Thursday, February 21, 2008

Nine out of 10 economists...

Mr. Flaherty believes Ontario is failing to adapt to a changing world because its business taxes are the highest in Canada. In a speech in Toronto yesterday, he offered as evidence Ontario's declining share of national GDP; its weaker than average economic growth; and, an unemployment rate higher than the national average. He said the federal government has cut corporate income tax rates from to 15% from 22.1%, while Ontario's rate is only half a percentage point lower than in 2000, "with no plans in place for further reductions."

Mr. McGuinty's response is that tax cuts are not enough on their own and that governments have to make targeted investments in troubled industries to stimulate growth.

Let's see:The manufacturing sector is not doing too well in Ontario, although the rest of the country seems to be doing okay.But isn't the auto sector the problem? Well, if we strip out transportation equipment, which includes autos....

Hey, look at that: Ontario still lags.

Doug Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, says, nine out of 10 economists would side with Mr. Flaherty and advocate creating as favourable an economic environment as possible and then allowing the market to pick the winners and losers.

What does he know? Ontario's "targeted investments" are working out so well.

Update: Flaherty takes another kick at McGuinty in a speech yesterday:

In fact, a combination of the strong Canadian dollar, a slowing U.S. economy, higher energy prices and increased competition from emerging markets has left several sectors struggling. Here in the manufacturing heartland of Canada the impact has been acute. But the economic impact is in direct contrast to national economic trends generally.

For instance, we are experiencing the second-longest period of economic expansion in Canadian history. Yet Ontario's share of the national nominal GDP has gone from 41.4% in 2002 to 38.6% in 2006.

Ontarians are seeing a lack of leadership, a lack of vision and a lack of economic stewardship.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ontario manufacturing underperforms

Ontario's economy has been lagging the rest of the country for some time. The "economic engine" of Canada is clearly sputtering.

The easy explanation is that the Ontario economy is weak because of the province's greater dependence on the manufacturing sector. This weakness reflects the struggle by Ontario manufacturers to adapt to the sharp run up in the Canadian dollar, higher energy prices and intense competition from China.

However, manufacturers elsewhere in the country also face these pressures. And they seem to be doing a better job of coping. While manufacturing shipments from Ontario dropped 1.2% in 2007, shipments rose 1.7% elsewhere in the country. Moreover, out of a total of 21 subsectors, the rest of Canada outperformed Ontario in 15.
Click on chart for larger image.

Maybe Dalton McGuinty needs to consider what his government is doing wrong before asking the feds for help. Any suggestions?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another bookstore bites the dust

It's rather sad to see another independent bookstore close. I once worked in one (which is also no longer in business) and have spent a lot of money in them.

Alas, I rarely buy books from bookstores anymore. I still buy books, just not from bookstores. (notice my banner link) now gets most of my business. Apparently, I'm not the only one:

Staff at The Book Room, a 169-year-old shop presently located on a corner of Halifax's bustling Barrington Street, unwittingly opened the box to discover the same titles they already had in stock -- plus an invoice from one of the big Internet booksellers.

"Somebody had ordered a bunch of books from Amazon," Charles Burchell, who managed the bookstore for more than 40 years, recounted in a recent interview. "To find that it was books we had on our shelves that they could have had in five minutes rather than five days if they'd walked downstairs ... that really made us sit up and take notice."

It was a slap in the face to the independent store that has been fighting a losing battle against book behemoths, the proliferation of literature to supermarkets and big box stores and the convenience of Internet ordering for the better part of a decade.

"It said to me that there's a group of people out there who don't want to make use of a bookstore," Mr. Burchell lamented. "We really couldn't see a future anymore."

It is easy to get all nostalgic, but this is about economics. Before the internet, a knowledgeable clerk in an independent bookstore was a key source of information. Most clearly loved books and could be a very valuable resource, particularly if their interests happened to coincide with yours. In part, it was this knowledge that you paid for when you bought a book at list price.

With the internet, that information and more is available online for free. The economies of scale for an online bookseller in providing this information are virtually limitless. An independent bookstore cannot really compete against that without embracing the same tools or by focusing on very specialized market niches.

Sadly, it is either adapt or perish.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dalton warned us about this

Is this what Dalton McGuinty warned us about in the last election?

The hands of students in Fareena Masood's Grade 3 class fly into the air when the teacher asks for the number of syllables in "communication."

The question stumps a few of the young students at the Islamic Foundation School -- "Is it four?" one asks -- before another student correctly answers five.

As Masood -- called Sister Fareena by her students -- writes the answer on the blackboard, one boy whispers an excited "yes" as he checks his own page.

Next on the teacher's list, written in chalk on the blackboard, are the words "wonderful" and "school."

They're fitting words for a vocabulary lesson at the Scarborough private school which is one of 25 schools ranked first in the province by the 2008 Fraser Institute report card on elementary education. The school, which has 497 male and female students from JK to Grade 12, earned a perfect 10 score, according to the report.

It seems to me they are doing something right.

You've got Liberals!

They should have closed it after they discovered the first one. If you've got one, there's always more.

Public health authorities shut down one of Chinatown's most prominent restaurants yesterday after a passerby took a photo of rats on a countertop.

The rats were visible through a window of the Dumpling House Restaurant yesterday afternoon, passerby Vivian Hui said.


Dumpling House, at 328 Spadina Ave., hosted a photo op by then Liberal leadership candidate Paul Martin during the April, 2003, SARS crisis. The restaurant is popular with celebrities, and has been well reviewed by various publications.

More at blogTO

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Democrats bad for Canada

The Canadian fascination with the U.S. Democratic party has always puzzled me. With three quarters of Canadian exports going south of the border, we have a vested interest in keeping the border open. Yet, both candidates in the Democratic primary have been bashing NAFTA.

First, here is Barack Obama speaking of his opponent Hillary Clinton:
"Her supporting NAFTA didn't give jobs to the American people."
Hillary's defense:
"I was not in the Senate at the time. I did not have a vote. I find his argument to be quite tortured. I have been a vocal critic of NAFTA starting in my campaign for the Senate in 1999."

It would not be good for Canada if either were to become U.S. president.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lost in move to 24 Sussex Drive

With Warren gone, let's hope Kathy Shaidle gets his columnist gig at the National Post:

When bloggers first heard of the accusations against Steyn and Levant, and began mounting campaigns to "stop the CHRCs" from further stifling freedom of speech, many were encouraged by a rediscovered, then widely circulated, quotation from future Prime Minister Stephen Harper, circa 1999:

"Human Rights Commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society … It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff."

Looks like Stephen Harper lost a few things during his move to 24 Sussex Drive. Namely, a principle or two.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Congratulations kid!

My daughter was recently accepted into the Grade 9 arts program at two of Toronto's top high schools of the arts. While I have never doubted her talent, it is certainly gratifying that others see it too.

Congratulations kid!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hybrid cars: green snake oil

Prius owners, still think you're saving the planet now?

In a recent journal article, French researchers suggest that:

the misinformed craze for hybrid vehicles especially in the USA, and increasingly in Japan and Europe, and potentially in China, could represent a red light for more innovative technologies, such as viable fuel-cell cars that can use sustainably sourced fuels, such as hydrogen.


"There is a general convergence of strategies towards promoting hybrid vehicles as the mid-term solution to very low-emission and high-mileage vehicles," the researchers assert, "this is largely due to Toyota’s strategy of learning the technology, while building up its own ‘quasi-standard’, thanks to its high-quality and reliability reputation and its high market share on the North American market." They add that, "Such a convergence is based more on customer perception triggered by very clever marketing and communication campaigns than on pure rationale scientific arguments and may result in the need for any manufacturer operating in the USA to have a hybrid electric vehicle in its model range in order to survive."

Bullshit detector

Andrew Potter points to this little gem in the Globe and Mail:

Constitutional expert Errol Mendes of the University of Ottawa said he researched the issue yesterday and could find no similar examples of a confidence motion such as the one the Tories unveiled - one involving the unelected Senate. "This is insane," he said.

In quoting such an expert, it evidently did not occur to the Globe journalists, Brian Laghi and Jane Taber, that Professor Mendes might have a stake in the game:

Professor Errol Mendes was nominated to the Privy Council Office by the Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin.

I guess it also did not occur to them to ask how many times a Liberal-dominated, unelected Senate has blocked the legislation of a minority Conservative government?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

A lesson for tax and spend liberals

Hell, the Conservative Party might learn something too.

Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute explains the relationship between tax rates, government revenues and economic growth:

via Café Hayek

Smearing the lense of history with Vaseline

I guess I should have paid more attention when I took a film studies course in university. Toronto Star book columnist (and former film critic) Geoff Pevere writes:

John F. Kennedy's "New Frontier" – so named by the dashing young candidate at the Democratic leadership convention of 1960 – was barely two years old when veteran filmmaker John Ford suggested the whole thing might be a lie. The context was a 1962 Ford movie called The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a Western about a lawyer (played by James Stewart) who negotiates a bogus claim to heroism to a seat in the U.S. Senate.

At the movie's climax, a newspaper editor is informed that the real man who shot the desperado Liberty Valance isn't the man everybody thinks it was – meaning the eminent politician is something of a fraud. The truth leaves the newspaperman unimpressed.

"This is the west, sir," he says. "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

It makes more sense now. Still, you have to wonder what benefit Barack Obama hopes to get from the Kennedy family endorsement of his candidacy when it's based on a lie.

For the Democrats and left generally, 1968 has become a kind of rallying call to unity. The year evokes a kind of lost Eden, the last moment when the communal idealism of youth culture functioned as a kind of umbrella that covered – and sheltered – everyone.


But did that country ever really exist? According to Jonah Goldberg, author of Liberal Fascism– and the volume from which the above quote was pulled – the Democratic Party version of the 1960s is a "Sorelian myth. An age when the 'good guys' overturned a corrupt system, rebelled against their 'square' parents, and ushered in an age of enlightenment and decency, now under threat from oppressive conservatives who want to roll back its utopian gains." Balderdash, according to Goldberg: "Liberal baby boomers have smeared the lens of memory with Vaseline." They've printed the legend.

So much for authenticity.

Patrick Moore: Thinking nuclear

I saw Patrick Moore speak a number of years ago. At the time, I was very impressed with his practical perspective on key environmental issues. However, his conversion from a hardcore, old-style environmentalist to someone willing to work with business to achieve real environmental progress has been hard for many of his former colleagues to accept, which is probably as good a recommendation he can get.

Here are a couple of interesting tidbits from a from a recent interview with CNET:

As a co-founder of Greenpeace, even though I was a scientist, I made the same mistake in those days as all the rest of my colleagues did. We kind of lumped nuclear energy in with nuclear weapons as if all things nuclear were evil. It was an honest mistake. We were totally focused on the threat of nuclear war during the Cold War. Nuclear testing was what Greenpeace started on and we were peaceniks, and I think it's fair to say that the antinuclear-energy movement to some extent was formed out of the peace movement.


How people manage to perceive that nuclear is dangerous when no one has ever been hurt by it is hard for me to understand, but there it is. It's a scared thing and it's like many of the campaigns today that are based on scaring people about something invisible. In this case, radiation. In agriculture, it's invisible pesticide residues. In climate, it's invisible carbon dioxide. In genetic engineering, it's invisible genes. Actually, a majority of the what are being called environmental campaigns these days are basically scare campaigns based on people not being able to see what it is that they are supposed to be afraid of. You can make up all kinds of stories about things people can't see.