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Published: Sun, 23 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Sun, 23 Oct 2016 19:26:42 -0400


The U.S. Might Be About to Declare War on Canada Over Lumber

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 10:05:00 -0400

(image) 2016 has been an absolutely dismal year for the prospects of free trade, what with the two major party presidential candidates working to outdo each other on who can be the most protectionist. Last week things got even worse with news that a trade war is brewing between the United States and—wait for it—Canada.

On Wednesday the U.S. Lumber Coalition—which represents this country's timber industry—put out a press release saying that it had "no choice but to move to initiate trade cases against" Canada for the allegedly unfair practices of its logging industry.

These actions came on the heels of the expiration of the U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) on October 12. The SLA was signed back in 2006 as means of ending a decadeslong trade conflict between the United States and its northern neighbor over the supposed dumping of cheap Canadian lumber onto the U.S. market, to the detriment of American loggers.

The U.S. lumber industry's complaint centers around "stumping" fees Canadian provinces charge timber companies to log on publicly owned land. American loggers assert that these fees are too low and thus amount to an unfair subsidization of a domestic industry.

Since 1986, the U.S. Department of Commerce has tended to agree with American loggers, imposing trade duties that at times have reached as high 27 percent on Canadian imports.

But this has prompted counteraction from the Canadians, who have repeatedly dragged the U.S. before North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization tribunals. Both bodies, in turn, have ruled multiple times against the U.S.'s protectionist actions. The most significant of these ruling came in March 2006 when a NAFTA panel ordered the U.S. to refund to Canada some $5 billion in import duties.

These international rebukes at last brought the U.S. to the table, and in July of that year, American and Canadian officials signed the landmark SLA. Under the terms of the deal, Canadian provinces would adopt a series of self-imposed duties and quotas designed to limit Canadian exports to at most 34 percent of the U.S. market. In exchange, the American timber industry agreed to drop its complaints over those notorious stumping fees.

For a blessed 10 years under this managed trade deal, relative peace prevailed, but with the expiration of the accord last week, that delicate calm looks like it's about to to shatter.

The result is likely to be higher prices for U.S. consumers, along with mill closures and job losses north of the border. And all this is happening under President Barack Obama, a man who at least pays lip service to free trade. It's hard to imagine the prospects for open lumber trade will get better under either of his likely successors.

Brickbat: Candy from Babies

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Parents of students in Ontario's Durham school district are furious that teachers are taking food they have sent to school with their children away from them. They say foods including raisins, chocolate milk, granola bars, banana bread and Animal Crackers have been taken away from their children because a teacher said those foods are unhealthy. And since it's individual teachers making the decisions about what is and isn't healthy, foods that are OK in one school may be banned in another and foods that may be OK in one classroom of a school will be confiscated in another classroom in the same school.

Brickbat: Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Tue, 04 Oct 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Officials at Toronto's Jackman Avenue Junior Public School recently let parents know just how upset they are with their children. Specifically, students are tossing juice boxes into the garbage instead of recycling bins. And when they do manage to put them in the bins, they leave the straws in. Jackman has the school district's highest "EchoSchools" rating, and officials don't want any children screwing it up, so they have banned juice boxes.

Brickbat: Ewwwww

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) An Ontario high school teacher is under investigation after allegedly telling a student to "lick me where I fart." Jennifer Elizabeth Green-Johnson reportedly has a history of disciplinary actions taken against her by the local school system and the provincial teacher licensing body, including a 30-day suspension in January. According to press reports, she slapped one student on the head and told him to grow some balls, called another a "bloody pedophile" and called various other students stupid, gay, idiots and a bitch.

If the US Is Serious About Pot Prohibition, We Will Bar Justin Trudeau From Entry

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 11:17:00 -0400

(image) As Jacob Sullum notes, anybody trying to enter the United States from a foreign country who has used a controlled substance is inadmissible without a special waiver. This law often trips up Canadians driving into the country from the Great White North and Sullum writes about concertgoers being kept out, a medical doctors denied entry simply because he'd written a journal article detailing decades-ago use of psychedelics, and a former Canadian football player who had been convicted of possessing a joint 30 years prior to his attempted visit.

But if America is serious about keeping out potheads from Canada and really wants to send a message, we should insist on an all-points-bulletin for the current prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Young, hip, and hunky, Trudeau has never made a secret of his past pot use. And yet, there was earlier this year, toasting his spiritual "sibling" (and another admitted pot user) Barack Obama at the White House! In 2013, he told Huffington Post Canada:

Trudeau said he's smoked pot five or six times in his life. "It has never really done anything for me," he later told HuffPost in an email.

"When the joint went around the room, I usually passed it around to the next person," he said.

"(But) sometimes throughout my life, I've had a pull on it."

"Sometimes, I guess, I have gotten a buzz, but other times no. I'm not really crazy about it."

Drugs, Trudeau said, were never his thing. He also described himself as not much of a drinker. He has never smoked cigarettes and doesn't drink coffee.

Even worse, there's this statement of personal responsibility that would be ruinous to our own war on drugs:

Trudeau said that his decision to smoke pot was personal and that adults should be allowed to make their own decisions.

Read the whole article here.

Trudeau is also outspoken in his desire to legalize marijuana and treat it akin to alcohol. He also notes that all sorts of international treaties make that tougher than it should be.

Somebody get Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) on the horn and make sure he knows about this. It may help the prohibitionist legislator in his pernicious quest to sink criminal-justice reform on the grounds that currently illegal drugs are inherently violent commodities. Certainly, President Barack Obama, no stranger to the bong himself, seems at least half-heartedly committed to keep marijuana illegal. Despite the apparent spectacle of one of his daughters lighting up, about 600,000 people will be arrested for pot-related crimes this year.

Aren't our elected leaders supposed to set examples for the rest of us, who are incapable of making our own life choices?

Hat Tip: rachel gurstein

Candid Canadian Cannabis Consumers Still Can't Can't Come to This Country

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 08:41:00 -0400

Citizens of other countries can legally visit the United States if they've been convicted of driving under the influence, breaking and entering, smuggling, assault, or involuntary manslaughter—but not if they have ever smoked pot, dropped acid, or snorted cocaine, even if it happened decades ago and they were never charged with a drug offense. Under Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, "any alien...who admits having committed acts which constitute the essential elements of...a violation of (or a conspiracy or attempt to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled inadmissible." That rule has been on the books since 1987, but it is only fitfully (and arbitrarily) enforced, so it continues to ensnare unwary tourists who do not realize that candidly answering questions about past drug use can end a trip before it begins. The CBC recently described two such cases. In 2014, it reports, Matthew Harvey "was driving from Vancouver to Seattle for a concert when a customs officer noticed a marijuana magazine in his car," which prompted questions about his marijuana use. Harvey answered honestly, thinking it was no big deal, especially since he used marijuana legally for medical purposes in Canada and was on his way to a state where it was legal for recreational use. But marijuana is still completely prohibited by federal law, which is the relevant point as far as Section 212 goes. Although Harvey has worked in British Columbia's marijuana industry, his lawyer says that had nothing to do with the decision to bar him from the United States, which was based entirely on his admission that he had smoked pot recreationally as an adult. Now Harvey would like to take his 3-year-old daughter to Disneyland, but first he must obtain a "waiver of ineligibility." The application costs $585, whether or not a waiver is granted, and that fee will rise to $930 later this year. The waiver must be renewed as often as once a year, depending on the term chosen by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Another Vancouver resident, Alan Ranta, was on his way to a music festival in Washington last July when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers found a purse humorously labeled "weed money" in his car, which led to questions about Ranta's drug use. "I answered truthfully," he told the CBC. "I said I had smoked [weed]. That led to followup questions on how much I smoked, where had I smoked it, and when I smoked." None of those details actually matters under Section 212. As long as Ranta consumed cannabis when he was 18 or older, even if it was just once, he is "inadmissible." Other examples of Canadians turned away at the border because of illegal drug use include Myles Wilkinson, a fantasy football player with a 1981 conviction for marijuana possession who in 2013 won a trip to the Super Bowl he was not allowed to take, and Andrew Feldmar, a psychotherapist who was prevented from visiting his children, friends, and colleagues in the U.S. because a CBP officer's web search turned up a journal article in which Feldmar discussed his experiences with LSD and other psychedelics in the 1960s. Unlike Harvey and Ranta, who incriminated themselves, Wilkinson and Feldmar were tripped up by publicly available information. For travelers who have a choice, Harvey recommends a strategy of "deny, deny, deny." Len Saunders, an American immigration lawyer consulted by the CBC, suggests a less legally perilous approach: "Saunders' advice to Canadians asked about their past marijuana use at the border is to refuse to answer the question. They may be held for several hours, but there is no legal requirement, he says, to answer the question." [Thanks to Marc Sandhaus for the tip.][...]

Brickbat: Sidewalk to Nowhere

Tue, 06 Sep 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) In Smithers, British Columbia, North Central Plumbing and Heating spent $10,000 to build a 30-foot sidewalk that goes nowhere. The nearest sidewalk is 500 meters away. The problem is that a local ordinance requires developers doing more than $75,000 in construction or repairs to build public infrastructure outside their premises. That law was triggered when the company moved to a new building and remodeled it.

The Loophole That Allows French Bans on Veils, Head Scarves, and (Probably) Burkinis

Fri, 26 Aug 2016 07:30:00 -0400

A French citizen who sees Muslim women wearing full-body swimwear at the beach and loudly declares the burkini a symbol of Islam's backwardness and misogyny is committing a crime: insulting people based on their religion, which is punishable by a fine as high as €22,500 and up to six months in jail. By contrast, a French politician who imposes a ban on the burkini because he considers it a symbol of Islam's backwardness and misogyny will not be arrested and probably will prevail against any legal challenge, as long as he frames the ban in terms of security, equality, and/or social harmony. As Asma T. Uddin, director of strategy at the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, explains in a New York Times op-ed piece, the European Court of Human Rights has upheld bans on burqas, veils, and head scarves based on the premise that women who wear them "are simultaneously victims, in need of a government savior, and aggressors, spreading extremism merely by appearing Muslim in public." Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights ostensibly guarantees an individual's "right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion," including his right "in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance." But Article 9 also allows restrictions on religious freedom "necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others." When French Prime Minister Manuel Valles says the burkini is a tool for "the enslavement of women," or Cannes Mayor David Lisnard says "the burkini is the uniform of extremist Islamism, not of the Muslim religion," they are implicitly appealing to those Article 9 exceptions. Uddin cites a 2001 case in which the European Court of Human Rights rejected a Swiss public school teacher's challenge to a rule preventing her from wearing a head scarf in the classroom. The court worried that "the wearing of a head scarf might have some kind of proselytizing effect" and that the custom is "hard to square with the principle of gender equality," meaning a teacher so attired would be ill-equipped to impart "the message of tolerance, respect for others and, above all, equality and nondiscrimination that all teachers in a democratic society must convey to their pupils." In 2005 the court upheld an Istanbul University policy that prevented a medical student from wearing a head scarf while taking an exam, concluding that the ban furthered gender equality and aided the government in "fighting extremism." A 2014 ruling said France's ban on face-covering veils promoted harmonious coexistence. The commodious exceptions to Article 9 are reminiscent of the all-purpose limitation on Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 1 of which allows "such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." Among other things, that loophole has been used to uphold bans on so-called hate speech, notwithstanding the "freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression" that the charter supposedly guarantees. It may seem that Section 1, which also qualifies the "freedom of conscience and religion" promised by the charter, would be a handy excuse for restrictions on religiously motivated clothing. But Canadian courts do not seem to share the French passion for coercive secularism. Last year the Federal Court of Appeal overturned a rule that would have required a Muslim woman to shed her veil while taking a public oath of citizenship. The court resolved the case on statutory grounds and therefore did not reach the constitutional issue. But in 2012 the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed a Muslim woman's right to wear a veil while testifying in court unless "requiring the witness to remove the niqab is necessary to prevent a serious [...]

Brickbat: Rough Crowd

Tue, 26 Jul 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Quebec's Human Rights Council has ordered comedian Mike Ward to pay $35,000 to a singer he made jokes about in his standup act. Jeremy Gabriel has a condition which causes facial deformities. Ward joked he defended Gabriel's poor performance when singing before the Pope Benedict XVI because he thought he was dying only to find out he was not. The court ruled Ward's remarks infringed on Gabriel's rights to "dignity, honor and reputation."

Brickbat: Pig in a Blanket

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) At just 60 pounds, Sheldon is smaller than some dogs. But under Hamilton, Ontario, law, the pot-bellied pig is considered  a farm animal and therefore banned. Officials have told his owner, Diane Hines, she has to get rid of him. She's trying to get officials to overturn that law.

Brickbat: When Life Hands You Lemons

Tue, 12 Jul 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) In Ottawa, an officer of the National Capital Commission shut down a lemonade stand run by Eliza Andrews, 7, and her sister Adela, 5, for not having a permit. But when their dad later went to buy a permit, and after local media had picked up the story, the commission decided to waive the $35 fee.

Brickbat: Freedom of Religion

Fri, 08 Jul 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The Ontario Court of Appeal, the province's highest court, has upheld the decision by the Law Society of Upper Canada not to accredit a Christian university's law school. The court found that Trinity Western University's "community covenant," which bars students from having sex outside heterosexual marriage, discriminates against gays and lesbians. The ruling means that Trinity Western law graduates may not take the bar exam to practice in Ontario.

Task Force Offers Hints of What Legal Pot Will Look Like in Canada

Tue, 05 Jul 2016 10:40:00 -0400

Delivering on a campaign promise, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to introduce legislation next spring that will legalize the production, distribution, and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes. In the meantime, a government-appointed Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation is supposed to hammer out the details, addressing the questions posed by a discussion paper it published last week. Although the paper gives no firm answers, it suggests that Canada's regulatory regime could be stricter in some ways than the rules adopted by the four U.S. states that allow recreational use of marijuana but looser in others. Here are some of the major issues the paper covers: Production. Based on Canada's experience with licensed home cultivation and government-controlled production of medical marijuana, the task force concludes that "neither approach would be in the public interest in the context of the larger numbers of users expected in a legalized market." In other words, "some form of private sector production with appropriate government licensing and oversight" will be necessary to supply recreational consumers. Distribution. The task force suggests that recreational marijuana, like medical marijuana, might initially be distributed exclusively through the mail (an option that is not allowed in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, or Alaska) but concedes that "allowing for some ability for the sale of marijuana to occur in a legal, regulated retail environment may be required in order to provide an alternative to the current illegal sellers that exist in certain Canadian cities." Minimum purchase age. The paper says "the science indicates that risks from marijuana usage are elevated until the brain fully matures (i.e., when someone reaches about age 25)." But it also notes that Colorado et al. all picked a minimum purchase age of 21 (as did the backers of the legalization initiatives that are expected to be on the ballot in five other states this year), which corresponds to the alcohol purchase age that prevails throughout the U.S. In Canada, by contrast, the drinking age ranges rom 18 to 19.    Marketing. The task force says "the early experiences of Colorado and Washington State suggest very strongly that the Government should take steps to avoid the commercialization of legalized marijuana, including the active promoting and marketing of marijuana, leading to widespread use." Those steps include "advertising and marketing restrictions to minimize the profile and attractiveness of products." It's not clear that the limits would go further than the rules adopted by Colorado et al., although Canadian regulators have more legal leeway to restrict speech in the name of child protection and public health. Taxes. The task force warns that "the use of taxation and pricing measures to discourage consumption must be properly balanced against the need to minimize the attractiveness of the black market and dissuade illegal production and trafficking." Edibles. "It is understood that individuals may choose to create marijuana products, such as baked goods, for personal consumption," the paper says. "However, consideration should be given to how edibles are treated in the new regime in light of the significant health risks, particularly to children and to youth." No U.S. state where marijuana is legal has banned edibles, although Colorado recently imposed limits on the shapes of THC-infused treats, a symbolic measure that soothes the sensibilities of legislators without reducing the likelihood of accidental consumption. Potency limits. "Higher concentration products have added risks and unknown long term impacts, and those risks are exacerbated for young people, including child[...]

Quebec Publicly Financed an Arena to Get an NHL Team. You Won't Believe What Happened Next.

Wed, 29 Jun 2016 12:40:00 -0400

When the National Hockey League (NHL)'s Quebec Nordiques left the Francophone Canadian city at the end of the 1994 season for the greener pastures of Denver (where they would almost immediately become a multiple Stanley Cup-winning powerhouse as the Colorado Avalanche), the city's fans were heartbroken. Two decades later, they've got a new heartbreak to deal with — the fact that they dropped almost $400 million (CAD) to publicly finance a brand-new the Videotron Centre hockey arena — as part of the city's bid to receive an expansion franchise, only to see that franchise awarded to hedonistic desert city of Las Vegas.  Readers of Reason know we often cover the almost-unfailing debacles which transpire when taxpayers either choose or are compelled to finance sports arenas for extraordinarily wealthy team owners, but this situation in Quebec includes some flourishes that managed to surprise even a ragged cynic like myself.  For example, Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume said to the Toronto Star in 2011 that comparing public funding for a hockey arena with funding for true public works, such as hospitals, was both "reductive" and "inappropriate." Labeaume added, "The population of Quebec City wants an arena...We live in a society and there are lots of things in a society." The mayor also said at the time that the city planned to borrow $125 million and cut $62 million in "red tape" to meet its financial obligations for the project. Also in 2011, the national assembly of Quebec* passed Bill 204, granting control of the arena to the Canadian media giant Quebecor, which paid just $33 million for the privilege of reaping the lion's share of potential profits on the public's investment. CTV News Montreal reported that opponents of the deal said that "the arena contract was issued without any public bidding process and that the contract amounts to the city of Quebec giving one of the largest companies in the province, Quebecor, $40 million each year for 25 years." It gets crazier. Bill 204 protects the deal from any potential lawsuits and shields the arena's financial records through a confidentiality agreement. Still, opposition leaders recently presented documents which show the team-less arena is currently running a projected $2.2 million annual deficit, 50 percent of which the city is responsible to pay for. And as Deadspin's Barry Petchesky notes, "Conflicts of interest abound: Qubecor's controlling shareholder Pierre Karl Péladeau was the leader of the Parti Québécois from May 2015 until he resigned last month." In addition, the fact that the province of Quebec, which only four years ago was roiled by massive student-led protests over a $1600 public college tuition hike, would commit almost $200 million to subsidize a private business is particularly gobsmacking.  Quebec City's failure to land an expansion NHL franchise should not be such a surprise. Yes, hockey is far more popular in the country it was born in than in Las Vegas, and anyone who has ever visited Quebec knows public life practically shuts down when "the game" is on. But unlike bilingual Montreal, Quebec City is almost exclusively French-speaking, which has always made it a tough sell to free agents and top prospects. One-time phenom Eric Lindros infamously held out for an entire year rather than play for the Nordiques, and when the team finally traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1992, the bounty they received formed the core of a Stanley Cup-winning team. Unfortunately for Le Québécois, that team would win in Denver.  The point is, Quebec already lost a team, and the city's liabilities that make it a less economically viable location for the NHL have not changed in the past two decad[...]

Things You Should Consider Before Moving to Canada

Mon, 20 Jun 2016 09:43:00 -0400

(image) With the #NeverTrump vs. #NeverHillary cage match now settling in for a gruesome 140-day stretch, we are officially in threaten-to-move-to-Canada season. As such, it's important to start thinking through your move. For instance, did you know it's cold up there? Also, if my recent trip to downtown Toronto is any guide, you had better enjoy sports bars (including the cleverly titled one pictured to the right). And those bars play so very much Canadian classic rock, because of cultural protectionism....

More on point, what I was chagrined to discover is that Canada's Border Services Agency is ramping up on secondary screening for politically motivated yankees leaking across the northern border. It's payback time, baby! And, as I write in today's Los Angeles Times, you cannot truly escape the ramifications of America's dumb politics unless you're willing to rip up that passport altogether. Excerpt:

There are two countries on this whole planet that require federal income tax filing from its nonresident citizens. Eritrea, not particularly known for its good governance, is one of them. Uncle Sam's the other.

It gets considerably worse from there. Because of a putrid 2010 law called the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA for short, because Washington legislators are nothing if not subtle), U.S. citizens and their spouses who hold more than $10,000 total in non-American financial institutions must file annual disclosures listing the maximum exchange-rate value of each and every such account during the previous year. If you don't comply, you face steep fines and even jail time.

Ostensibly aimed at fat cats, this law instead has punished the majority nonrich among America's estimated 8.7 million expatriates. Not only does FATCA impose costly paperwork on individuals, it also requires overseas financial institutions to act as Washington's international collections muscle, mandating that they seize and transfer to the IRS 30% of deadbeat Americans' assets. To the surprise of no one who understands basic incentives, foreign banks have been dropping American clients like sacks of flaming garbage.

Read the whole thing here. Reason on Canada here, FATCA here.