Tuesday, December 18, 2007

2007 Canadian Blog Awards

Thanks to Scott Tribe for the nomination in the "Best Conservative Blog" category. Looking at the competition, I definitely get the feeling I'm the snowball in that race.

Head over to the main site to nominate away or nominate me for more stuff. Hint hint ... :)

Updated: "I definitely get the feeling I'm the snowball in that race" should get a nomination for the best mixed metaphor ever.

Updated x2: I've also been nominated for "Best Political Blog" and "Best Blog Post Series". I appreciate the nominations.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Ministry of Knowledge

In today's Globe & Mail, Preston Manning asks "Just how did we let this happen?". It's behind the Globe's subscription site.

In the article, Mr. Manning talks about the federal government's inability to react to "scientific" crises due to a lack of scientific knowledge available to the politicians. Mr. Manning talks about the lack of medical isotopes resulting from the shutdown of an aging nuclear reactor at Chalk River as an impetus to create new scientific projects funded by the government.

While I think Mr. Manning's cause is a noble one, I can't help but smell something funny.

This paragraph, for example.
[T]his country has yet to figure out a funding formula for publicly funded science projects that insures long-term viability. Capital funds, personnel funds, operating funds and infrastructure funds are all required to energize a big science project such as the development of a next-generation unclear research reactor.

Wait, what? Funding formula for publicly funded science projects? Capital funds, personnel funds, operating funds, and infrastructure funds? Insuring long-term viability?

Now, I'll leave that for the moment because I have something else I want to get to, but do you see how you could substitute "science projects" with "health care" or "education" or, you get the idea. Indeed, sound public investment can be conservative talking points. Imagine injecting capital funds, personnel funds, operating funds and infrastructure funds into energizing a big health care project? And, he's a senior fellow of the Fraser Institute.

But, that's for a different story.

Further down the piece, Mr. Manning suggests a remedy for this lack of scientific knowledge in the public sphere:

Create a separate federal ministry and department of science and technology.

Until recently, we had a couple of ministries promoting scientific research and technological innovation - Environment, Natural Resources, and Industry Canada - until the government felt they were not cooperating with the message of Canada's New Government.

In addition, it seems to me that scientific establishments abound in this country - universities could use injections of such funding.

And, that's why this whole piece smells funny. The entire infrastructure is there - both scientific and political.

The problem, especially for this Conservative government, is that it would be unable to control the message. You can control the message if you create a ministry within the government (or, shut down the message of an existing ministry). You can control the message if you "recruit members of the science community to run for office", and ultimately run for your party. You can say that leaders appointed to work in Crown corporations should be appointed based upon merit but you can appoint those with political ties too as Mr. Manning warns ...

[A]ppointments to the boards of Crown corporations ... have been based as much on political patronage considerations as on scientific or business competency.

... and even when they are appointed based on merit, they are still targeted for partisan attack.

However, I'm drawn to this paragraph in the middle of Mr. Manning's piece:

[M]any Canadian scientific establishments [have] never really learned to put its key messages in the form and language necessary to communicate effectively with taxpayers, politicians, or the media.

Why is it necessary for scientific establishments to communicate effectively with taxpayers - why must a scientific message be entirely catered to the taxpaying audience? Why must science be tailored to a cost benefit analysis of this nature? I'm presuming we're not talking about research into a new formula for streak-free Windex here, but real scientific research.

It would be very easy to snuff out an individual research project if it did not hold up to this type of financial scrutiny, never mind the fact that that individual project could have profound implications down the road.

And, so it's easy then to see how the scientific message can be ultimately controlled. You can control the message by turning off the project funding if it doesn't satisfy the taxpayer.

I would like to believe Mr. Manning. I just can't, however. I would like to see sound public investment as much as the next person, and I'm glad that Mr. Manning has taken the leap that one can be conservative and call for more publicly funded institutions, but I can't help but question the ultimate motives.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Open Letter to the Canada Revenue Agency

To whom it may concern,

Recently, it has come to my attention that the federal cabinet has the authority to issue remission orders to taxpayers to excuse them from paying taxes. According to the Ottawa Citizen:

Remission orders are rare and are usually granted to individuals in cases of extreme hardship or a major financial setback that is complicated by extenuating factors. They will also be given if the tax agency made a mistake, gave wrong advice or the tax debt was an unintended consequence of the law. Remissions are a last resort and issued at cabinet's discretion after all other appeals are exhausted.

I also know that the Conservative Party of Canada, fully and without equivocation, stands up for taxpayers.

Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn lobbied on behalf of his consitutents claiming that they were being "taxed ... for money they never saw."

I agree, and I want it established that you cannot be taxed on money you never see.

As an income earner, I too am routinely taxed on money I never see.

In addition to being identically impacted as these fine folks were, I also happen to be in the unfortunate circumstance of having my income tax deducted at source, if you can believe it! This has the effect of making my net income less than my gross income which seems to be a gross violation of the "no taxation without seeing the money first" pledge.

I would like to understand the process for applying for a remission order from the federal cabinet to excuse myself from ever paying taxes because I do not ever see the money. I'm delighted by the item in the pledge ensuring consistency:

We will apply laws consistently and equitably. While each situation is unique, we will ensure taxpayers are treated equally under similar circumstances.

Your prompt attention to this matter is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
Me.

PS. Because I also time a lot of my bill payments for when I get paid, I find myself paying bills with money I never see - can I get a cabinet remission order to stop me from having to pay bills as well? Please let me know.

[H/T, Garth Turner]

For the Record

I will not be supporting a call for a leadership review at the February convention. I continue to support and endorse John Tory as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.

That said, while I oppose the movement to call for a leadership review, I do not condemn it.

It's just politics afterall.

I would just suggest to whomever is thinking of toppling Mr. Tory through a leadership review, make sure now is the time you want to try and make your move. It will not be a coronation and there are MPP's with significant support and backing already in the legislature that you'll need to overcome or incorporate into your support base.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Respecting the Democratic Process

Courrier Laval : Ex-Liberal turns Conservative
Stating that his conversion to Conservatism was a recent occurrence, Mr. [Agop T.] Evereklian explained that he saw no possibility of advancement within Liberal ranks, "under the present circumstances." I appreciate Mr. Harper's leadership, he keeps his word. He respects the democratic process. There's transparency. Even though I'm a newcomer to Conservative ranks, I had an equal chance of winning the nomination," he stated.

*cough* Mark Warner *cough*.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bill C-22

I would like a partisan federal Conservative from Ontario to explain how they can support this bill (if they do so). And, it has to go beyond Mr. Van Loan's explanation that Ontario is getting more seats so Ontario should not complain.

Ontario Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs : Backgrounder [PDF]
The federal government recently introduced new legislation to change the formula for readjusting seats among the provinces in the House of Commons.

If passed, this legislation would be implemented after the 2011 Census has been completed and detailed population statistics generated. This normally takes about nine months and the 2011 Census could be expected to be ready early in 2012. The Chief Electoral Officer will then make a calculation based on this bill and proceed to establish the electoral boundaries commissions in the ten provinces necessary to implement the readjustment.

This note explains in step-by-step detail how the new legislation works.

[H/T, Garth Turner]

Reading the details, it's hard not to feel small.