Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Another Good Cause

I've just been made aware of another friend who is making a major fund raising trek. Ramesh Ferris is going across the country in order to raise money to eradicate Polio. I knew Ramesh when we were both growing up in the Yukon. Polio never stopped him, but then he had the advantages of the Canadian Health Care system. This is a great cause. Please show your support

Cycle to Walk

A Fine Rawlsian Post

For the truly die hard reader of this site: You will know that I am a fan of John Rawls - the great American liberal philosopher. Go check out the following post. It sheds some light on a part of Rawls' career that doesn't normally get a lot of attention.

Crooked Timber » » Pre-Early Rawls

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Goal: Aid in Afghanistan

I want to spread the word about the goal of a friend of mine. He has quit his job, sold his possessions and is planning to ride his motorcycle around the world. He is doing this because he cares about justice and equity in the world. Check out his website. I will try to keep this site updated as his project continues.
Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Charles Taylor wins a Prestigious International Prize

Progressive Bloggers
Vote for this Post

One of my favourite philosophers and most likely the greatest philosopher Canada has ever produced (Sorry George Grant fans) has won the Templeton prize.

I was introduced to his work in 1998, and have been reading it ever since; I find it to be unique in the world of contemporary philosophy. Even a cursory reading of something by Taylor will show that he has a a vast knowledge of Western Civilization and its literature. As you read, Taylor weaves the stories and ideas of the last 2500 years while simultaneously producing some of the most unique and original ideas I've ever read in academic philosophy. Yet, he writes to a wider audience as well. His Massey Lecture The Malaise Of Modernity, is an accessible yet multifaceted account of the virtues and vices of the Modern World. Despite a long career in the academy he has always argued from a perspective that includes spirituality and God with the ubiquity of folks like Richard Dawkins, Taylor is an anomaly but an important one and one of the most brilliant.

Here are some links

CANOE -- CNEWS - World: Cdn philosopher wins Templeton religion prize
"The reason why human beings are violent has something to do with their responding to or looking for answers for really deep questions about the meaning of life, the nature of the ultimate good, and what really gives worth to human life, and so on. As long as people are looking for answers to that then they're open to, among other things, selecting answers that have this property of pushing them to violence.

Canadian philosopher captures Templeton Prize | csmonitor.com
Taylor helped inspire some of his students to become leading political scientists and philosophers. "We'd be teaching a course in the history of Western philosophy, and Taylor would get so wrapped up in the author he was lecturing on, he'd pick the book up and say, 'Now just listen to what the author says here.' He'd be reading it out in Russian or Greek or whatever," says Jim Tully, professor of philosophy and political science at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, who taught with Taylor at McGill and edited a book critiquing his work. "I think what moved the students was his intensity of engagement. It certainly moved me."
Bloomberg.com: Canada
``Throughout his career, Charles Taylor has staked an often lonely position that insists on the inclusion of spiritual dimensions in discussions of public policy, history, linguistics, literature and every other facet of humanities and the social sciences,'' said John M. Templeton Jr., the foundation's president, in a statement.

Charles Taylor Bibliography - Research - Department of Politics & International Relations - University of Kent

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

powered by performancing firefox

Monday, March 12, 2007

Good and Bad from Angry

Fighting inefficiency is a good thing and it will reduce the volume of CO2 going into the atmosphere. However, though I support environmental initiatives I am upset by the attempts by many environmentalists to put an end to a rational and scientific discussion of climate change.

Science Technology : NDP wants to ban the incadescent light bulb

An NDP MP is putting forward a bill to phase out incandescent light bulbs. Bravo!

News Opinion : Canadian "denier" threatened with death -- and it is not reported in Canadian news

A Canadian scientist questions the science of climate change, and he begins receiving death threats. I read about it in a British newspaper. Isn't this newsworthy in Canada? I found this in a British paper:

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

powered by performancing firefox

Friday, March 02, 2007

Day Care

I've been flooded with e-mail from loyal readers asking "CMM where have you been? I require wisdom and guidance, will you please make a post so that I can get on with my life."

I will explain: about a week ago we received a telephone message from our daycare provider saying "the spot that you had booked in October is no longer available and here is the number to Pacic Care." From then on my wife and I have been looking for daycare. We found a place, so life and stress is returning to normal.

I don't fully understand daycare economics and am a bit intrigued. There is very little price difference between providers which is problematic. Good places are within $40 of very nice places so the market is not keeping those who CAN pay more from taking spots from those who cannot. Strange. I wonder if there is legislation involved (comments anyone?) I would have thought that with the demand that clearly exists there would be a greater diversity of pricing.

The other thing that I was surprised to find out is that there have been very few people who have withdrawn from daycare even though federal subsidies have been reduced so dramatically. I guess that will come.

This is just a warm up post. There will be more to come!

powered by performancing firefox

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

MMM Beer and Popcorn

Progressive Bloggers
- Vote for this Post

The other night, after putting my 10 month old daughter to bed I cracked open a nice refreshing Granville Island Gastown Amber Ale and put a bag of WalMart popcorn in the microwave! It was quite a pleasant evening. The beer was extra fizzy and popcorn more salty because I had just received $100 from the federal government - basically my snack was free.

The child care cheque that comes around once a month is getting a lot of attention now that tax time is coming around. People are upset to learn/realise that the money is taxable. This will be my first tax year with a kid, so I can't comment on the taxation aspect. Instead I want to loosely defend the cheque.

There are a lot of things in Canada's Social infrastructure that are good, but they tend to eliminate some aspect of choice from the lives of Canadians. Health Care, for instance is great but there are not many places to shop for the best health care - shopping is essentially illegal. It is also a large bureaucracy that concentrates on health care delivery. This may be the right model for health care in Canada, but I'm not sure it is the right model for child care. Parents have a lot of emotion invested in their children and want to make sure that they are doing the right thing for them. Part of that concern translates into ensuring that their children are left in the hands of the "right" daycare. Whatever that means - it might mean a religious daycare or perhaps one that serves organic soy beans for lunch.

I like the idea
of giving parents the means to choose what is right for them and their children even if that means staying home. A monthly cheque in theory makes it easier to stay home because it doesn't discriminate between stay at home parents and those that work; by providing cash it can increase demand for child care that will create supply over the long term; it allows the market to create niches that cater to parent's demands; and finally because it is taxed by a progressive tax system the subsidy is progressive benefiting lower income Canadians more than higher income Canadians.

Now, all of the critics will point out that after taxes I can afford only 48 bottles of beer and a dozen bags of popcorn - probably true; I would also be able to afford 60 bottles of beer if I went with NDP approved and subsidised beer (Lucky?) and could likely get an extra six bags of popcorn if I went to Giant Tiger. But I prefer Granville Island and find WalMart convenient. And, as I am about to find out day care is more expensive than I would like to contemplate. I agree with these criticisms, which is simply why I say that in order to meet my need for quality beer (like Granville Island Beer) I need more money every month. I will let the bean counters in Ottawa figure it out, but individuals in the lower tax brackets must not see an increase in their child care bills because of a switch in how child care is subsidised. If that means a monthly cheque of $400 is required in order to ensure that the after tax cash infusion matches the subsidy that has been removed is required, then so be it.

No Tory child-care plan as parents face long waits, rising fees
there’s uncertainty mixed with alarm across Canada over looming fee increases
and program cuts since the Tories dropped the $5-billion Liberal plan to build a national early learning system.
In other words, the Tory plan is good and doesn't go far enough. One of the principles that underlies, to my mind, a liberal society, is that changes to the structure of society, and a redistribution of wealth for child care is part of that structure, says that such changes when they further inequality ought to improve the lot of the least well off.

Here is what others are saying:

A BCer in Toronto: Conservatives clawing back "day care" cheques
Conservatives clawing back "day care" cheques

As Liberals predicted at the time, the chickens are now coming home to roost on the Conservatives' $100/month “child care” plan. More evidence now that Harper is clawing back the tax on the cheques and that for many families that $100 will be closer to $65.
EXARO: can't say they weren't warned
The income tax consequences or the CPC’s $100/month childcare grants, which some of us wrote about during last year’s federal election, are becoming clear to Canadian families. As a fellow blogger writes, the government now is mailing notices of the tax liability to those who have been cashing the $100 cheques.

This is going to upset and anger a lot of people over the next two months.
Here's what they said a year ago:

Tories promise new child-care allowance

Stephen Harper unveiled a Conservative plan on Monday that would give parents of young children $100 a month for child care.

The Tory leader made the announcement at a noisy day-care centre in Ottawa. "This is just like a caucus meeting," he said on a campaign stop for the Jan. 23 federal election.
Child care advocates alarmed at Conservative proposals

Ottawa (11 Jan. 2006) - The Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada says a Stephen Harper Conservative government will roll back the clock on hard won progress toward a national child care program.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

powered by performancing firefox

Saturday, February 10, 2007

CFS and Tuition

With all of the hullabaloo from the Canadian Federation of Students this week regarding the costs of education:
CFS - Media
From St. John’s to Victoria, thousands of students and other Canadians are participating in rallies and events as part of the Canadian Federation of Students’ campaign for affordable, high-quality post-secondary education.
I would like to point out that a recent study conducted by Statistics Canada has pointed out that the cost of education is not the barrier that many people believe it is. It is more likely, according to the study
"school marks reported at age 15, parental influences, and high-school quality account for 84 per cent the gap"

Only 12 percent of the "gap" (between the prospects of lower and higher income high school student for university education) is attributable to income. So, this tells me that the "size of your wallet" as the national chairperson of the CFS calls it, is not really that much of a factor when it comes to ensuring equal access to university education. So, with this survey, it is now up to the CFS to argue why public dollars ought to spent on lowering tuition.

On the face of it, there would seem to be little marginal gain in investing money in lower tuition fees when that money could be spent on any number of the following things that would likely achieve the putative aims of the CFS more effectively than by reducing tuition:
  • Educating lower income high school students about budgeting and the true costs of higher education,
  • Ensuring that lower income high school students are more likely to succeed,
  • Creating a national or uniform provincial standard of high school education regardless of neighbourhood,
  • Educating middle and upper income families about the importance of trades and non-university post-secondary employment [I think a survey of lower and upper income families will show that the progeny of upper income families are under represented in non-university employment], and
  • Educating parents of lower income families about the true possibilities of university education.
My suspicions are that the CFS will not respond to this survey by answering any of these questions. Instead I think it will try to discredit the survey in the hopes of lowering tuition to a point where demand far surpasses supply or the capacity of society to absorb all of the high expectations of university graduates. The CFS in my experience is predisposed to pointless political agitation and not at all concerned with practical public (and personal) parsimony.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

powered by performancing firefox