Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Fathers Day 2014

How my morning went:

5:55 "Good morning Daddy!! Happy Fathers Day!!!"


"Here's your present!" (Dad key chain and a...chocolate piano!!) "I'm going to make you breakfast in bed!"

"Awesome! What are you going to make?"

"I'll start with coffee..." (5 minutes later) "ok, I don't exactly know how to make coffee. Can you make me an egg?"

"lol sure..."

(after egg) "Thanks! You can go back to bed for a little while. I'll get you breakfast in bed!"

"Ummm...thanks sweetie. What are you making?"

"Well...I can certainly get you a cheese string!"

"lol perfect."

Friday, June 13, 2014

"OMG! We're screwed!!" ...or possibly not

The results are in, and Ontario has elected a Liberal majority government. Even Conservative strongholds like Peterborough and Northumberland County have tilted to the left. And unsurprisingly, the Facebook reactions are hilariously hysterical:

[the election results] SUCK.. dark days ahead. Everyone that voted them in should be moved to a special town...far, far away.

Shocking. Truly.

It's good to see that ignorance and stupidity are still alive and well in the province of Ontario.

Were [sic] screwed!!! Whoever had the bright idea to vote in liberal [sic] should seriously give their head a shake!!!! Hope you enjoy the next terrible 4 yrs because of a dumb descion [sic] you made!!!

Thoroughly disappointed in Ontario tonight. Everyone who voted Liberal should hang their heads low, real real low and stand over in the corner for the next four years while Ontario gets screwed without even the courtesy of having dinner first.

These are courtesy of the STAR 93.3 Facebook feed, which of course covers those two ridings I just mentioned.

I suppose the obvious first question I have is, "screwed in what way?" In other words, how exactly is this going to affect your day-to-day life?

The answer is, it probably won't.

The poison being spewed seems to be coming from annoyed PC voters who are unhappy with the overspending and perceived corruption of the Wynne government. And while I will grant that is hasn't been the most fiscally responsible government, the degree to which Ontarians will be "screwed" is pretty slight.

My observation over the last few elections is that people vote on party loyalty, not on reason. So these PC supporters are panicking not because there's a Liberal government, but because their candidate didn't win. However, there's no reasonable way to argue that this election will result in people getting screwed. There's actually no difference between today and yesterday.

What I'm more concerned about is that it's a majority government, and majorities are not to be trusted. They can legislate with impunity, and regardless of where on the political spectrum they sit, this is not a good thing. Although I voted with my conscience this time (Green), I believe the best move for Ontario would have been a Conservative minority. A careful examination of the books is in order, but a solid opposition to unchecked slash-and-burn public sector economics would be a decent balance for the province moving forward.

That didn't happen.

Conservatives Don't Conserve Either

But here's the thing: "Conservative" doesn't equate to "fiscally responsible" either. All governments spend money. The distinction is where they spend it. And if history is any indicator, Conservative governments are not better at saving money; nor, for that matter, do their policies result in improvements for the average voter.

For example, in the federal arena, the Harper government has taken Canada from a Liberal legacy of surplus to the deepest debt and deficit levels in the history of the country. They did this by investing tax dollars and debt into military and law enforcement development projects (all generally deemed unnecessary), corporate benefits (to companies that have since either closed down or left the country), and resource development.

The last one might be a good thing for employment. That remains to be seen. However, it has moved our international reputation as a leader in environmental policy into the gutter. And we have witnessed widespread censorship of scientific research that stands in the way of that resource development. Industry or nothing -- again, majority government.

There are a lot of things I don't like about the federal CPC majority. But we're only looking at "screwed" today.

Tax Cuts Come From Somewhere

The usual line in provincial politics is drawn on benefits vs. income tax. Conservatives in Ontario like to push for income tax cuts as a raw attractor of the average citizen.

However, twenty years ago that line was foisted on Ontarians, who were tired of paying the price for the Rae NDP's unchecked spending. The Harris Conservatives were elected on a platform of tax cuts for Ontarians.

The results were, in my opinion, disastrous.

First, the income tax at the provincial level is laughably small compared to federal taxes. So a cut to this tax for the average Ontarian is often a matter of pennies. It's tiny. And the purported "savings" to taxpayers is so negligible that most hardly even noticed it.

However, the cumulative effect of those tax cuts means a significant loss of revenue for the province. Those losses have to be made up somewhere, and in the case of the Harris government that came in the form of essential services.

  • 75,000 nurses were fired, leading to some of the longest hospital wait times in the country
  • Benefits were slashed, leading to a massive wave of poverty and underemployment (including a sharp increase in homeless rates)
  • Arts programs were cut, driving an otherwise thriving performance industry into chaos (and laying off thousands of workers)
  • Government maintenance crews were eliminated, requiring private contractors to handle things like road work. This drove the cost of road work through the roof, which is why highways in Ontario are in such poor shape...we can't afford to fix all of them.
  • Many essential services were offloaded to municipalities, which had neither the infrastructure nor the budgets to deal with them. Municipal taxes had to be raised to compensate.
  • Other essential services were privatized, leading to the retirement of Ontario Hydro (for which we still see a "debt retirement charge" on our monthly utility bill). Service Ontario came into being, which isn't a government agency, but a private company. Charges for SO services are actually higher than the province would have charged, simply because it's a private company.

The list does go on of course, and the Harris legacy hasn't been forgotten either. Did these increases in privatized costs save the taxpayer money? fact, those costs increased the amount of your hard-earned money you have to spend on services. The tax cut, in light of this, is laughable.

It could have been worse last night. The Hudak plan was, after all, to cut 100,000 government jobs and reduce the school week to four days. How disastrous would that have been to the economy, and to education?

The point I'm making is that Conservatives are no better at balancing the books than anyone else, and having a Liberal government doesn't "screw" anyone any worse than a PC government would. Or has.

The spending doesn't disappear. It just gets reallocated to where the ruling party decides it will do the most good (or the least damage). For the left, that tends to be social welfare, medicine and education. For the right, it tends to be corporate welfare and not much else. We do know that the idea of a "trickle down" economy doesn't work, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have an overall benefit. Either way, "screwed" under a Liberal government probably means you'll see an improvement in provincial services and higher wages overall.

More debt for the province? Probably. But that won't bite into your paycheque or cause your TV to go blank, so stop panicking.

Anyone But Them!

This idea in Canadian politics that anyone is better than the current government is decidedly puerile and nonsensical. Everyone will have a complaint about the current status quo, and they should. After all, these are public representatives and they're playing with your money.

But to say you'd vote Conservative simply because it's not Liberal is silliness in the extreme. It's come out of a new rationale that is anything but rational. Divided lines not on the basis of discourse, but on the basis of "belief" systems, is one of the most dangerous forms of political decision making you can have.

Our system was developed on an understanding based on a common ground of reason and intellect. You present a point with supporting evidence, and those who are not convinced execute a straightforward counterpoint. Yes, it could get heated, but it was still built on respect and reason.

Today's political environment has declined into an us-vs-them approach that I find repugnant. I wouldn't vote Liberal simply because it's not PC. That's stupid. Do the parties have platforms? Where do they stand on issues that affect not just me, but the population at large.

You see it in conversation all the time: "I'm not voting for them! They want to tax me more to pay for some lazy bum who refuses to work!" ...until this person is unemployed of course, then it's, "I can't believe they cut my EI benefits! This government sucks and I'm getting screwed."

Yup. You're screwed, you lazy bum. Get back to work.

So much focus on what the collective I can get from the government, as opposed to what's going to benefit the greatest number of citizens. Hell, I work hard, and I've been unemployed, and I've been declined for both EI and OW (welfare), because it's based on last year's tax return, not on how hungry you are right now. Not cool.

Is that the Liberals? Is it the previous PC government? It doesn't matter. All I know is I had bills to pay.

But when people start in with the "anyone but them" mentality, I cringe. It's demagogues influencing the uninformed and untrained with doctrine rather than dialogue. Logic and sense have gone out the window. And when it happens, we see the kind of hysteria that's had me shaking my head all morning over this election.

I'll tell you this: If it were a Liberal minority, nothing would ever get done, because the PC opposition would vote down every motion put on the floor, simply because it's tabled by a Liberal. That's what they do. If it were a PC minority, I don't doubt the same thing would happen with more controversial legislation, but at least Liberal oppositions have a tendency (not a record, mind you) of weighing the evidence. An NDP minority would never get anywhere, because they'd be stopped every time they stood up by a forceful Liberal or PC opposition, both of whom like to pretend they're the big dogs at the table.

But a majority, even a Liberal one, has pitfalls. We've seen it with the draconian and dictatorial leadership at the national level from both parties.

I'm very sad and scared about the fate of Ontario. Ontario used to be a glorious thriving province. Maybe move out of Ontario...

Not sure when this golden age was, but if we're talking about any time under Rae-Harris-Wynn, you might want to pack your bags. Three consecutive changes of political spectrum, and not one of those parties seems to have done anything anyone is happy about.

We need a new politics in this country, and we need it to start in the education system. Assuming we don't see cuts to that too.