Saturday, January 20, 2018

What Trump Has Wrought

The divisiveness of the toddler-in-chief is never more evident than in this brief clip. As well, his supporters clearly will not tolerate a dissenting view as they react rather than reflect.

The following video might take a moment to load:

Friday, January 19, 2018

Now This Is Truly, Deeply Deplorable

I think most people have heard of the right-wing Fraser Institute, the 'non-partisan' think tank that receives charitable tax status while promoting a largely neoliberal agenda. Well, they now seem to have reached a new low in their propaganda efforts:

PressProgress reports that
the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board recently circulated materials promoting an “essay contest” organized by the right-wing Fraser Institute to principals and office administrators at high schools across Ottawa.

According to contest guidelines, high school students are being offered prizes up to $1,500 for essays exploring why “increasing the minimum wage” is a “bad policy”.
Lest you think this is an honest exploration of ideas, consider this:
The promotional document encourages students to visit where the Fraser Institute portrays “the idea of raising the minimum wage” as a “contentious topic” and claims minimum wage increases primarily harm “young people and immigrants.”

The Fraser Institute also supplies students with anti-minimum wage talking points from a discredited Fraser Institute report that falsely portrays minimum wage earners as “young adults,” who are mostly “living with their parents or other relatives.”
Typical of the 'facts' espoused by the Institute, the above information is erroneous:
Statistics Canada data shows that among Canadians earning less than $15 per hour – in other words, people who would see an immediate raise following a $15/hr minimum wage increase – the vast majority of low-wage workers (59%) are actually 25 years or older.
Today, more than ever, critical thinking is of paramount importance. school boards, which at least in theory are dedicated to the cultivation of such a crucial skill. Is it not a little ironic that they should be so easily hoodwinked by an egregious attempt, not to foster such thinking, but to reflect and inculcate corporate group-think and ideology?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Have You Signed Yet?

Despite all of his sanctimonious talk about tax fairness, there is little evidence thus far that Justin Trudeau is committed to anything more than indulging in his standard soaring rhetoric. Now, there is a a petition being circulated on that seeks to change that.

As reported in today's Star, the petition
was launched by advocacy group Democracy Watch after the Star, in partnership with Corporate Knights magazine, published an investigation last month that showed how individuals pay three-and-a-half times more income tax than corporations.
An excerpt from the petition offers these disquieting statistics:
Canada's official corporate tax rate is now 26.6% but, on average, Canadian big businesses paid only 17.7% from 2011-2016 -- one of the lowest rates of all G7 countries.

Canada's Big Banks paid a tax rate of only 16% over the past 6 years -- lower than banks in other G7 countries. They are the biggest tax evaders of all Canadian big businesses and, not surprisingly, also the most profitable. They made a record $42.3 billion in profits in 2017.
And that lost tax money could have been used to accomplish so much good:
If Canada's big businesses and banks paid the official tax rate from 2011-2016, governments across Canada would have almost $64 billion more to spend on making hospitals, schools, housing, public transit and roads better, and on other things Canadians need.
Given the sociopathic nature of corporations, they will never pay any more than they have too. Their much vaunted 'fudiciary responsibility to shareholders' is the tenet by which they justify their efforts at tax avoidance and cheating others out of their rightful due.

Consider, for example, Sears Canada. Francine Kopun writes:
Handsome dividends paid to Sears Canada shareholders even as the company was faltering and its employee pension fund was running a deficit are being reviewed by the court-appointed monitor handling the company’s insolvency.

The transactions of interest, according to the monitor, include a dividend of $102 million paid to Sears Canada shareholders on Dec. 21, 2012, and $509 million paid on Dec. 6, 2013.
The problem is, Sears was already seriously bleeding cash when the dividend was issued, and guess who paid the price? The Sears pension plan.
The pension deficit was $307 million in 2010 and $133 million in 2013.

When the company sought creditor protection in June, the pension fund had a deficit of $270 million, potentially leaving retirees with reduced incomes.

“Certainly from our standpoint, we felt that the payments of dividends, when the company was not making money and there was no investment in the company and there was a debt to the pension plan, were inappropriate,” said Ken Eady, a spokesperson for Sears Canada retirees.
Companies will never act with integrity on their own. That is why the role of government is essential in moderating their greed.

Please give serious consideration to signing the petition at

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A New McCarthyism

We all knew them growing up - the kid who would do anything to curry favour with the teacher, the one we knew variously as 'the brown-noser,' the 'suck-up' or by any number of similarly unflattering terms. This kid did it, presumably, to curry favour, to gain some kind of imagined classroom status that his or her fevered mind craved.

Unfortunately, some kids never grow up.

In the above photo, the one on the left of the toddler-in-chief is Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House Majority Leader. He apparently learned his lessons well in boyhood. The following, I think, suggests the fulll measure of the boy-man:
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy were alone in the presidential suite on Air Force One, flying east toward Washington in early October, when the president reached for a handful of Starbursts, the fruit-flavored, box-shaped chewy candies.

But instead of unwrapping all of the treats, the president was careful to pluck out and eat two particular flavours: cherry and strawberry, McCarthy noticed.

“We’re there, having a little dessert, and he offers me some,” McCarthy recalled in an interview. “Just the red and the pink. A bit later, a couple of his aides saw me with those colours and told me, ‘Those are the president’s favourites.’ ”

Days later, the No. 2 Republican in the House — known for his relentless cultivation of political alliances — bought a plentiful supply of Starbursts and asked a staffer to sort through the pile, placing only those two flavours in a jar. McCarthy made sure his name was on the side of the gift, which was delivered to a grinning Trump, according to a White House official.
While the motivation for such obsequious behaviour would be obvious to normal people, Trump is, both literally and figuratively, eating it up:
Trump has showcased the relationship and appears to enjoy the fidelity of a high-ranking GOP leader. Before having dinner together Sunday at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., Trump took questions from reporters under the club portico’s ornate arches, with McCarthy standing beside him.
McCarthy seems to understand Trump's severe limitations:
While at Camp David earlier this month, McCarthy took up the task of explaining the obstacles facing Republicans ahead of the midterm elections in November, walking through the financial hurdles and bleak prospects in various races.

According to two people familiar with the presentation, Trump appreciated McCarthy’s use of pictures and charts rather than a memo.
So why is this at all important, other than as an illustration of gross sycophancy and political pandering?
Critics of McCarthy privately grouse that he is an operator who is most concerned with improving his standing in the House by aligning himself with the Republican base’s standard-bearer. There are worries, too, that McCarthy’s ingratiation could enable Trump rather than contain him.

“I don’t think being a Trump sycophant is going to do much in the long run for the party or holding the majority,” said Republican consultant Mike Murphy. “It doesn’t change Trump’s behaviour, which is imperiling the party, and we’re getting to a place where challenging him is an imperative.”
The Republican Party has been in a downward spiral for quite some time. With standard bearers like Kevin McCarthy, it is not difficult to understand why.

Thought For The Day

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Double Double, Toil And Trouble: Star Readers On Tim Hortons And The Minimum Wage Hike

As always, the letters from Star readers do not disappoint:
I am really finding it difficult to empathize with businesses like Tim Hortons crying over the minimum-wage increase. The fact that these businesses are paying minimum wage in the first place demonstrates a corporate greed that supersedes any dignity and respect for their employees that serve the coffee and make the sandwiches that generate billions in earnings. Tim Hortons is no longer Canadian and I feel we shouldn’t be as loyal to a brand that does not project Canadian values. Were businesses expecting the minimum wage to stay the same forever?

Brad Globe, Whitby

I would gladly pay more for my coffee and doughnut to make possible the continued care of Tim Hortons’ fine staff – as they have cared for me and my family and friends for so many years and in so many places.

I don’t want to leave Tim’s comfort and kindness for some cold and trendy café staffed by constantly changing temps. Tim’s is one of my homes, where I always feel welcome and safe.

Please find a way to reward these wonderful workers for their dedication and loyal service, and you can count on my continued and loyal patronage.

Susan McMaster, Ottawa

Pick a fight with me Mr. Joyce, not workers; and Small business owners are not the bullies here, Opinion, Jan. 7

We strongly disagree with Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, when he suggests the minimum-wage hike is about “election optics.”

Small businesses are the backbone of Ontario’s economy and therefore a powerful political base. Thus, if Premier Kathleen Wynne is indeed “shaming” small businesses, she is actually risking political suicide. We applaud her for courageously putting the quality of life of everyday Ontarians above the Liberals’ political gains.

As small business owners for 34 years, we have always paid our employees well above minimum wage. In profitable years, we have rewarded them with year-end bonuses. As Wynne aptly argues, “it’s the right thing to do.” Profiting from those who struggle to make ends meet is not good business, it is abuse.

For those small-business owners who truly cannot afford to pay a living wage, you have our sympathy. It takes courage to accept the risks inherent with starting a business. However, if your success depends on the failure of your employees to make ends meet, then you cannot be truly successful.

For those small-business owners who are financially able to but refuse to pay their employees a living wage, shame on you.

Mr. Kelly, as “courageous” business owners, we would indeed love to tell the premier what her $15 minimum-wage plan means for our future and the future of our employees: business as usual.

Gerald and Shelley Grieve, Gerald Grieve Landscape Group