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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Alana Westwood: Stephen Harper’s blatant hypocrisy on science (in The Toronto Star)

"In a CBC interview, Stephen Harper chided Canadians for not listening to scientific evidence, but he has been doing that for years."

Stephen Harper’s blatant hypocrisy on science | Toronto Star

Alana Westwood is a PhD Candidate at Dalhousie University and a volunteer coordinator at Evidence for Democracy.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Chantal Hébert: Stephen Harper presiding over Tories’ self-destructive madness (in The Toronto Star)

"When historians look back on Stephen Harper’s (first?) decade in power, what will they make of the trail of institutional wreckage that his government is leaving in its wake?

"Will they conclude that a mastermind determined to change the course of the ship of state at all costs was in charge, or just a bunch of drunken sailors?

"The Conservatives came to power in 2006 as institutional reformers. But three mandates later, one would look in vain for a method to the self-destructive madness that they are presiding over. ...

"A Forum Research survey revealed this week that the PMO has become one of Canada’s least trusted political institutions, almost on par with the maligned Senate.

"It may not yet have dawned on its occupants that what Canadians think of the PMO is usually not divorced from their opinion of the leader who runs it."

Stephen Harper presiding over Tories’ self-destructive madness: Hébert | Toronto Star

Friday, May 30, 2014

Jerry Dias: Anyone but Tim Hudak for Ontario premier (in The Toronto Star)

"[Ontario PC Leader Tim] Hudak said in February that he would not pursue right to work legislation if he becomes premier. But now his claims for a million jobs rely in part on right to work laws coming to Ontario. That means either Hudak is still committed to the idea or the analysis is even more deeply flawed. Either way, we can’t trust the numbers.

"The Conservatives’ own analysis claims that Hudak’s regulatory changes would mean a one-time boost of 10,600 jobs. But once the Conservative campaign team got its hands on the research, the claim was inflated to 84,800 jobs, or 10,600 in each of the next eight years.

"That’s a far cry from the one-time boost their analysis predicted.

"So this is what we end up with: job creation numbers based on suspect assumptions, stemming from a policy that Hudak claims he will not pursue, and then multiplied by eight by the Conservative campaign team."

Anyone but Tim Hudak for Ontario premier | Toronto Star

Jerry Dias is National President of Unifor, Canada’s largest union in the private sector. To see Unifor’s research into Tim Hudak’s job plan, go to:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rick Salutin: Tim Hudak's fear-based economic policy (in The Toronto Star)

"I used to think balanced budget panic was a pretext whipped up by right wing ideologues who hate big government or equality but I now think it’s more truly felt. Debt was a basis of growth for 5,000 years — as anthropologist and activist David Graeber has written — but only recently became a source of mass fear and shame. ...

"The economics professoriat has a lot to answer for here. They provided the murky rationales for the discontinuous two-step that Tim Hudak has happily uncloaked for all to see. Why economists receive such cred is another question. They alone get to torture whole countries like Greece, solely on the base of their dubious models. Would you let a historian tell you what alliances to make or give him the keys to the foreign policy car?"

Tim Hudak's fear-based economic policy: Salutin | Toronto Star

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Carol Goar: Natural catastrophes mount while Harper shrugs (in The Toronto Star)

"As scientists produce ever more evidence that climate change is disrupting the atmosphere, causing more floods, droughts, storm surges, wildfires, landslides, extreme cold snaps and deadly heat waves, Canada’s financiers are beginning to sound the alarm. ...

"What [the Toronto Dominion Bank's report entitled Natural Catastrophes: A Canadian Perspective] aims to do is persuade policy-makers, business leaders and individuals in Canada to mitigate the impact of the climate upheavals that are already happening or foreseeable.

"Most of the provinces are already taking steps to limit the damage. Oil companies, automakers and homebuilders, likewise, are making adjustments. Only the federal government refuses to deviate from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s full-steam-ahead approach to energy development.

Natural catastrophes mount while Harper shrugs: Goar | Toronto Star

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rick Salutin: The end of Mad Men and the era of ads (in The Toronto Star)

"What ever made anyone think news and ads could easily mix? It wasn’t always so. If you look at early newspapers, like William Lyon Mackenzie’s Colonial Advocate (Toronto in the 1830s), it’s a solid wall of news and opinion. The only ads are classified, from readers to readers, like the Internet. Ads came to dominate all other forms of income but it was an uncomfortable marriage; and it’s crazy to think the divorce won’t ultimately be a Good Thing, even if the stresses are agonizing now, especially for people working in journalism.

"Or TV. Who could imagine TV without ads, it was always ads. But the best TV ever, like Mad Men, was done for cable, with its alternate revenue stream, coming straight from viewers."

The end of Mad Men and the era of ads: Salutin | Toronto Star

Interesting article on the future of ads.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tony Burman: Climate change — time to wake up, smell the CO2 (in The Toronto Star)

"If hell on Earth doesn’t actually exist, the essential message from this week’s dramatic United Nations climate change report is that it one day might.

"And if that does happen, can I be the first to propose that its hottest corner be reserved for the political and media ideologues and “deniers” — including here in Canada — who act as if this fragile, overwhelmed planet is their own personal piggy bank from which to loot? ...

"The world’s nations are beginning to work toward a new international climate change protocol that would replace Kyoto. The crucial meeting will be in Paris at the end of 2015. Governments will gather there claiming some sort of mandate from their voters to determine the road ahead.

"Canada is scheduled to go the polls next year, shortly before this meeting is held.

"Isn’t this a great opportunity for Canadians as a people to reclaim our commitment to an environmental policy that truly serves our future generations?"

Climate change — time to wake up, smell the CO2: Burman | Toronto Star

Tony Burman, former head of Al-Jazeera English and CBC News, teaches journalism at Ryerson University. ( )

Friday, March 28, 2014

Carol Goar: Fighting for help for voiceless seniors (in The Toronto Star)

"Minoo Shakibai sometimes wants to weep as she examines a patient’s ulcerated feet. Many of the chiropodist’s clients are elderly and diabetic. They come to the Dufferin Foot Clinic thinking she can fix the “small cuts” on their feet.

"In severe cases, she sends them straight to the emergency department of the nearest hospital, knowing the lesions are gangrenous. In less urgent circumstances, she cleans and dresses their wounds and tells them to make an appointment with their family doctor immediately. Most don’t. ...

"Too often, the young chiropodist watches seniors — mostly Italian and Portuguese immigrants from the neighbourhood — walk out the door, knowing they’ll eventually face amputation.

"This month, she launched a one-woman crusade to raise public awareness and get help for seniors with no private health coverage. “They deserve to be taken care of and treated right,” she appealed to then-MP Olivia Chow, who passed her entreaty on to Shakibai’s federal representative, Andrew Cash, before launching her mayoral bid. He phoned Shakibai back and gently explained that health-care services are a provincial responsibility, promising to raise the issue with his counterpart at Queen’s Park, Jonah Schein.

"Shakibai doesn’t know much about politics, as she readily admits. She has no allies or advisers. She’s never spoken out before. But she can no longer remain silent."

Fighting for help for voiceless seniors: Goar | Toronto Star

A classic case of "penny-wise, pound-foolish".  If you've had a friend lose a foot because of an untreated ingrown toe-nail, it seems a no-brainer!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Stephen Bede Scharper: Wrecking the climate is bad business | Toronto Star

"Last month, Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church unanimously voted to ensure that its own funds are not invested in the world’s 200 largest fossil fuel companies.

"The vote emerges from a growing concern over “climate justice,” which asserts that while wealthy industrialized nations are the most responsible for carbon emissions engendering climate change, the most destructive effects of climate change are often felt by impoverished groups who are the least responsible for global warming. ...

"As recent reporting by Carol Goar in these pages has suggested, the clean technology industry in Canada, with Ontario as its epicentre, now employs more than the forestry, aerospace and pharmaceutical industries, generating 2,300 jobs alone last year, upping the total number of jobs to 41,000. This industry spawns $5.8 billion in export revenues, is tops in research and development investment and exhibits promising resilience, continuing to show growth even during the 2008-2009 financial debacle.

"The fossil fuel divestment moves by Trinity St. Paul’s and the investment risks posed by climate change in the Mercer study both point to the wisdom of moving away from a climate changing, fossil fuel extracting economy to a life-affirming, clean and more equitable financial — and moral — environment.

"It turns out wrecking the climate is bad business all around."

Wrecking the climate is bad business | Toronto Star

Stephen Bede Scharper is associate professor of environment at the University of Toronto. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rick Salutin: Kathleen Wynne backs down from the great tax debate (in The Toronto Star)

"Another golden moment is slipping away. I don’t mean the Leafs (not only). I mean the Ontario election we might have had, the one about taxes, with a debate on what it means to be a society....

"... What makes us human? It’s our interconnectedness and interdependence. That conditions everything, from crossing a street to turning on a tap. We are webs of interconnection. Most good things cost money and taxes are how we monetize many of those mutual needs. Among good things are non-dehumanizing transit, decent schools, roads that don’t rise up to devour your car — the pensions issue bites because it raises those issues not just horizontally, in space, but vertically, through time, between generations. Everyone stretches out their hands to embrace and support everyone around them, often informally but sometimes via taxes paid. I’m for fairness and I hate the free ride the rich routinely get, but it’s more urgent to construct a social reality that serves most people than be sticklers for it all balancing out. Their time will come, eventually.

" ...One peculiar implication of this debate is that the best way to make taxes more acceptable is to raise them so that people see results, like better transit and pensions. They have to be high enough to accomplish something. That’s why high tax countries generally register fewer complaints than low tax places like us or the U.S. It makes perfect sense, since people who see fewer results rightly ask why they’re paying taxes. That’s the Harper-Ford formula: cut taxes, services languish, people don’t see the point and don’t wanna pay. Vote for me and I’ll cut your pointless, useless taxes.

" ...Alas, it wasn’t to be. ... I grant, reluctantly, it sounds savvier, but I’ll sorely miss the debate that didn’t happen and never may."

Kathleen Wynne backs down from the great tax debate: Salutin | Toronto Star

In my view Rick Salutin is saying some very important things about the relationship between the individual and the state.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thomas J. Duck: Echoes of Walkerton in Environment Canada cuts (in The Toronto Star)

"In May 2000, the water system of Walkerton, Ont., suffered an E. coli outbreak that left nearly half the community’s 4,800 people ill. Seven died. ...

"Underlying the failures of the Walkerton PUC and the MOE, however, were government of Ontario cutbacks. How deep were the cuts? In the years leading up to the Walkerton tragedy, the MOE’s budget was reduced by 68 per cent and its staffing by 40 per cent. These numbers are comparable to what Environment Canada is experiencing today. Consider, for example, that Environment Canada’s climate change and clean air program is having its budget reduced by an astonishing 77 per cent. The cuts are so deep that they appear designed to break Environment Canada once and for all.

"It is interesting to note that three members of that Ontario government have played key roles in Stephen Harper’s federal cabinet: Jim Flaherty (the outgoing minister of finance), John Baird (minister of foreign affairs), and Tony Clement (president of the Treasury Board). Flaherty, Baird and Clement were there when Ontario’s cuts were made and witnessed the result. Surely they must see the parallels now. So why haven’t they spoken out about the dismantling of Environment Canada?"

Echoes of Walkerton in Environment Canada cuts | Toronto Star

Thomas J. Duck is an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science at Dalhousie University.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Rick Salutin: The century that knew too much (in The Toronto Star)

"... the novel, The Man who Loved Dogs , by Leonardo Padura. It’s built around Leon Trotsky’s assassination in Mexico City in 1940. But it’s also about the 20th century, especially the Soviet Union, RIP, 1917-1991: 74 years, the lifespan of a normal person. It asks how the most beautiful dream humanity ever dreamed, a world of peace and social harmony, became its most awful nightmare."

The century that knew too much: Salutin | Toronto Star

We tend to forget that this dream attracted a lot of bright, energetic N. Americans to Russia in the early '30s. We need to study what went wrong.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Rick Salutin: Putin may be crazy, but it doesn’t matter (in The Toronto Star)

"If you designed a computer program to react “rationally” on the model of great power leaders pursuing what’s consensually viewed as the National Interest, it would probably “behave” as Putin has, or perhaps more drastically. ...

"The dilemma of the squares. There have always been spontaneous outbreaks of democratic will, like the Paris Commune or slave revolts. There’s a collective as well as an individual need to control one’s life. ...

"The trick is finding a way to link the genuine popular outbursts to institutionalized, constitutional, representative forms. I know that’s a mouthful but I don’t think anyone’s come up with a solution. Yet who wants to be stuck with merely voting in the occasional election, then going to sleep for another four years?"

Putin may be crazy, but it doesn’t matter: Salutin | Toronto Star

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Swedes Seek Regime Change as Tax Cuts Turn Into Poison Pill - Bloomberg

"Swedes are preparing to punish the government for cutting their taxes. ...

"“The government has done completely the wrong thing when they have pushed through big and ineffective and expensive tax cuts instead of making important investments in jobs and education,” Magdalena Andersson, economic spokeswoman for the Social Democrats, who aspires to become the next Finance Minister, told reporters today in Stockholm.

"In Sweden, unlike in most other countries, “you don’t have to win on a pledge to cut taxes,” said Carl B. Hamilton, economic spokesman for the Liberal Party, a junior partner in [Prime Minister Fredrik] Reinfeldt’s coalition. “People have felt they have received a decent return on their tax money.”"

Swedes Seek Regime Change as Tax Cuts Turn Into Poison Pill - Bloomberg

Friday, January 31, 2014

Rick Salutin: Medium for Pete Seeger's message was the singalong (in The Toronto Star)

"[Pete Seeger]  was essentially a figure in the Oral Tradition, versus most musicians who belong to the Written Tradition in the sense that their music is edited, perfected and sent one-way to audiences. They’re part of a print approach although they use recorded sounds instead of words on pages. Even on his recordings, Seeger strove to capture the ambience of interaction.

"This is especially subversive in the concert context because it breaks down the cash nexus. You pay to go but you perform....

"“I’ve never sung anywhere without giving the people listening to me a chance to join in,” said Seeger: “as a kid, as a lefty, as a man touring the U.S.A. and the world, as an oldster. I guess it’s kind of a religion with me. Participation. That’s what’s going to save the human race.” You could say the singalong was a metaphor for all that, though you could also say the singalong came first in his life (as son of a musicologist) which extended outward and took in politics."

Medium for Pete Seeger's message was the singalong: Salutin | Toronto Star

Friday, January 24, 2014

Rick Salutin: Harper's fawning over Israel was unseemly (in The Toronto Star)

"... it didn’t embarrass me as a Jew, which I’d thought it might; it embarrassed me as a Canadian. It was so unrestrained and disproportionate. It’s unseemly to go so gaga for another country.

"I don’t think at the height of the Cold War, Canada ever put on such a show of adoration for the U.S.; I doubt it did for Britain in Empire days....

"Canadians would never do stuff this garish at home (think of Chris Hadfield’s dignified “O Canada” at the last Leafs-Canadiens game) but they go to a foreign place and let it hang out like cheerleaders at a Texas high school football game."

Harper's fawning over Israel was unseemly: Salutin | Toronto Star

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Stephen Harper should take economics lesson from Henry Ford (in The Toronto Star)

Toby Sanger:

"A century ago, the trail-blazing automaker proved the benefits of paying a fair wage. It’s a lesson our prime minister ought to learn."

Stephen Harper should take economics lesson from Henry Ford | Toronto Star

Toby Sanger is the economist for the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Twitter: @toby_sanger.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Canadian would-be astronauts in line to colonize Mars (in The Toronto Star)

"[Stephen] Fenech, who has travelled to Antarctica and the middle of the Sahara desert, is no stranger to isolation and extreme climates. He says he’s not going into this blinded.

"“I know there is risk involved but I’m willing to take that chance because I figure I can leave my own mark on society,” he said."

Canadian would-be astronauts in line to colonize Mars

It's a lot more important than "leaving his mark" on society - this may be the only hope for the species... if they can lick the cosmic ray protection problem...

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Aquaponics brings fish-fuelled vegetables to Toronto (in The Toronto Star)

"Aquaponics operates as a complete ecosystem: Farmer feeds fish, fish poop in water, effluent-rich water is pumped to vegetable roots....

"The do-it-yourself farm — built from an aquarium, a garden trough, a pump and grow lights — only cost her about $300. ...

"Toronto only has two aquaponics farms aside from hobby farms. They are set up in two high schools to teach students about farming.

"But Toronto’s first large-scale commercial aquaponics farm is now in the works, and it is expected to bring fresh, fish-fuelled vegetables to Toronto markets in the new year."

Aquaponics brings fish-fuelled vegetables to Toronto

The way of the future?