Saturday, May 11, 2013

How's your water?



Watch this excellent weekend type video and you will understand the question.

(h/t)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday night



New awesome set by Kaskade with lots of great stuff. A free download to boot.

Have a good night!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Your $60 million media monitoring programme

Note: This blog post below was written on March 9th but not published. Given this news of the past day, "Harper Government Spends Millions Monitoring Press Of Own MPs," thought it would be useful additional context. Also, note to self: Listen more intently to that friend who passes these things on...

Let's look at one of the late Friday afternoon announcements last night, just for fun: "Government of Canada continues to look for savings in media monitoring." Mentioned 6 times in this brief announcement, including the title, is the word "saving" or "savings." Which makes you wonder, well, is this really about savings or is somebody protesting a little too much.

This is the announcement where they have to tell us how much they're spending on media monitoring. I.e., how much money the government is spending to see how it's departmental efforts and etc. are going over in media coverage. And it's actually quite a lot when you compare this spending to things they're cutting. But you have to look twice and very carefully given the way the information is presented to determine how much the government is actually spending:
The Government of Canada is committed to saving taxpayer dollars and keeping taxes low. From April 1st, 2011, to December 11th, 2012, the Government of Canada spent approximately $22 million on media monitoring services.
The first sentence is pure propaganda that has nothing to do with the second sentence. Indeed, they are contradictory. But set that aside. Look at the strange period they report on, a year and just over 8 months to come up with the figure of $22 million. So deduce the math, Canadians, the savings experts won't do it for you. It's just over a million a month ($22 million over 20 months).

We also read that "Estimated annual savings based on the current five-year negotiated contracts for these licenses are approximately $18 million." So they're saving us $3 million a year, which they're selling as a good thing, when they spend about $12 million a year on this activity.

Or, they've contracted to spend $60 million over 5 years which is what they don't seem to want to flat out say. That's a heck of a lot of scratch on media monitoring.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Wynne budget promotes gender diversity on boards and in business #onpoli

One item in the Ontario budget that was released this week that deserves some attention is this indication that Ontario is going to proactively step up on gender diversity in corporate Canada. In a series of measures on securities regulation, there was this statement:
The government strongly supports broader gender diversity on the boards and in senior management of major businesses, not-for-profit firms and other large organizations. In conjunction with others, including the OSC, the government will consider the best way for firms to disclose their approaches to gender diversity, with a view to increasing the participation of women on boards and in senior management.
A few points to note on this. First, the Ontario government is enlisting the Ontario Securities Commission, the largest securities regulator in the country, in the task of achieving greater gender diversity. It signals that the Ontario government means business.

Ontario is also choosing a route to further the goal. Disclosure by companies of their approaches, in corporate annual reports, is a concrete measure that will require companies to focus on the issue and present their information. The thinking is that such scrutiny will be a means of public pressure to further the goal of increasing women's representation. It's a step that is less than a legislative requirement but is greater than an entirely voluntary approach. Which seems to fit with the manner of Wynne's new imprint on the Ontario government: collaborative, pragmatic and progressive.

Consider, by contrast, the steps the Harper government is taking. Minister Ambrose announced a 25 member advisory council in early April that will report back in the fall. This large council will provide advice on how to achieve greater women's representation on corporate boards, yes. But it is advisory and there is a lack of clear direction given in the council's mandate. The federal body is also limited to women's representation on boards whereas the Ontario effort is broader.

Note also that one of the three bullet points the federal council is to consider is "how the government could recognize leaders in industry and applaud companies that have succeeded in reaching their targets." The feds seem to be envisioning more of a voluntary approach with awards of some kind. Versus the Ontario approach that will be backed by the inclusion of the regulator in the process. The federal effort may yet prove serious, but we shall see. The federal council's work may be eclipsed by Ontario's in any event.

Both of these efforts reflect that these are needed measures in Canada. Women's representation on Canadian boards, for example, is not growing, despite all the talk in recent years. Canada is now at 13.1% for women's board composition, according to a recent GMI Ratings study, compared to the U.S. at 16.9% (also no great shakes) with northern European countries coming in around the 30% mark.

A commitment to focus on women's representation in corporate Canada received support from many Liberals during the recent federal leadership race. So it's quite timely and smart of the Ontario Liberal government to do something about it. It's also a nice reminder of why we need to elect progressive governments in this country and what lasting markers for liberal principles like equality can be realized.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Friday night



Fave song of the week. Nice mix of emotion in this one.

It's from one of Avicii's recent sets that now has over 1.2 million listens in the past 20 or so days. Wow. A great hour if you like this kind of music.

And shhhh, don't tell anyone...it's my birthday:) Celebrating with the parents. Yup.

Have a good night!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The Conservatives eye the CBC - updated

Updated (Thursday 6 pm) below.

Every once in a while, Harper exposes his fangs. This is one of those moments: "Budget bill gives Harper Cabinet new powers over CBC."

It's a Harper special, naturally. Mix the CBC in with a pile of other Crowns who can be portrayed as bloated public entities whose employees are getting more than in the private sector. So we hear Clement say this “is part of a broader issue, which is aligning the public-service compensation and benefits to private-sector norms and expectations...”. Sell it to the public as a sensible economic measure then. Try to massage it into one more incremental logical step that won't raise hackles.

Nothing sensible or reasonable about this one though. The public broadcaster should not have its salaries explicitly overseen by the federal Conservative cabinet. Or any other stripe of cabinet. The implications for the independence of the institution are clear. Politicians weighing in on journalistic salaries? That has no business in a modern western democratic nation. And what breed of conservatism is this?

At least Scott Brison is serving notice that Harper is playing with fire and will be carefully watched: “We will thoroughly scrutinize actions by this government towards these agencies.” The politicians will have lots of help in that task.

Bravo to the CBC, by the way, for blowing the lid off the temporary foreign workers programme. Nothing like a few whistle blowers leading the national news describing how their jobs are being farmed out to bring it right into every living room and made meaningful to the average Canadian.

Happy two year Harper government anniversary, everyone...

Update (Thursday 6 pm): A must read follow-up to the above in the Hill Times today. Tim Naumetz has reviewed the Crown corporation annual reports and discovers, lo and behold, that the CBC is essentially the major Crown whose collective bargaining agreements could possibly be affected in the near future by the Conservatives' insertion of the cabinet over those negotiations. There is a CBC agreement that comes up for renewal in March of 2014:
But of the three Crown corporations, only the CBC will have its major collective agreements expire between now and 2014 as the 2015 federal general election nears, including one covering 5,000 English-language news personnel and journalists that expires March 31, 2014.
Also notable, this excerpt referencing a statement by the CBC in response to the government's move:
The statement also noted the Broadcasting Act gives the CBC board of directors the “explicit authority” to determine the salaries of its employees and that CBC and Radio Canada employees are not public servants.

The budget bill would give Cabinet the power to order Crown corporations to have their mandates for collective bargaining approved by Cabinet’s Treasury Board committee of ministers and allow for a Treasury Board employee to monitor negotiations.
Yes, if you look at the Broadcasting Act, there are clear distinctions drawn which separate the CBC's power to hire and set salaries versus the cabinet's power. For example, the federal cabinet has a say in the Chair of the Board and the President's salary but it does not with respect to any employee:
Remuneration

Chairperson’s and President’s remuneration

43. (1) The Chairperson and the President shall be paid by the Corporation remuneration at the rate fixed by the Governor in Council.

Fees of other directors

(2) Each director, other than the Chairperson and the President, shall be paid by the Corporation such fees for attendance at meetings of the Board or any committee of directors as are fixed by the by-laws of the Corporation.

Expenses

(3) Each director is entitled to be paid by the Corporation such travel and living expenses incurred by the director in the performance of the duties of that director as are fixed by the by-laws of the Corporation.

Staff

Employment of staff

44. (1) The Corporation may, on its own behalf, employ such officers and employees as it considers necessary for the conduct of its business.

Terms, etc., of employment

(2) The officers and employees employed by the Corporation under subsection (1) shall, subject to any by-laws made under section 51, be employed on such terms and conditions and at such rates of remuneration as the Board deems fit.

Not servants of Her Majesty

(3) The officers and employees employed by the Corporation under subsection (1) are not officers or servants of Her Majesty.
It's very much a clear policy distinction being made here in the Broadcasting Act. The intent is to leave staffing and remuneration decisions within the CBC as an internal matter, free from government intrusion. This is entirely understandable. The CBC is a Crown like no other at the federal level. The CBC is part of the free press in Canada.

Granted, the government appoints the Board members who provide oversight of the CBC employee salaries and employment whom the CBC chooses to employ. But the Board's primary duty is owed to the corporation within the context of the particular Crown's public service mandate.

What Harper is now doing is reaching in and making CBC employee salaries - journalists - subject to the federal cabinet's influence, contrary to section 44(3) above. Typically, he's doing it without explicitly amending the Broadcasting Act but through the budget bill. It's quite an intrusion. The Treasury Board representative doesn't even have to do anything by way of taking action in the negotiations. The presence of this representative is influence enough.

As a majority government, these Conservatives can do what they choose, essentially. But no Prime Minister to date has gone this far with the CBC.

Stephen Harper has no business inserting himself in the salary negotiations of journalists within the CBC. Period.