Saturday, October 22, 2016

French critic of CETA prevented from entering Canada allowed to say for a week

Jose Bove a French farmer, member of European Parliament, and anti-globalization activist has been allowed to stay in Canada for seven days after being told yesterday he would have to leave the country today.

However, Bove missed his speaking engagement scheduled for Montreal last night. The Council of Canadians had asked Bove to speak on his opposition to the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA). He will be able to attend a conference at St. John's later on this week.
After Bove had spent hours in customs by Canada Border Services Agency on Tuesday, Bove had his passport confiscated and was informed he had to leave Canada on Wednesday afternoon. He was told he was being expelled because of his previous criminal convictions, including one in which he vandalized a McDonald's restaurant.Bove has been convicted of crimes resulting from his activism a number of times. However, he has been to Canada many times before with no issue. His experience in the U.S. has been different: In February 2006, Bové was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at New York's JFK Airport as he arrived en route to Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations for events sponsored by Cornell's Global Labor Institute. According to Bové, the Customs agents told him he was "ineligible" to enter the U.S. due to his past prosecutions for "moral crimes". After being detained for several hours, Bové was placed on an Air France flight to Paris.[2]
At a new conference Wednesday Bove called on Canadian PM Prime Minister Trudeau to explain why he was held at the airport. Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians described the situation as "outrageous" saying: "Is the case for CETA on such thin ice that it can't withstand free speech?" Alex Lawrence, a spokesperson for Chrystia Freeland denied that there had been any interference from the government. A spokesperson for Ralph Goodale, the Public Safety Minister said that decisions as to who can enter Canada is at the discretion of border service agents. Lawrence claimed that the government supported open public debate including about trade, as the only way to build public support and consensus.
Jean-Marc Desfilhes, Bove's press attache who was able to clear customs with no problem, though he had the same visa as Bove, said: "He isn't a criminal. He is an elected member of the European Parliament. This is simply an extremely embarrassing situation." CETA has not yet been ratified or signed but a signing ceremony is expected in Brussels later on in the month if it is ratified by the European parliament. Bove claims the deal is bad for farmers in both the EU and Canada. Critics say it is dangerous for the environment as well as unjust socially. A detailed critical analysis of CETA can be found on the Policy Alternatives website.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor wins one million dollar prize

Montreal - Charles Taylor has become the first winner of the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy. Taylor, 84 will be given the prize in a ceremony in New York City on December 1.

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The Berggruen Prize in Philosophy is intended to recognize living thinkers whose ideas are of basic importance for contemporary and future life. The prize comes with a generous cash award of one million dollars. The inaugural prize was awarded to Taylor for his contributions that "fundamentally shaped public discussion of the nature of multi-culturalism, secularism, and contemporary religious life." Taylor will be invited to present and discuss his work at a major lecture and symposium to be held in New York City in December.
The prize is sponsored by the Berggruen Institute a think tank and research institute in Los Angeles California. The institute is funded by Nicolas Berggruen a billionaire investor and philanthropist. An interesting article on Berggruen and the institute can be found in the LATimes.
Taylor was chosen by an independent nine-member jury headed by philosopher Kwame Appiah. The jury praised Taylor's support for "political unity that respects cultural diversity" and for his work that demonstrated that "Western civillization is not simply unitary but like all civilizations the product of diverse influences".
Earlier, in 2015, Taylor won the John W. Kluge Prize for the Achievement in the Study of Humanity which he shared with the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas. He also won the 2007 Templeton Prize for achievement in the advancement in spiritual matters. Both prizes also have large financial awards of over a million dollars.
Among Taylor's many books are "Sources of the Self" which explores the way that different ideas of the self were instrumental in defining Western civilization. Another important tome was "A Secular Age" that explored the coexistence of religious and non-religious people in an age dominated by secular ideas.
Taylor is a professor emeritus at McGill University and a resident of Montreal. Taylor has always been interested in multiculturalism. In 2007 he served together with Gerard Bouchard on the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on reasonable accomodation with regard to cultural differences in Quebec. Taylor has taught at the University of Oxford, and was Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at McGill University. Taylor was a Board of Trustees Professor of Law and Philosophy at Northwestern University in Evanston before he retired.
CBC has a recent interview with Taylor about his work. Taylor said that he was heartened to receive the prize from a foundation that was dedicated to creating a world where people talked to each other without cross-purposes and to be recognized as someone who shared that goal.
Taylor said that much of his work was centered on multiculturalism:With creating a society in which people from very different cultures can form together a body politic, a people, a democracy, and fight against all the attempts that are arising in every one of our societies to raise boundaries of exclusion against certain kinds of people — in other words, divide us. For instance, in Quebec we had the so-called "Charter of Quebec Values," which I fought very vigorously against and which we managed to avoid.
Another key aspect of Taylor's work is his critique of a simplistic view of the enlightenment:I've been a very strong opponent of the idea that there's something called enlightenment, reason, which is highly simple and which everybody agrees on. I see the great enlightenment in the West as a very complex movement with many different sides and some of them rather dark. You have to pick them apart. There isn't a simple thing called Western civilization. There's a very, very complex mix of mutually incompatible elements. If you think that way you're more open, I think, to looking at and understanding other civilizations in their complexity. You get over this Western civilization versus the rest. All that is very damaging and based on illusions of some kind of simple essence of the West and a simple essence of some other society.
When asked how Taylor squared his ideas of liberal democracy with the rise of nationalism and other conflicting forces he repied that he did not. He said we had to fight against such forces, but should recognize there are deep strains in all cultures. As an example he noted that in the west there was a tendency to regard newcomers as a threat. He noted that poor economic conditions often made these feelings stronger. Taylor claimed that it was not enough just to criticize those feelings but to deal with the needs and fears that cause people to feel the way they do.
When asked if he felt despair at what was happening politically in Canada, North America and Europe, Taylor said that he did have a great fear for what was taking place. However, he thought that some attempts to set back democracy could be defeated. He thought that Canada did not turn in a direction such as that exemplified by Trump in the US. Canada showed it was fed up with the kind of politics represented by Stephen Harper. He thought that this made Canada somewhat immune to the kind of fears that are causing politics to change in Europe.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Liberals keep Harper's cuts to federal health transfers

Back in 2011, the Stephen Harper Conservative government announced, without agreement of the provinces, that funding of health care transfers would be reduced by $36 billion.

Discussion of the reduced funding in 2011 that outlined health care spending up to 2024 can be found in this Globe and Mail article. The annual funding rate would be reduced from six percent annually down to three percent. The federal transfers are essential in helping poorer provinces offer health care that is consistent with the Canada Health Act and is meant to ensure the quality of care is at a reasonable level throughout Canada.
Liberal Health Minister Jane Philpott, on CTV Question Period said that the Liberals will maintain Stephen Harper's lower targets on health care transfers. Often governments will promise one thing during an election campaign but then renege on the promise after the election. This often causes considerable backlash and can hurt ratings. In this case the Liberals did not promise anything concretely during the 2015 election campaign but simply gave the impression that they might do something. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said: "We are committed to renegotiating, to re-engaging on the health care accords, on the Canada health transfer, with the provinces ... We need a federal government that is willing to sit down and work with the provinces, not dictate at the provinces but set clear targets and expectations." The statement plays on the fact that the Conservative decision to reduce funding was taken unilaterally — a move objected to by many provinces. The statement says nothing about increasing funding.
At the time that the Conservatives announced the cuts to funding, the Parliamentary Budget Office said the cuts meant that provinces "cannot meet the challenges" of an aging population and Ontario's finance minister went so far as to call it a "frontal attack on public health care." Also at the time, the Liberals complained about Harper's health cuts that they called "dictatorial." Among Liberals who made such accusations were Bob Rae, Liberal interim leader and one time New Democratic Premier of Ontario. Rae described the cuts as "dictatorial federalism." The current Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, complained that the cut backs were announced just before Christmas and were done by brute force. Goodale also used the phrase "dictatorial federalism."
Stehan Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, complained about the failure of the Conservatives to work with the provinces and territories and held the Conservatives responsible for the poor health care system. Numerous other prominent Liberals also spoke out against the cuts.
Perhaps, some day, the Liberals will actually try to increase funding and negotiate a new funding formula with the provinces. However, for now the Liberals are carrying on with the health transfer policies inherited from Harper's "dictatorial federalism" and they now support the very austerity and cutbacks that they formerly spoke out against.
The announcement that the Liberals will carry on with the cuts Harper made to health care transfers comes shortly after Environment Minister Catherine McKenna's revelation that the Liberals will not seek any stronger targets for the reduction of carbon pollution than those set out by the Harper government last year.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Canadian analyst argues that a Trump win of the US presidency would be net benefit for Canadian economy

Matthew Barasch, Canadian equity strategist for RBC Capital Market, argues that if Donald Trump wins the presidency of the United States in November this would be a "net positive" for both the Canadian economy and Canadian stocks.

Barsch bases his prediction on Trump's pro-oil policies, and proposals for lower tax rates. Barasch notes that reports about a Trump presidency should be taken with a grain of salt: “We would be very cautious with those who suggest that markets will crash and dogs and cats will live together upon a Trump victory as these types of stories often sell newspapers, but have little connection to reality." He made the remarks in a note to his clients.
Barasch claims that Trump's tax cuts would in the near term probably give a boost to the U.S. economy, which would mean more exports to the U.S. from Canada, increasing GDP. He thinks that Trump's policies would lead to higher interest rates as economic growth and deficits increase. This along with less onerous regulations on banks and insurance companies could increase their profits.
Trump has vowed to revive the Keystone XL pipeline project that could help the energy and materials sector. Trump also would increase infrastructure spending which would help stocks such as railways. Trump's restrictive immigration policy could help attract talent to Canada and could boost our technology sector.
However, as Barasch notes, Trump vows to renegotiate NAFTA, and he also rejects the TPP, and this could hurt Canada in the long run. It remains to be seen if Trump would actually follow through on these promises. Barasch remarks: “Any move to roll back NAFTA would weigh on [consumer staples and discretionary stocks] that rely on significant access to the U.S. market, with auto parts a notable standout.”
It's possible that a Trump victory will also lead to an increasing number of Americans coming to Canada as they fear what Trump might do to the U.S. There are already reports of Americans making contingency plans to flee north. There are also reports warning of the difficulties associated with moving to Canada. There have been periods when significant numbers of Americans moved to Canada. In the 1960's thousands of Americans fled to Canada to avoid being drafted for the Vietnam War.