News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Friday, September 26, 2008

And Verily, Thou Shalt worship Karl Marx

The insane ramblings of Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, are seemingly unending. He has previously called for the acceptance of Sharia Law in non-Islamic countries and argued that "Every transaction in the developed economies of the West can be interpreted as an act of aggression against the economic losers in the worldwide game", which says more about his failure to grasp the basics of Economics than it does about the Free Market against which he was arguing.

His latest foray into politics is no less sensible. Apparently, Karl Marx had it all right. The Archbishop believes that it is time to increase regulation of global markets in persuit of some kind of communist utopia with "common prosperity". Sounds nice, but it doesn't work because it runs contrary to human nature.

Last year, the Pope also alluded to Marxist theory. His statements on the subject made much more sense, as he pointed out that Marx's writings were relevant to his time and described how to overthrow the system, but didn't adequately explain how things should proceed thereafter. He followed up on the remarks by talking about the importance of non-economic factors, which he believed Marx had overlooked. Altogether a much more considered approach to the subject, and one with clear spiritual considerations, in start contrast to the Archbishop's purely political intervention.

Sadly, Dr Rowan Williams is not the only senior member of the Anglican church with insane views. According to the Bishop of London, flying to go on holiday is a sin! It pains me to see the Church in which I was baptized and brought up making such a mockery of itself. It is time that the senior Bishops and Archbishops concentrated on their role as spiritual leaders, preaching from the bible rather than Marx's Communist Manifesto. If they don't go soon, the Anglican Church is doomed.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Liberals still missing the point on immigration

I find it mind boggling that any Liberal candidate in this election would try to score political points on immigration. Are they really that clueless about what the last Liberal Government of Canada actually did to the immigration system? Do they not realise that the Liberals, combined with the NDP, then opposed sensible Conservative efforts to sort out the mess they had left behind?

As a recent immigrant to Canada with first hand experience of the system, let me spell things out for them:
  • Jan 1, 2002. Liberal Government introduced a new scoring system for the Skilled Worker programme. Means that even the most highly educated candidates were often unable to fit the bill.
  • Subsequent court cases rules that the above rules could not be imposed retro-actively. As a result, many refused applicants who had applied prior to Jan 1, 2002 had their cases reopened, creating a backlog in the process.
  • Sep 18, 2003. As an election neared and defeat looked like a real possibility, the Liberal Government decided to respond to protests by immigrant groups. The pass mark was reduced by 8 points. Additional resources were not allocated to Citizenship and Immigration Canada to allow them to process the huge number of eligible applications this created.
  • Backlog developed. Earlier this year the applications which were being processed were typically 3-4 years old. Estimates suggested that, on average, new applicants would have to wait 8 years for a decision.

As a potential immigrant, such a long wait time must be pretty daunting. I'm sure that many people would not wish to put their families through the torment of so many years in limbo, in which time their lives would effectively be on hold. I suspect that many of the best applicants with skills which are in demand in Canada were put off, and either stayed home or applied elsewhere.

The worst aspect of the system from the Canadian perspective was that the system was not responsive to the needs of the Canadian economy. Businesses were crying out for people with the right skills, but would have to wait years before filling the positions from overseas, even if there was no-one in Canada to fill the post. Meanwhile, the people arriving in Canada had the skills which were in demand when they applied 3-4 years ago, but found their services no longer required. So we have highly qualified immigrants driving taxis. Others left Canada disillusioned and considerably worse off financially. The Canadian taxpayer was out of pocket too, having paid to administer the immigration applications of people who didn't end up staying.

Many found that the only realistic option they had to fast-track their applications was to find a temporary position and apply for a Work Permit. After a year in Canada, they were then able to apply for Permanent Residency with a much faster turnaround time. So it's rather disingenuous for a Liberal Candidate to complain that the number of temporary visas has increased!

So what is the Liberal proposal to sort out the mess? A search of their website only throws up press releases claiming that the Conservatives don't have the answers. No policies to fix the problem they created. Nothing constructive. Nothing positive. Just good ol' fashioned mud-slinging. The Liberal caucus even objected to the Conservative proposals, which were eventually forced through by attaching the bill to the budget, making it a confidence motion.

So what will the new immigration rules which Stephen Harper's government introduced mean? They will fast track applicants whose skills are currently in demand in Canada. That will help the Canadian economy, by bringing in the expertise which it needs. It will mean that immigrants who invest time and money coming to Canada won't find that they aren't needed when they get here. There's a period of short term disruption while the process is changed, of course. I certainly feel for anyone who is caught in that bubble right now. But there really had to be a change.

The status quo would have seen the problem getting worse and worse, with ever increasing numbers of immigrants being forced into temporary jobs on temporary work permits. Often, they find themselves with few rights and little recourse against unscrupulous employers as well. And that's all that the Liberals are offering this time around

NB: I came to Canada through the Spousal Sponsorship route, so didn't have the long wait. I found even those few months hard to deal with, so I can't imagine what it must be like to live in limbo for years on end.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

May-be a Green can of worms

So Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May will be included in the televised leaders debates after all. I think that it was the wrong decision. We are talking about a party that polled less than 5% of the vote at the last election, which has never won a seat in parliament and isn't likely to win a seat this time around either.

The fact that May is a cheer-leader for the Liberals, having signed an electoral pact not to compete with each other in the respective leaders' seats is an objection which shouldn't even need to come into the equation.

Lets be quite straight forward. There are only two men who have any chance whatsoever of being Prime Minister after 14th October; Stephen Harper and Stephane Dion. I think I would prefer a straight debate between the two, since that's the realistic option Canadians face. That said, Jack Layton and Gilles Deceppe, as leaders of the NDP and BQ could find themselves holding the balance of power, so there's a case for including them in some way. Elizabeth May, on the other hand, will not have any more say in who is the next PM than any other Canadian citizen. So she should be treated the same as any other Canadian citizen and told to watch the debate on her television at home!

My greatest concern is the long term implication of the decision. How many parties might we see meeting the criteria in future years? Could an extremist organisation meet the grade and gain a slot? In a democracy they could hardly be refused the same rights as the Greens. Maybe some enterprising business will see marketing potential in fielding enough candidates to get a spokesman on national TV during these dabates. The whole electoral process could, at its worst, descend into farce as dozens of fuitcakes take centre stage alongside the Prime Minister and genuine Opposition Leaders.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Green Taxes still don't add up

Liberals on both side of the Atlantic keep banging on about their plans to shift the tax burden towards Green issues, but still don't make any attempt to answer the basic questions about the policy. Is it any wonder that the Canadian Conservatives are currently running ads branding the Liberals as a gamble that isn't worth the risk?

Some questions that need answering:

1) The price of oil and gas has surged in the last couple of years, without any apparent reduction in the use of cars. So why is it that an extra 7 cents on a litre of gas will make the slightest difference to oil consumption and save the environment?

2) Even if the Green Shift policies did work and lead to reduced demand for fossil fuels, where won't that mean that the figures no longer add up? The whole basis of the Green Shift is that taxes on goods and services which are bad for the environment will rise, with those increases offset by reductions in income tax. If the new taxes really do lead to a reduction in demand, a simple glance at a Laffer Curve will demonstrate that tax revenues will decline, meaning that the money to pay for the income tax cuts simply wouldn't materialise.

I think that those who advocate the Green Shift as an environmental policy have a fundamental misunderstanding of the world today, economics and basic human psychology. The idea that raising tax on fuel means that people use it less assumes that people have alternatives and are able to stop using oil, gas etc. That simply isn't the case. Most people are thoroughly dependant upon cars, often to get to work. Therefore, raising the cost of motoring won't mean that they use less gas. Instead, they will be forced to cut expenditure on other items. That may mean making the old car last a bit longer before replacing it with a newer, more fuel efficient model. Or maybe downgrading from the organic corn fed free range chicken to factory farmed hens, leading to greater use of polluting chemicals.

Environmental Issues suffer from the problem of a little knowledge being dangerous in the wrong hands. Calgary City Council is a prime offender on that one. Other times, Green issues are used by certain politicians as a cynical ploy to raise taxes and get away with it. Sadly, I think that the Liberals fall into the second camp.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Conservative Immigration Policy: Common Sense all round

As a recent immigrant to Canada, I find it very hard to disagree with anything the Prime Minister has to say on this topic. It's an issue on which the Conservative Party of Canada stands alone against a Liberal-Left consensus which claims to support immgrants, but actually holds both them and the Canadian economy back.

There are few things that the last Liberal Government of Canada screwed up more than immigration. In a desparate bid to retain power, they sought to appeal to Immigrant communities by reducing the number of points required to qualify for the skilled worker immigration program. That was all well and good, but they didn't match that action with the funding required to deal with all the extra people who were able to apply through that route, which is why people seeking to move to Canada now have to wait up to 8 years before they are allowed in.

It isn't much use to the families who want to make Canada their new home, as they are left in limbo for years on end.

It isn't much use to the Canadian economy or employers, who are crying out for workers with certain skills. The time delay means that the people arriving in Canada today often have the skills that were required years ago, and the people who are applying now with the skills Canadian companies need now won't arrive for years to come.

Yet, when it came to fixing Canada's broken immigration system, all of the opposition parties opposed the very sensible Conservative proposals. In the end, they were forced through this year as part of the budget. As that was a confidence vote, the Liberals were forced to abstain to avoid forcing an election which they knew they would lose. The NDP and Bloc wouldn't support the plan either. The parties of the old left decided that it was better to scaremonger, in an attempt to solidify the immigrant vote, which they seem to think is theirs by right.

So what does the new Canadian immigration system mean? It provides the responsible minister the power to set a list of skills which will get an applicant's immigration fast tracked, ahead of those who do not have the right skills. It replaces the current system which requires Immigration Canada to process all applications in the order they were received, regardless of the skills possessed by the people applying. It is an end to the system that has left Canada with skills shortages, and highly qualified immigrants driving taxis or stocking shelves at WalMart. It's a sensible solution for all concerned, and should serve up as a wake up call to all Liberal/NDP voting immigrants. Now is the time to make a stand and vote Conservative. to go web 2.0

The much talked about relaunch of the official Conservative Party website in the UK has taken a step closer today, with an email sent out to all subscribers announcing the imminent launch of a new party blog. The blog will aim to represent the whole party, with posts from all sections of the party from David Cameron and the Shadow Cabinet down to ordinary grass-roots activists. The blog is yet to be named, and the email asks for suggestions. I gather that this is just part of the overall relaunch, which will put the Conservatives further ahead of the opposition in their use of the internet to communicate directly with the general public.

Further developments will be announced to members of the Conservative e-mailing list first. Sign up to get the news direct to your mailbox by completing the form below:

Arctic Sovereignty: Why Russian Imperialism towards Georgia should worry Canada

The conflict in Georgia, which has resulted in Russian-supported de-facto independent republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia gaining effective independence from Georgia, is not just some far away local conflict which we should ignore. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it has been the catalyst for Stephen Harper's recent pronouncements on Arctic sovereignty and the North West Passage.

Russia has already planted a flag on the seabed at the North Pole, and has used its gas supplies as a foreign policy tool against former eastern bloc countries which Putin perceives to be too close to the West, such as Ukraine. The EU is looking increasingly scared of Russia, which now holds all the cards in the energy game, with western European oil and gas supplies nearing exhaustion and Russia able to control much of the supply of energy through its own vast resources and control over pipelines from neighbouring states.

Thus far, Canada's energy independence has been sufficient to ensure that Russian influence is not a problem in North America. However, as the waters between Canada and Russian become increasingly navigable, and the northern lands become increasingly valuable economic resources, we can be sure that Russian will be glancing our way soon. Once they have subdued Europe, Canada and the United States could be the only front in a future Cold War with the Russians. After years of sleeping with the Elephant, sleeping with the Great Bear could become rather less comfortable.

Thankfully, the Harper Government is already taking action to head off a future threat. Canadian claims on Arctic territory are being placed, and steps have been taken in recent weeks to develop the northern economy, and increase Canada's military presence along its Arctic frontier. Today, these moves may seem pretty insignificant, but I firmly believe that they are amongst the most important decisions taken by a Canadian government since the Second World War, and may avert a Third.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Scottish Tories vow to fight Nationalist attack on liberties

Hurrah for Annabel Goldie's Scottish Conservatives. After years on the perifery of politics north of the border, the current SNP minority administration is finally giving the party the chance to make a real impact on the lives of ordinary Scotsmen and women. Having secured additional funding for policing and drug rehabilitation in last year's budget, as a price for Conservative support, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party is now taking on the Nationalists over their policy on alcohol.

I can only assume that the latest SNP policy has been driven by their perception that prohibition in 1920s America was a good idea. Thankfully, the Tories have taken up the challenge of leading opposition to the ridiculous plans to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21 and require supermarkets to have dedicated check-outs for selling alcohol. Just why is it that the SNP considers an 18 year old to be responsible enough to have a baby, to own firearms or to serve in the military, yet not responsible enough to drink responsibly? Can we expect future christenings to be dry?

Why is it that authoritarian politicians in the UK only talk about bringing Britain into line with Europe when it involves raising taxes or infringing upon civil liberties? Most European countries have much less draconian legislation surrounding alcohol sales and consumption, with lower drinking ages. They also have less alcohol related crime, because teenagers there learn how to drink responsibly at an early age, rathern than having to wait until they are let of their parental teather on their 18th birthdays. It is the one area where Britain really should try to learn something from Europe, and the one area that politicians of the left seem hell-bent to peddaling in the other direction. Well done to Annabel and the Scottish Conservative delegation for standing up to the nationalist bully-boys. We can only hope that Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens will support their entirely sensible position on the matter

Yobs caught on camera at Folkestone vinery

After a spate of vandalism at the recently restored Grade II listed vinery on Folkestone's Madeira Walk at the Leas, one of the culprits has been arrested. The Leas and Lower Leas area is well covered by CCTV, and one yob has been caught after being spotted on top of the vinery.

The recent damage included breaking down a new vine, hacking at the wooden structure and destroying a bench to create a bonfire. In addition, empty booze bottles and vomit were strewn around. It will cost GBP2000 to make the necessary repairs, and local Environment Secretary Cllr Alan North is calling on magistrates to throw the book at him.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Good time to emigrate!

The OECD has today confirmed my assessment of the British economy. It concludes that the UK will be the only one of the G7 western industrialised nations to fall into recession this year. Eleven years of economic mismanagement by Gordon Brown are coming home to roost.

The government's response has been laughable. The package of measures announced to day will have no significant effect, but will add a further $3.2bn to the government's already massive borrowing requirement. Given that we are in this mess because the government overstretched itself during the good times, it is hard to see how moves to stretch itself further in the bad times will get us out of this hole.

This is where the $3.2bn will go:

  • Free five year loans for upto 10,000 first time buyers. Quite what will happen at the end of those five years, when they have to start paying interest on loans for properties that are no longer worth what they paid is unclear.
  • A Stamp Duty holiday for lower cost homes. It failed in 1992 and is doomed to fail again. Properties are falling more than 1% per month, so anyone can save more than the 1% stamp duty by buying a house after the holiday ends!
  • People who can't pay their mortgages can transfer all or part of their mortgage into rent at a reduced rate, which they will pay to councils, associations or developers who take a stake in their homes. I can't see an commercial developer investing in property at this time, so this effectively amounts to the nationalisation of private housing, and of bad debts. It means that taxpayers all have to foot the bill. That will be a particularly bitter pill to swallow for the many young people who have been unable to get onto the property ladder, but will now be expected to subsidise those who were able to afford a home.
  • 5,500 low cost homes will be built by councils and housing associations. Of course, in a time when house prices are in freefall, an increased supply of property is exactly what the market needs. Over the next couple of years we will huge numbers of low cost houses coming to the market anyway, so these 5,500 homes will be but a drop in the ocean.

George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor, said of the package: "This is a short-term survival plan for the Prime Minister, not a long-term recovery plan for the economy. They've had months to prepare and they can't even tell us how much it costs, or where the money's coming from."

It says a great deal about Labour's economic incompetence that in Canada the Conservative government is rising in the polls. In the US, the presidential race is too close to call. In Britain, Labour is polling in the region of 28%, with the Conservatives on around 46%, and they can't even hold on to safe seats like Crewe and Nantwich or Glasgow East! Britain is doomed, and so is Labour.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Liam Fox endorses Stephen Harper's re-election bid

Ottawa Blogger Stephen Taylor has posted this video of British Conservative Shadow Defence Secretary, Liam Fox talking about Stephen Harper on Youtube. I supported Liam Fox when he stood for the Conservative Leadership in 2005, and find it hard to disagree with anything he has to say about the Canadian Prime Minister.

Hat-tip: Conservative International

Tories surging ahead as Federal election nears

Another opinion poll has today shown the Tories with a large lead over the Grits, with a 37% share of the vote putting Stephen Harper within striking distance of an historic Conservative majority government in Ottawa. The Strategic Council poll for the left-leaning Globe and Mail newspaper suggests that the Conservatives are well ahead on economic management at a time of increasing economic uncertainty, which is pushing that up the list of voter priorities.

The Grits' Green Shift policy is looking like a serious blunder. It has damaged the Liberals' standing on the key issue of the economy, but not helped them much on the environment, with only 20% of voters saying that the Liberals have the best environment policy. Instead, the increased media profile of the environment as an issue has aided the Green Party, whose share of the vote has risen sharply.

Last week's Angus-Reid poll showed a similar trend. More worryingly for Dion is the regional breakdown. In BC, the Grits find themselves placed fourth, behind the NDP and the Greens (who last week picked up a defecting Liberal MP in Vancouver). Alberta and the Prairies (Saskatchewan and Manitoba) both see the Tories dominating as usual, with over 50% of the vote. Despite the continued Tory dominance in Alberta, the polls are reporting a shift against the national trend towards the Grits here. The limited number of winnable seats for the Liberals mean that they would have little to celebrate from such a result though.

Ontario, long a Liberal bastion, shows little change from the last election, with the Conservatives only closing the gap by one percentage point. That would still leave the Liberals having to defend key marginals in the province, limiting the scope for them to push resources towards making any gains.

The big story is further east still. Quebec sees the Conservatives in a strong second place, only two points behind the declining Bloc, and clearly the best options for Quebec voters who wish to remain within Canada. In the Atlantic provinces, it seems likely the the Green Shift has significantly damaged the Liberals, who came out on top in all four of the provinces in the last election but now trail the Tories by 9 points, with plenty of marginal ridings to play for.

The regional breakdowns always need to be taken with a pinch of salt. The margins of error are normally greater than they are for the national picture, and the Alberta election last year showed how spectacularly wrong they can be. Nonetheless, against a backdrop of a polls from a variety of sources showing the Conservatives on the up and Liberals in decline, things are looking pretty good for another Harper government. Whether that government is a majority or not could come down to the results in the key marginals, and it seems that the areas with the most marginals have the biggest swings to the Conservatives. Moreover, the Conservative party is flush with cash to fund an election, whereas the Grits are still struggling to pay down the debts built up in the 2006 election and subsequent leadership contest. That, combined with the need for the Liberal leadership to watch their own backs and defend a large number of currently Liberal seats leaves the Tories with a real tactical advantage.

There's still all to play for in the upcoming election, assuming that it does happen, and a Conservative majority remains a big ask for a country which has returned Liberal governments for so much of the last century. But this does look like the best chance for the Tories in 20 years.

Hat tip for the regional breakdowns NB Tory Lady