Rumours have abounded since last year that the military is planning to planning to abolish a subsidy program called the Security and Defence Forum, which funds about a dozen university research centres touching on military affairs, almost all of them right-wing and pro-military. (The singular exception is York University.) Now, according to Jack Granatstein, those cuts are poised to go forward. The SDF research centres will have their funding slashed, and then eliminated entirely.
My own feelings on the SDF programs are well documented. The granting process is opaque and suspect, the academics who survive on the military dole seldom have this connection noted when they are quoted in public, usually (though certainly far from always) defending the military perspective on one issue or another, and the prospect that the military is essentially running an entire branch of social science in Canada is a disturbing one which raises serious questions about the neutrality of the research being produced.
But despite my objections, I actually have very mixed feelings about the elimination of SDF. This will no doubt come as a warm surprise to at least one of my sometime readers, a professor who claimed that by criticizing the links to the military I was devaluing the meaning of a Canadian university degree. That’s because Granatstein himself is missing the big picture here: a government that is bound and determined to do nothing, know nothing, and for God’s sake carry out no research whatsoever. Granatstein says the SDF is a victim of DND bean-counters, but the bean-counters are just the cowardly loyal implementers of a bigger agenda. They can’t be blame in isolation.Tweet
Occasionally I like to draw attention to a Government of Canada press release which pops up in my RSS feed and which strikes me as particularly stupid or pointless. This week’s champion is a national press release circulated Monday morning, in which Kelowna Conservative MP Ronald Cannan announces that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the department of minister Diane Finley (whose husband is in court on charges of election fraud) has graciously and generously consented to an enormous and compassionate subsidy which will allow the local branch theatre of Famous Players to hire one new employee to help man the ticket counter.
Announcements from the HRSDC Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities would be a source of great amusement to me if their pathetic stinginess wasn’t being exacted at the cost of the quality of life of Canadians living with disabilities. Like this one, almost inevitably they are pointlessly small. In this case, Famous Players is being paid by the government to hire someone to work in their concession, or their ticket counter — the press release says it’s up to them.
Are you kidding me? Has the Government of Canada really sunk so low that it not only gives money to such small causes, so petty that it will give out such piddlingly small amounts of money to corporations who don’t need the money and did need the employees anyway, and, more importantly, so utterly devoid of purpose or inspiration that it thinks this is worth a national press release? And yes, Ron, I’m well aware that your riding also got another Opportunities Fund subsidy a couple months ago, bringing your government’s contribution to the regional economy since May 2011 to a grand total of two jobs. Congratulations.
For whatever fortunate person can now look forward to a lifetime of scooping popcorn into buckets, I’m happy for them. (Though I do have to wonder whether they get laid off next year, when the federal subsidy dries up.) However, it is despicable that the federal government has shrunk to such a level that it thinks playing up its role in getting one person into one dead-end job rates a mention in the national news.Tweet
Before I go on, let me just say that this is a second-page story right now. It’s dismally predictable that this is attracting more attention that another issue which I have written about before and other bloggers are still writing about, justifiably so: the fraudulent stripping of tens of millions of dollars from border security funds by Tony Clement for “infrastructure” projects in his own riding. For this sin, Clement has been promoted to the Treasury Board, where he is now responsible for all government spending.
Nevertheless, as a historian, I feel compelled to say something after reading defence minister Peter MacKay’s preposterious rationale for renaming the Canadian Forces: “the country that forgets its history does so at its peril.”
Really, Peter? What perils are we encountering by having a Maritime Command instead of a Royal Canadian Navy? Do young airmen, fresh out of training, look up at the night sky and think, “I’m glad the Russians aren’t coming anymore, because we could have stopped them if we were the Royal Canadian Air Force, but there’s no hope now that we’re just the Air Command?”Tweet
The latest gambit in the National Post‘s campaign against science education in Canada (specifically, against an informed understanding of climate change in Canada) is the printing of a piece by noted denialist David Legates, a bizarre attack on David Suzuki which not only claims that human-caused climate change is a myth but that our greatest threat at the moment is global cooling.
I could spend some time carefully picking apart what passes for Legates’s argument, which would put me in a strange position indeed — a blogger without advanced training in the field taking a tenured science professor to task. But time is short and I am rapidly losing my patience with self-absorbed morons. So I’ll just cut to the chase and tell you what Legates really thinks about climate:Tweet
Last week a commenter was highly critical of my labelling of Sun TV’s token loudmouthed brat, Ezra Levant, as a loon. Said commenter referred to Levant’s seemingly solid-gold street cred as an innocent victim of our country’s totalitarian Human Rights Commissions, and even that my labelling him as loony might actually be evidence that I was loony. I pointed out that Levant is actually an intellectually deficient moron who thinks an appropriate response to Earth Day is to leap around a potted plant in his studio waving a chainsaw. So far I have yet to receive a rejoinder.
Still, in the event that some people somehow still think Levant is a credible commentator despite the infamous Chainsaw Incident, I offer his latest column as Exhibit B: a breathtaking adventure in pretzel logic and painful analogies which ought to strain the credibility even of the Levantians. “Big Brother” is after Sun TV, says Levant. Big government and its shadowy socialist supporters are plotting to haul the channel into the “kangaroo court” of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council so that they can exact their revenge for the outing of dancer Margie Gillis as a recipient of government aid (notably less government aid than Sun’s parent company Quebecor is queuing at the trough for, but we’ll let that go for the moment, shall we?). Levant calls the CBSC “censors,” denounces their “secret” trials and unappealable verdicts, and generally gives us the impression that they’re some sort of modern-day Star Chamber.
Oddly enough, Levant does not seem to be aware that the CBSC is a private body. Here’s a list of its members, which are private companies involved in broadcasting. Sun isn’t on the list, possibly because Sun TV is to “broadcasting standards” what Robert Mugabe is to democracy, but more likely because it’s some sort of old boys’ club to which upstarts like Sun haven’t yet been invited. (I really have no idea, but I suspect the latter.) As a private association obviously it’s not a censor, or a court, or a socialist plot, or anything of the kind. In contrast, his employer had absolutely no problem running, sobbing, to Big Brother a couple months back to demand that the big government Ezra claims to hate make Bell TV share some of its toys with Sun. Which makes Levant not just a blithering idiot but a stunning hypocrite.Tweet
You can understand my surprise upon reading of your attempt to silence an elderly widow of an asbestos-linked cancer victim, Michaela Keyserlingk, using trademark law. The idea that a political party attempts to suppress free discussion of its policies by claiming it has protected status under commercial laws is bad enough. The fact that the party of James Moore, Rahim Jaffer, Dimitri Soudas, Jaime Watt, Bruce Carson, Michael McSweeney, Will Stewart, and Bev Oda has suddenly realized the rule of law actually matters in politics is too self-serving to be credible.
You will note that to the left I have displayed the Conservative Party of Canada’s logo on this page. I have done so without seeking your permission. Oops. Sometimes I use the phrase “Progressive Conservative Party of Canada” without asking your permission, even though that’s a Conservative trademark too. Again, oops. Influence peddling, lying to Parliament, bribery, false libel accusations, and embezzlement are just part of the rough and tumble of politics, but trademark distortion? Oh, my! Heaven help us! Please.
Now, I would like to point out that people who release ads like this one should take a good long pause for reflection before going out and claiming that someone’s misrepresentation of their alleged “trademark” is unacceptable. I’d like to, but the fact that I have to do so in the first place suggests that even this basic a notion of integrity is so sophisticated that it would sail far over your head. You are, after all, apparently happily employed as director of the party which pollutes the Internet with such deceitful filth.
Instead, let me just point out that trying to use commercial trademark law to suppress the free speech of an elderly woman who is justifiably upset that her Progressive Conservative card-carrying husband died of a preventable cancer caused by a toxic chemical your government actively supports and subsidizes is pathetic, despicable, and disgusting. If your party is bothered by the fact that you are associated with the government-subsidized production and export of a cancer-causing fibre whose export is banned in the rest of the developed world and whose use is even restricted here in Canada, there is an easy solution to that, seeing as how your party is the government in question.Tweet
I regard the Conference Board of Canada with deep suspicion. It plagiarizes reports and opposes universal healthcare. Which is why I was so impressed to see an op-ed by its economist, Glen Hodgson, arguing that it is high time we started treating tax breaks like the government expenditures they really are: not spending per se, but willingly foregone revenue that could have been used to balance the budget or, in good times, fund new programs.
Of course, in his scathing review of what he apparently feels are tax breaks that could be put on the chopping block, Hodgson conveniently forgets to include the massive corporate income tax cuts implemented recently, which have drained billions of dollars per year from the public coffers on behalf of large corporations. Given the Conference Board’s origins and funding, I have to wonder whether attempting to leave corporate tax cuts off the negotiating table is a deliberate ploy by Hodgson.
Neveretheless, it’s nice to see a think tank economist join the ranks of the rational. By way of contrast, this week has also seen Harper’s favourite economist Jack Mintz, and my favourite tobacco-defending hyper-ideological wingnuts, the Fraser Institute, in the news braying for more tax cuts. Unlike Hodgson, Mintz continues to cling desperately to his belief that cutting taxes actually increases tax revenue, a claim so absurd it probably qualifies for James Randi’s million-dollar prize. It’s nice to see that taking a professorship at a publicly funded university has in no way clouded Mintz’s vision of a government-free world.Tweet
Frequent readers will know there is no love lost between me and the professional media, but their treatment of the naval shipbuilding plan has been abhorrent even by their usual low standards. The most recent evidence for this is John Ibbitson’s column in the Globe & Mail, in which, despite the fact that we are living under the most “centralized” (a polite term for authoritarian) regime in Canadian history, Ibbotson appears to think that the decision of which shipyards will get the navy’s contracts is going to be made by deputy ministers. Maybe Ibbotson is trying to be sarcastic. If not, this is journalistic incompetence of the worst sort. Even under a less power-hungry government, it’s hardly even worth mentioning that there’s no way the final decision would be made anywhere except in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Let’s review the myriad ways in which media coverage of the shipbuilding plan has been farcical. As I do so, it’s worth bearing in mind the coverage of the F-35 jet purchase, which for all its flaws has been supreme by comparison. First, the cost. By the government’s own estimates, the new ships are going to cost $30 billion, twice as much as the fighters. There has been no serious consideration of whether these costs are accurate. If the government is low-balling it by the same proportion as with the fighters, which seems likely, then really we’re talking $60 billion here. Canada could have its own space station for that price.
Second, there has been no serious consideration of how the new ships stack up on a list of Canadian defence priorities. In fact it’s surprisingly difficult to even find out what ships are being planned. Basically all the major ships in the Coast Guard and the Navy are up for replacement. If it’s worth pondering whether the F-35 is a necessary purchase for Canada, surely it’s worth askig the same question about $30-$60 billion worth of new ships.
So far, the only question the media seems to have realized it should be asking is whether the two winning shipyards will be chosen fairly and what that will mean for the third shipyard which gets left out. It’s a shame that we’re unable to ask more sophisticated quesions about such an extraordinarily large sum of money.Tweet