#153 – Our 9th Century Allies (#Becauseits2016)

In a recent example of #RealChange really changing things, our arms deal with Saudi Arabia is continuing apace because apparently we must protect Canada’s ability “to conduct business in the world“. Not our ability to conduct business! Obviously the grain markets are closely watching orders for heavy arms; if the Canadian government vetoes a sale of deadly weapons the world knows that Canada could step into the wheat market at any time. Because, you know, staple cereals and main battle tanks are in no way different from one another.

And why would a government that trumpets peacekeeping and a progressive turn possibly want to risk disruption to its arms market? Are there no other buyers for caker-clunkers than tyrants and despots? I’m pretty sure there’s a collective understanding that an arms deal between Canada and France has fewer moral hurdles to jump than a deal between Canada and the guys who posted want ads for executioners. Then again, caker business is mighty seedy and with an entire continent standing down for pesky “moral reasons” even the low-efficiency Canadian manufacturing sector can compete.

Besides, Saudi Arabia is essential to keep on the Yay Canada side because they export oil, a substance that we produce domestically and at any rate want to stop using because of those annoying greenhouse gases. What better partner to the new Canada could you ask for than a murderous mob-state where women can’t drive? Obviously these are ties we want to expand on – oh wait, we’re actually working on that.

To be frank the validity of the arms sales is secondary to the cowardly continuation of deals that clearly contravene the stated message of the Liberal regime. There’s something nifty in political theory called a doctrine: a foundational principle from which our thoughts on a matter radiate. Trudeau claims a doctrine of progressive and humane foreign relations and immediately undermines it by doing business and indeed expanding ties with people who represent the antithesis of the stated doctrine.

There’s a word for that, ninny – dishonesty. You used a coward’s answer, one that other countries avoided because they knew how compromising it is to proclaim liberal-progressive ideals while supporting mobsters, and you expect that to suffice. #RealChange indeed. Canada certainly has a history of international doublethink – Canada’s role in dismantling Apartheid South Africa is ironic in more ways than one – but to be this brazenly self-defeating despite ample, plain evidence that global markets can indeed distinguish between arms and not-arms is amazing.

And did Canadians buy it? Of course they did! Because JOBS is the most goodest at all of the time. Never mind that we could be working on producing equipment for countries that don’t display Filet of Dissident in public squares or perhaps working on internal development for a change. Canada is a force of peace and progress because feels; making weapons for despots is okay because JOBS. And all this is presented as #RealChange.

Only in Canada, folks.

 

 

#143 – The Job Fairy, Part Eight: The R Word

English Canada is scared of what our national broadcasters couldn’t be bothered to spell and thus called “the R word“. Yes, people – we have devolved to the point where our best defense against another fucking recession (after the last one that we totally recovered from with the awesome trifecta of subprime mortgages, unstable staple resources, and a housing market most in the sane world are staying well away from) is just not saying the word recession. It’s not a recession – it’s a Canadian correction! And Canada’s madness ensures that Canada reacts to it by doing exactly the same things that got them into trouble in the first place.

We honestly have a situation here where Ottawa is falling over itself to provide tax shelter to the liquified natural gas sector of the make-believe nonconomy of British Columbia, because staple resources are nothing short of genius even though the province next door is experiencing economic meltdown akin to Toht’s face in Raiders of the Lost Ark precisely because it overleaned on staple resources. We have a continuation of overvalued condos, precarious labor markets, and hidden inflation. Ontario is using Bay Street bankers and lawyers to cold-store and sell of Hydro One – to Bay Street investors, bankers, and their ilk.

Here’s a question for you: outside of “because jobs”, what economic benefit comes from short-term bursts of ersatz growth? Because that’s what we’re building here. Will Toronto’s housing market and Vancouver’s condos remain absurdly overpriced forever more as more and more are crushed out from those cities by sheer costs? How is liquified natural gas any different from Alberta’s oil system, especially when there’s little evidence that anyone has learned anything from the lesson of literally a few months ago? How does any of this help small, rusted-over towns that aren’t experiencing the magic burst in manufacturing that the Bank of Canada seems to expect and can’t reasonably be expected to with populations who have long since hung up their tools or moved on?

This is what ad-hoc looks like – a smattering of fiscal steroids that leave our provinces, cities, and regions with aching bones and tiny balls. I’ve been reading a lot about the differences between streets and roads, where streets are local economic engines and roads and methods of transit between economic engines. Canada, like the United States, has a fixation on stroads – hybrid abominations that work at cross-purposes and thus can’t be serious generators of any sort of growth. Our cities are choked with them (that’s why they’re cultureless morasses) and our economic logic is entirely predicated on mega-project magic-bullets that will totally work this time you guys because reasons.

The real solution to Canada’s problems lies in brutal, critical honesty. We have to get over the Staples Trap that we’ve been falling into for the last 150 years. There’s a reason most settler-dominated countries turf their colonial economic policies as quickly as they can and opt to do something more useful. For whatever reasons, Canada refuses to make this crucial jump. It holds so much back – our relations with the Indians and actually following the Constitution, the brutal work that will be fixing Canada’s completely broken, stroad-ridden cities, honest cultural development – the whole thing. Canada is in no small part useless because it reacts like this to economic downturn.

The Greeks had the balls to turn away from an obviously untenable economic model, earning derision and scorn for daring to take care of themselves. It was honestly kind of inspiring to see the Greeks saying that their beloved country had seen enough non-starter austerity. Canada, by contrast, lacks the courage to even build things worthy of being cared about, far less the ability to speak honestly about what’s happening here.

The R word, indeed. I can think of another R word to define this trouser-stain.

#114 – The Job Fairy, Part Six: Blame the Public Sector!

English Canadians think that they know where the source of Canada’s ills are.

Unfortunately, they’re wrong. The public sector underwent a seismic shift in the 1980s when the collective of quiet, secretive committees as epitomized in the BBC show Yes, Minister received a declaration of war from Parliament. The cassus belli? “Wasting money”. It became vogue to slice at those parts of the civil service that don’t align with the goals of the Prime Minister under the guise of “fiscal responsibility”. Because it’s very responsible to chop up departments, demoralize staff with constant tumult, and swap mandates around wildly on the logic of “well, the PMO says so”. This is why the Coast Guard got stuck with Fisheries and Oceans, a forgettable department that inevitably takes a bullet when the government of the day needs to shave a few million off the budget for the sake of a talking point.

The reason for this is the misguided belief that Canada’s private sector is useful, innovative, capable of coherent long-term planning, or indeed run by humans and not chimpanzees in Armani suits. Canadian businesses pay incredibly low taxes, and dodging them in Caribbean tax havens is a growing hobby of Canada’s elite. The public sector is, of course, filled with bloat and absurdity on par with Gilliam’s Brazil, but there’s one crucial difference between the two. Are you ready for the big reveal?

The public sector can’t run anywhere.

Think about it – Canada’s worthless business classes already rely on holding companies and other siphoning devices. They don’t have to live with the consequences of what they do because they can easily afford to move anywhere and bypass whatever immigration system there may be with a few dozen stacks of hundos as their worthless holding firms continue to make money for them by stealing the profits from the businesses under its fell control. By contrast, the public service keeps the money in Canada and really can’t pack up and bail if it fucks up. And they can actually invest in things like public transit, a national pharmacare system, childcare assistance that isn’t the equivalent of a wet turd in your wallet. You know, those things that Canada can’t make because they’re too expensive. Yeah, there’s a way to fix that – it’s called giving up on your worthless business class and using some of the money that they basically swim in Scrooge McDuck-style to do shit yourself.

I’m reminded of a moment from what is perhaps the greatest television show ever – Samurai Jack. After Aku, the main villain hires a succession of worthless bounty hunters to slay the eponymous hero, he comes to the conclusion that “if you want to do something right, you have to do it yourself…*do it yourself*! Yesssss”. If we could actually properly fund our civil infrastructure and do something with it other than arranging it into newly-slicable bits for the sake of partisan talking points, there’s a chance Canada could not suck. With real infrastructure and the amazing ability to move people effectively throughout the country’s most populated areas, there’s a chance that a real business class, one with plans other than “durr” and “more Canada”, could take advantage of a newly-accessible well of potential employees.

But that would cost money. Tax breaks to rich people and their holding firms is a much better idea. Look at how well it’s working!

We only hope Canada learns from the Great Aku.

#84 – The Job Fairy, Part Five: Big “Fart”ma and Jerbs

English Canadians are so dumb that they fear losing jobs in Canada if Big Pharma is in any way challenged in its bilking practices.

Let’s start from the very beginning. The pharmaceutical industry is a well-toned stealing machine, buying up ministers like the ignoble gremlin and current chair-warmer at the University of Ottawa Allan Rock (which, as my alma mater, I am allowed to refer to as the U of Woe or the U of Zero from experience), Al was so speedy at flinging approvals on newly-released pharmaceuticals that the Senate, the veritable appendix of Canadian politics, called for a slowdown in 1999. Before Speedy Al’s Approvals-R-Us tenure at Health Canada, Canada was desperate to support a home-grown pharmaceutical industry, one that apparently quickly overgrew the apparatuses of Health Canada. Health Canada may be an absolute joke and Allan Rock an idiot, but how did big pharma get so big in Canada that it is still allowed to charge ludicruous prices, prices that so drastically overshadow the global cost of drugs?

The answer is in the Job Fairy’s magic wand. See, Canada wanted to be a real grown-up, so it started handing out about $2B a year to the pharmaceutical industry. Big pharma has rewarded Canada with massive drug shortages on everything from anti-depressants to asthma meds. Yeah, punks – Canada air is so awesome that your asthmatic ass doesn’t need that puffer! Indeed, Canada’s pharmaceuticals industry is a great employer if you’re a marketer; 40% of Canada’s pharma-related jobs are in sales and marketing, while 17% have anything to do with researching and developing new drugs. Fuck yeah – Canadian marketing is so awesome that you’ll just feel better for reading the adverts!

Innovations in marketing, which Canada’s big pharamceutical companies spend three times on here than R&D, aren’t the only amazing benefit that the public scores in its massive investment in drug-making. Of 104 new drugs to get monopoly-approved status in Canada in 2009, only three – THREE! – showed any actual innovation. Most Canadian pharma is engaged in the all-important task of encouraging Canadians to buy more expensive drugs and to patent and monopolize on old drugs by way of pretending to make changes to them. Speedy Al’s Approvals-R-Us legacy hasn’t sauntered off into the sunset either – a staggering nineteen of the 104 approved drugs caused more total damage than help and thus fail Canada’s own testing metrics for approval, and presumably all of the 104 drugs “made of Canada” were so named because they offered no innovation that hadn’t been done before and better by older meds.

But those fewer than 4000 highly-skilled R&D jobs that cost the public billions – those are totally worth it. Because science!

#66 – The Job Fairy, Part Four: Interactive Digital Media

English Canadians in Ontario really need to think before they create laws.

Ontario has been run by the Liberal Party for over a decade now. Despite the Liberal Party being unduly credited with every accomplishment in the country, they have managed to make a few teensy mistakes. About a decade ago, Ontario fired up a program called the Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit. The goal was to subsidize the video-game industry; delusional dreams of Toronto being the Hollywood of video games rang through the empty skullcases of Ontario policy-makers. Apparently nobody behind this was big into games – if they were, they’d know that Tokyo is home to two of the three major console competitors. Torondo what Nintendon’t, indeed.

Another small, insignificant problem with the tax credit is the term “interactive digital media”. While this impossibly-broad definition does include video games, it also includes things like filing your taxes online, or literally using a website. Armed with a definition of such majestic uselessness, Ontario opted to pump this dubious balloon so full of hot air that it became lucrative to the literally everyone with an interest in creating a digital presence for themselves. At current, it costs $100 million a year to maintain what is effectively a public subsidy on corporate webpages, tax filing programs, and other clearly-desperate industries. The subsidy can be as huge as 40% of labor costs, too. Canadian businesses love how willing Canadians are to just give them money. Such visionary game designers as the Globe and Mail are receiving this credit.

There are so many baffling problems with this that it’s hard to unravel all at once. If you intend to bolster the video-game industry, why not use the term “video game” or somesuch in the language of the subsidy? This makes no sense to me. Would I call a tax credit for growing peanuts “Legume and Shelled Produce Agricultural Tax Credit”? Wouldn’t someone think to check on that before they fired off the subsidy? Regardless of the merits of using potential public money to fund private interests, it must be a basic expectation that subsidies should be clear as to what it is that they’re subsidizing.

Naturally, leeching English Canadian businesses have taken advantage of what we will charitably refer to as an oversight to the point that the video game designers for whom this was originally intended now fear public bashlash and thus losing what support they had, rendering the entire thing moot at a stroke. Stupidity has backed Ontario into a corner wherein it either continues to offer refunds to the undeserving or stops, rendering the point of all of that lost income moot.

I’m sure glad lawmakers consider the consequences of their actions before passing things into law.

#60 – The Job Fairy, Part Three: A Poverty of Sense

We’ve touched before on how shitty Canada is at collecting statistics. Now we’re going to talk about one facet of this problem: namely, the fact that Canada has no official definition of poverty. Instead, what it has are three obsolete, obfuscating measures, two of which are used in Canada and nowhere else. One of these metrics, the Low Income Meaure (LIM), wasn’t even designed to catch the poverty rate and relies on ten-year old data. Other metrics like the Market Basket Metric (MBM) has been developed almost entirely without public input and thus can be used to artificially lower the stated poverty rate in Canada. And the old stalwart, the Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) doesn’t account for differences in rent between major centers and rural communities. Spoilers – it’s a bit more expensive to live in Toronto than it is to live in Bumfuk Falls, Alskatchetobador.

I’ve got a super-handy chart of the types of poverty metrics that Canada collects instead of following the Irish lead and just…having a poverty rate that makes sense. Fuck sense, am I right?

Shit About Canada Poverty Metrics.png
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Check out the variations in play here! Anywhere from 9-14% of Canadians by these measures are living in poverty, though every metric we used stands accused of understating poverty in some way or another. Despite Statistics Canada warning that LICO should not be used as a “poverty rate”, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for decades. Genius! Oh, and did I mention that the practically-useless LICO is the only consistently-collected metric of poverty in Canada? Gotta keep that useless, antiquated statistic running. Then again, it’s not like Statscan is prepared to accept any other metric that it produces as an actual indicator of poverty. It’s like watching a shitty golfer constantly call mulligans after slicing a ball into the water hazard again.

With such spotty data collection and a lack of ways by which Canadian figures can be compared to global ones, there’s no real way to tell if Canada is meeting domestic or international obligations regarding poverty reduction. Our data collection is designed to create a situation where comparison is impossible. The one metric that we do have that we can use to compare with the rest of the world, the LIM, can produce counterintuitive results because it is pegged to average income. If average income falls, the threshhold for poverty does too, reducing the stated number of impoverished people. And as for the MBM, Statscan consistently whinges about how expensive it is to produce.

The upshot of all of this bullshit regarding statistics is that Canada flies blind in terms of poverty reduction strategies and that our governments can arbitrarily declare success by lying with numbers. Just like with the Quadriptych of Death, poverty lines and metrics can be bent to bury practical realities under political spin. We also don’t account for poverty relative to assets held. If you own a house outright, your required income is different than if you rent. Even if you do have a mortgage, a house can in theory be liquidated in a way that rent can’t. But nuance and careful consideration of societal needs is too complicated and expensive in Canada, so the timeless strategy of declaring endless victories while stressing that “more must be done” (while, of course, nothing is done because we have no yardsticks to work with) continues apace. As we continue to ignore serious catastrophes that loom in Canada’s future, the entire country is allowed to drift on with vague platitudes and do-nothing make-believe.

Clearly, hoboes and the underemployed just need to be dynamic team players and they too could ride the Job Fairy’s Magic Job Carpet to Jobland and out of poverty…however that’s defined.