An open letter to Raymond Villenueve

Link via thenewforum which also has an interesting item about the Toronto police chief and the (manufactured?) pedophile ring.

More about that Access to Information change, the change that allows government Ministers and their staff members to spend your money in complete secrecy.

Peter MacKay, the Progressive Conservative House leader, called the new approach to access requests "the absolute polar opposite" of the Liberals' campaign promise to operate with transparency and openness. He accused the government of hiding behind procedure to conceal information.

"There can only be one reason to withhold information -- that it may be damaging. And we're talking about hiding the way public money is being spent."

Mr. MacKay predicted the government will not change its policy unless someone takes them to court over a denied request.

"That seems to be the only way to force this government into taking account. They don't seem to be willing do it out of the goodness of their hearts."

Liberal MP John Bryden, an outspoken advocate of Access to Information reform, called the Treasury Board report an outrageous interpretation of the court ruling.

"It's a huge jump from that decision to ministers' expense accounts," Mr. Bryden said.

"The public has a fundamental right to know how its money is being spent, regardless of whether the person spending it is a government employee, ministers or political staff. There has to be some scrutiny of spending," he said.

I've been doing some reading on this thing and, though I'm not a lawyer, I don't think this thing will stand up in court. Of course, the government has just bought itself 10 years of cover because that's how long it will take to have it overturned legally. How many millions of dollars will now be spent wrangling over this bureaucratic strawman. That is all this is... an extremely convoluted and specious interpretation of a ruling that bears no relationship to finance or personal privacy. There is no real attempt to justify the ruling, only a series of cross-referenced blind alleys between the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act with referrals to two recent court decisions thrown in to further complicate the trail. It's exceedingly convoluted by design - it's a temporary barrier in the manner of an overturned bus - it will be swept away only after years of legal delaying tactics and untold millions of dollars, and every cent coming from you and me. In the interim, Ministers and their exempt staff (whoever they are...) can enjoy the perks of public service without that annoying public scrutiny.

You know what's really maddening? We will likely spend far more money getting rid of this dishonest interpretation than will ever be stolen under the protection of it. It's the very reasoning that the HRDC people gave when they dropped a bunch of investigations into questionable loans - "It would cost far more to recover the money than what was actually missing". I would love to see, just once, this Liberal government do anything because it's the right thing to do. Instead, they do everything they can get away with and we scold the opposition for letting them get away with it. Which is rather convenient for us, isn't it?

"Blatent Subsidy" draws fire from Dofasco President

An arrangement at Algoma Steel Inc. that allows workers to draw pensions from a government-administered fund while they continue working amounts to a "blatant subsidy" for the steel maker, the president of rival Dofasco Inc. charges.

I guess Dofasco prefers that subsidies remain hidden.

I got a few emails about the loonie...

Peter C. sent a link and a comment

Weak loonie not our fault: Martin

This was in today's National Post. Apparently the years of fiscal mismanagement and the Federal government's policy of benign (malign?) neglect of the Canadian dollar amounts to a "perception problem". I am at least thankful that this issue is being addressed the mainstream media. It has taken Canada 30 years to get where it is today and this problem will not be solved overnight. A weak dollar does, in the short run, assist exporters. However, in the final analysis, all it really does is manage to subsidize inefficient exporters and ensure that the entire country takes a paycut.

This has been my understanding as well. The sinking dollar has acted as a shield against 'market discipline' allowing inefficient practices to continue and inefficient Canadian firms to delude themselves that mediocrity is good enough.

Could the government's policy of allowing the dollar to fall vis-a-vis other currencies amount to a form of government taking? I don't know the answer. Unfortunately the Canadian Constitution does not protect the citizens of this country from such acts (as opposed to the U.S. Constitution, see the Fifth Amendment).

I don't think it amounts to a 'taking' so much as a 'giving'. We all are complicit in allowing the dollar to drift down as it has.

Rick Glasel on the same topic;

Run and don't look back if anyone start to talk about pegging our dollar to the U.S. greenback. I can't believe some of the supposedly educated people who promote the idea. All it does is remove the only advantage we have in our dealings with the U.S. If they don't buy our goods, our dollar drops until it is worth their while to import from us, instead of buying American. We need the slack of a floating (or sinking) currency to keep employment up. Doesn't anyone remember what happened to our deficit when we had double digit unemployment? If our dollar gets pegged, we might as well close our borders and turn out the lights.

It seems that Dollarization is the 'cold turkey' solution prescribed by some market worshippers. It might cure us, it might kill us - either way it would be pure screaming hell for months and years. I think methadone is the wiser course. Rick also points out that comparisons to the American dollar may not give the most objective measure of the Loonie;

Somewhere there must be an economist who can figure out all the implications of the U.S. dollar appreciating against nearly every other currency in the world since the mid 90's. It just seems to go against the natural order of things. Every industrial country has access to information technology, and with the labour shortages the U.S. has had the last few years, there has to be all kinds of inefficiencies in their economy. The only thing I keep coming back to is a world-wide demand for American equities, but that's just a guess.

I got an e-mail from Walt Hanley about the FORCES Canada issue...

Well to make a long story short, I put up the website to draw attention to the issue of improper use of power within the government, and would like to see the government find another symbol to serve as the "THE global identifier of the Government of Canada". I think the Coat of Arms would be most appropriate, and give the people of Canada back their flag. I can only wonder how long it will be before the separatists flag is outlawed.

If you go back to the Paris Convention for the protection of Industrial Property (basis for the Canadian Trademark Law), you will see that all treaty nations protect the nation flags of the member nations to prohibit fraud on behalf of the origin of products. It also prohibits someone in another country from adopting a trademark incorporating a flag without express authorization from that government. It was unnecessary for the government of Canada to specifically trademark the symbol of the people, except to allow them this control which they have wielded against Pat, and FORCES Canada.

From my reading, Trademark Law derives its basis from common law. These laws were enacted to protect consumers from malicious fraud as in counterfeiting products. The were not meant to protect the government from criticism or to stifle free expression. This is why there is "fair use" of trademarks without the owners permission. You may use another trademark without permission provided it is not done to deceive the consumer. In the case of FORCES Canada, the line following your excerpt showing the Title, clearly stated what FORCES Canada was, and there was no implication that it was governmentally affiliated or endorsed, therefore no fraud to perpetrate.

My guess is the complaint originated inside of the government by someone offended by the issue. One other issue you may not be aware of, but about the same time that the issue with FORCES Canada was going on, the tobacco control board in Ontario was also trying to make a case against the Toronto chapter of forces alleging violations of the tobacco advertising act. He had a link to a US website which advertised cigarettes. I am sceptical that these two issue were unrelated. Call me paranoid if you must, but nothing like this has happened before, and two incidents in the same week is suspicious. Details of the second occurrence.

Freedom deserves protecting

Thanks Walt. I agree that something needs to be done but I confess that I get a little discouraged. It's hard not to feel that one is engaged in a futile struggle. Real social activists must have the patience of Job. Me? I get pissed off.

Jay McKeown writes about horrified reactions to Anne McLellan in the Liberal Caucus.

"Is it just me?" asks Jay, "or is there an attitude among Liberals that 'where you come from' does matter?"

..."as Anne McLellan, the freshly appointed Health Minister, came under fire from Liberal backbenchers who are concerned she is willing to gut the principles of the comprehensive, publicly insured, universal health care system to accommodate demands for radical reform from her home province, Alberta.

"The feeling that I have about Anne is that she's always ready to accommodate Ralph Klein, more so than I would ... I think she's too quick to dismiss any concerns about [Klein's] Conservatives in Alberta," said Winnipeg MP John Harvard, chairman of the Liberals' Western caucus.

"Mr. Harvard questioned the prudence of appointing Ms. McLellan, an Albertan "whose political constituency is shaky at best," to the health post at the same time that Mr. Klein is promoting expansion of private hospitals.

In the 2000 general election, Ms. McLellan won Edmonton West by only 733 votes, edging the Alliance candidate 21,978 to 21,245.

Mr. Harvard was particularly concerned by an interview Ms. McLellan gave last weekend in which she said she has no problem with allowing private hospitals to provide publicly insured health services, provided they respect the Canada Health Act.

"Who is she trying to impress? She's not trying to impress me or Liberals like myself," Mr. Harvard said.

"I'm a little worried and it doesn't make me happy because I have a lot of time for Anne. I just think there's a vulnerability there because of where she comes from."

No Jay, It's not just you. Read Animal Farm - 'Four legs good - two legs better.' The Liberals are standing on their hind legs and the media are the dogs. Imagine an Alliance member questioning the appointment of Denis Coderre because 'he's from Quebec.' The howling would go on for weeks.

It is insulting and divisive, of course. The message is that Anne McLellan - who is a westerner first, and a Canadian second according to the thinking - is simply incapable of taking a larger view. Not because of her sex - imagine the protests! - but because of where she was born.


What did your government officals do today?

Some of them went to a conference called Access 2002 for 'GR professionals' otherwise known as Lobbyists.

Let's look at the agenda.

11:15 Keynote Presentation: Part I
How Things Weave their Way through Cabinet: What is the role of the PCO? How Does it Interface with the PMO?
François Guimont, Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Economic and Regional Development Policy, PRIVY COUNCIL OFFICE

12:00 Keynote Presentation: Part II
An Inside View into Decision-Making in The House of Commons
The Honourable Don Boudria, Minister of State and Leader of the Government, HOUSE OF COMMONS

There was supposed to be a Luncheon with The Honourable John Manley, Minister of Foreign Affairs, GOVERNMENT OF CANADA but I believe he's out of the country. Perhaps the confreres went to Perkin's Family Restaurant instead.

After lunch...

2:00 Ethical issues in GR: What does the Government Expect from GR Professionals?

Mandatory Five Year Review of the Lobbyist Registration Act: What are the Proposed Amendments?
What is the conflict of interest code for Ministers and elected officials? Where do you set clear boundaries for yourself?
What are the critical factors to keep in mind when lobbying federal and provincial governments?
How to handle political donations
What are some of the traps you can easily fall into? How to avoid?
Howie Wilson, Ethics Counsellor, GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

2:45 Networking Break

Dofasco - Our Product is Steel, Our Strength is Corporate Welfare

Stand by for another rule change at Access to Information; A Globe story about Electricity subsidies this morning brought to you by the embattled ATI Act.

Fearful that competition would lead to sharply higher electricity prices, a group of Ontario industrial companies persuaded the province to give them a subsidy extension worth up to $197-million.

Records on the size of the subsidy were obtained by The Globe and Mail through the freedom-of-information legislation.

The records also indicate that the Ministry of Energy viewed major electricity-consuming companies as hypocrites, because they publicly called for power-market competition while privately demanding a continuation of the subsidy that allows them to buy electricity at below-market prices.

Just a quick hit this morning. I've been thinking of doing a Harper's Index type of thing for the Hellhole and this is the type of thing I would include;

There was a small story about changes to the Access to Information procedures yesterday. The short version;

Restaurant bills or government credit card expenses charged by cabinet ministers or political aides are no longer available to the public.

These documents were once part of the public record, available to the public for a $5 fee through the federal Access to Information Act.

But Ottawa quietly changed the way it handles such requests last year when Access to Information coordinators in most of the major departments agreed that documents related to ministers and their "exempt staff" would not be disclosed.

The federal government was acting on a report prepared in March by the treasury board secretariat.

You don't have to be doing this blog thing for very long before you start getting frustrated with the media. "Where's the report?" is the first thing that crossed my mind. I did track it down, though it certainly was not easy. It's here if you're interested. I haven't had time to look closely at it yet but I found something else while looking for the report that I found interesting. This is the memo calling a meeting to address this problem:

A number of institutions have raised several questions of interpretation in connection with a series of requests received under the Access to Information Act for records relating to Minister’s staff and the operations of ministerial offices.

This memo, dated March 20th, announces a meeting for March 22nd. The meeting is held, recommendations and interpretations discussed, legal opinions sought and provided, a ruling made and the implementation memo distributed by March 30th. 10 Days from start to finish. Amazing how efficient the bureaucracy can be, isn't it?

Contrast that with the RCMP Airbus investigation - 7 years and counting on an 'active' file with a team of investigators.
Or contrast that with an RCMP investigation into a 'forged' document - what is it? 8 months? 10 months? since the charge was made and still no ruling from the investigators.

But let the media get interested in what Ministers and their Staff members are doing with our money - Snip snap - just like that - another optics problem solved. Ten days on the calendar, eight working days, and some people still insist that Canada has a productivity problem.

In other news, The Speaker of the House of Commons has appealed that precedent-setting Federal Court ruling that would force Parliament to comply with the Human Rights Act. The decision to appeal was made at a comparative snail's pace, 28 days, but the Christmas Holidays can foul up even the most efficient machine.


A good editorial from the Montreal Gazette about the Democracy deficit.

It would help, of course, if we had political parties with national vision rather than the regional factions we've got now. It would help if there were credible opposition leaders in the Commons. And it would help if we had more debate about this in the country's news media.

But it won't be easy; this is the kind of problem that needs lots of little fixes rather than a magic bullet.

The system suits the party in power. No one in the Liberal Party is worried about a democracy deficit because it's helped Jean ChrÈtien win three mandates and given him a chance for a fourth.

Did you think I had forgotten Roy Bailey?

No such luck.

I went to check on my letter to the editor of the Star Phoenix. My letter has not been published but there is a letter about the story. Here's a quote.

Roy Bailey is a case in point. He criticized Liberal MP Rey Pagtakhan's appointment as veterans affairs minister on the grounds that he's an "Asiatic."

Grrrrrr... I think Roy Bailey should sue the Star Phoenix, and the individual who wrote that letter, for libel. The Star Phoenix published that letter knowing that the accusation is untrue, indeed, it is a misrepresentation created and marketed by the Star Phoenix.

Previous rants available. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th

I suppose that this one becomes number 8... If I get to 12, shoot me.

This Flagsmoking Thing

Wouldn't you know it? The issue that draws a little attention to the hellhole is a one-off throwaway that, on closer inspection, probably deserved more consideration than I had given it. I've had lots of feedback, both in email and on other sites, and I'll try to address it all.

Damian Penny and David Janes and Natalie Solent all express skepticism about the 'confusion' issue. Walt Hanely, a representative of Forces Canada, even sent me a link to the offending use and I'd have to agree that the 'confusion' claim is debatable.

But I think the case can be made - devil's advocate mode on...
Take the name FORCES CANADA, the URL 'www.forces-cnd.com' and the banner logo:

Without getting into a huge debate about how stupid one has to be, it seems that 'confusion' can be offered as a plausible reason for an intervention in this case.

Which is all by way of answering the requirements of the law without questioning the underlying assumptions that produced the law.
It's really a two-pronged problem; 1) Is the law reasonable? 2) Is the law being applied selectively? I had answered 'yes' to the first question yesterday but I'm not so sure that 'yes' is the right answer - but I'll come back to that. The second question -selective enforcement - seems to be the larger issue. Here in Canada we value equality above freedom - we allow our freedoms to be eroded and impeded quite willingly and we only ever raise a protest if there is a perception of unequal oppression. Thus, my knee-jerk reaction yesterday - CanadaForces is not being singled-out and there is no issue. Of course this is completely absurd, the issue is whether or not the bureaucracy has the right to claim ownership of a symbol.

Lawrence Haws mentioned yesterday that the American flag is in the public domain - it's use and misuse has been widely and passionately debated - and it's seen (rightly) as a principle of free speech that the flag belongs to the people to use as they see fit.

Having given the thing a little more thought; I think the Americans have the right approach and we in Canada are reflexively compliant to our own detriment. I can say that with full awareness that I demonstrated that unthinking compliance just yesterday. Ms. Ovens assured me that there was no injustice in the application of the law and I accepted that without questioning the rationale behind the law. I think the rationale - that this symbol is the property of the government - is completely bogus and I ought to have had that thought uppermost in mind.


A rather confusing piece about Public Works from Lysiane Gagnon.

She starts out scolding the 'wolves' at Gagliano's throat...

Canada's national blood sport, these past few days, has been to make fun of former Public Works minister Alfonso Gagliano. But what's new? As soon as they smell blood, the wolves rush to the wounded animal to finish it off. Human beings are worse because they go on even after they're satiated.

Raises the specter of racism (almost obligatory it seems...)

It's easy to kick someone who's already disgraced, especially if the person, a former Sicilian immigrant who brashly (and bravely) made his way to the top, can fit the stereotype of a smalltime Godfather. And never mind if he is a scapegoat for someone higher up the pecking order.

Pulls out the 'everybody does it' shtick...

Mr. Gagliano might be guilty of influence-peddling, a minor sin routinely committed by most people who wield a bit of power in politics or business. Why, even Jon Grant, the former chairman of Canada Lands who blew the whistle on Mr. Gagliano, is a political appointee who owed his post to his Liberal connections.

And then she opens up on Chretien (Yeah!!! my favorite!)

I won't quote it all, but she spends three or four paragraphs on a point by point comparison of the Shawinigan mess versus the Public Works mess and makes a very compelling case that Chretien is an Armed Robber whereas Gagliano is a Shoplifter. All good stuff. But then, out of nowhere, she blames Jon Grant, the whistleblower for the whole damn thing.

Every week, a new story surfaces about yet another questionable deal at Canada Lands, but who should be blamed? The minister, or the man whose job it was to supervise the daily operations of the corporation? None of the alleged cases of fraud within the corporation can be linked to Mr. Gagliano.

Could it be that in turning the spotlight on Mr. Gagliano, Mr. Grant was passing the buck in order to cover his own mismanagement?

It's an entertaining article, but it leaves the reader a little dissatisfied. Surprise endings work well in the movies - Kevin Spacey in the Usual Suspects is the best - but surprise endings in commentary pieces leave something to be desired.

Boudria vows to clean up public works

Not that there was any dirt there, of course.
Damian Penny and David Janes have both had items about the
FORCESCanada website and the Flag controversy. The buzz is that this smoker's rights group was directed to remove the Canadian Flag from it's website.

It's sure sounds like a hoax, right? I did to me too. So I looked at the Trademark Law and I read some copied emails concerning the thing, and then I phoned the government department responsible and talked to the lady, Ms. Oven, who actually asked that the flag be removed. The internet is great but sometimes a phone call works better.

It turns out that the flag itself, while it is technically Trademarked, can be used by anyone so long as it is not used in a style that would tend to cause confusion between the user and an official government agency. That was the beef in this case.

The relevant sections of the Trademark Act.

9. (1) No person shall adopt in connection with a business, as a trade-mark or otherwise, any mark consisting of, or so nearly resembling as to be likely to be mistaken for,
(n) any badge, crest, emblem or mark
(iii) adopted and used by any public authority, in Canada as an official mark for wares or services,
in respect of which the Registrar has, at the request of Her Majesty or of the university or public authority, as the case may be, given public notice of its adoption and use;

That section is cited in the e-mail exchange between the FORCES-Canada rep. and the govt. rep but the next section is not...

The next section is Excepted uses and the relevant clauses are;

(2) Nothing in this section prevents the adoption, use or registration as a trade-mark or otherwise, in connection with a business, of any mark

(ii) an armorial bearing, flag, emblem or abbreviation mentioned in paragraph (1)(i.3), unless the use of the mark is likely to mislead the public as to a connection between the user and the organization.

What I gather from my conversation with Ms. Ovens is that it was the use of the stylized flag symbol, as used on government buildings, cheques and official documents, along with the FORCES - Canada name, which was 'likely to mislead' the public. And it was that possible confusion that was at issue.

So, while it wasn't an out-and-out hoax, the FORCES-Canada people have certainly overstated their case. There is no quiet conspiracy to deprive the Canadian smoker of his citizenship or his right to wave the flag. I was surprised to learn that the government has a trademark on the flag, but the provisions of the Trademark Act seem pretty reasonable on balance.

Ms. Ovens told me that this type of intervention had been made "two or three" times before but that there is no organized effort to chase down abuses of trademark on the flag.


A response from Charles Tupper Jr. on the Loony question:

Three factors sum up the woes of the Canadian buck a propos the US dollar,

1. High debt
2. High Taxes
3. Low interest rates.

Over the past 30 years, the Canadian dollar has only maintained equilibrium with the US buck when there is a substantial variance in interest rates. The ninety-cent buck of the early nineties was a prime example. The Bank of Canada’s inflation fighting policies of the late 1980’s caused a 5 percent spread in interest rates between the US and Canada. Now with Canadian rates actually lower than comparable American rates there is no incentive for patrons to invest in Canada.

Conversely, Ireland has interest rates as low as Canada’s, a lower debt to GNP ratio [approximately 40%] and yet its native currency, the punt, is stronger than the US buck. Why? Ireland taxes Corporate profits at ten percent as contrasted by the 35-40% tax paid in Canada. Personal tax rates in both countries run roughly the same.

Canadians have lived beyond their means for the last thirty years and now we are paying the price. A fluctuating dollar and low interest rates barely saved Canada from the hubris of Trudeau socialism and wanton nationalism. The Chretien Liberals, to their credit, slashed unemployment inclusion rates, cut the civil service, and clawed back large junks of healthcare equalisation payments. Unfortunately, thousands of Canadians suffered. Neither provincial nor federal governments can maintain healthcare at present levels. Some level of privatisation will be required. My Dad used to say, “Socialism is a great system as long as you don’t have to use it”.

Well there you go.
Speaking of free speech. Check out this editorial at the Star Phoenix.

It's not the editorial itself - a call for Senate Reform - but the byline and a little epilogue.

Steven Gibb, Gerry Klein, Les MacPherson, Sarath Peiris and Lawrence Thoner collaborate in writing SP editorials

"Democracy cannot be maintained without its foundation; free public opinion and free discussion throughout the nation of all matters affecting the state within the limits set by the criminal code and the common law."

-The Supreme Court of Canada, 1938

Are we beginning to see a bit of quiet protest against the Aspers here?

Jay McKeown, bless his heart, shares my interest in Ray Bailey...

Michael Coren once wrote that democracy was not as neat and tidy a process
as the Liberals (and others) would have us believe. Democracy involves
giving everyone a voice, no matter what they have to say. In many cases,
those voices are going to say things we do not want to hear, things that
are politically incorrect and things we personally oppose. One of the
virtues of the old Reform Party (and of the Canadian Alliance, I hope) is
that democracy was cherished more than image, more than correctness.

We may disagree with Bailey's assessment of the new minister. We may
deplore what he said and the way he said it. We must accept, however, that
he had a right to say his piece.

I certainly believe he has the right to speak and anyone, including the media, has the right to speak back - loudly and forcefully if they so desire. But no one has the right to alter his comments as the Star Phoenix did. It's a pretty tough case to make though. I'm trying to make the case that - even though he said some stupid things - he didn't say that "specific" stupid thing. People tend to shrug it off. In my opinion, they shouldn't.

Rick Glasel writes;

Yesterday, Gordon Campbell began
to deliver on his vow to cut the provincial government by 25%. It would be
nice if we could ignore what's going on out there, but at the very least,
it should put some backbone into other provincial governments who need to
go toe to toe with civil service unions.

Since W.A.C. Bennett opened up B.C. to plunder natural resources, the
province has existed in a different dimension than the rest of the
country. Biting the bullet has no meaning west of the Rockies. The
incredible natural wealth of the province, along with the good fortune of
having Vancouver as a gateway to the Orient has insulated the people of
B.C. from the harsh economic realities the rest of us are quite familiar
with. Even with conservative Social Credit governments, the people were
never asked to suffer financial hardship in order to balance the
books. When things started to look grim, the price of wood or copper would
rise, the laid off workers would get called back and it was back to
business as normal. People living in the Lower Mainland had even less to
worry about, and what happened in the Interiour or the North could be
safely ignored (and it was and still is being ignored). Class warfare
between fat-cat labour unions and the nouveau riche who made and lost
fortunes in real estate and penny stock promotions would create alot of
political smoke and thunder, but nothing really changed. Basically, the
whole province became inefficient and uncompetitive, but still wealthy,
thanks to their good fortune.

I lived in B.C. for two years under the Glen Clark regime and as far as I'm
concerned, there's a better business climate in the Atlantic
provinces. Since 1998 it had become obvious to everyone but civil servants
that the end was near, that everything would come crashing down if things
continued to go from bad to worse. Unfortunately, the B.C. public doesn't
have a clue what a radical fiscal realignment looks like. Campbell and the
Liberals know how desperate the situation is, but do they know how to carry
out necessary changes without putting the whole province into shock? In my
mind, they don't have the experience or the savvy to make it work, and B.C.
will be on life support in no time flat. If Campbell loses his nerve, or
if the public can't accept the bitter medicine, the end result will be
chaos. If the people don't revolt, and real change occurs, and businesses
quit fleeing to Alberta, and the government balances the books, then maybe,
just maybe, the province will get through this. What scares me is what
happens when a "have" province goes bankrupt and turns into a "have-not"
province of 3.5 million people? What happens to equalization and other
forms of government redistribution of wealth, when one of the three net
contributors suddenly needs handouts?

If B.C. can't turn it around in the next 12-24 months, Campbell will be
drawn and quartered to become food for the ravens, and the federal treasury
will have a splitting headache. I would be absolutely astonished if anyone
in the Chretien government is concerned about this, based on their track
record of working against the interests of B.C. at every turn, but what
happens on the West Coast in the next few weeks could impact every taxpayer
in the country. Hey, if I'm wrong, no harm done, right? If I'm right, you
can't say you weren't warned.

I really don't pay near enough attention to events in BC, I have some familiarity with Alberta, and nothing of consequence ever happens in those other Western Provinces* anyway, but I really should pay attention to BC. Thanks for the heads up.

* - this is a test insult.

A few kind souls have emailed me with questions and comments that don't concern Roy Bailey and what the meaning of as is...

Peter C. writes about the amazing submersible dollar.

I'd like to know what you (and your readers) think of the Canadian dollar's
precipitous decline. Ottawa's leadership on this issue has been,
predictably, non-existent. There are also interesting parallels with recent
developments in Argentina. Argentina pegged its currency to the US dollar
in 1991. This led, ultimately, to the recent currency disaster resulting in
29% devaluation of their currency. Ottawa did not peg the Canadian dollar
to the US dollar but, in the same time, the Canadian dollar fell 24%
compared to the greenback.

Argentina - 29% drop overnight and Argentinians are in the streets rioting.

Canada - 24% drop taken in little steps (like water torture) and Canadians
do nothing (aside from the cries heard from a few concerned corners).

The usual response to the falling dollar is that a low dollar supports
strong exports. This strikes me as disingenuous. The strong D-mark has
never hurt the Germans from exporting their expensive vehicles and high-tech
goods throughout the world. The strong Yen (1980's and 1990's) didn't stop
exports of high quality cars and electronic goods. Moreover, a low dollar
means Canadians make less money on exports and so, as a consequence, our
imports suffer.

I suspect that the Canadian dollar will continue to drop.

I am not an economist and so would welcome others' thoughts on this subject.

I wrote a pretty long-winded response to this and it was promptly chewed up and spit out by Blogger. (Perhaps Blogger is a more intelligent technology then we knew...) Anyway, the condensed version is that I think it has suited the government's purposes to have the dollar floating downward as it has over the last 10 years. I think that they are only starting to become concerned because having it fall so sharply tends to get public opinion all stirred up.

Canada has been following the globalization, pro-business, mantra for well over a decade and our dollar has been following the downward path, quite steadily and surely, in the same time period. The Liberals would like us all to believe that there is no connection between those two facts. I don't.

The low Canadian dollar serves two purposes; it makes Canadian workers, resources and goods cheaper - the 'good for exports' thing - and it serves as a great rationale for further improvements in the 'business environment'.

Nancy Hughes Anthony, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, is calling on the federal government to have a full discussion with Canadians about the future of the dollar.

"None of us wants a continuously low dollar," she said. "It increases the cost of acquiring new technology and equipment, machinery and also talent ... It's time the federal government initiate a full-scale discussion with Canadians about the currency."

Reducing corporate taxes and regulation would be at the top of the list as a way of attracting investment and bolstering the currency.

Jay Myers, vice-president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters said, "I don't think this is an issue about currency and monetary policy. But there is a lot that the government can do and business can do to boost the dollar. The key issue is, how do you make Canada a preferred location for investment and how do you make Canadian industry more competitive, more productive and begin to close that widening productivity gap with the United States."

One shudders to think where the dollar would be if we hadn't been following that pro-business mantra for the past decade.

One the other hand; a plausible argument could be made that the dollar's drop has accelerated since the most recent Liberal budget which jettisoned the pretence of fiscal conservatism and went back to massive spending on fountains and flags.

So I could be accused of coming down on both sides of the fence. I do expect that Jean Chretien and Paul Martin worry far more about the perception of the dollar as opposed to the reality of it. None of the leading political and business personalities are hampered by the dollar in the slightest. It's only those people who contributed their 100 cent dollars to the government coffers for 30 - 40 years who are feeling the pinch; trapped at home with their 60 cent pensions, cutting corners and making do, saying 'maybe next year we can go where it's warm.'