Nanny State 2008

The Year in Bans

A quick review of the various ways in which “Nanny State nags” have been busy curtailing our freedoms over the past year.

Man of The Hour


It’s not up on YouTube yet, but CBC has Ignatieff’s interview with “your boyfriend” on their website now. Thanks much to Navvy in the comments for the tip. I see that Steve V. has also posted on this with a favourable review.

I’ve said before that Ignatieff has in the past left me somewhat cold — a little too diffident, self-conscious and overly ponderous — but if he keeps doing more relaxed, conversational interviews like this, I’ll probably be revising my opinion on that score before too long.

Needless to say, it presents an interesting stylistic contrast to Harper.

Q: Whither the “Conservatives”?


Pity the beleaguered editors of the Calgary Herald… In two opinion pieces this morning they lament the apparent flight of “fiscal conservatives” from the scene in the mad rush to plunge the government into levels of deficit spending that just months ago were inconceivable.

Are there no fiscal conservatives left in Canada? Evidently not: The allegedly Conservative federal government is set to post a deficit of up to $30 billion over the next four years, rather than addressing the issues raised for government by the recession through reduced spending.

Now, we have Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government, its conservatism clearly overwhelmed by its progressivism, predicting a technical deficit for the coming fiscal year — again, with no apparent recourse to financial rigour.

Perhaps that’s what one should expect from a party with an oxy-moron for a name, along with such fuzzy concepts as “technical” deficits: Deficits happen when government expenses exceed revenues, at which point governments typically borrow, or cut spending. That Alberta alone among the provinces has a Sustainability Fund to draw upon doesn’t mean it is somehow not in the red. In other words, unless it’s possible to be technically speeding or technically pregnant, Premier Ed Stelmach offers a distinction without a difference.

The second editorial is even more amusing. In addition to bemoaning the Conservatives’ enthusiastic (albeit belated) embrace of deficit spending, it desperately attempts to shift blame for this dramatic reversal of course on the opposition parties, the Bloc in particular.

If only it were possible to spend one’s way to wealth. As any person laden down by debt now keenly appreciates, it is not.

Yet, stripped of its padding, that seems to be Ottawa’s plan to “get through”what Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told provincial finance ministers gathered in Saskatoon Wednesday would be a tough year in 2009: Canadians can expect job losses and for the first time in nearly two decades, a contracting economy. The federal response, said Flaherty, would be a cocktail of expanded federal infrastructure spending, tax cuts and federal participation in a plan to free up stranded debt — the so-called asset backed commercial paper held by banks and financial institutions, now considered too risky to touch.

A federal budget deficit, thanks largely to the threat of a separatist-backed coalition, is now a certainty.

Unfortunately, in their exuberance to jump start the economy, it may be that the Conservatives are overreacting. According to Don Drummond, Canada should limit next year’s budget deficit to $22 billion even as it boosts spending to deal with the world economic downturn.

Even so, “It’s not going to make a horrific difference to most Canadians… We do have physical limits to what we can do,” Drummond told CBC Newsworld.

Calling Harper’s proposed deficit in the range of $30 billion in the next fiscal year “unrealistic” Drummond instead recommends a maximum of about $12 billion in extra fiscal stimulus, bringing the final shortfall to $22 billion or 0.75 percent of the national GDP.

Given that Drummond has been acting as an advisor to Michael Ignatieff since his installation as leader of the LPC, it’s probably safe to say that this more modest proposal reflects the Liberal position on the “stimulus” package and deficit spending. Also, I might add, one that’s somewhat more in tune with the public mood that is skeptical about the concept of deficit spending. If so, this should prove to be a rather interesting role reversal between the Conservatives and Liberals in future discussions about the upcoming budget.

A: Here*

Update: Seems like as good a place as any to include this interview of Harper by Steve Murphy of CTV Atlantic from several days ago.

*Graphic via Calgary Grit.

The Purpose of Christmas? Assassination & Conversion!

I did mention the comments to a previous post on this subject that Pastor Warren has some pretty kooky ideas, didn’t I? Well, behold!

Appearing recently on Fox’s Hannity & Colmes to promote his new book The Purpose of Christmas, the conversation quite naturally turned to the subject of “evil” in the world. Case in point, at least according to Sean Hannity, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Hannity insisted America needs to “take out” the democratically elected Iranian president. Warren said he agreed. Hannity asked, “Am I advocating something dark, evil or something righteous?” Warren responded, “Well, actually, the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with. It has to just be stopped… In fact, that is the legitimate role of government. The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers. Not good-doers. Evildoers.” I wonder if that little bit of holiday cheer will be in the invocation.

In another segment of the same interview, Warren suggested that people of all faiths (or no faith) need to open their hearts to Jesus and accept Him as their personal savior. “I’m saying that this perfect time to open their life, to give it a chance. To give Him a sixty day trial.” When Colmes suggested he was making religion sound like a book of the month club, Warren said “I dare you to try trusting Jesus for sixty days.” Good grief.

“Free Market” Bush to the Rescue!

After dithering about it for more than a week, President Bush has decided to bailout the Detroit Three automakers after all with a $17.4 billion rescue package of bridge loans to give the struggling companies a little more breathing room to restructure and to avoid a collapse that some had warned could come early next year if they received no help.

Bush explained that the “orderly” bankruptcy the White House had been toying with in recent days might send the auto makers into an unstoppable death spiral because of their weakened state and likely increased consumer unwillingness to buy their products.

“My economic advisers believe that such a collapse would deal an unacceptably painful blow to hardworking Americans far beyond the auto industry. It would worsen a weak job market and exacerbate the financial crisis,” he said. “It could send our suffering economy into a deeper and longer recession.”

There are strings attached. Among them, firms must: provide warrants for non-voting stock; accept limits on executive compensation and eliminate perks such as corporate jets; allow the government to examine their books and records; report and the government has the power to block any large transactions (> $100 M); comply with applicable Federal fuel efficiency and emissions requirements; and, not issue new dividends while they owe government debt. Additionally, debt owed to the government will be senior to other debts, to the extent permitted by law.

The facts that this “bail out” is overwhelmingly opposed by the American people, was killed in the Senate, and that the TARP funds were allocated for an entirely different purpose were apparently not major factors in Bush’s decision.

Update: The furious blowback from the “limited government” crowd begins… And a rather surprisingly restrained (dare I say moderate) response from Hugh Hewitt. I’m truly shocked.

Update2: Video replaced with a better/longer one from TPM.