From the pages of Nature’s Climate Change Journal

Nature Climate Change,

Members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change. Rather, they were the ones among whom cultural polarization was greatest. This result suggests that public divisions over climate change stem not from the public’s incomprehension of science but from a distinctive conflict of interest: between the personal interest individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties and the collective one they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare.

So here we learn that “deniers” aren’t dumb or scientifically illiterate. But one rhetorically wonders which group they refer to that suffers from a “distinctive conflict of interest” that is driven by “personal interest” that “individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties.”

This from the peer-reviewed journal of the prestigious Nature Publishing Group.

About that National Post op-ed…

A few days ago, the esteemed Kelly McParland of the National Post published a piece on the Post’s online group blog Full Comment on the Quebec student protests and education boycott.

He included this paragraph,

[The York Federation of Students’ (and various leftwing groups’)] petition, posted on the website of Stephen Taylor, director of the National Citizens Coalition, heaps praise on the efforts of the small minority of Quebec post-secondary students who managed to disrupt the final weeks of the school year through a program of street violence and intimidation.

I read the piece on Full Comment at the time and it didn’t strike me as odd or out of place. But then again, I know my position on the student protests and McParland does too as he published my own op-ed in Full Comment on the Quebec student protests and how Charest would do well to polarize against them. In fact, McParland has been nothing but fair to me and, as you can see, has been good enough to me to encourage my own contributions.

Yet, the piece ran in print today and boy, did we get letters at the National Citizens Coalition! Are we in favour of the student demonstrations in Quebec? Have we donned red squares and joined the riots? Have we lost our good conservative minds?

No, no, and no.

It is the petition that I uncovered that heaps praise on the protesters. It of course heaps praise upon them because it was written by Ontario Marxists. I was only bringing it to everyone’s attention. The sentence structure in McParland’s op-ed takes two ideas (my website and the petition) and breaks the flow between mutually exclusive actions (posting and praise). I posted the petition. The petition praises the protesters.

In short, I think the petition is mad. And those spoiled students don’t know how good they’ll still have it in seven years time.

I hope that clears things up!

Quebec-style student strike to come to Ontario?

The entitled madness may be building in Canada.

Members of the Canadian Federation of Students are petitioning the organization to call an Ontario-wide strike vote this fall in order to show solidarity with the students in Quebec. Here is their letter,

Stunning statistic

If Quebec were a country, its debt-to-GDP ratio would be 5th highest of the OECD countries. Ahead of Iceland, Greece, Italy, and Japan.

Source

In related news, 122 people were arrested in Quebec tonight as the legislature tabled emergency legislation to suspend semesters at some schools and heavily fine protesters blocking access to classes.

Christy Clark’s missed opportunity

Tom Mulcair has had a busy week. In his first real outing on the national stage on any policy issue of pan-Canadian importance he chose to entangle energy, regions, the manufacturing sector, and the environment. Melange became malaise as Mulcair designed his prognostication to polarize.

In short, according to Mulcair, manufacturing jobs in central Canada suffer from a high dollar caused by energy exports. Exploiting the oilsands in Alberta and building pipelines to ship processed bitumen south and west is boosting the strength of the dollar. Mulcair calls it ‘Dutch Disease’.

Though without a reasonable diagnosis or plan for treatment, his strategy is quite transparent. The NDP has a tenuous hold on the seats from what many have called an accidental victory for the party in Quebec. Showing up as Quebec’s defender is a role conceded within the last decade by the federal Liberal Party, and Mulcair is digging in, and pouring the concrete to reinforce the foundation.

The NDP leader’s wedging from Outremont was a welcome opportunity for western premiers, whom Mulcair dismissed as “messengers” for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall warmed up his twitter and Facebook accounts to throw haymakers in defence the prairie province’s resource extraction industry.

For Wall, whose party captured 64.2% of the popular vote in the last provincial election, standing up for his province was more of a pleasure than a necessity, as his main opponents in the Saskatchewan NDP are lagging far behind.

Moving west, Alberta’s newly elected majority Premier Alison Redford — comfortably settling without much concern for imminent electoral survivability — passively mustered that Mulcair’s comments were “divisive and ill-informed”.

Yet, westward still, where we see a Premier in the fight for her political life in BC, with a surging NDP topping 50% in provincial polls, with an economy fixed firmly in the resource sector pipelines ready, it’s mostly quiet. Christy Clark’s finance minister did dismiss the “ignorant” remarks of Tom Mulcair, and the premier did call Mulcair’s position “goofy”, however, she has been absent from the province on a trade mission overseas and comparatively absent on the issue.

Resource sector jobs are inextricably linked to the BC economy. There have been talks or rebranding Clark’s party to recapture the pro-business and pro-development segments of the successful coalition that has kept her party in power. A perfect opportunity was presented to allow Clark to emerge as the most vocal defender of Western interests. Clark wasn’t just weak on brand, she was largely off-grid.

The federal NDP leader is making shrewd if cynical strategy dividing regions against each other but in the end it will likely pay political dividends for him. The other winners in this dance have been the Premiers with the least to gain while Premier Clark — facing a desperately dire political situation at home — has missed her chance to enrich her electability from this latest entanglement.

Free Speech under attack!

Here’s something I didn’t know 24 hours ago. Did you know that it is illegal for anyone in the National Capital Region to use the term “Parliament Hill” to describe a place or business that isn’t that hill on which Canada’s Parliament resides? It’s true, and it’s outlined in s.80 of the Parliament of Canada Act,

80. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any Act of Parliament or regulation made thereunder, no person shall use the words “Parliament Hill” in combination

(a) to describe or designate a property, place, site or location in the National Capital Region described in the schedule to the National Capital Act other than the area of ground in the City of Ottawa bounded by Wellington Street, the Rideau Canal, the Ottawa River and Kent Street;

(b) to identify any goods, merchandise, wares or articles for commercial use or sale; or

(c) in association with a commercial establishment providing services.

(2) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

One wonders how many former political staffers have ever considered hanging their shingle on the name “Parliament Hill Consulting/Strategies/Communications/Group”

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Charest should dig in, and then call election

Quebec politics are always interesting, and sometimes detestable. The past few months have proven this again to be true. Quebec students are marching in the streets by the tens of thousands on a regular basis demanding that the government reverse its plans to hike tuition rates to a level that would keep them paying less than any other student in North America. There has been violence, tear gas, broken windows and the provincial education minister has just quit.

The man at whom the chaos is targeted is Quebec’s Premier Jean Charest. Polls prior to the the street demonstrations showed him to be the least popular premier in Canada. Current polls show that the longest student strike in the province’s history have swayed the sympathy of few Quebecers. Elsewhere, scandals have mounted for Charest, the latest and most serious being allegations of corruption within the multi-billion dollar construction industry that seems to innervate every level of Quebec’s political class.

Charest must call an election by 2013, and if he is to survive facing long odds — as he has done before — he must be mindful of timing.

Quebec faces a summer of discontent, and the premier must be seen to be putting the house in order, or at least refusing to hand over the keys to the street mob. Acquiescing to student demands would be foolish and would remove electoral ammunition from Charest’s already dwindled stock. Earlier, Charest offered the students a deal he knew they wouldn’t accept — if only to illustrate that reason was contemptible to them. Quebec summers generally see a panoply of strikes and demonstrations from the labour movement. and — it being an election year in the U.S. — copycat occupy protests will return to the parks and streets of Montreal. Pressure will mount, and so will the impatience of ordinary Quebecers against the faction of society Charest would profit to wedge against.

Charest’s main electoral competitors are the Parti Quebecois, who promise to expand state benevolence to those seeking handouts, and the upstart party of François Legault. Legault’s CAQ promises a handful of right-leaning solutions for a province whose people have complained about the corrupt entitlement class of politicians running the show in the capital in Quebec City. If Charest has any hope of victory, he must tack right and co-opt Legault, and represent a populist champion against those who take from society at the expense of those who make society.

Say what you will about the issues of state largesse, what makes education accessible, or Charest’s fitness to be re-elected. The Premier will be making these calculations as he considers his political future in the coming weeks.

There is no better time for Charest than this summer to call an election and frame himself as a leader who will emphatically say ‘no’ to the students, and ‘no’ to the growing entitlement-seeking labour movement. It will only get worse for Charest as pressure from inquiries into corruption mount. Quebecers may not like Charest very much, but given the draining aspects of Quebec’s economy that he’s up against, he should be eager to show that a bold ‘no’ mandate may be the least detestable option.

[cross-posted to Full Comment]

Peter MacKay, in context

News from last week included the opposition finding outrage in an apparent discrepancy of cost estimation of the Canadian mission in Libya by Defence Minister Peter MacKay. In an interview on CBC’s The House with Evan Solomon last October MacKay had stated that the mission costs were coming in under a projected $60 million by about $10 million dollars. Recently, this figure was updated to $347 million. The opposition has accused the government of misleading Canadians on the cost of the Libyan mission as a result.

Here, for example is a report filed on CBC.ca,

Defence Minister Peter MacKay is defending the government’s accounting of the costs of Canada’s military mission in Libya, following the release of new figures by the Department of National Defence that lay out the final cost of the deployment.

The department puts the incremental costs of the mission — costs the military says would not have been incurred if Canadian Forces had not been deployed — at just under $100 million.

And the total cost of the operation — a figure that includes everything from jet fuel to pilot salaries, including the salaries of military personnel — comes in at $347 million.

Last October, MacKay told CBC Radio’s The House the Libyan mission had cost taxpayers less than $50 million.

“As of Oct. 13, the figures that I’ve received have us well below that, somewhere under $50 million,” MacKay said.

“And that’s the all-up costs of the equipment that we have in the theatre, the transportation to get there, those that have been carrying out this critical mission.”

Here’s what MacKay said in that interview (bolded for emphasis),

EVAN SOLOMON (HOST):
The mission in Libya is wrapping up. The Secretary General of NATO announced that there would be no extension, as the Libyan government has asked, until the end of the year. NATO wraps up its mission on October 31st. Can you tell Canadians what the cost of the Libyan mission was to Canadians.

PETER MACKAY (MINISTER OF DEFENCE):
Sure, the initial projection, as you know, going back some six months or more, would have us in the range of about 60 million dollars. As of October 13th, the figures that I’ve received have us well below that, somewhere under 50 million dollars. And that’s the all up costs of the equipment that we have in the theatre, the transportation to get there, those that have been carrying out this critical mission

EVAN SOLOMON (HOST):
Well it certainly will be a long process ahead, but you’re just confirming that the mission that Canada partook in, the seven-month mission, will cost Canadians all in 50 million dollars now.

PETER MACKAY (MINISTER OF DEFENCE):
That’s the figure I was given, so I’m giving you that number with the proviso that there could be more costs that come in after the fact. The fact that we are now ramping down the mission, bringing back significant equipment and personnel, some 650 were there, we have a ship in the area, we have aircrafts, fighter aircrafts, patrol aircrafts, refuelers.

Does this add unreported context? Did MacKay report the number he was given by his department by provided the caveat that more costs could come in? The CBC report does not mention this disclaimer on cost estimates and opposition upset over “misleading” Canadians does seems to hinge on the suggestion that MacKay was absolutely fixed on $50 million as a cost estimate. It would be fair to the Minister (and to the news consumer) to provide this extra context.

The CBC report does provide the government’s defence of the numbers, after the fact, and only after they were accused of misleading Canadians last week,

The minister continued, “Of course, the mission went on. There were extensions … there was, in fact, then the cost of bringing equipment and personnel home. This is incremental costing.”

At an event in Edmundston, N.B., on Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper noted the total figure of $347 million includes the ongoing costs of operating the Canadian military, and he defended the earlier estimates.

“We always give the most up-to-date figures and it’s important also to know … that these figures include normal operations of the Canadian military, of those assets over that period,” Harper said.

However, from the original material from the date and interview under scrutiny, and from CBC no less, we see MacKay provide proviso of those cost estimates. Why is this not reported?