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June 10, 2004

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Abortion issue stalks Harper
Vancouver Sun, June 4

Conservative leader Stephen Harper is emphasizing to the Canadian electorate that revisiting laws on abortion and the death penalty would not be on his agenda for four years if he became prime minister. SFU political scientist Marjorie Griffin Cohen predicts the Conservative party risks losing the support of many women if it is seen to be reopening the abortion debate. “Harper seems to be quite cagey about what he would do himself on abortion. It's important to understand what a leader's position is on the issue. And Harper won't say right now,” says Griffin Cohen. “He's not being clear on it and I think women are going to be very, very wary.”

Made-in-Canada tax reform
Toronto Star, May 29

Business analysts are questioning the wisdom behind Conservative leader Stephen Harper's plan to bring Canadian taxes below those of the United States, if he becomes prime minister. Analysts say Harper's plan has two major flaws: first that it would make Canadian taxes - and therefore government revenues - dependent on whatever tax choices are made in the U.S., and second, that it would pull Canada toward an U.S.-style society. A recent report by SFU Canada Research Chair and public finance expert Jonathan Kesselman is being touted as an example of good Canadian tax design. His key point is that “Canada can pursue the goal of a stronger and more competitive economy even if it chooses to devote more of its national output to public consumption through higher taxes than does the U.S.”

End of mandatory retirement urged
Guelph Mercury, June 4

A new report from the C.D. Howe Institute argues against mandatory retirement. The commentary by Jonathan Kesselman, of SFU's public policy program, argues that mandatory retirement is a drain on the economy and a violation of older workers' rights. “We're going to go from four workers per retiree now, down to two workers per retiree by mid-century and a lot of it's going to happen in the next 15 to 20 years,” he says. “It's going to make a big difference in government revenues and the tax rates we're going to have to apply to those remaining workers to keep the system going.” Manitoba and Quebec banned compulsory mandatory retirement years ago without negative consequences. Ontario will revisit the question this summer.

Is the anti-terror law too tough?
Vancouver Sun, June 4

Just where is the line is between public security and an individual's civil rights? It's likely a lot more blurred to security forces such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP than it is to people like Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who claims he was tortured in a Syrian jail after being deported there by U.S. authorities. Why Arar was not turned over to Canadian officials when he was stopped by U.S. border officials in New York in 2002 after a vacation to Tunisia is the subject of an inquiry and a $400-million lawsuit by Arar. “It is always the same problem,” says SFU English professor Roy Miki, whose Japanese parents were interned during WWII. “When times are good, we don't think too much about these issues. But when fear and paranoia develops, you have governments passing regulations that really are violations of basic human rights but are condoned because people say we have to protect the greater good.”

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