Wednesday Night #1570

Written by  //  April 4, 2012  //  Cleo Paskal, Margaret Lefebvre, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Andrew Coyne: Peeling back the layers of misconduct in the F-35 fiasco
Prologue
The budget – sorry, Economic Action Plan (EAP) 2012 – will no doubt dominate the airwaves and our conversation for some days to come, despite the evidence that, as at least one Wednesday Nighter points out with some frustration, it seems obvious that very few of the pundits/analysts have thoroughly (or even superficially) read all 500 pages. However, we do commend Paul Wells’ Harper’s very political budget because his is not a detailed review – he leaves that to others – but a political analysis that we believe to be valid. He notes that “Under the surface, this is an intensely political budget, perhaps the most interesting since Flaherty’s first in 2006. The surface calm will serve Harper’s most important strategic objective: avoid nasty surprises so voters can grow more comfortable with the Conservatives over time. Below the surface, this government escalates a dozen of its favourite combats.”

We, like almost everyone else, have zeroed in on what is of most concern to us. We are appalled by the announcement that the budget (Economic Action Plan) commits $8 million over the next two years to help the CRA target registered charities deemed too overtly political. We are not alone. See The Globe & Mail editorial Budget’s new rules unfairly target environmental groups “The Conservatives are continuing their dishonourable attack meant to intimidate environmental groups, in a budget item that stands out for adding a needless new cost.”
The money, we are told, will be used to “improve transparency by requiring charities to provide more information on their political activities, including the extent to which these are funded by foreign sources,” This isn’t even a thinly-disguised attack on those organizations that advocate on behalf of numerous Canadian citizens of all political hues who are genuinely concerned by the cavalier attitude of the Harper government towards the long-lasting effects of its actions on the environment. We hope that there will be a court challenge to this muzzling of legitimate opposition. The hypocrisy of attacking the environmental organizations while ignoring the sources of revenue of Big Oil and conservative think tanks is breathtaking, but sadly, what we have come to expect.

Another disturbing item is the elimination (See the CIC website ) of more than 280,000 people who have been waiting years for a decision on their immigration files. They will soon be chopped from the list as the federal government moves to streamline its immigration practices. These are people who were invited to apply under the Federal Skilled Worker Program.

The end of Katimavik is indeed sad and has provoked Gerald Ratzer to write an excellent letter to his MP (for Brome-Missisquoi), Pierre Jacob:
“As MP for Brome-Missisquoi I would like you to understand my concern on the decision by the Conservative Government to cease funding of the Katimavik project.
“I have a country property in County Potton, and have seen the excellent work done by the different Katimavik groups in and around Mansonville, including supporting the community centre, and several different events organized by the County.
“I was out for a walk in the woods today and met up with the current Katimavik group, who expressed dismay at the planned cancellation of this 40 year old youth development project. In fact, the Sentiers de l’Estrie, part of the Missisquoi Nord is a set of trails cleared in part with help from Katimavik. These type of projects are invaluable in the sustainable development of the area for ecotourism, and ecological awareness. In the last 24 hours I have seen several deer, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse and other wildlife.
“Please do what you can to convince the Conservative Party that is a relatively small cost item in the scale of a $5 billion reduction in the national budget, and that Katimavik, should be continue to funded for the good of the individual volunteers and the communities they serve.
“By a copy of this note I am asking the Mayor of Potton and my Westmount MP to use their various networks to support the continuation of the Katimavik program.”

On a more positive note, and in the wake of the Jenkins Report, the EAP contains encouraging provisions regarding the NRC and encouragement of innovation, as KPMG notes with apparent approval Margaret Lefebvre will join us to speak to this aspect of the EAP.

And à propos innovation – along with our favorite renewable energy, do take the time to watch this TED talk: The missing link to renewable energyGuy Stanley has already reacted: “This is a real lesson in thinking and doing. The claim is (a) that large scale battery storage can overcome intermittancy in wind and solar inputs to an electricity grid and (b) that battery is now being developed using liquid metal technology at MIT. My question is what the impact of that tech would be, given (a) relatively low percentage of wind & solar as energy sources now and (b) forecast OECD electricity demand growth rates at about 1% a year to 2030 (IAEA). The annual electricity demand growth rates for China, Indonesia and India, however, are between 8% for the next couple years, dropping to 4% -6% between 2015-2030. In other words, current forecasts seem to show the OECD staying with predominantly hydrocarbon sources for another generation. Asia could be different. (The IAEA forecasts I’m citing were made before the recession, so the OECD rates going forward could be lower for longer than thought previously.)”

Enough of the EAP. There’s a lot happening elsewhere in the world, starting with the news that Aung San Suu Kyi has won a seat in the Burmese parliamentary by-election. The LA Times points out that this is a source of great encouragement to Burmese ex-pats.

Syria continues to be a concern and one of the better analyses of current efforts to mediate is Syria: The evil results of doing good by former CIA Station Chief, Robert Grenier. Summary: “The Annan Plan is ‘worse than feckless’, because it buys the Assad regime time and precludes more effective options.”

Cleo Paskal has recently published a short paper Making elephants lighter on their feet suggesting that Southeast Asian nations by cooperating with one another may tame the might of China and the United States.

In the U.S., the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, which, of course, we will not learn until probably June, will have far-reaching consequences, whichever way the 5-4 decision goes. Two of the best pieces we have read are from Slate:
Court of Radicals – If the justices strike down Obamacare, it may have grave political implications for the court itself.
and – if you only have time to read one, this is our pick:
How To Defend Obamacare – Solicitor General Donald Verrilli was grilled by the Supreme Court’s conservatives. Here is what he should have said.

In case you are missing the day-to-day news of the Murdoch empire, once again, there are headlines about a new scandal: Three major reports this week detail an alleged satellite TV hacking scandal by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp that reportedly cost its rivals tens of millions of dollars.

For your calendar:
As the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic grows ever closer, you may not have noticed that Alan Hustak, Wednesday Night’s resident expert is popping up everywhere. For those who are not aware, Alan is the author of Titanic: The Canadian Story. He will be sailing on the Titanic Memorial Cruise starting April 8th and singing for his supper, as it were. Before he sails, he will be speaking at the Westmount Library at 2pm on Wednesday April 4. It is sure to be entertaining and informative.

We always try for a positive note and this time it is the CBC report about the McGill Reboot project that collects surplus McGill computers and peripherals, refurbishes the equipment if possible and redeploys it on campus where appropriate, donates any unwanted usable equipment and arranges for the proper disposal of all unusable equipment and scrap. Great project conceived and executed by a group of responsible young people with initiative. Very encouraging in the midst of all the furor over student fees at the universities (about which we will hold our tongues, but our sympathies are NOT with the disruptive strikes, or the students who are preventing colleagues from attending class and getting an education).

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