John Baglow

John Baglow is a former Executive Vice-President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. He is currently a writer, researcher and a consultant in the fields of public and social policy
You can read his blog at

Dec 202012

First Nations outraged as Harperites pile on injuries and insults.

by John Baglow

How much is an apology worth?

On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper rose in the House of Commons to deliver an “historic apology” to the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada for the forced removal of 150,000 of their children to residential schools during most of the last century. In those schools, many of the kids were abused, sexually, emotionally and physically: untold numbers of them died of neglect. That government policy created deep wounds that have not yet nearly healed.

So the Prime Minister’s apology was a welcome one in many quarters. Could it mark a turning-point in relations between the federal government and the indigenous peoples of Canada? Would the kids be better off?

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Dec 172012

House Speaker bucks Harperites, upholds Opposition's duty to oppose.

by John Baglow

The Harper government continues to push the envelope in the House of Commons, seeing just how much it can get away with as it rends and tears the Parliamentary conventions upon which our responsible government is built. But this time it went too far even for Speaker Andrew Scheer, hardly known for bold rulings against his governing party. As it turns out, even a lapdog can bite.

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May 222012

Most Canadians still honour social contract, despite Harper.

by John Baglow

Andrew Coyne believes that a robust democracy of many voices and interests should not be promoted at the taxpayers' expense.

To be more explicit, he stated in a May 5 article that Harper's crackdown on charitable groups for "political activity" is warranted, and that subsidies for political parties are wrong as well. Why should a taxpayer be forced, in one way or another, to fund views with which he or she disagrees? He wrote:

It's a safe bet that a good many of the more well-known advocacy groups in the country, including the various think thanks of the left and right, are operating in excess of this standard, and have been for years. As long as it's even-handed about it, I see nothing wrong with simply enforcing the law, as the government proposes. Indeed, I'd go further. Why should any charity be permitted to spend any money on advocacy of any kind?

    Under current law, charities are forbidden from overtly partisan advocacy of any kind. They are, however, permitted to devote up to 10 percent (as a general rule: there are higher limits for smaller charities) of their resources, financial or otherwise, to more broadly defined "political activities" — for example, advocating that a particular law should be "retained, opposed, or changed," or some other equally explicit "call to political action."

Setting aside the fact that Coyne advances no evidence of anyone's operations being in excess of the law, it might be noted that similar arguments have been made about the CBC, notably by its competitors. But why stop there? Without too much difficulty such arguments can be applied to almost any government expenditure on anything. Why should I have to pay for the F-35s? Why must I support the risible Office of Religious Freedom on my nickel?


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May 082012

Hostile environment facilitates civil meeting.

by John Baglow

Every three years, the Public Service Alliance of Canada holds its Convention — the supreme governing body of the PSAC. I've attended ten of them, once as an observer, six as a delegate/officer, and three as a guest. They can be brutal occasions, as any extended accountability session tends to be.

At Convention, the top leadership of the Alliance is placed under a microscope. Candidates for National President and National Executive Vice-President in the next three-year cycle live a tense few days. The budget for that cycle, having been through more than a week of committee scrutiny, can take a lot of Convention time as well, especially if there is a proposed dues increase. I chaired the Finance Committee twice, and in 2000 I spent two and a half days on the podium under the hot lights — literally and figuratively.

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Apr 042012
Radical budget could hurt most Canadians

Crassly ideological document feeds just about every Conservative prejudice.

by John Baglow

with YouTube video by Samantha Bayard. Click here for a complete YouTube playlist of post-Budget interviews

OTTAWA, Straight Goods News, March 29, 2012 — The strategy was simple: prepare us for an attack by chainsaw-wielding maniacs — then just slap us around a little and break a few fingers. Folks will still sigh in relief, or so the Harper government is hoping with this year's Spring surprise.

Taking a well-aimed swipe at the Liberals, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stated in the House on Thursday that there was "no need to undertake the radical austerity measures imposed by the federal government in the 1990s." But the budget is, as a whole, radical enough to hurt almost every ordinary Canadian.

It's a crassly ideological one, in fact, feeding just about every known Conservative prejudice. It imposes an austerity upon working Canadians that we simply do not need. As Andrew Jackson, Chief Economist of the Canadian Labour Congress, notes, our deficit is not particularly alarming-about 2 percent of GDP. Canada is in good financial shape, in part due to stimulus spending after the 2008 recession. The government pats itself vigorously on the back for that successful Keynesian move, although it was forced upon the unwilling Conservatives by the opposition parties back in the minority days.

Almost needless to say, the federal public service takes a direct hit — 19,200 federal public employees are about to be tossed onto the street. With them, of course, go the services they provided to Canadians, as well as additional jobs in the private sector: less money in the local economy has its inevitable effects. Jackson expects that 50,000 jobs in all will be lost. The National Capital Region will bear the brunt of the cuts.

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Mar 272012

A counter-narrative to the stories being written by the familiar pundits and naysayers.

by John Baglow

Reading the analyses from the pundits yesterday and today, it dawned on me that they don't have a clue what has just happened to our New Democratic Party. But, to be honest, neither do I.

Some had already written us off before the race even began, like this prominent wader in the shallows, who presumed to tell the future three years in advance. Most are far less foolhardy, living as they do in the chaos of the present, not in a smugly closed delusional system.

They haven't cast aside their own lenses and blinkers, of course, but they're in some confusion. Their mix of arrant speculation, avuncular advice, and binary analysis, and the way it is couched, gives the game away. Eight things, 10 challenges, two wings, two directions — it's a snippet here and a snippet there, as scribes scramble to assemble a narrative that they, at least, can make sense of.

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