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Why Albertans don’t vote

What if they called an election and nobody came?

It appears we’re getting perilously close to finding out. READ

A breakthrough on climate change

When news got out that U.S. President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping had reached an agreement on climate change, the American blogosphere lit up with negative comments. READ

Not business as usual

If you think governments or political parties don’t listen to their critics, you need to pay attention to what came out of the two provincial party meetings held in Alberta over the weekend. READ

Is it really one or other?

It’s become a cliché to say that out of crisis comes opportunity. But there’s no denying that when faced with crises, we have choices. The opportunity depends on what we decide to do. READ

Paying the fiscal piper

As Finance Minister Joe Oliver rose Wednesday to deliver a fiscal update to a blue-chip business audience that trumpets balanced books and a surplus on the way, it is be a good time to remember how we got here. READ

A new Cold War? Not a chance

“The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some say that it has already begun,” said Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union and the man who inadvertently administered a mercy killing to communism in Europe. READ

Security in a heartbeat

Would you pay $100 and tether yourself to an electronic device every day, just so you won’t have to remember the passwords and PINs to your various debit and credit cards, laptop, tablet, smartphone and all their apps? READ

Just voluntary slavery

Don’t you find it odd (and ironic) how wealthy people can say that raising the marginal tax rate on the top 10 per cent of income-earners is theft and bad for the economy? READ

Environmental rights: The movement is building

The idea of a right to a healthy environment is getting traction at Canada’s highest political levels. Federal Opposition MP Linda Duncan recently introduced An Act to Establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights in Parliament. If it’s passed, our federal government will have a legal duty to protect Canadians’ right to live in a healthy environment. READ

Labour bill reflects uneven playing field in Ottawa

Stephen Harper’s backdoor assault on the labour movement, delivered through a private member’s bill from an obscure backbencher, has been rightly labelled hypocritical, punitive and an unprecedented invasion of privacy. READ

The Averages lose ground

Back in the day, as they say, when we were raising children and paying our mortgage, I might have liked Stephen Harper’s plan for family income splitting and the Universal Child Care Benefit. Not really thinking too hard about things, I might have even voted for it, and the Conservatives who have floated this plan. But I wonder if it would have got me ahead in the world. READ

The politics of external pressure

“What we have today is a story based on speculation about what (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel might have said about something (British Prime Minster) David Cameron might say in the future,” said David Davis, a prominent Conservative member of Parliament, in London on Sunday. So no big deal, then? It’s a very big deal: Merkel is pulling the rug out from under Cameron. For all his tough talk about renegotiating the terms of Britain’s membership in the European Union, she is saying, he has no cards in his hand. At the EU summit on Oct. 25, Cameron said that changing the existing rules that guarantee freedom of movement for workers within the EU would be “at the very heart of my renegotiation strategy for Europe.” No, said Angela Merkel, it won’t work: “We have the basic principle of free movement. We won’t meddle with that.” In other words, if Cameron doesn’t like the membership rules, tough. He can hold a referendum if he wants, and leave the EU if he wins. But there’s no way he can get the other 27 members to change the basic rules of the organization just to solve his little political problem at home. In fact, Merkel will even try to ensure that Cameron loses next year’s British election so that there is no referendum on Britain’s EU membership. Being an experienced politician, however, Merkel delivered that part of her message in a deniable way. It was officials from Merkel’s own office and the German foreign ministry who briefed the newsmagazine Der Spiegel on her plans in that regard. They were not to be quoted by name — and it was left to the rest of us to figure out what her words would do to Cameron’s re-election chances. Cameron has recently been talking about imposing “quotas” on low-skilled people from other EU countries moving to Britain, in a desperate attempt to get around the EU rules. “Should Cameron persist (in this quota plan), Chancellor Angela Merkel would abandon her efforts to keep Britain in the EU,” Merkel’s officials told Der Spiegel. “With that, a point of no return would be reached.” Shape up or ship out. Merkel has launched a counter-strike that may well bring Cameron down. By making it crystal clear that his “renegotiation” strategy cannot work, she is effectively telling British voters that if they re-elect Cameron’s Conservatives next May, they will be voting to leave the EU. The election itself becomes a referendum on EU membership — a referendum that she obviously thinks Cameron will lose. She is probably right. For all the fulmination in the British right-wing press about the country being overrun by immigrants from poorer EU countries, public support for EU membership in Britain is higher than it has been since 1991. It is still only a modest 56 per cent, but that is a lot higher than the 44 per cent support that the same Ipsos MORI polling organization found only two years ago. The truth is that only 13 per cent of Britain’s population is “foreign-born,” exactly the same as the immigrant share in the population of the United States or Germany. The immigrants are not taking British jobs: the U.K. has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe. The problem is perceptions — and particularly the perceptions of those who normally vote Conservative. The right-wing media in Britain, as in most countries, pander to the nationalism and the fear of foreigners that is rampant among the older and the poorer sections of the population. Too many foreigners coming in, living off our taxes and stealing our jobs is a simple (though rarely an accurate) explanation for why this section of the population feels marginalized, so this narrative works well with them. Britain is pulling in more EU workers than usual because its economy is doing relatively better than Germany, France, Spain, etc. The numbers are not overwhelming, but under EU rules Britain has no right to bar them, so anti-EU nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment have grown into a stronger force than usual — but only on the right. Cameron belongs to the grown-up majority in the Conservative Party, and is not personally anti-EU. But the emergence and explosive growth of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), tailored to appeal to the anti-immigrant-and-EU vote, has panicked the right wing of the Conservative Party. Cameron has had to move further and further right to placate them and compete with UKIP, so he can no longer afford to be sensible about the EU. Merkel has understood this, and has effectively written him off even though she is a conservative herself. Her strategy now is to force Cameron into an openly anti-EU stance, split the right-wing vote in Britain evenly between the Conservatives and UKIP, and open the way for Labour to win the election. Because that’s the only way she can see to keep Britain in the European Union. Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries. READ

Punishment fits crime

The case of self-admitted “arrogant pissant” Justin Bourque signals a new era for Canada’s criminal justice system, which now has the power to lock up killers and throw away the keys. READ

More bad news on horizon for bees

Have you heard of flupyradifurone? Probably not, unless you work for the federal government agency poised to approve this new pesticide for use in Canada. READ

Weighing our options

The four Alberta byelections on Monday were a major win for now-elected Premier Jim Prentice. Prentice now also has both an elected education minister and health minister — and a mandate to continue the Progressive Conservative Party dynasty in this province. The byelection results were a loss for the Opposition Wildrose Party. READ

Terrorist or murderer? Distinction important

On the day the nation mourned Nathan Cirillo in Hamilton — my hometown, a rock of dignity and duty, where the collar is proudly worn blue and no one messes with our national symbols — it’s understandable that we wouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to characterize his killer. READ

Time for adult discourse

One of the main things to know about the so-called Protection of Canada from Terrorists bill that was brought forward in the House of Commons on Monday is that it cannot possibly live up to its title. READ

Fusion power: goodbye fossil fuels?

“We would like to get to a prototype (of a nuclear fusion reactor) in five generations,” said Thomas McGuire, the director of the Revolutionary Technology division at Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works. “If we can meet our plan of doing a design-build-test generation every year, that will put us at about five years, and we’ve already shown we can do that in the lab.” READ

A call for prudence

We are about to find out what happens when those entrusted with strengthening our anti-terror laws are the same people who were traumatized by a gun battle in their workplace. READ

Clean-tech will lead way

What’s the fastest-growing sector in Canada’s economy? Given what you hear from politicians and the media, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the resource industry, especially extraction and export of fossil fuels like oilsands bitumen and liquefied natural gas. But we’re no longer just “hewers of wood and drawers of water” — or drillers of oil, frackers of gas and miners of coal. READ

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