Riots: nobody does it cheaper than France

at least according to Nicolas Sarkozy,

“With regard the French G8/G20, even if I can’t confirm the figures that you are talking about in Canada, I can say that in France they will be 10 times less”

Let’s compare two events in both countries where there were riots. Specifically, Canada’s G20 in Toronto and France’s 2005 riots.

Metric Canada France
Cost $930 million €200 million
Municipalities affected 1 274
Cars damaged 3 8,973
Arrests ~900 2,888
Deaths 0 2
Duration (days) 2 20

What is the appropriate cost for G20 summit security?

The politics of paternalism

The big news this week was the bombshell interview given by CSIS director Richard Fadden to CBC’s Peter Mansbridge on The National where Canada’s spy chief alleged that a number of cabinet ministers in provincial governments are under foreign influence. Red flag, or McCarthy smear?

Early last year, a mid-level diplomat named Richard Colvin rocked Ottawa when he alleged before a Commons committee that Canada was turning a blind eye to Afghan torture and some therefore argued complicit in torture and guilty of war crimes. Whistleblower or troublemaker?

The reaction to both events is very telling of our national psychology and perhaps of the psychology of western democratic citizens. The condemnation of Fadden was swift and there’s even talk that those around the Prime Minister are considering his hasty ejection while Colvin was romanticized as a small guy with a big message. Perhaps Fadden’s biggest miscalculation was that he wasn’t so small. Imagine the inverse of the outcome if Fadden had juvenilized himself in the equation by alleging that big bad daddy Stephen Harper knows that there are Chinese elements within provincial governments and that he’s covering it up. Of course, this would have been a different sort of career mistake for Fadden, but he would have found himself with the backing of the Canadian media rather than round condemnation. A modern folk hero standing up against the order! Instead Fadden is the perceived order and the order is trampling on smaller people.

When the west was entangled in a ideological and proxied military struggle with the Soviet Union, there was a external threat to our way of life, who we were as free citizens and our freedom to choose our future. When America emerged from the cold war as the world’s remaining superpower it suddenly found itself to be the only adult in the room. While an anti-establishment movement was growing within its borders, it was small and kept out of the mainstream because most were focused on the external threat, the structured order that sought to gain control.

As students of history tell us, the good guys won. The West did not wash away with the red tide of communism that lapped its shores for half a century. But now, the West is the order without threat. What are freedom-wired folks supposed to do without an external threat to their freedom?

Australia just got its first female Prime Minister. Most of us outside of Australia don’t know what she’s about but we surely know that its a good thing because we’re told that she succeeded in world that told her that she couldn’t. Same for Barack Obama; hope and change were simply code for tearing down the perceived societal order which was believed to be unbalanced. However, during the election, Barack Obama was America’s boyfriend. Now, that he’s president, he’s their father. That hope and change? More of the same. And those hopeless anti-establishment romantics? They throw bricks at the G20.

In Canada, Liberals have been the establishment for the overwhelming majority of the last 100 years. This establishment party has always had a knack for the gosh-gee little guyism. Anti-americanism was the Liberal stock and trade because in the politics of paternalism, America was the larger external threat to our way of life. We even had to regulate what Canadians could watch on television to protect them from this ordered systemic threat designed to subjugate us. The p’tit gars de Shawinigan? The desperately disordered Paul Martin? These men were forgiven because, well, they’re we just doing the best that they could against a bigger and meaner entity.

Stephen Harper finds himself in a world without personified threats to the Canadian way-of-life. Instead, he has trouble tapping into the politics of paternalism on both sides of the equation. First, he is paternalistic. He’s described as being calm, collected, calculative, “always three chess moves ahead”. Though he comes from the middle-class, it is a challenge for him to be perceived as the guy that fights with us rather than the guy that tells us what to do. On the other hand, the external challenges that would have buoyed his brand in the past have taken up an amorphous form. From the asynchronous challenge of the Taliban to the black-shirt anarchists at the G20, there’s no face to what menaces Canadians. And those that menace our ways of life? They are trivialized and get our arrogant sympathy. Some in this country view allegations of complicity of torture against the Taliban to be small people hurting small people while the big guy is uncaring. G20 protesters get more coverage from the media than the policy determined at the conference because the perception is that small people are sidelined while the establishment makes the rules.

A father figure is one that denies abortion or a gay marriage while a mother figure just loves you for who you are. Stephen Harper has smartly understood that Canadians eschew these elements of the paternalistic state yet he struggles with the maternal. The “nanny” state is one that tells us that we must, rather than mustn’t. We must “share our toys” according to maternal governance. Paternalism dominates in “our dad can beat up your dad” situations (ie. when external threats are perceived). In the absence of external threat, our defender is perceived as he who denies us. Currently, the children are upset about global warming, globalization, and fake lakes. Better that than red balloons and gulags, I suppose.

What is Stephen Harper to do? He cannot hope to re-raise us as well-balanced adults can he? In order for Harper to safely navigate the politics of paternalism he needs to be seen as smaller man fighting with us smaller people against the bigger world that threatens our way of life. Canada is the most sea-worthy vessel on the stormy seas of the global economy but there is no personification of the threat that surrounds us. Who is the Gorbachev of the global bank tax? Whom do we fight as we fight for small business and for the ma’s and pa’s that sell things in small towns? Who is the face of the looming union pension bubble that is about to burst?

Why do we as Canadians, and perhaps more broadly we in the west, tend to put more stock in the words of those that fight the establishment tell us rather than believe what we’re told by the establishment? How do we sort out what benefits us from that which disrupts? We are innately freedom-seeking people. In the absence of something external that threatens us, we turn our attention within. The ultimate expression of freedom surely isn’t anarchy and it certainly isn’t socialism, but without form those that romanticize this challenge to the order as mischaracterized expressions of freedom will continue to push these notions, often violently. And those of us who think one’s size and challenge are the only moral yardsticks will only continue to enable disorder at our own expense.

Conrad Black gets new trial

The US Supreme Court just sent Conrad Black’s case back to a lower court to be reheard to determine if part of his conviction should be overturned. The court found that the US government over-reached in its application of the Honest Services addendum to statute. It was argued before the court in December and March that prosecutors have applied the law too broadly and its application could lead to large sentences for minor mistakes.

Here is the Supreme Court’s decision:

When heard in the lower court, part of Black’s sentence could be overturned, however, he was also convicted on obstruction of justice.

Also gaining from today’s decision is ex-Enron chief Jeff Skilling who was partially convicted under the same application of the so-called honest services law.

UK Conservatives unveil budget

The problem:
– $1.3 trillion debt.
– Budget deficit is 11% of GDP

The planned solution:
– Increase VAT from 17.5% to 20% by January
– Axe treasury department looking into adopting the Euro as the common currency
– Public sector pay freeze
– Child tax benefit freeze for 3 years
– SMB tax rate from 21 to 20%
– plan to reduce corporate tax rate to 24%
– bank levy to be introduced by January
– 28% on capital gains

The UK is facing hard times. Its budget deficit to GDP is second only to Ireland in Europe. Its domestic demand was -1% during 2009 while that of Canada was +2.6%. The Harper government also plans to cut the corporate tax rate to 15% by 2012 while Michael Ignatieff has said that he would freeze corporate taxes at 18%. In October 2009, the IMF had predicted the UK’s net debt to increase to over 90% of GDP while Canada’s net debt position stands under 30% of GDP (and debt-to-GDP ratio about 35%). Canada’s absolute debt stands at $529 Billion and this country’s deficit stands at $56 Billion.

Here is the UK budget released today:

What’s on the agenda for G8/G20?

China
Prior to the G8, Prime Minister Harper will hold bilateral with President Hu from China on June 24th who is in Canada for a state visit. The visit will mark 40 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and China. Bilateral trade now stands at $50 Billion between the two countries. It is expected that PM Harper will raise the importance of China’s role in helping to bring stability and security to the Korean peninsula as one of the few nations that talks to North Korea and as a permanent member nation of the UN security council.

India
On June 27th, PM Harper will host bilateral with Indian PM Singh in Toronto. PM Harper will look to build upon agreements signed during last meeting in India which addressed economic partnership and energy cooperation.

Focus of the G8 for the government of Canada:
– focus on achieving 2015 United Nations Millennium Development Goals (halving extreme poverty levels, cutting the spread of HIV/AIDS)
– nuclear non-proliferation and continuing work achieved at non-proliferation treaty review conference in NYC and Nuclear Security Summit in DC. Focus specifically on keeping nuclear arms out of the hands of terrorists.
– Recognition that Iran and North Korea continue to pose threats to global security.
– International cooperation on fighting Latin American, Caribbean, West African and Asian transnational criminal networks.
– Muskoka Initiative on maternal, newborn and child health.
– Progress in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and in the Middle East on combatting terrorism and its link to organized crime and drug trafficking
– G8 leaders will join seven African leaders as well as the leaders of Colombia, Haiti and Jamaica in order to discuss the interlinkages of crime and terror networks.

G20 priorities for Canada:
– G20 should restore public finance while maintaining economic growth in order to achieve global economic recovery.
– Canada implores G20 nations to tackle fiscal consolidation, reduce debt, reduce deficits and for countries to return to balanced budgets
– address root causes of global economic crisis
– fully implement stimulus plans
– prepare fiscal consolidation measures
– resist protectionism
– promote open markets
– continue reforms to financial and regulatory systems
– continue governance reforms to international financial institutions and multilateral development banks
– call upon the international financial institutions and multilateral development banks

Michael Ignatieff’s Summer Roadtrip off to a bad start

Michael Ignatieff has gassed up the RV, packed the cooler, and is hitting the road this summer to meet “the Canadians”. Most details are still sketchy, but we hear that he is meeting with voters and bringing them a message of hope and inspiration.

Take for instance, Ignatieff’s recent meeting with undecided voters party faithful at a conference in Vancouver. Here’s one Liberal blogger’s take:

At the Policy Matters conference in Vancouver today Michael Ignatieff took to the stage, speaking on the hard work that lies ahead for the Liberal Party. Though for the most part his words roused the audience of party faithfuls, one statement left an uncertain and questioning resonance with the crowd.

In the latter half of his speech, Ignatieff said, “Before you speak, think, if you’re not going to say anything to help us win, shut up!” Preceding the last two words was a slight pause, and with their utterance, a strong loud emphasis.

Following Ignatieff’s statement the awkwardness was palatable, speaking to two members afterwards, both felt unsure of the Liberal Leader’s need to be so harsh. Another Liberal pointing out that it was not as if Ignatieff was speaking to some opposing Party, or that these Liberals did anything that deserved such a rebuke.

Telling Party members to shut up if they have a different position of the party or any criticism of it, is sensational and rude. At a time with Liberal support is at almost record lows, the Leader shouldn’t be so disrespectful to the people he so dearly depends upon.

It’s ok to start your summer tour in your comfort zone, among your friends, even if the experience is, well, um, uncomfortable.

If this is how it goes among party members, some of whom are skeptical of their leader, we can’t wait to see how it goes among the unconverted skeptics.

Now, more than ever

There’s an old adage that says that one is judged by the company they keep. While I think that this may be a bit too simplistic at times, I find that time and time again, the comments sections some of the media “of record” in this country reflect a readership at home.

Take for instance, this top comment at the CBC:

and this attempt at the Globe and Mail:

Those thumbs up/thumbs down votes are telling of the state of Canadian media these days. CBC and the Globe sing to the choir and the applecart of comfortable thought remains unturned.

Is there a market for Sun TV News? Fox News in the US has the most politically diverse audience (Republican/Democrat split) and I believe the same will be true for Sun News. Conservatives will find a home there to be sure, but left-wingers will also clamour to fight back the threatening barbarians climbing the gate of their mainstream, of their order now challenged.

Do you think there is a market for Sun TV News?

Running away from the brand

In Canada, the Conservatives unapologetically spend, while in the UK, they are about to cut — but not without apology.

An email I just received from the UK Conservatives addressed to party faithful:

The legacy of Britain’s debt is Labour’s to be sure, but in an email to those that elected you, claim credit for taking action. These cuts are your cuts and you should proud to implement the plan to address the crisis.

And gosh, no money to address climate change?