Sunday, February 29, 2004

The defense of marriage act 

I wasn't going to comment on this topic, but then I read this post by Jay Currie:

The Globe cites President Bush's decision to re-ignite the culture wars by supporting a startling prejudicial proposed ammendment to the American Constitution which would deny equal rights to gays. This, in my view, is one of the crassest pieces of pandering to the religious right I have ever seen and it is one more reason for many Americans to look for alternatives to re-electing Bush. The debate in America begins with a distinctly anti-gay flavour.

Wow. Crass political pandering to the religious right. I would expect that type of comment from the usual Bush-hating crowd, but from Jay Currie? For the record support for the defense of marriage act is hardly a fringe position:

The act passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 342-67 and the Senate by a vote of 85-14.

Those congressional votes have been matched by the passage of similar defense of marriage laws in 38 states.

Also, unlike the bien pensants in Canada, Americans still have widespread hangups over this "We the People" stuff. They are prepared to debate the implications of homosexual marriage, but are reaching the limits of their patience with judges imposing it against massive majority votes in their legislatures. Most Americans still have quaint notions that they, and not some robed philosopher-kings decide on the laws by which their republic is governed.

But how is Bush igniting a culture war? If the Amendment passes it will be done by majorities in the House and Senate, with the support of at least 38 states. And the President's role? None. Zip. Nada. He has merely stated his position on the matter, and has no role whatsoever in passing amendments to the constitution.

I also find it quite remarkable that such a position could be considered crass pandering. Is there no possibility he simply believes his position is correct? That a combination of sincere religious beliefs and an opinion that the judges are overreaching might motivate him to support a constitutional amendment, that being the only tool left?

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Remember the Anniversary 

Twenty years ago today Trudeau took his walk in the snow. On February 29th, 1984 he announced his resignation.

A sign of the times 

From Bruce at Autonomous source I see there are new signs showing up in on Ottawa's streets:

My Ottawa
Raise my taxes/Support the Arts

How pathetic. The idea that if the Arts aren't kept on the dole the city would be without them. It's as absurd to say if the government didn't manufacture and distribute tampons there would be no tampons. Nonsense.

These people are obviously victims of Canada's public education system, but with all of the real life evidence surrounding them how do they keep their minds so closed? The City of Ottawa is currently be drowned in hysterical propanda that there soon will be no soccer fields or pools. How did people become so captive to the idea that if government doesn't provide these things they wouldn't exist? Tens of thousands of people ski every weekend yet the government does not operate the ski hills. Why would anyone think a soccer association cannot care for a soccer field without the dead hand of government directing it? Or why could an arts association not put on a play without suckering taxpayers for a handout? It is sad to see such a poverty of thought.

The battle against two-tier tampons 

From Laurent at Polyscopique I discover the startling news that the NDP have found a tax they are against, that being the tax on tampons. But they are surely missing the point.

Do they not realize the sisterhood is being exploited by the tampon industrial complex, raping mother earth’s resources for that most evil of motives, profit? Surely if there exists an industry that must be brought to heel it is this one. And ponder for a minute the clear inequity of affluent MasterCard marxists like Naomi Klein being able to pick out designer tampons while poor, immigrant single mothers must be content with discount NoLogo varieties. Let the battle against two tier tampons begin!

The first step is to assemble a committee of leftist feminist environmentalists that can design a standardized, sustainable, zero effluent, recycled unionized tampon manufacturing process that is equal to their rhetoric. Obviously such frills as plastic applicators must be dispensed with. And then we must ban such distasteful practices as for-profit tampon manufacturing, distribution and retailing. We would also have to seal the borders against smuggled contraband.

Instead, the sisterhood must be sent to get their standardized, universal tampon ration at state-approved distribution centers staffed by unionized employees working family-friendly hours. And naturally we cannot be felling trees in virgin forests to feed such an industry. The sisterhood will be required to return their previous month’s ration for recycling before being granted the next.

A tax cut? Please, that would merely unleash more unbridled capitalism and exacerbate existing inequities.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Quote du jour 

From Mick Panesar of the Communist Party of Canada:

Do elections matter?

This is from an interesting article at rabble.ca. Mick Panesar ran in the 2000 election and got 79 votes in the riding of Ottawa South, just 26,521 votes short of his opponent John Manley. The rabble.ca article doesn't elaborate on Mr. Panesar's thoughts on democracy, but I suspect he thinks the people's habit of giving him 0.2% of the vote is nothing but a nuissance getting in the way of his self-appointed claim to speak for "The People". He surely ruminated on the various ways leftists can achieve their objectives without that troublesome step of persuading the population that Communism is good for them.

In the same article we find Jack Layton addressing the gathering with this quote:

You will never hear me complaining about social movements pushing too hard. If anything, you'll hear me say 'Why aren't you pushing us harder?"

I find it noteworthy that an NDP leader can hobnob with a Communist without the slightest sense of shame or fear that anyone would consider it inappropriate. After all, they only killed 100 million in the last century, why not cheer them on to push harder in this one?

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Dust off those oil crisis books 

So I guess we can get rid of the Kyoto agreement, it turns out we’re going to run out of oil after all. I thought I had heard that in the seventies, but this time they’re pretty certain they’ve got it right. I see from Life After the Oil Crash that most of the world’s problems will soon be solved once we run out of oil and 90% of the population dies off. (Via Tim G).

The late Julian Simon has been Doomslaying these doomsayers for ages, but it appears to be a Sisyphean project. It appears there are at least a few people who really need to be exposed to his many fine books, now available for free on the internet here. I’d particularly recommend Chapter 3 of The Ultimate Resource II titled “Can The Supply Of Natural Resources - Especially Energy - Really Be Infinite? Yes!”.

But as long as these people continue to believe the opposite we should take them at their word. Forget about Kyoto, there won’t be enough people left on the planet and no fuel for their cars anyway.

Soft power at work 

Another shameful Liberal legacy. The situation in Haiti according to the Globe and Mail:
Foreigners fled the island nation amid isolated looting, and U.S. President George W. Bush said the United States is encouraging the international community to provide a strong “security presence.”[…]
Defence Minister David Pratt said Thursday that Canada can't make any commitment beyond helping the 1,025 Canadians in leaving the country because military resources are stretched thin.
Mr. Pratt, commenting after a speech Thursday to the conference of defence associations in Ottawa, cited Canada's commitment in Afghanistan and lack of available soldiers.
“It's pretty clear that we're in a very tight situation as far as personnel are concerned.”

So whether you’re a warmongering lunatic who thinks Canadian forces should be capable of taking on Islamofascist terrorists, or if you think they should be doing social work by stabilizing countries like Haiti before they descend into chaos, it doesn’t matter. We can’t do either. Here we have a situation where both France and George Bush want the UN to deal with the situation, but we’ll be able to do nothing but natter away mouthing platitudes about what we think others should do. It’s a fine example of soft power at work. Thank you Lloyd Axworthy.

Quote du jour 

Dr Maurice Slevin, on Britain's government run National Health Service (NHS)

"I don’t think the NHS has a future when patients have no consumer power. At the moment, they are passive recipients at the mercy of the system and what it is kind enough to provide for them. We have to give patients power.”

Passive recipients at the mercy of the system. You can't get a better description of a patient's situation in Canada than that.

Start the countdown, three days to go 

A momentous anniversary is approaching. February 29, 2004 marks twenty years since Trudeau took his walk in the snow and announced his retirement. I, for one, will hoist a cool one in quiet celebration of the day. Yet as I ponder the day I can’t help but notice how little of the damage wrought has been reversed in the twenty years since. The practice of monstrous deficit spending continued for fourteen years and we continue to have colossal public debt servicing costs. Canada’s military is no longer equipped to protect our airspace or patrol our coasts, never mind actually engage in combat abroad. The federal government expanded massively during the Trudeau era creating expensive programs that don’t work. Proving that only a government program is truly immortal, almost all of these programs still exist, though they get periodically renamed. Consider a couple:

1969 – Trudeau creates the Department of Regional Economic Expansion (DREE). It entrenched the culture of corporate welfare bums collecting handouts while politicians take credit for delivering the pork to their ridings. True, it was done in an ad-hoc fashion before that, but Trudeau made it a permanent and essential character of how the federal government operates. If one were to trace the root cause of AdScam practices, it would be found here.

1974 – Trudeau started the practice of responding to horrible crimes with increasing restrictions on law-abiding firearms owners. In 1974 this was done to distract the public from the debate over capital punishment, eventually resulting in the 1977 act requiring Firearms Acquisition Certificates. This started the conditioned response to give criminals a hug and therapy while unleashing the police on the law abiding with intrusive red tape and searches. Once started on this path the gun registry fiasco was all but inevitable.

So I shall celebrate the day, but it is really only partially a celebration. There remains much to be done.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Boondoggles to the Boondocks 

So what is a reasonable response for a government under fire for misappropriating the public treasury for their friends? Increase the budgets for their Boondoggles to the Boondocks agencies.

Budget increases from today’s National Post (In millions):

Boondoggle Agency

Budget Last Year

This Year

% Increase

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency




Economic Development – Region of Quebec




Northern Ontario Development Fund




Western Economic Diversification








Can anyone believe this is money well spent?

Stephen Harper Secures Flappy Bird Endorsement 

Trudeaupia New Media Publishing – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

With the deadline for taking out memberships in the Conservative Party of Canada approaching Trudeaupia New Media Publishing today announces that it has chosen to endorse Stephen Harper as leader of the party and for Prime Minister of Canada.

Stephen Harper was reluctant to comment on the news, but when pressed said “What the hell do you mean by a Flappy Bird and why would I want an endorsement from one?”

Stephen Harper was evidently unaware of Trudeaupia’s standing as a Flappy Bird in the blogosphere ecosystem at the time.

The endorsement was subject to much heated discussion at a gathering in the designated Trudeaupia philosophizing room, where all decisions of such import are taken. All of the contributors, editors and fact-checkers of Trudeaupia New Media Publishing had gathered for a long debate over the policies and merits of the three leadership candidates. The debate was brought to abrupt closure when my wife impatiently asked “Are you just about done in there, and why can’t you just SING in the shower like a normal person?”

And so a decision was finally made. Stephen Harper had secured the coveted Flappy Bird endorsement.

-------------------- End of Official Press Release -----------------------

On Belinda Stronach: I think she has made a positive contribution to the race, but lacking experience and an ability to speak French the burden is on her to demonstrate she is capable of leading the party. She has not yet, in my opinion. I hope she stays involved and wins her riding. I think she has something to contribute, and the party needs all of capable candidates it can get.

On Tony Clement: I think his tax scheme is kind of gimmicky, but welcome the fact that he is suggesting new ideas for tax reform. I hope he stays involved, too.

If I get time I’ll expand on these thoughts later, but work is getting in the way.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Les Bougons Anglais 

When I was a kid it was simply conventional wisdom that some people were just lazy and unambitious by nature. We learned this because we usually knew someone in our family who was constantly sponging off of us. In my case it was a particular aunt I had. One day my mother phoned her in Vancouver and it turned out the aunt was feeling kind of down, probably having something to do with her recent abortion (her third). Feeling a little sisterly compassion my mother suggested she come visit during Christmas. My aunt immediately jumped at the chance, quit her annoying job and arrived a few days later. In the first week of November. And was still there six months after Christmas, having emptied the liquor cabinet and finished off the wine cellar. It’s pretty hard to ignore the sponging type when you’re the one being sponged off of.

But once these people could turn their attention to government programs it became politically incorrect to point out that some people are simply spongers, not victims of society.

But check out Britain’s laziest woman (hat tip to Mark Steyn:
Bone idle Susan Moore has finally had her benefits stopped after an astonishing 16 YEARS on the dole.
Super-sponger Susan, 34, has not done a day’s work since dropping out of college in 1988.
But amazingly, she insists she isn’t lazy — and is appealing against the decision to stop her claiming £65-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Susan, who says she needs to RELAX at weekends, has never even been for a job interview — and turned down work at a supermarket because it was five miles away.

She and her mother sound like an English version of Les Bougons, that marvelous show on Radio-Canada that depicts a multigenerational family of spongers. Though even there (being careful not to provoke the ire of the professionally compassionate) the producers emphatically state that the family is not on welfare. They bilk other government programs instead. And of course they sponge off any other passing targets of opportunity as long as no actual work is required. It appears it’s finally becoming possible to state the obvious again: some people will settle into an utterly meaningless idle existence if the temptation is offered to them. I hope we can go the next step and candidly debate the programs that are enablers of this type of existence. If you actually care about people you can’t possibly wish this type of existence on them.

Carnival of Liberal Scandals 

Scandals of Liberal’s Past
Scientific Research Tax Credits
Transitional Jobs Fund –aka Billion Dollar Boondoggle

Scandals of Liberal’s Present
Firearms Registry

Scandals of Liberal’s Future
Technology Partnerships Canada
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
The Western Diversification Initiative
The Federal Office of Regional Development – Quebec

These are such transparent bribes for votes in plain sight everyone should be scandalized at the mention of them. Now would be an excellent time for some major media outlet to look at just how the money is being doled out and to whom. Sure it's legal, but do we want our taxes used this way?

The Mother of all Boondoggles

Kyoto – Just wait for the handouts to Lib-friendly companies wrapped up in Save-the-Earth moral superiority. This is such a mother lode of handouts I’m tempted to take out a Liberal Party membership myself and set up shell companies shuffling ethanol around, or to set up prominently displayed windmills with The Green Lane logos on them. Be creative! Get your EcoAction handout today!

The Liberal Party - "Boondoggles 'R' Us". When the standard operating procedure of the party is to cultivate a dependent clientele using the public treasury it's not surprising they experience serial scandals.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Belindamania - again 

I note people are taking the opportunity of the debate to dump on Belinda again. Stephen Harper calls Belinda’s comments on allowing “two-tier” medicare a “rookie mistake”. Even Andrew Coyne seems to step in line with the conventional wisdom that thou shalt not question the Canada Health Act.

On that point I think I’ll stick my neck out and say they’re all wrong and Belinda’s right. I think Canadians know perfectly well our current system is not sustainable and are prepared to listen to someone who will stop lying to them. Reforms are needed that may involve co-payments for services as are done in right wing extremist countries like France. Alberta is about to experiment with such reforms soon, and I’d note that Quebec and British Columbia just ignore the private care being offered in their provinces. The public system isn’t delivering so no one is about to shut down anything that resembles a health care service.

So I think any politician that brays to the moon about the sanctity of our current system, insists it will deliver with just a little more money and some tinkering is taking a big risk. They can only get away with it as long as everyone does it. Anyone who stands “bravely” against any attempts to reform the system will be rightly seen as a lying gasbag who is just promising to perpetuate the current quagmire. I think a much more courageous and honest approach would be to say: “Ralph wants to experiment in Alberta and I’m not going to be an obstacle to his efforts. We’ll change the Canada Health Act if that’s what’s required for him or other provinces to introduce their innovations”.

I didn’t see the debate, I’ve only read about what’s been said on the campaign so far. I’m inclined to agree with those who say Belinda isn’t yet ready to lead, but I find her honesty on this particular sacred cow topic refreshing, not naïve. After all, she’s on the same side on this issue as Canada’s longest serving Premier who has earned a great deal of respect for plain talk.

And as for her constitutional ignorance, as Andrew Potter describes it, I’d say I agree with Belinda as well. Andrew no doubt knows the constitution better than I, but whether the constitution actually empowers the degree of federal meddling we now have or not is not really the issue. It’s destructive and should be reduced.

We're all Catholics Now? 

Laurent has responded to my post below about Quebec affairs, with his post titled "We're all Catholics now". I really don’t think we disagree much, though there’s some difference in what were the most important factors of the many changes that swept the land in the sixties. Certainly changing religious practices were a big part.

He provides many examples where Quebec pre-1968 was the least statist province in the Dominion, and is 100% correct. Laurier has been quoted favorably many times on this blog, and any time I was referring to “French” ideas I was certainly not referring to pre-1960s Quebec. Nor was I saying French-Canadians bore sole responsibility for the gargantuan expansion of the federal government under Trudeau. Indeed, much of Trudeau’s support came from Anglos in his thrall, and many other provinces were significantly ahead of Quebec in socialist experiments. But I stand by the opinion that Trudeau’s grandiose utopian schemes were more consistent with leftist thinking in France of the time and certainly since the sixties. And not just in economics and size of government, but in military and foreign affairs as well. So I’d leave it at two essential points. While Quebec had an anti-statist history before the sixties, it has not been so since then. And Canada’s federal government has centred on a Quebec power base with a Quebec PM ever since.

I’ve been frustrated at watching how the Québecois have utterly rejected the ideas from the Reform/Alliance/Conservative parties. Even those who want a bloated Quebec government should see the sense in downsizing the federal level. Combine the nationalists and ADQ supporters and those parties should be seeing significant support. Yeah, there are Francophobes out west, as there are Anglophobes in Quebec. I wish they’d get over it.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Charest - A repeat of Mulroney? 

Laurent comments on the Charest government in Quebec City, comparing it to the government of Brian Mulroney:
despite the "neoliberal" rhetoric of the Charest government, despite loud cries from activists about the "destruction of Quebec" and the "dismantling of the State", the truth is the reforms pursued by Charest are timid and that his government does not govern that differently from the previous government. […]
I predicted it and I say it again: even if Charest promised to cut income taxes by a quarter, government will not have become smaller when his term ends, and neither will the fiscal burden of Quebecers.

I haven’t commented on the Charest government, hoping that we would get modest tax relief but not really expecting much more. I think the closest thing to Eurosclerosis outside Europe is here in Quebec. I have no doubt Jean Charest’s intentions were sincere, but I never really believed he was the type of conviction politician who would stay the course through the inevitable protests. And short of a genuine fiscal crisis I didn’t think the Quebec public was ready to put up with a concerted protest from the unions. So we experience the same pattern as in France. The government starts on a course of fairly mild and timid reforms but caves in from the backlash of entrenched interests.
Mulroney could not make government smaller (he instead enacted a tax on goods and services) and he famously could not reduce the deficit. While Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher made deep changes in their respective countries in the same timeframe, the Mulroney government can only be a disappointment by comparison.

No disagreement from me there. But while Reagan and Thatcher are remembered fondly now, we have to remember just how intense the opposition to them was in their first couple of years. The disruptions were significant and painful, but resulted in deep changes to not just the government, but also how their citizenry looked to the government. That can be seen by the extent the opposition parties adopted the successful free market, free trading policies of those two. It is interesting that Reagan and Thatcher are remembered as the defining leaders of the postwar era for their respective countries. Meanwhile Mulroney is probably the most detested politician in Canada in the last century. You can take it for granted that your opposition will hate you, even if you make an effort to appease them. But if you abandon your supporters in the process that is a recipe for a true catastrophe. I hope, but don’t really expect the Charest government will have the courage to see the process through.

The CBC seeks public input! 

CBC Survey – Inquire about fabulous prizes!!

In today’s National Post there’s a story about the CBC randomly calling Deborah Grey for a survey about a certain Hockey Night in Canada commentator, building up to the question:
Do you think he is racist?

I, for one, am very happy to see them so concerned about the public’s opinion about the CBC for a change, it usually being a place stuffed with Liberal Party hacks indifferent to the public. But just what are they trying to suggest by asking such a question? Oh no, they’re not making any accusations, just soliciting input from the public. Well, I think we should help them, and in contrast to their usual procedures I won’t be double billing them. In fact, this valuable public input is completely gratis. So fill out this survey, send it in and ask them if there are any fabulous prizes to be won.

Fill in your response to the following questions:
a) Strongly agree b) Mostly agree c) Somewhat agree d) Dunno

1. Do you think the CBC is stuffed with flaming Liberal bias and anti-Americanism?

2. Do you think the Liberal Party of Canada is a den of thieves?

3. Do you think the President of the CBC beats his wife?

4. Do you agree the Liberal Party of Canada deliberately stuffs the CBC with terrorist sympathizers?

5. Do you think the President of the CBC can be trusted with little boys?

6. Do you think it’s cruel to make toques with Liberal Party logos out of little puppies and kittens?

So fill out this survey and send it to the CBC at cbcinput@toronto.cbc.ca, and don’t forget to copy the Liberal Party of Canada at their feedback page. And don’t forget to inquire if they are offering any fabulous prizes.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Nous sommes en direct de la Rue des Pussies 

I’ve been mulling over how to write a post defending Quebec-bashing, the ultimate political incorrectness in Canada these days. Now when I say Quebec-bashing I don’t mean insulting the fine people of Quebec or la Belle Province itself. If it weren’t such a fine place to live I wouldn’t live here. But the political environment of Quebec is – different. Not necessarily scandal-ridden or corrupt, as Paul Wells will leap to say, but the entire political discourse in Quebec exists in a slightly different universe. It’s difficult to address the topic without being put on a seven second delay but I’ll give it a try.

In his Opinion Journal article Mark Steyn puts it like this:
Today modern Trudeaupian Canada, being semi-French, is a semi-detached member of the Anglosphere. A year ago public opinion in English Canada was more or less as pro-war as Britain and Australia. Over 60% of Canadians outside Quebec supported American action against Saddam. But French Canada was overwhelmingly antiwar. The only difference between the "conscription crisis" of World War II and the antiwar sentiment re Iraq is that this time around Quebec's position decided Canada's. The "Francization" of the political culture has ensured that the entire country has been relocated to the rue des Pussies.

“Francization” is an interesting way to put it. One can look around the globe at the respective legacies of the British and French empires and notice the former French colonies are a decidedly unattractive lot. While the British Commonwealth has had a few dictatorships like Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, they tend to be the exceptions rather than the rule. In meetings of la Francophonie the reverse tends to be the case. The difference is that French governance has always been very centralized, top down and statist, while the British tradition is the opposite: decentralized and bottom up. And prior to 1968 federal politicians from Quebec found the Anglo heritage of traditional liberalism and limited government rather attractive. This speech by Wilfred Laurier deserves to be read in its entirety, but here are a couple of excerpts:
Whenever people live under good laws, well administered, and they are prosperous, they never resort to revolution. Whenever people are happy under free institutions, each succeeding decade only makes them more loyal and contented, and I have no doubt for my part that the American citizen who settles in the Northwest Territories and become a British subject under Canadian laws will in the course of time develop into a good Canadian, and his children turn out still better Canadians than himself. (Cheers). But, sir, while we claim with pride that we are a nation, we claim with equal pride that we are subjects of the British Crown - (hear, hear) - with equal pride, I say, because our colonial status carries no inferiority with it: it is not subjection…..

No one could have supposed, for instance, in 1837, when there was a rebellion in my own Province of Lower Canada, when there was a rebellion in the Province of Upper Canada, that four years afterwards the same two Provinces would have been entrusted with responsible government; that the motherland would not hesitate to place in the hands of men who had been in rebellion the powers of self-government. So she did, however, and the result was to convert men who had been rebellious into the most loyal subjects of the British Crown. Sir, in the past Canada has been the pioneer in what I deem to be the civilization of the world, which shall be based upon peace.

If Quebec produced politicians that could read a Laurier speech without gagging on all of its core principles there would be no inclination to Quebec-bashing, but we don’t. It’s kind of odd the bien-pensants of today aren’t trying to get Laurier’s face removed from our $5 bill and all those landmarks named after him renamed. Up until 1968 the British model of decentralized free institutions suited Canada fine, even when the Prime Minister was a French Canadian. Until then if there was a conflict between French and Anglo ideas it tended to be the Anglo majority that would triumph. That only changed when we elected a megalomaniac who decided to remodel the federal government into something more amenable to the French intellectuals on the left bank of the Seine. The French intellectuals and their fellow travelers may sneer at McDonald’s fast food, but when it comes to government they insist on SuperSizing and centralizing it. It is natural in France to have the national government micromanage regional, urban, health and educational affairs, right down to schoolgirls’ headwear. But it is a decidedly unnatural act to attempt to have one level of parliament micromanage another as we’ve been trying to do since Trudeau’s time. I don’t know how the idea ever penetrated anyone’s consciousness that if you were unsatisfied with the results of your municipal or provincial government the solution was to have the federal government browbeat them into submission rather than elect a more agreeable government in the jurisdiction in question. But somehow this idea made its way from being one of those things so dumb only an intellectual could believe them to being conventional wisdom. And it appears Paul Martin thinks the main problem with the federal government is it doesn’t intrude sufficiently into provincial jurisdictions of health care, education and cities. And if he can just throw enough money at them they can be controlled centrally, too. It is a colossally dumb way to run a federation.

And so, since 1968 we’ve had successive governments trying to operate a decentralized federation as if it were a centralized state in the French model. So we witness the bizarre spectacle of Ralph Klein trying to bring in reforms in the delivery of medical care while the federal government does everything in their power to resist it. Or we see British Columbia attempting to develop their own offshore oil resources while the federal government imposes a moratorium.

This centralizing Big Government philosophy tends to come from Quebec politicians, following fashionable French ideas. Since the Quiet Revolution we’ve had provincial politicians building a bloated Quebec Inc. centred in Quebec City, while Quebec federalist politicians were duplicating their handiwork in Ottawa. It’s true the federal ones also had allies in Ontario and the east but it was always led by francophone Prime Ministers.

The Reform party took a lot of flack for their ads raising the specter of a never-ending series of Prime Ministers from Quebec. But you can’t compress a dissertation of what’s wrong with Quebec politicians into a 30 second ad. They produced reams of documents, policy positions and speeches on how they planned to reform the federal government – much of which amounted to reversing the Trudeaupian revolution, or as Steyn would put it, to undo the “Francization” of the political culture.

So Paul Wells can rail against Quebec politicians being picked on (Every redneck francophobe in the country will roll his eyes as news of this mess gets out, and say: "Well, you know, this is what always goes on in Quebec."), but here’s a certain underlying truth: Size of provincial government as % of GDP:
Alberta 17%
Quebec 25%

And when it comes to governing philosophy, size matters. It is not entirely incorrect to generalize that Quebec politicians will lean toward the interventionist, dirigiste, l’état c’est moi philosophy as is fashionable in France, and Albertans won’t. That wasn’t true in Laurier’s time, but it is in ours. And it is certainly true that bloated, interventionist governments attract charlatans, hucksters and crooks like moths to a flame. So if that’s the type of Quebec-bashing people want to engage in, I say bring it on. And if they aren’t always completely articulate about “how politics is done in Quebec” I think we might want to cut them a little slack. It is intellectually dishonest to simultaneously endorse Quebec’s “distinct society” as most progressive Anglos are inclined to do while making it taboo to discuss certain aspects of its distinctiveness.

Another opportunity to be offended 

Jonah Goldberg:
isn't it also possible that some of Quebec's French culture has been "Canadified"? -- i.e. the French Canadians have adopted the humorless, thin-skinned, bitter and defensive UN-o-phillic schtick of their Anglo bretheren? In my Canada cover story I noted that I found the country to be turning into a giant college campus where political correctness reigned supreme and the only "intelligent" position was stupid anti-Americanism.

Quick, call the Official Languages Commissioner to launch an investigation.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Scandal's over folks, move on 

Taking our cue from the Globe, we’ll all just have to agree that there are more important things to talk about than the observation that our democracy is declining into a vindictive kleptocracy. Nothing more to see here folks.

So, moving right along, let’s talk about other things

Kyoto: Mr. Martin, we’ve observed in awe how a simple matter of plastering Quebec with billboards and flags descended into a sordid tale of money laundering, fraud, and cronyism. Can you give us some idea of the possibilities we should expect when you introduce a Bovine Flatulence Mitigation Program as part of the Kyoto commitments? The possibilities for junk science hucksters seem breathtaking.

I’d like to get a grant converting all those used billboards in Quebec into giant rickety windmills flying government logos. This sounds like a perfect fit for your Kyoto Quebec program. Where should I submit my application?

New Deal for Cities: Will part of this new deal involve mayors getting raided by the RCMP and being subjected to vindictive career destruction by Liberal bagmen as happened to François Beaudoin? I’m just trying to get an idea of what kind of fringe benefits may be attached to your handouts if you find the mayors’ cooperation insufficient.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The Dutch enforce the law 

It’s an interesting state of affairs in the western world when a decision to enforce the law is controversial news. But so it is. The Dutch have been in the news a lot lately, most notably by candidly assessing the impact of multiculturalism and deeming it a thirty year failure. Like almost every other western country the Dutch have compassionate laws that give due process to refuge claimants. Asylum seekers have the opportunity to state their case and if there are genuine reasons to grant asylum status they can stay. Unlike almost every other western country they’ve recently decided that the result of that process matters, and that a finding of “No” means you’ll have to leave.

That is certainly a radically different approach from Canada. A group of Pakistanis who violated immigration law by claiming to go to bogus schools protested that they were victims of racial profiling when they were finally arrested. Unfortunately, we couldn’t honestly deny that claim because if all they were doing was making a mockery of immigration laws they almost certainly would have been left alone. They drew attention to themselves in a few ways, but the fact that they were from an area of Islamic militants probably tipped the balance and stirred the authorities into action. Normally if immigration or refuge findings go against them people can just disappear without being deported.

Somehow the chattering classes have managed set the parameters of debate so that even if you have generous immigration and refuge laws the idea of actually enforcing them is a taboo topic confined to the lunatic fringe of racists. I am greatly impressed to see the Dutch starting to shake off such taboos and start to candidly and honestly debate such shibboleths as multiculturalism and bogus refugee claimants. The Dutch are open, fair-minded people and it would be obscene to label them as intolerant for tackling these subjects. Let’s hope they are breaking a trail for the rest of us.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Will these spam scams never end? 

Request For Urgent Business Relationship


My name is Paul and I was the Minister of Finance in a corrupt one party state. Jean and I have $100 million dollars trapped in our joint account at a Caisse Populaire in Shawinigan. I urgently need your assistance in freeing these trapped funds.

You see this corrupt one-party state isn’t corrupt any more. Oh, no. We are an honest, transparent, forthright government committed to the highest ideals of government service. Together we stand on the edge of the future, where the politics of achievement will unleash potential hitherto unimagined. But first, there’s the matter of the money. I have to get rid of it before the public inquiry finds it and I need your help.

Do NOT send your banking information (What do you think this is, some Nigerian scam?). No, just bring a bunch of empty suitcases and take this letter to your local RCMP and they’ll set you up with a non-government account. They’ll close the account and destroy the evidence after the money has been transferred and you’ve packed the suitcases. You might want to rent a pickup truck to carry them. Don’t worry about getting the police involved, they’re on the side of the good guys. They’ve done this sort of thing before.

Then all you have to do is take the money down to the port of Montreal and put in on the next CSL ship bound for the Caribbean, and the Captain will give you your commission on the transaction. You can recognize the ship easily; it’s the one flying the Liberian flag. Oh, and you might want to bring a translator who knows a bunch a Third World languages. These ships are staffed with a bunch of illiterates, but once you’ve delivered the message they’ll know to which tax haven they have to go. They’ve made this run with the other $161 million.

But please hurry. I need your help with this urgently

Your friend,

Monday, February 16, 2004

Commanding Heights

If you get TVO I recommend checking out a documentary series on economics they are running called Commanding Heights at 10:00 PM Mondays. I watched last week and was presently surprised to see them give a fair portrayal of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, rather than the worship of all things statist that I expected. I understand Thatcher and Reagan make an appearance this week. It should be interesting, if last week’s show is any indication.

What do these names have in common? 

Here’s a skill-testing question for you. What is the common thread running through these names that have been in the news over the last few years:

Lawrence MacAulay
Alex MacAulay
François Beaudoin
Juliet O’Neill
Lafleur, Media/I.D.A. Vision and Gosselin

In case your memory needs to be refreshed, Lawrence MacAulay is a former Solicitor-General from PEI. He resigned after it was exposed that he lobbied the RCMP to issue a $3.5 million grant to his brother.

Alex MacAulay – the brother of Lawrence who runs a college in PEI.

François Beaudoin – former President of the Business Development Bank. He asked uncomfortable questions about the now famous loan in Shawinigan. Once he actually tried to call the Liberal Party made an example of him, sort of a demonstration effect should anyone have any question about what to do in the event one must choose between protecting taxpayer’s money and carrying out Liberal Party partisan activity. He was fired, had his home and business office raided by the RCMP, subjected to a vindictive prosecution in an attempt to destroy his career, and, after four years of legal hell entirely vindicated. If anyone wants to know why so few questions were asked about the sponsorship scandal one only need to look at the case of François Beaudoin to understand completely.

Juliet O’Neill – An Ottawa Citizen reporter investigating the story of Maher Arar. Once she wrote a story that was embarrassing to the government she got her home and office raided by the RCMP, had her computers and Rolodex seized, and threatened with criminal prosecution.

Lafleur, Media/I.D.A. Vision and Gosselin – From a CP story:
Public Works contributed $3 million to a trio of ad agencies - Lafleur, Media/I.D.A. Vision and Gosselin - who were responsible for transferring the money to the RCMP.

Those three agencies took a combined $1.3 million in fees and commissions and transferred $1.7 million to the RCMP for its anniversary celebration.

Fraser's audit concluded that the RCMP's Quebec division received its payments through a separate non-government bank account, which violates the federal Financial Administration Act.

The transactions were recorded manually rather than in the RCMP's standard accounting system, and some of the supporting documents were subsequently destroyed.

See the pattern yet? In every case the RCMP was engaged in partisan activity.

At the time the MacAulay story broke I wasn’t particularly interested in the fact that they were brothers. Instead I was simply speechless at the revelation that the RCMP was being used as yet another agency for regional distribution of pork. Out of the alphabet soup of agencies hosing cash around the maritimes it had never once dawned on me that the RCMP were in that business as well. GrandCanada.com is a handy site that lists 145 federal grant programs and a further 16 provincial programs but nowhere does it say that in a pinch you can shake down the RCMP for handouts, too. For that kind of insight you need to be an appropriately well connected Liberal crony.

Any one of these stories is astonishing enough. But the sheer weight of them together paints an astounding picture of the RCMP doing the partisan work of the Liberal Party. Giving out grants, prosecuting those who break the code of silence, and even laundering money through non-government accounts.

This is the legacy of decades of arrogant Liberal rule. They’ve turned a once proud institution into something that resembles the personal security force of some tin pot dictatorship in the Arab League.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Quebec – A Dangerous Beast? 

From Robert Fulford’s column in Saturday’s National Post:
Ottawa, never less than condescending toward the non-Ottawa universe, treats Quebec as a dangerous beast that must regularly be thrown chunks of meat – a big contract here, an IMAX movie screen there, yet another transfer of federal jurisdiction to Quebec.

True enough as far as it goes. But the kleptocratic system is not by any means limited to Quebec. Perhaps Quebec politicians bear the largest burden of blame for having created it, and expanded it to the grotesque size it is today. I particularly blame Trudeau, who unabashedly set out to reengineer society through federal government “redistribution”. He created a vast array of regional development agencies, departments, Crown corporations and contracting processes that entrenched graft as official policy in plain sight. You don’t have to send investigative reporters undercover to eavesdrop on conversations in smoky rooms. You just have to read the mission statement of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. Or the gravy train embedded in Employment Insurance. Or the vast array of corporate welfare programs dressed up in fancy acronyms with high-minded mission statements. Or the handouts for ethnics buried in all the multicultural programs. As junior multiculturalism minister Jean Augustine says “we don’t want a program for youth at risk, we want a program for black youth at risk”. Everyone knows what these are. In many parts of the country elections are bidding wars held in plain sight. What kind of government runs a google ad for GrantCanada.com with a slogan Free money for you?. The kleptocracy goes on-line.

Over the decades the Liberals have explicitly balkanized the country into targeted groups of voting blocks to toss meat and circuses to. Thus, they created the territory of Nunavut, for more efficient pandering to ethnic Inuit.

A lot of these scandals target Quebec. But that is because ethnic francophones make up a fairly large voting block. There are about fifty seats in Quebec that reliably swing together. Generally a party will win either zero or all fifty of these seats, making them a particular focus. But the various handout schemes around the country differ only in size, not in kind. Anyone who voted for this stuff is in some way complicit in the corruption scandals today.

Saturday, February 14, 2004


Laurent at Polysopique is taking on the conservative bloggers:
You want to know why the Conservative party has less support in Quebec than the Marijuana party - even though the right-wing third party ADQ won 20% of the vote in the provincial elections? Just look at these bloggers. As soon as French-bashing is on the table, any limited government principles, any talk about responsible use of taxpayer money, goes out of the window (along with the taxpayer money). Even Alexa McDonough - Alexa McDonough - scores higher on fiscal responsibility on this one

Well now, where to start? I guess the first thing is not to confuse the Conservative party with bloggers who may be conservative. I am not a memer of any party, Debbye is American and probably can't even vote. Of those you mentioned Damian is the only one I know to be a member of the Conservative Party.

And Laurent you do realize that the insults are, like, from a sock puppet? And the puppet's name is Comic the Insult dog? The entire schtick is that the dog goes places and insults people, in this case the people happen to be in Quebec. If anyone were to actually take offense at this, well that would appear to vindicate Kathy's comment below. I still find it hard to believe any normal person could take offense, though professional grievance-mongers can be expected to leap on the opportunity, as they leap on any opportunity engage in their practice.

Alexa Mcdonough scores higher on fiscal responsibility? Be serious. She doesn't object to federal subsidies of anything, let alone American talk show hosts promoting Toronto. But the purpose of these subsidies is to turn everything into a Patron-client relationship, as in a corrupt Petrostate. So she is engaging in the patron role, exercising the power to rescind subsidies by expressing disapproval of the content.

CHUM understands their place in this hierarchy perfectly well:
We offer our apology and assurance that it is never our intention to air programming that risks our subsidies or CRTC license offends our viewers.

Knowing full well the complaints are coming from every direction except their viewers.

But Laurent does have a point. Conservatives MPs should be using this opportunity to pound home the lesson that this is exactly why activities like this should not be subsidized in the first place. The PC brigades are outraged today. The CBC/Radio-Canada outrage us small government libertarian types every day with their 24 hour propaganda promoting everything we're against. So if some experience a little schadenfreude watching the boondoggle boomerang for once, that is hardly unexpected.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Your ire is misdirected

Over at Damian's blog Kathy made this comment:
Quebeckers once again reveal their thin-skinned immaturity. For folks who pride themselves on worldly sophistication, they seem strangely unaware of such cultural notions as "kidding", "ribbing" and so forth.

Why exactly do we Anglos (I'm thinking of the Globe gal, and Taylor Parnaby today on CFRB, who was an embarrassment of outrage) pretend to get so worked up about this, the Cherry business and so forth? Do we really buy that old thing about them being The Niggers of Canada. Why do we have to pretend to be all shocked just because they are too?

Frankly, I thought I'd die laughing this morning when I heard that routine. "Learn the language" is apt enough, but the best one was aimed at a fat guy: "I thought Babar lived in Paris!" Man, my boyfriend and I just got ourselves a new catch phrase.

Lighten up, frogs, or leave! Oh, and learn English. God, they bug me!

I would like to point out that it wasn't the Quebecois who lit up with complaints about Don Cherry. Nor was your typical Jacques in Quebec complaining about Conan. Believe it or not the Quebecois do have a sense of humour, and recognize satire when they see it.

It isn't Muslims, Sikhs or Jews who have erased Christmas from public life either. No, that task has fallen entirely on anal retentive self-appointed PC moral arbiters that are almost entirely white anglo leftists, pre-emptively feigning offense on others' behalf. Now the real scandal is our esteemed Parliament debating the utterances of sock puppets. You'd think they'd have more important matters on their hands, but evidently sock puppets are at the top of the list.

Those evil capitalist teachers

I've often wondered when it would it finally dawn on those anti-capitalist types that their retirements depend upon investment returns from the very companies that they are howling at. Through their pension funds or mutual funds they are themselves the evil capitalist exploiters, though this fact seems to escape their notice most of the time.

It appears that this realization is slowly sinking in at the Sierra Club, turning its sights on "Canada’s coal barons, profiting from asthma, mercury poisoning, and global warming". That is, the Ontario Teacher's pension fund.

Cool. I like their line of thinking. If the teachers sincerely believe in the urgent necessity of affordable housing, let their pension funds build luxury appartments offered at compassionate, affordable rents rather than commercial office towers, I say. Forgivable loans to third world countries? A fine idea, I say. Just do it with your money, not mine.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

One less armed robber

Quebec police come in for a lot of criticism, much of it justified, but it looks like at least one officer was on the ball in Hull last night:
Un policier de Gatineau a atteint d'un coup de feu mortel, hier soir, un suspect qui tentait de prendre la fuite après avoir commis un vol qualifié au dépanneur L'Escale, du 487, boulevard Alexandre-Taché, dans le secteur Hull.

La victime est un chauffeur de taxi d'Ottawa Jiorge Giraldo, âgé de 34 ans. Son comparse, Dimitri Kalif, 26 ans, lui aussi chauffeur de taxi, n'a subi aucune blessure.

Le coup de feu du policier est survenu après une longue période où lui et la victime se sont tenus en joue.

So a rapid response to catch an armed robbery in progress, attempt to arrest is made but armed robber refuses to cooperate and gets himself plugged. A job well done, all in all. Let's hope the media can figure out who's the victim and who's the criminal in this affair.

Update: It turns out the gun the guy was waving around was fake. Pretty bizarre, but I certainly don't question the cops' judgement. If a guy waves around something that looks like a gun you act accordingly. It's not the responsibility of the cop to determine that it's a real gun and it's loaded. If the guy's actually crazy enough to threaten cops with a fake gun, well, you pop him and wonder why he was crazy enough to do that over a coffee.

Which made me think of Saddam. It's certainly strange that he was crazy enough to get himself invaded. One of those things you wonder about, but we see he isn't unique. He had a kindred spirit in Hull Wednesday evening.
A colossal intelligence failure

This, from the NY Times:
A complacent Saddam Hussein was so convinced that war would be averted or that America would mount only a limited bombing campaign that he deployed the Iraqi military to crush domestic uprisings rather than defend against a ground invasion, according to a classified log of interrogations of captured Iraqi leaders and former officers.

It's one thing to get a WMD assessment wrong. But how could Saddam possibly not know that Clinton was no longer President?

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Kanada’s Krony Kleptocracy

I think the most penetrating article I’ve read about Canada’s political culture was not written about Canada at all. It’s a treatise on the culture of a Petrostate. Obviously significant differences exist, but the massive Trudeau-era transformation of the state from governing to distributor of handouts has its parallels.
The petrostate trick is to turn oil money into power - control of the state’s oil money into control of the state - in a self-perpetuating cycle. The way you do that is by building a huge web of patron-client relationships.

The party organizer in my little tale was able to use his influence over a small share of the state’s oil money – just enough to build a basketball court - to fund a miniature local patronage network. His clients - the basketball players - would reciprocate on election day...not due to any sort of ideological affinity, but simply to keep their access to his influence over funds open. And he would use his influence over them, his ability to mobilize them for political purposes, to bolster his position in his role as client to the next patron up the line, the mayor.
No doubt the funds that made it possible were mercilessly stripped at every step of the ladder from presidential palace to dusty street, but the court did eventually get built and used. So while it was inefficient, bloated, antidemocratic, and everything else, the system was not totally useless - and in its own amoral way, even the corruption served as a rough-and-ready way to spread the oil money around, to make sure its benefits reached many hands, not just a few. In a sense, even the recipients of the final product - the basketball players - were part of the sprawling corruption scheme: it's just that they got paid off for their services in courts and basketball gear rather than cash.

This article is talking about how a petrostate distributes booty throughout the country, simultaneously corrupting those who give it and building a dependency on those who receive it. It is not, but just as easily could be talking about Bombardier’s planes, east coast fishermen, the agencies of regional distribution of pork, companies lining up for Technology Partnership investments, and pretty soon every mayor of large Canadian cities. The problem is not so much the corruption itself, but the effect over time on the political culture. The slow acceptance of the unacceptable.
It’s also important to note that the Petrostate is not simply a system of social relations - a huge pyramid linking everone who's on the take - it's also a cultural system, an interlocking set of beliefs, a state of mind. The kids I met had no doubt that if they wanted a basketball court, it was the state's job to build them one - after all, wasn't the country awash in oil money? Insofar as the Petrostate has a culture, that is its founding myth - the notion that the government has so much oil money that it can, and should, bankroll the needs and desires of the entire society.

Within the petrostate mental model that, in fact, is the state's purpose, and governments are to be judged by how well they deliver on that promise.

I think it’s fair to say huge numbers of Canadians no longer look to the government to simply enforce the law and to maintain order, but to deliver the goods. And while Canada is not funded completely by oil revenues, the number of net contributors to the state’s finances has flipped into being a minority of easily demonized Albertans, rich people and private corporations. So the source of the revenue is different, but the use of the public treasury is pretty similar.
Throughout the 50s, 60s and into the mid 70s, the petrostate led to a huge improvement in Venezuelans' standards of living. Infrastructure got built, people got jobs, and each generation could reasonably expect to live better than the one before. The country got universal schooling, free universities, hospitals, public housing, sewers, phones, roads, highways, ports, airports, all these signs of modernity decades before other Latin American countries had them. Less tangibly but just as importantly, the petrostate also bankrolled institutions such as paid maternity leave, unemployment benefits, old age pensions, statutory vacation pay, all the way back in the 1960s.

Gosh, this Venezuela place sounds kinda familiar. How did it evolve from there?
Another key part of the petrostate model that's often overlooked is that by creating this huge patron-client networks, the political parties became big and strong enough to make democracy viable. The web of social relationships created by clientelism - now such a reviled word - were actually healthy for society back then. Those relationships ensured that enough people were socially and emotionally attached to democratic institutions, that enough people felt they had a personal stake in the political system, to keep the whole society stable and democratic. And it worked, the system worked. There were elections every five years, parties routinely and peacefully alternated in power, Venezuela was an island of democracy and stability in a continent torn apart by Marxist insurgents and coup-plotting reactionary generals.

Well, that sounds a lot like Trudeaupia, where we could trade Trudeau for Mulroney for Chretien for Martin, but the whole corrupt enterprise remained in place, being remarkably resistant to a change in character. So it can remain stable for fairly long periods. What’s the downside?
But there was also much to dislike about the model. For one thing, it was built entirely on vertical social linkages, on relationships of dominance and subservience, rather than on the kinds of egalitarian, horizontal links that serve as the backbone of truly vibrant democracies. As Robert Putnam has been arguing for three decades, social systems dominated by vertical, patron-client links are anathema terrible for “social capital,” a fancy term to describe societies marked by a high level of diffuse, generalized trust. Without social capital, it’s difficult to build democratic institutions that ultimately work the way they’re supposed to. In a social system built on dominance/submission relationships, it’s very hard for citizens to come together as citizens, as equals who can deliberate, argue towards a common position on the basis of their ideas rather than their position within a hierarchical structure. So a social system based on patron-client relationships could support democracy in the narrow, formal sense of having an independent media and elections and a diversity of free political parties. But everyday social relations were very far from being democratic and egalitarian – in fact, they were just the opposite.

Sounds terrible. Sounds like it sets the seeds for the national police force to get into money laundering, intimidating people in development banks who ask unpleasant questions, or even raiding the homes of journalists. These are just kid glove forms of intimidation, in an otherwise benevolent dictatorship. But can a benign dictatorship of this sort go bad?
Now, there are many reasons why the relatively benign clientelism of the 50s and 60s devolved into the kleptocratic lunacy of the 80s and 90s. Corruption is the typical reason cited, but the truth is both more complex and less morally satisfying than that. The real reasons, in my view, have everything to do with the increasing volatility of the world oil market, together with good old demographics.
This boom and bust cycle was destructive on a number of counts. From a merely macroeconomic point of view, it's clear that economies don't do well under that sort of instability. More destructive than the market cycle itself, though, was the chronic government mismanagement of the cycle. The politicos seemed to believe that high prices would last forever, and so they would take out huge new debts even as money poured in at record rates. When prices fell, the boom-time excess would only fuel increasingly acute recessions, made all the worse by the new debt burden that had to be financed.

Well, that’s a bit of a relief. We have our economic cycles and demographic pressures, but nothing so wild as that experienced in a petrostate. Anything else to be concerned about?
But the most pernicious effects were cultural rather than economic. The huge influx of oil dollars in the 70s shifted public morals in this country. Amidst the abundance of oil dollars, graft became accepted in a way it had never been before. The perception was that only a pendejo, a simpleton, would miss out on the opportunities for easy riches that proliferated in those days for the well-connected. This culture of easy-going racketeering, of matter-of-fact robbery, penetrated deep into the Venezuelan psyche.

At the same time, population growth was diluting the oil wealth among a bigger and bigger pool of recipients, making the notion of petrodollar-funded prosperity for all ever less feasible from a purely arithmetical point of view.

Uh-oh. I don’t like where this is going. Expectations of government handouts while losing the ability to fund free health care, drug plans, welfare entitlements and the like.
By the late 1980s, the system had broken down irretrievably. Even if the politicians of the day had been a gaggle of angels gifted with Prussian administrative efficiency, there just wasn't enough oil money to go around. But the politicians were anything but angels - and the habits of graft had become so ingrained they wouldn't let them go, even when oil prices were low.

Beyond the purely financial incentives, though, patrons at every level became deeply enamored of power, of political power, social power, the power and prestige that came from having clients, from being a "big man" in town, a cacique, someone of prestige and authority and influence, someone who gets to boss underlings around.

This infatuation with interpersonal dominance made the entire system exceedingly difficult to reform, and particularly deaf to calls for reform from the outside. Never particularly suited to ideological debate, the system became ossified completely...power itself became its only ideology.

Now you’re getting me worried. Somehow it seems every level of government, every social agency in the country, every company in trouble is clamoring for a handout. The whole system seems, uh, deaf to calls for reform from the outside. Do you mean it may get worse?
They needed to invent a whole new idea of the state from scratch, to create a new state that would help citizens create wealth instead of distributing it to them...a radical notion for the times. What the country needed was nothing short of a total rethink of society, the state, and the relationship between the two: a very tall order.

And we failed.

That failure, in essence, in the reason Hugo Chavez is in power today. His political success is the inevitable logical outcome of our inability to reform petrostate model.

Uh-oh. You mean when the state fails to deliver the booty an undemocratic dictatorial madman eventually rises to the top on charismatic promises of free lunches for all.
Back in 1989, all you needed to do to realize how badly Venezuela needed reform was pick up a phone. On a bad day it could take 5 minutes or more to get a dial-tone.

But did it take more than 48 hours to see a doctor in emergency, or 22 months to get an MRI?
The government was a huge albatross around the nation’s neck – the public sector payroll was ridiculous bloated. To a worrying extent, the petrostate model had degenerated into a full-employment scheme for governing party members.
People were sick of it, and understandably so. But – and this is a crucial “but” – they didn’t see the need for root and branch reform. What they wanted was to see the petrostate fixed, not replaced. People longed for the bonanza days of the mid 70s, when windfall oil revenues financed a huge and rapid expansion in petrostate spending. If they were angry at politicians, it’s because they thought they had failed to deliver on their basic mission to meet everyone’s needs and desires by distributing the oil money fairly and generously. Do that, they figured, and the country could relive the good old days of the mid 70s.
This all has to do with the mental model that underpins the Venezuelan petrostate, with the founding myth that Venezuela is a fantastically rich country and that all the state has to do is distribute those rents for everyone to be well off.

Ah, a belief in endless entitlements from the government. That would be bad.
The complicated structural and demographic reasons that made the petrostate model fundamentally non-viable were not a part of the national debate.

Uh-oh. Vast numbers of people, agencies and companies dependent on handouts but the politicians aren’t having a candid debate about the realistic limitations of what the state can deliver? Sounds troubling, indeed.

I suggest you read the whole thing. If you want to see an example of a reasonably benign and democratic place where the state has built vast dependency networks crumble into violence and chaos, that is a rather chilling read. Tyranny doesn’t happen all at once. The seeds of dependency are planted over decades, subtly changing the relationships in society over long periods. If you want to read a real life descent a long way along The Road to Serfdom this article provides an excellent example

An opportunity missed

*Bangs head on desk*. All this screen space, so little revenue generated. What an opportunity to combine Government Online, the sponsorship program and Technology Partnerships. Why, I'd plaster this site with Government of Canada logos, links and Liberal Party slogans top to bottom for, say, a couple of mil. I'd want to use a secret bank account, but I understand the RCMP is in the business of arranging that now.

Ah well, probably too late now.
I am shocked, shocked at the abuse

Just like PM the PM, Finance Minister at the time all this skimming was going on. Just shocked at this revelation, I tell you.

Who would have thought the government that engineered vast multi-billion dollar transfers from ordinary taxpayers to an array of Lib-friendy businesses through an alphabet soup of organizations over many decades would be skimming some for themselves? Shocked, I assure you.

It is sort of shocking in a way. They engineer billions of transfers quite legally through Technology Partnerships, ACOA, and dozens of other agencies. It is sort of shocking they found it necessary to take the fake invoice route.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Cute headline in the Globe:

Gagliano played politics the old way.
Victory, he and his organizers decided, would come not on the strength of ideas but from strength on the ground.

Mr. Gagliano figured he no longer had time to appeal to all 8,000 eligible voters in the city's St-Léonard neighbourhood. He focused instead on calling 2,500 fellow Italian immigrants on the voters list.

Ah, yes. The old way. Not at all the way things are done today in the new new new Liberal Party. They wouldn't think of bulk buying tens of thousands of Indo-Canadian memberships. Nope. Those days are looong gone.

Mark Steyn on the deranged Dominion

A small excerpt from the washed up Canadian here:
since when is it a crime to be “hurtful”?

Well, if I had to name a date, I’d say April 17th 1982 when, by proclamation of Her Majesty the Queen, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect. The rough’n’tumble of a free society may have its drawbacks, but better unregulated intolerance than tolerance enforced through regulation. We really do have a country where “hurtfulness” is policed.

I'd have to disagree with him on that. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been used as an excuse for judicial activism of all sorts, but I don't think it has anything to do Canada's transformation into a benevolent (so far) dictatorship. If anything, the Charter has been used to trim back the encroachment of the state at times, such as the numerous times the National Citizens Coalition has successfully struck down election gag laws.

And judges don't need a new Charter to become activist. The Massachusetts constitution hasn't been changed for a very long time, except that in a way it has. At some point the invisible ink declaring a right to homosexual marriage became visible and thus became law. And Israel has arguably the western world's most activist court, though they don't have a written constitution at all. If we didn't have a new Charter I believe our judiciary would have found other rationalizations for their judgements.

If I had to pick a date, I'd say the spring of 1968 when Trudeaumania swept the land. That was the beginning of the transformation of the Canadian public from rugged individualists to being content to place their fate in the hands of Big Government, led my a megalomaniac. They've meekly stood by ever since watching one outrage after another pass without rousing themselves from their stupor. Before 1968 one could not imagine Canadians passively standing by while the government and unelected judges tell them how to live their lives. That didn't just happen as a matter of law, it's a process over decades of steadily handing over responsibilities large and small from individuals to the nanny state. It's tempting to blame the Liberals for it all, but really the Canadian public has been fully complicit in the transformation.

A small example. I live at the bottom of a hill in Gatineau. During any winter thaw slush and ice tend to block the drains and my street turns into a vast lake, which, if left unattended, turns into a huge mess if allowed to refreeze. In the worst case it could even flood the basements of a couple of lower houses, though mine is high enough. Yet, in fifteen years I've never seen anyone else do what I do, which is take a shovel and ice pick and clear three or four drains, then periodically make sure they stay clear. Everyone else on the street just calls the city and complains. Sometimes the city sends a unionized fellow with a front end loader to clear the drains, only to have them block again 20 minutes after he's gone, at which point they call and complain again. They've been thoroughly socialized to depend on the government to deal with their problems and that's that. So whether it's rising water on the street or "hurtfulness" on the airwaves, it's Big Brother's job to ensure your life is untroubled by anything uncomfortable. One can hope for the next generation to shake itself out of this stupor but I don't have much hope for the boomer generation.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Why does the government own a bank?

In all this controversy over Shawinigate and the loans to dodgy hotel owners I have never seen an adequate justification of why the government owns a bank at all. I happen to be a shareholder in the Canadian Western Bank, which appears to do a fine job of financing small businesses such as hotels and golf courses in western Canada. Only it does so without government guarantees on its capital or political appointments to its board, or in fact, any political conflicts of interest at all. Not only that, I, a taxpayer, can decide whether I'm comfortable owning its shares or not.

So what's up with the BDC? If its purpose is not to take orders from politicians why is it a public company at all?
Enemies of ...

David Warren, writing on the topic of activist judges wrote:

I am more and more convinced that we must drop the pretence that these judges are fulfilling a legitimate mandate. They are the deadly enemies of all we hold dear.

At the time I read that I thought he was engaging in a little rhetorical exaggeration, but now I think he has a point. He was writing about judges imposing homosexual marriage. I don't particularly care about that topic; live and let live is my view. But I do care that judges are so utterly contemptuous of centuries of democratic tradition that they would impose such a thing by judicial fiat. Speaking of contempt of centuries of democratic traditions, how's this:
We don't want something for youth at risk, we want something for black youth at risk.

That was Aug. 29, 2001 - from a speech in Toronto announcing special Liberal government support programs for black youths, by a not particularly honourable Jean Augustine. Once upon a time democratic self-government involved quaint notions of laws applying equally to all. That was before our il-Liberal government discovered the joys of ethnic pandering. One guesses that somewhere in a backroom someone said:
We don't want a minister of ethnic pandering, we want a minister of pandering to ethnic black feminist women

And so on May 26, 2002, Ms. Augustine became Secretary of State (Multiculturalism) (Status of Women). A veritable smorgasbord of pandering, complete with limo.

At this point I am more and more convinced that we must drop the pretence that this ethnic pandering is nothing more than sleazy but harmless recruiting and vote buying for the il-Liberal Party. It is producing a fifth column of people so out of touch with actual Canadian traditions that they are deadly enemies of continued democratic rule. Issuing a fatwa silencing a heretic used to come from theocratic regimes with no tradition respecting free expression and debate. Now if someone questions the sacred orthodoxies of Liberal pandering multiculturalism they run a serious risk of being prosecuted for hate crimes, or at least being subjected to a two minute hate as Don Cherry is currently experiencing. But it gets worse than that. Consider the case of Gerry Nicholls of the National Citizens Coalition. They ran a television ad during an election campaign and face the possibility of five years in prison. So far courts have struck down these laws as unconstitutional when push comes to shove, but now, who knows? They will challenge the law tomorrow at the Supreme Court. Given how so many of these multicult panderers twist words to mean their opposite, we have a real reason to fear how the Supreme Court will interpret our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It says:
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
d) freedom of association.

But, being in touch with the zeitgeist of their class, one has legitimate fears that they may lean more towards the latest fatwa issued by Jean Augustine, their token immigrant black woman feminist:
The government will not tolerate statements that create dissonance in our society and disrespect for others.

Which, in a single statement expresses profound contempt for centuries of tradition of free expression in a parliamentary democracy such as ours. The woman is utterly unfit to be a minister of the government with such authoritarian impulses. We have nothing to fear from Don Cherry's musings about visors, but a great deal from these multicult mobs determined to turn tolerance into tyranny.

One would hope that at the very least this woman would be forced to make an abject apology, promise to go back to basics and learn that her duty is to uphold the constitution, not to undermine it. She could start by learning a little respect for us grubby little citizens, ‘cause her fatwas are creating a dangerous dissonance among many of us.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Idiot du jour - Jean Augustine
The government will not tolerate statements that create dissonance in our society and disrespect for others.

I don't have time to do this justice, but you, madame, are about to be on the receiving end of a heaping helping of dissonance and disrespect. Meantime I will allow the breathtaking arrogance of that statement stand by itself and calm myself down by taking an unregistered rifle and putting 20,000 holes in Liberal campaign signs.

But just think for a moment what the reaction would be if either John Ashcroft or George Bush had said something like that.

Friday, February 06, 2004

New deal for cities - We lecture, you obey

For all those mayors begging to be put on the federal dole it didn't take David Anderson long to decide that the federal government will start giving cities advice:
He suggested municipalities should consider measures to coax people from cars into public transit.

"We're going to have to do what Ken Livingston did in the City of London," said Anderson, referring to the mayor who last year imposed fees on cars entering the centre of the British capital.

I'm idly curious about how many mayors or city councilors in Canada ran on a platform of making their urban centers toll zones. It would be even more interesting if any did so successfully. But no matter. Once the cities are dependent on federal handouts they'll be beholden to federal conditions on it.

It may seem like a good idea to have another level of government do your taxing for you, but it isn't.

Reforming Socialism

I just noticed this from David Kasper: Germany has progressed, I suppose:
German Social Workers Face Office Rage ... As the nation continues to downsize health, unemployment and welfare services, violent incidents are on the rise. ... "Our employees are worried. They've been threatened, there've been physical attacks. We had one visitor here who ran through the corridors with a canister filled with gasoline. And the fear grows with each incident..."

In the past when we had a severe case of political rage we simply conquered France (in the morning; afternoon was free for sightseeing) to cool our temper. It's just not what it used to be...

One hopes that reforming the welfare state can be accomplished with less disruption than reforming the Weimar Republic. It's an interesting reminder that when grand utopian delusions come crashing back to Earth it is rarely a painless process. That's a good reason for not pursuing them in the first place.

Cheese eating visor wearers

In an interesting blend of French and Canadian traditions, we in Quebec can munch on our cheese curds while wearing a hockey visor, at least those curds left over after a pre-game meal of poutine. It's tough to eat cheese curds through a cage or full face mask, so the visor that just protects the eyes is a uniquely French-Canadian usage, if I understand Don Cherry correctly, though other Europeans may also use it.

An interesting theory, perhaps. It has spawned much media commentary, including an editorial in the Globe and Mail condemning him as "a loose cannon with a tendency toward anti-francophone bigotry." Their assessment: "It was pure bile."

Whether or not it was pure bile, we shall have a federal investigation by the Official Languages office. They have assigned two investigators to see if a federal violation of the Official Languages Act has occurred. I'm trying to work in a little parody here, guys, but you're making it tough. Two investigators? How will they divide their work?

I note that the federal investigation will determine whether or not such comments are acceptable, but not whether they are true. Given the media commentary so far, one is pretty sure that Don Cherry is unnacceptable among the chattering classes. The CBC finds him reprehensible but not resistable, given his popularity.

I think if a discussion about visors triggers a federal investigation it's time to privatize the CBC or shut down the Official Languages office. Both, would be my choice. So perhaps we have Don Cherry to thank for something after all.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Self-congratulation as policy

From the throne speech:
Today the government is proposing an ambitious agenda to set our country on this path, an agenda that should be measured and judged by the goals we have set and by the resolve and constancy by which they are pursued

Well, one can understand why they would not want us to judge by results achieved, or whether or not their policies make any sense. By their measures the gun registry is a big success. I have no doubt they have laudable goals of reducing gun crime. They are pursuing this waste of money with resolve and constancy. As long as one never stops to ask if pestering Saskatchewan duck hunters is the best way to combat urban gangs there’s a lot to like.

I caught a few minutes of PM the PM on the CBC last night, but I turned it off in disgust after he said he’d keep the registry, but ease some “bureaucratic irritants”. If I had any delusions that the new bunch was any different from the old that certainly put an end to them. It’s the same old bunch. We’ll get new new new new pointless, bureaucratic, misdirected ill thought out big government boondoggles that revise and occasionally replace the old old old old pointless, bureaucratic, misdirected ill thought out big government boondoggles.


Jonah Goldberg on anonymous bloggers:
I think Atrios and other bloggers who are too chicken to put their names behind what they say are cowards and, to a large extent, losers.

I resemble that remark.

Not that anyone really cares, but I'll just state why I choose to be anonymous. I work in the high tech business in Gatineau and Ottawa which frequently brings me into government business. I try to do as much private sector work as possible because I simply prefer that type of work, but living in this region that's pretty tough. In my work my customers frequently have to be extremely candid about the sort of problems they're having so that we can find technical solutions for them. They might, for example, say we haven't been compliant with policy X for the last three years and we need to fix it. Or we have confidential data that is potentially exposed and we need a security solution. They just aren't going to have these sorts of candid conversations if they think it might end up getting posted in a blog the next day.

I will never post those sorts of things, this blog is not about posting things that might be embarrassing to my customers. I frequently come across embarrassing memos or just your typical bureaucratic SNAFU. That's life in a government region, but I don't write about those things. SO I may write that I think the Minister of Boondoggles is an idiot and the entire department should be abolished, but I will not write that I was there that afternoon and expose an embarrassing problem. And yeah, I'm enough of a hypocrite that if the Firearms Registry has work to be done I'll take the business, even though I think it should be abolished. C'est la vie. I'll take my tax money back if I can get it.

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