Sunday, 26 February 2012

Federal Spending Power and the Drummond Report

There are several ways to read the Drummond Report  - the Commission on the Reform of Ontario's Public Services -as is no doubt the case with any report. Most obviously, there is a provincial lens and, even then, there are markedly different interpretations. Undoubtedly, Ontario's fiscal house is no longer in good order. A combination of recessionary deflation coupled with increased commitments in public expenses have created a nearly untenable position of declining reviews and growing commitments to social programs. Beyond there immediate variable of global economic turbulence there are a host of structural problems which plague Ontario's economy. Drummond's report, however, exist partially in a vacuum and treats government spending as a free floating phenomenon. It's typical of economists, isolating what interest them and cutting out the external world. Sadly, the approach does not translate well to public policy and the report has been met with a predictable chorus of agreement and rejection.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Canadian Senate: A Measure of Performance Legitimacy?

Discussion of the Senate often vacillates between equally untenable alternatives: outright abolition and wholesale reinvention. The former position - chiefly promulgated by the New Democrats - is grotesquely unaware of both this country's history and its institutions. The latter - most vocally asserted by the Conservatives - seeks to accidentally reinvent Parliament's upper house by introducing a modicum of democratic legitimacy. While stasis is  equally undesirable, the status quo is preferable to unthinking change solely for the sake of change. Yes, the Senate lacks democratic legitimacy, but simplistic solutions to rectify this will do more harm than good.

Monday, 20 February 2012

C-30 & the Tragic Farce of Canadian Parliamentary Politics

The maelstrom arising from the tabling of the Conservative government's bill C-30 - misleadingly short-titled the "Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act" - has by this point become centred around the minister who proposed it, Vic Toews, and his public battle with an anonymous Twitter account. Sadly this sideshow has subsumed important questions about the dire consequences of certain provisions of the bill itself, much of which Toews - the very minister who sponsored the bill - now claims he was unaware of.

This single piece of legislation raises a host of serious questions extending far beyond the contents of the bill itself, many of which cut to the core of our system of parliamentary system. It is astounding that so-called stalwart defenders of our governmental heritage, such as Andrew Coyne, defend the lack of knowledge on the part of ministers. The problem is that this overlooks entirely a central feature of responsible government: ministerial responsibility. How is it possible for a minister to be responsible for the content and functioning of legislation so central to his own purview when the contents and scope are unknown to him? The simple answer is that he cannot.