Monthly Archives: October 2007

From him we don’t need lectures

Hey. I finally found a public policy problem I can solve. Let’s tell Miloon Kothari to buzz off.

Not high on your list? Perhaps you missed the Tuesday Citizen story that after a quick tour of Canada this month, this international man of meddling pronounced himself “disturbed” by the lack of adequate housing in Canada. As opposed to where he’s from, namely India?

Mr. Kothari is the UN Human Rights Council special rapporteur on adequate housing. Which pretty much lets you guess what he’d say about housing in an advanced western democracy after a whirlwind tour talking to the usual advocates and activists. He’d say it isn’t up to international standards because we have a wretched exploitive market economy. And he did. Continue reading

Dusting off some thoughts on the right way to govern

Lately I’ve been enjoying Blackstone’s thoughts on a mixed constitution. Oh sorry. Did I just blow a big cloud of antiquarian dust in your face? I was aiming for Dalton McGuinty.

Blackstone’s mid-18th century Commentaries on the Laws of England were once the indispensable adjunct to any thoughts about self-government. The American Declaration of Independence, for instance, echoes his view that God wants man to “pursue his happiness.” But Blackstone’s main subject was the British Constitution, to which ours is, or was, expressly similar in principle. So when he calls England: “A land, perhaps the only one in the universe, in which political or civil liberty is the very end and scope of the constitution” it should be food for thought in Canada. Instead to some, it is dust and ashes.

Mr. McGuinty is not the only one such thoughts would leave coughing today. Blackstone’s Commentaries lay out 10 rules whereby judges should interpret statutes which, if introduced into the Supreme Court building, would swiftly prompt them to open a window to let air in and the offending volume out. Especially Blackstone’s point that while judges may construe laws to exclude absurd consequences the legislature apparently did not foresee “there is no court that has power to defeat the intent of the legislature, when couched in such evident and express words, as leave no doubt whether it was the intent of the legislature or no.” Continue reading

A crisis is coming, and no one cares

It is a melancholy reflection that we had to wait for the Ontario provincial election to lurch to a dismal end before we could turn to urgent questions of policy. Melancholy turns to depression at the urgency of health care reform. And tears begin to flow at the thought that the major parties’ positions on that topic contrived to be at once irrelevant and profoundly inimical to any sensible solution.

The diagnosis here is grim. On Saturday the Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson wrote, “The Liberals boast they have jacked up health-care spending by 29 per cent over four years, to $37-billion, a staggering eight per cent a year.” Strange for a government to boast of its profligacy. Especially as, Mr. Simpson went on to note, the Liberals also promised to reduce the rate of spending increases to five per cent a year, which suggests there was something wrong with their previous behaviour. The Conservatives said they’d do the same, which suggests there was nothing wrong with the Liberals’ new promise. Uh, unless you count Mr. Simpson’s pointed observation that, “No Ontario government has been able to keep annual increases to five per cent.”

Thus we may swiftly conclude that neither party had a plan for doing what they promised, and move on to the next problem. Namely, that if the party leaders did somehow keep their word it is not obvious what advantages would accrue. For one thing, increasing spending faster than revenue generally causes trouble, especially on an item that already devours nearly half of program spending. For another, laying aside the calculator for a stethoscope, how will a health care system that couldn’t cope with existing demand while gobbling down eight per cent annual increases deal with the growing needs of aging boomers on just five per cent? Sadly we were not favoured with a discussion of such alarming Continue reading

During election season, the zombies come out

With less than a week to go I’m wracking my brains for something constructive to say about this wretched zombie of an Ontario election. A dry, choking sound from within the voting booth doesn’t seem to qualify.

It remains tempting for several reasons. Let’s start with Dalton McGuinty and get it over with. My colleague Randall Denley just underlined his “proven record of mendacity.” (As Captain Barbossa might say, “means: he lies a lot”.) Plus Mr. McGuinty actually rewarded George Smitherman’s smugly obtuse belligerence as health minister by making him deputy premier. Re-elect that bunch and you’ll deserve what you get. Unfortunately, I’ll get it too.

Then there’s John Tory. We did not need another demonstration that a sophisticatedly amorphous Red Tory approach is as futile in political as in policy terms. We got one anyway. Then he crumpled on his only principle-like position. Thanks for coming out. Now go away. Continue reading