Other countries have founding myths featuring prison breaks, rebellions, wars, and all manner of bloodshed. But not this country. The central event in the story of Canada's founding was a conference.

Participants sat at a table. They talked. They negotiated and compromised. The most violent act was an especially vigorous shaking of hands.

This goes some way to explaining why Canada is one of the world's most successful and boring countries. It also underscores the absurdity of the status quo in federal politics.

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If there's an election this spring, cuts to corporate in-Icome taxes are likely to play a big role. Conservatives are in favour. Liberals are opposed. Conservatives say cuts will make the economy stronger. Liberals say they'll drown the budget in red ink.

Who's right? I asked Don Drummond. In the late 1990s, Drummond was the economist at the Department of Finance who pushed the Liberal government to cut corporate income taxes. The top rate then was almost 30 per cent. Getting it down was essential for the economy, Drummond insisted.

The Liberals agreed and the rate was slashed to 18 per cent. The fight now is whether that should go to 15 per cent.

"You would think if anyone among the 33 million Canadians would care deeply about this, it would be me," says Drummond, who was, until recently, chief economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank and is now Matthews Fellow in Global Public Policy at Queen's University. But he doesn't. Not in the least. "I have a hard time getting beyond a yawn."

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The Sledgehammer School of Management

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 16:59

The other day I picked up a sledgehammer and smashed my television.

The wife and kids were somewhat surprised. "Honey," my wife said gently. "Why did you do that?"

"Didn't like the picture quality," I replied.

"But we've had that TV for years and you never said a word about it before," she said.

I shrugged.

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Stephen Harper: Nasty But Inconsequential

Friday, 04 February 2011 09:53

If you're a fan of Stephen Harper, please move along. I hope that's not rude. It's just that right now I want to talk to people who wish, as I do, that Stephen Harper would try his hand at another line of work. Something better suited to his talents and temperament. Tax auditor, perhaps. Or Mafioso. Something of that sort.

Here's the thing, my fellow non-fans. Your loathing of Stephen Harper is so intense it's distorting your judgment. You assume your feelings are proportionate to the threat Harper poses and so you see him as an evil genius deliberately and steadily changing everything you love about your country.

The whole political spectrum is shifting to the right, you fear. Stephen Harper is making Canadians more conservative.

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Here is one argument Prime Minister Stephen Harper can make to defend his purchase of F-35 jet fighters: "No one can predict the future and no one knows what challenges Canada's military will have to meet in the decades ahead. This is why the military must be equipped with jets capable of carrying out a wide range of roles, in concert with our allies, well into the 21st century. The F-35s are those jets. The Liberals object to the contracting process but they do not, and cannot, deny that the military needs new jets. And we are getting the job done."

Here is another argument he can make: "The Liberals are rotten creeps who put politics first and don't care if they kill jobs and people."

Anyone who has followed Stephen Harper's political career will be familiar with his habit of attacking the motives, character, patriotism, moral worth, and personal hygiene of those who disagree with him. Thus, it was predictable which of the two lines of argument the prime minister would choose.

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Are the Harper Conservatives changing Canada or is Canada changing the Harper Conservatives? Much as I like to complain about the government, I tend to think the answer is closer to the latter. One big reason? I follow American politics closely and so I inevitably find myself comparing Conservatives and Republicans. And from that limited perspective our erstwhile Reformers look remarkably moderate - which is to say, sweetly Canadian - and are getting steadily more so.

Consider two important conservatives who just got new jobs.

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Hypocrites On Stilts

Wednesday, 21 July 2010 20:47

On Monday, Industry minister Tony Clement took to Twitter's ramparts and resumed the Battle of the Census. "Data is valuable to many," he tweeted. "But personal questions you would like to force Cdns to answer on pain of jail is just plain wrong." Bad grammar, but the point was clear: The mandatory long-form census must go.

Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, who has increasingly been taking the lead in defending the government, was even more explicit. "Fundamentally, my position is that whatever the presumed usefulness of these data, I don't believe it justifies forcing people to answer intrusive questions about their lives, under threat from a fine or jail time if they don't."

So it's agreed, then. The mandatory long-form census has no place in a free and democratic society that respects the privacy of its citizens. This is a matter of the highest principle to these principled politicians and the principled government they serve.

Which is why I am sure they will be alarmed at what I am about to reveal.

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Fie On Your Evidence-Ignoring Agenda!

Saturday, 22 May 2010 10:13

Ideas come from a lot of places, and some of them are better than others. Is the patient sick? Stick some leeches on him to suck out the bad blood.

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The Three Rules of Crime Statistics

Friday, 25 July 2008 07:34

As a long-time student of crime policy, I didn't predict that national crime statistics released last week would show a substantial drop in most categories of crime in most parts of the country.

Predicting long-term crime trends is hard. Predicting year-to-year variations is pretty much impossible.

But when the news broke, I did predict the reactions. That's dead easy. Follow three basic rules and you can't go wrong.

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The Peacekeeping Myth

Friday, 14 July 2006 15:58

As retired major-general Lewis MacKenzie and other officers noted many times this week, soldiers bitch. Always have, always will. The fact that a soldier killed in combat last Sunday had complained to family and friends about the tough, grinding work he was doing in Afghanistan is essentially meaningless. It is terribly unfair, both to the military and to the memory of the soldier, to read anything into it.

But one comment that didn't draw much attention is worth examining more closely. Dylan Bulloch, the best friend of slain soldier Cpl. Anthony Boneca, told the Citizen that Cpl. Boneca "was telling me no one wants to be there, no one knows exactly why they're there and why is Canada in a war zone when all we do is protect and peacekeep."

If Mr. Bulloch's recollection is accurate, it is troubling. Cpl. Boneca may have been a reservist, but he was still an experienced soldier and when even an experienced soldier thinks it inconceivable that he would have to fight a war because "all we do is protect and peacekeep," the military has a problem.

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