an email.

How about other BC municipalities and the province following New West's example? Heck, why not municipalities and provinces/territories throughout Canada?

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26 April 2010

On Liberals' Proposed National Food Policy

Don't be fooled by the big numbers. Here's what the Liberals propose to be included in their national food policy as reported by the CBC:

* $50 million to improve food inspections and ensure imported foods meet domestic standards
* $80 million to promote farmers markets and local food
* $40 million to help 250,000 low-income children get healthy food (my emphasis)

Let's look at that last one, shall we?

Any program has administrative costs, so it's not clear that the entire $40 million would go to 250,000 children. However, let's assume it does.

The numbers reduce to this: $160 per year per child, or $13.33 per month, or 44 cents per day.


Food costs are higher where people of low income live. Most of us haven't the means - a vehicle or bus fare - to get to where the bargains are. We must walk everywhere or transport ourselves in a four-wheeled scooter (if we're so fortunate to have one and live in a building that provides plug-in facilities). If we've a scooter, then accessibility to, from and in stores becomes a further barrier.

How much do you suppose someone can buy for 44 cents in a neighbourhood where there's only one grocery store and accessibility for people with disabilities is an issue?

Here's another bone to pick. Children under a certain age don't have income. Their parents or guardians do.

You can bet that hungry children have even hungrier parents. Parents will deprive themselves first of food before they'll let their children starve.

Politicians and poverty activists should stop the "child poverty" crap. Because you can't lift a child out of poverty unless you treat the whole family - hell, unless you treat the whole community.

Incidentally, by the time the Liberal plan would come into being, inflation would have eaten up all or a good chunk of that 44 cents.

[Cross-posted at economicus ridiculous.]

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Another Politician - ahem - Borrows Content

Have Canada's politicians not heard of 'original content'? The BC NDP's Rob Fleming appears to be the latest in a string of politicians who, seemingly unabashedly, will freely swipe content from other people's work. The federal Conservatives have been the worst offenders.

Have none of them heard of, you know, copyright laws or fair dealing?

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25 April 2010

New Vaccine in Treatment of TOADS

Kittimati, Cascadia
UnAssociated Press

The Union of People with Uteri United to Reduce Savagery (UPURS) met last week in Kittimati, Cascadia to confer on findings from researchers at the International Medical Science Institute (IMSI) and reports from UPURS. IMSI researchers have concluded that symptoms of the debilitating Testosterone Overload Associative Disorder Syndrome (TOADS), that affects 87 percent of the worlds' male population, can be drastically reduced by injecting the medically proven vaccine under the foreskin of pre-pubescent males. Human volunteers at the IMSI tested with the new vaccine have shown that few side effects are evident.

It has been recommended by UPURS, who have studied the research in depth, that immediate distribution of the new vaccine be made available for treating the world's male population against TOADS.

Consensus within UPURS is pending.

And from other sources:

Anti-Choice Law

Anti Choice Bill
Ban on Insurance Coverage for Abortion

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09 April 2010

Guergis Resignation Doesn't End the Questions

How will Helena Guergis, now former Minister of State for Status of Women Canada, pay for that $890,000 mortgage, without the extra $50,000 a year cabinet pay and its associated cushy expense account out of which she bought shoes, socks and other clothing? - items that women for whom SWC is supposed to be a champion must hope to get gently used and free?

Don't think Guergis' resignation is the end of this and other questions concerning her conduct. While fresh reports (by one of my favourite journalists, Kady O'Malley) say Guergis is also out of the Conservative caucus, which means she must sit as an independent or move to another party - not that any party would want her - she is still a member of Canada's Parliament.

The reports also indicate that the RCMP and ethics commissioner will be investigating. Good.

And the media and public should continue turning up the heat. With the RCMP called in, Stephen Harper will be quick to play the 'no comment' card. However, the questions shouldn't only be about Guergis, but also concern the judgement of the Conservatives with respect to the candidates they accept to run on their party's behalf.

By the way, the new minister for Status of Women Canada? That would be Rona Ambrose, whose former chief of staff is Darrel Reid of Focus on the Family fame - an anti-choice, fundamentalist organization. Reid is now the policy chief in the Prime Minister's Office.

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07 April 2010

Rick Mercer for GG!

Yep, he's my nominee for Canada's next Governor-General. Do I hear any seconds?

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UPDATE on Tweeting the HST

From the Globe and Mail today, about the Nova Scotia's NDP government and its recent move to raise the HST to 15 percent:

The Nova Scotia NDP under Darrell Dexter are that rarest of political birds: the tax-and-cut party. They are increasing consumption taxes while cutting civil servants and their perquisites.

Take their budget issued this week, which raises the harmonized sales tax two points to 15 per cent from 13 per cent, while cutting income taxes - particularly for those with very low incomes and in the $93,000 to $150,000 range - and laying off 10 per cent of the civil service.

Like many other provinces, Nova Scotia is moving away from income taxes and toward consumption taxes to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

For HST opponents in the NDP, like federal leader Jack Layton, Ontario leader Andrea Horwath and B.C. leader Carole James, this is a real challenge. One of the two provincial NDP governments are not only in favour of the HST, they are actually increasing it. [my emphasis]

It would seem that when in opposition, the party that favours more public services will oppose any taxes to pay for those services, unless those are corporate taxes. But while in government, leaders of the party haven't the same concern.

I'm fine with NDP governments facing economic realities. My objection is to any political party that opposes merely for the sake of opposing, as the BC NDP did with the carbon tax and is now doing with the proposed HST. If that's the (Carole James') NDP method of redefining itself, then the leadership should think again.

[Cross-posted at economius ridiculous]

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Andrew Coyne's Suggestions for Resurrection of Liberal Party

Andrew Coyne has some excellent suggestions for the Liberal Party of Canada, six in fact, which the party might use to re-brand itself. All have merit, however the following are my particular favourites; I've suggested them all myself on this blog:

The party of democratic reform. How we nominate candidates, how we choose leaders, how we elect members, how Parliament functions—there’s clearly lots of work to do here. This used to be a Conservative issue. Today, not so much.
The party of taxpayers. Former Liberal MP Dennis Mills used to campaign vigorously for the flat tax, complete with postcard-sized tax form. A corollary would be reform of EI and social assistance, along the lines recommended by the impeccably Liberal Macdonald commission: a simplified, streamlined universal income guarantee.
The party of the environment. Yes, that means a carbon tax. It’s a good idea, the only way Canada is ever going to come close to meeting its carbon emissions targets, and everyone knows it. Was it the carbon tax, as myth holds, that doomed the Liberals in the last election? Or was it because it was poorly designed and poorly presented? A better plan, better presented—a real “tax shift,” as implemented by Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government in B.C. - might be a winner.

True, that last.

Although the BC NDP tried to incite electors against the BC carbon tax, James & Company failed abysmally. In fact, the party's disingenuous (to put it politely) Axe the Tax™ campaign was among the reasons the party failed to defeat the Liberals in May 2009. British Columbians essentially agreed that a carbon tax was necessary. While the majority of us dislike the Liberals (again, putting it mildly), we are perfectly capable of separating the person or party from the essential principle.

Will the LPC re-brand itself with any or all of Coyne's suggestions? Not unless it's grown a spine, the lack of which has been evident these past few years.

I strongly recommend that all members of the LPC read Coyne's article in full.

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06 April 2010

Tweeting the HST

The opposition NDP in British Columbia has been making a concerted effort, joined now by former premier Bill Vander Zalm, to organize British Columbians against the coming Harmonized Sales Tax. Vander Zalm is trying to get enough signatures to require the Liberal government to hold a referendum on the tax.

Am putting this out there because I just don't get why certain progressives are against the HST.

Or maybe I do.

Here's a series of tweets I posted a few minutes ago:

Re BC-HST, 1) ppl will ALWAYS protest a new/chg'd tax 2) NDP = big gov, more services/progs, more taxes 2 pay 4 same 3) HST gd 4 very poor

4) w/ rebate, HST gd for lowest 2 economic classes. Only 'bad' for incomes above mid-range & only if u BUY STUFF.

5) HST - like PST/GST - is a consumption tax. IMO, that's better than inc. taxes. W/ cons. tax, u get more stuff, u pay more tax.

So, Y is NDP against this tax, if not due 2 opportunism, to take advantage of knee-jerk reaction against all tax?

If you've trouble reading Twitter-ese, the long version goes like this:

As night follows day, people will always protest the introduction of a new tax. It doesn't matter that the proposed tax is meant to cover the costs of providing new or enhanced services x, y and z. People just hate taxes, period.

The NDP supports the provision of public services by government; not, or much less so, by business. It supports tighter and more regulation, a flatter incline among classes, and so on. The party therefore supports bigger government, and less business or corporate influence, control and interference in public affairs. (So far, so good; am pretty much in agreement with this.)

For government to provide more or enhanced public services, it must raise revenue. That means raising taxes - or fees, which amounts to the same thing.

The proposed HST comes with a rebate for the lowest two economic classes. The poorest in the province will get the most.

I, for one, am really looking forward to my quarterly rebates. Am already better off thanks to the carbon tax, which the NDP also protested in its failed 'Axe the Tax' campaign.

The NDP is purportedly the champion of the underdog, the homeless, and the desperately poor.

I don't consider upper middle-income earners and the wealthy to be underdogs. Yet they are the only ones who ultimately may pay more under the HST. It all depends on HOW MUCH STUFF THEY BUY.

The HST, like the PST and GST, is a consumption tax. So is the BC carbon tax. The more you buy, the more you pay in tax.

Well, boo hoo!

Unlike income taxes - which I prefer to see axed - consumption taxes are useful sticks to curb people's behaviour. That's the fundamental principle behind a carbon tax, which most industry leaders support.

It's no accident that the majority of politicians don't support a carbon tax ... publicly, that is. They haven't the courage. Former Liberal leader St├ęphane Dion was one of those rare exceptions. Too bad the party elite lacked the spine to support him.

Anyway, given the foregoing arguments regarding the HST, it begs the question why the NDP is so against it. Unless that party's protestations have nothing to do with the tax at all and everything to do with political opportunism.

[cross-posted at economicus ridiculous]

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05 April 2010

Treat Welfare System Like Criminal Justice System

Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.

The Blackstone ratio guides our criminal justice system. The same theme has appeared in one version or another throughout human history, including in the writings of the 12th century philosopher Maimonides and in the Bible.

Would that poverty were treated like a crime. In that case, the same principle would justify a guaranteed annual income for all. That it doesn't, and the overwhelming reason why it doesn't, is among the ironies.

Certain conservative types fear that a GAIA would discourage people from working. They imagine the default human condition is to do nothing, to contribute nothing and never to strive for a better life.

That's a decidedly un-Christian perspective of the human being, which was purportedly made in a certain deity's image. For Christians, in fact, it's an illogical point of view, one that's inconsistent with other Christian principles.

Charity is another argument used against a GAIA, even against having a public welfare system at all. Charity and charitable institutions are supposed to take care of 'the needy', 'the less fortunate', 'the vulnerable'.

Again, there's an underlying inconsistency.

How might one fill one's charity quota if a public system exists to ensure there are no impoverished unfortunates?

Charity preys on need. Its very existence requires a class system and people who are without.

Those two religiously historical concerns, for 'the work ethic' and 'Christian charity', are why the principle that underlies our welfare system is opposite to the one that guides our criminal system. It's the principle:

Better that ten innocent suffer in poverty than one guilty person escape.

[Cross-posted at economicus ridiculous]

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02 April 2010

Status of Women Minister Buys $880K Ottawa House

... and mortgages it for the full purchase price of $880,000. No money down. House was bought in November.

Helena Guergis, Minister of Status of Women Canada, gets a salary of $157,731. That includes a $56,637 top-up for her Cabinet position. As far as I know her husband, one Rahim Jaffer, is currently unemployed. He will begin receiving a lucrative pension at age 55, thanks to his brief career as a Member of Parliament.

Normally I consider the personal lives of MPs to be off-bounds, but this case points to two issues that I think cross over into the public sphere.

First, what was the woman thinking?! Has she no sense of economy? Has she no clue what it's like to maintain a budget? Even to consider buying a house that's six times one's annual salary, one that's subject to the fickle political winds of change, seems ludicrous to me.

And I have to laugh at the irony, given something that happened to me a few days ago. It highlights the stark differences between life for many women in Canada - women for whom Status of Women Canada is supposed to be a champion for change - and those few like Guergis.

I live in the lowest decile category of income. I've a lifelong dream of owning my own tiny home, on a tiny piece of land. To keep the dream alive, I occasionally visit mls.ca, run a search, and see if anything comes up. Then I check the ads out and run a bunch of 'what ifs' in my head. That's how I keep the dream alive.

A few days ago, I found an ad for a 5th wheel, sited in a mobile home park about two hours by car north of here. Asking price: $11,500. I contacted the realtor and we exchanged emails back and forth. Right away, I contacted friend Daphne; we discussed the pros and cons via emails and one Skype call. We talked and talked some more. I agonized over the possibilities. Ultimately I decided against, before ever going to see the trailer.

Even assuming I could get the price down to under $10,000, it would take more than half of my remaining savings; and my income, beginning in July when I turn 60, will be approximately $8,000 per year. The issues to be considered weren't just the price of the trailer, but the pad rent ($334/month), the security of the pad (might the owners be thinking of selling?), security in the other sense (is it a safe area?), the maintenance costs (does the roof need replacing? if not now, when? what else needs fixing/maintaining?), heating, the cost of products locally (is it more expensive to buy there than here?), accessibility to shopping and services for someone with no vehicle, and so on.

Which brings me to my second point...

How can Guergis possibly relate to the problems women like me face when she has no clue how to manage her own finances? And what the HELL is she doing overseeing any government Ministry, let alone the Status of Women Canada?

I ask, because unless there's a rich daddy somewhere, Guergis & Co. will be heading to bankruptcy court in the not too distant future.

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