A month later

I have not been writing much about COVID and its consequences simply because, day to day, very little changes.

I am very lucky. I live in British Columbia which has had among the lowest per capita case rate and death rate in the developed world. There are a variety of reasons for this first among them the provincial government’s decision to treat its citizens like grown ups. The government has shared its statistics, its models and its recommendations. It has issued very few “orders” nor has it locked down the economy. Social distancing, the ubiquitous plexi glass barriers at the cash tills, maximum occupancy to prevent over crowding are pretty much it in terms of required measures. No sit down dining in restaurants and bars closed. We are encouraged, but not required, to “stay at home”.

Yesterday there were only 15 new cases in the province. The curve has been decisively flattened. On Vancouver Island, where I actually live, there have been only 126 cases overall. There were no new cases yesterday.

The rest of Canada ranges from New York City levels of illness in Montreal to very little illness on the prairies and in most of the Maritimes. Ontario, particularly Toronto, has been hit pretty hard and has reacted with broad lock downs and fines for illicit dog walking or hoops shooting.

Right now, BC is coming back online in a phased way and I suspect most businesses will be operating with capacity restrictions by mid June.

Now the question is how much economic damage has the virus done.

While it is convenient for politicians and economists to think of the economy at the macro level with unemployment rates and money supply and such like, the actual economy is a vast set of tiny transactions and the habits which power those transactions. Before we can really talk about the effect of the virus on such lofty things as aggregate demand, we have to think about the very small scale exchanges of daily life.

To give one example: if a person who, before the virus, went to an office everyday is now working from home their web of tiny transactions will have changed shape – gas bought once a month rather than once a week, no dry cleaning, no Starbucks, no lunch in the food court. The question is whether, even if they keep their job, they will be going back to the office. Increasingly, the answer seems to be no as everyone from the Bank of Montreal to Facebook have announced that they are looking at leaving their workforce at home.

These sorts of choices – whether made by the individual, companies or governments radically and unpredictably change the economic balance in ways we will not fully understand for years. There is no way to model this sort of change because there is no way to predict what a shift to working at home will actually mean economically. Nor do we really have much ability to work through the ramifications of extremely limited air travel or fanless sporting events.

Now, add to these and countless other shifts in behaviour, there is also the uncertainty as to the rate of change in that behaviour. Air travel is, at the moment, very, very limited. Flights are cancelled, air crew furloughed, smaller planes deployed where possible. That happened at the beginning of April and is ongoing. It is not, directly, the result of government saying “reduce air travel” but rather a consequence of lockdowns and “stay at home” edicts. It is also a very rational response to the virus itself – who wants to sit in close quarters with someone who is asymptomatically infected? Will that change and if so how fast?

A lot of the day to day transactions of life require a background of general trust, a sense of confidence. You can flatten the curve, lift the lock downs and generally stimulate the economy with helicopter money but until trust and confidence are restored you are essentially pushing on a rope.

I suspect we are coming to the end of the first wave of the virus. A good, hot summer, may see the end of it. However, the possibility of a second wave, potentially worse than the first, cannot be dismissed. Which is just one more worry to pile on top of the profoundly out of kilter economy.

In many ways the biggest obstacle to economic progress is the very idea that we will somehow “get back to normal”. The fact is that there is no longer a “normal” to return to which means we will be going forward into a economy which we will be inventing as we go. Which might sound scary but, realistically, market economies have always invented their own futures.

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Depression, Inflation, I’m so confused!

The Weimar German Mark…Not just Zimbabwe – Log scale

The numbers are ugly. Something like 1 in 5 Canadians out of work. Mortgages deferred, rent unpaid, bills falling in arrears without a regular pay cheque. The 2K a month CRED money is lovely but it does not actually cover most middle class people’s mortgages, car leases, minimum credit card payments, hydro, taxes, more taxes, and, well, food.

So, economically, I think it is fair to say that we are already in a depression. GDP growth will crater, unemployment will balloon. Cash will evaporate.

But it may be worse than that. The reality is that most Western countries have said, “The Hell with the deficit and national debt, we need to helicopter money in, stat.” The problem with this idea is that to do it you need to print money. Lots of it. Billions for Canada, trillions for the US. Which, if you have your own central bank is easy to do and, initially, costless. After all, what is money? It is a book entry and if you double the total what could go wrong?

If you flood enough money into an economy that economy will look robust. It will look normal even with a fifth or a third of its citizens not actually working but still being paid.

Here is picture of a meth addict:

A country which decides to simply make all the money it needs right now is jumping on the meth train. There is a temporary high where all looks grand and then a terminal decline.

The COVID-19 crisis – if it is a crisis – has given our federal government the social licence to start shooting economic meth. The fact is that the economic meth won’t work. Real estate is going to crash. Asset prices generally will crash. The end of demand is, well, the end of demand. Without demand prices drop and, hey, pretty soon, you have a recession and, perhaps, a depression.

Depressions can be survived. They are nasty and stimulating the demand which takes you out of one is tough.

But now imagine a depression proceeded by a huge currency inflation. Where a government, in a panic, floods the market with paper currency unbacked by any actual GDP. In a matter of a year, the savings of a nation as well as the assets of a nation, can be rendered worthless in paper money.

Here’s a gent buying eggs in the Weimar Republic:

A grand inflation in front of a depression is pretty much the end of an economy. If the government prints money in serious quantities and issues debt in more or less unlimited quantities the game is over. The gold bugs will have won.

A rather smart investor named Rick Rule once said, “We don’t want to live in a world with $10,000 an ounce gold.”

Right now there is a greater than zero chance that this will be exactly the world we live in.

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Things about to get real

COVID-19

No, not the virus. It is already very real.

The economy.

2.1 million Canadians have applied for EI. On Monday, the doors will open for applications for the CREB. Real estate is crashing. A lot of small businesses are closed and there is a real question as to whether many will be coming back if this goes on until, say, May 15th.

Here’s the thing: to this point people have been able to get by on savings, informal loans and scraps of income. Not well, but ok. That will not be the case for much longer.

On Monday there is going to be the mother of all internet swarms as people try to apply for the CREB. Part of that process is, apparently, setting up a “My Account” with the CRA. My younger sons have been trying to do just that since the Prime Minister suggested it on Wednesday. They have failed because the CRA system is giving them error messages when they try to fill in their information. Not at all an encouraging sign.

My boys will be fine and my older son filed for EI a week and a half ago so he should be ok.

However, if half a million Canadians crash the CRA on Monday, many of them will not be fine. They will be dead broke with no obvious path forward.

How long will that situation remain calm?

The “application” process for the CREB is an unnecessary bottleneck which may turn out to be a break point for the system overall.

Is there a Plan “B” in case the CRA can’t handle the volume. There should be and it should be simple and get money to people who need it.

I have suggested this in a variety of places but I will suggest it again.

A smart, decisive government would have looked for every possible way to get money into the hands of the unemployed, the stay at home moms, the older adults and the welfare recipients by the end of March. No questions asked, no applications required. The Canadian government, through its various programs and the Canadian Revenue Agency, has the name and bank account information for millions of Canadians. Simply sending $2000 to people who receive the Child Tax Benefit, the GST rebate and CPP/OAP would kick start the process. Sending $2000 to every single one of the EI applicants currently in the system, without looking at eligibility would be a solid move. Then coordinate with the provinces to send $2000 to every welfare recipient.

me, a week ago

The whole point of the CREB is to get money into the hands of people who need it. The whole application/eligibility thing just gets in the way. So does the insane requirement that people re-apply every month.

The Federal and Provincial governments have decided that Covid-19 is serious enough that it warrants shutting down the Canadian economy. (I am not sure this is actually the right response but it the response we have for now.) By doing this the governments have created an obligation to ensure that their citizens have enough money to sustain themselves as long as the shut down is in effect. This will be insanely expensive and likely deeply inflationary. But that is a “down the road” consideration. The key concern right now needs to be getting as much money to as many people as possible as soon as possible.

For the next month it likely makes sense to continue with the social distance/stay at home measures currently in effect. More and more people are masking up. By May we should have a) a useful five minute test to determine if a person currently has CV-19, an anti-body test to find out if a person has had CV-19 (and is therefore presumed immune), spreading use of  hydroxychloroquine and other treatments which help speed recovery. We will have, we hope, flattened the curve so that the number of cases stay within our hospital’s capacity to treat.

However, by the end of April we should also be looking at how we can begin to re-open the economy. At the moment we are treating everyone as a potential carrier as well as a potential patient who would have a significant chance of dying if they caught CV-19. With experience, we should be able to be more granular in our approach.

We will also be in a better position to do a cost/benefit analysis of the restrictions government imposes. At the beginning of March, when CV-19 was first seen as a serious problem, the magnitude of the problem could not be pinned down. That meant that virtually any restriction could be justified as the potential cost of not imposing the restriction was, more or less, infinite. In principle, the CV-19 epidemic could have killed us all so stopping it was worth pretty much everything.

Now we know a lot more about CV-19 and what can be done to lessen its impact. It may turn out that a simple cotton mask, (much denigrated by Canada’s Chief Health Officer, Dr. Tam) may have a significant role to play in reducing the spread of CV-19. Cheap, potentially effective and, realistically, masking might allow the resumption of some business activities.

We know that the virus is nasty to older people and often fatal to the many over 80’s in our communities. We know that care homes are susceptible because the virus spreads in communal settings more easily than through casual contact. We know that young children and teens, while they can get CV-19, almost always have light cases.

The more we know the more we can tailor solutions which will allow a bit of a return to normal or a version thereof.

If we had infinite money we could sustain our current restrictive measures for a year or two until we had a vaccine. But while we can print money by Direct Deposit, that money comes with costs. And remember, money is not actually anything at all. You don’t eat money, you eat eggs. Those eggs come from somewhere and there is a supply chain which gets them to the store.

The challenge right now is to control the virus without killing the supply chains which we all rely on.

Let’s see how our Federal government does on Monday.

Bungle

Our American friends are trying to pass an emergency finance bill to deal with the economic fall out of the Covid-19 epidemic. But Nancy Pelosi decided it would be a great idea to add layers of lefty causes to a fairly simple finance measure and, as a result, the bill has been delayed.

Our own Justine Trudeau attempted to put an Emergency Funding Act through Parliament which would have given the Canadian Cabinet the power to tax and spend without going to Parliament for 18 months. He failed. But not until more time had been wasted.

Canadians are losing their jobs. Fast. A million and half of them have apparently applied for EI benefits. The system is not designed to deal with that many applications all at once. While the one week waiting period has been waived, the reality is that there will be no new EI cheques for several days if not weeks.

The Trudeau government has announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit which is, as far as I can see, a program designed to pay $2000 a month to people who a) apply, b) who lost their jobs, got sick, are under quarantine or have to stay home because of school closures. The application is to be online as of the beginning of April with cheques (really?) out ten days or so later.

Let’s be optimistic and imagine that the CERB goes as planned. The earliest people will get the benefit will be April 15. It is the 25th as I write. I have been broke enough to know what 20 days with no money feels like. But no money and no prospect of generating any because of Covid-19 lock downs is impossible.

Trudeau and his Cabinet lack any sense of urgency. They have not got a clue about how tough the next month is going to be for the million and a half Canadians who have lost their jobs.

A smart, decisive government would have looked for every possible way to get money into the hands of the unemployed, the stay at home moms, the older adults and the welfare recipients by the end of March. No questions asked, no applications required. The Canadian government, through its various programs and the Canadian Revenue Agency, has the name and bank account information for millions of Canadians. Simply sending $2000 to people who receive the Child Tax Benefit, the GST rebate and CPP/OAP would kick start the process. Sending $2000 to every single one of the EI applicants currently in the system, without looking at eligibility would be a solid move. Then co-ordinate with the provinces to send $2000 to every welfare recipient.

There is no time for a bureaucratically perfect solution here. People are being told to stay home. They can’t do that if they have no money. So get them money.

UPDATE: The geniuses at the BC government just announced a program to help people hit by the economic consequences of CONVID-19 deal with rent. Apparently they think $500 paid direct to the landlord is going to make a difference. Have they looked at rents in Vancouver or Victoria?

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Aftermath and Clean-Up

Five days ago I wrote a post called Peak Panic. I think I called it about right. There was and still is panic around Convid-19 but there is also the sense that the curve can be flattened by people self isolating (even if they don’t have the bug), practicing social distance and by limiting social interaction and group events.

Now comes word that Trump is sending Hydroxychloroquine and Z-Paks to NYC for Drug Trials. There is strong, if anecdotal evidence that hydroxychloroquine has a rapid effect on the virus. Six days and the virus is gone. We’ll see. But we will see quickly as the treatment will be given to hundreds of sick patients and, prophylactically, to front line medical personnel. It will either work perfectly or, more likely, imperfectly but effectively in many cases.

Having a treatment option – and there will be more than one – changes the entire picture. Yes, social distance and self-isolation will still be important for some time but the idea that the medical system will be overwhelmed fades very quickly if an effective treatment can be administered.

The entire world is in the process of shutting down as economic activity is judged too risky. The markets have crashed. Helicopter money is being loaded. (Although I note that the Trudeau government missed a chance when the Child Tax Benefit arrived in the same amount as last month.) Tax deadlines – both for filing and for payment – are being deferred. Employment insurance, pensions, payments to the self-employed, to companies and to institutions hit with the virus and its disruptions are all in the pipeline.

The fact that the virus may be first contained and then controlled is unlikely to have much impact on these programs. Nor should it. The economic disruption of the last couple of weeks is not going to vanish overnight even if the medicos sound the all clear. It will cost trillions.

[My minor suggestion is that governments add a virtual year to all the “monthly” entitlements they currently pay and pay that all at once. In the case, for example, of my pension the government would add one year to my life and send along the full benefits payable for that year. This would give me cash in pocket and would be as taxable as any other pension payment.]

Putting money into the hands of consumers and corporations immediately is likely a good idea. But a better idea is to begin to plan for an economic restart complete with the resumption of air travel, open pubs, non-essential businesses and so on. The exact date of this restart is unknowable at this point because we don’t know when the curve will start dropping like the Dow. However, that should not stop political and business leaders from outlining a 30-60 day restart plan which would kick in when the virus was effectively beaten.

Economies are perfectly happy to crash on their own. But there has never been a genuine economic restart. It is claimed that the Great Depression was ended by the production demands of World War II. That may well be true but, obviously, that is not an ideal outcome.

So what is?

There will be a lot of pent up demand but it will take a lot of work and a lot of money to meet that demand. There will also be a good deal of purely psychological damage which will have to be overcome. A part of the population, perhaps a large part, will be suffering from the after effects of sheer panic.

Focusing the restart on a specific day or week may be the most effective way to marshal the supply chains, employees, and businesses. We’ve seen the success of “Black Friday” in releasing the animal spirits of North American consumers.

Combining massive sales, big discounts on air fares, hotels, restaurants and a day of celebration might well be the best way of kicking the economy back into gear. Parades, Services of Thanksgiving, a truncated knock out tournament for the Stanley Cup, a reboot of Opening Day for a short MLB season, the list of potential events is endless.

Start the planning now, even before we have solved the virus issue, because if the economy continues in “shut down” the effect of that “shut down” could be much more severe than the virus itself.

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Peak Panic

Are we there yet?

States of Emergency, daily Presidential Briefings, fatality numbers, businesses closing, TP shortages, no meat, social distance, markets yo-yoing and everyone looking to “flatten the curve”: COVID-19 is scary and people are responding with varying degrees of terror and reason.

I took this graph from PowerLine. It is interesting and as John Hinderaker observes there we want to be like South Korea. He was referring to the US. Canada is not even on this chart because we are a few days away from the starting point of 10 deaths. Health Canada indicates 4 deaths as of March 17 at 10:30 Eastern. We’ll get to 10 but, with luck, a little more slowly.

There is a lot of skepticism about the Chinese numbers but, apparently, new cases and new deaths have fallen significantly in the past few weeks. We’ll see if that holds as China goes back to work.

There are plenty of reasons to treat COVID-19 seriously beginning with the fact that we lack infinite medical resources to deal with the very real possibility of broad scale infection. We currently lack effective therapies for people unlucky enough to catch CV. We are at least months away from any sort of vaccine.

Panic has been useful in alerting people to handwashing and staying out of crowds. It has given social licence to people who simply want to stay at home. And those basic things may very well reduce the overall incidence of the infection. We won’t know for a while.

What we do know is that testing for COVID-19 is confirming cases across Canada. Here is the weekly case graph to the 8th of March:

So far, so good. However, I have to suspect that there will be surges in these numbers in the coming weeks as more and more people are tested.

If something like this graph holds, even with surges, Canada will have the time needed to reconfigure its medical resources to deal with the challenges presented by the virus. We will also have the time to test potential therapies: yes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – but it would be helpful to have some cures available.

There are also purely environmental effects to look forward to. We don’t know if heat and humidity will kill the virus but there is evidence that they slow its spread.

Spring is around the corner in Canada.

As we get a better handle on the virus, its spread, its effects and, with luck, its treatment the urge to panic will vanish. It will be replaced by an understanding of what it takes to avoid contracting the virus.

In China it appears people are going back to work and production is resuming. Or so it is claimed. South Korea seems to have resumed a relative normalcy. Europe seems, at the moment, to be in the grip of the first wave where the death count shoots up and the case load is overwhelming. They have hit lockdown and there seems to be some improvement in the number of new cases in Italy at least.

Panic grabs people’s attention but it is useless unless it leads to clam, rational, action. Which is what we are beginning to see in Canada.

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Helicopter Money

Canadian banknotes falling from sky.

I have, and I checked, $85.00 in my pocket. I have had that for several days. We also have a few hundred dollars in the proverbial cookie jar.

We, like virtually everyone else, use our debit cards and online banking to do 95% of our transactions. I know how much money I have by checking into my bank account online. If I get a cheque I take a picture of it and it is cashed.

Money is now, effectively, digital. So is credit but that is another story. I receive a small pension and my wife gets the Child Tax Benefit. Digitally.

We are in the middle of a health crisis but also an economic meltdown. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians will be laid off. Businesses will close, the markets are in turmoil. We are at the middle of the month but, in 14 days, rents and mortgages will have to be paid. Day to day bills have to be met and, in a couple of weeks, a lot of people will have literally no money because COVID-19 will have destroyed their income.

The Quebec government announced today that it will pay people who do not have Employment Insurance $573 a week to self-isolate. I expect other provinces will follow suit. I also expect that the Federal Government will announce some sort of allowance to get people through what is going to be an economically fragile period.

Assuming that there are 23 million adults in Canada, it would cost 23 billion dollars to give everyone of them $1000. Which is a lot of money. Even for a Liberal government. (Of course the net cost could be reduced a lot by a) making it taxable, b) restricting it to people receiving the GST credit.)

An injection of $1000 per adult would goose the economy and make getting through the next month a heck of a lot easier for Canadian families. But is it prudent or even possible economically?

Right this instant, world wide interest rates are at all time lows. Sovereign debt can be had at less than 1% and even if the entire payment was borrowed it would be a blip on Canada’s overall deficit and interest payments. Essentially, the Government of Canada would be giving its citizens a long term loan using our excellent credit rating to raise the funds. Of course, those citizens would be paying that loan back over time through their taxes; but acting quickly could reduce real economic harm to a manageable economic problem.

We may have to do this for a few months. Which is ugly for the balance sheet but probably good for the nation.

There is the obvious risk of inflation and an equally obvious risk for the Canadian dollar. But, against that, we have to recognize that the enemy here is deflation as the economy contracts due to “lockdown” and despair as individuals and families hit the economic wall.

Yes, this would be Ben Bernanke’s “Helicopter Money” . It was not actually Bernanke’s idea, it was Milton Friedman’s. Read the article at the link. The original idea of “Helicopter Money” was that it was a tool of last resort when monetary policy has run out of bullets. (And when the prime interest rate is at .25%, that is an empty gun.)

Friedman and Bernanke saw this in strictly financial terms; they did not see the possibility of a non-financial crisis. COVID-19 is just that. A health crisis with a nasty financial side effect.

I am a hard money guy. I despise the lazy pseudo-Keynesians happy to spend in the bad times and just as happy to spend in the good times. I hate deficits. But, right now, I am hoping some adult in Ottawa – there has to be at least one – is getting ready to push billions of digital dollars into the hands of a bewildered Canadian public.

Now, to be fair, they will probably spend it on “beer and popcorn” (as the lame Liberal strategist said back in 2005 blowing Paul Martin’s election chances.) But for many Canadians it would be a lifeline through layoffs, cut hours, business slowdown and having to stay home.

It can be done in an hour. 92.5% of Canadians filed their taxes online in 2019. Most will have a bank account registered with the CRA. So will a lot of us who have a pension or a GST rebate or a Child Tax Benefit entitlement.

Pushing the button and sending a chunk of money to Canadians who are reeling from lock-down, social distance and losing their jobs makes a lot of sense.

We’ll deal with the fiscal consequences when COVID-19 is done.

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To live outside the Law, you must be honest

The lads in Edmonton, politely taking down a railway blockade are a logical outcome of the abject failure of government to actually deal with the ongoing Wetsuweten fandango.

I was delighted to see these gentlemen take direct action but it brings into sharp relief the effects of ongoing, tolerated, illegality.

Much is made of “the rule of law” which is a malleable concept and can be used to justify the Liberal goverment’s forbearance from cracking down on the protestors, the protestor’s own claims as to a SCC endorsed higher rule of law which gives FN hereditary chiefs precedence in the matter of title to unceded lands, and the rights of a bunch of Alberta boys to clear the garbage off the tracks. These competing claims to the benefits of the rule of law are going to be tested in the next several days.

My own analysis is that if you want to claim a benefit from the law you must first obey it in all its particulars. Claiming the right to protest – essentially a free speech claim – makes great sense within Canada’s Charter framework. And your protest might, in fact, involve blocking traffic or access to land. What it cannot involve, if you want to continue to enjoy the protection of the law, is defying or ignoring an Order of a Court having jurisdiction. When you do that you a) break the law, b) put yourself outside the protection of the law.

The reason we expect the police to enforce Court Orders is that they are trained, accountable and are given the monopoly on force in a civil society. They sometimes screw up but they have to answer for their errors.

The Edmonton lads behaved perfectly. Hats off and all that. But it could have gone another way and almost certainly will if the politicians sideline the cops. Much as I admire the self-help ethos of those Albertans, we cannot always count on private citizens to be so polite. Especially if the protesters get a bit stroppy about having their “sacred items” removed from the rail lines and highways of the nation. To date, the allies of the FN protesters have been nice, white, middle class young women and old radicals. Antifa and Black Bloc people have been largely absent. That will not be the case if this drags on.

The Edmonton lads have, I believe, given the federal and provincial governments the cover they need to shut down the “support” protests forthwith. There is a legitimate concern that the protesters are going to have the shit kicked out of them, and vice versa, if the situation is allowed to continue. Time to actually enforce the rule of law and the injunctions which flow from it. No exception, no negotiation: if you ignore or defy a Court Order you will be told to stop and, if you do not, you’ll be arrested and charged.

We cannot afford to have bits and pieces of Canada where the law does not run. Even our dim witted Prime Minister must realize that. Time to stop virtue signalling and start ensuring that society remains civil and governed by the rule of law.

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The Conservative Dilemma

Frank Graves and Michael Valpy ask the question, “What if the Conservatives had a ‘centrist’ leader?” like Rona Ambrose or Peter MacKay. To their credit Graves and Valpy recognize that while a centrist Conservative party would appeal to the media and various elites in Canada it would effectively maroon the 30% of Canadians who might loosely be described as “populist”.

I think Graves and Valpy are right and I can’t wait for that exact outcome.

Scheer managed to hoodwink a lot of natural populists with a combination of Liberal-lite policies and some goofy socon gestures (I am not sure Pride Parade non-attendance really counts for much with the serious socons.)

Graves and Valpy maintain that this was enough to avoid “orphaning the party’s biggest lump, and he more or less cut off oxygen to Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada (PPC).” It might have been last election but if the CPC goes centrist with its next leader, the lump will be looking elsewhere.

I am fairly certain that the CPC will go for a centrist leader if only because there are really no populist candidates available to it. Pierre Poilievre might fill the bill but it is not obvious that the CPC will be willing to support an MP who is as “direct” as Poilievre.

Which will leave “the lump” looking for a home. Graves and Valpy give a rundown of the lump’s core issues,

“Like the United States, the United Kingdom and sizeable chunks of Western Europe, Canada has a significant portion of citizens—about 30 per cent—who are attracted to the current psychographic and demographic binge of ordered populism. They are profoundly economically pessimistic and mistrustful of science and the elites. They have no interest in climate change, they don’t really see an active role for public institutions and believe there are too many immigrants. Of those immigrants coming to Canada, they think that too many are not white.”

Other than the dig about thinking “too many are not white”, that is a pretty good summary. (On the “not white” thing, I suspect it is more nuanced than that: more along the lines of the current Quebec government’s desire to preserve its culture in the face of immigration.)

I would make only one other correction and that is that they are not economically pessimistic, rather they are deeply worried that the current government has no clue what it is doing economically. There is a difference.

I would also add that the 30% lump tend to take a “leave me the fuck alone” with respect to gay marriage, trans rights, abortion and a host of other social justice causes. They are not so much opposed as annoyed to have gay pride parades and Drag Queen story hour as touchstones of moral correctness. They are not so much social conservatives as people entirely fed up with the hectoring of assorted minorities.

The lump tends to look at “climate change” in much the same way. They may accept the consensus “science” but they are annoyed at the BS virtue signalling of not having plastic grocery bags and being dinged for a “carbon” tax which will make no difference at all to world CO2 levels.

All of which add up to the Conservatives’ dilemma. The brain trust of the CPC is pretty sure that the road to 24 Sussex runs through 25 marginal seats in and around Toronto. These are seats which may have significant immigrant populations and lots of nice middle class ladies who don’t like that mean Mr. Trump or that vile Doug Ford. The logic is that to win those seats the Conservatives need a leader who is the very opposite of the Bad Orange Man, in fact, a leader very much like that handsome Mr. Trudeau. Who cares about the planet, loves Pride Parades and embraces multi-culturalism and family class immigration as “the one, true path” to national salvation.

The fact that such a leader would be anathema to the Conservative heartlands in the West and even in smaller places in Canada does not matter to the CPC brain trust because, well, who are they going to vote for?

Graves and Valpy edge up on the answer to that question, ” The danger, of course, is that the positions of those in the ordered camp are so dramatically offside the centre on issues like immigration and climate change that they may either stay home or perhaps consider the PPC. The People’s Party is now at nearly five per cent of total voters, and they could be a magnet for this segment if the Conservatives went too centre.”

Yup. And it would not even be a hard decision if a screamingly Red Tory like MacKay became the leader.

Here’s the thing: in the last election “the lump” voted CPC because it was generally believed that Bernier and the PPC had no chance of winning seats and “the lump” was desperate to see Trudeau defeated. Next election, if the CPC picks a centrist, “the lump” will have no real reason to vote CPC. Especially if Max continues to barnstorm the country.

Trudeau won with 33% of the vote. The wholesale collapse of the CPC vote under a Trudeau-lite leader and a rapprochement with the Bloc could put Max into contention.

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Ha,ha,ha

Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist #65, identified the greatest danger in an impeachment is “that the decision [to impeach] will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt”

President Trump’s impeachment was silly from the go but now, wait, the none too stable geniuses of the Democrat delegation to the House of Representatives are going to “hold” the Articles of Impeachment until they are assured of a fair trial in the Senate.

Did I mention Trump is a very lucky man?

I don’t think he was in any danger of conviction by the Senate but, if the Dems are dumb enough to hold the Articles – and if McConnell is willing to sit on his hands rather than setting his own rules – the Democrat Party’s vote will simply bleed out. Either Trump is a “clear and present danger” to the Constitution of the United States or, well, we can wait a couple of weeks, until the New Year, maybe March, to save the virtue of America.

The Democrats had one thing going for them, sheer, blind hate for Trump. Pause and that’s gone.

The Constitution will be just fine. If RBG keels over in the next few months the “impeached” President of the United States will do his Constitutional duty and nominate her successor. And Mitch will see that successor through the Senate.

The Dems are so screwed.

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