Archive for the ‘Law and Order’ Category

The Voluntary Long-Form Census

August 7, 2010

The fact that the federal government’s long-form census was compulsory and backed by legal sanctions of fines and jail time has always been a problem with me. I have received the long-form census on occasion and dutifully have filled it in, and would have done so whether the legal hammer was poised over my head or not. But the fact that the government made it a criminal offense if I refused to give up my information stuck in my craw, although my moral indignation never reached the point where I was prepared to challenge the bureaucrats in Ottawa and stand hard on my principles.

But now the federal government has decided that the long-form is intrusive and are going to make it a voluntary process.

The Conservative government is scrapping the mandatory long census form for the 2011 census, replacing it with a voluntary national household survey.

All Canadians will still receive a mandatory short census. One in three households will be sent the new household survey as well. Previously, one in five households were sent the mandatory long-form census.

A small victory, as even if the long-form is decriminalized, the rest of the census is still covered by the old legislation. So the government isn’t concerned about the fact that not filling in a government form could turn you into a criminal, but with the fact that the questions are intrusive. I guess you take your wins where you find them.

There have, however, been others who have made a stand based on their beliefs. Or at least one person. Maybe more, but that’s not in my data bank.

In 2006, Sandra Finley went to court over her refusal to complete the census forms. Although her problem was not with the compulsive requirements to comply. She was incensed with Statistics Canada decision to buy software from defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin in the U.S. and the possibility of the census material being accessed by other than Canadian government sources.

The Conservative government’s decision to do away with the mandatory long census has not satisfied the concerns of Canada’s top crusader against the survey.

Cabinet had decided to do away with the long form in 2011 and replace it with a voluntary survey in response to criticism from some Canadians that the process was coercive and intrusive.

But Sandra Finley, the Saskatoon activist who made national headlines for going to court over her refusal to fill out the 2006 census, is unimpressed.

She and others have balked at the Statistics Canada-led process because of the fact the agency bought software from defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin back in 2003.

Although the agency insisted before the 2006 census that only federal employees would have access to the data collected, that did not assuage Finley and others who protested the link to Lockheed. The short census will remain mandatory for all Canadians and will still be based on Lockheed Martin technology.

“As far as I’m concerned, my objection to them contracting out to Lockheed Martin is stronger than ever based on what I’ve learned over seven years,” said Finley, who is still in court with Statistics Canada.

Once the federal government announced their intention a hue and cry emanated from the media, opposition parties and various organizations that make their living from using the data that flows from the long-form. The media is looking for a story they can pumps out to the public, the opposition parties are looking for any issue they think might inflate their political credibility and the various private organizations are aghast that their livelihood may be negatively impacted.

Of course the reverberations we hear is the world coming to an end or at least civilization as we know it today. Voluntary data won’t give all the good information that everyone needs. Governments won’t be able to spend their (sorry -‘ our’) money wisely. No-one will know what the needs of the nation are. God help us!

I wonder.

I wonder when government has ever spent our money wisely. I wonder when government takes their information and makes long-term social decisions rather than short-term political decisions. I wonder how accurate and meaningful the coerced information is. My life is full of wonder.

As to the last bit of wondering, while working in the business world, I received forms from various government departments demanding information on different aspects of our operations. Since we didn’t compile any data in their areas of concern and because they were insistent that I should comply, I would fill in figures gleaned from thin air and send them off. That seemed to make everyone happy. But I used to think that I probably wasn’t the only recipient of these forms who was doing this and wondered what world changing decisions were being made, based on these guesstimates, by some obscure bureaucrats labouring in the dark recesses of some Ottawa office building.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that other than providing a living for a lot of people, I have no great confidence that all of this material has any real value other than giving various groups and individuals the enjoyment of arguing about what it all really means.

As for the intrusiveness of the long-form, I like Ezra Levant’s take on it.

The regular census is short. It asks who lives in your house and some questions about how everyone is related to each other. It also asks about language use — information that fuels Canada’s bilingualism policy. That’s about it.

But the long-form census feels like it was written by the biggest gossips in the country. The 2011 version hasn’t been released yet, but the 1996 one can still be seen online.

Some of it is the basic stuff. But how about this: Question 7 demanded everyone in your home describe any physical or mental-health condition, and what limits that places on your school, work or home life.

Sorry, that’s just none of the government’s business. It’s supposed to be a census, not a peek through a family’s medicine cabinet.

This so-called census also asked Canadians to tell the government who did what chores and errands in the house — which parent helped the kids with homework; which parent drove them to sports; who did the shopping; who talked “with teens about their problems.”

And a helpful bureaucrat would be right there to write it all down.

That’s not what really bothered me, though.

Question 19 demanded Canadians define themselves according to ethnicity.

And “Canadian” wasn’t an option.

The census gave a list of different alternatives including some colours (white and black) and a continent (Latin American). What would U.S. President Barack Obama, whose mom was white, choose — both white and black? Why weren’t brown or red or yellow allowable colours?

What on earth does “Latin American” mean as an ethnicity? Latin Americans come in every race and ethnicity — black, Aboriginal, white or, like Alberto Fujimori, the former president of Peru, Japanese. And why was Latin America a choice, but not North America?

Stranger still, black was actually explained not by colour but by country. It included African, which would include white South Africans.

But Arab/West Asian was another choice, even though the examples included Egyptian and Moroccan (which are in Africa, not Asia) and Iranian, which is a country that is overwhelmingly Persian in ethnicity — not Arab.

Some ethnically homogenous countries were listed (Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Chinese) but many others weren’t.

The choices just made no sense.

And then there was the answer marked “other”.

In another question, the census asked your “cultural group.” It listed only one religion (Jewish), and several countries. Is Jewish a country?

Given that “etc.” was also listed, it’s not surprising that in a recent census, 21,000 Canadians described themselves as Star Wars Jedi Knights.

What are these bizarre questions and answers about? The census form was perfectly frank: It stated it was for government programs that use racial quotas — also called affirmative action. As Canadians, we like to think we’re equal before the law. But Statistics Canada collects this information to treat us unequally.

Let the nosy bureaucrats pound sand: Scrapping the mandatory long-form census is a small victory against big government.

Sounds good to me.


Water safety and another dumb law

July 10, 2010

On numerous occasions I have lamented about the stupid laws that get passed by elected officials (here and here are just a couple of instances). Which is why I was pleased (and amused) to see Chris Seeley’s column in the National Post ripping apart the federal government’s attempt to make the waters of Canada safe through its pleasure craft operator’s licencing system.

If the gun registry does die, where will government-haters direct their ire? Easy. I submit that the federal government’s Pleasure Craft Operator Licence has now usurped the long-gun registry as the worst, most insulting, do-nothing undertaking currently being inflicted on law-abiding Canadians. And the Conservative government is foursquare behind it. Their only possible defence is that it cost less — so far — than the gun registry.

A brief history: Once upon a time, the news was full of people, most of them inebriated, who were driving powerboats into docks, other people, other boats, channel markers, islands and anything else not made of water. Folks were dying. The government needed to be seen doing something. So they decided to license boaters — but not in the way governments license drivers. For some reason, that would have been overkill.

Instead they went with something cheaper that still looked useful to the untrained eye — something perfectly in keeping with the quintessentially Canadian notion that stupid behaviour like, say, drunken wakeboarding, can be prevented by telling people that drunken wakeboarding is stupid behaviour: A stringent written test.


Not so shockingly, people are still dying on the water. In a particularly gruesome incident on Shuswap Lake in British Columbia last weekend, a power boat launched itself into a houseboat, killing the occupant of the latter. Police are suggesting alcohol, excessive speed and lack of running lights may have been factors — which means, obviously, that people need to be told that driving too fast, drunk and without lights in the dark is a bad idea. One more time ought to do it.

So Transport Minister John Baird is promising tweaks to Canada’s farcical boating licence: “new standards … to improve Internet testing,” a spokesman told The Globe and Mail; a requirement to demonstrate that boaters have read the study guide (I can see it now: “Click here to affirm you have read the study guide”); and, my personal favourite, more questions.

The Pleasure Craft Operator Licence has been with us for a few years now and has been pretty much considered a joke since its inception. But even at this late date it is enjoyable to see it get the recognition it deserves.

But the problem – as with all legislation – whether it is bad, stupid, useless or all three is that the chances of it ever being rescinded are zero or worse. Once on the books, dumb legislation tends to haunt us forever.

B.C. officially bans body armour

July 5, 2010

B.C. now has in place their legislation to ban body armour – at least if you don’t have a permit to possess the gear. 

VICTORIA – Canada’s first restrictions on sale and possession of soft body armour have taken effect in B.C., and two other provinces are also trying to deprive gang members of one of their status symbols.

B.C. passed legislation last fall to require a permit to buy body armour, and those who currently own or sell it, have six months from July 1 to pass a criminal record check and obtain a permit. Police can now confiscate body armour from those who don’t have a permit or exemption, and

Alberta passed legislation this spring to create similar restrictions, and Manitoba has introduced legislation. Opposition critics in Alberta compared the permit plan with the federal government’s costly long-gun registry, and security experts noted that body armour can be bought from the U.S. or overseas through websites that promise world-wide shipping.

The B.C. law exempts police officers, sheriffs, corrections officers, conservation officers, armoured car guards, security guards, security consultants and private investigators. Out-of-province individuals who require body armour to work have to apply for a 90-day permit exemption.

When the bill was introduced, former public safety minister Kash Heed said the government expected few applications for permits, such as for gang associates in protective custody in order to testify in court.

Vancouver Police encountered people with body armour and no legitimate use for it 230 times between 2002 and 2009.

At the time the BC government was proceeding with the legislation, I noted my negative thoughts here and here. To date, I haven’t seen anything to change my mind. It won’t stop them from buying the armour and it won’t stop them from wearing the armour.  Just another useless law on the books.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair Runs True To Form

July 3, 2010

TO Police Chief Bill Blair fell off my list of credible people a long time ago, even before the stupid and uninformed statements he made while arguing in support of the long-gun registry and against Bill C-391, the private member’s legislation aimed at dumping it.

He once again shows his true colours in the wake of the G20 summit in Toronto.

Toronto’s police chief is admitting there never was a five-metre rule that had people fearing arrest if they strayed too close to the G20 security perimeter.

Civil libertarians were fuming after hearing Friday that the Ontario cabinet gave police the power to stop and search anyone coming within five metres of the G20 fences in Toronto for a one-week period.

However, the Ministry of Community Safety says all the cabinet did was update the law that governs entry to such places as court houses to include specific areas inside the G20 fences — not outside.

A ministry spokeswoman says the change was about property, not police powers, and did not include any mention of a zone five metres outside the G20 security perimeter.

When asked Tuesday if there actually was a five-metre rule given the ministry’s clarification, Chief Bill Blair smiled and said, “No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out.”

Then, in what seems to have become a standard police media event, the Toronto police laid out a table showing what they purported to be ‘weapons’ that they had confiscated from activists at the event. However, as is often the case in these show and tell events, it turns out that there was a bit of fudging going on.

Toronto Police staged a display of weaponry to demonstrate “the extent of the criminal conspiracy” among hard-line G20 protesters, but several of the items had nothing to do with the summit.

Facing criticism for their tactics, police invited journalists on Tuesday to view a range of weapons, from a machete and baseball bat to bear spray and crowbars.

Chief Bill Blair, who told reporters the items were evidence of the protesters’ intent, singled out arrows covered in sports socks, which he said were designed to be dipped in a flammable liquid and set ablaze.

However, the arrows belong to Brian Barrett, a 25-year-old landscaper who was heading to a role-playing fantasy game when he was stopped at Union Station on Saturday morning. Police took his jousting gear but let Mr. Barrett go, saying it was a case of bad timing


Police also displayed a crossbow and chainsaw seized in an incident on Friday that they said had no ties to the summit. When asked, Chief Blair acknowledged they were unrelated, but said “everything else” had been confiscated from demonstrators.

On Wednesday, however, Michael Went and Doug Kerr e-mailed a letter to Chief Blair saying their bamboo poles may have been included in the exhibit. As they headed to a picnic to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots on Sunday morning, police seized seven or eight of the long poles, citing the G20 summit. The couple had planned to use the poles to fly a rainbow flag and decorate the park.

“It makes you wonder what are the other things that they’ve displayed [that] were taken from people on the street that weren’t doing anything wrong?” asked Mr. Kerr, a 42-year-old management consultant.

Julian Falconer, a Toronto lawyer representing four independent journalists in summit-related police complaints, called the display of unrelated objects a “public-relations exercise [that] borders on the absurd.”

The items, which were laid out on tables in the lobby of police headquarters, also included gas masks, cans of spray paint, a replica gun, saws, pocket knives, a staple gun, a drill, a slingshot, chains and handcuffs. However, there were also objects not normally considered dangerous, including bandanas, skateboard and bicycle helmets, golf balls, tennis balls, goggles, rope and walkie-talkies.

OK, well some of the stuff was legit! But then if they’d taken away the phony items the table wouldn’t have been so impressive looking.

(Thanks to Mark Steyn for pointing me to some of this.)

Surprising news: Bad guys do bad things

July 1, 2010

It was a great plan.

To stop the wrong people from obtaining firearms and ammunition it was writ in law that a citizen would have to be vetted by the government in order to qualify for ownership; specifically through obtaining a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL). This would ensure that only those anointed by the bureaucracy, through testing and background checks, would obtain the government-given right to own and use guns.

Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, although the powers that be assiduously worked to keep the general public safe from gun violence by confiscating guns of hunters, target shooters and collectors and dragging their owners into court based (in many cases) on police and crown prosecutors’ flexible definitions of what constituted safe storage under the law.

All the while gang-bangers and drug dealers seemed to manage to stay armed regardless of the laws of the land. And when the courts formally banned them from gun ownership they simply went back out on the streets, defied the law and got more guns. No doubt because (after all) they are criminals and their way of life is based on breaking the law.

Now you would think that this would be obvious to everyone, particularly the police, who deal with the unlawful segment of our population of a frequent basis. However a recent discovery seems to have caused them some consternation.

Six people have been charged with operating a forgery ring that has stolen hundreds of identities.

Police and RCMP searched a home in downtown Edmonton and discovered counterfeiting equipment, along with hundreds of forged documents and cards. A sword disguised as a walking cane was the sole weapon found in the home.

One man was allegedly in the midst of forging firearms possession and acquisition cards when police arrived. Cpl. Julie Macfarlane-Smith, of the Edmonton commercial crime section, said such forged documents could enable the unauthorized purchase of guns and ammunition.

The police spokesperson seemed a bit taken aback by the brazenness of it all.

Cpl. Julie Macfarlane-Smith of the RCMP’s commercial crimes section said she’s never seen forged firearms licences before.

“It’s quite a process to receive (a legal) one,” she said, “and to think it’s a matter of changing a face and the accompanying data (on a licence) so someone can say, this is who I am and I’m here to buy a firearm or some ammunition, it’s seriously a concern.”

Sources close to Edmonton’s gangs have said guns are easy to obtain, but bullets are scarce on the street. The reason, they say, is because you need a licence to buy ammunition from a retailer.

They suggest that if bullets were more accessible, there’d be a lot more shootings in the city.

If criminals can get their hands on forged licences, McGowan said, “it’s particularly worrisome. What are we going to do next if there’s any prevalence of this?”

Indeed. What are we going to do?

I suppose we could pass more laws to make the point that it’s really, really bad to forge documents or obtain guns illegally. Or even reiterate that stealing is really, really frowned upon by society.

But I suspect it wouldn’t make a lot of difference one way or the other.

It’s not as though these particular bad guys were just concentrating on firearm licenses.

They found hundreds of stolen and forged pieces of I.D., including bank documents, credit cards, driver’s licences, birth certificates, Canadian citizenship papers, Treaty and Metis cards and company I.D. cards. They also seized computer equipment and software to print counterfeit cash….

After all, if you can manufacture driving licenses, birth certificates and citizenship papers, firearm Possession and Acquisition Licences are just another run on the production line.

All of which goes to the truth that if you pass a law limiting access to a product or even banning it outright, most people will try and comply even if they strongly disagree with its premise.

But if there is a market for that product and money to be made, clever people who don’t give a damn about the law or the rules will find some innovative and of course illegal way to bypass the system.

And in the meantime politicians will look to pass more laws to do the work that their old laws failed to do and the police will continue to do photo-ops of the “arsenals” that they have confiscated from the homes of those the bureaucracy, through their laws and regulations, has arbitrarily designated as criminals.

And somewhere, in a basement possibly near to you, a printing press is rolling.

British grandmother jailed for unregistered firearm

June 22, 2010

This is wrong on so many levels.

A grandmother has been jailed for five years for possessing a “family heirloom” World War II pistol.

Gail Cochrane, 53, had kept the gun for 29 years following the death of her father, who had been in the Royal Navy.

Police found the weapon, a Browning self-loading pistol, during a search of her home in Dundee while looking for her son.

She admitted illegal possession of the firearm, an offence with a minimum five-year jail term under Scots law.

Cochrane told the High Court in Edinburgh that she had never contemplated she might be committing a crime by keeping the gun or that she might need to get a licence for the weapon.

She said: “I thought it was just a war trophy.”

Defence solicitor advocate Jack Brown argued that the circumstances surrounding the case were exceptional and that it would be “draconian, unjust and disproportionate” to jail the grandmother-of-six.

To begin with, this is the end result of ‘law and order’ legislation that imposes mandatory minimum sentences. Now this 53 year old woman is going to jail for the mandatory five years, apparently not because she was a danger to anyone, but because she had a “pistol at her home without a firearms certificate and possessing the prohibited weapon without the authority of the Secretary of State or Scottish ministers”. Five years in jail for not having a piece of paper.

With Canada’s Firearms Act, this could conceivably happen here given the right moment and the wrong people in power in Ottawa.

To Serve and Protect

June 15, 2010

A story out of New Hampshire, where police raided a store and confiscated all of the owner’s knife inventory based on their interpretation of what was a legal knife. The owner subsequently got his property back (partially, and therein lies the story) and the State laws got changed to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Abe Foote of Abe’s Awesome Armaments in New Hampton, NH, who was an unfairly prosecuted victim of New Hampshire’s former restrictions on switchblade sales, was reunited on Wednesday with some of the knives the police had seized.

Unfortunately, approximately one third of the knives seized by the police remain unaccounted for, having disappeared from the evidence room. An internal investigation has been launched by the County Prosecutor. Knife Rights attorney and Freedom’s Point award winner Evan Nappen got the court order for the knives’ return.

One-third of the guy’s property disappeared from the police evidence room! It would appear that there are some police officers in New Hampton who have brand new knives to play with.

Stories like this really lower the level of trust between the citizenry and the police.

It would be easy to write it off as an aberration,  but I have been told by different people who had police raid their homes that items disappeared in the process. A hard thing to prove though, as they don’t inventory the stuff before they haul it out the door.

Regardless, it would be interesting to hear the outcome of the New Hampshire investigation and see if anyone is eventually held to account for the knives purloined from the security of the police evidence room. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

File Under ‘Hurt Feelings’

June 2, 2010

At the committee hearings on MP Candice Hoeppner’s Private Member’s Bill to eliminate the federal long-gun registry Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair got all sensitive when Conservative MP Shelley Glover ( a police officer herself) expressed her concerns that rank and file police opposition to the registry was being silenced by the seni0r police bureaucracy.

Toronto police Chief Bill Blair says he was insulted and “disappointed” after a Tory MP suggested he and other Canadian police chiefs were gagging critics of the long-gun registry.

Conservative MP Shelley Glover (Saint Boniface) told a parliamentary committee hearing this week that police critics of the long-gun registry have been “silenced.”

Glover, a Winnipeg patrol officer on leave since she was elected in 2008, declared she was among frontline officers who were “polled” when the registry was first created by a Liberal government in the mid 1990s, and “overwhelmingly” expressed opposition to it, just as officers today oppose it, she claims.

Blair was offended by what he saw as the “disrespectful tone” of some of the questions.

Blair also consistently referred to those speaking against the continuation of the long-gun registry as the “gun lobby” but has said in other interviews that there is no “police lobby” when it comes to speaking to keep the registry.

Blair ‘respectfully’ blew off the retired police officers who gave their opinion as to the uselessness of the registry.

Blair dismissed retired officers who have told the committee most cops want to kill the registry, saying the “gun lobby” often “goes to the local gun club and recruit a couple of cops who’ve retired and who pretend to speak on behalf of law enforcement.”

Of course we’ll never really know  whether or not there was an active attempt by various police departments to silence their rank and file in the debate over the registry. However if you were a Toronto police officer I suspect that knowing Chief Blair’s political position on the long-gun registry, it would be considered a career limiting move to speak publicly supporting its elimination.

Trapped in Suburbia discusses this issue and has posted a letter from RCMP Deputy Commissioner Tim Killam sent to the various RCMP Commanding Officers across the country, along with various other material regarding the registry and Bill C-391.

D/Comm Killam ends his letter with instructions.

The RCMP position is, and always has been, that the services provided by the CFP, including the registration and licensing of all firearms, are valuable resources for all law enforcement, nationally and internationally. The registration of all firearms enables individual accountability, promotes safety and life saving measures, and is a pro-active investigative tool in assisting law enforcement.

This information should be disseminated to all your employees for their information. I would ask that you please refrain from providing any personal opinions and redirect all media inquiries on this issue to the National Communications Services.

Now that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement for the argument that their officers in the field fully support the registry. It does leave one with the distinct impression that anyone speaking against the party line on the issue would be persona non grata with the RCMP’s upper echelon.

I think we can safely say that at least the RCMP put out a gag order to their members.

The incompetence of lawmakers

May 31, 2010

I  was fascinated to read that while U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had roundly criticized the Arizona Immigration legislation and was supposedly reviewing it to determine a possible challenge by the U.S. federal government, he admitted that he hadn’t even read the bill.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who has been critical of Arizona’s new immigration law, said Thursday he hasn’t yet read the law and is going by what he’s read in newspapers or seen on television.

Mr. Holder is conducting a review of the law, at President Obama’s request, to see if the federal government should challenge it in court. He said he expects he will read the law by the time his staff briefs him on their conclusions.

“I’ve just expressed concerns on the basis of what I’ve heard about the law. But I’m not in a position to say at this point, not having read the law, not having had the chance to interact with people are doing the review, exactly what my position is,” Mr. Holder told the House Judiciary Committee.

However, in spite of his lack of familiarity with the wording of the legislation, Holder had lots of opinions.

This weekend Mr. Holder told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program that the Arizona law “has the possibility of leading to racial profiling.” He had earlier called the law’s passage “unfortunate,” and questioned whether the law was unconstitutional because it tried to assume powers that may be reserved for the federal government.

(If we can go sideways for a minute, the following video pokes a little fun at the “haven’t read it” crowd).

(Too funny not to insert).

All of which led me to think that Mr. Holder’s (and others) lack of diligence was a reflection of a deeper problem that we have with our elected officials when it comes to talking about and voting for/against legislation that is tabled.

This has become increasingly apparent when we look at the ambitious legislation that has been passed in the U.S. in recent months.

The obvious one was the legislation to reform health care in the U.S. or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. which weighed in at over 1,000 pages of bureaucratic legalese. To the extent that a Democratic Senator said that he would not read the  the actual legislation.

Sen. Thomas Carper (D.-Del.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, told that he does not “expect” to read the actual legislative language of the committee’s health care bill because it is “confusing” and that anyone who claims they are going to read it and understand it is fooling people.

“I don’t expect to actually read the legislative language because reading the legislative language is among the more confusing things I’ve ever read in my life,” Carper told

In fact, the the Senate Finance Committee apparently never even dealt with the language in the legislation, but instead relied on the “plain English summary” of the bill. Which strikes me as being a bit problematic as who is to say how accurate the “plain English” interpretation is. Anyone who has ground their way through the bureaucratic wording inherent in most legislation soon recognizes that regardless of the understood intent of the legislation, the question is how some bureaucrat or even a court may interpret the wording at some later date. Too often the original intent is lost in the mists of time.

The recent passing of the U.S. government’s financial reform legislation is no doubt more of the same. Since many of the so-called financial experts were obviously baffled by some of the more esoteric financial transactions that contributed to the financial disaster, I can’t see where very many (if any) elected politicians voting on this legislation would have had any deep understanding of the bill’s ramifications.

The public at large just assumes that those writing the various bills have a certain amount of competence in what they do. Not always the case.

I remember – years back when I was still involved with corporate tax issues – going to a professional seminar on some esoteric tax issue where the presenters stood at the podium at one point and said flat out that they had no idea what the wording of a specific section meant. And these were the tax specialists. Obviously they weren’t getting much advice from Revenue Canada bureaucrats either. It was at that point that I wondered just what the hell I was doing there.

I think that it can be safely assumed that the MPs of the day who voted in favour of the existing tax legislation had no idea of what they were voting for at the time, and not just in regards to the more complex aspects of the Act. Their understanding of the details within the Act would have been minimal at best. They just voted the way they were told to vote.

The other side of the equation is that if the government waited until every MP had actually read the various pieces of legislation and could actually demonstrate that they understood what the wording meant, very little would ever get passed.

Of course, that could be a positive result in many cases.

Anyway, to beat the dead horse just a bit more, there are 29 bills pending in the Canadian Parliament right now. It would be interesting to know what percentage of the MPs have read what percentage of the bills.

On poverty and crime

May 24, 2010

I wish I had written this. An old link but still worth reading.

The canard that “poverty causes crime” is the  product of lazy correlation. We associate crime with poverty  because criminals are so often poor. However, the association is an inversion – people don’t become drug-addicted thieves because they’re poor – they’re poor because they’re drug-addicted thieves.

If poverty were a root cause of crime, the six-figure executive wouldn’t embezzle, the limo-driven politician wouldn’t defraud. There’d be an income threshold at which crime was no longer “necessary” for survival. Poverty and ruin are simply possible consequences when high-risk, high-return windfall economics trump morality, honesty and the work ethic.

What the white-collar criminal and inner-city gang member have in common is something quite different, and it’s unrelated to birthright or economic misfortune.

What they share is a sense of entitlement. They have convinced themselves (through varying measures of rationalization and socialization) that they are entitled to our money, our property, our lives.