Thursday, February 15, 2007

Kyoto, CN Strike, Attack Ads

So many things are happening.

I've overjoyed at the sudden swing the Conservatives have taken toward environmental concerns. It's not something that they wanted to do, but rather something we forced them to do with strong public opinion. Suddenly, they discover, cutting emissions in half by 2050 doesn't seem to be satisfying enough. Of course, we'll have to continue to keep an eye on them to make sure they follow through. Rest assured that this is not a desirable outcome for the party of the rich, wealthy and oil-invested.

On another note, there is a strike going on of all the CN rail workers. If you were to read only the news, you would think that the cause for this strike is that workers, who earn an "average" (look that word up, you don't actually know what it means) of $75k, want a 4% raise. However, if you look more closely, the 4% is only a response to the management's offer of 3%. The problem? Management's offer also includes clauses which allow them to overwork their employees. Would you want to ride a train operated by a guy who works 12 hours, gets 8 hours off, then is required to work 12 more hours? Not I.

I caught a couple of the Conservative attack ads on television. Mostly they're highlighting how the Liberals never really did anything for the environment. I suppose we're supposed to believe that the Conservatives will.

I don't believe any of them. As a citizen, I believe that I have a duty to avoid believing them, just as I have a duty to keep an eye on them.

They are politicians. They care about looking good, raising funds and getting reelected. They do not care about any of the actual issues in their platforms. If you start your analysis of politics from this angle, it makes much more sense. When did the Conservatives suddenly become environmentalists? When we forced the issue. Politicians will only do what we want if he hammer it down their throats and, even then, they will try to get out of it. They'll make laws with loopholes. They'll underfund programs.

NAFTA is probably the best example. The PCs implied that it meant duty-free cross border shopping, when it really meant forcing Canadian workers to compete with sweatshops in third world countries. The plan went ahead, the corporate field were sown with our money, and our elected officials reaped the rewards when they left office.

That's their plan - sneak in to office with some "platform", rig the financial game for their friends, escape to a life of luxury. The only way to stop them is to pay more attention.

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Public Buildings

I bring you a story of a huge rip off about to happen and I only hope that it can be prevented.

The minority Conservative government is beginning to play the same games that Mike Harris, Ernie Eves and their PC brothers played in Ontario. The first step is to convince you that you pay too much in taxes. They will give you a small tax break and then give huge tax breaks to corporations. At this point they have a problem: how can they balance the budget? In Ontario, the answer came easy. They simply lied about being financially responsible and let the provincial debt balloon out of control. To make it less than completely obvious that they were bankrupting us and our children, however, they also sold off a lot of our property.

Yes, you heard me say it: our property.

You see, the government doesn't actually own anything. If you think about it for a moment, whenever we say that the government owns something, we really mean that it owned by we, the people. Communally, it belongs to all of us. The parks, the buildings, the police cars and the hospitals are all owned by all of us. What the PCs did in Ontario was to sell off our assets - highways, crown corporations, you name it - in order to give the appearance that the budget wasn't grossly underfunded. Of course, they never once balanced a budget anyway, but somehow the supposedly left-wing media failed to mention this to us.

Moving along, Harper's federal Conservatives (no "Progressive" prefix here), are going to do the same thing with our federal buildings. Should this succeed, be ready for more. They're going to sell off $1.5B worth of buildings to private companies and then lease the buildings back using 10 to 25 year contracts. Now riddle me this: how are these private companies going to make money? Well, they're going to have to maintain the buildings and make a profit. The profit, of course, is locked in by the lease agreement. Somehow, I should believe that a private company is so efficient that it can do all of the maintenance, make a profit and have the total cost come out cheaper than if the government did the maintenance itself.

I've worked for private companies. I've never found any of them to be miraculously efficient. What they are good at, though, is giving people lower pay, breaking unions, cutting benefits and such. Is that where our savings comes from? A race to the bottom in quality of life?

Why else is this a rip off? The Conservative government will report this $1.5B sale in the budget as part of the "surplus", thus looking like good stewards of our treasury. The real cost won't be realized until the leases we're paying on these buildings vastly exceed the maintenance costs. By then the Conservatives will be out of government and someone will look bad raising taxes to cover the lease.

Anything else? Well, there's this trick you can play while you're in government. You give a sweet, cherry, no-bid contract to some company that will make tens or hundreds of millions from it. Then, when you leave government, you get a nice 6-figure "consultant's job" for the rest of your life. You can probably ask the Right Honourable Gordon O'Connor, our current Minister of Defence, about it. He used to be a lobbyist for several aerospace and defence companies.

So, yeah, this is a big rip off. They're selling our property, mortgaging our future, and lining their own beds with our ill-gotten gains. Meanwhile, they'll try to bill it all as prudent fiscal management when they show us the temporary "surplus" in the budget.


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