Tag Archives: Budget 2015

This week in Electionland – Through the Looking Glass edition

For some mood music, jump to the end of the article. CW: misogyny, violent lyrics, profanity. But also some damn good mashing up.

This was the week when I gave up on the election.

I’ll admit that even going in I was extremely skeptical. (See for instance my seven-part series on why voting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and probably isn’t even a worthwhile exercise most of the time.) And granted, my patience was essentially gone by the end of last week. But keeping track of the literally absurd squabble over deficits that ate up several news cycles this week pushed me past my limits.

I tuned right out.

Which perhaps was the intention of most of the parties involved. Because while “the economy” may be a top priority for many voters, those same voters quite likely don’t want to spend more time than is strictly speaking necessary thinking about the specifics of the federal government’s budget. They just want to have secure jobs and decent incomes.

And besides, partisans are going to stand by their parties no matter what position they take. As the brilliantly-named “O-bots” have shown over the past seven years, loyal party members are happy to denounce a policy when in opposition and then whole-heartedly embrace that same policy when in power, and never mind how contorted the mental gymnastics involved are.

So, for instance, witness supporters of the NDP straining to reconcile themselves to Thomas Mulcair’s words of praise of Margaret Thatcher: Continue Reading

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses is doing Harper’s dirty work

[Bullshit] comes in three flavours. One, making bad things sound like good things. Organic, all-natural. Because factory-made sugar oatmeal balls doesn’t sell. Patriot Act. Because “Are you scared enough to let me look at all your phone records” Act doesn’t sell. So whenever something’s been titled Freedom Family Fairness Health America, take a good long sniff. Chances are it’s been manufactured in a facility that may contain traces of bullshit…

Jon Stewart

Today I want to look at a sneaky way that ideology gets passed off as informed opinion in news coverage: by hiding behind a front of bullshit. Specifically, I’m going to look at the impartial way one business group gets presented in coverage of the new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP), and the extremely partisan and political reality behind their pseudo-reasonable front.

I’m not going to talk too much about the ORPP itself – I’m not even going to take a position for or against. Instead, I just want to use it as a case study of how right-wing advocacy organizations get their talking points taken seriously and presented as informed opinion or even fact.

Let’s begin, shall we?

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) is a business lobbying organization that says they like to stick up for the little guy:

With the strength of over 109,000 small business owners from coast-to-coast – entrepreneurs just like you – the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is the big voice for small businesses. For over 40 years, we have represented the interests of the small business community to all three levels of government in their fight for tax fairness, reasonable labour laws and reduction of regulatory paper burden.

Before we dive into demolishing the shit out of them, let’s just take a moment to admire how well-crafted this advertising copy is. They’re fighting for fairness, their cause is reasonable, and they want to reduce your burdens. What’s not to like?

They make a lot of the fact that they don’t accept outside donations and are strictly non-partisan. And as for the idea that they have a right-wing agenda, well, let’s just let their President, Dan Kelly, shake his head and laugh that notion away (caution: the link is to a HuffPo advertorial, so click at your own discretion): Continue Reading

As Canada’s economy slides into recession, how safe are the big banks?

Bank of America said it on the 1st of July, and TD said it on the 6th, but I knew that the economy was in a recession as soon as I heard federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver deny it way back in early June.

That would be the same Joe Oliver who “balanced” the budget with a whole host of lies, tricks, creative accounting, and the promise of future union-stomping. That surplus was a total fabrication, a clumsy election-year subterfuge designed to make the Cons look like responsible stewards of the economy.

Also that’s the same Joe Oliver who was forced to delay unveiling of that budget by several months because of “market volatility” (aka the tar sands getting kicked in the shins by the collapse in oil prices). Despite the total lack of improvement in the economy in the interim, Oliver was confident at the time the budget was released that things would get better – soon.

And that’s the same tune he was singing last week when BofA became the first of the big bank to project a recession following the release of stats for April showing the economy contracted for a fourth consecutive month. Oliver angrily denied that we’re in recession territory, and predicted strong, strong growth – right around the corner!

“We don’t have a recession. We don’t believe we will be in a recession,” Oliver said Friday in Toronto. “A recession is technically two consecutive negative quarters and we don’t have results from the second quarter.”

Statistics Canada reported this week that gross domestic product shrank by 0.1 percentin April, on the heels of a 0.6 percent annualized contraction in the first quarter.

However the finance minister sees indications that consumers and manufacturers are more optimistic. “There are, I think it’s fair to say, mixed signals at the moment,” Oliver said. “We’ll and wait and see what the numbers, in fact, will be.”

The federal budget, released in April, forecast annual GDP growth of 2 percent for the country, based on projections from private sector economists. Those projections haven’t been updated, Oliver said.

Of course the projections haven’t been updated – that would make the phony surplus Oliver worked so hard to engineer completely disappear! But in order to make good on those projections, the Canadian economy will have to grow at an annualized rate of roughly 4% in the second half of the year – a pace we haven’t seen in the last fifteen years. Continue Reading

Stephen Harper wants YOU to be terrified

Another deep dive into a Stephen Harper speech designed to provoke fear in your hearts
harper protecting canadians

Good ol’ Steve, keeping us safe! (Image credit: pm.gc.ca)

As the Conservatives continue to slip in the polls going into the summer, Harper and his strategists seem to have seized upon the George-W-Bush-circa-2004 strategy for trying to get a not-so-popular government reelected – wrap yourselves in the flag and hype the so-called “terror threat” for all it’s worth. (We’ll have to wait and see whether the HarperCons employ the same kinds of dirty tricks and low-blow character assassinations that the Bush/Cheney ’04 campaign ran, although given the deep institutional links between the Conservative and Republican Parties, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.)

Harper’s terror fixation has been on full display for the past few weeks. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen him posing in front of the same podium, which vaguely claims he is “Protecting Canadians” from unspecified threats.

First there was his super-secret-undercover-agent trip to Iraq for photo opportunities and fear-mongering, with a bleary-eyed press in tow. (I wrote up his trip here  and his speech to the troops here.)

Then there was the overhyped RCMP raid on a Montreal airport, in which they detained (but didn’t arrest or charge) ten young people allegedly attempting to travel abroad to join ISIS. (Link is to the Toronto Sun purely for the totally unrelated but provocative photo.) These highly-publicized but mostly insubstantial detainments were closely followed by a major Prime Ministerial announcement at that same airport that the Government of Canada was going to give the Mounties and the Canadian Border Services Agency even more money to keep doin’ what they’re doin’.

And most recently, right here in Toronto, Steve announced that we haven’t surrendered enough dollars or enough liberty quite yet to keep the terrorists at bay – we need to also give more money to CSIS so they can collect biometric information on pretty much everybody who enters Canada.

As I did with his fear-mongering hate speech in Iraq, I’d like to take a close look at Harper’s statement in Toronto, examining it both for its truth-value (low) and its propaganda value (high). I think it’s a useful indicator of what we can expect from the HarperCons in the election campaign this fall, and I hope that the more his rhetoric gets exposed and picked apart, the less effective it’ll be. Continue Reading

Are the HarperCons trying to give themselves retroactive immunity for indictable offences?

It’s getting hard to keep up with the onslaught of scandal besetting the Harper regime.

Nine years in power is a long time in politics, and there seems to be an almost-inevitable tendency towards corruption and mismanagement and arrogant hubristic behaviour in any long-lasting regime, “democratically elected” or not.

And it’s certainly true that Harper & Co. have made very few friends in the press over the last decade. The national press corps is surely sick of being kept out of the loop by the PMO and only spoon-fed triumphalist press releases at the whim of our Fearless Leader. Regardless of each journalist’s individual political preferences, the tendency has to be anti-Con, and pro-anybody-more-enjoyable-to-cover.

I mean, he’s lost the freakin’ Sun. For years they’ve been against him. During the hoopla surrounding the Nigel Wright/Mike Duffy revelations, and Harper’s inconsistent and evasive statements about what he knew and when re: Wright’s $90 000 hush-money cheque, the Sun published a national editorial calling on Harper to resign, for Pete’s sake.

So perhaps it’s just that the press smell blood. A vulnerable Prime Minister with a weak economy facing reelection against a surging opposition makes an easy target. Maybe that explains the slew of controversies the HarperCons are busy ignoring these days. Continue Reading

This week in The Canadian Government Does Stupid And Bad Things

Everybody who spends even a little time following federal politics in this country will quickly realize that Stephen Harper is a combative human being. He sees things in terms of sides, and if you’re not on the same side as him, then he will try to crush you, plain and simple.

This week alone was rife with examples demonstrating that disagreement won’t be tolerated. Harper’s mean streak was on full display in the government’s desperate attempts to keep child soldier and torture victim Omar Khadr in prison. He deployed attack dog and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, who not only smeared Khadr, but also accused the judge who authorized Khadr’s release of not considering his (alleged) victims.

It’s a sign of how tired and well-worn this fear-and-terror rhetoric is getting that even the Calgary Sun wasn’t buying it.

Opinion columnist and unrepentant bigot Ian Robinson, who describes his attitude towards the War on Terror as “Kill ’em all, let God sort them out”, had this to say: Continue Reading

#Omnibus2015: Harper tries to set up secret terrorist courts, stomp public sector unions on the DL

Last month, I went on at length about how godawful the federal budget was. I surprised myself with how upset I was able to get over the damn thing.

At that time, I couldn’t have predicted that the budget could get any worse. After all, it had all the credibility of a sheaf of hastily scribbled, semi-illegible, mostly incorrect and three weeks overdue math homework.

But never doubt the HarperCons’ ability to take bad and make it worse. They succeeded in this ignoble endeavour this time by stapling a bunch of completely unrelated laws and bills to the back of the budget and giving it a fancy Latin name to make it sound boring to the Average Voter.

Now, omnibus bills are nothing new in HarperLand, and to be fair, this one isn’t quite as bad as previous ones have been – mostly because they’re running out of ideas for awful/stupid/destructive laws to pass.

This isn’t to say there aren’t any awful/stupid/destructive new laws proposed in #Omnibus2015 (officially titled Bill C-59, which you can read here if you want a headache). They’re mostly pretty bad. Continue Reading

The Curious Case of the #PhonySurplus

Here’s the headline Stephen Harper & Co wanted to see following today’s budget announcement:

CONSERVATIVES KEEP ELECTION PLEDGE, BALANCE BUDGET

Strictly speaking, this is an accurate assessment of the budget – but only because of creative accounting.

Which is to say, the government is lying.

The $1.4 billion surplus announced by Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver a few hours ago relies on a few tricks. First of all, the government is withdrawing $2 billion from the federal contingency fund.

Continue Reading

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