Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

1+1 = Sunny Skies?0

Posted by JJ in Federal Elections, Strategic Planning, Brass Tacks (Thursday April 19, 2007 at 3:52 pm)

The problem with simple math is that it’s more complex than you might think. That’s why Jason Cherniak’s recent assertion of impending Liberal success in St. Catherines is as analytically sound as a proof that 1=2.

Here’s the theory:

  • In 2006, the Liberal candidate lost by 246 votes.
  • In 2006, the Green Party candidate received 2,305 votes.
  • Therefore, if a mere 15% of the Green votes switch to Liberal in the absence of a Green candidate, the Liberal candidate wins!

Spotted the fallacy? It’s simple, really. It assumes that the Conservative candidate, now an incumbent, doesn’t gain any votes. Incumbents often do; and absent some sign of real backlash in the area in question or serious nationwide backlash, there’s no reason to suspect that he won’t do as well or better in the next election.

But there’s another one; and this is the point that leads to the serious error of judgment in Jason’s analysis, to wit: the headline:

Dion-May deal pays off in St. Catharines!

It’s wholly within the realm of possibility that 15% of would-be Green voters will trend Liberal. It’s also within the realm of possibility that the Liberals’ effort to court the left end of the spectrum will alienate more centre-right parts of their support. If so, the quasi-coalition could cost more votes than it gains. Not only has he assumed that the Conservatives gain no votes, but he also assumes that neither the Greens nor the Liberals lose any votes.

Assuming that a deal has only positive effects comes down to begging the question, because that’s precisely what you’re trying to prove. It’s as analytically sound as. . .well, thinking it won’t rain because you don’t have your umbrella. Slapping a smile across your face no matter what might help your mood, but it won’t keep you from ending up all wet.

Federal Budget, Part One0

Posted by JJ in Strategic Planning, Brass Tacks (Tuesday March 20, 2007 at 8:13 pm)

There are a few things in the recently-released 2007 Canadian federal budget which point at policy rather than at programs. Now it’s easy to give them the once-over, with patent pending double-entry budget analysis!

Middle Class Incentives

The budget has a horde of provisions aimed squarely at the middle class, calibrated for greater effect at its lower end. These include:

  • Child Tax Credit of $2,000 ($310 tax reduction per child)
  • Increased Spousal Amount ($209 tax reduction where a single spouse supports the household)
  • Broadening the scope of the transit fare tax credit
  • Increasing the 48 hour duty-free exemption to $400 from $200
  • A new rebate program to encourage the purchase of lower-emission vehicles

So how does all this stack up?

Political Value
Very high

Middle-class Canadians have seen their costs of living increase significantly, while most attention usually goes to lower-class income earners and the unemployed. The middle class usually feels ignored, whether justifiably or not, but constitutes the single largest group of certain voters. These offerings benefit them (and especially lower middle class taxpayers) more than other groups for a few reasons:

  • They’re well-off enough to buy cars, but rarely to spend much on them — a rebate for cars they were more likely to buy (cheaper, smaller models) is a big plus.
  • Those who don’t take cars likely still commute to work — adding kinds of fare passes to the existing rebate scheme is a plus
  • Families with one supporting partner are disadvantaged because the same amount of money, earned by a single taxpayer, is more heavily taxed than that amount split between two taxpayers. By increasing the spousal allowance, that problem is eased.
Investment Value
Low

You could invent an elaborate theory about how the only way to improve economic performance is by increasing consumption and explain why a happy, spendthrift middle class is the most efficient way to accomplish that; but there are probably better ways to get the middle class to increase spending — further GST reductions, for instance. Besides which, increased exemptions for personal imports don’t really help the domestic economy.

You could also talk about how downtrodden the middle class is, but in all fairness, there are others more downtrodden than them.

In the end, if the program’s greatest impact is to ease the tightness in lower-middle-class budgets, it’s not clear exactly how the amounts in question can be expected to really benefit the economy long term. The best use for the money for the average beneficiary would be to offset existing personal debt.

Business Incentives

A number of entries are aimed at improving business prospects:

  • $500 Million, to be accessed through provincial programs, for employers to train workers.
  • A new office, plus increasing spending on public-private partnerships.
  • Simplifying tax and other paperwork for small businesses.
  • Increasing the lifetime capital gains tax exemption for small business owners.
  • $270 Million for Centres of Excellence in Commercialization and Research
  • Targeting $11 Million of new research council money for management, business, and finance research.
  • $50 Million plus over several years to sponsor new private-sector-oriented research at universities.
  • $80 Million to improve Temporary Worker programs and other immigration-related initiatives to provide workers in booming industries.
  • Accelerating tax write-offs on capital investments by manufacturers.
Political Value
Low

Most folks driven ideologically by dreams of public-private interaction are already in the Conservative camp. There’s little to be gained from appealing to them, unless you figure that the rest of the budget is likely to turn them off.

Apart from small business owners (which really hearkens back to the category of middle-class Canadians), there aren’t many incentives here for parties as yet to be won over. It’s mostly a sop to industry, and not much of one at that.

Investment Value
Moderate

We’re talking, mostly, about saving businesses much of the expense of conducting their own research. That constitutes an investment in advancing the products and services of Canadian businesses; and providing them with a cheap source of labour, temporary and more permanent, is an extra boost to that. But it’s not much of one; and getting business to rely on that kind of help may not be as good for the long term as it is for the short-term balance sheet.

Allowing manufacturers to write off their investments more quickly may make Canadian manufacturing somewhat more competitive; but can it really make it competitive with the real sources of manufacturing competition: China, India, and our trading partner Mexico? Seems unlikely.

Debt = Taxes

The new budget contains at least one policy objective which isn’t so much a spending item as a pledge: that any reduced servicing costs derived from paying down the national debt will be converted directly into personal tax relief.

Political Value
Low

Voters are justifiably jaded about pledges for theories of allocating spending. If promises on tax relief can’t be believed, who can get excited about promises of where the money comes from for the tax relief?

Investment Value
Very Low

The debt wasn’t accumulated because of increases in taxation. What’s the logic in connecting decreases in debt to decreases in taxation? The mere fact that the country is in severe need of investment in infrastructure suggests that the better use for such savings would be to direct them at that. After all, investment in infrastructure really is investment; and the debt was racked up while buildling the infrastructure in the first place.

If the tax relief provided is along the lines of that witnessed in this budget, then there’s not much reason to prefer it to useful spending on roads, water systems, and other infrastructure as quickly as possible. More to the point, compared to infrastructure spending, money aimed at tax relief just isn’t a very important investment.

And there you have the overview. Yes, there are other programs and spending items in the budget. Some are about infrastructure, some are about the oil sands in Alberta; and most of them get enough press already. But these elements are the real indicators of the government’s political direction; and comparing their political virtues to their investment value, only one conclusion can be drawn:

That’s for tomorrow, in Federal Budget, Part Two.

Double-Entry Budgets0

Posted by JJ in Brass Tacks (Monday March 19, 2007 at 5:41 pm)

As Double-Entry Bookkeeping is to accounting, so double-entry budgeting is to politics. Double-entry budgeting isn’t about accuracy, though. It’s about efficacy.

State spending can be measured in two ways: by its political value and by its investment value. Political value is the degree to which a spending item improves the government’s chances for re-election. Spending that pleases more people than it alienates is more valuable than spending that does the reverse. Investment value is the degree to which a spending item improves the public interest which it targets. Spending that solves an underlying problem is of greater value than spending that merely compensates for problems.

Take, for example, a program to cope with rampant escalation in food prices. A program which subsidized food purchases with public money might prove to be of great political value, but since it does nothing to solve the real problem, it is of little investment value.

The best spending, then, is that which hits highest in both columns. That’s why, in this week of budgets, the Frosty Wonk will provide a rundown of the Canadian federal and Ontario provincial budgets, using the patent, if not patented, double-entry system.

Tomorrow: Federal Budget, Part One

Reborn on a Sunday0

Posted by JJ in Brass Tacks (Sunday February 25, 2007 at 8:04 pm)

If you’ve ever wondered why some people get so hot and bothered over the “folly” of religion, it’s quite easily explained.

If modern worship is associated with this:

Tomb of Jesus Found

Rather than this:

In God’s Image

It should surprise no one that religion is denigrated as fruitless and wasteful superstition.

Between the Horns0

Posted by JJ in Hats Off, Gentlemen, Golden Tacks, Brass Tacks (Tuesday January 30, 2007 at 11:21 pm)

The dismissal of Mme Gélinas, environment commissioner, by Sheila Fraser, Canada’s auditor-general, was unquestionably the right decision. An office dedicated to neutral investigations cannot afford to become known for advocating or denouncing policies. Its task is to evaluate them.

But the dismissal, and Mme Gélinas’s outburst of support for environmental policies reveals a problem which neither modern democracies nor those who manage them have yet been able to solve.

Information is the lifeblood of democratic systems. If the public is not well-informed, it cannot make good decisions on policy. It may, however, be in a government’s interest to conceal information which would discredit them.

What to do, then, as a civil servant privy to information which suggests that urgent action be taken? What happens if the government refuses to act on or release it?

The Public Service’s oath requires silence; and with good reason. The public servant owes a duty, firstly, to the Minister whom he serves. Otherwise, he would be justified in releasing information whenever he disagreed with the Minister’s decisions.

Ministers are elected to make those decisions. Letting civil servants make them elevates the opinion of unelected civil servants over indirectly elected Cabinet members. The latter is somewhat more in keeping with democratic principles. After all, Ministers can be rejected at the ballot box. How does the public remove an obstructive civil servant?

Most dangerous, perhaps, is the legacy problem. One government might bind the hands of its successors by appointing civil servants likely to agree with its policies. If they were able to speak out when they disagreed with government policy, civil servants could then undermine the political enemies of their former masters.

None of which is much consolation to the official who passionately believes that the public must know something. Mme Gélinas’s outburst wasn’t a condemnation of government policies. Her report measured those by their own expectations. It was a cry for more, and one which was too general to constitute either critique or praise for government policy.

But how to leave the choice to speak in the hands of civil servants without inviting abuse isn’t yet clear. So the public service is left on the horns of a dilemna; and it is unfortunately those ahead who best see what’s coming next.

Foundation of Sand?0

Posted by JJ in Bad Press, Doubletake/Doubletalk, All Politics, Brass Tacks (Sunday November 12, 2006 at 10:46 pm)

The debate over the quality of voters’ choices rages on. Are they rational creatures? Can they be properly polled? Are they consistent?

At the risk of making a federal bill out of a personal choice, two recent stories may be of help towards answering these very questions.

In Toronto, 60% of those who support the construction of a garbage incinerator say they would support it in their neighbourhood. Assuming, as we must from The Star’s releases, that 91% support incineration, that comes to 54% of the community at large. Assuming, not too cynically, that a few percentage points worth of people might feel differently about an actual incinerator than the idea of an incinerator, we’re talking about roughly even numbers other either side. Given that angry voters may be likelier to vote, it hardly suggests, as The Star does, that the not-in-my-backyard phenomenon is anything less than formidable. Moreso when only around 40% of the population bothers to vote.

Lesson: Don’t assume voters are altruistic just yet.

And from Florida, news that a voter used a rare stamp worth several hundred thousand dollars to mail in his absentee ballot. Could this be a fabulous tribute to the money-wasting ploy used in Brewster’s Millions? Could it be a proud statement of how the voter values his democratic rights? Was it an attempt to boost the State of Florida’s coffers? Could it be just another example of a voter who fails to wonder at unusual things, like an old-fashioned stamp with an upside-down plane?

Lesson: Voters are either really unobservant or reckless spendthrifts.

And the debate rages on.

Doobie or not Doobie?0

Posted by JJ in Doubletake/Doubletalk, Full-Timers, Brass Tacks (Saturday November 11, 2006 at 12:05 pm)

While various groups recommend legalizing marijuana, the Canadian government steams ahead with legislation to more effectively target those who drive while under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

The Frosty Wonk’s not suggesting folks toke up before hitting the road — that’s just stupid. But apart from showing a clear tendency to rely on public prejudice over multiple governments’ recommendations to legalize responsible adult use of the substance, there’s a contradiction abrewin’ to make you stop and think. Consider:

  • Canadian Government: Marijuana use dulls the senses and reflexes, so driving under its influence is a dangerous risk.
  • World Anti-Doping Agency: Marijuana use dulls the senses and reflexes, so its use in competitive sports is an unfair advantage.

Truly a wonder drug.

Trusting the Company0

Posted by JJ in Doubletake/Doubletalk, Brass Tacks (Saturday November 4, 2006 at 10:11 pm)

One of the most important points to remember about joining a group with diverse interests is that you’re not always going to get your way. In for a penny, in for a pound, is the old motto. But obviously that doesn’t apply to dollars and cents.

The angry and public resignation of Sean Ahern, a Conservative Riding Association President in Montreal, over the federal government’s decision to change the taxation of income trusts proves that. But you really have to feel for the man. After all:

  • If you can’t count on your party to put your personal interests above the common good, then what’s the party good for?
  • If you’re a financial planner concerned with stability, then surely your portfolio is heavily exposed to an investment based on a controversial tax loophole when many recent warnings have suggested that the loophole must be closed.

What really stands out, then, isn’t the loss of a few votes. It’s the kind of votes and party faithful that the Conservatives had attracted: short-sighted, greedy, and self-interested. Is the real loss that of a few thousand votes, sprinkled nationwide, or the revelation that such men as these were the bulwark of Conservative support?

Known by the company they keep, indeed.

Home to Roost0

Posted by JJ in Strategic Planning, Gaia, Brass Tacks (Thursday October 26, 2006 at 5:30 pm)

Some weeks ago, the opposition used one of its areas of cohesion in an attempt to embarrass the government. A Liberal backbencher’s private member’s bill which would, if enacted, compel the government to implement the Kyoto protocol, passed first reading in the House, sending it to the committee stage.

Why an attempt to embarrass rather than to embrace Kyoto? Not because the parties in question had ample opportunity to embrace it during their term in office — that’s just cynical. It was an attempt to embarrass because any fool with a basic knowledge of Parliamentary procedure would realise that the government could block the bill by any number of delaying tactics if it posed a real threat to its plans.

So why should parties sophisticated enough to bring about such a subtle plot act surprised when the Tories do just as expected? Do they think that throwing blame over legislative stalling resonates with voters other than their own supporters?

When the Tories block opposition legislation with the expected filibusters, they’re not being negative. When the opposition parties complain, they are. Negativity doesn’t sell, period. It makes Parliament itself look bad, and that takes all parties down.

If it was the opposition’s plan to bring things to the brink and make the government fight, they’re forgetting that the last election wasn’t won by brinksmanship — it was won by positive presentations in the space opened by the brinksmanship. Demonizing isn’t just cheap politics. It’s bad politics, especially when you have an upper hand to play. What about:

We will continue to work our hardest to keep this legislation moving forward. The environment is too important to compromise, and no matter what roadblocks the government tries to put up, we’ll keep pressing them on this bill.

Is that too hard to figure out, or is it just too hard to rise above the fray? Canadians have already heard about the government’s aloofness from the press; and those who care aren’t going to care more because you repeat it, as Jack Layton chose to:

He [Stephen Harper] has an arrogant and controlling attitude to his caucus, to the media, to the Canadian public, and also to the representatives (in opposition) of a majority of the Canadian people.

Yes, the press asks lots of questions; and sure, they’re going to try to get you riled up into saying something of this kind. The mark of a good politician, though, is turning that to advantage, rather than harping on a point fully digested by the public. It’s an arrogant mistake to believe that those who still disagree with you do so solely because they haven’t heard your message yet. It might be that they don’t care about your message; and if so, they don’t want to hear you complain about it.

Which is why repeating positives is better for you than the alternative. The initial decision to work on the private member’s bill was just such a positive, and the government’s stalling drew enough attention to it to repeat it. Under those circumstances, why go the other way?

Kelowna Bound?0

Posted by JJ in Brass Tacks (Thursday October 19, 2006 at 3:43 am)

Once again, a Liberal private member’s bill stands to embarrass the federal government. What’s not clear is how it would actually compel the government to implement the Kelowna Accord.

Since the Accord required government expenditure of $624 Million in the first year alone, a private member’s bill which compels it would involve the expenditure of public funds; and as Parliamentary rules have it:

In developing their legislative proposals, Members should bear in mind that bills containing specific provisions or clauses involving the expenditure of public funds will require a Royal Recommendation from the Government before they can be passed by the House.

A Royal Recommendation is an approval only provided by the government:

For the first hundred years following Confederation, any bill or clause appropriating money had to be preceded by a House resolution, whose wording defined precisely the amount and purpose of any appropriations sought. The resolution was moved by a Minister of the Crown and was recommended by the Governor General. . .

. . .the House eliminated the resolution stage in 1968. [59] The Crown’s recommendation would now be conveyed to the House as a printed notice which would appear in the Notice Paper and again in the Journals when the bill was introduced, and be printed in or appended to the text of the bill. . .

. . .In 1994, the Standing Orders were again amended to remove the requirement that a royal recommendation had to be provided to the House before a bill could be introduced. [61] The royal recommendation can now be provided after the bill has been introduced in the House, as long as it is done before the bill is read a third time and passed. . .

These rules apply to private member’s bills:

The rules regarding the royal recommendation also apply to a bill sponsored by a private Member. [70] In the past, when such a bill infringed on the financial initiative of the Crown, the Speaker has not allowed it to go forward. [71] However, since the rule change of 1994, private Members’ bills involving the spending of public money have been allowed to be introduced and to proceed through the legislative process, on the assumption that a royal recommendation would be submitted by a Minister of the Crown before the bill was to be read a third time and passed. [72] If a royal recommendation were not produced by the time the House was ready to decide on the motion for third reading of the bill, the Speaker would have to stop the proceedings and rule the bill out of order. The Speaker has the duty and responsibility to ensure that the Standing Orders on the royal recommendation as well as the constitutional requirements are upheld. There is no provision under the rules of financial procedure which would permit the Speaker to leave it to the House to decide or to allow the House to do so by unanimous consent.

So explain this: how can a private member’s bill compel the government to spend money simply by referencing a separate document? Does that conceivably satisfy rule 79(1) of the standing procedures of the House of Commons:

79. (1) This House shall not adopt or pass any vote, resolution, address or bill for the appropriation of any part of the public revenue, or of any tax or impost, to any purpose that has not been first recommended to the House by a message from the Governor General in the session in which such vote, resolution, address or bill is proposed.

And why, when printing the story, doesn’t the Toronto Star deign to deal with this complication?

Kid Gloves0

Posted by JJ in Vague Check, Chancellor's Footrule, Brass Tacks (Tuesday October 17, 2006 at 11:16 pm)

If current events are, once more, going to produce law, we can at least hope for reasoned decisions. That children younger than twelve might commit such repugnant crimes is hard to accept; but so is the prospect that they might willingly engage in acts with a cold brutality incompatible with juvenile innocence.

Which demands that, notwithstanding the Criminal Code’s prohibition against the conviction of children under twelve, there be some means of applying justice and the law to transgressions of this kind.

The problem is simple:

Some academics say holding young children accountable is a tall order, because they haven’t developed the ability to realize their actions could result in someone’s death or injury.

“As far as we know from child development literature, this whole idea of future consequences is something that … probably is not fully developed until well into late adolescence,” said professor Barry Mallin, who teaches school psychology at the University of Manitoba.

But courts already deal with this kind of problem. Children’s testimony is complicated by the fact that they may have difficulty in appreciating the situation and their role. It was once, therefore, necessary to prove that the child had the capacity to properly understand and answer questions and to distinguish between the truth and lies. Now, in federal courts, the child’s ability to testify is presumed and must be disproven if the child is to be alleged incompetent (see section 16.1 here).

A similar mechanism could be put into place. Stipulate that children under twelve are presumed incapable of comprehending the consequences of their actions; but allow the Crown to try to prove that they were capable (at the time of committing the offence) in the case of indictable offences (the more serious category of crimes), while precluding their conviction for summary conviction offences (the less serious category of crimes).

The burden of proving such capacity before the fact is onerous enough that one can scarcely expect it to be borne in any but the clearest of circumstances (recalling, of course, that criminal cases must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt). The mere fact that shooting a victim killed him would not suffice — it must be shown that the shooter knew and was cognizant of the fact that doing so would kill him. A child who, reared on televised drama, believed that gunshot wounds were barely debilitating could not be convicted of murder; but one who tracked down a victim and set out to torture or kill her could be.

And it is, after all, the willful act that makes a crime — not the maturity of its perpetrator. Crimes are offences against justice and social order. And our natural shrinking at the thought that children may be guilty of the most violent of crimes must not prevent justice from demanding to know whether, in fact, they are.

Better Living Through Long Division0

Posted by JJ in Vague Check, Brass Tacks (Wednesday September 27, 2006 at 6:00 am)

If you’re going to study policy arguments, here’s an example of a superb approach.

Canadian Tourism Commission Vice-President Andrew Clark makes an argument for keeping his agency’s (CTC’s) funding at existing levels:

“We believe that in North America, every sales-and-marketing dollar brings in $10 in tourism revenue,” said commission vice-president Andrew Clark.

In 2003, Canada took in $10.5 Billion US in tourism. That figure rose to $12.8 Billion in 2004. In 2003, CTC’s marketing and sales expenses were $87 Million Canadian. That figure declined to $71 Million in 2004. Mr. Clark might not be wrong about the ratio, but it’s clear that CTC’s expenditures aren’t strictly correlated with revenue.

But then, there are reasons to doubt his claim. On page 29 of the CTC’s latest annual report, it claims a return on investment of between 19 and 173 percent for three of its programs. That’s not quite the 900 percent return he claims for each tourism dollar; but let’s give the man the benefit of the doubt and assume that the annual report listed only the lowest-yielding programs. After all, who wants to be a braggart.

It’s a great line, though. And who can blame him for lobbying for his agency’s funding?

The Smile Test1

Posted by JJ in Brass Tacks (Tuesday September 26, 2006 at 8:18 pm)

It’s not the sense of entitlement which spurs demands for consultation on budget cuts but happily accepts disbursements without the same. It’s the fact that sometimes these cuts are justified and sometimes they’re not. Maintaining spending, contrary to the NDP’s charge, is every bit as ideological as cutting it.

But since debate, with or without formal Parliamentary approval (which, incidentally, was given under “cutting spending — $1 Billion” in the budget), won’t go much beyond the names of programs, the Chilly Wonk proposes a new approach: the smile test.

It’s simple. If the sarcastic defense of the program is more laughable than the serious defense, the program shouldn’t be cut. If the serious defense is more laughable, cut that program!

Without further ado, let’s give it a spin on the programs listed by the Globe and Mail:

$50-million: Elimination of unused funding for Northwest Territories devolution

Sarcastic
If we don’t leave unused funding for no one to use, no one will say how much good the government does.
Serious
Unused funding can earn interest if invested — that’s called prudent financial management.

$4-million: End to medical-marijuana science funding

Sarcastic
The government’s only been offering funding for this stuff since 1999. Stoner scientists can’t come up with a two-page research proposal that quickly.
Serious
We should continue to research medicinal uses for a substance whose criminalization had no scientific basis to begin with. Alcohol and tobacco are both more dangerous and more widely used. Was nothing learned from all those prohibition-era gangster movies?

$78.8-million: End to program that gave GST rebates to tourists

Sarcastic
Foreign visitors need a 6% rebate off our notoriously low, low, low Canadian prices!
Serious
A program designed to rebate a small portion of hotel taxes and 6% off goods exported from Canada is crucial to attracting visitors to Canada.

$11.7-million: Removal of unused funds for mountain pine beetle initiative

Sarcastic
What about all that unused initiative? Who’s going to fund that?
Serious
The mountain pine beetle could be regrouping, and the government won’t be able to come up with $11.7 million dollars when the time comes.

$46.8-million: Smaller cabinet announced in February

Sarcastic
Fewer Cabinet members means less patronage — how’s that going to affect the unemployment rate?
Serious
Fewer Cabinet members means more centralised control — how’s that going to affect consultation?

$45-million: “Efficiencies” in Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Sarcastic
You can’t possibly find inefficiencies in a cross between a landlord, a regulatory agency, and an insurance company with $101 Billion in assets and net income of $1 Billion.
Serious
This is the body that’s been steadily reducing required downpayments for new homes, helping to inflate housing prices beyond the average Canadian’s reach while following its mandate of providing more affordable housing for Canadians? You can’t cut that — it’s win-win.

$4.25-million: Consolidation of foreign missions

Sarcastic
If you don’t know the difference between Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, don’t you at least think the government should?
Serious
The absence of a more local Canadian presence will make it harder for us to maintain our international prestige.

$13.9-million: Cancellation of National Defence High-Frequency Surface Wave Radar Project

Sarcastic
Will the government be able to come up with another way to subsidize the oil industry in time to cash in on the current boom in prices?
Serious
Isn’t it about time the Canadian government developed some kind of military technology, if only to boost research and employment opportunities?

$6.5-million: Elimination of funding for the Centre for Research and Information on Canada

Sarcastic
Canadians don’t know much about Canada; and we don’t fund enough groups to talk about national unity.
Serious
The Centre’s work is important to the fight against regionalism.

$4.6-million: Cuts to museum assistance

Sarcastic
There’s no way wealthy museum patrons nationwide can come up with that kind of money.
Serious
If you don’t offer exhibit-by-exhibit funding for Canadian-themed exhibits, they won’t be set up.

$5-million: Administrative reductions to Status of Women Canada

Sarcastic
Without Status of Women Canada funding, women won’t have status. We’re giving women $5 Million less status than they had before.
Serious
This organisation funds research on gender issues. $5 Million is too much to cut from the gender issue studies funded by this department, not including those funded by myriad other departments not solely dedicated to the gender issue.

$6-million: Operational efficiencies at the Canada Firearms Centre

Sarcastic
Contrary to what multiple audits suggested, there just isn’t any way to improve this agency’s performance.
Serious
The Canada Firearms Centre has consistently demonstrated higher fiscal needs than expected. $6 Million can’t be denied it.

$4.2-million: Cuts to Law Commission of Canada

Sarcastic
It’s not as though we pay Parliamentarians to review the law and propose legal reforms.
Serious
We can’t trust Parliamentarians to review law and propose legal reforms.

$15-million Elimination of residual funding for softwood-lumber trade litigation

Sarcastic
You can’t stop people from suing other people just because they’ve agreed to a settlement!
Serious
The threat of renewed litigation just might make the Americans think twice about trying something else.

$4.6-million: Elimination of the RCMP drug-impaired-driving program’s training budget

Sarcastic
RCMP officers aren’t paid enough to learn how to drive while drug-impaired on their own.
Serious
If you don’t train police officers to deal with impaired driving potentially due to drugs, they’ll have to just arrest individuals for dangerous driving and won’t be able to issue stiffer Criminal sanctions easily.

$5.6-million: Elimination of Court Challenges Program

Sarcastic
Shouldn’t the government be paying lawyers to test programs through litigation, rather than by hiring them to evaluate their weaknesses to begin with?
Serious
Without government funding, some crucial cases on rights would never be contested.

So, how’d they do?

90% of Canadians0

Posted by JJ in Brass Tacks (Wednesday June 7, 2006 at 5:34 pm)

That’s curiously the total proportion who hate micromanagement. Curious, that is, because it’s roughly the same proportion that engage in the practice.

The frosty Wonk is confident, though, that just as many would agree with the following assessment:

    Statistics Canada needs some serious micromanagement.

Not part of the micromanaging majority? Join us, brothers, by beholding:

Young Canadians who have high levels of proficiency in reading are more likely to graduate from high school, and to pursue postsecondary education, according to a new study.

Statistics Canada has apparently uncovered an interesting fact in the statistical jungle: if you read poorly, you’re less likely to go on to further education after high school.

Good to prove, you say? Really? Why? Let’s look at the possible uses:

Politician uses it to prove the need for literacy
Goes something like: “We must teach young minds to read, so that they can go on to learn more.” Public reaction? “Duh.”
Parent uses it to browbeat child
Goes something like: “Statistics Canada has found that. . .” Anyone who thinks this is a winning parenting strategy should probably look into joining whatever class Mrs. Federline’s publicist has chosen for her challenging charge.
Poor reader reads it, turning own life around
Uh. . .

Sure, Statscan (as all the cool kids are calling it these days) is dope (if not, in fact THE dope (no, not THAT), but hopefully, this isn’t their model manager.

After all, does spending good money to research questions whose conclusions weren’t in doubt and can’t be used to much effect really fall into this mandate:

Statistics Canada produces statistics that help Canadians better understand their country

But then, 90% of Canadians will probably never bother to read that.

Long Time No Wonk0

Posted by JJ in Brass Tacks (Sunday January 29, 2006 at 7:33 pm)

An election takes a lot out of any wonk, no matter how hard and battle-ready, but that’s a poor excuse for a week’s delay. That’s a real long time in politics. . .