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Published: Thu, 22 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2018 13:25:23 -0500


In Rare Move, U.S. International Trade Commission Rejects Ludicrous Tariffs on Canadian Jets

Mon, 29 Jan 2018 15:00:00 -0500

(image) A trade panel shot down a plan to put tariffs on imported jets late last week. It was a rare setback for American protectionists, who have been riding high recently.

On Friday, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) rejected the staggering 300 percent duties that the Commerce Department wanted to slap on the Canadian jet maker Bombardier. The Commerce Department's push had come at the request of Boeing, which claimed that Canada's subsidies to Bombardier's planes were unfair and caused great harm to America's aircraft industry.

In a unanimous vote, the ITC declared that U.S. industry was not "not materially injured or threatened with material injury" by the 75 jets Bombardier intended to sell to Delta.

The decision is welcome but narrow. Boeing made some particularly absurd demands that even U.S. trade law could not accommodate, heavily slanted though it is to favor claims of injury from domestic producers.

Under current law, the ITC—which operates as an independent, quasi-judicial body—must make two findings before it can impose anti-dumping duties of the kind Boeing was seeking against Bombardier: first, that a particular product is being subsidized, and second, that this subsidy is harming domestic industry.

That Bombardier is subsidized is without question. In 2015 the company received a $1 billion bailout from Quebec's provincial government, and last year the national government gave it a $300 million loan.

But the idea that it was causing injury to the domestic industry was a real stretch. Boeing did not bid on the Delta contract that Bombardier eventually won. It does not make the type of smaller aircraft the Canadians are accused of trying to dump into the U.S. market. No subsidized Bombardier jets had even been shipped to the United States when Boeing made its complaint, making the company's claims of injury entirely speculative.

So the ITC rejected Boeing's petition. Aside from that, though, the panel has ruled in favor of producers seeking trade barriers in every case decided thus far this year. It has found imports of everything from paper and metal tubing to cabinets and tool chests to be both subsidized and guilty of causing material harm to U.S. industries.

Things are even less restricted with "safeguard tariffs." These require no finding that a good has been subsidized, only that there has been a surge in its imports and that this has caused a domestic inductry to lose profits and market share.

Such was the case with the washing machine tariff imposed at the beginning of last week. Note that unlike jet aircraft, which most Americans would consider a luxury, washing machines are essentially a household necessity. So tariffs are coming directly out of average consumers' pockets.

Already LG Electronics—a Korean maker of washing machines—has told U.S. retailers that it will be upping its prices in response to the 20 to 50 percent tariffs now being applied to its products. Market analysts predict the price of new washers will rise by between $70 and $100.

Selling Blood Plasma Is Not Unethical

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 15:15:00 -0500

Several Canadian provinces are currently considering proposals to ban payments for blood plasma. Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta have already adopted such bans. It's a bad idea. Canadian patients need more plasma, and such bans will only get in the way. Blood plasma is a pale yellow fluid of whole blood that includes water and its medically valuable dissolved constituents, including albumin, clotting factors, and immune globulins. A company called Canadian Plasma Resources wants to open commercial plasma centers, where it would pay sellers between $25 and $50 per session. Obtaining plasma takes considerably longer than regular blood donations—between an hour and 90 minutes more—and paying for it makes people more likely to offer it. (It is not illegal in the U.S. to pay for whole blood, but it must be labeled as such and hospitals generally choose not to use products that are labeled from a paid donor for liability reasons. Let us set aside why that is the case for another time.) In an op-ed in The Toronto Star, Canadian Doctors for Medicare chief Danyaal Raza claims that "Paying Canadians for plasma donations carries too many risks and should be stopped." Similarly, the nonprofit Canadian Blood Services (CBS), which is in charge of obtaining and distributing fresh blood donations, is against commercial plasma collection. Yet CBS issued a statement two years ago that acknowledged two important facts: Drugs made from plasma donated by paid donors are just as safe as those made from plasma from volunteer donors. Access to the commercial paid plasma market is essential in ensuring enough supply so that Canadian patients continue to receive the lifesaving therapies they need. CBS also noted that unpaid Canadian plasma donations are not enough to supply Canadian patients with vital plasma protein products such as immune globulins. "We only collect enough plasma to meet about 25 per cent of the demand for immune globulins," the group notes. "The remaining plasma needed to make these drugs comes from paid donors in the United States. It is safe and is acceptable to patient groups who use these products and recognize this practice ensures security of supply." Given this shortage, why are some Canadian ethicists, physicians, and legislators opposed to paying for plasma from sellers? Many of them argue that the folks who sell plasma are more likely to be poor and to harbor diseases that could taint plasma supplies. Earlier this month a group of ethicists and economists organized by the Georgetown philosopher Peter Jaworski countered these arguments in an open letter that concluded these concerns are unwarranted. The Jaworski letter begins by pointing out that "Canada is almost entirely dependent on the United States for its supply of plasma-derived medicinal products, like immune globulin, albumin, and clotting factor." (More than 90 percent of the world's plasma comes from the U.S.) "The fact that we're buying plasma products from south of the border rather undermines our rationale for not paying donors here, because it suggests we don't actually believe that payment is unsafe, commodifying, or exploitative, and shows just how badly these products are needed," says Vida Panitch, an ethicist at Carleton University and a signatory to the letter. Other opponents of plasma sales argue that they exploit low-income sellers. The open letter notes that plasmapheresis—the process in which the liquid part of the blood is separated from the blood cells—is non-invasive, and that the level of compensation is not so high as to unduly induce someone to sell. They further observe that there is no evidence that compensation to sellers of blood plasma donations has "promoted the view that donors or their blood plasma are regarded as mere commodities." The group also rebuts the worry that paying people for plasma will necessarily reduce the incentives for altruistic donations. Over 600 paid plasma collection centers operate in the U.S., yet the country has an approximately 50 percent higher rate of voluntary, [...]

Trump Trades Blows with Canada

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 13:40:00 -0500

(image) America's trading relationship with its northern neighbor continues to deteriorate as the U.S. and Canada butt heads over the Trump administration's protectionism.

On Tuesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that Washington would impose countervailing duties of between 6 and 10 percent on uncoated groundwood Canadian paper.

"Today's preliminary decision allows U.S. producers to receive relief from the market-distorting effects of potential government subsidies," said Ross in a statement, instructing Customs and Border Protection agents to begin collecting cash deposits from paper importers at the border.

This is hardly Donald Trump's first protectionist action against Canada. Last year he slapped tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber and Bombardier passenger jets.

Tuesday's decision prompted Canada's foreign ministry put out a statement calling the move disappointing and "unjustified" (and noting, correctly, that "any duties will have a direct and negative impact on ‎U.S. newspapers, especially those in small cities and towns, ‎and result in job losses in the American printing sector‎"). And yesterday, a day after the paper tariffs were announced, a complaint against the U.S. that the Canadians had lodged with the World Trade Organization was made public.

In what reads like the pee dossier of trade policy, Canada accuses the United States of 188 different violations of World Trade Organization policies going back to the mid-1990s. The alleged violations include levying artificially high countervailing duties, collecting duties retroactively, and maintaining an unfair process for determining where these duties will be imposed.

The complaint covers actions taken against not just Canada but countries all around the world, from Japan to South Africa.

The WTO process allows 60 days for Canada and the U.S. to reach some form of bilateral settlement. Failing that, the dispute will goes to arbitration, which could open up the United States to having to pay compensation or otherwise face hefty countervailing duties and tariffs.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has dismissed the complaint, saying "Canada's claims are unfounded and could only lower U.S. confidence that Canada is committed to mutually beneficial trade." Missing from Lighthizer's statement, naturally, was any mention of how the administration he works for has lowered confidence in the U.S.'s commitment to mutually beneficial trade.

The escalating tit-for-tat between the two largest economics in North America shows how quickly Trump's tough-talking protectionism can get out of hand. What started as tariffs on lumber products has blown up into a vast relitigation of trade disputes going back two decades.

And who will pay the price for this breakdown of relations? The consumers, workers, and businesses, both in the U.S. and around the world, that depend on the foreign trade.

Canada's Food Laws Ban the Best Burgers

Sat, 30 Dec 2017 08:00:00 -0500

My girlfriend and I spent the Christmas holiday in Vancouver, Canada this year. While there, we visited a bunch of nice sites, saw a good band, and ate some great food. On our last day in the city—Tuesday, which was also Boxing Day—we ate at Joe Forte's, an airy steakhouse just off the city's main tourist avenue, Robson Street. I was craving a hamburger and figured Forte's, which bills itself as a chophouse, was the place to go. My girlfriend ordered a steak sandwich, cooked medium. I ordered the burger, cooked medium. My burger was great in every single way possible except for the fact it wasn't cooked the way I'd requested. And that wasn't because the restaurant erred. Instead—as I was warned after ordering my burger medium—it's due to an awful Canadian law that says all restaurant hamburgers must be cooked until no longer pink. Even my response when our great server asked if we had any food allergies—"Overcooked burgers," I replied—got me no closer to a burger cooked my way. I have no doubt this regulation probably prevents some handful of harmful or even fatal cases of foodborne illness, which can occur if pathogens that may appear in ground beef are not killed off by cooking the beef to an internal temperature of at least 160F. But as a regulation, it's as arbitrary a decision as banning raw animal products such as oysters and sushi, raw produce such as sprouts and melons, and countless other foods that are definitely legal in Canada. In other words, the medium-hamburger ban is both dumb and wrong. With respect to its burgers, then, Canada is very different than the United States, where diners ordering a medium burger might notice a menu warning cautioning against eating some raw or lightly cooked foods. But if one looks past the specifics of that law, they'll notice Canada, just like the United States, has lots of terrible food laws, along with its share of food controversies. For example, I wrote last December about an awful proposal by lawmakers in Montreal to ban new restaurants, in a bid to protect existing ones. And in 2011 I blogged about a Canadian Wheat Board monopoly in Western Canada. When—in the course of writing my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable—I was looking for a foreign analog to an awful USDA enforcement action that forced an exceptional American sausage producer out of business, I found I needed look no further than Canada. Those are just a few of Canada's dumb food laws. I also learned this week about one of its stranger ongoing food controversies, which Canada's Globe and Mail reports was just settled after a decades-long fight. The battle concerns Prosciutto di Parma, the tasty cured Italian meat, and use of the word "Parma" to describe the food in Canada. The Italian term "di Parma" literally translates as "from Parma." When used in conjunction with prosciutto, it refers to prosciutto that's both from Parma and that meets the EU definition of "Prosciutto di Parma," a specifically defined term that's known as a protected designation of origin. The truly mind-numbing 83-page EU protected designation of origin rules for what is and isn't "Prosciutto di Parma," adopted in 1992, include the most tedious minutiae about pig breeds, feeding, slaughter, geographic boundaries, altitude, and the like. They also include nausea-inducing language like this: "The envisaged quantitative programming of protected production has to be integrated in a synergetic way with the qualitative classification requirements already introduced by the protection rules (qualitative analytical parameters that uniquely characterize Parma Ham and the production requirements in pig breeding)." Despite these fastidious and obnoxious EU rules, it turns out it's been illegal for Italian producers of Prosciutto di Parma to refer to their product as "Prosciutto di Parma" in Canada. That's because Canada's Maple Leaf Foods trademarked the term "Parma" in Canada[...]

Brickbat: You Can't Say That on Television

Fri, 29 Dec 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) The CBC canceled a broadcast of the documentary "Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?" just hours before it was scheduled to air after complaints from activists. The BBC documentary questions whether transitioning is the best path for every child with gender dysphoria. Activists said that was harmful.

Brickbat: It's for the Children

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) A couple in Canada say Alberta Children's Services rejected their application to adopt a child because they have traditional Christian views on sexuality. The couple say the process went fine until they had a follow up visit from a caseworker who asked them their views on homosexuality and they said they believe that it is wrong and that sexuality should be explored only after one is an adult and married.

Graduate Instructor Who Showed Gendered-Pronoun Debate to Class Is Basically Hitler, Says School

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 14:30:00 -0500

As Lindsey Shepherd was pleading her case before Wilfrid Laurier University faculty and staff, the 22-year-old Canadian grad student and teaching assistant seemed caught off guard by their demands. Her superiors weren't saying she couldn't show a televised debate over gender-neutral pronouns in the context of a classroom discussion on language—they just needed her to condemn one side of the debate first. To do otherwise, they said, was "like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler, or Milo Yiannopoulos." Shepherd neither endorsed nor decried either side of the TV Ontario showdown between controversial University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson and Nicholas Matte, a professor in the Waterloo University women's studies department. In the clip that Shepherd played for first-year communications students, Matte and Peterson argue over whether it's appropriate for professors to address students by pronouns other than "he" and "she"—something Peterson refuses to do. The clip was shown in the context of a class discussion on how language shapes culture and how gender-specific pronouns have caused controversy. "I was not taking sides," Shepherd—who does not agree with Peterson's position—would later tell school authorities. "I was presenting both arguments." After an anonymous student complaint was filed, Shepherd was called into a meeting with her supervising professor Nathan Rambukkana, another communications school professor, and the university's manager of gendered violence prevention and support. They claimed that Shepherd was "transphobic" and that she needed to keep her "problematic" views out of the classroom. Shepherd pushed back, insisting that she didn't share in Peterson's pronoun point-of-view but thought it was important not to bring her own views into the discussion. "This is basically like playing—not to do the thing where everything is compared to Hitler—but this is like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler, or Milo Yiannopoulos from Gamergate," Rambukkana said in the meeting. "This is the kind of thing that, departmentally, in terms of critical communications studies, and in terms of the course, of what we're trying to do, is diametrically opposed to everything we've been talking about in the lectures." In a Monday interview with CTV News, Shepherd said she was told "that you can't debate something like this because it causes an unsafe or toxic learning environment. I ended up being called transphobic and someone who causes harm and violence." Going forward, she would have to file all lesson plans in advance and expect random drop-in reviews, the tribunal told her. Shepherd said she was speaking out because situations and attitudes like these hurt the core mission of college education. "I think it's dangerous to say that a topic is off the table just because it might be a little bit controversial," she told CTV. When Shepherd first went public with her story in early November, the Ontario-based university was both dismissive and defensive. In an initial statement, Wilfrid Laurier President Deborah MacLatchy said that "as a responsible employer," the university is "obligated to abide by government regulations, human rights legislation and our own university policies"; "to this end," it had hired a third party "to gather the facts of the situation and assess them in a deliberate, fair and respectful manner." The bizarre statement went on to suggest there are some ideas that may be worth discussing, but can't because of bureaucracy. "I believe that as a university community we need to have more conversations about how academic expression happens throughout our institution," wrote MacLatchy. But "to be focused and constructive, these conversations should take place outside of the specific contexts that, for good reason, are often constrained by privacy legislation, employer regulations, and other legal requirements." Shepherd w[...]

Brickbat: Take a Number

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Dr. Joy Hataley, an Ontario physician, says she was stunned when she referred one of her patients to a neurologist at Kingston General Hospital and was told it would be 4.5 years before the patient could get an appointment. She was told if that was unacceptable she could send the patient to a neurologist in another city.

North America's First 'Burqa Ban' Passed by Quebec Liberals in Name of 'Religious Neutrality'

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:13:00 -0400

This week, Quebec banned people working in public service or using public services from wearing veils or any sort of facial covering, the first such ban in North America, one echoing "burqa ban" policies passed across Europe. Ushered in by Quebec's Liberal Party as a way to "foster social cohesion" and "religious neutrality," and to combat Islamophobia, the law largely takes aim at Muslim women who veil their faces in public. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. explains that under the new "religious neutrality legislation" women can apply for exemptions—essentially a special license to wear a burqa or niqab that they would have to display to public officials. Critics, like Shaheen Ashraf of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, question the religious neutrality narrative. "I define neutrality as being able to do what I choose and you are able to do what you choose and everyone else is able to do what they choose and that's neutral. Accepting each other as we are," Ashraf told CTV Montreal. Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, called it "an unnecessary law with a made-up solution to an invented problem. We don't have hordes of women in niqabs trying to access or work in public services." Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and others have questioned how the law would actually work in practice. "So what does it mean now? Niqab police as bus drivers?" Coderre told CTV. "What are we going to do in libraries? And refuse to provide them with services? If [a woman is] freezing with children, say no? You have to pull that out. I don't think the doability is there." "Bus drivers are now being empowered to decide who gets a ride based on their understanding of the nuances of Muslim head scarves," pointed out Allison Hanes in the Montreal Gazette. "Are they going to get training on the difference between a hijab and a niqab? This law could not be worse for civil rights or social cohesion." "Telling a woman how to dress—whether she's wearing a bikini or a burqa—is the opposite of feminism," continued Hanes. "And using the full weight of the state to marginalize one particular group, no matter how much thou doth protest that a law applies to everyone equally, is reprehensible." Although Quebec politicians pushed the new policy as a feminist one, Canadian feminists commenting on it are largely unimpressed. "A bill that legislates clothing ends up linking emancipation of women to how little or how much they wear," wrote Shree Paradkar in The Star. "In doing so, it works against choice" and "should have been rejected."[...]

Brickbat: The Chief Problem

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The Toronto school board has voted to abolish job titles such as chief financial officer and chief administrative officer out of concern the word "chief" in job titles could be offensive to Indians. A spokesman for the school system admits that no one has actually complained about the word.

Brickbat: Indian Givers

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Forty-four years ago, students at Summitview Public School in Ontario made a totem pole. It stood at the school long after they left. But officials recently took it down after discovering it was made without indigenous input.

Brickbat: No Good Deed

Mon, 02 Oct 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Police in Halifax say that after an investigation that have determined that a man reported by a woman for suspicious behavior as actually a good Samaritan. The woman reported she was putting her groceries in her car when she turned around and saw a man holding her two-year-old son. He handed the boy to her and left. Police say the boy was standing in the cart's seat. The man feared he might fall, so he grabbed him and handed him to the mother.

Brickbat: Stifling Intellectual Competition

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Following a 14-month investigation, Canada's Competition Bureau has closed a probe of three groups accused by environmentalists of making misleading claims about global warming. But the bureau says it may reopen the investigation if it receives new information.

Canadian Cops Claim They Won't Be Ready for Marijuana Legalization by 2018

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 15:55:00 -0400

(image) The Canadian government plans to legalize marijuana by July 2018, fulfilling a pledge made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before he was elected prime minister. But police are urging Parliament to delay the legalization effort, insisting they need more time to learn how to enforce the new laws.

"We are asking that the government consider giving us more time to have all the legislation fully in place which will allow us to properly train, prepare for implementation on Day 1," Mike Serr of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police told a parliamentary health committee this week.

This request was reinforced by testimony from Kevin Sabet, a longtime drug warrior who runs a major anti-legalization organization in the U.S. Sabet insisted that only those looking to go into business in the marijuana industry want the process to go quickly.

Tell it to the 160 people a day arrested in Canada for pot possession.

Serr's argument is similarly silly. His group brings up the role of "organized crime" in the marijuana trade, as if not understanding how criminalizing a product criminalizes those trading in it.

Nevertheless, Canadian officials—like their counterparts in Colorado and Washington—intend to institute strict "security screenings" for those looking to enter the marketplace, making it harder for black-market entrepreneurs to go legit. They also want tight regulations of the industry, including sales taxes, licensing fees, and packaging requirements.

The parliamentary committee also heard testimony from the director of Washington's state liquor and cannabis board, Rick Garza, who said legal marijuana businesses were able to compete with the black market once legal prices fell to $10 per gram. According to Garza, legal prices in his state are down to about $7.50 a gram. The clear lesson: Canada should let black marketeers come in from the shadows, not create a heavily regulated parallel industry.

Canada's public safety minister, Ralph Goodale, says the government plans to stick to its 2018 timetable for legalization.

Brickbat: Let's Go Fly a Kite

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Steve Polansky has been flying kites on Toronto's Woodbine Beach for more than 20 years. But he says a city worker recently told him flying kits at the beach is against the rules and threatened him with a $300 fine if he kept it up.