Behind the Numbers

C-51 hearings end with suggestion government erred in drafting bill

March 27th, 2015 · · Aboriginal Issues, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Human Rights, Immigration, International Relations, Military, Peace & Conflict

Like university students cramming for an exam, last night the parliamentary public security committee (SECU) finished the last of nine hearings (over only six days) into the government’s anti-terrorism bill (C-51). It’s now up to the committee to perform a clause-by-clause review of the omnibus legislation and draft recommendations to the House, including possible amendments, before third reading, which is expected to happen quickly. The NDP and the Liberals have announced the amendments they will be seeking.

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RCMP stop another suspected terrorist… without C-51

March 25th, 2015 · · Aboriginal Issues, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Human Rights, Immigration, International Relations, Military, Peace & Conflict

The Charlottetown Guardian reports today the RCMP has arrested a Prince Edward Island man they suspect might carry out a terrorist offence. It’s somewhat awkward for the government: it could be a good news story (depending on what the case looks like), but it could also undermine the Conservative’s position that Canada’s security and spy agencies need more power to keep this country safe from terrorism. Several witnesses have suggested Bill C-51, which is being rushed through the public safety and national security committee this week, could actually interfere with RCMP and local police efforts to disrupt potential terrorist attacks.

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As support for C-51 slides, Conservative MP floats oversight fix

March 24th, 2015 · · Criminal Justice, Democracy, Human Rights, Immigration, International Relations, Military, Peace & Conflict

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The government has stacked the public safety committee’s schedule this week, hoping to get through all remaining witnesses and approve Bill C-51 before Easter. Meetings resumed last night (see CBC’s good summary here) and continue today with morning and evening sessions.

As the public mood shifts against the legislation (support halved between March and February), with the Canadian Bar Association putting out the latest legal challenge (C-51 potentially puts “the entire Charter into jeopardy, undermines the rule of law, and goes against the fundamental role of judges as the protectors of Canada’s constitutional rights”), and protests, both traditional (see image above from a March 14 rally in Ottawa) and clothing optional, increasing, the government appears to be spitballing on a desirable endgame, with Michael Chong floating a potential compromise on oversight that will likely appeal to the Liberals.

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The high cost of eliminating the deficit

March 23rd, 2015 · · Alternative Federal Budget, Economy & Economic Indicators, Federal Budget, Poverty and Income Inequality

AFB2015_familyCanada’s federal government ran a deficit for nearly thirty years – from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. Successive Conservative and Liberal governments delivered programs, implemented economic and fiscal policies, and ran the country, without balancing the budget. The sky did not fall. The fabric of Canadian society did not unravel. Nobody fell off a fiscal cliff.

Where did the obsessive concern with a balanced federal budget come from and how did it gain such currency in the popular imagination?

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Alternative Federal Budget 2015: Delivering the Good

March 19th, 2015 · · Alternative Federal Budget, Economy & Economic Indicators, Federal Budget, Poverty and Income Inequality

The following remarks are excerpted from the 2015 Alternative Federal Budget press conference on March 19, 2015 on Parliament Hill, featuring David Macdonald and Kate McInturff.


This year is the 20th anniversary of the Alternative Federal Budget. Our first was in 1995. Over the years, we’ve proposed policies that have been successfully implemented, like the creation of a Parliamentary Budget Officer. Other ideas, like affordable childcare, we continue to advocate for.

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The imaginary deficit

March 18th, 2015 · · Economy & Economic Indicators, Quebec

The last elections have ushered in a fresh input of creativity and imagination in Quebec’s political life. Not content with exaggerating the budget deficit by cooking the books, Couillard’s government invented a so-called “structural deficit” between the state’s expenditures and revenues.

The logic is quite simple: spending growth is greater than revenue growth. The problem is that that’s just not true. For instance, between 2008 and 2012, the government of Quebec’s revenues grew 15.6% whereas its basic running costs (healthcare, education, social services, interests, etc.) grew 15.1%.

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Road to Ruin: Use of costly highways consultants has skyrocketed.

March 17th, 2015 · · Saskatchewan

If you love the feeling of cruising down a brand-new stretch of highway, the last few years have been full of good news for you.

And if you’re in the business of designing and overseeing the construction work on those highways, well, these are banner years indeed.

If you’re a taxpayer on the hook to pay for that roadwork, though, the picture isn’t quite as pretty.

Stack o' Documents 2

While the drop in oil prices is sure to take its toll, roadbuilding in Saskatchewan has been booming lately. The Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure (MHI) had record high budgets in 2009 and 2010, and every budget since has been larger than 2009’s record-breaker.

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Stacking the Deck: Consultation or Manipulation?

March 13th, 2015 · · Saskatchewan

To paraphrase Leader-Post columnist Murray Mandryk, the government’s Liquor Retailing consultation process is looking more and more like manipulation and less and less like consultation.  University of Regina Business Administration professor Dr. Sean Tucker recently released an open letter he sent to Minister Don McMorris regarding the quality of the public liquor retailing survey. Dr. Tucker raises serious concerns about the design of those survey questions and argues that any results should be “interpreted with caution given the limitations of the survey.” Dr. Tucker’s central complaint with the survey is that the government represents public liquor stores as a drain on the public purse rather than the revenue-generating assets that they actually are. The survey questions at issue frame investment in public liquor stores as a zero-sum game, as if dollars invested in building stores are dollars that will not be invested in health care, roads, schools, etc. This is highly misleading, as no taxpayer funds are required to sustain the SLGA’s liquor operations – they are entirely self-sufficient through their own revenues. Moreover, given the massive revenue return that the SLGA provides to the government ($141.3 million from retail stores alone in 2014 according to Dr. Tucker) to pay for such things as schools, hospitals and roads, to represent public stores as a liability rather than a highly lucrative public investment is government spin designed to confuse rather than inform.

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When the facts on C-51 are against you, insult the witnesses

March 12th, 2015 · · Aboriginal Issues, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Human Rights, International Relations, Military, Peace & Conflict, Uncategorized

Tonight’s hearing into Bill C-51, omnibus anti-terrorism legislation, began as this morning’s, with witnesses expressing their opposition to all or parts of it. It ended with Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy accusing one presenter–yes, the group representing Muslims–of supporting terrorism. But hey, where logic fails, try deflection. The news tomorrow (or today, depending when on you’re reading this) is guaranteed to be about Ablonczy’s comments and not, or much less so, the expert testimony of Kent Roach, Craig Forcese, Alex Neve (Amnesty International), Ihsaan Gardee (NCCM) and others who, to put it bluntly, tore C-51 a new one today.

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Civil liberties, First Nation rights compromised by C-51, committee hears

March 12th, 2015 · · Aboriginal Issues, Democracy, International Relations, Military, Peace & Conflict

Part one of today’s two-part committee hearing into the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 (C-51) has just wrapped up, with five of six witnesses opposing many aspects of the legislation for their potential impacts on civil liberties, the right to protest (without fear of surveillance, or being labelled a terrorist), and possible legal violations of First Nations rights, in both the democratic process (lack of consultation) and substance of C-51.

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