Any other week, any other government…

Amidst the furore over the Senate expenses scandal and Rob Ford, you could be excused for having missed what is a damning ruling from the Federal Court of Canada on the matter of fraud in the 2011 Federal election.

In his judgement on the application to annul six electoral results[1] on the grounds of fraud, Justice Mosley found that “the evidence presented points to a concerted campaign by persons who had access to a database of voter information maintained by a political party.” This campaign, he finds, does constitute electoral fraud in those six ridings, albeit so defined with insufficient evidence regarding the impact on the outcome of those races. One might interpret that latter finding as “they attempted fraud, but their goals fell short.”

(You can read Justice Mosley’s full ruling here: http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/703627/t-619-12-en.pdf )

Not to be over dramatic but these are the types of political stories I read about in daily newspapers while living and travelling for over two years in various developing countries, whose political systems, I should note, were at various stages of immaturity and ongoing development.

This certainly isn’t what I thought our proud, exemplary parliamentary system would devolve to.

But so it has.

To be fair, we don’t know who orchestrated this, nor who, if anyone, gave implicit approval to it. But the fact that a certain political party’s database was used to commit the fraud, and that this political party has, in the word’s of Justice Mosley (on pages 93/94 of his ruling), sought to “block proceedings by any means” makes one wonder.

That section of the ruling deserves special attention:

Despite the obvious public interest in getting to the bottom of the allegations, the CPC made little effort to assist with the investigation at the outset despite early requests. I note that counsel for the CPC was informed while the election was taking place that the calls about polling station changes were improper. While it was begrudgingly conceded during oral argument that what occurred was “absolutely outrageous”, the record indicates that the stance taken by the respondent MPs from the outset was to block these proceedings by any means.

I’m not trying to play Sherlock, but if you’re innocent, that last sentence seems a bit incongruent. Actually, it’s outrageous. Our democracy is far too important to be chiseled  away at by conniving politicians and their partisans for the sake of a seat or two.

Yet this is the state of Canadian politics/our ruling party. Our elected officials obfuscate/lie/mislead. They read from prepared and approved statements, refuse to answer direct questions, bail out unscrupulous colleagues, hide behind immature attack ads that amount to bullying, and have allowed ideology to trump evidence in the crafting of policy.

It’s sad. To say we deserve better is such an understatement it’s almost humorous.

And yet here we are.

As someone who does enjoy committing sociology once in awhile, I can’t help but ask why?

And my answer to such questions is simple: people, and in this case, a certain subset of the people who run for office. Certainly not all of them, but if we are to judge this most recent period in Canadian federal politics , it certainly seems something is amiss amongst the ethics and morals of a sufficient number of them, who, for now, hold sufficient power so as to influence the direction of this country.

This needs to change.


[1] The six ridings are: Elmwood-Transcona, NipissingTimiskaming, Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, Vancouver Island North, Winnipeg South Centre and Yukon.


Spilt milk – some thoughts on supply management

Criticizing Canada’s system of supply management is almost too easy. We’re told at literally every turn that we pay far too much for dairy. A free market system, and the dismantling of the system, would offer a significant benefit to consumers. If you’re not familiar with supply management, it was created in the 1970s by the Ontario government to smooth out prices and enable a measure of stability for farmers in the dairy and poultry sectors. As it stands the price you pay at the till is established not by free competition but rather based on the costs of production in a protected market. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the issue but have come to be interested in it due to its relevance to trade issues.

The lineup of those seeking to reform/repeal supply management is long. For example, in her campaign to become the leader of the Federal Liberal Party of Canada, Martha Hall-Findlay noted that “Canadians are forced to pay 1 ½ to 2 times as much for whole milk as  Americans.” Her 2012 report (“Supply management – problems, politics and possibilities,” found that the US average for a gallon of milk was $3.50 vs $6.48 in Canada. Columnist Andrew Coyne writes “Canada’s system of supply management has led to higher prices, fewer farms, less product innovation, and general inefficiency up and down the value-added chain.” He notes that we may 2 or 3 times what our neighbours to the south pay.  Another columnist, Barry Mckenna, references a right-wing economic thinktank (the Frontier Centre for Public Policy) and their findings that “Dairy prices in Canada were 115 per cent higher than New Zealand’s between 1983 and 2010, and 23 per cent more than in the U.S.”  And a perhaps more well reasoned, well researched argument from the Conference Board of Canada estimates that supply management costs each Canadian $70 per year.

Sounds convincing doesn’t it?

I have no horse in this race, and in fact I’ve been a proponent of such policy prescriptions in the past, believing that liberalization would offer significant price relief to low-income Canadians who spend more of their incomes on essentials.

However after a recent research trip to the US, one which included a cursory look at US agriculture, I began to question how accurate the aforementioned price differences really are. For while my gallon in the US did indeed cost about half as what I pay here in Waterloo, the system of dairy subsidization means those nominal costs don’t provide the full picture.   Read the rest of this entry »