Tag Archives: canadian politics

Understanding the Current Canadian Political Situation

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The Canadian political landscape has a number of “elements” in play right now, all designed to confuse the hell out of the average Canadian voter.

I want to try to use this piece to dissect a couple of contentious activities.  That’s your cue to grab a cup of coffee and snuggle in for a few minutes because this does not merit a quick glance.

Robo-calls, Voter Suppression, Voter Lists & Marketing

Many in the media are asking really stupid questions right now about the depth and breadth of capabilities with respect to tracking individuals, their voter preferences and so on.  Others are asking equally naive questions about the range of marketing activities that are NOT organized in Canada.

Obviously, none of them have ever worked in the loyalty marketing business.  Or direct marketing business.  Or telemarketing businesses.  Or the advertising agency world.  Or online advertising.  Or politics.

They all seem to have this ‘Gee whiz’ kind of mindset that reinforces that they are clearly locked in the ‘Madmen’ era of when advertisers and communications experts didn’t have a clue about what they were doing, but still took all the credit when they sold a car or two because of a sexy car ad or funny catch phrase with toilet paper.

Guess what.  Things have changed.  A long ago, actually.

I don’t know if it’s intentional on behalf of the media pundits and journalists to seem stupid or if they just are stupid, but they are definitely missing the point that any organization can collect pretty much anything they want on me, my buying habits, my nose-picking habits, how many times I have a bowel movement and so on.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that one of the few exceptions to unsolicited calls – political parties – probably have the most complex databases concerning the activities of every single Canadian.

Further to this basic idea that enormous masses of data are being collected about every single one of our habits is the seeming surprise about the extent to which this is organized by American and generally non-Canadian companies.

The Airmiles program is owned by an American company.  Nearly every large agency in Canada is just a tiny cog in the enormous machinery of the top-5 global agencies and very few real decisions are actually made in Canada.

Hell, even StatsCan data now lies with Lockheed-Martin, a very not-Canadian company and one of the world’s largest manufacturers of military equipment.

That said, there continues to be a sense of surprise when we hear about American parent companies being involved with marketing decisions.  Sadly, many Canadians don’t realize that this is just routine.

The Solution?

The solution to the issue with robo-calls and resulting voter suppression is simple:  allow Canadians to add their names to the same Do Not Call Lists that the CRTC maintains when you get annoying calls about credit card offers, instant vacation awards, police balls and other crap.

More importantly, we need more control over our personal and private information.  If a political party wants to contact me, they need my permission first.  Email works that way.  Why can’t phone calls?

On the note about the agency world and most decisions being made outside Canada, that topic is beyond the scope of what is already a very long rant about our Canadian corporate and political environment.

Demographics, Dummygraphics and Datagraphics

I think we’ve all heard the term ‘demographics’ before.  It basically applies to groups of people, their behaviours and the impact of those behaviours.  ‘Baby Boomers’, ‘Generation X’ and ‘Digital Natives’ are all terms that relate to demographics.

Of course, marketers have stepped things up substantially and have designed and developed hundreds of categories related to individuals and their buying, political interests, love activities, drinking habits and so on and continue to collect this information so long as you use a credit card, bank card, cell phone, Gmail account, search and pretty much do anything else.

Dummygraphics is a new term that I will use here to describe a group of people that believe what the media and politicians tell them.  My first instincts with this word is that Boomers fit nicely into this category, but they don’t.  Dummygraphics apply to people that simply don’t get the idea that someone out there is lying to them so that they can gain at your expense.

People that receive phone calls on their land lines telling them repeatedly that they’re Liberals and that they want to piss you off even if you’re a card-carrying Liberal because we’re going to keep calling are locked into two issues:  they don’t know how to ignore the phone and they can’t get their name removed from voter calling lists.

Political cynics (and I won’t say Conservatives because I don’t want to fall victim to a $5 million lawsuit) leverage this stupidity to their advantage and win elections.  It sounds harsh, but it’s that simple.

If you believe that it’s all just one great big coincidence, you fit neatly into the Dummygraphic category.

Datagraphics is almost the opposite of Dummygraphics.  I don’t want to pretend that this group of people is smarter than the first, but there are hints that they too are cynics and will at least seek out alternatives when someone tells them a lie about simple things like polling stations.  They’ll double check their voter registration card.  They’ll call Elections Canada.  They’ll check with their local MP.

People in the Datagraphic category will find themselves reading alternatives to the mainstream media.  Not everything the Globe and Mail or Toronto Star says is paved with good intentions.  That’s (nearly) impossible when the party in power also pulls the strings with advertising budgets for Defense recruiting, Action Plans, CRA awareness and so on to the tune of $300-$500 million per year.

If you don’t believe, take a gander at the May 2011 election list of newspaper endorsements where nearly ALL of the mainstream media voices endorsed the very people that the majority of Canadians are working very hard to eliminate.  Not much of a challenge given that the mainstream media in Canada is really just 4-5 mega-conglomerates, including Bell, Rogers, Quebecor, Shaw, Telus, Transcontinental and Astral Communications.

The Solution?

Obviously, I have a bias to the Datagraphic category, but want to ensure that they get the right information.  We need to defeat Canada’s media conglomerates by shutting off our cell phones, signing up with Internet companies like TekSavvy and starving them of our attention.

Only when we boycott the major perpetrators of these crimes – our media conglomerates – will we see a little more balance in Canadian politics.

The other more actionable solution is to CHECK INFORMATION WHEN SOMEONE TELLS YOU SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR VOTING STATION.  Don’t take everything for granted and don’t believe some jack-ass who calls you in the middle of the night to tell you have to go to another county to vote.

The Merging of Business and Politics

The current array of scandals we’re enduring in Canada are, in my opinion, what happens when you merge business and politics.  More importantly, it’s a glimpse of what will happen as public policy becomes more commercial as opposed to public.

Robo-calls, tele-marketing, consumer lists, phone lists and so on all have nothing to do with public policy.  They have everything to do with coercion and the dying days of broadcasting.

You see, broadcast is nearly extinct.  It’s breathing its last breath.  TV, print and radio were once the “three legs that help up the table of marketing success”, but they no longer reach the audiences that they used to.  There’s too much fragmentation in the marketplace.  Therefore, we see a last desperate scramble to to control these last few modes of communication before they become completely pointless in the realm of politics.  And everything else, for that matter.

We’re already seeing the cracks in the strategy.  Anyone that does robo-calls has to do them to land lines.  Cell phone lines are too risky because histories are traced more effectively, messages can be recorded and easily shared and we return to the demographic discussion.  Most elderly people have land lines and most elderly people are prone to trust or believe someone when they get called by someone out of the blue telling them that they have to go to another polling station to vote.

My prediction is that the 2011 election will be the last effective use of this shameful and disgusting tactic because a growing percentage of the population – even those in the Dummygraphic category – will be using Internet connections for their land-lines and cell phone more frequently as their primary mode of communication.

Anyways, the key point here is that we – Earthlings, to be exact, but I’ll be happy if we start as Canadians – have been remiss in demanding a very simple idea:  the separation of State and Corporation.  In the Revolution Years, we demanded separation of Church and State and now we have to go the next step or we will LOSE ALL FREEDOMS in the interest of letting others making money of our personal information.

Especially political cynics and crooks.

The Solution?

Let’s be clear that I’m not anti-corporate or even anti-capitalist.

I just don’t think the merging of business and public policies are good ideas.  It’s impossible to build railroads, national digital strategies and other long-term investments when stockholders demand gains in the next quarter.

I’m not sure how it will be done, but we have to at least start sharing ideas about how to keep corporations out of our lives.

Bill C-30 and Anonymous

Rumour has it that ‘Anonymous’ is nothing but a tool of the CIA.  I doubt it’s true, but if it is, we see how Anonymous continues to fuck things up for your average Joe by dragging personal information about Vic Toews or anyone else out into the public domain.

It’s just not right.

Their actions, therefore, help reinforce the rumours and actually help to steel the resolve of ‘tough on crime’ morons by giving them all the excuses they need to remove the wonderful and powerful thing known as anonymity.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the pressure continues to mount, media morons chime in with the idea that we should have better capabilities when it comes to tracking and ultimately, robo-calling may even fall into this category as justification for better scrutiny to protect Canadians from those who would steer us wrong.

Imagine that:  Anonymous responsible for Bill C-30 so that we can get to the bottom of what’s happening with robo-calls and voter suppression.

How bizarre.

All of a sudden, the robo-call situation becomes Canada’s very own version of a digital equivalent to the Reichstag Fire.

Another issue in all of this?  I believe the whole thing is a sham because if the government or law enforcers want to collect information about me, they can and without a warrant.  Child pornographers are arrested every day as a result of following the law.

What’s critical in all of this is that we are starting to see that none of our politicians with any party want Canadians to know just how much THEY know about US.  If you knew, you’d be pissed and outraged and this very idea threatens politics in Canada substantially more than phone-call hijinks.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if investigations actually found that one or many of our politicians were in breach of Canadian privacy laws.

A Final Plea

If you’re one of the many people that worked on political campaigns through the spring of 2011 and you witnessed or were privy to some questionable tactics, please contact Elections Canada.

Our democracy desperately needs a handful of people who will make things right.

You’ve probably had non-disclosure agreements and threats of lawsuits thrown at you if you open your mouth about anything that you witnessed, but WE NEED YOU.  We need your courage.  We need your strength.  We need your knowledge.

When you come forward, Canadians will protect you because you’ll be doing the right thing.

And if you don’t?  Be prepared for a big-ass warrant to come your way and get your sphincter lubed up for some fun times in the joint because you will not be treated kindly by anyone that knocks on your door looking for information.

And the Conservatives will NOT have your back.

Tim Hudak’s Empty Platform

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I don’t who’s financing these guys, but a platform based on “Bring Back Buck a Beer is supposed to be treated like serious policy for one of the world’s largest economies?

Are they for real?  Is this everything that Tim Hudak can throw at the McGuinty Liberals?  Is this guy stuck in the 80s?  Does he really think Ontario voters are that stupid?

Is this all they have ‘on tap’?  How about getting some of your smart friends together to ‘draft’ a more creative platform for the people of Ontario.

What’s next?  “Bring Back Two-buck chuck“?

With the multitudes of platform options out there, this is what they come up with?

What an embarrassment for Ontario, but in particular, this province’s Progressive Conservatives.  This has got to be the most cynical treatment of voters I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Why Corporate Tax Cuts Don’t Matter to Me

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And Shouldn’t Matter to Most Canadians

Corporate tax cuts border on the theoretical.  Will cuts to the world’s largest corporations generate more jobs here or enrich the treasury of the countries that they’re home to?  Does Wal-Mart really “invest” more in Canada when they pay lower taxes?  Does GM do more R&D research here simply because we’re making it easier for them to have a fatter bottom line?

Do corporations generate more jobs than the local resources that they use?

The short answer is no, but I’m sure all of these and more questions merit additional research.  In fact, the Progressive Economics Forum argues that corporate income tax cuts can actually lead to a reduction in employment.

With all that said, I’ll tell you one thing:  corporate tax cuts mean jack shit to me.

Here’s why.

Like millions of other Canadians, I run and own my small business.  It’s a sole proprietorship and like all sole proprietorships, 100% of the income that I generate goes to my personal income so I’m taxes at the personal income rate, not the corporate rate.  Yes, as far as the CRA is concerned, I submit a business filing every year, but the filing reflects my personal income and not a business income.

In most provinces of Canada, the number of small businesses that employ 1-4 people (ie. usually 1 + a family member) almost always exceed 50%, in many cases 60%.

By the end of 2009, the number of small businesses was approximately 2.4 million.  I’m guessing that today that number is closer to 2.5 million.

In other words, a significant portion of the population of this country is dependent on small business income.

To put it another way, slashing corporate income taxes is nothing more than posturing and a platform for ripping off the average guy or girl that works 16 hours a day to make their business work while the ‘Fortune 500′ make more fortunes.

If any party in this country wants to win a majority in this country, all they have to do is stop dropping their pants for the bigwigs and start fulfilling on promises to support small business in this country.  Here are some ideas related to this kind of platform:

  • Allow a $100,000 business income exemption for any qualifying small business (to be defined).
  • Alternatively, promote a tax exemption for qualifying small businesses to the tune of $250,000 or three years, whichever comes first.
  • Allow RRSP investments in your own small business, subject to approval (similar to the popular ‘Home-Buyers Plan of the 1980s/1990s).
  • Consider alternative models for small business and economic activity, including co-ops, non-profits, charities and so on.  Then consider tax breaks for these organizations as well.
  • Stop wasting money on mega-budget programs like defence and prison systems.  Use saved money for digital and physical infrastructure.

Getting 2.5 million small business owners on your side will translate to influence.  They’ll make donations, but more importantly, they’ll hang your sign in their window, they’ll influence their family members and they’ll maybe even volunteer some of their precious time to support your team.

What are your suggestions?  I’d like to know, as I’d like to expand on ideas for generating good platform from the small business angle.

Will a Future Canadian Gun Crime be Known as a “Jack Attack”?

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Jack Layton’s refusal to stand up for the Gun Registry will cost all Canadians.

Unfortunately, Jack Layton is only capable of thinking about his party’s fortunes and preservation of a few rural seats.

Of course, he fails to see that strength and leadership on an issue will win the hearts or urban voters, but he’d rather surrender those seats to the Liberals.

Yesterday’s NDP negotiated with the Liberals to bring us life (ie. the universal Health Care system).

Today’s NDP bring us death.

So … when the Gun Registry dies because Jack Layton refused to act on this (and continues to show favour to Cons rather than negotiate with the more politically aligned Liberals), will Canadians remember this shameful act and refer to gun crime as a “Jack Attack”?

Ottawa Looking to Fund Partisan Propaganda

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The folks in Ottawa have been dying to figure out an ‘innovative’ way to bail out Canada’s biggest media companies (besides the CBC, of course) without creating a massive voter backlash.  With that in mind, another hairbrained scheme has materialized:  spending taxpayer money on advertising (story details are pasted below).

The absurdity of this plan is laughable for a number of reasons:

  1. I normally try to avoid programming by Global, CTV or stations that are owned by these conglomerates.  A wide array of other Canadians have made a similar choice.
  2. You might as well just burn the cash because spending money on dead air to reach an audience that is gone or declining is nearly as wasteful.
  3. Using advertising to shout at existing watchers translates to paid propaganda.  This is morally reprehensible.
  4. Shouting at people with ad breaks and other interruptions is an antiquated mode of communication.

It’s the last point that I want to talk about.  We entered a massive transition more than a decade ago when technology made it easy for consumers of content to avoid advertising:

  • TIVO = avoid TV ads.
  • DVDs = avoid 20 minutes of previews, along with ads for mobile phones, cars and shoes.
  • iTunes & CDs = avoid radio ads.
  • Search = avoid online ads.

A good part of the mess that we’re in today is related to the notion that individuals can now think for themselves rather than have marketers and governments instruct them how to think and what to buy.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped people with large agencies from buying media and placing it with these companies for the Cons, largely in the form of ‘public service announcements’.  Our governments have a long history of spending oodles of taxpayer cash to inform us about ‘staying prepared for emergencies’, ‘how to spend your tax credits’, over-produced Department of Defense ads encouraging people to sign up for the reserves, etc.

Add that to the multi-billion funding of programs like the Canadian Film and Video Tax Credit which goes to channels like ‘The History Channel’ so they can show us ‘Red Dawn’ (I guess because fear mongering about Cuba has so much to do with history).

To think that we’re currently void of propaganda is excessively naive, but adding to the pile shows considerable contempt for the people of Canada.

=========================

Source:  Globe and Mail

BRIAN LAGHI

The Globe and Mail

April 14, 2009 at 6:53 PM EDT

OTTAWA — Ottawa has a new option on the table for helping local TV stations make it through the recession: buy more government ads.

The idea, which is under discussion at the cabinet’s powerful committee on priorities and planning, is seen as a way to replace private advertising revenue that has fled since the onset of the financial crisis, a source told The Globe and Mail.

“In the short term, the most efficient way to get money out to broadcasters might be through advertising, because that’s where the initial loss was,” said the source.

“That’s where things have gone.”

Although a good number of MPs and cabinet ministers support help for the industry, the question of how best to deliver it is the subject of significant discussion. The government has talked about shelling out between $150-million and $75-million this year and $75-million next year in an effort to get money into the hands of the broadcasters quickly. However, some MPs are concerned that funnelling money directly to the broadcasters would not do much to prevent cuts. At least the government could benefit from the ads.

CanWest, CTVglobemedia and Quebecor have been lobbying the government for help as some of them consider closing or selling stations.

The broadcasters are looking for both short- and long-term aid as they battle to keep local stations and programming. Some MPs fear that the loss of local stations would rob them of a way to deliver their message to voters. It’s of particular concern to MPs representing rural areas and small towns, where communications outlets are fewer.

Simply providing more ad money won’t resolve broadcasters’ larger, structural problem, one industry source said. Revenues have been reduced through fragmenting of the market and competition from specialty cable networks and the Internet.

Another option to aid the broadcasters would be for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to allow cable companies to charge for transmitting their signals.

The companies have warned that at least part of such charges, known as fee-for-carriage, would be passed on to consumers, making the issue potentially difficult for the governing Tories.

“That’s becoming a bit more popular within the government, although there are points of reservation, to be sure,” said the source.

“But people recognize if they want to have their local television, there are structural issues that have to be dealt with.”

The concept of fee for carriage is expected to come up when industry players appear before the House of Commons heritage committee. The government could direct the CRTC to review the issue, or it could decide to look at it on its own. The CRTC could also consider reducing or removing certain fees broadcasters pay to the government.

It’s not clear whether the ad-buying idea would also apply to the CBC. The public broadcaster is planning 800 layoffs to cope with a $170-million shortfall.