Archive for February, 2013
Nothing on the telly last night, so I casually switched to CBC’s The National for masochistic kicks. I tuned in during the “At Issue” panel, which the CBC calls “Canada’s most watched political panel,” which after only a few minutes of observation led me to conclude that it’s Canada’s “only” political panel.
Feast your eyes on this riveting display of punditric power (which, apparently, won’t embed in this WordPress app).
For the viewing-impaired or MotherCorpophobic, the panel features four “opinion makers” agreeing with each other while the ponderous Peter Mansbridge solemnly posits mumbled queries in the manner of an Oxford don, albeit not as electrifying.
Wouldn’t it be a lot more interesting if there was, you know, a variety of opinion on this opinion panel? Even the token “conservative” here is arguing for cap-and-trade on carbon. Say what you want about Sun News, but those low-budget personalities are at least interesting and, I might add, not afraid to debate with those with opposing viewpoints.
The only saving grace on The National is, of course, Rex Murphy, who actually has an opinion and isn’t afraid of sharing it, as last night’s performance shows.
In three minutes, Murphy made a stirring argument highlighting the general permeance of the papacy and Christianity in Western civilization, and offered up a swift rebuke to those who would rather mock the institution and its associated beliefs because these do not conform to the supposed modern mindset. Though he didn’t mention the recent controversial remarks from Thomas Mulcair on the suitability of an evangelical Christian charity doing work in Africa, Murphy provided an indirect response on a intellectual and philosophical level by illustrating the enduring depth and cultural resonance of Christianity in our society.
Murphy doesn’t seek to conform (he once defended the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming to a lunch with the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists I attended), and as such provides an almost singular point of opinionated illumination on the dark, drab CBC.
Why some of the $1.2 billion in annual taxpayer dollars can’t be used to find more than two individuals who thwart the official party line is beyond me.
Still, there’s no reason for me to turn back to The National any time soon. I get my news from a multitude of varied sources who are, at the least, moderately interesting. I don’t have to agree with everything my news offers, but I want to be challenged.
And, no, the challenge of staying awake during The National isn’t enough.
Obama’s proposed minimum wage would be higher than all but one state (Washington), meaning it could have a particularly disruptive impact because it wouldn’t take into account the differences among local labor markets.
If unemployment were quite low, the economy were expanding rapidly, and employers were having trouble finding workers, then an increase in the minimum wage might not do as much damage. But this is less likely under current circumstances, with the economy growing slowly and unemployment at 7.9 percent.
Also, next year, the major provisions of the national health care law will be implemented. Already, fast-food and chain restaurants have been announcing plans to cut back worker hours to avoid the federal penalty for not providing government-approved health insurance. To them, an increase in the minimum wage on top of the health care mandate would be another incentive to cut back on their workforce.
It’s generally inadvisable for the federal government to dictate wages to workers and employers, but to do so now would be particularly dangerous.
I disagree. It’s always dangerous to raise the minimum wage.
RELATED: My post on the raising of minimum wage in Saskatchewan last year.
ALSO RELATED: Don Beaudreaux at Cafe Hayek does his own inevitable and imitable take.
From page A2 in today’s StarPhoenix:
Sask. readies recycling plan
REGINA — Saskatchewan plans to shift the cost of municipal recycling programs from taxpayers to industry and consumers.
Environment Minister Ken Cheveldayoff says under the policy, industry would be required to cover 75 per cent of the cost of recycling programs.
But then it is expected that industry would pass those costs along to consumers through price increases.
The final plan is to be presented to the government by Aug. 6 for approval.
My neighbourhood was among the first to receive its mandatory blue bin even though I didn’t ask for it. It was supposed to come out in “early January 2013” but we didn’t get it until the end of the month, and we still haven’t received any information on the pickup schedule. We’re promised that we are to pay a low, low monthly fee of $4.66. And no one in government has ever broken a promise.
According to a recent government-sponsored consultation paper, total municipal waste consists about about 10% of potentially recyclable materials from residential units. Most of the rest of the recyclable materials in municipal waste (about 30%) would originate from industrial sources. Therefore, one could expect that most of this increase in recycling fees will be transferred from taxpayers to industries in the form of increased consumer costs, lost job opportunities, or lower margins.
Still, one could reasonably expect that the taxpayer subsidy anticipated by our municipalities would be shifted to the residents, e.g. me, and this should result in my low, low monthly fee to increase somewhat.
I eagerly await a response from our municipal officials.
The Canadian mainstream media have been enthralled over the last few months with the Idle No More movement. It’s not hard to imagine why: journos who pine for opportunities to change the world are often attracted to David-v.-Goliath-type storylines, and desperation on Indian reserves has long been fodder for eager do-gooder newsreaders. Poverty sells, after all.
So when Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence comes forward with her hunger strike, who could blame the media for going over-the-top nuts on the story?
It had it all: Aboriginals pounding drums. Dilapidated homes. Poverty. A woman in a leadership position. A hunger strike which implies the possibility of imminent death. Roadblocks. Marching in the street. Chants and placards. Heartless Conservative government in power. I’d be shocked if checklists featuring these specific items weren’t handed out at Ryerson J-School.
At first, the media line continued as you would expect: poor, blighted Aboriginals being trod upon by cruel Stephen Harper and his henchmen willfully negligent in their constitutionally defined duty yadda yadda yadda.
Suddenly, and almost overnight, the conversation began to change, both in the media and the public at large. Sure, the blighted Aboriginal angle was still there, but the talk was focusing on the activities of Chief Spence and her alleged mismanagement as leader of the Attawapiskat band council.
I posit that this change hinged on a January 3, 2013 Sun News broadcast featuring Ezra Levant:
This information was elaborated in the next few episodes of The Source with Ezra Levant.
Less than a week later, a recent audit of the federal funding of the Attawapiskat First Nation was leaked to the media, which showed that $104 million of taxpayer dollars was insufficiently accounted for between April 2005 and November 2011. This of course brought a whole new angle on the Attawapiskat story by suggesting that the Harper government may not be solely to blame for the mess on the reserve and, possibly, elsewhere. Public opinion quickly shifted away from supporting the Idle No More movement to one that was more critical of the national Aboriginal strategy as a whole, and Chief Spence was eventually forced to back down from her supposed hunger strike by her own band members.
This turn of events can be attributed in good part to the work of Levant. Without his investigative journalism and ability to communicate his findings in a clear, concise manner, Chief Spence may very well have continued her “hunger strike” to the point where she would have looked like someone who was actually on a hunger strike. Instead, Levant initiated substantial context into the debate than the MSM was willing to allow, and he showed where Chief Spence was vulnerable in her posturing.
That he changed the terms of a national debate should not come as a surprise to anyone following Levant’s public career. In fact, this was the third such time he had done so.
His first instance occurred when he countered charges issued by the Alberta Human Rights Commission over his publishing of the infamous “Muhammed cartoons” in the now-defunct Western Standard magazine. He insisted that he would videotape his encounters with the HRC interviewer and then posted them on YouTube. They illustrate his tenacity when confronting issues he feels are unethical, immoral or unbecoming of a free society:
(h/t Kathy Shaidle)
The complaint against Levant was later withdrawn. (I recommend Levant’s fun recollection on the HRC issue found in Shakedown: How Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights.)
The result of his work and the work of Mark Steyn, who was also called to report to a human rights commission, was that the terms of a national debate were changed: People were no longer merely debating the degree of “anti-Islam” bigotry in the country, but now were considering the insidious nature of the Canadian human rights regime. While these gentlement do not deserve all the credit, free-thinking governments across the Dominion were forced to re-examine their respective HRC systems with respect to their propensity to prohibit communication “that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt.”
The debate had been turned.
Similarly, Ezra had a hand in changing the terms of the debate over another contentious issue: the Alberta oilsands. For years, the oilsands became a focal point for activists ostensibly concerned about the impact of the industry on the local environment and with its supposed impact on global climate. In reality, the anti-oilsands activity was part of the larger anti-everything movement which has raged against progress and prosperity and everything good since the dawn of socialism in the 19th century. To be sure, the environment was of concern to these activists, which is perfectly reasonable. What wasn’t reasonable was that oilsands opponents were placing the environment over all other concerns.
Oilsands proponents and supporters had tried to counter this argument with stats on employment, economic development, etc., but this only fell on the deaf ears of those who proclaim a disdain for filthy lucre (even if they themselves don’t mind to put the food on their own table). Regardless, too many people don’t consider economic prosperity to be a moral virtue, and as a result, the oilsands continued to be tarred in the realm of public opinion.
Enter Ezra Levant stage right. He coined the term “ethical oil” to offer an alternative metric to measure the morality of oil production: the ethics of the political environment which benefits from producing oil. The premise is that Canada is a free, liberalized Western democracy, and that the other major oil producing countries — Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran, etc. — are corrupt, despotic, or both, and that by buying oil from the bad guys, you’re benefiting the evil political regimes.
This was a brilliant argument. Again, it’s clear and concise, meaning that it’s easy for anyone to pick it up and use in any debate. Moreover, it was true: who can argue against giving money to corrupt Saudi princes who funnel it to fundamental Wahabists in Pakistan, or enriching Russian oligarchs, when you have a choice to buy oil from nice, kind, boring Canadians?
Like the other debates, Levant didn’t win the argument, which rages on, but he reframed the national debate. And he did it three times, which is more than you can say for some of our taxpayer-funded nepotists.
So, like him or hate him, he’s filling in a sorely needed gap in our newsmedia. He’s provocative, nerdy, completely distasteful, and not always right. But he’s interesting, he can be compelling, and he can makes you re-think your point of view on some of the most pressing stories of the day. If that’s not what you want in a news media, then frankly just keep your blinders on because you obviously don’t want a news media.