Potential assassins have threatened the life of Jimmy Carter multiple times since he left the White House in 1981, making the one-term Georgian the most threatened former president in history, according to a new book about John F. Kennedy and his assassination 50 years ago.
"Excessive red tape is a hidden tax and a silent job killer," said Minister Clement. "The Action Plan increases Canadian competitiveness and frees business to innovate, invest, grow, and create jobs—and underscores Canada's reputation as one of the best places in the world to do business and invest."
Which begs an interesting question: If the Tories are committed to fighting "excessive red tape"- and who isn't? - then what do they consider an appropriate level of red tape? Since red tape is a job killer, why not get rid of it all? You could create many more jobs and economic opportunities that way.
This isn't a call for anarchy, just a reappraisal of how many laws we actually need. The laws and regulations that Minister Clement is scrapping have likely been in place for years. Why were they passed in the first place? What's changed? At some point a politician or bureaucrat regarded these infringements on personal liberty as justifiable, now Minister Clement has decided they're not worth the hassle. No explanation. Just cutting "excessive red tape."
In days of yore new laws were debated in Parliament and tended to receive a fair amount of public scrutiny. Today Parliament is mostly a talk shop and the public is astonishingly apathetic. Government has grown so large and so complex that few private citizens, and perhaps even fewer MPs, have even the foggiest idea of what the federal establishment does. Less scrutiny means that as a practical matter mid and low level bureaucrats have a remarkable amount of discretionary power.
While Parliament still passes laws, it's the bureaucracy that implements them. How they're implemented is partly at the discretion of Cabinet and the Minister, but often it's at the discretion of the bureaucrats. Some trivial interpretation of the tax laws, the transportation safety code or any other sub-section of the regulatory nexus can cost billions of dollars to the private sector. It's not surprising that large businesses employ armies of lobbyists. Often the lobbyists have a better understanding of the bureaucratic process than the responsible minister.
Because of its size the modern federal and provincial governments are inherently unaccountable. When something becomes that big it becomes almost impossible to manage. When something that big has the force of law behind it, the result is almost inevitably abuse. The modern regulatory state is a direct threat to the principle of responsible government.
That last line might seem a bit of an exaggeration. How are paper pushers the new Family Compact or Chateau Clique? Because in both the modern and historical cases they are unaccountable to the electorate. That unaccountability threatens the rule of law. A bureaucracy that can change the rules overnight is inherently arbitrary, especially if the rule makers cannot be dismissed or punished. Such unaccountability is also a breeding ground for crony capitalists. Why compete for customers when it's so much simpler to pressure a politician or senior official? It worked for Bishop Strachan's former students, no doubt it works well for Tony Clement's pals.
This is not an accusations of illegality. Minister Clement learned politics at the fear of Bill Davis and served as a senior minister under Mike Harris. There are few more experienced pols in the country. I'm sure all the laws have been carefully obeyed. Rules that Minister Clement and those like him have established.
Thing is that something can be perfectly legal, yet morally questionable. Cutting red tape sounds great in principle, but how is it being cut? An "if" here and a "but" there in a regulatory edict and you can make some people very rich, and others very poor. Even with the best of intentions.
Here are two simple rules for government: If a current law does not objectively relate to punishing or preventing force or fraud, it should be scrapped. If a proposed law does not relate to punishing force or fraud, it should never see the legislative light of day. This approach would prevent "excessive red tape" far more easily than anything Tony Clement could do.
Certainly if the trend were in the other direction, we’d be reading about nothing but. That’s not speculation: when the poverty rate was rising, it was a staple of news and commentary. “Nearly 4 million Canadians,” the Toronto Star told its readers in December of 1992, “now live in abject poverty.” But now that fewer than three million Canadians are in poverty, it is no longer worthy of notice?
A new ad campaign to “Free the CBC” from political interference will not air on the public broadcaster’s programs, say representatives from the non-profit media watchdog group that created the commercials.
“I’m a little surprised and disappointed that they wouldn’t take our money for the ads,” said Friends of Canadian Broadcasting spokesperson Ian Morrison. “It proves our point a little bit about the nature of the problem.”
I suppose it does. The amusing thing about the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting is that they fail to grasp the logic of their position. If their true goal is to free the CBC from political influence, there is only one reliable way of doing so: Cut off all government funding. A private broadcaster is far less susceptible to government bullying. They get paid by a wide variety of advertisers and sponsors, instead of a primary source which is overtly political.
Complaining about the Tories attempting to influence the CBC is also incredibly rich. Even casual observers of the Mother Corp note it's anti-Conservative bias and fawning coverage of Justin Trudeau. If the Tories are trying to bully the CBC they're doing a horrible and belated job of it. Seven years in power and now they get around to demanding decent coverage?
Political interference at the CBC is nothing new. It's actually the broadcaster's raison d'etre. Canada had a strong and diversified private broadcasting system in 1936 when the CBC was established. There was no shortage of news or entertainment for Canadians to choose from. The problem, so far as a clique of statist nationalists were concerned, was that the news and entertainment being provided to Canadians was not sufficiently Canadian. By whose standards? By the standards of those very same lobbyists, bureaucrats and politicians.
The CBC began by telling Canada's stories to Canadians, but only those that meet the philosophical prejudices of the Aird Commission. It then continue to tell Canada's stories to Canadians by broadcasting the accepted consensus of the Laurentian elite. On a clear day they might see Hamilton from the roof of their offices in downtown Toronto. While the CBC developed a network of local stations, those in charge were drawn from a small collection of journalists and academics located in Central Canada. Most were graduates of U of T, Queen's or McGill. From day one they had a certain vision of Canada they were intent on stamping upon Canadians.
The central objection to commercial broadcasting was its lack of political influence. Private broadcasters were mostly interested in providing what people wanted to watch and listen to. They had little interest in bombarding Canadians with Liberal or CCF/NDP tinged propaganda. The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting do want political interference at the CBC, but only from people who agree with their politics. The CBC has always been a political project.
Way back in the 1960s the Pearson government pressured the CBC to cancel This Hour Has Seven Days after a series of embarrassing stories. In the late 1990s the Chretien government grew annoyed with Terry Milewski and his coverage of the APEC scandal. Mysteriously Terry Milewski soon found himself suspended. Bill C-60, what the Friends are so work up about, simply allows the government to sit in on collective bargaining negotiations. If the Tories wanted to influence content they could just follow the well trodden path of previous Liberal governments, a discrete word in a hallway or backroom.
The actual purpose of the legislation, which applies to other Crown corporations, is to prevent these agents of the government from accumulating overly generous pension and benefit obligations that might, in the not too distant future, require a federal government bail out. The Harper Tories already have means at their disposal to bully the CBC. That the Mother Corp retains its Leftist bias is proof that either the Conservatives have refused to pressure the broadcaster, or they are pretty inept at doing so.
If you want to Free the CBC, then let it survive in a free market. 76 years of corporate welfare is quite enough.
Mark Collins & Co over a 3Ds, your one stop shop for Canadian diplomacy, defence and development commentary, is in the finals for the presitigious Defence IQ Blogging awards. As a long time reader I urge you take a trip over to 3Ds and Defence IQ and cast a ballot.
Run by the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute, The 3DS Blog aims to provide Canadians with factual and comprehensive policy analysis to promote their understanding of Canada’s foreign affairs and aid policies. Updated with fresh content and opinions on a daily basis, the blog was nominated due to the in-depth coverage into Canada’s defence policy and procurement.
Slick television ads this year for the Harper government's "economic action plan" appear to be inspiring a lot of, well, inaction.
A key measure of the ads' impact is whether viewers check out actionplan.gc.ca, the web portal created in 2009 to promote the catch-all brand.
But a survey of 2,003 adult Canadians completed in April identified just three people who actually visited the website.
Not sure how "slick" a government advert can be. They are, however, quite expensive. Over the last four years the promotion of the federal Action Plan has cost taxpayers over $100 million. Again that's for the promotion of the government program, the actual program has run into the billions. All so the Tories can tell us what a wonderful job they're doing spending our money on important things.
Like government ads.
It actually gets worse:
Jack Aubry also said traffic to the action plan website increased markedly during the winter campaigns — which included TV, radio, print and online ads — to 12,600 visits each day from a baseline of 2,300.
So for a few million dollars a government website was able to boost its traffic to roughly the level of a moderately successful blog. Do remember this is a Conservative government. A Liberal government would likely have spent more, gotten less and found itself embroiled in a few petty scandals in Quebec. Incrementalism does work. Just not in the direction we were all hoping.
This brings us to the question of why any government has to advertise. A private sector business advertises to attract customers; people who might not have heard of the business or might be attracted to competitors. Everyone in Canada knows we have a federal government, even if they only know it as a source of largess. The federal government also has no real competition. In theory you might argue that the Canadian federal establishment is competing against the American federal establishment. But unless you're planning on moving to another country, Ottawa is the only game in town.
Since the federal government is the ultimate omnipresent monopoly, what are they trying to sell us?
The short answer is activity. Since showing Canadians the success of government policies is impossible, it would imply governments succeed at doing things from time to time, the federal PR machine must instead sell activity. Hey Canadians! Look at all the cool stuff we're doing! All your tax dollars are being well spent. No need to pay the slightest attention to the Auditor General's next report. Look at that nice young ethnic lady in a hard hat!
As the above article shows, it doesn't work very well. Does that mean the federal government will stop advertising about all the wonderful stuff it's doing? Hell, no. Despite being an obvious failure the PR spin doctors will insist that such spending continue. After all if such such pending didn't continue they'd have to find another line of work. Just as the federal government must convince Canadians it's doing something about the economic situation, so the bureaucrats must convince the politicians that they're doing something about convincing Canadians that the government is doing something.
This isn't a peculiarity of the federal government. Any large bureaucracy, private or public, acquires a self-justifying mission. Since it is difficult to determine how much value a paper-pusher or a vice president adds to the bottom line in the private sector, the private sector bureaucrats must invent work for themselves to seem as if they are providing value to the bottom line. Since there actually is a bottom line this kind of make-work mentality has a natural limit. Government has no bottom line so there is no natural limit short of national bankruptcy.
This is why you cannot make government run more efficiently. When your source of revenue is guaranteed, you render yourself unaccountable to those who pay your salary. Pointless activity becomes a cover for the inherent uselessness of much of what is being done. This is a logic that applies to governments of every ideological stripe. Big Government cannot be reformed, it can only be abolished.
Changes to Canadian Army insignia will cost about $245,000 but the military is hoping the move will pay for itself over a five-year period.
The Conservative government announced July 8 that Canadian Army rank insignia, names and badges would revert to their traditional forms; the army would replace the maple leaf rank designation on the uniforms of officers with traditional “pips” and Crowns. The ranks of non-commissioned officers will return to the original designations that were in place during the First and Second World Wars. Those were based on the British Army.
The federal government spends about $275 billion a year. On this blog I've documented dozens of examples of government waste that run into the many millions, examples that pass without comment in the MSM. Yet these same outlets seem utterly obsessed with the cost of restoring traditional insignia and designations to our armed forces. Last year it was how much returning the word royal to the navy and air force would cost the taxpayers. Opposition parties that think nothing of proposing multi-billion dollar welfare programs complained bitterly about ordering new stationery.