Crawl Across the Ocean

Monday, August 08, 2005

Good Times?

The Globe and Mail was positively filled with good news today. Well, none of it was really news, but it was all good.

First off, Ottawa Flush With Surplus Cash. On current trends it looks like Ottawa will take in $5 billion more than forecast in the budget. People can criticize, but when the government is managing it's books exactly the same way I manage my own - conservatively - I'm not going to. I find it funny that, on the one hand, people bemoan how predictable this turn of events was. And on the other hand, people complain how it's impossible for people to rely on these budget estimates when they're always wrong. Either you can figure out an estimate of our fiscal situation based on the budget forecast or you can't - you can't have it both ways.

Anyway, for the last few years employment growth has been strong, commodity prices have been high and corporate profits have been at record levels. Under the circumstances you would almost expect the results to come in ahead of a forecast which has to allow for the possibility of an economic slowdown. So people can complain away but if Ottawa keeps piling up surpluses and putting them against the debt, we're all getting wealthier and that's fine by me.

Unsurprisingly, Andrew disagrees, but that's OK since we've pretty much agreed to disagree on this topic.


Second, some encouraging results from an industry sponsored propaganda poll looking to drum up support for tougher measures against copying.

"the survey asked students about their attitudes toward theft and found that most did not put illegal software downloading in the same category as offences such as shoplifting.

About 96 per cent agreed that stealing software from a store would be considered a serious offence. By comparison, 40 per cent felt the same way about illegal downloading, file swapping or making copies of commercial software."

It's good to see that, despite industry funded advertising to the contrary, people were able to see the ethical difference between depriving the store of an item they were planning to sell (and causing them a loss nearly equal to the students gain) and making a copy of software (not causing any loss to the company).

The students also seemed to be able (unlike the study authors) to distinguish between plagiarizing (taking credit for someone else's work) and simple copying (making a copy of someone else's work but taking no credit for its creation),
"On the issue of intellectual property rights, about 87 per cent said they would have a problem with someone plagiarizing their own work. When it comes to downloading commercial software, however, just 40 per cent showed similar concerns.

The disconnect, the report said, was particularly strong among computer-science students."

Maybe the media literacy courses they teach these days are actually paying off! For a more useful bit of discussion on intellectual property than the industry poll, see this excellent column by Michael Geist in the Star on why the blank media copyright levy has outlived its usefulness.


Finally, it seems like Newfoundland & Labrador is moving forward with plans for the Lower Churchill project, a massive hydroelectric plant in Labrador. Personally, I am indifferent to whether it is done with or without help from Hydro Québec, but, what I do think is that, when we look back in 50 years, the people who started work on big hydroelectric projects now will be seen as having made smart decisions.

Already, Canadian provinces with well developed hydro resources have a competitive advantage over those that don't and this is only going to grow as a combination of dwindling supplies and increased environmental concerns drives the price (and volatility of the price) of fossil fuels higher.

I believe that if Ontario had taken the billions it has invested in the Nuclear sector and devoted it instead to developing a robust grid linking and developing the hydro capacity of Manitoba, Northern Ontario and Québec, the energy picture would be a lot brighter there. There are issues with hydro of course, such as the flooding of land and Native land claims, but my feeling is that these issues are the lesser of the evils you have to deal with to generate power and that, if dealt with properly, they don't really have to be evils at all.

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  • In case you are wondering why this great post isn't getting any comments, it's because few people are going to be able to come up with better ideas than the ones you came up with!

    By Blogger Simon, at 8:29 AM  

  • thanks, but (assuming you are referring to the post below on blog movie ideas) really I think people are just lazy...

    By Blogger Declan, at 10:20 AM  

  • Not to be deemed lazy...

    Today's media snit seems to be about how, as the price of gasoline goes up, the money flowing into Ottawa increases astronomically, thus bloating the surplus even more. The legislators who dreamed up how to tax gas were not dumb. And Paul Martin is nothing if not sneaky: the only way he can pay down the debt is to have bigger surpluses than forecasted and to mandate those surpluses go towards the debt. He can blame the law, and avoid voter fury, instead of going the impossible route of allocating a bigger chunk of the budget to debt payment and then explaining to Canadians exactly why that's crucial to our long-term economic health.

    The silly thing is the interest payments on our debt are crippling our ability to pay for health care, something many keep screaming is essential to us as Canadians. If they want more health care, they have to reduce the debt.

    By Blogger talk talk talk / Shireen, at 12:52 PM  

  • TripleTalk - I was never really sure how taxation of gas works - it is a percentage of the price like the gst or is it just a fixed amount / litre.

    Otherwise, we are in full agreement, both on the pragmatic, effective nature of Paul Martin's approach to debt reduction, and to the central role debt reduction plays in our long term economic future and funding of social programs.

    By Blogger Declan, at 2:23 PM  

  • Yeah, I was talking about the movie post. This post is merely quite good.

    I wonder what happened? This post wasn't even posted when I went to comment on the post below. Strange.

    By Blogger Simon, at 7:38 PM  

  • Declan: I had thought it was part fixed, part a percentatge, but according to the government's website at it's all fixed. The catch is the GST calculation is based on the total cost per litre including the gas taxes. They also have not removed the temporary increase for the deficit. Slightly shady if you ask me, even if it does lead to faster debt reduction and forcing people to think about their gas consumption.

    By Blogger talk talk talk / Shireen, at 3:24 PM  

  • thanks for the link TripleTalk.

    Maybe it's a little shady, but the impact is good so I'm not going to get too worked up.

    By Blogger Declan, at 12:21 PM  

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