The National Post has an interesting series of articles (1, 2, 3) exploring Ontario’s court system, and just how long you have to wait to see your case all the way through to a verdict. In Ontario, the wait is too long.
(There’s a joke in here about how long you have to wait for any government-provided service, but I’m just going to let it slide).
Meanwhile, of the cases that make it all the way through, Ontario’s prosecutors have the lowest “guilty” verdict rating of all provinces — at 55.6 per cent.
The article goes on to mention several possibilities for bringing that wait list down. More money (surprise!), more judges (shocking!), pre-trial screening, moving to some sort of electronic method of scheduling and re-scheduling court appearances (it’s still the 18th century for Ontario’s courts… I could be wrong, but I think they said Ontario’s system still uses carrier pigeons for client-lawyer communication), and so on.
Here’s a suggestion they didn’t canvass: Make fewer laws. Get rid of a bunch of them. There, I’ve solved your problem.
Posted by Peter Jaworski on June 18, 2012
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is arguing that he should have more power over what banks do because if the banks screw up it is Ottawa that is “on the hook.” Of course it doesn’t occur to him that Ottawa isn’t actually “on the hook” in the sense that the government HAS to bail out banks. In fact the government is not responsible for dumb decisions made by bank executives unless the government DECIDES to be responsible.
What we need here is a metaphor: Say I have a 30 year old son that is pretty reckless with his finances. He is undoubtedly a full adult and he actually has a really good job that gives him a strong income. Despite this he keeps getting in trouble with harebrained schemes and silly ideas. He is completely broke and he can’t possibly pay even the minimum requirements on his credit card.
I as his parent have two options: I can let him go bankrupt, or I can bail him out. As a loving father, and despite the fact that it puts my own finances under strain, I decide to bail him out.
Now there is somewhat of an assumption that I will be “on the hook” the next time he screws up. I haven’t even so much as tried to say this is a one time deal in any credible way, so this assumption seems to hold. So in order to protect my own savings I start telling him what to do and I start interfering with his life. He lets me because he knows that he relies on me to save him (and if this metaphor were to be more complete he would also allow me because I own a gun and he doesn’t).
If I had treated my son as an adult and allowed him to work out his own mistakes I wouldn’t have a reason or an excuse to interfere so much with his life. The reason for my interference isn’t to prevent him from screwing up, it is to protect myself, but the best way to protect myself would just be to declare that he will never receive a bailout ever again.
There are several problems with my metaphor (what metaphor isn’t problematic?). The biggest problem is that the government doesn’t have a paternal relationship with the banks. There are no familial issues of love and loyalty. A more accurate metaphor would be that I am not bailing out my son but a complete stranger.
Actually come to think of it, that isn’t a metaphor at all. I am in fact bailing out a complete stranger. I am not even doing it by choice I am being forced to bail out this stranger. In exchange another stranger (who is supposedly acting as my agent) is going to start vetoing decisions of the first stranger. I fail to see how this is remotely a good deal for me. It is far worst than bailing out my son because at least that was someone I presumably love.
So no Mr. Flaherty you shouldn’t get more power to veto bank decisions. You should instead stop forcing me to bail them out of the bad decisions. I am not even sure why you think you are such a mastermind that you can do a better job at producing a secure banking system than the market anyway. Or for that matter why you assume your successor will be as brilliant as yourself. It isn’t like government decisions have never lead to horrific disasters at any point in history.
Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on December 8, 2011
In response to a survey that says Canadians don’t feel they have the time to work out, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada seems to want people to view exercise as an investment. If you spend time working out you will ultimately gain more time by living longer. Like any investment, however, this is not without risk.
This is the basic calculation that the HSFC wants us to make:
This includes getting 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous exercise, which the foundation said can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes by 30 per cent. On the other hand, inactivity can shave four years off a person’s lifespan, it said.
On the surface this looks like a good deal. Working out 150 minutes a week from the age of 20 and 80 amounts to a little less of a year in total and for that you get an extra 4 years of life. If only my other investments could match such a return.
Of course the 4 years claim is likely based on actuary data which means that it is an average over the general population. For you as an individual the results are far more variable than the claim would have you believe. After all there are other factors at work besides exercising. Genetics and other environmental factors play an important role. It is possible that you work out religiously from a young age and still die of a heart disease at the age of 50.
Furthermore there are a lot of other things you can die of. You don’t get any return on your investment if you get hit by a car and break your neck.
I don’t say this to imply that exercise is not worth the time or effort. I merely point out that the long term benefits might not be worth the time or effort (personally I put greater stock in the short term benefits of exercise). It probably is worth it but we should understand that there is what economists call a knowledge problem; as an individual I don’t know how beneficial exercise will be for me.
This is important to keep in mind because too often governments make policies on the misguided notion that encouraging people to exercise would be universally beneficial. Governments should allow individuals to make their own choices and take their own risks.
Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 29, 2011
On Tuesday the City of Toronto issued eviction notices to the Occupiers at St. James Park, I am sure in response to my post on Monday. A group of the Occupiers went to a judge for an injunction claiming that the eviction would violate their charter rights. The judge put a stay on the enforcement of the eviction notices until he had heard the arguments on Friday. This puzzles me.
I am not a lawyer. I have zero legal training, but I believe that I have a reasonable grasp on the constitution for a layman. I would have thought that this would be a pretty open and shut case. Isn’t it pretty well established that in Canada if you want to protest on public ground you need a permit? I hadn’t thought that this was a controversial limit on free speech.
As I say I am not an expert on constitutional law, but that doesn’t really matter because regardless of what the judge decides this is a reasonable limit on free speech and the Occupiers should be removed.
Lorne Gunter put it pretty well in his column published earlier today:
You don’t have an unreserved right to live in a public space, no matter how fervent your opinions are nor how noble you believe your cause is. Your actions diminish the ability of other citizens to enjoy that public space, too. By demanding that you be permitted to camp out in a city park until income parity is reached or caps to CEO pay are legislated or the dictatorship of the proletariat is achieved, you are, effectively, insisting your rights trump those of other members of the public who may wish to use the common space differently. What gives you that right?
It is a key point that the Occupiers are restricting the ability of others to use the public space. This restriction is a cost that the rest of the public who may wish to use the park must pay. At the same time the Occupiers are completely ignoring the usual method of assigning usage of this public good. Essentially the Occupiers, by claiming exclusive use of the park, are demanding a public subsidy for their free speech.
Here we come to one of the misunderstood aspects of the right to speech and peaceful assembly. For it to be truly peaceful you cannot force others to pay for it. Magazine owners do not have a responsibility to publish everything that is submitted to them. I am not obligated to listen to every speaker with equal attention. And no one has an exclusive claim on a public good for the purposes of voicing an opinion.
The people presently squatting at St. James Park have the right to say and believe what they like, but that right does not allow them to continue to squat on public land.
Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 16, 2011
So let me get this straight. In order to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade group Canada will have to agree to stop a policy that makes common foods more expensive. I think this has to be the very definition of win-win.
Of course the caveat is that Canada won’t have to eliminate supply management immediately. It seems likely that they will be on a “liberalization schedule.” Which is diplomatic speech for you don’t ever have to really do that. But still it will at least create one pressure to encourage liberalization that will counter the special interest groups that try to stop it.
Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 15, 2011
For a week or so I have been reading articles like this one where Rob Ford says that the Occupation at St. James Park is illegal and at some point the law will be enforced. When asked at what point the law will be enforced he says that it will be soon. Then he claims that they will likely go away by themselves anyway.
I understand Mr. Ford’s dilemma. It is the same problem facing every municipal leader that is unfortunate enough to have to deal with one of these Occupation protests. They are clearly committing a crime by squatting on public land, but if police are sent in to enforce the law the situation will be uncontrollable by the elected officials. Regardless of how much blame the mayor actually deserves, it is guaranteed that if violence ensues the mayor will be blamed.
The problem is that by saying the police will eventually be sent in but not saying when, Rob Ford is likely breathing life into the protesters.
Many of the protesters already despise Rob Ford (if their signs are any indication), so by being critical of the protest Rob Ford is setting him up to be the perfect vocal point of the Occupiers. Rob Ford is providing an enemy that is not abstract. He could become the embodiment of the great evil power that must be defied.
At the same time by not actually doing anything about it, Rob Ford is making it appear that defiance is not just possible, it is easy.
“I can have all the fun of standing up to the man (i.e. Rob Ford),” thinks one inclined to join the protest, “but without actually having to risk a baton to the head or a night in jail.”
Rob Ford needs to stop pussyfooting around and either be the man of action we all thought he was, or stop saying anything on the issue at all.
Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 14, 2011
This article from the Toronto Star has given me the clearest vision, thus far, on how the new Liberal minority government can be made to work for the benefit of Ontarians.
Tim Hudak is pushing for the government to make some cuts and the Liberal government appears to be agreeing to work with the PC Party to bring forward such cuts. The rhetoric on both sides, in contrast the former federal minority Parliament, has been highly cooperative.
I was afraid that the PCs would see it as their mission to bring down the government, but instead they appear to be acting responsibly and are willing to work with the government to push for better policies.
All that being said, the Taxpayers Federation is right to say that both parties are being far too timid.
But for the first time I see a glimmer of hope that this new Parliament can actually do something, anything, to tackle the numerous problems now facing Ontario.
Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 9, 2011
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has announced that the deficit will not be eliminated as quickly as the government had promised. The plan to get out of deficit was based on an assumption that the economy will continue to improve at a certain rate. As has become increasingly clear the economy is not going to improve sufficiently. Who could have possibly have predicted that this would happen?
And I wasn’t the only one.
Hell, anyone paying half attention to what was happening in Europe and the United States even back in April could have easily predicted that the Ministry of Finance’s optimist was misplaced. The only thing I can conclude is that no on at the Ministry reads financial news.
History has shown, time and time again, that deficit slaying does not take place on the back of economic growth alone. Real cuts and hard decisions have to be made. If the Government of Canada truly wants to put its finances in order, it has to be far more proactive.
Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 8, 2011
I hadn’t checked out the Occupy Toronto crowd since the first day that it started. So last Saturday I figured I’d stop by for a peek. What I saw there was pretty underwhelming if you consider this movement is being touted as the source of revolutionary change. In fact the only thing that they appear to be achieving is earning sympathy for the people who live around St. James Park.
The first thing I noticed about the tent city is the smell. It absolutely stinks. I feel sorry for anyone who has to walk past it on their way to work.
The second thing I noticed is that the place was incredibly dirty.
The third thing I noticed was that the few people who were there were also incredibly dirty.
A friend of mine told me that his colleagues at work had, charitably, gotten together the week before the Occupation began and cleaned the park. Their good works had been completely thrown out the window because I have never seen St. James Park look so disgusting.
The most attractive feature of what is otherwise a rather plain looking neighbourhood has been turned into what smells like a garbage dump and looks like the worst kept camping site in Canada.
Keep in mind that the park is next door to a church, a very popular church to hold weddings. I shutter to think of the poor couple that thinks they had paid for a beautiful wedding at one of Toronto’s nicest churches, but instead are getting married at an open air homeless shelter.
All of this is pretty benign (unless you are the poor sucker that has to clean the place up) but their only achievement is being a nuisance. After a month of not showering the movement continues to be pretty vague and dominated by those that are shouting ideas that have been discredited for decades. There is no plan on how to achieve any ends beyond, “starting a conversation.”
So even if you are sympathetic to the goals of the movement, you have to wonder if all this is nothing but sound and fury, and stink. Mostly stink.
Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on November 7, 2011
As bad as the Conservative government’s crime reform agenda is and has been, there is one bright spot that I think should be noted. The Conservatives are planning on altering the criminal code to allow greater discretion for the individual to defend himself or herself against an aggressor.
As things stand now it is deeply ambiguous who would get in more trouble. The person that tried to rob you, or you for punching out the person who tried to rob you. Correcting this, and freeing the individual to defend his or her own self and property is an important positive move.
Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on October 25, 2011