Thursday, May 29, 2008

Liberal MP Mario Silva argues against Catholic public schools

At least that's the way I interpret this:

...institutionalized religious discrimination cannot be condoned or tolerated in this day and age.

Discriminatory practices, whether they are directed at Roman Catholics or anyone else, are simply incompatible with any nation that ascribes to itself the fundamental values of equality that we hold in such high regard.

Where's Spartacus?

It pains me to see the student council at my alma mater play these little games:

In response to a series of controversies over abortion debates on Canadian campuses, the student government of York University in Toronto has tabled an outright ban on student clubs that are opposed to abortion.

If York students value free speech and recognize the importance of open debate on the issues of the day, they would consider persuading other clubs to pass resolutions opposing abortions, whether they believe it or not. Let them boot out all the clubs.

In the meantime, if you are a former York student and are solicited for a donation, take Dave Gordon's advice: just say no.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Activist judges making law in BCE case

Terence Corcoran makes the case for reversing the Quebec Court of Appeal's recent decision in the BCE case. Once again our august judiciary is making the law under the guise of interpreting it.

It would be a spectacular long-term Canadian shareholder disaster, and possibly a corporate governance disaster, if the BCE takeover were to crash over the short-term interests of a relatively small group of bondholders.


The role of the Supreme Court, if it accepts the appeal, would be to uphold shareholder rights and reverse Wednesday's Quebec Court of Appeal decision. That decision against BCE appears to significantly expand the subversive idea -- long a shadow over Canadian corporate law -- that shareholders are just another group of interested parties in a long list of "stakeholders."

As the appeal court put it, the BCE board of directors, and a special independent committee of the board, made a "mistake" in deciding not to make special arrangements with the owners of about $5-billion in Bell Canada long-term debt, the debenture holders. "In Canada, the directors of a corporation have a more extensive duty" than to maximize value to shareholders. This more extensive duty means the board "must have regard, among other things, to the reasonable expectations of the debenture holders, and those may be more extensive than merely respecting their contractual legal rights."

What's the point of a contract if one side is automatically forced to go beyond it?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Obama fails the farm bill test


If you look around America today, you see the Olson logic playing out. Interest groups turn every judicial fight into an ideological war. They lobby for more spending on the elderly, even though the country is trillions of dollars short of being able to live up to its promises. They’ve turned environmental concern into subsidies for corn growers and energy concerns into subsidies for oil companies.

The $307 billion farm bill that rolled through Congress is a perfect example of the pattern. Farm net income is up 56 percent over the past two years, yet the farm bill plows subsidies into agribusinesses, thoroughbred breeders and the rest.


The question amid this supposed change election is: Who is going to end this sort of thing?

Barack Obama talks about taking on the special interests. This farm bill would have been a perfect opportunity to do so. But Obama supported the bill, just as he supported the 2005 energy bill that was a Christmas tree for the oil and gas industries.


Obama, sad to say, failed the farm bill test.

How to make the Globe and Mail front page

It helps if the editor has an axe to grind:

Let’s play a game of You Be the Editor. Here’s the deal: the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration forces a local airline to shut down one of its seven return flights each weekday between Toronto and Newark, N.J. News? Yes. Front-page news? Of course not—unless you’re the Globe and Mail. No one has it in for Porter Airlines like the Globe. Ditto for Porter’s landlord, the Toronto Port Authority, a piddling public sector organization that, like the Freemasons, is assumed to nefariously wield much more power and influence than it does and, all told, takes up far more space and time in the city’s public imagination than it deserves.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Piracy is just another business model"

There are better ways of beating the pirates than suing your customers:

Media piracy will always be with us. But the pirates, Mr. Bylund writes, “can be beaten — it happens all the time — but not primarily by means of legal threats and lawsuits.” Rather, he says: “You subjugate these rebels with the tools of free enterprise. Piracy is just another business model, and the pirates will lose and go away when you come up with a better model.”

Consumers make buying decisions based on three factors, according to Mr. Bylund: “price, convenience and quality.” Pirates will always win on price (free), but media companies can and do beat them on the other factors. Among the examples he cites is the cable channel Comedy Central, owned by Viacom ( The Web site offers the complete archives of “The Daily Show” and makes them searchable. Hulu, owned by NBC and Fox, offers many television shows and some movies with limited (and short) advertisements ( All are offered in high-quality video.

But it should not stop there, Mr. Bylund says. “Figure out an ad-supported model if you can, or charge less than a dollar per episode. Let people burn it to DVD or play the file on iPhones for a buck.” Eventually, “piracy will force all the big-time content producers to move in this kind of direction,” Mr. Bylund says. “Capitalism, properly applied, will beat the rebels every time.”