Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

If we had a federal election and (hypothetically) the NDP garnered 40% of the vote with the Liberals and Conservatives each getting 30%, it would be quite possible for the NDP to form a majority government in this country’s electoral system. If fact, theoretically, it is possible for any party to get a 40% vote in every riding and end up controlling 100% of the Parliamentary seats. It is not likely to happen only because of quirky regional differences that has politically like minded people grouped in certain pockets of the country. It seems to me to be a rather weak democracy where proper proportional representation of the public is dependent on random demographics. Representation in Parliament seems to be more a matter of dumb luck than genuine representation.

The American system of government was inspired by the Iroquois Confederacy, which Ben Franklin studied in some detail. It was a system based on consensus. Each tribe constituted one house in their system and each house had to approve a decision independently before it could proceed. It was a long, drawn out process, but it always resulted in decisions that took into account the vast majority of people without ever ignoring the opinions of any one particular group.

Obviously, the idea of government by consensus was too unwieldy for the American people, but we see in its current system the elements that Franklin wanted to keep in order to insure balance. It’s not a perfect system, and when, like now, its members are uncompromising, it has its problems. However as far as direct representation of the people goes, it’s not bad. (The fact that the elected representatives often don’t follow through on the mandates for which they were elected is another matter.)  The Canadian parliamentary system is completely different, leading to certain complications.

Let’s get back to our hypothetical NDP government. It would have 40% of the popular vote, but could hold a majority of seats in government, which means that it could effectively pass any legislation it wanted to. The opposition could protest and the Senate could stall, but in the end they would be able to enact any legislation that didn’t offend the Supreme Court. And they would. They would be in a position to fundamentally change the nature of governance in Canada. They could institute new social programs; they could make changes to pension plans; they could alter trade agreement to suit their ideology. All with 40% support and a majority of Canadians disapproving (perhaps strongly) of the direction of their actions. They would be acting as if they had the support of a majority of Canadians, which would be a lie.

What I have described is exactly what the Canadian Parliament is facing now, except it is not the NDP, but rather a Conservative government which gathered 39% of the popular vote in the 2011 election.

I do not dispute the fact that the government that wins has to govern. I dispute the fact that a government that represents less than half of the population, even with a majority of seats, should govern with disdain for the opposing views and with impunity. There has to be an element of humbleness in governing, along with a respect for the wishes of the country. Such governments that see their conditional win as an unconditional opportunity to rule rather than govern are completely missing the spirit of democracy.

That’s what is happening with the current Conservative government under Stephen Harper. The latest article by Andrew Coyne points out only some of the more recent decisions by the federal Conservatives that seem to be more rule by decree than good governance. Harper has a long history of being intolerant of the kind of transparency that comes from the media. He has been known to just get rid of the people that don’t agree with him, or ease them out of the picture any way he can, like the CBC. Or if the offending matter might be data, he shuts down or defunds the source. He shows disrespect for the other branches of government, like the Supreme Court.

Generally speaking, these are not the actions of a man who currently only has about 34% support of the Canadian voters, and is, indeed, in second place behind the Liberals. These are not the actions of a government that respects the fact that, even at their highest support, almost 60% of the population do not think they are doing a good job. This is not authentic governance, but rather governance by opportunity. These are not the actions of a government that understands that but for the fact that the Left is split into two factions, and even more so because of the drain on Liberal support in Quebec by the PQ, they’d probably never win another election. The last fact should be particularly obvious because, had it not been for their wise move to merge the PC and Reform Parties, had these still been two factions of the Right, then too would their victory be extremely elusive.  (It’s why the Tea Party doesn’t dare separate into a third party south of the border.)

A government, any government, needs to govern not rule. It needs to make decisions that represent its platform, but with the recognition that, not representing all of the constituents, it needs to temper its actions. This is the issue with the current election in Ontario, with the PC agenda being almost Tea Party Right, and yet they expect to enact it even with only 35% support from the public. Fortunately a coalition of the Centre and Left would probably derail that.

Coalition governments are condemned by political parties. No, wait. They are condemned by conservative political parties. Because they are the only ones who can be bumped by them. During the time that the Liberals held a minority government, they essentially had to foster a coalition style government with the NDP. There had to be a consensus of agreement or a willingness to compromise in order to pass legislation. In my view, this was a great setup. It produced a government that was attempting to satisfy at least 60% of the voters, rather than the 30%-35% that normally seems to be the case (and which is always the case if the PCs win.)

Let’s face it, if the NDP and Green Parties didn’t exist and split off votes from the Liberals, the PC party would likely never win an election. Yes, some centrist Liberals might bounce back and forth between the two parties (as they probably do now), but the Left side of the political spectrum in Ontario (and indeed Canada) can lay claim to between 55%-65% of the field.

In this particular election, that’s very important. The PC party is hell bent on a platform that is radical and extreme in its nature, is not taken seriously by economists and is contrary to the wishes of the majority of the voters of the province. If, as the polls suggest, the PCs were to get 35% or even 40% of the popular vote, even if that translated into a majority government (which is possible), it would mean that a party that represents significantly less than 50% of the public is going to make highly significant changes to the province (the way the Federal Conservatives are impacting the nation). That doesn’t seem very democratic.

If the PC party wins a minority government (which seems the best they’re likely to do), their opposition would probably represent 65% of the population. And “opposition” is the right word, because those who do not vote PC in this election are probably strongly opposed to the policies that they want to initiate. The responsible thing to do would be for the opposition parties to form a coalition. It’s not cheating the PCs; it’s not defying democracy. It is the only way that the will of the majority will actually be considered. You can bet that the PCs won’t temper their plans out of respect for the majority. They will seize the opportunity to make whatever changes they think are ideologically correct.
At the very least, legislation is not going to get passed. Even if they don’t form a formal coalition government, I don’t see the Liberals and NDP voting for many of the PC programs and propping up a minority government for long. A coalition government, may, in fact, be the only alternative to another election in the near future.

In Ontario, where the PCs represent the Right, the Liberals represent the Centre and Moderate Left and the NDP represent the far Left, that is the way the game has to be played. (There is a bit of confusion around some of those distinctions in this election, but I think it will return to normal rather quickly.)

Yes, I’m speculating big time, but watching Wynne have to respond to questions about the $1.1 billion and the gas plants with only the same manicured line of apology, you could see the pain that she buried in not being able to speak freely.

Why not speak freely? It would have been political suicide to make any other comment than what she did. (Many will say that it was anyway, but that’s beside the point.)

There is no question that something was rotten in the Liberal party around the time of the last election. For McGuinty to up and resign after winning an election indicates that. There must have been some serious unrest and disagreement in the party. I’m going to bet that at least part of that revolved around the gas plant decision.

Hudak and Horvath kept asking, “Why did you sign the paper and not stand up for the people of Ontario?” It’s not hard to understand why. If there was a battle about it and the power struggle resulted in the closures, to dissent publicly at the time would be political suicide and would insure the election loss. That’s a pretty heavy consequence, although many would say that it would be the right thing to do. To say now that she opposed the decision, but was overruled, during this election, would be equally devastating to her party’s chances and would make her leadership look weak, when in fact she may very well be the force that pushed out McGuinty and is trying to clean up the mess.  I personally think that when this all has receded sufficiently into the past, there are going to be some interesting memoirs here.

Furthermore, at the time the decision was made about moving the plants, the full implication was probably less obvious. A lot of that $1.1 billion is that creative accounting that politicians like to do when they need to emphasize a point. Almost half of it relates to the additional costs they will have to pay to the companies involved in order to offset increased transportation costs for the power (both in building new hydro wires and in transporting the gas to the plant). These are costs that exist, not because the plant was cancelled, but because of the new location, -a location that the other two parties say they would have chosen in the first place-, and so those costs would just have been bundled into the construction costs from the very beginning, rendering them invisible. Pegging those costs on the Liberal “mistakes” is a little hypocritical.

I am not saying here that the Liberals didn’t make a mistake. Their biggest one was the timing of the decision, pushing it through in a way that resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties that could have been avoided, in order help secure two seats. It was a dumb move, and obviously had its consequences within the party. But it was a move that any of the other parties would likely have done, and any of the party leaders placed in that kind of difficult decision of supporting something they don’t necessarily agree with, would have done the same thing. Let’s not fool ourselves and attribute any kind of false integrity to either of the other leaders or parties. Both Horvath and Hudak have demonstrated without any ambiguity their own ability to compromise integrity. And we see many examples in the actions of the Federal Conservatives as well.

Instead, though, the other leaders polish up their plastic halos and pretend to be morally superior. Furthermore they opportunistically rake through the garbage of the incumbent party looking for any dirt they can find, and if what they find isn’t damning enough, then twisting it a little to put it in a more negative light is easy to do. Take the MaRS real estate “scandal” where that creative accounting that I spoke of earlier is actually trying to bundle in $440 million in amortization costs for the next 40 years. Really? Why not also include the demolition cost? There was likely a mistake here (-although whether it was a Liberal or PC mistake is uncertain, as the MaRS deal was initiated under the Harris government-) but the exaggeration of the mistake to get political mileage out of it is unconscionable. The opposition parties know that few people are going to look at the situation with enough analysis to see their exaggerations, and, especially in light of the gas plant fiasco, will just take the accusations at face value. They just have to keep repeating the same partial truths, occasionally straightening their plastic halos.

Kathleen Wynne is probably trying to fix some real problems within her party. This is a supposition on my part, but that seems obvious from some of the actions she’s taken. However it is more opportunistic for her opponents to brand her as guilty by association with Dalton McGuinty and vilifying her. It put her in an impossible situation during the debate, and I’m sure she knew it going in. She knew she’d have to endure the accusations, paying for past mistakes like a child paying for the mistakes of the parent. Her only chance was to look convincingly contrite and pushing through it.

A Liberal party that is trying to mend its mistakes does not instill that much confidence. However, compared the campaign promises of the PCs and Hudak, it is clearly a desirable alternative. (To think that the NDP would be able to win the election is not realistic.) The argument for voting PC rests squarely on a rejection of the Liberal party. Their campaign promises are so weak that Hudak has to resort to a hollow guarantee, that he will resign if he doesn’t live up to them, in order to achieve any credibility. His economic math is so anemic that it would be the laughing stock of real economists, were the potential consequences of his winning not so dire. We find ourselves in a position where, more so than at most times, we are not faced with the best choices for this election.

Given that, I think I would rather go with the Liberals, who seem to be trying to improve themselves, than with the PCs, who seem to be in some kind of Tea Party death spiral.  When I look at “potential moving forward”, which is one of the only bright spots in this election, the choice is more clear.

One of the points in the new Liberal platform is to encourage more physical activity among students to increase health. I’m all for increased physical activity, but when I was a teacher the DPA (Daily Physical Activity) that was instituted by the Board of Education was a bit of a joke. It involved trying to do physical activity somewhere inside, usually in the crowded classroom or in the hall. The program was changed from DVPA to DPA after the extremely unfortunate occurrence of a student having a heart attack while exercising. The student reportedly had a congenital heart problem, but the end result was to take the “V” out of DVPA. The “V” stood for “Vigorous”. So running stairs was curtailed in favour of doing the Macarena in classrooms, in spite of the fact that evidence shows that sudden cardiac death does not occur more often during exercise.

Other drawbacks that I found with the DPA program was that given its informal structure, the kids that needed it the most were inevitably the ones who put in the least effort. That was true in my class and it is true in classes I’ve observed since, even when the teacher has every serious intention of engaging everyone. Kids were exercising in their regular clothing in the middle of the day, getting hot and sweaty. Seeing as it was an informal activity, finding time to do the program almost always meant stealing time from another subject, such as Math, Science or Art. I’m not saying that exercise is any less important, but a teacher should not have to squeeze a 40 minute lesson into 20 minutes due to questionably effective exercise. In most cases the exercise time is not scheduled.

This was clearly introduced as a band aid approach to a very real problem. Such problems are usually only effectively solved by more sweeping and systemic changes.

So what can be done to increase student physical activity? Here are a few ideas:

1. Where possible, have students walk to school. I am amazed at the fact that most students outside of urban areas (and many within them) are bussed. When I was a kid (-insert ironic laugh here-), my Public School was three blocks away from my home and I walked it every day, four times. By the time I went to a Middle School (grades 7 & 8) it was two kilometres that I biked every day, even in the winter. Ironically, this is a suggestion put forth by the Drummond Report.

2. Emphasize two 20 minute outdoor recess periods every day, only cancelled for the most inclement weather. The students weren’t that keen on coming in, once outside.  Students being provided extra help, or serving a detention should always be guaranteed at least one of these two periods for physical activity. Investment can be made in outdoor games equipment and training to help encourage actual physical activity rather than texting.

3. Physical Education classes should be scheduled at least three times a week. One school I was in had a problem with too many classes to accommodate in the Gym, so they set up a room for physical activity, with appropriate resources. If there is a scheduling problem, one of the three classes could be in such a room.  during physical activity classes participation should be highly encouraged.  When I see classes in the gym, often there are a hand full of students on the sidelines or stage not participating.  Sometimes it is for medical reasons; sometimes it is because they are not prepared with proper gym clothing.  Ironically, those sitting out the activities are often those that need it the most.

4. One wise old teacher that I encountered early in my career said something to me that stuck. “If you want to add something, you have to subtract something else.” You can’t just impose a new program and not expect it to impact on the existing ones. If you add 20 minutes of exercise each day in the classroom, you’re going to lose 20 minutes of something else. As a teacher, with all of the other interruptions to my days (-that’s a story for another time-) it was hard enough to cram what I needed to do into the time given. It often meant abandoning a high interest, more novel approaches in order to just communicate the basics. Quality is sacrificed. There were many hurdles to my effectiveness as a creative teacher. It’s why I retired. Perhaps, if you want to add 20 minutes of program to each day, then the school day needs to be extended.

However should schools be primarily responsible for physical exercise and activity? When I was kid (-laughter again-) I was often outside in the neighborhood until dark. The old complaint that parents had about being home before the street lights came on is no longer a concern. Kids don’t go outside like they used to. This is what Richard Louv calls “Nature Deficit Disorder”. Videos and computer games can result in a child locking themselves in their room for hours after school, rather than being outside. Even when children are enrolled in team or organized sports, the few hours of activity each week are no replacement for regular daily activity. I admire the kids who go out and skateboard or who build ramps for their bikes.

It has to do with lifestyle and general attitude more than it has to do with what schools can provide. Until those issues are changed, no matter what the school does, the impact will be limited.

For a summary of Trickle Down Economics and why it doesn’t work, see the previous post. Or just look it up on Google. The critical articles outnumber the pro articles by about ten to one.

Nobody ever talks about “Trickle Up Economics” (except for Rush Limbaugh, who naturally demonizes it and defines it basically as government handouts to the poor). In fact I may have made the term up. Well … no I don’t think so.  Googling it produces a handful of results, the critical of which tend to follow the “Nothing can be consumed until it is produced” line of thought, -which to me is just counter intuitive.  One might also call Trickle Up “Demand Side Economics”, because it begins with the consumer, -the grass roots, if you will-, and works upward from there.  (Again, the critics say that, no, it begins with the government, -but no more so than the Trickle Down model.  Government initiates action in both cases.)

In order for corporations to expand, they need to respond to an increased demand. No matter how many incentives you give businesses, if the demand is not there, it won’t work. In fact, if the demand is not there the incentives tend to be pocketed as increased profits. In Trickle Down, the idea is usually that incentives to corporations will produce more jobs, which will give the mass of consumers more spending power, which will in turn grow the economy. Except that the premise, that incentives turn into jobs, is very highly disputed.

Might the opposite approach hold more promise? Instead of giving wealthy corporations more incentives, give the incentives to he consumer. A tax incentive that encourages consumers to upgrade energy efficient appliances or make other purchases, directly stimulates the market and can unavoidably lead to more purchasing from corporations. You don’t need a PhD in Economics to see that this will immediately lead to increased production and probably jobs. And there you have it, economic growth.

While the original stimulus may not continue indefinitely, the increased employment rate will stimulate the economy by itself and be longer lasting. As a strategy, it seems to have fewer steps and be far more direct. Both strategies involve the government offering tax dollars to stimulate the economy, but in Trickle Up that money goes to consumers who are likely to utilize it rather than corporations that seem content with squirreling it away.

Plus you have the added bonus of giving consumers an incentive to aim their purchases towards worthy social goals and perhaps even lowering their debt load. The reason that green incentives to corporations don’t work very well is that there is often not the demand necessary to make start ups successful.

One other important form of Trickle Up Economics comes from the field of education. I strongly feel that education is the most important investment that our society can make. Not only is it an investment in the skills and innovation that future generations will have, but is also a positive social influence in things like crime rates. Personally, I think that school funding should be doubled. It is worth every penny. (Of course it needs to be done efficiently and effectively.) You need the best teachers and the best resources. The businesses and corporations will ultimately benefit from a more prepared work force, which will boost their productivity and profits. They should contribute more to education. In Europe they do.

Nothing could be more “Trickle Up” than Education. Investment at the grass roots, consumer level to insure the best possible education will trickle up to benefit the country economically, socially, not to mention personally. One can see the devastating implications of failure to do this just by looking around the world at places that have dropped the ball on this one. The places that are the most dictatorial and underdeveloped are also the places where education is suppressed or struggling.

Paying attention to the people who are on the “Demand” side of the Economics equation doesn’t put more money into the profits of big corporations. It doesn’t widen the wage/wealth disparity that seems to be growing. It doesn’t promote cutting away essential services at schools and other places. But it does seem to be a simple, direct way of growing the economy (rather than the corporate sphere).

There don’t seem to be any graphics or comics for “Trickle Up”.

VOTING

Posted: May 20, 2014 in Election, Personal Whining, politics

While voting is one of the primary and essential rights in a working democracy, in the overall scheme it is one of the least influential. It is kind of like oiling a machine. Oiling is not high profile, but if you don’t do it regularly, the machine breaks down. It will even run for a while with insufficient oil, but in the end you pay the price and along the way the machine’s efficiency is compromised.

So while voting is essential, it often doesn’t feel like it is, leading to voter apathy. In the past 15 years voter turnout has dropped roughly 15%. Up until about 2000 it stood (federally) at around 70% – 75%, dropping occasionally into the high 60s.   For the past few elections it has hovered around 60%, occasionally dipping into the high 50s.

In a world where technology has promoted instant gratification on so many levels, where you can tweet your vote and comments in to TV shows, where you can play on screen games at movie theatres, where your opinion can be registered and often responded to instantly on blogs and social media, voting fails to keep up.

In my area the political party that has won the area by a large margin for decades is not the one I would vote for. I know that my vote will be futile and, once the election is over, inconsequential. I know that I can have little effect on the outcome with just my vote. But I vote anyways, partly to demonstrate that there is an opposition, partly because to exercise one’s right is, in my opinion, very important. To become complacent is dangerous.

Furthermore, one often feels that the policies of those in power, even the parties you’d like to support, are beyond your grasp, controlled by forces like corporations, unions and lobby groups. This can add to the feeling of futility. In the current Ontario election many people feel that none of the parties are worth voting for.

But voting is not the only property of freedom and democracy. While my single vote may only be a drop in the proverbial bucket, I have other options. I can support my choice of candidate by working for their campaign. I can express my opinions in a variety of ways and try to persuade other people. I can lobby for a particular issue. They are the other facets of democracy, and they are the ones that can have the most impact on the process. Voting is not the be-all-and-end-all of democracy. It’s the easy part. Because it’s easy it can be taken for granted and neglected.

And if you feel that participating in democracy is not worthwhile for you, or is too much trouble, then don’t be surprised if the power is controlled by those people who do feel it is worth the trouble.

I’m far from an expert on economics. I have a few university economics courses and have been trying to read up on various issues. So I may be a bit better informed than many, but quite willing to accept debate, criticism or correction.

Trickle Down Economics is a bastion of the Right Wing. Right now it is the strategy of choice by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and their leader Tim Hudak. It claims that economic growth works best in an environment that encourages the supply side of the economy equation. This would include business owners, corporations and manufacturers. The benefits are claimed to be more employment, lower prices and more government revenue with which to pay down debt. The last of these plays double duty as it is also a rationale for smaller government and public sector cuts. On that side, the means by which to accomplish this is to reduce government spending and programs plus reducing tax rates for corporations and businesses.

Except it doesn’t work … for quite a number of reasons.

1. Reducing tax rates for is supposed to make investment in Ontario more appealing and therefore encourage more businesses to locate here. (Hudak is proposing to cut provincial corporate taxes by 30%. No mention is made of personal taxes.) However Ontario tax rates for businesses is already one of the lowest around, competing favorably with other Canadian provinces and most U.S. states. It would be a very small number of businesses that would be enticed to move here if the rates were decreased even more.

2. Whatever increase in business which might be attracted to Ontario would add an additional expense to the infrastructure needed to maintain it, which is paid for by tax dollars. With the corporate taxes cut, additional expenses would either be paid by greater personal taxes or by redirecting massive funds from public service areas (like education).

3. There is no guarantee that reduced taxes will transfer into reduced prices, greater employment or economic growth. It is just as likely that it will simply be transformed into greater profits. There is actually considerable evidence for this alternative, which I will point out later.

4. In order for businesses to produce more goods or services, they have to have the market. That’s a central problem with Supply Side Economics. It addresses the Supply side of things, but forgets about the Demand side. Pink slipping 100 000 public sector employees doesn’t exactly stimulate spending. Don’t forget that this subtraction will have a domino effect on the health of other businesses. Aside from workers who have lost their jobs no longer having money to spend at restaurants or buying new products, further cuts in things like the school budget will impact those companies that provide school supplies, books, etc. This negative trickle down effect is well documented and more certain than the positive one the Right is counting on.

5. There is considerable statistical data showing that this formula cannot be regarded as straight forward as most politicians would like. For example the Laffer curve in economics (often referred to by Right Wing politicians) states that there is an optimal taxation rate for government revenue , above an below which that revenue diminishes. If that rate is 30%, that means going above 30% diminishes government revenue. But it also means that going below it does as well, because of reduced income. This is very significant to an agenda that wants to reduce tax rates to stimulate the economy and pay down the debt.

6. But wouldn’t the increased employment counter that? That would depend on whether decreased corporate taxes translates into increased jobs. If there is no larger market, barring export, why would it? And the data tends not to support that at all. In the first graph I looked at (http://nealjennings.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/employment.jpg)
which showed corporate tax rates plotted against employment rates, the general correlation is that the lower the tax rate, the lower the employment rate, and the higher the tax rate, the higher the employment rate. Granted, when comparing countries there are probably a multitude of other factors, however the point is made.

Looking at tax rates plotted against employment in the same country (the U.S., as data like this for Canada or Ontario is hard to come by),
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/09/tax-cuts-dont-lead-to-economic-growth-a-new-65-year-study-finds/262438/
over time, we find no correlation between corporate taxes and employment, although we do find that (as has been pointed out frequently) there is a notable increase in the share of wealth possessed by the top earners. That increase has to come from somewhere.

7. The one convincingly pro tax cut graph that I encountered stated that tax cuts modestly stimulate employment and economic growth when they are received by small businesses, but not when given to large businesses. This makes sense as small businesses are coping with difficulties different from large businesses, and very often have an untapped market due to limited resources. Giving small businesses a break allows for growth and new employees. I suspect that the same would be true of start-ups. However this can often be better done through grants or tax credits, aimed directly at these demographics. (It is noteworthy that the Hudak proposal is planning to balance the 30% tax cut by eliminating the grants and tax credits, -which he refers to as corporate welfare.)

8. How exactly does cutting 100 000 public sector jobs translate into more jobs? It certainly will reduce government spending and therefore help to reduce the debt, but what does that have to do with jobs? Will a smaller debt make Ontraio more enticing as an investment opportunity, or encourage existing companies to expand?   I’m having trouble understanding how. In fact if smaller government and curtailed services lead ineffective beaurocracies or inferior infrastructure, then I can see it being a strong negative. People have to want to live here.

As I read from one commenter, what is needed here is a scalpel rather than a machete. Not just smaller government, but smarter government. I don’t think that is what is usually proposed by trickle down economic policies, and certainly not by Hudak’s P.C. party in Ontario. In fact Hudak seems to have just bought and slightly renovated Rob Fords’s whole “gravy train” philosophy. Corporate taxes in Ontario are low compared to our competitors (unless we want to emulate the labour conditions in China or Mexico). Job creation in Ontario has been progressing at a decent rate. At best the P.C. plan proposes to pay off the deficit one year earlier than the Liberals, -and they’re probably both lying. But underlying that is the fact that our current provincial deficit is far from the worst it’s been and is quite serviceable. It’s always good to pay it down, but it’s not the crisis that so many people want to make it. And studies show that, unless it goes off the deep end, it has absolutely no relation to employment, corporate investment or GDP. Not all cuts are good cuts. Government has to provide certain services not just to benefit corporations, but also individuals. Nobody wants another Walkerton.

And then there is the whole question of exactly what kind of economics we want in the province of Ontario. Do we want an economic policy where money is the most important thing? Or should be be including the environment in the equation. Does society exist solely to provide resources for the economic aristocracy, as in the Middle Ages, or do we recognize a social responsibility to spread wealth and opportunity in a more equitable way?

Economics is complicated.  It probably shouldn’t be reduced to a few talking points or a simplistic policy.  It’s hard to say what combination of factors will have what effect.  But it is fairly easy to see what is likely to be folly.  Without some kind of explanatory note, cutting 100 0 jobs and decreasing corporate taxes by 30% looks like just another tactic to widen the income and wealth disparity in our society.

Normally it would be plain good taste and courtesy to give someone space and privacy when they’ve checked into a rehab facility. However, in the case of Rob Ford it is perfectly reasonable to scrutinize his supposed rehab situation for a number of reasons.

1. Ford’s track record clearly shows that he has a very creative relationship with the truth. In the past, little that he’s said could be taken at face value.

2. There seem to be some major inconsistencies and discrepancies on the story that the press were given about Ford’s plans when he left last week. Flying to Chicago, or making people think you’ve flown to Chicago, then disappearing and returning to Canada, is not a confidence building strategy. It would have been far more straight forward to state that he was going to an undisclosed location. The convoluted deception just adds fuel to the fire.

3. As I stated in my post from several days ago, the whole situation seems a bit odd and smells contrived.

As a public official currently involved in an election campaign, the public deserves some clarity on this. Ford has a right to privacy, and I’m sure he may be in a situation where the privacy of others could be an issue as well, but laying more deception on the pile that already exists is not clarity. The public and the media are totally justified in being skeptical and Ford does have a responsibility to be at least somewhat transparent about his rehab.

Those that say, “Leave him alone,” see Rob Ford as the victim here. He’s not.  He’s made the choice not to abdicate his position as mayor and by running in the election has made his integrity fair game for scrutiny.