The Senate: Canada’s most honourable think tank

The big news: a well-received report on cross-border price gaps continues to offer wisdom


(Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press)

The Senate’s wisdom stubbornly endures. Let me explain.

Leaky faucets in Ottawa often play favourites. Mike Duffy’s awkward fall from grace was facilitated masterfully by CTV’s Bob Fife, who has sources in all the best spots. If the government’s fall agenda is your thing, the National Post‘s John Ivison is your man. He’s spent the week divulging the Conservative front bench’s plan of attack once Parliament returns next month.

This morning, Ivison writes about the imminently prominent role of a price gap in the government’s plans for a “consumer-first” agenda. Things we like to buy are more expensive in Canada than the United States, you see, and the government apparently will ask the Competition Bureau to investigate any malfeasance on the part of those setting the prices. The problem, Ivison writes, is that charging a higher price “does not in itself constitute an offence.” Indeed, it’s perfectly legal, so long as greedy corporations aren’t behind an odious price-fixing scheme.

Ivison goes on to quote a Senate report from earlier this year about, yes, the Canada-U.S. price gap. That would be the same report that inspired the government to cut tariffs on hockey equipment, one of the shinier objects in this year’s budget (and another Ivison scoop, it’s worth mentioning).

The Senate’s report wasn’t universally damning of a price gap. The committee admitted it couldn’t “offer an explanation as definitive as it would have liked for the price discrepancies for products between Canada and the United States.” The factors that influence the gap are many, and the Senate considered them all.

Through its hearings, the Committee looked at the contribution of country pricing and market  segmentation, the relative size of the Canadian market, customs tariffs, the volatility of the exchange  rate, the price of fuel, product safety standards, the de minimis threshold for postal shipments and the level of competition to the price discrepancies for certain products between Canada and the United States.

That’s much more complicated than any “higher prices bad, more competition good” mantra that a consumers-first agenda would repeat ad nauseum. And we can thank the Senate, a valuable think tank if ever Canadian taxpayers wanted to pay for one, for supplying the government with such thorough analysis. Abolish the chamber if you want, Canada, but know you’re giving up all kinds of honourable research.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail  Iran and the United States are on the road to good relations.
National Post  A military arctic rescue this summer cost $2,748,046.
Toronto Star  Air passengers may soon have carry-on liquid restrictions lifted.
Ottawa Citizen  Federal executives are struggling with mental health issues.
CBC News  Al-Shabaab militants say Kenyan forces employed chemical weapons.
CTV News  Kenya denies killing hostages in an assault on mall attackers.
National Newswatch  Stephen Harper and Rob Ford are helping each others’ electoral fortunes.

What you might have missed

THE NATIONAL Supreme Court. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is likely to appoint a new Supreme Court justice this fall, after the retirement of former justice Morris Fish at the end of August. Lawyers anonymously told The Globe and Mail that the next judge, who will be from Quebec, might be Court of Appeal judge Marie-France Bich.
THE GLOBAL Iraq. Militants attacked a military headquarters and police station in western Iraq’s Anbar province, killing at least nine police officers. The mayor of the city of Ana claimed 30 attackers took over his house. All told, at least six attackers are said to have died in the assault, which came in a province known for Sunni attacks on Shiite neighbourhoods.
THE QUIRKY Freeman-on-the-land. Andreas Pirelli, the Alberta man who rented a home from pensioner Rebekah Caverhill and then claimed it as a sovereign embassy, is wanted in Quebec after he fled court proceedings into an aggravated assault charge in 2010. Pirelli is alleged to have thrown a Montreal landlady down a set of stairs.


The Senate: Canada’s most honourable think tank

  1. why aren’t journalists and reporters going after harper about the $90,000.00 corruption scandal instead of writing puff pieces about how good harper is at doing photo opps ? are reporter asleep at the wheel ? nobodies talking about the corruption in the PMO. did everyone loose the scent. I don’t understand how reporters can report fluff, when their is so much corruption. harper only wanted to shut down parliament to do a month long photo opp tour and the media are falling asleep on the job. their(media) writing fluff instead investigative journalism. the media is doing exactly what the harper wants it to do. do your job media, and report news, instead of turning into bunch of FLUFFBALLS. thank someone(not god)for people like Michael Harris. that’s my rant for the day.

    • I’d suggest looking at just about everything written by John Geddes, Paul Wells and Aaron Wherry elsewhere on this site. Or even this post, which doesn’t exactly congratulate the government for its forthcoming agenda.

      • the story you wrote today, is about how john ivison can change the channel for the harper government, and you just gave it a little bit more oxygen. that’s not investigating the $90,000.00 that was handed over to mike duffy in harpers office . I don’t see any investigative journalism from macleans period, only point of views and opinions, mostly regurgitated stories from other news outlets. every time something comes across the twitter world about politics, it shows up on macleans and other news sites. their are a few other journalists doing some investigations, but not enough, and it only comes in spurts, no consistency, every news outlet should be all over this senate scandal like s#it to a blanket, and not sit there in their office waiting for the news to come to them(this is corruption of the biggest kind)and new outlets are still propping up harper with his photo opps. instead of paying for junkets to go off in foreign countries with harper to try and get 4 questions answered, invest your money in good investigated journalism and you might find you may get more subscribers to your magazine and website. I still have to agree with you though, about the writers you have with macleans. they are as fair as any other news outlet, because most all the news organizations print the same thing anyway. im still waiting the next breaking news story from macleans, so I can subscribe.

  2. Thank you for this – I wish it was longer though. I tend to think Canadians would appreciate the Senate more if we were aware of the good work it does on our behalf.

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