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“A Tonic For Progressive Economics”: Why Trudeau Matters More Than Gowdy

Which major event last week should have an important impact on the 2016 presidential election?

No, it’s not Hillary Clinton’s nine hours of testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. She walked away with a smile, and for good reason.

Republicans on the committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), succeeded brilliantly in confirming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (Calif.) burst of honesty: that the whole exercise always had bringing down Clinton’s poll numbers as one of its central purposes. Only right-wingers already convinced of her perfidy thought otherwise. She emerged stronger than she started by staying calm, cool and confident in the face of repeated provocations.

The consequential event occurred three days earlier. The Liberal Party landslide and the triumph of Justin Trudeau in Canada’s election last Monday was a tonic for progressive economics and a cautionary tale for parties on the center-left lacking the courage of their convictions. Trudeau proved that voters understand the difference between profligacy and necessary public investment.

The outcome also carried a warning for conservative politicians in diverse societies who court a backlash against religious and ethnic minorities. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper played this card (around the issue of whether Muslim women could wear the niqab veil at their swearing-in as citizens), and it backfired badly.

Trudeau is the rare politician who came right out and promised to run deficits. They will be relatively modest — about 10 billion Canadian dollars (about $7.6 billion) annually over three years — with the goal of rebuilding Canada’s infrastructure. The Liberals popularized the term “infrastructure deficit,” and voters — particularly in rapidly growing urban areas — agreed that a time of low interest rates was exactly the moment to invest in the future. The hefty swing the Liberals’ way in Canada’s metropolitan areas helped power their sweep.

Already, conservatives in the United States are making the case that Trudeau will regret abandoning the fiscally cautious policies of the earlier Liberal governments headed by Jean Chrétien and then by Paul Martin. The Chretien-Martin Liberals were a middle-of-the-road lot who dominated Canadian politics from 1993 until 2006. Their budgetary prudence gave Canada nine straight surpluses.

But there’s a problem with this argument: None other than the fiscally responsible Martin himself endorsed the emphasis on investment. “You should be investing to pay for the kinds of things that are going to give your children a better life,” Martin said in defense of Trudeau. “And that’s what infrastructure is, what education is, it’s what research and development is.”

After the election, I spoke with Chrystia Freeland, a Liberal who won overwhelmingly in her Toronto district (and with whom I recently served on a think tank project on economic policy). She made the essential point: “It’s really important that people not approach economic policy as ideology or with quasi-religious convictions,” Freeland said. “Economic policy is about the facts and the circumstances.” A weakening Canadian economy strengthened the case for Trudeau’s approach.

In breaking the ideology of austerity, the Liberals, a traditionally centrist party, boxed in their main competitors for the anti-Harper vote. The New Democrats, known as the NDP, are usually to the Liberals’ left. But like the British Labour Party and social democratic parties elsewhere, the NDP under its leader, Tom Mulcair, felt that abandoning fiscal prudence would make the party look irresponsible to swing voters.

It was the wrong call, and Trudeau, who started the 11-week campaign running third, behind Harper and Mulcair, turned himself into the candidate of “real change,” which the Liberals embraced as their slogan. For good measure, Trudeau was unabashed in offering other proposals to push against growing inequality: a tax plan that would pay for a middle-class tax cut by raising taxes on those earning more than 200,000 Canadian dollars (about $152,000) a year, and a substantial increase in the child benefit for the poorest Canadians.

Paul Wells, one of Canada’s premier political journalists, observed in his post-election wrap-up in Maclean’s magazine that Trudeau “had to go big, or the Canadian voter would send him home.” By going big, Trudeau’s new home will soon be 24 Sussex Drive, the Canadian White House, where he lived when his dad, Pierre, was prime minister.

It’s true that the political and fiscal situations of Canada and the United States are different. But progressive politicians in the United States and elsewhere would do well to learn that if they let orthodoxies paralyze them, they will have little to say to voters who, as Trudeau declared on election night, are tired of the twin ideas that they “should be satisfied with less” and that “better just isn’t possible.”


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 25, 2015

October 26, 2015 Posted by | Austerity, Canada, Justin Trudeau | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Useful Point Of Comparison”: With This Statistic, Canada Demonstrates What A Difference Gun Control Can Make

No mainstream American politician would ever propose to get rid of all guns. But what might happen if we seriously approached the issues of gun safety, licensing, and registration?

As a country that allows private gun ownership and also has a robust hunting culture, Canada offers a useful point of comparison with the United States. However, the two countries are quite different in terms of their gun control laws, and, as it happens, their gun murder rates: The United States has a whopping 89 firearms per 100 residents, the number-one rank in the world, while Canada’s guns are at 31 firearms per 100 people, putting it in the 13th place globally. The country also has a comprehensive system of gun licensing — with citizens required to take a safety course if they want to own and operate a gun, which is, after all, a dangerous piece of machinery.

Under Canada’s laws, handguns have been registered since 1934. Other changes in gun policy have occurred over the decades, including the creation in the 1970s of the Firearms Acquisition License, now known as a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL), which is a permit needed in order to purchase a gun. And licenses to carry guns in Canada are quite rare.

A centralized system of issuing gun licenses began in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as part of a wave of gun control legislation brought forward by both the Conservative and Liberal parties. When the latter party came into office in 1993, much of the implementation became their task — and the new registration of long guns became a wedge issue in rural areas, particularly in western Canada where the Conservative Party would grow to dominate.

In 2012, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party repealed the long gun registry and destroyed the records that had been amassed from it — but there are still records on “restricted” and “prohibited” guns, generally various forms of handguns and/or automatic weapons. (As the Royal Canadian Mounted Police makes very clear, the long gun registry repeal “does not change the requirement for all individuals to hold a licensee in order to possess a firearm.”) And not even the Conservatives would propose getting rid of the the handgun registry, safety courses, or gun licenses as they now exist.

So what difference, if any, might be gleaned from Canada’s focus on gun safety and efforts to keep weapons out of the wrong hands?

To start with a baseline, the United States has a population roughly nine times that of Canada, according to the most up-to-date figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and its northern counterpart, Statistics Canada.

In Canada in 2013, the most recent year for which numbers have been posted by Statistics Canada, there were a total of 505 homicides — which would be proportional to about 4,534 homicides in the United States.

But in the United States, according to the FBI, there were 12,253 homicides in 2013 — a factor of 2.9 times the Canadian equivalent.

Now let’s dig in a little further and look at the impact that gun violence might be having on these numbers. In the U.S. figures, 8,454 of these homicides — 69 percent — were committed with firearms, compared to only 26 percent in Canada — 131, or a U.S. equivalent of 1,179, which is less than 1/7th of America’s gun killings.

Of the non-gun killings — with various methods including stabbings, beatings, fire, poisoning, and so on — here the numbers are obviously much closer. The United States had 3,799 in 2013, while Canada had 374 — which would correspond to 3,366 in the United States, giving the U.S. a figure only 13 percent greater than Canada’s.

Or to put it more simply: Nearly the entire difference in the homicide numbers between the United States and Canada comes from guns.

But to quote the late, great American comedian Bill Hicks: “But there’s no connection — and you’d be a fool and a communist to make one — there’s no connection between having a gun and shooting someone with it, and not having a gun and not shooting someone.”


By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, October 7, 2015

October 8, 2015 Posted by | Canada, Gun Control, United States | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Walker Eyes Border Wall … For The Other Border”: A Nutty Idea, Even By The Standards Of GOP Presidential Candidates

When far-right politicians endorse the construction of a massive border wall, they rarely specify which border, because it’s simply assumed they’re not overly concerned about Canadians.

When it comes to border security, it’s only natural to wonder why Republicans seem vastly more energized about our neighbors to the south than those to the north. I was delighted to see NBC’s Chuck Todd ask Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) about this yesterday.

One issue he plans to fix if elected is the terrorist threat posed by the nation’s porous borders, and he said while he’s most concerned about the southern U.S. border, he’d be open to building a wall to secure the northern border as well.

 “Some people have asked us about that in New Hampshire. They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago. So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at,” he said.

And I’ll be eager to hear what the far-right candidate comes up with after he “looks at” building a northern border wall – because the idea is a little nutty, even by the standards of GOP presidential candidates.

For now, let’s put aside the issues – the costs, the needs, etc. – related to a building a giant wall along the U.S/Mexico border. Let’s instead consider Walker’s apparent concerns about Canada.

As the Republican governor may know – his home state is roughly along the northern border – the United States and Canada don’t simply share a lengthy land mass. There are these things known as the “Great Lakes,” which the two countries share. Even trying to build a giant wall through them would be … how do I put this gently … impractical.

The alternative, of course, is building a water-front wall along U.S. states that border the lakes. Some folks might not like the view, but we’re either going to take border security seriously or we’re not, right?

There’s also the not-so-small matter of Alaska. Even if a Walker administration takes up a plan to build a wall from Seattle to Maine, let’s not forget that the United States actually has two borders with Canada: one along Canada’s southern border, and then another along Canada’s northwestern border. Indeed, the border Alaska shares with British Columbia and Yukon Territory (about 1,500 miles) is almost as long as the border the continental United States shares with Mexico (about 1,900 miles).

Depending on how serious the Wisconsinite is about this, we’ll probably have to talk about some maritime borders, too, since we run the risks of terrorists and undocumented immigrants showing up along American shorelines in boats.

Given the Republican Party’s general hostility towards investing in American infrastructure, it’s important to note that these border walls would likely carry an enormous price tag. Nevertheless, Scott Walker considers this “a legitimate issue for us to look at,” so let the debate begin.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 1, 2015

September 1, 2015 Posted by | Border Security, Canada, GOP Presidential Candidates, Scott Walker | , , , , | 1 Comment


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