Back to the beginning: the Conservatives burst a hiring bubble of their own making

Back_to_the_beginning__the_Conservatives_burst_a_hiring_bubble_of_their_own_making___Ottawa_CitizenGood analysis by James Bagnall on public service employee number swings. Most interesting figure for me was shift from the regions to Ottawa/Gatineau (from 33.9 to 39.4 percent), reflecting in part that the decisions are made in the capital, not the regions, and likely disproportionate cuts to service delivery. The controversy over the closing of Veterans Affairs example being the most public example, with cuts to CIC’s regional network being partly responsible for the dramatic decline in the number of new citizens in 2012 and 2013 :

The initial rapid rise in the size of the federal workforce was a response to the onset of the 2008 financial crisis. The thinking was that if the private sector stopped spending, government had to pick up the slack to prevent economic collapse.

When it became apparent a couple of years later that the world hadn’t ended, the Conservatives reasserted a party imperative: the budget must balance. The late finance minister Jim Flaherty began signalling restraint in 2010, then accelerated things with his March 2012 budget. An important catalyst was the introduction of executive bonus programs that rewarded managers who trimmed their budgets.

Huge swings in government employment aren’t unique to Conservatives. The Liberals under prime minister Jean Chrétien implemented equally drastic cuts in percentage terms during the mid- to late-1990s. Chrétien and his finance minister, Paul Martin, had little choice. Interest payments on the federal government’s debt consumed 31 per cent of total revenues and were growing.

Even after adding more than $150 billion to taxpayers’ debt burden, the Conservatives budget is still much healthier. Last year, debt interest represented little more than 10 per cent of revenues, thanks in large part to substantially lower interest rates than were faced by Chrétien.

An unexpected result of the Conservative government’s recent retrenchment has been a sharp rise in the percentage of public sector employees based in the National Capital Region. According to data compiled by Statistics Canada, 39.4 per cent of the federal government’s workforce in June lived in Ottawa or Gatineau – compared to just 33.9 per cent when the Conservatives were sworn in almost nine-and-a-half years ago.

Indeed, had it not been for this centralization, the economy of the National Capital Region might have dipped perilously close to recession. Another way to look at it: From early 2006 to mid-2015, the Conservatives added 18,700 government jobs in Ottawa and Gatineau – and took away 15,200 from the rest of the country. Among the federal departments disproportionately hurt by the job losses were Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Defence, Employment and Environment – organizations with a strong presence nationally.

Whoever wins the federal election will find much within the government’s workforce in need of repair – and many employees who would like to see an end to the wild swings of the past 20 years.

Back to the beginning: the Conservatives burst a hiring bubble of their own making | Ottawa Citizen.

Air travel and religion don’t always mix. Examples and Jon Kay commentary on El Al

Further to the Porter incident, useful list of other examples:

El Al

A more dramatic incident in 2014, aboard a flight from New York to Israel, drew attention to the challenges of accommodating some ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, who refuse to sit next to women to whom they are not married or otherwise related.

The El Al flight turned into an “11-hour nightmare,” according to one passenger, after a group of men, who had earlier tried to switch their seats with other passengers, reportedly stood up and blocked the aisle shortly after takeoff.

The Tel Aviv-based daily newspaper Haaretz had earlier reported that Orthodox Haredim were causing “a host of logistical problems” for the Israeli airline. But despite outcry at home and abroad, El Al said it has no official policy for dealing with religious seating requirements, and no plans to introduce one.

…Patting down priests

CBC News revealed last year that Canada Border Services Agency managers at Toronto’s Pearson airport allowed a small group of Hindu priests to avoid screening by female border guards to comply with their religious beliefs.


…Check your dagger, please

Kirpans, the ceremonial daggers that many Sikhs are required to carry, have been the focus of controversies across Canada — not the least of which was an outright ban by a Quebec school board that the Supreme Court overturned in 2006.

The daggers are allowed in some places that don’t permit weapons — including Parliament buildings and some courthouses — but don’t try to take one on a plane.

Kirpans are specifically mentioned by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority among the “religious and cultural items” that “should be packed in your checked baggage.” They are also banned by the Transportation Security Administration in the U.S.

Air travel and religion don’t always mix – World – CBC News.

Jon Kay on El Al:

There is a simple way to address such complaints from a Haredi passenger: Have the flight attendants (preferably women) throw him off the plane, give him back his money, and instruct him that he should instead travel to Israel on a mode of transportation more suited, in technological sophistication, to his primitive mindset — such as a canoe made from a hollowed out tree.

Of course, stories of Haredi sexual segregation of have been coming out of Israel for years now. In a move that would make Saudi Arabia proud, some Israeli communities even have sex-segregated busses. And some ultraorthodox communities practice a disgusting mouth-to-penis circumcision practice called Metzitza B’peh, which would be the subject of child-sex abuse charges here in North America if Muslims were doing it. Israeli society shouldn’t stand for such deplorable practices, but ultimately that is Israel’s business.

El Al, on the other hand, is a company that uses Canadian airports and flies hundreds of Canadian passengers to and from Israel every day. Putting aside the question of whether the episodes described above violate Canadian human-rights law, how does it look for Israel’s national flagship carrier to put on display, in front of rows of horrified passengers, the poisonous prejudices of the most narrow-minded constituency in Israeli society?

We are always told (by Stephen Harper and Benjamin Netanyahu alike) that Israel is a beacon of progressive thought, democracy and pluralism in a Middle East brimming with repressive, retrograde attitudes. And in general, that is true. But it seems to me like Elana Sztokman can be forgiven for feeling otherwise.

Jonathan Kay: On El Al’s planes, a case study in appalling sexism

The dichotomy of life as a gay Palestinian with Israeli citizenship

Interesting vignette:

For the 27-year-old, a well-known socialite in Tel Aviv’s LGBT community, the city is a haven for gay men, but Abu Seif says he considers himself a Palestinian and that as such, he can never fully integrate.

His struggles, along with those of two other protagonists are the subject of “Oriented,” a new Israeli documentary, touted as the first to focus on gay Palestinian citizens.

…During an interview this week at a spacious apartment in Jaffa — the mixed Arab-Jewish city merged with Tel Aviv — the three protagonists of “Oriented,” sporting the latest trend in beards, could easily be mistaken for any hip Jewish residents of Tel Aviv.

The liberal Israeli city is considered a gay refuge in an otherwise largely intolerant Middle East, where in some places, gays are persecuted and sometimes killed. Same-sex relations are punishable by death in Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. Some gay Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have fled their conservative homes to come out in Tel Aviv. Even in Jerusalem, the same gay friendly climate does not always thrive.

Abu Seif is critical of Israel, his country of citizenship, over its policies toward Palestinians but also criticizes the Palestinian society, where homosexuality remains taboo and where there is little tolerance for gays.

On his documents, he is an Arab citizen of Israel, like the two other protagonists in “Oriented” — 27-year-old Fadi Daeem and 26-year-old Naeem Jiryes. The Arab minority makes up about 20 percent of Israel’s population.

All three are fluent in both Arabic and Hebrew and easily switch between the languages. But while in Tel Aviv their sexuality is hardly an issue, they say their national identity is.

“At the airport while my Jewish partners … are already at the duty free, I’m still being checked,” said Abu Seif, referring to the extra level of scrutiny Arab Israelis often face. “So I’m for sure not an Israeli gay man. I’m gay something. So I’m gay Palestinian.”

The dichotomy of life as a gay Palestinian with Israeli citizenship – Israel – news | Haaretz.

A politician in Finland declared war on multiculturalism. This is how his country responded.

More on Finland:

Finland is one of the less diverse nations in northern Europe. In 2010, only 250,000 people out of population of around 5 million were born outside the country, according to government statistics. But that number is steadily growing.

Immonen’s party is something of a rising force in Finland’s politics. It got 17.7 percent of the national vote in elections in April, making it the second biggest party in Finland and winning it a place in the country’s governing coalition. Timo Soini, Finland’s current foreign minister, is the leader of The Finns party.

While Soini issued no comment about Immonen’s declaration, other prominent Finns did. The post struck a nerve, in part because it came so close to the four-year anniversary of the massacre carried out by Norwegian far-right bigot Anders Breivik, who in his writings also fumed about the evils of multiculturalism.

“I want to develop Finland as an open, linguistically and culturally international country,” tweeted Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä soon after the post emerged. “I cannot accept Immonen’s remarks.” His finance minister, Alex Stubb, said on Twitter that “Multiculturalism is an asset. That’s all I have to say.”

Erkki Tuomioja, a member of the Social Democrats, the main opposition party, was a bit more direct. “When multiculturalism and diversity are put into question it must be answered loudly,” Tuomioja told Bloomberg News. “There is no such thing as a harmless hate speech, and it’s a short step from there to hate acts. It must not be tolerated.”

The biggest response, though, came on Tuesday, when thousands of Finns gathered in Helsinki in defense of multiculturalism. Images and messages of solidarity appeared on social media under the hashtag  #meillaeonunelma, or “we have a dream” — a direct riposte to the beginning of Immonen’s statement.

A politician in Finland declared war on multiculturalism. This is how his country responded. – The Washington Post.

Kelly McParland: Donald Sutherland is from Canada the same way Mike Duffy is from PEI

Good piece by McParland:

The Appeal Court’s reasoning is sound.

“Permitting all non-resident citizens to vote would allow them to participate in making laws that affect Canadian residents on a daily basis but have little to no practical consequence for their own daily lives,” wrote Justice George Strathy.

The decision notes that allowing long-term expats to vote would violate a “social contract” that binds Canadians to laws that they have played a hand in creating.

This makes absolute sense. For every fervent patriot like Sutherland, who presumably lives in the U.S. due to the demands of his acting career, there are tens of thousands, of passport-holders who barely give Canada a thought. At the time the five-year rule was introduced, Canada was in the process of handing out thousands of passports to “investors” who wanted it mainly as a hedge against turmoil in their home country. If you recall, one of Stephen Harper’s earliest international acts as prime minister was a dramatic evacuation of Canadian passport-holders from Lebanon during a confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah forces. It was great theatre, except Canadians learned that thousands of those affected proved to be Lebanese citizens who had met the minimum standards for a Canadian passport before returning home, hanging on to the Canadian document in case of just such an emergency. They knew little about Canada, but without the five-year rule, 50,000 of them would have had the right to vote.

Lebanon is far from the only country where that’s the case. The Vancouver Sun reported in 2013 there were 350,000 residents of Hong Kong holding Canadian passports, and that Asians continue to leave the country in large numbers after completing the minimum requirements. Immigration experts acknowledged many never intended to stay and were merely taking advantage of Canada’s traditional generosity with its citizenship.

The five-year rule may be an inconvenience for Sutherland, who comes across as far less arrogant and self-important than fellow Canadian Neil Young, who prefers jetting into the country just long enough to demand Alberta cripple its economy by getting out of the oil business, before jetting back to California. But both are Canadian the same way Mike Duffy is from Prince Edward Island: it might be where they came from, but it’s not where they live. Even Canada’s Senate now understands that difference.

Kelly McParland: Donald Sutherland is from Canada the same way Mike Duffy is from PEI

And Professor Orwin making a similar point about the link between residency and voting:

Yes, the Charter of Rights proclaims voting a basic right of citizenship. But how far does that right extend? As we’ve already seen, only to the boundaries of one’s riding of primary residence. This is an essential feature of our system. It’s the sacred democratic right of Fort McMurrayites (and conversely of downtown Torontonians) that outsiders not be permitted to vote in their riding. Our representative must be ours, and no one else’s. So while Canadian citizenship may be a necessary condition of voting in a given election, it’s obviously not a sufficient one. This is why it’s mistaken to claim that by denying an expatriate the vote, we are stripping her of anything enjoyed by other Canadians. Rather it’s that by permitting her to vote the current law grants her a right denied to other Canadians. Yes, for five years and no more, but she should be grateful for those years, recognizing (having read this column) just what an anomaly she enjoys.

It’s not just in granting five years of electoral amnesty that the present law is quite generous. It is also so in offering expatriates a varied menu of possible electoral residences. They may choose their last previous Canadian address; but they also enjoy other options equally ungrounded in reality. Let’s face it, once Ms. Choi has decided to live abroad, it is the merest fiction to deem her still resident in my riding. As the years pass this fiction grows ever more glaring, and my neighbours and I increasingly testy. Who is this annoying phantom who pretends to live in our riding and insists on voting there? What does she know or care of our local concerns?

 If I can’t vote in your riding, why should expats vote in mine? 

Increase in UK anti-Semitism this year ‘due to better reporting’

A reminder that a number of different factors influence statistics, including better reporting, making it harder to isolate underlying trends (CST is better than most in identifying these factors):

A 53 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain during the first six months of 2015 can be ascribed to greater communal awareness of the problem coupled with better reporting, the Community Security Trust reported on Thursday.

There have been 473 reported incidents this year, compared to 309 for the same period last year, and 223 in the first half of 2013.

Despite the rising trend, the figures do not come close to the 629 incidents reported in 2009 – the year in which most of the fighting in Operation Cast Lead (against Hamas in Gaza) took place.

The CST monitors anti-Semitism and provides security for Britain’s Jewish community.

Increase in UK anti-Semitism this year ‘due to better reporting’ – Diaspora – Jerusalem Post.

Pas assez de femmes et de minorités à la SQ

All police forces struggle with recruitment and retention of women and visible minorities. What surprised me is that data on police force diversity is not automatically made public, and that one has to request it directly from most respective forces (RCMP is required by law to file a report, La Sûreté is one of the few that do publish their data Effectifs et ressources):

La Sûreté du Québec devrait engager plus de femmes, d’autochtones et de membres des minorités visibles et ethniques, selon la Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse. L’organisme croit que la SQ n’en a tout simplement pas fait une priorité par le passé.

Dans un rapport publié hier, la Commission, qui veille à l’application de la Charte des droits et libertés de la personne, juge que la SQ «n’a pas mis en place des mesures raisonnables pour corriger la sous-représentation des membres de ces groupes». Ces mesures sont régies par la Loi sur l’accès à l’égalité en emploi dans les organismes publics, que la Commission est chargée de faire respecter.

«Au cours de la période étudiée – 2007-2013 -, les effectifs policiers ont augmenté de 10%, ce qui aurait normalement dû permettre l’embauche et l’avancement des membres de tous les groupes visés par la loi», a indiqué par voie de communiqué le président Jacques Frémont.

L’organisme pense qu’il faudrait tripler le nombre de femmes au sein du personnel-cadre «intermédiaire», tout en convenant que la situation risque de se détériorer au cours des prochaines années parce que de moins en moins de candidatures féminines sont retenues par le corps policier.

Pas assez de femmes et de minorités à la SQ | Jasmin Lavoie | Actualités.

What Does Islam Say About Being Gay? – The New York Times

Mustafa Akyol on interpretations of what Islam says on being gay:

The real Islamic basis for punishing homosexuality is the hadiths, or sayings, attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. (The same is true for punishments on apostasy, heresy, impiety, or “insults” of Islam: None come from the Quran; all are from certain hadiths.) But the hadiths were written down almost two centuries after the prophet lived, and their authenticity has been repeatedly questioned — as early as the ninth century by the scholar Imam Nesai — and they can be questioned anew today. Moreover, there is no record of the prophet actually having anyone punished for homosexuality.

Such jurisprudential facts might help Muslims today to develop a more tolerant attitude toward gays, as some progressive Islamic thinkers in Turkey, such as Ihsan Eliacik, are encouraging. What is condemned in the story of Lot is not sexual orientation, according to Mr. Eliacik, but sexual aggression. People’s private lives are their own business, he argues, whereas the public Muslim stance should be to defend gays when they are persecuted or discriminated against — because Islam stands with the downtrodden.

It is also worth recalling that the Ottoman Caliphate, which ruled the Sunni Muslim world for centuries and which the current Turkish government claims to emulate, was much more open-minded on this issue. Indeed, the Ottoman Empire had an extensive literature of homosexual romance, and an accepted social category of transvestites. The Ottoman sultans, arguably, were social liberals compared with the contemporary Islamists of Turkey, let alone the Arab World.

Despite such arguments, the majority of Muslims are likely to keep seeing homosexuality as something sinful, if public opinion polls are any indication. Yet those Muslims who insist on condemning gays should recall that according to Islam, there are many sins, including arrogance, which the Quran treats as among the gravest moral transgressions. For Turks and other Muslims, it could be our own escape from the sin of arrogance to stop stigmatizing others for their behavior and focus instead on refining ourselves.

What Does Islam Say About Being Gay? – The New York Times.

Inequality may be complex, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make sense of it


As always, worth reading.

Originally posted on Economics for public policy:

The Fraser Institute has weighed in on the income inequality debate with a report called “Income inequality: measurement sensitivities” that reviews the statistical measurement of income inequality in Canada.

The report quite rightly points out that there are many nuances in the measurement of income, and income inequality, and that the results vary substantially depending upon how economists and statisticians deal with them. Is income measured by earnings, or by total income that includes not just business and investment income but also government transfers? Should it be measured before or after taxes? And should we be looking at total family income or try to represent this as individual income by accounting for family size?

The analysis is carefully done and clearly presented, and though it covers ground that is pretty well standard for many economists working in this area, it helps to clarify the issues for a broader…

View original 575 more words

Should Palestinians Visit Nazi Concentration Camps? – The Daily Beast

More on Prof. Mohammed Dajani’s efforts to educate Palestinian youth on the Holocaust (see earlier Mid-East: The knowledge constituency versus the ignorance lobby):

“Palestinians should not compare the Nakba with the Holocaust,” he says. “While the Holocaust was the Final Solution for the Jewish people, the Nakba was not the Final Solution for the Palestinian people. It wouldn’t have been possible for Jews to sit with Nazis and reach an agreement. Within the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it is possible for Palestinians and Israelis to reach a comprehensive, just settlement that will accommodate both peoples. That’s why I think that teaching about the Holocaust is important. For Palestinians to realize that there is hope, and that in negotiation the path to peace lies.”

At the same time, he is deeply uncomfortable with Jews using the Holocaust “to rationalize, for us [Palestinians], why they had to deport us from our homes in order for them to come and live in them. It doesn’t mean,” he insists, “that if we learn about the Holocaust we will not demand our rights, or [will] lose our national identity.”

But this nuanced message was lost on those who stirred up controversy following the trip. Students at Al Quds University – where Dajani was the head of the American Studies Department and library director – boycotted him, claiming that he was “trying to sell Palestinians the Zionist story,” or was “collaborating with the Israelis to undermine Palestinian nationalism.” Dajani knew to take things seriously when he started receiving threatening letters at his office.

His students also faced negative responses to the trip, as well. However, “many of them were courageous,” Dajani says proudly, “to stand up and say, ‘We went to learn, and we learned a lot.’”

Should Palestinians Visit Nazi Concentration Camps? – The Daily Beast.


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