Thursday, August 27, 2009

Doug Finley bribes Cadman, becomes unelected Senator. Some democracy?

Doug Finley a Senator? Is this the same Doug Finley that attempted to bribe Chuck Cadman? Isn’t it a criminal offense to bribe elected Members of Parliament? Do Senators have immunity?

This country is going down the drain. I guess nobody cares? That was the motto of General Motors when I worked there in the early 80's. Nobody cares. Myself excepted.

Harper Names New Senators, Including Campaign Manager

By Greg Quinn

Aug. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed nine members to the country’s Senate, including the director of his party’s last two election campaigns and his former spokeswoman, saying they will help pass crime bills being stalled by opposition parties.

The new members include Doug Finley, the Conservative Party’s national director for the 2006 and 2008 campaigns, former spokeswoman Carolyn Stewart Olsen, and former Montreal Canadiens head coach Jacques Demers. The appointments will bring the Conservative Party’s membership in the Senate to 46, compared with 53 for the Liberal Party, and six from other parties or independents. There are no more vacancies.

Harper repeated today he wants elected Senators, and until provinces agree to hold elections, he must rebalance the Senate through appointments to help pass bills approved by the House of Commons. Today’s list adds to the 18 members Harper named in December. The Conservatives on May 28 also introduced a bill seeking Senate term limits of eight years.

“Until senators are elected, this government will ensure that we have in the Senate people who work hard and will support the elected government of this country,” Harper told reporters earlier today in Quebec City, Quebec. “That includes passing our anti-crime legislation and passing our democratic reforms, which have been blocked in the Senate.”

Lack Majority

Harper’s Conservatives also lack a majority of seats in the elected House of Commons, meaning they need the support of at least one opposition party to pass laws. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has signaled he may try to force Harper from power after Parliament returns in September in a non-confidence vote.

“Putting Doug Finley, who runs the Conservative campaign machine, on the public payroll is just odious,” New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton said in a statement.

The list of new Senators also includes former Northwest Territories Premier Dennis Patterson and journalist Linda Frum Sokolowski.

Harper announced the appointments in an e-mailed statement from Ottawa today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Quinn in Ottawa at
Last Updated: August 27, 2009 16:43 EDT

A Tim Horton's explanation of Flaherty's HST

Looming HST hit will be talk of Tims - Opinions - Looming HST hit will be talk of Tims
Jim Coyle
The Hamilton Spectator
(Aug 26, 2009)

The fresh-faced young blond behind the counter at the Tim Hortons in Campbellford, Ont., had taken the old fellow's order and, as she fetched the coffee and muffin one recent mid-morning, was also -- Premier Dalton McGuinty not being available -- taking a piece of his mind.

The codger was loudly tallying for her benefit, and that of the growing line behind him, what the premier's proposed harmonized sales tax was going to add to the cost of such modest treats when fixed-income seniors like himself dropped by next year -- assuming they lived that long given the insult and injury headed their way.
To her credit, the server maintained her sunny smile -- even as her eyes grew more glazed than the doughnuts -- and clucked commiseration at her irate customer.
It was a bottomless cup of double-double outrage for a tax he's still 10 months away from paying.

The odds are good that Liberal MPPs have heard variations on the tirade at barbecues and ballparks and farmers' markets all summer. At their caucus meeting today, many will be hoping the premier's brain trust has come up with a way to help them market the tax change.

To date, their problem is simple. Anyone can explain in five seconds why they hate the HST. It takes an op-ed page and a few economics credits to explain why you're in favour.

As most veteran campaigners will tell you, if you can't explain it simply at the door, you're in trouble.

In all, the McGuinty package has the sort of marketing challenge Brian Mulroney had with his Meech Lake accord. Just as that constitutional contraption was famously cobbled together behind closed doors by 10 white guys in suits, the McGuinty plan was inked in private with the feds and dropped in MPPs' laps to sell.

By all accounts, that's not proving easy. Worse still, any tax change that comes with a package of sweetening cheques and rebate contortions worthy of the Kama Sutra usually leaves voters smelling something fishy.

That's why the Sept. 17 byelection in St. Paul's will be watched so closely. Byelections are usually an electoral Rorschach blot. People see in them what they will. Wind-turbine foes and anti-nuclear activists are already inviting St. Paul's to send a message to the government. For opposition parties, the message is the iniquity of the HST.

Newly elected Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak sees ground to be made. Hudak's an economist by training. He gets the argument for harmonization. But he worked only briefly as a dismal scientist. He's been a politician for 15 years. And few sounds are sweeter to opposition politicians than the angry murmur of nascent tax revolt.

As it happens, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter is the newest member of Canada's first ministers' club. He's a down-to-earth guy with a good instinct for how popularity is built.

He was saying at his first Council of the Federation meeting in Regina earlier this month that when he led the students' union at the University of King's College in Halifax he helped establish one of the more popular student pubs in the country. Nothing he does as premier is apt to win him such enduring goodwill, he laughed.
Nova Scotia has been through harmonization. And Dexter told the Toronto Star's Rick Brennan recently that McGuinty had best prepare Ontarians better than it appears he has for the hit they are about to take.

"I don't think there's anything that inspires people to go to their local Tim Hortons and talk like a tax increase," Dexter observed.

Just ask that clerk in Campbellford.

Jim Coyle writes on provincial affairs.

Monday, August 24, 2009

In search of an enlightened politician

Today Eric Reguly of the Globe writes about something that I have been commenting on for almost three years in an article entitled The trillion-dollar buyback threat in which he finally acknowledges why CEOs are so loathe to give up the corporate model (in favour of other shareholder models like the income trust model), which is the practice of corporations engaging in share buybacks for reasons motivated by how these CEOs are compensated, namely stock options.

In summary, share buybacks do nothing to add economic value to a corporation and yet trigger artificial gains in a corporations “earnings per share”, which is the imperfect measure by which the market assigns value to corporations. To the extent that share buybacks can artificially inflate the value of a company, then CEOs who are compensated by stock option gains, will pursue stock buybacks till the cows come home, as opposed to generating increased earnings per share by actions that achieve REAL economic growth versus ARTIFICIAL growth

I am pleased that Eric Reguly has caught up with my preachings of the past three years by today writing: “The [ills of share buybacks] will not change unless the stock option-based compensation model is taken out behind the barn and shot.”

This is where the need for an enlightened politician comes in, as the initiative for taking stock option compensation out behind the barn and shot is not going to come from the boardrooms of Canada, nor is it going to come from John Manley of the CCCE, it needs to come from an enlightened politician who acknowledges that the tax treatment of stock option gains at half the rate of the income from employment that it represents is inherently unfair and inherently unjustified from a public policy perspective, since this tax loophole only serves to foster a situation and related practices that are counter to the well being of society, as made abundantly obvious by the root cause of the global financial meltdown namely executive compensation schemes that promote bad behaviour and undesirable outcomes.

Or are we going to pretend that there was no global financial meltdown and that no changes to the status quo are required?

A change in tax policy is what Eric Reguly and others should now be calling for, as I first wrote about in April in a piece entitled: Two POPULIST tax revenue increase measures for the Liberals

Just requires an enlightened politician?

Why so Much Lying in Politics?

By W.T. Stanbury, Professor Emeritus, University of B.C.
August 17,2009

Lying, misrepresentation and other forms of deception are regrettably common in Canadian politics. I am not talking about “puffery;” or lying for reasons of state such as national security. Columnist Angelo Persichilli (The Hill Times, Feb.26, 2007,p.15) has said: “Question Period is the most deceitful reality TV show and should be rated ‘R’. The MPs lie every day. They lie when they ask questions and they lie when they give answers. Who are the liars? I can’t name names because I don’t have the same Parliamentary immunity they give themselves, but needless to say, politicians are citizens who have the legal right to lie in the House of Commons Chamber. They slander, assassinate characters and lie on a daily basis.” Michael Ignatieff, chosen as leader of the Liberal Party in December 2008 after spending most of his career abroad, was asked what has surprised him most about politics? “Bad faith… People often attack you knowing full well that what they’re attacking you for has no substance in fact.” He pauses. “It was very innocent of me to think otherwise” (David Herman, Prospect, March,2009).

The purpose of this piece is not to document the obvious (there are several websites that do this for Prime Minister Harper, for example), but to try to understand the reasons why lying, misrepresentation, and other forms of deception are so common in our politics.

Definition: Lying is usually defined as making false statement with a deliberate to deceive. Thus the liar knows what he is saying is not true. This can be distinguished where the speaker (writer) does not know if the statement is true, and has failed to try to ascertain the facts. This is a case of negligence, or playing fast and loose and ignoring what could be serious adverse consequences for the subject of the statement. Then there is intentional deception where words are parsed very carefully so that a statement is not false, but because it is incomplete, the effect of which is to mislead.

Bare-faced lies are less common in politics than are various types of deception: highly selective use of facts (contrary information is omitted); mischaracterization of facts often through the use of inappropriate adjectives (this is the essence of most smear campaigns); and distortion through exaggeration. For example, taking a small failing beating it to death to give the impression that the person has never done anything worthy of respect in his (her) life; pleading ignorance or no memory when aware of the truth or lie; hair splitting in the use of language – recall Bill Clinton on the definition of “is”); and diversion and obfuscation to avoid speaking the truth or acknowledging errors. (Recall Brian Mulroney claiming that the reason that key details about his relationship with big-time lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber did not come out was that the questions posed to him were not sufficiently precise.)

Not all lying and deception in politics is reprehensible. There is a well worn, but insightful joke which says that a diplomat is an otherwise honorable man who lies in the service of his country. It is taken for granted that spies lie to the enemy. Winston Churchill said that in some cases the truth is so precious that “ it must be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies.” Effective action against terrorists requires deception, flat-out lies, and surreptitious interception of their communications.

My research indicates that a wide variety of explanations have been advanced to try to answer this question. I summarize a number.

Strategic Context and Opportunism:
The strategic context in which politics is conducted may be an important factor contributing to the prevalence of lying and deception. The strategic context is characterized by the following: the presence of at least a few rivals for power who hold conflicting views on matters that are important to them; there is asymmetric and costly information; there is ambiguity about certain important rules of conduct; and the context is dynamic due to both the interaction of rivals and exogenous events.(On the importance of uncertainty in the political arena,see Stanbury,The Hill Times,July 20,2009,pp.16-17.) Further, the shortness of news cycles means that “hit and run” tactics based on lies may not be caught. Lies may be hard to ascertain—except perhaps with a lag—after which there in no practicable remedy.

The essence of opportunism is self-interested behaviour based on the identification and exploitation of opportunities in one’s environment where that behaviour also involves deceit or guile. Two attributes of political markets facilitate opportunism: asymmetric (and costly) information, and differential transactions costs. Thus politicians make election promises that they know (but voters do not) will require increases in taxes.

On the other hand, it is been argued that it is now harder for politicians to lie as there are so many people online who are able to check out statements that seem questionable—just ask Hilary Clinton, Trent Lott, and others .But can you think of an example of a Canadian politician who was caught out by netizens and who paid a serious penalty for lying?

Insufficient Penalties:
Lying may be frequent because, on balance, it is beneficial in the sense that “crime pays.” That is, the odds of getting caught are low and the penalties are modest or non-existent co the expected costs are less than the expected benefit from lying. Lying very often “works,” not just in the short run as noted above, but in the longer run in the sense that the liars are seldom held accountable – at least on this earth. So…when lying is found to pay, it tends to expand. MPs can slander each other in the Commons chamber—all in interests of free speech. If they say the same thing outside the chamber, they may be sued for damages. There are no laws against false or misleading advertising by political parties or candidates (unlike businesses—see the federal Competition Act ). Thus the Tories’ attack ads focused on the last two Liberal Party leaders could incorporate as much mis-representation, toxic innuendo, and simple lies as seem useful in the game of framing the opposition leader in highly unflattering terms. The frequent use of negative ads suggests that this tactic “works” from the perspective of the advertiser.

Columnist John Robson puts it this way: “It is manifestly clear that [politicians ] can say whatever sounds good, then change their story months, weeks or even a single day later without political consequences. And psychologically, once you discover that you can utter self-serving fibs and pay no price the temptation becomes enormous…”(Ottawa Citizen, May 29,2009).

The Public Doesn’t Want the Truth: It has often been argued that politicians lie is because the public doesn't want to hear the truth. Columnist Robert J. Samuelson (Newsweek, February 21, 2005, p. 39) wrote that the public seems to “prefer to be deceived rather than face the difficult choices posed by Social Security or the government’s budget.” He concludes by saying, “Americans dislike deficits but dislike them less than the alternatives – higher taxes or lower spending. There’s a quiet clamor for hypocrisy and deception; and pragmatic politicians respond with massive borrowing schemes that seem to promise something for nothing. Please spare us the truth.” Are Canadians any different?

Psychopathic Personality;
More than a few politicians (and top business executives, interest group leaders) are psychopaths, but of the non-violent and usually non-criminal variety. Such persons, however, are intensely ambitious, have great skill in manipulating people and organizations (ie, they are skilled con artists). Most importantly, they lack empathy for other human beings. So lying causes no twinge of conscience or remorse – even when it causes direct, serious harm to others. Where the penalties for lying are low, the tendency will be reinforced.

Intense partisanship, coupled with the fact that elections usually occur only every several years or so, creates enormous pressures on candidates to do “whatever it takes to win.” Hyper-partisanship may increase the use of lies (or egregious distortions) to weaken opponents. “True believers” seem to breed intolerance sometimes extreme intolerance (see Eric Hofer, The True Believer).So an opponent is not merely wrong, he (she) is damned to perdition like a “heretic”. Political zealots may be so inflamed with righteousness that they lose their ability to reason critically when dealing with an opponent. (Recall that Prime Minister Harper—on the basis of much evidence-- has been called “a pathological partisan.”) Zealots may not even recognize that their statements contain lies. This does not justify such statements because any kind of ethical behavior requires the ability to reason to sort our right from wrong and truth from lies.

Need to be Ingratiating:
Being in politics seems to require that one to be ingratiating to almost everyone regardless of one’s feelings and regardless of being on the receiving end of nasty behavior by others. Being “on-stage 24/7” imposes a huge burden on politicians—they feel that they must not offend anyone – even inadvertently (particularly in this era of political correctness). This requirement goes far beyond the normal hypocrisy of every day life where we dissemble (and more often curb our tongue) in the interests of amity and comity.

Politicians are almost forced to become professional actors in what amounts to an often changing role ( the uncertainty factor again). But, regardless of the new personnel on the stage and the changes in the script necessitated by changing circumstances, the actor must not offend – at least overtly. (The upper class English are the masters of using polite words to inflict gross insults.) A “false front” is part of the role. Nothing is as it seems. Almost all relationships in the political arena are conducted on the basis of present and anticipated future advantage. No wonder newcomers to Ottawa are advised: “If you want a real friend, get a dog.”

Truth as an Option:
Shameless lying and distortion appear to be rooted in a serious lack of respect for truth as an ideal. When this is the case, the truth (or reality) is seen as an inconvenient obstacle to the achievement of political (or personal) goals. Thus the truth is simply one of several options (alternative courses of action backed by words) to achieve one’s goals. If the truth is convenient, and expected to be the best option under the prevailing circumstances, it will be used. But if it is not, then lies, distortion, and the supply of misleading information become the means employed to achieve the desired ends. The truth is not seen as important in itself. Situations are assessed in terms of what a sort of cost-benefit analysis—one done on the fly with limited information.

Post Modernism:
Perhaps politicians lie or mislead so frequently because they have implicitly adopted a post-modern sensibility—one characterized by the belief that truth doesn’t exist in any objective sense outside our own position. So what others call lies are seen as simply different personal or subjective interpretations of reality. In fact, in a post modern perspective, there is no objective reality. There are only individual, subjective perceptions that are true for that person. The "mini-narratives" of post modernism are always situational, provisional, contingent, and temporary. They make no claim to universality, truth, reason, or even stability. The circularity of this position for politicians making election promises should be apparent.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Good advice from Jeffrey Simpson

Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe writes today:

“The Liberals' biggest challenge (they have many) lies in having failed this summer or before to develop a “line,” or an easily digestible overall critique of the government. It's a crude game, politics, and an opposition party to win needs one word or one phrase that sticks in the public's mind about the government – time for a change, corrupt, incompetent, uncaring, the tool of big business. Whatever. It's not at all clear what that word or phrase is that the Liberals have hung around the Conservatives' neck.”

This is the WASTED OPPORTUNITY of the income trust issue in the hands of the Liberals, for it meets all of Jeffrey Simpson’s prerequisites:

......$35 billion of 2.5 million Canadians’ hard earned savings were lost on Harper’s policy lie called tax leakage, in order to benefit a very few rich and powerful

“Incompetent”........instead of stemming alleged tax leakage , this inane income trust tax CAUSED tax leakage......just ask accounting firm

.......Harper promised he would “never raid seniors nest eggs” and did that very thing nine months later by blaming the victim and calling these people “coupon clippers”

“Tool of big business”....for that I will turn to the Globe and Mail an their account of how this trust tax came into about Harper being a tool of big business:

“High-profile directors and CEOs, meanwhile, had approached Mr. Flaherty personally to express their concerns: Many felt they were being pressed into trusts because of their duty to maximize shareholder value, despite their misgivings about the structure. Paul Desmarais Jr., the well-connected chairman of Power Corp. of Canada, even railed against trusts in a conversation with Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a trip to Mexico.”

Opportunities like Harper’s income trust tax fiasco are political manna from heaven.......that is being squandered by the Liberals who seem reluctant to portray Harper as being “corrupt, incompetent, uncaring, the tool of big business”.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

NDP to merge with Green Party?

At their upcoming Halifax convention, members of the NDP Party will vote on the following resolution:

7-26-09 Exploring Merger with Other Political Party

BE IT RESOLVED THAT if this reporting process indicates that the party
members and riding associations are open to the possibility of such a merger,
the federal party should initiate discussions with the Green Party of Canada to
Page 19
consider a merger of the two parties, possibly beginning with an agreement to
work together in an electoral alliance or partnership in the next federal election.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Harper on "manufactured excuses"

Here’s Harper’s take on the further house detention of Aung San Suu Kyi: “Harper accused Myanmar's ruling generals of having "manufactured an excuse to keep Aung San Suu Kyi in detention.””

Harper is an expert on “manufactured excuses” having manufactured the excuse that income trusts cause tax leakage to benefit those, like Manufacturers’ Life, in order that they could employ the government to kill their competition, and in the process limit Canadians’ investment choices and destroy $35 billion of Canadians hard earned life savings. Which regime is worse? Burma’s military junta or Harper’s corporate junta?

Harper calls Aung San Suu Kyi's sentence 'vindictive'

August 12, 2009

Prime Minister Stephen Harper "strongly condemned" yesterday the additional 18 months of house arrest handed to Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, saying it is "unwarranted, unjustified, and vindictive."

"Canada strongly condemns the Burmese regime's decision to sentence Aung San Suu Kyi to a further 18 months house arrest," Harper said in a statement. Canada refers to Myanmar by its former name of Burma.

"This decision is clearly not in accordance with the rule of law: the charges laid against her were baseless and her trial did not come close to meeting international standards of due process," he said.

Harper accused Myanmar's ruling generals of having "manufactured an excuse to keep Aung San Suu Kyi in detention to ensure she will not be able to participate in the proposed 2010 elections. Canada calls for the regime to unconditionally free all political prisoners."

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

Canada has no business calling the Burma kettle black

Below is a press release put out by the Liberals yesterday that condemns the the continued house detention of Aung San Suu Kyi by Burma’s military junta, in which the statement is made: “Burma’s military junta has further underscored their illegitimacy through the show trial and sham verdict extending the unjust detention of Aung San Suu Kyi.”

This is an exercise in calling the kettle black. Canada has conducted itself in a similar contemptible way by creating and passing legislation that is based on patent lies (ie tax leakage) and conducting pathetic kangaroo court show trials, such as the Public Hearings on Income Trusts.

At those show trials, senior members of the Department of Finance were given the carte blanche opportunity to advance nonsensical arguments such as the one that advanced the notion that there must be tax leakage from income trusts because, after all, they lost $35 billion in value after the announcement of the punitive trust tax. Okay? Name one asset that wouldn’t lose value upon the announcement of a 31.5% tax. Is that proof of tax leakage or simply proof of the intellectually corrupt mindset of the senior members of Canada’s Department of Finance?

Another aspect of the Show Trial on Income Trusts which was contemptible, was to afford those who most benefited from the imposition of this tax, which served to kill their competition, was the opportunity it afforded then to deny involvement in lobbying for this policy change, such as this absurd statement made by the CEO of Manulife:

“The notion and the implication that somehow the government on this file is responding to initiatives that originated with corporations is not based on reality.”

If that isn’t bogus show trial testimony, then I don’t know what is.

Show trials are the means to deliver sham verdicts and unjust outcomes under the pretense of "a public process", as utterly flawed as that process might be.

Meanwhile, the fact remains that in Canada, we employ show trials to pass legislation that is based on patent lies. Patent lies that have caused many considerable harm. Tax leakage is a patent lie if not an outright fraud.

Burma is imprisoning Aung San Suu Kyi for another 18 months because it serves the purposes of a handful of self intereste parties. Canada meanwhile is dramatically reducing the retirement lifestyles and well being of hundreds of thousands of hardworking Canadians and imposing investment losses of $35 billion on millions of Canadians and foreign investors based on a complete falsehood, known as tax leakage. Why? Because it serves the interests of a handful of self interested individuals, whose goal in life is to kill the competition and to sabotage their investors as described in this Globe and Mail account of November 2, 2006:

“High-profile directors and CEOs, meanwhile, had approached Mr. Flaherty personally to express their concerns: Many felt they were being pressed into trusts because of their duty to maximize shareholder value, despite their misgivings about the structure. Paul Desmarais Jr., the well-connected chairman of Power Corp. of Canada, even railed against trusts in a conversation with Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a trip to Mexico.”

Canada has no business holding other countries, like Burma, to standards that it does not adhere to itself. And yes, imposing $35 billion of losses on 2.5 million Canadians is on the same scale of injustice as imposing another 18 months of house arrest on
Aung San Suu Kyi, since both are based on contrived and trumped up falsehoods, whose clear intent is to advantage some at the expense of others. The only difference is the actions against Aung San Suu Kyi were actions of Burma’s military junta and the actions against 2.5 million Canadians were the actions of Canada’s corporate junta, who control this country from top to bottom and from the inside out.

Why is the lie known as tax leakage not being thoroughly exposed for the patent falsehood that it is by the Liberal Party of Canada and by its new leader Michael Ignatieff? There is no better place to exercise your indignity for falsehoods and show trials than here at home on the issue of income trusts? You don’t need to go to Burma to take on military junta’s and impose your sense of moral justice. Try some of that here at home with Canada’s corporate junta and demonstrate what you stand for.....and what you don’t stand for?

Ditto the NDP.

Statement by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff on the continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi

Published on 11 August 2009

Burma’s military junta has further underscored their illegitimacy through the show trial and sham verdict extending the unjust detention of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Leader of Burma’s National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi won Burma’s last legitimate election in 1990. Her voice is a beacon of hope for the expression of democratic freedom for repressed people in her country and around the globe.

It is now clear that the extension of Ms. Suu Kyi’s detention was designed to prevent her from taking part in Burma’s 2010 elections, exposing the military junta’s true intentions to the world.

For thirteen of the last twenty years, Ms. Suu Kyi has lived under military-imposed house arrest while maintaining a stance of peaceful, non-violent political involvement.

A Nobel peace laureate and honourary Canadian citizen, Aung San Suu Kyi has brought global awareness to the injustices suffered by the Burmese people under the rule of its military junta while standing for their rights and freedoms.

On behalf of the Liberal Party and our Parliamentary caucus, we condemn the sentencing and continued detention of Ms. Suu Kyi, and urge the Canadian government and countries around the world to press for her immediate and unconditional release.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rest assured Kevin Lynch, we know it was you who lied to Canadians about tax leakage

Millions of Canadians are worrying about how they are going to fund their retirement after Kevin Lynch's fraud based income trust attack, and this egomaniac spends his time worrying about his legacy?

The wizard of Ottawa, behind the curtain

Brian Laghi
Globe and Mail
Aug. 10, 2009

He helped push through the most important budget of the decade, oversaw Canada's strategy on Afghanistan and caused stirs when he decided to leave public life.

Yet Kevin Lynch, the former public service chief with unparalleled access to Stephen Harper, wonders if Canadians really knew what he did for a living. "One thing I'm kind of struck by is just how well or poorly folks actually understand the role," Mr. Lynch, the former clerk of the Privy Council, said in a rare interview recently, just weeks after leaving his job. "I worry that that there isn't as much broad-based understanding about our core institutions."

While it may be peculiar that such a powerful individual is barely known outside the few square kilometres that surround Parliament Hill, when it comes to Privy Council clerks, Mr. Lynch is an out-and-out celebrity. Over 3½ years of advising Mr. Harper, Mr. Lynch handled the rebranding of the Canadian civil service, directed the bureaucracy in pursuing the country's first major war in more than 50 years, helped shift Canada's foreign affairs focus and dealt with the most frightening economic crisis since the Great Depression.

And all of it was done under a minority government, a form of administration that is notoriously bad for long-term planning. "I think folks have forgotten how big a change it is doing public policy in a minority context," Mr. Lynch said. "It's not the same. That's not to say it's good or bad, but it is different, and I think all of us have to learn a little bit about how do you do, from the public service side, public policy in a minority."

Mr. Lynch had to become a quick study upon being appointed in February of 2006, not only in dealing with a minority, but with a neophyte Prime Minister and a group of cabinet ministers, most of whom had never been part of a governing executive.

By all accounts, Mr. Lynch was deeply relied upon by the PMO and cabinet in the early days. And despite the Prime Minister's concerns about the public service's Liberal inclinations, the two men were a good match. Like Mr. Harper, Mr. Lynch is a cerebral workaholic and trained economist, and was one of only a handful of bureaucrats that the Prime Minister would telephone directly. "They had economics in common, so that was a huge help," a PMO source said. "There was a massive flow of paper from Kevin to the PM and, as we know, the PM consumes written material at a voracious rate."

The two men worked closely together on many issues, including plans to slash income tax revenues in 2007. That same year, Mr. Lynch began focusing on difficulties in the asset-backed commercial paper market, which became a major part of the story of the world financial collapse. The clerk made sure that the Prime Minister was regularly briefed by finance department officials with expertise in the area, and put advice on the economy at the front of briefing books.

Mr. Lynch says now that dealing with the financial crisis and shepherding through the recent stimulus budget were high points of his tenure. But he gives much of the credit for Canada's economic resilience over the past year to the work performed by previous governments, when he was a senior public servant in the departments of industry and finance.

Eliminating the deficit, paying down the debt and fixing the Canada and Quebec pension plans - along with maintaining medicare - kept consumers from panicking in the same way that their U.S. counterparts did when they started losing their jobs. "I think the value of the Canadian structure has really come to the fore," he said. "We didn't invent it in the last year or two, but the fact is, it's been tested in the last year or two because of the global downturn and ... it's shown itself to be pretty good."

Perhaps the initiative most identified with Mr. Lynch internally was the change in foreign affairs focus from Africa and Europe to the Americas. It was he who was most responsible for pushing strengthened ties to the U.S. and to focus on rebuilding Canada's Arctic infrastructure. And while the new accent on aid to the Caribbean wasn't necessarily his idea, he supported it strongly.

The issue most close to Mr. Lynch's heart - at least the one he speaks most passionately about - is the effort to restock the civil service and make it an exciting place to work again. Mr. Lynch laments the fact that, in the 1990s, the bureaucracy cut its recruitment efforts to the bone, leaving a large gap within management ranks. Universities and colleges now find themselves flooded with recruiters and civil servants, including front-line workers like soldiers and development officials serving in Afghanistan.

Any assessment of Mr. Lynch's tenure needs to take the minority situation into account, says Donald Savoie, a University of Moncton expert in public administration.

"He was a consummate, professional civil servant during very, very difficult times," Dr. Savoie said.

Dr. Savoie offers the high praise of comparing Mr. Lynch's tenure to that of Gordon Robertson, who led the civil service from 1963 to 1975, seven years of which were minority governments, and to Arnold Heeney, who headed the bureaucracy from 1940 to 1949.

Dr. Savoie says that, like Mr. Robertson, Mr. Lynch was seen internally as non-partisan.

Ever discreet, Mr. Lynch won't discuss the difficulties of his time at the top, saying only that "everyone can do better." The former clerk also refuses to get into the government's near-death experience of last December, when the calamitous fall economic statement sparked the creation of the short-lived Liberal-NDP entente to take over the reins of government.

Then, of course, there's the manner of Mr. Lynch's own leave-taking, which triggered gossip that he and Mr. Harper's new chief of staff, Guy Giorno, couldn't get along. Some Tory government officials argue Mr. Lynch was not quick enough off the mark in disbursing the billions in stimulus money laid out in the January budget. Others say that the rift was overplayed, and that Mr. Lynch's access to the Prime Minister was unwisely restricted by Mr. Giorno. The truth won't be out until one of the men talks, but at least two high-level sources said Mr. Harper probably didn't need Mr. Lynch as much after the government's re-election in 2008.

"I think it's fair to say that, as time went on in government, the PM became a little more suspicious about the bureaucracy, a little less confident in their recommendations," one official said. "That doesn't mean he was suspicious of Lynch in particular, or lacking confidence in his abilities as an individual. But, in general, there was a sense that the pendulum was swinging in one direction and there needed to be a rebalancing of sorts."

Asked about the circumstances of his departure, Mr. Lynch will only say he wanted to go out on a high and that, after 33 years in the civil service, the time was ripe. "You never kind of wanted to stay too long," he said. "I actually left as interested in public policy and the public service as my first day on the job."

Today's Globe: "Life insurance industry pushes pension fix"

Below are some insightful comments posted by readers of today’s Globe article about how Canada’s cartel of life insurance companies, who successfully lobbied to kill the competition known as income trusts, are now busy lobbying against proposals by some provinces to set up a new national system


SO what happens if say..manulife goes bankrupt?

The insurance companies want to keep us on the hook.

The image of "fox in the henhouse" comes to mind when these [life insurance] companies start suggesting "solutions".

Always suspicious when the insurance cartel says it really, really wants to help out the little people. Sure!

The only reason the insurance companies don't want a national defined contribution pension plan is because it will eat into their profits. That's it.

Yes, do lets give the pension system to a "for profit" private enterprise, ideally a foreign owned one, what with the success Alberta has had with energy deregulation, privatization is the way to go to Edhellmonton in a hand basket.

I find it interesting that the same people that virtually bankrupted many a retirement plan, and retiree, now proclaim that they have the answer, that they are the ones to trust. Have we not seen this story before, how many billions in bail-out has their arrogance cost us thru this recession? I will not be one to trust these people again, they have been exposed as the fraudsters that they are, without true knowledge of the financial system. "Give me a small amount of money, and I will give you back millions down the road" they say, Are they all from Nigeria? Sure sounds like the same scam to me. Sorry, there is no 'free lunch'. Work hard, spend wisely, live within your means, be good to each other, but to hand my hard earned money over to these bumbling fools?...I say no!

Private for-profit insurance companies that were once mutual companies now want absolute control of pensions.
If these firms were still mutual companies whose primary interest was the policyholder, I might believe they cared about people and pensions.
But they aren't mutual companies anymore. They're private outfits whose primary aim is huge earnings at any cost -- for their executives, sales staff, and shareholders.
Letting these people take larger control of Canadian pensions would be criminal -- something a lot of people will fight to prevent.

Industry need to fix their own house before telling other to. Their role is to sell normal annuities that give us the benefits from people in our cohort dying - just like pension plans.
Yet when I tried to buy one, the price they wanted was more than the price of a Gov't RealReturn Bond drawn down to the age of 95.
In other words, they were not even prepared to "break-bulk" much less give me any benefit from my cohort dying.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Our condolences

Our sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Jack Lawrence and the partners and staff of his firm, Lawrence Asset Management Inc.

Lawrence Asset Management Inc are Founding Members of CAITI.

Jack Lawrence is someone who believed in the integrity of the Canadian Capital Markets and someone I had the privilege of worklng with at Burns Fry Limited. Jack Lawrence’s high regard for ensuring the integrity of the markets is, no doubt, what led him to join CAITI as a Founding Member.

Our work in exposing the truth about the patent falsehood known as tax leakage on behalf of investors like Jack Lawrence, those who entrusted him to manage their money and the millions of other Canadians who were aggrieved by this reckless policy. will continue. Our ultimate victory in exposing this falsehood will be diminished only by Jack’s absence.

Bay St. heavweight dies in Muskoka crash

Jack Lawrence, Carol Richardson killed on impact when float plane crashes on takeoff\
Aug 04, 2009 01:15 PM
Toronto Star

The man killed in a Muskoka plane crash yesterday afternoon was Bay St. luminary Jack Lawrence, founder and chief executive officer of the Toronto investments firm Lawrence and Co.

Carol Richardson, a woman the company identified as Lawrence's companion, also died in the crash.

Lawrence, 75, was a prominent Bay St. figure for decades, originally making his name as a bond trader and rising to the position of president at the firm Fry Mills Spence.

As chairman of the successor firm Burns Fry, he oversaw its 1994 sale to the Bank of Montreal for $403 million.

Lawrence, 5-foot-3, was renowned for his dual passions for fitness and fiscal policy.

Born in Orangeville, he played hockey, basketball and football at the University of Western Ontario. At Lawrence and Co., he organized and completed an office triathlon when he was in his mid-60s.

According to a statement released by the firm, he spent his final weekend playing tennis and canoeing with friends and family.

An advocate of low taxes and the reduction of government spending, Lawrence toured Canada in the 1990s advocating fiscal conservatism and warning of Canada's "looming debt crisis."

He felt vindicated when Finance Minister Paul Martin adopted some of his preferred positions in attempting to reduce the federal deficit.

Lawrence had four children with his first wife, from whom he separated in 1975, and two children with his second wife, Janice, whom he married in 1978.

In 2000, he told the Star that he regretted some of the hard work that allowed him to climb the corporate ladder so rapidly.

"I didn't spend as much time with the family as I should have," he said.

"I regret that. Everything in life is a trade-off. There were a few difficult years."

Stockwell Day's commitment: Not worth the paper it's written on

November 8, 2005.

Dear Mr. Laxton

Thank you for expressing your concerns about the confusion the Minister of Finance has caused on income trusts.

Income trusts have helped numerous Canadian companies grow and flourish and enabled ordinary Canadians to generate more income for their retirement years. The federal Liberal government's reckless decision last September to cancel advance tax rulings on income trusts caused Canadian businesses to lose billions of dollars in market capitalization and Canadians to lose thousands of dollars of personal savings.

Canadians investing in good faith to save for their retirement deserve certainty, not a government review of how the Liberals can grab more taxes from them.

We know that Canadians draw regularly form their investments to supplement their retirement savings. When the value of their investments drops as a result of government indecisiveness, so does their retirement income. It is time the government stopped penalizing our citizens.

My colleagues and I in the Conservative Party are committed to maintaining income trusts as a valuable savings and investment tool for Canadians.

Thank you again for contacting me,

Yours sincerely,

[signed Stockwell Day]

Stockwell Day, M.P.
Official Opposition Foreign Affairs Critic