‘Death by a Thousand Cuts:’ Memo to PM questions across the board budget cuts

Reassuring to know that PCO is doing its job and bringing these studies to the PM’s attention.

Last line is priceless and applies to the Canadian context and Government approach:

In a Jan. 27 memorandum to the prime minister, obtained under the Access to Information Act, the Clerk of the Privy Council briefed Stephen Harper on how austerity measures were being assessed in Australia.

“The authors found that prolonged cuts of this nature result in a loss of workforce capability, public sector productivity and innovation, and trust and confidence in public sector institutions,” states the memo.

The memo details how public trust is undermined “as programs become less efficient and effective in the wake of across-the-board cuts, and as mistakes and oversights occur.”

The study recommends that a better way to trim costs is by using efficiency audits of departments and by engaging staff to find effective and efficient new ways of delivering programs and services.

As the memo summarizes the Australian study, “skills shortages are having a significant impact on government operations, resulting in higher costs for recruitment and training over time, the appointment of more expensive private sector contractors for information technology, and diminished procurement expertise.”

Large portions of the four-page memo are blacked out.

The Prime Minister’s Office says it receives many memos and would not comment on the views in the Australian study.

“I will say that our government is proud of the steps we have taken to trim the size of government bureaucracy and ensure that tax dollars are being spent on programs and services that benefit Canadians,” spokesman Jason MacDonald said in an email.

….The study, based on austerity measures taken by national and regional governments in Australia, notes that politicians habitually claim cuts will be efficient and painless.

“In practice, however, claims that administrative budgets can be cut without affecting services are likely to be made only by politicians who have evaded explicit and responsible government decision-making, or want to evade it, or who are prepared to re-define services in order to evade it.”

‘Death by a Thousand Cuts:’ Memo to PM questions across the board budget cuts (pay wall)

And, in perhaps a concrete illustration of this, the Auditor General’s report on the sad state of Library and Archives Canada:

The Ottawa-based institution is supposed to collect and preserve government documents, photos, films, artworks and other materials of historical value and make them available for public use.

“Overall, we found that Library and Archives Canada was not acquiring all the archival records it should from federal institutions,” the report says.

The acquisition of federal records is governed by directives issued to departments and agencies, but some are out of date because they do not account for the records of new programs or changes to existing ones.

Since 2009, Library and Archives Canada was able to update the directives for just 30 of 195 federal agencies, meaning it could not ensure it was acquiring all retired records of archival value. As a result many records were stuck in limbo, awaiting Library and Archives’ decision as to whether they should be saved or destroyed.

Some of the 98,000 boxes of records in the backlog have been there for several decades. The auditor found the backlog had grown over the years and there was no approved plan to eliminate it despite allocation of $600,000 this year to tackle part of the problem.

Researchers for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission told the auditors the uneven quality of archival finding aids meant missing descriptions of box contents, as well as inaccurate or incomplete listings.

Library and Archives says digital records will represent the “format of choice” by 2017. However, there was no overall corporate strategy for the preservation of digital data, the report says.

The institution spent $15.4 million developing a trusted digital repository for records, but due to a change in approach it was never used.

Auditor General: Archives sitting on mountain of unsorted documents

The Racial Divide Over Ferguson « The Dish

racial-divide-fergusonNo surprise in the different perceptions, but still striking.

The Racial Divide Over Ferguson « The Dish.

Why immigrant kids become homeless: study finds cultural clash with parents is the top reason

Interesting study:

One-third or 65,000 of Canada’s homeless population are youths, and of those, nearly one-quarter were born outside Canada. The study’s definition of homelessness include those staying outside, staying in a shelter or transitional housing, having no fixed address, “couch-surfing” or staying at a friend’s or family’s home.

“Age, gender, race and sexual orientation are among the multitude of factors that shape a young person’s experience of and pathway into homelessness,” says the report, Hidden in Our Midst: Homeless Newcomer Youth in Toronto.

“For newcomer youth, however, it is the juncture of these factors, in addition to the presence of language and cultural barriers, lack of status, personal ties and history in Canada that uniquely situate them amongst the most vulnerable of homeless youth.”

Through partnerships with community groups, researchers interviewed 74 homeless immigrant youth in Toronto — 45 per cent women, 55 per cent men — and surveyed service providers to get a better picture of their needs and support available.

Among the sample of participants, 36 per cent of the youth were from the Caribbean, followed by Africa 27 per cent, the Middle East 10 per cent and South America 9 per cent.

More than half were permanent residents, with 37 per cent being Canadian citizens, 27 per cent somewhere in the asylum process and 7 per cent here on visitor or student visas. Many started becoming homeless at age 17, and the average length of homelessness was 30 months.

More than a quarter of the youth reported previous experience of trauma, such as war and political unrest in their country of origin, while 45 per cent said they had suffered physical abuse and one-third sexual abuse.

Why immigrant kids become homeless: study finds cultural clash with parents is the top reason | Toronto Star.

And the follow-on piece:

Co-ordinated services urged to help young homeless immigrants

My radicalized son chose the other Islam

Powerful statement from an obviously distraught mother:

My son embraced the harsh, isolating view of the Wahhabis. He was encouraged to reject any information from non-Saudi sources. He scorned moderate imams and his parents. He learned to speak Arabic, read the Koran and form his own legal rulings. But since he’d never lived under a totalitarian regime, he broadcast their teachings openly. You mix a few ounces of religious fervour with a pound of a dogmatic, irrational ideology and you end up with extremists and terrorists. That’s the concoction ultraconservatism offers. His teachers and friends criticized him and withdrew. Now they claim they don’t know him.

They offer no guidance to men who take Wahhabism to its inevitable extreme. There is no authority among them who can rein in people who let their emotions or lusts inform their religion. No one among them takes responsibility for what they teach. If a follower becomes mentally ill, he will be scorned, perhaps accused of demonic possession.

Wahhabism or Salafism is the same Dr. Frankenstein that created the monstrous Islamic State, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda. It’s a politically motivated, pseudo-religious cult designed to extinguish the free-thinking liberality of moderate, traditional Islam. Salafism, fed by petro-dollars, teaches political obedience to Muslim rulers as a religious obligation.

Wahhabism is one of the vehicles by which ignorance is spread. Ignorance of Islamic history, Islamic law and modern politics fuel that vehicle. Ignorance should not be spread by religious leaders.

Here in Canada, religious teachers should be held responsible for what they teach and how their students interpret their teachings, especially when those teachings have led to the kind of chaos, strife and destruction Wahhabism has caused. Men like my son have taken sail on the ship of ultraconservatism, and his mentors have abandoned him and set him adrift. He was not a radical until he was radicalized.

And even when it does not lead to violence, extreme fundamentalism, in any religion, means living apart from society, with little or no integration.

My radicalized son chose the other Islam – The Globe and Mail.

The myth of de-radicalization of Islamic radicals​ | Tarek Fatah

One view:

The challenge, I said, is to prevent radicalization and the way to do so was to:

1. Lay hate speech charges against any Muslim cleric who hides behind religious rights as he attacks and demonizes other religious faiths or people of no faith at all.

2. Every mosque must be monitored for such hate speech where the word ‘kuffar’ is invoked to hide the real target — Hindus, Christians and Jews.

3. Any mosque indulging in active politics must have its charitable status revoked.

4. Donations of more than $20 at all religious institutions must be made by cheque or credit card to cut off the possibility of money laundering.

5. Ally with anti-Islamist Muslims from among the victims of Islamist oppression — the Kurds, Baloch, Darfuris and Iranian exiles.

6. Treat the PKK Kurdish Workers Party and the MeK Iranian Resistance as allies, not adversaries.

And finally I recommended that immigration from Pakistan, Somalia, Iran, Iraq and Syria must be suspended until Canada can be assured that security documents, identity papers and university degrees cannot be bought on the black market or from state agencies.

Part of the challenge in countering radicalization is that if one only speaks to the Tarek Fatah and other secular Muslims, some ferociously so, one will not engage with those closer to those most susceptible to radicalization.

The myth of de-radicalization of Islamic radicals​ | Fatah | Columnists | Opin.

Mental illness may be used to deny Australian citizenship under new bill

The Australian equivalent of the recent changes to the Canadian Citizenship Act:

The legislation lists a number of clauses that the immigration minister can use to revoke or deny citizenship, including a pending, current or previous criminal conviction, or a court-ordered confinement to a psychiatric institution due to criminal offences.

It also states that people who have court orders to undertake a residential drug rehabilitation scheme or a residential program for the mentally ill, can be barred from becoming Australian.

The bill would expand the immigration minister’s powers in deciding who can be granted citizenship, and legislates a good character requirement for applicants.

Good character their equivalent, with all the ambiguities, of “intent to reside?”

Mental illness may be used to deny Australian citizenship under new bill | Australia news | theguardian.com.

A “Sticky” Situation: Persistent Gender Gap

Gender gapsInteresting US study and chart showing persistence of the gender wage gap, increasing by level:

This is what economists call the “sticky floor” theory of the gender wage gap. Women make very close to men coming out of college, but as men climb the corporate ladder, female salaries stick to the ground. Consider that women account for 49 percent of the bottom 99 percent of earners, but just 11 percent of the 1 percent, and just 9 percent of the top 0.1 percent of earners, according to one recent paper.

A “Sticky” Situation « The Dish.

Canadians with alleged terrorist links – Canada – CBC News

The list as compiled by CBC.

And the normal mix of those who have dual nationality (or who have citizenship rights from another country) and who can have their citizenship revoked, and those who have Canadian citizenship only, who cannot:

Likely Dual Nationals

Likely Canadian Only

Canadians charged by the RCMP but still at large

Ferid Ahmed Imam

Ahmad Waseem

Maiwand Yar

Hasibullah Yusufzai

Canadians reported to be fighting or supporting extremists abroad, but not charged

Mohammed Ali

Sami Elabi

Um m Haritha

Omar Hassan

Mohammad Ibrahim

Abu Dujana al-Muhajir

Farah Mohamed Shirdon

Collin Gordon

Gregory Gordon

John Maguire

Canadians accused of possible terrorist links by other countries

Faker Boussora

Abderraouf Jdey

Amer El-Maati

Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips

Canadians with alleged terrorist links – Canada – CBC News.

And the accompanying article and debate whether the list should be broader (i.e., lower standard of proof to be on the list):

Who are the most wanted extremists in Canada?

Canada becomes more unequal, but good policies could halt that: TD Bank

When the banks start worrying about rising inequality ….

But author [TD Economist] Craig Alexander says rising inequality is bad for the economy – both because it leaves lower income people with less to spend and because it stalls opportunity for children and youth.

“Inequality has risen and it is a concern, because it actually can hamper investment in human skills, it can hamper economic growth. There’s an increasing body of literature that shows that elevated levels of inequality is not just bad for individuals, it’s bad for your economy and your society,” he said in an interview with CBC’s Metro Morning.

He calls for smart policies that improve Canadian productivity and social mobility, among them:

  1. Investing in policies that improve productivity.

  2. Investment in skills training.

  3. Reviewing the tax and income distribution systems.

  4. More means testing on programs to shift support to families more in need.

  5. Improving policies around education, early childhood education and health.

Canada becomes more unequal, but good policies could halt that: TD Bank – Business – CBC News.

How to think about “think” tanks

Interesting observations on think tanks.

Economics for public policy

Kady O'Malley Tweet on Think Tanks 1It is sometimes said that think tanks are good for democracy; indeed the more of them, the better. If there are more ideas in the public arena battling it out for your approval, then it’s more likely that the best idea will win, and that we will all have better public policies. But intuitively many of us have trouble believing this, have trouble knowing who is being truthful, and don’t know who to trust.

This battle of ideas, studies, and statistics has the potential to make many of us cynical about the whole process, and less trusting of all research and numbers. If a knowledgeable journalist like the Canadian Kady O’Malley expresses a certain exasperation that think-tank studies always back up “the think-tank’s existing position,” what hope is there for the rest of us? A flourishing of think tanks just let’s politicians off the hook, always allowing them to pluck…

View original post 2,584 more words