Tuesday, December 21, 2010

11 Policies For Canada in 2011

People keep saying that Canadian politics are stale and boring. Michael Ignatieff needs some ideas just to get people talking. So, here's a quick list of 11 things that likely won't get done in 2011 but should be done:
  1. Raise the GST to 6%. This one is fairly straight forward. The government needs to close the deficit hole and the faster the better. The GST cuts made in the last five years were too expensive. Hike the GST. It's the easiest way to raise taxes without damaging the economy to severely.
  2. Start a high-speed rail connection for the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. Yes, this will add to the deficit but much like adding an addition to a house is a good reason to bump up a mortgage, high sped rail in Canada is worth the debt burden.
  3. Double the number of foreign student visas available by 2020. Why? Well first, it would really piss off Maclean's. Second, foreign students pay 2 to 3 times more for university than Canadians. That means universities have more money and don't need to hike tuition for Canadians or ask the government for more money. Finally, with US student visas becoming harder and harder to come by, the world's best and brightest are looking for somewhere to study. Why not Canada?
  4. Make the House of Commons as rep by pop as constitutionally possible. Being a nation, doesn't mean you're more important. Either that or pass a resolution in the house declaring English Canada a nation.
  5. You know what would save more money than eliminating the penny? Eliminating the senate.
  6. Raise the GST to 7% and give the extra cent on the dollar to the city where it was spent. Cities are massively underfunded, particularly our core cities which provide services to non-residents while receiving no tax revenue in exchange.
  7. Cut landing fees at Canadian airports. This would be a boost to tourism and business. Why is Canada the most expensive place to land a plane?
  8. End the mission in Afghanistan. Why exactly are we training an army for Hamid Karzai? He's proven to be corrupt and two faced at the best of times. Do we really think he'll get better once NATO leaves?
  9. Side the with the developing world in the Doha round of the WTO. Pledge to reduce or eliminate agricultural tariffs and subsidies, if the rest of the developed world comes around. All the foreign aid in the world won't do as much as opening the world's markets to their goods. Almost every developed country started with a strong export driven agricultural sector.
  10. Get an inter-provincial agreement to make building codes more environmentally friendly. Maybe we don't need to go as far as a solar panel on every roof, but no new building should need to be improved on things like insulation.
  11. Don't use the notwithstanding clause to uphold current prostitution laws. Even if you don't think a regulated prostitution industry would be safer for everyone involved, can you say tax revenue?

Europe's Growing Deficit

For once, I'm not talking about the fiscal mess Europe finds itself in. No, the biggest deficit in Europe these days is a democratic one. What am I talking about? Well, it starts with the EU, but that really isn't new. It is a growing concern as the panicked union attempts tries to contain a fiscal crisis that threatens the Euro itself. But that may be the least of Europe's worries. In Greece and Ireland, unpopular governments push through less popular austerity measures. This is not undemocratic in and of itself. The people elected these governments. However, it seems highly unlikely that the next government of Ireland or Greece will overturn the current decisions. There doesn't some to be anyway for the people to change the course of their government. That might not be bad economic policy, it is distressing for the state of democracy. This philosophical concern may be the least of Europe's democratic worries.

For the second time in two elections, government formation in Belgium is proving virtually impossible. Proportional Representation and a deep linguistic divide has paralyzed the seat of European power. This lack of government is all the more distressing as bond markets start to turn their eyes toward Belgian debt. Canadians complain about the seeming deadlock of our legislature. At least governments get sworn in around here. The political deadlock is exacerbating the economic problem in Belgium, which in turn won't make political negotiations any easier. A vicious cycle.

In Italy, the last week has shown how thin that country's grip on democracy has become. Silvio Berlusconi's time as Italian Prime Minister are not exactly a lesson in democracy. From his media control to his massive wealth, the Italian PM governs his country at times like the leader of a banana republic, replete with parties that would be the envy of most tin-pot dictators. Berlusconi may have reached a new low last week with accusations that he literally bought the votes he needed in the Italian lower house to avoid defeat. A sad state of affairs.

Finally, in Hungary the new government has taken an ominous turn. State control over all sorts of major institutions, including the media seems to be the order of the day in Budapest. This Hungarian government was elected in a landslide to get rid of the old horrible government. The old government was doomed by a leaked tape which had government leaders callously joking about lying about the nation's books in order to win re-election. The new government seems intent on not letting another such media leak bring it down.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

White Man's Burden Protocol Should Die

The Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012. It has accomplished very little and deserves to die. The problem with the Kyoto Protocol is pretty straightforward: it blames the West for climate change, or more accurately the European world for climate change. Consider the following two countries:

Country A:

Population: 48 Million
Total GDP: 1.362 Trillion USD (PPP)
Member of the OECD
G20 Member
Carbon Emissions per capita: 10 Tonnes

Country B:

Population: 2.2 Million
Total GDP: 25.93 Billion
Not a member of the OECD
Carbon Emissions per capita: 3.66 Tonnes

Objectively, country A is far more of a target for environmentalists than country B. The Kyoto Protocol doesn't think so. Country A is economic giant South Korea. Country B is tiny Latvia. Latvia is bound by Kyoto, South Korea is not. There's a lot of European guilt on climate change. The science doesn't back it up. The fumes put out by Europe and North America during the 19th century did virtually nothing to the world's climate picture. The bend in Al Gore's famous (or infamous) hockey stick graph is in the twentieth century, somewhere around the end of WWII. The West didn't have enough time to do this alone. The white man is not solely culpable for global warming. It would be easier for some progressives if it were the case. But it isn't. This makes the "Europe +" Kyoto Protocol all the more a joke. The Kyoto Protocol includes no gulf oil producing states. It includes Japan but not South Korea, Singapore or Taiwan. Oil producers Russia and Norway received sweetheart deals. Even so, Russia now wants out. If we are to do anything about CO2 emissions, it will require a global effort. The EU and a couple of friends cannot change the course of climate history. As long as the mindset of differentiated responsibilities outlined in Kyoto survive, the world will continue to fail in this fight. Real environmentalists should be cheering the death of this joke of a treaty.
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