Roger Gibbins

  • Only Harper can reset the tune, and tone, of politics

    VANCOUVER -- A sure sign summer is drawing to a close is the rush of political commentators, myself included, speculating on what the fall session of Parliament might bring. Ignore "Back to School" ads; the real action is taking place on editorial pages, newscasts and blogs and news sites as commentators make up for the summer paucity of hard political news, at least hard Canadian news, with impassioned speculation. Such speculation takes on greater urgency this time around because the last six to eight months in the nation's capital have been particularly distasteful. Seldom has so much partisan vitriol and fury been directed at matters of so little consequence for our long-term future. Fortunately Rome was not burning, but our political leaders were fiddling as hard as they could.
  • Pity not the typical pensioner

    VANCOUVER -- Popular depictions of seniors, of whom I am one, often fail to reflect dramatically changing demographic and economic realities. Seniors are portrayed as surviving on fixed incomes with shrinking purchasing power, living in poorly heated apartments and eating endless macaroni and cheese dinners, sometimes without the cheese. While this portrayal of a vulnerable population captures the unfortunate circumstances of too many seniors, it also masks a very different larger reality. Yes, seniors have relatively low incomes, but income should not be confused with wealth. Seniors who are mortgage free, who own their own homes, vehicles and in some cases vacation properties, are doing just fine.
  • Asia won't wait for us

    Western Canadians increasingly see the almost explosive growth of Asian economies as the solution to waning export prospects in our traditional North American market. The combination of growing Asian demand for natural resources and the vast resource base in Western Canada is seen as the key to sustained prosperity. However, it may be a difficult key to turn.
  • Ontario, Quebec biting Alberta's hand

    Canadians are quick to complain about -- and even quicker to forget -- one of the reasons that Canada is a great country: The federal government tries to ensure that, no matter where Canadians choose to live, they receive roughly the same level of public services thanks to wealth transfer among the provinces.

    While most Canadians have little understanding of the arcane mechanisms that drive the equalization program, most of us get the basics.

  • Canadian policy and economic leadership shifting west

    Some of the most interesting action in well-written plays takes place out of the spotlight. This is increasingly the case on Canada's political stage.

    A good example happened last week when all the focus was on election fever in Ottawa. Story after story was filled with speculation as to whether the Liberals would pull the plug on the minority Conservative government and, if they did, whether the NDP or Bloc would shove it back in. Commentators stormed to the microphone to predict who might win or lose. Nobody outside Ottawa wants an election; voters are riding out the recession.

  • We can't spend our way out of the recession

    After months of unrelenting bad news about the economy, it is hard not to be just a little optimistic when, rather than the rain beating down, the sun shines and all seems right with the world.

    Like an earnest gardener, media coverage focuses on any sign of a green economic shoot, any indication that things are getting better. Even if the news is that things are getting worse more slowly, and that unemployment is still rising but not as quickly as we feared, we breathe a sigh of relief.

  • No outs: If you sin, you pay

    It is impossible these days to avoid discussions about climate change, yet, despite the ubiquitous nature of those discussions and the rhetorical skill of many participants, including U.S. President Barack Obama, the policy language fails to connect with most voters. To understand the disconnect, let's consider the roots of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century and its parallels to the contemporary climate change debate.

    The Protestant Reformation was a revolt against a clergy that used Latin, a language their flock did not understand, to discuss extraordinary abstract concepts such as the Holy Spirit. It was also a revolt against the church's sale of indulgences, a practice that finds uneasy parallels in today's climate change debates.

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