TidBits
Stuff You May Have Missed...

web posted March 1997

What are entitlements?

Surprisingly I found an alternative definition of entitlements recently in my local paper.

In a small CP story how welfare benefits have decreased over the past ten years, there was a quote from a report released by the National Council of Welfare.

"Many welfare recipients have actually seen their incomes decline in recent years and the situation is likely to deteriorate further as all levels of government tighten their purse strings."

If the word 'income' peeved you as it did me, then you know why I found this so surprising. Let's see what Webster's defines as 'income':

in•come n.

the money or other gain received, esp. in a given period, by an individual, corporation, etc. for labor or services or from property, investments, operations, etc.

As I understand it, an entitlement is not labor, nor is it derived from property, investments or operations.

No wonder people think that entitlements are a god-given right...

How to live up to your ideals...

Many unions are proud of the way they treat women. Besides calling them 'sisters', they have fought for years to accord women the same rights as men.

Well, except maybe Canadian Auto Workers Local 88 that is. It seems that the boys at 88 held a Super Bowl party. Nothing wrong with that, but it seems that the boys may have also hired a stripper to entertain them (I guess James Brown during the half-time show wasn't interesting enough).

Well, naturally, this is a little embarrassing for a movement that prides itself on equality. A Hussan Yussuf, CAW human rights director, was appointed to look into the complaints.

Said Buzz Hargrove, CAW capo, "(The allegation) violates the spirit and intent of everything we teach and stand for."

Hardly Buzz...your ideals have always been 'do as I say, not as I do.'

Sheila Copps, Culture Czar

About a half a year back I wrote an editorial why I thought it was immoral, and not to mention highly dangerous, for a government to be involved in the promotion of culture. At the time I was responding to those who thought that the CBC needed more money so that a Canadian 'identity' could be protected.

For Americans reading this (and I suppose some Canadians), allow me to give you some background.

The Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is a government body which licenses and regulates Canada's broadcast and cultural industries. One regulation that the CRTC enforces is the Canadian Content provision. The radio station that I gig at must play 33 per cent music that fits criteria set up by the CRTC that determines whether a song is Canadian or foreign.

Currently television broadcasters are allowed to consider sports and news as Canadian content, but Heritage Minister Sheila Copps wants to change that. That would force broadcasters to make up those previously 'Canadian' hours with new Canadian hours. That would also force broadcasters to air fewer popular U.S. television programs. And that is Copps' point.

Copps' thinking is that the cost of these U.S. programs goes up because networks bid on them. The higher the price paid for "Seinfeld" or "Baywatch", the less money spent on Canadian content programming.

Some have characterized Copps' idea as a trail balloon, but here are her own words on the subject:

"I am convinced now more than ever that the government must remain committed to a strong CRTC, dedicated to its role of ensuring that the Canadian broadcast system serves Canadian purposes and to me that means providing Canadians with Canadian programming as part of the best the world has to offer."

Those words contain a clear message. The government will determine what a private broadcaster's role is to the country, and enforce it. Sheila Copps' cultural vision will be your cultural vision...and you get to pay for it to.

This is nothing more than government promotion of a brand of culture that may, or may not, be shared by Canadians.

If Canadians wanted Canadian programming, then they would support it. If private broadcasters want to air "Unsolved Mysteries" instead of "Rita & Friends" (canceled by the CBC by the way), then that is their decision. The government, and Sheila Copps, does not have a moral right to impose their cultural vision on either the industry or the people.

Debt In Canada - The Untold Story

This is a press release I came across recently that was issued by the Fraser Institute that should wake some people up. This is why government's of all political stripes are finding it in vogue to cut spending.

The Real Picture Of Debt In Canada

Each Canadian on the hook for $116,000, according to Fraser Institute study

Federal, provincial and local governments have accumulated $795 880 000 000 ($796 billion) in direct debt and $3 463 675 000 000 ($3.5 trillion) in total liabilities, according to the Fraser Institute's yearly debt study released today. This translates into each man, woman, and child in Canada owing $116 009 in total liabilities, or the equivalent of four times the average Canadian salary of $29 912.

Canada's All Government Debt: A Guide to the Present and Future Indebtedness of the Government of Canada and the Provinces shows that from 1992 to 1996, direct debt -- what most people and governments refer to as "the debt" -- has grown from $553 billion to $796 billion. Total liabilities have increased from $2.7 trillion to $3.5 trillion during this time.

There are three main components of total liabilities: direct debt, indirect debt, and obligations. Direct debt includes the accumulated net debt incurred by a government and all its agencies. Indirect debt is the net debt of quasi-government entities, such as government business enterprises and hospitals, and obligations include programs and benefits that a government has committed to provide in perpetuity.

Ontarians owe the most, at $127 243 each in total liabilities, because they bear the largest proportion of the cost of federal liabilities. Albertans are next at $119 831, followed by Quebecers at $113 203, and British Columbians at $108 668. Maritimers owe less than the average Canadian because of their lower contributions to the federal treasury, upon which federal liabilities are allocated.

Severely Indebted Countries

"International comparisons are also useful to get a fix on the true extent of Canada's indebtedness," said Joel Emes, research economist at The Fraser Institute and co-author of the report. "One way to assess the seriousness of our indebtedness is by comparison with other countries, similar to what lenders do to assess their risk."

The study's compilation of the indebtedness of 150 countries includes Canada and the individual provinces. "The research evidence does not present Canada in a favourable light, since we are among the most indebted countries in the world," added Emes.

More important than Canada's overall debt ranking is our relative ranking against other high income OECD nations, where Canada ranks third lowest, with Italy and Belgium ranking lower. Among G-7 nations, Canada is second last. While Canada is considerably above Italy, it is also significantly below other G-7 nations. Japan ranks third overall and first among G-7 nations with a debt-to-discretionary-income-per-person ratio of 11.15 percent, while Canada ranks 94th overall and sixth in the G-7 with a ratio of 74.57 percent.

Growth In Unfunded Liabilities

Most of the growth in total liabilities is due to the unfunded liabilities of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS), and the health care system. At their inception, these programs were based upon the assumption that population demographics, economic growth rates, and wage increases of the 1960s would continue indefinitely. It was considered favourable social and economic policy to transfer a small amount of money from a large group of younger workers to benefit a small group of relatively poor retirees.

"These assumptions were wrong," said Fraser Institute Executive Director Michael Walker. "Fertility rates have declined, income growth has stagnated, and mortality rates have decreased." In 1966, the ratio of Canadians under 20 to Canadians over 65 was 5.5 to 1. This relationship decreased to 2.3 by 1995, and is expected to decline further to 1.1 by 2030. A more alarming trend is the relationship between workers and retirees. In 1995, seniors represented 19.8 percent of the working age population, but this figure is expected to increase dramatically to 38.9 percent by 2030. "These demographic changes have and will continue to undermine these plans' ability to provide the intended level of benefits," warned Dr. Walker.

"In many ways, the challenge posed by the liabilities associated with these program obligations is far greater than the problem of the direct-funded debt of governments. The main problem is that unlike the debt, few Canadians seem aware of the size of these program obligations. Until they become more aware of the problem, it won't be dealt with responsibly," added Walker.

China Attacks Rights in Hong Kong...And It's Not Even July 1!

China's legislature voted recently to dilute Hong Kong's civil liberties laws saying that they contradicted the constitution that Beijing drafted for it.

The state-run Xinhua news agency reported the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress voted to strike down 14 laws in their entirety and portions of 10 others. The committee decided Hong Kong's Bill of Rights, which guarantees freedom of speech and assembly and other civil liberties, would no longer have supremacy over other laws, Xinhua said.

China says that the Bill of Rights is no longer needed because the rights it protects are guaranteed by the Basic Law, the constitution that China is providing for Hong Kong.

So what are some of the changes? Public demonstrations will need police approval, permits will be required for bullhorns and local groups will need permission to associate with foreign organizations.

According to Xinhua, most of the changes are "cosmetic", removing the words "royal" and "Queen" from laws.

Tung Chee-hwa, the future (and willing) puppet of China has already pledged that he will re-examine legal guarantees on demonstrations and associations.

If this is happening and China has not yet assumed control of Hong Kong, just imagine what happens when the grip of Beijing actually closes around Hong Kong...

Blocks, stones and worse than senseless things...

It's almost as if this country is following the plot line to Atlas Shrugged. The end of February saw a mob of 1 000 unemployed people set fire to an unfinished 51-unit apartment building. The building was being built by non-unionized workers. They also set fire to the construction trailer and pick up truck that were at the site.

Not being satisfied with that, the mob attacked police who arrived at the scene. Police were the targets of ice chunks thrown at them to keep them at bay. Finally, a security guard who was guarding the site was attacked and beaten.

Not to be outdone by previous mob efforts, this group also prevented fire fighters from going in to fight the fire for two hours.

Two quotes in the CP story stood out at me:

"We're all unemployed," said one protester as the building's plywood shell went up in flames.

"We're alive and well in Cape Breton," added a smiling woman as others whooped and yelled.

Police plan on compiling all video tapes to try and determine who was responsible, but I predict no charges will be laid.

Reason is dead.




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