Photos from the 2011 Federal Election

Friday, July 29, 2011

The curse of the spendthrift legislators

"Democracy at its finest," those were the words used by one City of Toronto councillor yesterday in a deputation marathon that lasted 22 hours. The City of Toronto needs to find $775 Million in savings in next years budget (2012), or it will need to raise taxes or cut services or both. Yesterday 334 people had registered to speak in front of City council to plead their case for saving their particular pet service (see picture) or support the cuts. In the end just under 200 got to speak (many just left during the night) and only one of those spoke in favour of cuts to spending. That is a sobering statistic.
This outbreak of parsimony is now wide spread in Western Democracies. In Europe, nations are teetering toward default on their financial obligations. Our American neighbours are in danger of defaulting by next week. At the Provincial and State and municipal levels across North America, governments of all stripes are coming to grips with massive debt, all of this in the midst of a weak recovery from a severe recession. Recession part two could be a result. The chickens are coming home to roost, the curse of the spendthrift legislators threatens everyone.

But look at Toronto, mobs of rent-seekers stepping up to ensure that they are cared for in the way they have become accustomed. "We want our services, and we want someone else to pay for them," that is the message of the debate.
Last October the new Mayor was elected to "stop the gravy train," to stop what he presented as the excessive fluff that citizens were forced to subsidize. He also promised not to cut services, perhaps naively. Certainly there was some fluff, and maybe the Mayor was aware that his promise was just that. The Mayor and council hired independent auditors KPMG, to suss out the "core-services," things that are required (by their definition) in a big city so that the $775 million shortfall could be eliminated without much pain. Right.
So here we are, for me the lesson is clear, despite all the evidence that you might think favours our cause, we are still at the bottom of a mountain. For those that hope that the libertarian utopia is just around the corner, give your head a shake, then take a deep breath, and prepare for a generational fight.        

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Free our Beer"

A newly released Angus Reid Public Opinion study, done on behalf of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association, shows that a majority of Ontarians (60%) support expanding the provinces alcohol retailing system to allow beer and wine to be sold by more types of retailers. Several other Canadian provinces, including Quebec and Newfoundland already offer the convenience of alcohol in convenience stores.
The LCBO is the Ontario government alcoholic beverage monopoly established in 1927 after a brief attempt at alcohol prohibition.
Whenever the LCBO comes up in conversation among friends (I'm the one bringing up the topic) I get a new appreciation for the psychological term Stolkholm syndrome where you eventually empathize with your captors, in this case your government captors.
Friends, and likely most of my fellow citizens, support the LCBO monopoly because they claim (based on government and union sources) that it brings in revenue for the province. That's reassuring, even the government can't screw this up. Good, the government stores sell beer, wine, and liquor to the exclusion of most competition and they make a profit! Whoop-dee-do! It's a classic case of looking at just one side of the economic equation (for all you Austrians). The citizens of Ontario are taxed heavily for alcoholic beverages, and the government also fixes the price and eliminates competition, and they make profit. How hard is that? Of course they do.
So a run-of-the-mill case of 24 beer cans in Niagara Falls Ontario will cost about $40 (Canadian and US dollar are now roughly at par including bank fees) at the LCBO, and across the imaginary line in Niagara Falls New York, at the Walmart, it costs $18, thats right Walmart, $18. Never mind that my friends (and everyone else) make sure to buy liquor at the duty-free store or in the States every time they cross the border, they are not so supportive of the government then.
So why if the LCBO is one of the largest bulk buyers of alcohol in the world (it is) don't we Ontarians get a better price? Several reasons. LCBO is one of the largest social engineering organizations in the world too. As part of the Ontario nanny-state-syndrome, our political masters don't think people are smart enough to handle their liquor, so we get a guilt message each time we purchase. High price is part of the social engineering or as they call it euphemistically "social responsibility."
Click to enlarge
Second, there is little competition. The LCBO claims it has competition, their own pie chart to the right shows that only(!) half the market share of sales belongs to LCBO. The Beer Store is also a monopoly, albeit a private monopoly sanctioned by the government (some competition!) to sell beer. So >77% of beer and liquor is controlled by monopoly, notice that almost 10% is "illegal." Yeah, right, lots of competition. I love this section written on the LCBO website:

"The LCBO also competes for “share of wallet” – money that consumers may decide to spend with other retailers for things like Christmas gifts or pizza and a movie instead of a bottle of wine with dinner. (Lots of choice folks!)
So it’s important that customers visit our stores because they want to, not because they have to. Unlike other retailers, however, we can’t offer deep price discounts. That would not be socially responsible." 
(my emphasis - see what I mean by social engineering?)

No, I'm not making this up, that wouldn't be socially responsible!
A third reason why we don't get better prices is that the Ontario government has a monopoly agreement with the LCBO workers through their union OPSEU.
Imagine a mom-and-pop variety store selling all sorts of stuff including beer and liquor in the States. They make a living if they compete with other retail outlets, but there is no guarantee of salary, it depends on their ability to compete etc. etc. Not true at the LCBO. A store manager makes over $61,000 annually in a 40 hour week with great benefits (see page 90 of the OPSEU collective agreement). I have nothing against unions, but why would you pay a cashier $55,000 plus benefits annually? What special skill does it take to make change?
 So ladies and gentlemen, do you really like spending MORE than you have to on your alcoholic beverages? Me? I'd rather keep the extra money so I can buy other stuff or just save it, wouldn't you?
I've created a little video for my election campaign, have a look:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Green Power? An ideology.

From the excellent parody website:

One of my pet peeves, and there aren't that many, occurs when members of the statist media, or Statists themselves refer to libertarian friendly comments as "ideological." So when Canadian P.M. Stephen Harper, no libertarian he, advocated the removal of the mandatory long form 2011 Census, or the removal of the per voter government subsidy to federal political parties, he was reviled for being ideological. This was coming from statists who somehow felt THEY were not being ideological. Of course not, they were just repeating the media bullshit (we call that the CBC here) and supporting the dominant paradigm.
What is that dominant paradigm? Essentially its one or other form of collectivism, socialist, communist, fascist, Liberal, Conservative, it doesn't matter they are the pretty much all the same expect in degree.
So here is another election ad, this one about windmills and the ideology of environmentalism. It fits in with other forms of collectivism only its green on the outside and kinda red inside.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dying to see the doctor in Ontario

Notwithstanding high taxes, enormous expenditures, and many promises, the standard of health care services provided by successive Ontario governments has continued to deteriorate.  Medicare cannot be continued without changes from the current form of unrestrained demand for “free” services coupled with central bureaucratic planning and government mandated supply restrictions.  Growing private sector involvement will help, but competitively priced, widely accessible, high quality health care will only be available for everyone to the extent state involvement is eliminated.  Since this cannot be accomplished overnight without some short term hardship, transition measures will be needed.  However, ultimately everyone will be personally responsible for their own health care in a libertarian free market system.