Taxation & Stewardship: Ontario and New Brunswick 2017 Provincial Audit Reports

It is necessary that governments collect taxes, and apply them toward projects that are in the common interest.  Because tax money is being collected from people who may or may not agree with the uses to which they are to be put, however, it is incumbent upon governments to bear in mind at all times their responsibility to collect and spend tax money wisely, fairly, and efficiently.  After all, those who are required to pay the taxes might have been able to put the money to their own good uses.  And governments all levels must in every case be scrupulously correct in accounting for their use of other people’s money.

The Auditors General of New Brunswick and Ontario have recently released final annual reports of provincial finances and expenditures prior to next year’s provincial elections.  In both cases, encouraging work has been noted.  However, in both cases significant discrepancies have been noted as well.

Indeed, in each case some strong criticisms are made.  For example:

  • In Ontario, the Auditor General found that “there was one overarching theme this year that was common in varying degrees to almost all of the VFM audits: the need to improve planning that supports timely and informed decision-making and oversight—or even to just have a plan of action with ongoing monitoring of the results being achieved—to ensure efficient and cost-effective public services.” Morever, the Auditor, reported, the Province continued to report billions of dollars of assets as its own, and available for public use, when, for example, those assets belong to the Teachers’s Pension Plan.  Such practices in mis-reporting funds can significantly distort pictures of spending efficiency.
  • In New Brunswick, the Auditor reported “very troubling disregard for procurement practices,” specifically in the Department of Social Development, with deficiencies in contract management and lack of oversight. In at least one case, the Auditor reported, a “consultant was highly and inappropriately favored by the Department.”   As a more hopeful example, the report acknowledges that provincial greenhouse gas emissions peaked in 2001 and have declined since, with efforts apparently on track to meet 2020 targets.  Still, the report concludes, “meeting the 2030 and 2050 targets will require significant [additional] action from provincial and Federal initiatives.”

Whether provinces are, overall, collecting and spending money fairly is an assessment that each voter should make before voting in next year’s elections.  The Reports are publicly available, and easy to read:

The New Brunswick Report is at:
http://www.agnb-vgnb.ca/content/agnb-vgnb/en/publications/reports.html#2017V2=Page5&2017v1=Page1

The Ontario Report is at:
http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/content/annualreports/arbyyear/ar2017.html

What does it mean to be anti-abortion in modern Canada?

ABORTION: THE SANCTITY OF LIFE.  The inviolability of life, from conception to natural death, is a central teaching of the Catholic Church.  Yet in western democracies, and even within the Church, the topic of abortion has become deeply passionate, deeply divisive.  So fundamental, so emotional, is this issue that for decades it has enabled some politicians to unscrupulously manipulate Catholic voters in order to gain other political ends.

One side of the issue – often referred to as the ‘pro-choice’ side – is capably and passionately presented in the linked article by columnist and author Michael Coren.  A remarkable indicator of the depth of emotion aroused by the abortion debate, however, and an excellent example of the manner in which the issue is bent to political purposes unrelated to the sanctity of life, is the following point, penned every bit as passionately in support of the opposite side of the argument by the very same author, just six years previously – prior to an argument that prompted him to leave the Catholic Church.  In his 2011 book “Why Catholics are Right,” Mr. Coren wrote:

“Some basic science first.  At the moment of conception, a male sperm unites with a female ovum to fertilize it, and the single-celled organism formed is called a zygote, an intricate and sophisticated repository of biological information of both parents… At conception a child has a unique DNA and genomic character and is already unlike anyone who has ever been conceived or born before or anyone who will be conceived or born afterwards.  It is a distinct human life and like all human life in a civilized society should have a right to exist.”

The long-held position of the Church was most recently affirmed by Pope Francis, at paragraph 83 of his 2016 exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“the Joy of Love):

“Here I feel it urgent to state that, if the family is the sanctuary of life, the place where life is conceived and cared for, it is a horrendous contradiction when it becomes a place where life is rejected and destroyed… So great is the value of a human life, and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in the mother’s womb, that no alleged right to one’s own body can justify a decision to terminate that life, which is an end in itself and which can never be considered the “property” of another human being.”

It was God himself who handed down to us, through Moses, the unqualified commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”

Behind heated debates about the rights of unwilling mothers, society, and many others, it would serve us well to consider that too often the life that is terminated is that of the only individual involved who is unable to speak for her- or himself.

Yet, we should also bear firmly in mind at all times the clear injunctions of our Holy Father, our Church, and our Lord Jesus Christ that judgment is not ours to dispense, but belongs to God; and that instead it is our place to dispense mercy.

Rather than attempting to browbeat or coerce others into sharing our beliefs, perhaps, in simple and humble acknowledgement that abortion is wrong, we should focus on seeking alternative ways of approaching the issue, of enabling unwilling mothers and unwanted children to find safety and encouragement, and to nurture them as they grow and to thrive – in loving alternative homes, for example.

And we ought to do our best to ensure that unscrupulous politicians, who seek to take advantage of others and their office for other purposes, are unable to manipulate us as voters, simply by paying lip service to a single issue that is of primary importance to us.

We need to shift the entire conversation.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/10/10/what-does-it-mean-to-be-anti-abortion-in-modern-canada-coren.html

MINING IN NOVA SCOTIA: a case worth thinking about.

Halifax Chronicle Herald: Old Nova Scotia gold deposits are new again.
June 18, 2017 (http://thechronicleherald.ca/business/1478906-old-nova-scotia-gold-deposits-are-new-again)

The resurgence of gold mining raises questions concerning employment, development, sustainability, fairness, and of course the environment. They are not easy questions to answer. What is the best thing to do?

Global economic uncertainties have driven the price of gold up to about $1600 (Canadian). That price is high enough, as the linked article explains, to justify the increased costs of extraction associated with low-grade deposits, which means that mines closed long ago being re-opened – and that much more earth must be moved in order to remove usable amounts of ore. (more…)

French Cardinal fears the death of democracy

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France, is concerned that democracy is in danger.  He sees that voices of justice and moderation are being squeezed out of democratic politics by increasingly radical voices of both liberal and conservative parties.  In part, the Cardinal blames misuse of the media – which is not always used to speak with the voices of shepherds.

If we don’t solve these problems, we will lose democracy.  And in a democracy there is no one to blame, and no one to solve these problems, but us, the voters.  We must educate ourselves, and we must vote wisely, for the good of all.  As a starting point, we must identify – and support – responsible sources of news, including our own Catholic newspapers, radio, and television networks.  And we must become personally involved in the electoral process.  We must speak up to our elected representatives, to let them know of our convictions. (more…)

Fortune magazine (re-)names Pope as one of world’s greatest leaders

In naming Pope Francis again as one of the world’s great leaders, Fortune magazine gave a thoughtful endorsement of the Pope’s criticisms of overly-aggressive capitalism – of “capitalism without conscience.” Fortune noted that during a Vatican forum it helped organize last year, the Pope urged businesses to do more to reach the billions of people now excluded from the global economy, to help ensure that they might benefit fairly, too: “Give them a voice,” the Pope said. “Listen to their stories, learn from their experiences, and understand their needs.” (more…)

CA environmental minister McKenna addresses economic aspects of environmental policies

Governmental policies on the environment affect both care for God’s creation and the ability of the economy to serve people properly – both of which are critical considerations for Catholics in discerning voting preferences. Let us join our voices with Pope Francis in praying earnestly for God’s assistance in sorting out these complex issues: (more…)

UN, OAS, OSCE and ACHPR Joint Declaration on Fake News

Alarmed over “instances in which public authorities denigrate, intimidate and threaten the media, including by stating that the media is ‘the opposition’ or is ‘lying’ and has a hidden political agenda, which increases the risk of threats and violence against journalists, undermines public trust and confidence in journalism as a public watchdog, and may mislead the public by blurring the lines between disinformation and media products containing independently verifiable facts, (more…)