Stump speeches, tax breaks, terror cells and Mario Beaulieu

Senate

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re back!  They’re back!

After a long, lazy summer wherein Canada finally invaded Iraq and fell into Cold War 2.0, the Members of our venerable Parliament finally returned to Ottawa so that they may heckle, hoot, holler, and disappoint all of their constituents.

Takin’ Care of Business.

In what felt really, painfully Canadian, the Prime Minister kicked off the day in front of a few hundred supporters —and three really frigging big Canadian flags —to that old Bachman-Turner Overdrive masterpiece.

I’m not quite sure what Trudeau’s go-to entry music is, but I distinctly recall Thomas Mulcair’s pump-up jams from a few years back being Meet Me in the Basement, by Broken Social Scene.  (Which, incidentally, was also used for some sort of anti-G20 messaging.  Go figure.)  Anyway, I reckon the artistic powerhouses in BTO probably fall pretty well in-line with Harper’s support base.  Well, except for Randy Bachman.  He didn’t sign off on the use of his song, and told media that Harper isn’t “taking care of business for the right people or the right reasons.”  A modern wordsmith.

While the speech itself wasn’t exactly a barn-burner, it did offer a view into a pretty compelling election pitch —tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, and not getting killed by terrorists.

It’s a really nifty campaign tactic, actually. Harper the Bastard —you may dislike him, you may even want him gone, but goddang if I don’t like tax breaks and not being shot.

(Harper’s speech style is always laden with line breaks and ellipses that give you a sense of when he’s supposed to pause or emphasize, and when he’s supposed to give a Howard Deal scream.  Paul Wells once wrote a nice thing about it.)

We Conservatives know
Canadian taxpayers
have not done
the hard work
of balancing the budget
so that governments
can raise taxes,
or accumulate more debt,
To funnel big envelopes of cash
to interest groups.
 A balanced budget
will allow us
to continue delivering
lower taxes
for Canadians,

It’s a really novel approach.  It’s one that Harper has always tiptoed around, but that he now appears to be adopting full-bore.  It’s a quasi-libertarian, Ayn Randian approach to politics.  It views government as an unpleasant reality that must be trimmed and pushed back against.  It’s something that hardcore free-market-ers like Maxime Bernier have stumped on, but it’s not something that the Prime Minister —in his eternal will to play Mr. Canada —has quite gone to town on.  Until now.  Now he’s anti-government.  He’s the outsider.  He’s here to make sure that they don’t touch your money.  It’s how Rob Ford won, after all.

But tax cuts don’t win elections.  He needs some salt with that pepper.

I know
There continue to be those
Who question
The wisdom of our policy,
 Who, just as they once wished
We would be more
Embracing of Putin,
Now would wish us
To be more ambivalent
About Israel,

That jab at Trudeau was followed up by a right-hand slug later in the speech.

We know their ideology
is not the result
of social exclusion
or other so-called root causes.” 
It is evil, vile,
And must be
Unambiguously opposed.

I wrote some months back that Harper was still formulating his messaging on Trudeau.  It appears that the worldwide clusterfunk that has beset us this summer is a prime option.  Indeed, Ipsos tells us that 42% of the country thinks the Prime Minister is the best suited to manage our foreign affairs —a ten point lead over Trudeau.  (He also comes far ahead on economic matters.)

So “Justin Trudeau: he’s in over his head”may yet morph into “Justin Trudeau: won’t stop ISIS”or some baloney like that.

Hippy dippy terrorist hugging.

Which brings me to my next point: the Conservatives have a really ridiculous plan to deport terrorists, and they’re using it to clobber Justin Trudeau.

In the foyer, Immigration Minister whipped out his blackberry and started quoting from a —admittedly, really stupid —twitter exchange between Liberal Ted Hsu and, well, reasonable people.  He did, yes, insist that there was “light and beauty” in everyone, mostly in the context of journalist-beheading terrorists who use rape as a weapon of war, and employ slavery because, hey, you may as well double-down on the evil.

Alexander used it as a lance to go after Trudeau.

“This is a real threat,” he told journalists.  “We as a country are mobilizing with our allies against it.”

I think that’s a pretty fair statement.  The government is doing a good job handling the problems in Iraq, and it’s questionable whether Trudeau would do as good of a job.  I find myself thinking that, and I imagine many other Canadians do as well.

But here’s the thing —Alexander is defending a stupid and ridiculous proposition.

He was talking about citizenship revocation as a means to go after terrorists.  I wrote about that bill at great length in Vice and again, on this blog.

The short of it: any person with dual citizenship, or who has access to citizenship in another country, is at risk for having their citizen stripped if they’ve been convicted of terrorism (sentenced to five years or longer), treason, espionage (sentenced to life in prison) or if the minister decides that they joined a fighting force at war with Canada.  And I really wanted to know how this would be applied.

So I asked him.

Minister Alexander, if you could explain something for me.  Will this be applied only for people charged in absentia and found guilty?  Will it be applied to people whove served prison sentences, like Omar Khadr?  Will it be applied to people who go abroad and fight, and will we deport them?

And he answered.

Well, Omar Khadr, just to be clear, doesnt have a terrorism conviction in Canada, but it will be applied according to the rules that we have that apply in our judicial system, so whether someone is there in person or not, whether its a decision of another democratic state that is upheld in a Canadian court, only time will tell, but it will have to meet the very high standards of Canadian justice and only when we have that conviction will revocation become a possibility.  But we think with those very clear safeguards its absolutely common sense that revocation would happen, and we find it hard to believe that both the NDP and Justin Trudeaus Liberals disagree with us on this simple matter accepted in democracies, accepted in Canada before 1977, which every other NATO democracy has in one form or another.

I immediately followed up, asking why there’s no appeal process in the legislation.  I asked three or five more times until, as he was walking away, he offered a “there is.”

There are a lot of things going on, there.

First off, the legislation —formerly C-24 —doesn’t require that the conviction be in Canada (Alexander himself acknowledges that.)  The legislation, now law, reads that someone can have their passport burned if they’re convicted of terrorism or: “an offence outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would constitute a terrorism offence as defined in that section.”

Khadr faced five war crime charges, including “providing material support for terrorism. ”Khadr was sentenced to eight years.  He’s a prime candidate for this legislation.

Then there’s the appeal process.  Or lack thereof.

Technically, there is a judicial review, but it is available only if an application is made and the judge decides to hear it.  From there, there is no appeal of the decision —which can be a summary judgement —unless the judge feels that a “serious question of general importance is involved and states the question.”

The general process goes like this: the minister sends you a letter, and asks if you have any problems with having your citizenship revoked.  Then he can wait a day or two, and send you a second letter informing you that your citizenship is void.  Then the CBSA will throw you in a holding cell until you’re deported.

It’s not clear how Canada intends to force citizens on other countries.

Oh, and by the way: our NATO allies certainly do not have this sort of legislation.  The United Kingdom does, and it’s widely been regarded as a disaster because the people they deport keep getting killed in drone strikes.  America, best I can tell, only deports citizens guilty of war crimes.

The NDP: a federal minimum wage, for some reason.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, those devious New Democrats are going to use tomorrow’s opposition day to suggest that the federal government impose a $15 minimum wage on all federally-regulated industries —so, basically: some construction, banks, telecommunications, shipping, air transportation, and a few other fields.

Problem is, it wont do much.

According to a 2011 report, two-thirds of workers in federally-regulated industries earn more than $20 an hour.

But hey, 5% of workers make $12.50 an hour or less.  (Compare that to the provincially-regulated sectors, where that number jumps to 26%.)  A third earn from $12.50 to $20, so some of them would be impacted, too.  All-in-all, accounting for the fact that wages have gone up slightly since 2011, we’re looking at about 50,000 people.

Here’s the thing, though: only 4% of businesses that employ more than 100 people fall into the low-wage (less than $12.50) category.  It’s 10% for companies of 20 to 99 people, and 12% for businesses that are six to 19 employees.  It’s those small businesses, of five people or less, that pay so terribly —26% of their wages fall into the lower end of the scale.

So it’s a laudable goal to try and get workers a raise.  But you’re functionally saddling small businesses with a $10,000 tax per worker.

Functionally, it might drive companies under.

Speaking of putting companies out of business

Trudeau had his own proposal —rather than going with Harper’s proposed EI premium cuts for small businesses, why not give them cuts for hiring new people?

Trudeau was riffing off a column written by economist Mike Moffatt, who pointed out that the tax rebate might make it more profitable to fire people.  I’m not brain like Moffatt, but I think the counterpoint is pretty obvious, even to braindead slobs like myself —there aren’t that many companies that hover right around the proposal’s $15,000 contribution cut-off, and therefore it would be a real pain to try and fire enough people to fall under the line.  On top of that, companies probably aren’t interested in firing staff —and reducing productivity, and therefore profit —to get a few thousand dollars in tax rebate.

So it might not be a great idea, but it’s not a terrible one, either.

Trudeau’s proposal wouldn’t make the rebate automatic, but instead offer the cash to companies that hire new workers.

That, of course, has an entirely different problem —namely, hiring people is expensive and the companies most likely to take advantage of the break would be big corporations.

If you run a mom-and-pop grocery store, a $2000 tax break is nice.  If you can only get that $2000 if you hire someone new, you probably just won’t hire someone new.

I also applied the same logic to Trudeau’s proposal that he applied to Harper’s, in scrumming him in the foyer.

Your concern is that Harpers EI plan would have businesses stay small to get savings.  Your plan is to give them tax breaks for new workers.  Wouldnt that, then, by the same logic, have companies lay off staff and hire new ones just to take advantage of that tax credit?

And he answered:

The Liberal Government put forward something like that in the 90s that was very effective in stimulating and encourage people to hire workers.  The program that this government has put forward actually makes available a little over $2000 to a company that would fire workers and only $200 for hiring new workers.  Its a completely poorly thought out and poorly conceived plan.  Were glad to offer a positive proposal that would work better.

The Bloc: still here.

Also happening today, Bloc Quebecois ringleader Mario Beaulieu showed up with the Louis Plamandon half of his caucus, and vowed that the Bloc is back, baby.

Well it’s not.  But it was quite funny.

Beaulieu, not one to downplay his shortcomings, made the astute observation that: “obviously, losing MPs isn’t a good thing.”

Weirdly, the Claude Patry half of his caucus wasn’t there.  Patry, of course, said he wouldn’t run again after noting that Beaulieu is a walking disaster.  Beaulieu, however, said Patry would still be in the party.  He was just busy today, or something.

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OTHER ARTICLES BY JUSTIN LING

Youth unemployment isn’t a real problem
Canada needs to step up to ISIS
Harper will win again… maybe
Trudeau’s fortunes are fragile
Voters don’t trust the NDP on the economy

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Follow Justin Ling on twitter: @Justin_Ling

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