Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

CBRM endorses UN Bomb ban

CBRM citizens at a signing ceremony marking the municipality’s endorsement of the UN’s nuclear weapons ban. (Click to enlarge.)

I was hard on the CBRM for proclaiming Right to Know Week (for what I think are pretty obvious reasons), but there was another proclamation made during last Tuesday’s council meeting that made me quite proud of our little municipality.

According to Cape Breton University (CBU) professor, Peace Quest Cape Breton member (and Spectator columnist) Sean Howard:

…on September 19 the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and calling on the Government of Canada to support it…

You can watch the reading and adoption of the motion on the CBRM website.

Howard believes the CBRM is the first of the 105 Canadian members of Mayors for Peace to adopt such a resolution. During a Citizen Signing Ceremony at CBU on Thursday he told those in attendance:

In sum, the Treaty establishes a clear and comprehensive ban, or in the words of Ray Acheson, the brilliant young Canadian woman at the forefront of the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), it’s a “progressive, sound, legally-binding prohibition of these genocidal, suicidal weapons of mass destruction.”

Howard discussed the treaty in detail in this July column.


Doctors & Taxes

tax or taxes concept with word on business folder index

Last week I ran a letter from a reader who opposes the federal government’s plan to close tax loopholes exploited by some small businesses — including some Canadian doctors.

I ran the letter, but I don’t actually agree with the views expressed by the author and the quotes it contained from two local doctors — an older one who said the change would force him to retire and a younger one who said it would force him to leave — made me really rather cross.

I found this Global News story to be quite even-handed on the subject — it explains how some incorporated physicians have been able to use the tax loopholes in ways they weren’t intended to be used. For example, “income sprinkling” (sharing your income with your spouse and any children between the ages of 18 and 24) makes sense if those family members contribute to your business but the law, as written, doesn’t insist this be the case. The change would put the onus on doctors to prove their family members are actually involved in their businesses. (The article then goes on to explain how the paperwork involved in proving this could be burdensome and something the government might want to rethink.)

That income sprinkling, passive income (investing corporate savings in things like mutual funds and real estate instead of equipment for the business) and the capital gains tax (which is lower than income tax) are all used by corporations to lower their tax bills is a given. We live in a world where “taxes” is a four-letter word even, apparently, to some doctors whose incomes come from our taxes.

Doctors opposed to the changes have been throwing up all kinds of arguments, some of which just don’t hold up under inspection. They say, for instance, they accrue high student debt becoming doctors but that’s a problem of high university tuition which is in turn a problem of reduced government support for universities and the answer, clearly, is not tax loopholes. They also argue they have high levels of burnout but what are they saying, exactly? “I’m really burned out but allowing me to keep more of my income makes it all worthwhile?” Physician burnout is an issue worth tackling but again, can anyone seriously suggest tax loopholes are the best way to do that?

I was relieved, frankly, when I saw the letter signed by hundreds of Canadian doctors and medical students  supporting the government’s changes.

But I’d also say that doctors would be well within their rights to suggest that the federal government should not stop at these particular tax loopholes but consider the bigger problem which is that much of our tax system is regressive — helping the wealthy more than the poor. A 2016 report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) analyzed 64 tax loopholes (or “tax expenditures”) and found that only five were progressive. The remaining 59 were regressive — and cost the federal government $100 billion annually.

Imagine what an extra $100 billion spent on healthcare and education could achieve?


Beer sexism

And now for something totally different…

I owe this item to Nigel Kearns who posted this link to Ben’s Beer Blog on his Facebook feed. The subject is sexism in beer marketing — particularly craft beer marketing — an issue that somehow escaped my notice, although I am a woman and I like craft beer. (This despite the best efforts of a relative who almost ruined it for me by saying, “All craft beer tastes like grapefruit.”)

The blog is the work of London, Ontario beer aficionado Ben Johnson and the post in question is a follow-up to this one, in which he contacted a number of Ontario craft brewers to ask them about their branding decisions (which included naming one beer “Farmer’s Daughter’s Melons” and decorating another can with a woman in a lumberjack outfit so scanty it made Johnson “question her suitability for work in the timber industry.”)

The follow-up piece is of interest to the Spectator because it has a Cape Breton connection — Johnson spoke to Jeremy White of Big Spruce Brewing (which put a tree rather than a scantily clad female lumberjack on its label). White is also one of 34 members of the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia (CBANS) and he told Johnson that the discussion of sexism in craft beer marketing had inspired the organization to do something:

Accordingly, at their annual general meeting, after what White calls “some spirited debate,” CBANS passed the following motion:

Whereas the Nova Scotia craft beer industry strives to uphold the fundamental principles of inclusiveness and equality to all in the carrying out of day to day activities, be it resolved that the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia formally encourages members to operate equal and supportive workplaces, and to pledge zero tolerance of discrimination in their marketing practices.

White tells me that it is the intention of the association to now form a working committee to see about turning this into a policy statement or bylaw…

“For me,” White added, “doing something about sexism in industry marketing was crucial because I’d feel I was letting my wife and family down if I did not. My wife Melanie is my partner in everything including Big Spruce. I have a two year old daughter. I just felt I could not stay silent about this and look them in the eye and feel I was doing everything to promote equality and zero discrimination in my industry.”

White also adds that, over the summer, Big Spruce grew its work force to 13 employees, and five of those employees are women. He also notes that, of five senior management positions, three are held by women.

“Let me be clear,” he adds “the reason we preach this is not only because it is the right thing to do, but because women bring a great, dynamic perspective to our business.”

I’m sure there will be those condemning the move as “PC culture” run amok and yet another example of the suppression of free speech, but I think the world will continue to spin on its axis even if beer cans are not adorned with pictures of scantily clad lady lumberjacks.

I also realized that I probably missed the controversy because I spent too long in the Czech Republic, where this was considered a reasonable (nay, award-winning) way to advertise beer (non-alcoholic beer, at that):





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