Thursday, July 16, 2015

How not to win friends

To secure an advocate for one's cause, there are ways to go about it, and ways not to go about it.

At a trial in Toronto, the charge was living off the avails of prostitution, in street parlance, pimping. As the Crown Attorney's questions became more pointed, the accused thought he would win the jury's sympathy. He shouted at the prosecutor, "Admit it. You've been after me for years because I once shot a cop."  If any jury members were asleep, that woke them up. He was found guilty.

Land-locked Bolivia would like access to the nearby Pacific Ocean over the territory of its neighbour, Chile. During the return flight to Rome following his recent visit to South America, Pope Francis was asked by a Bolivian national if he would mediate this dispute. The pope said he could not comment as the issue was currently before the International Court of Justice. In any event, was the pope disposed to help?

A few days earlier, Bolivia's leftist president, Evo Morales, presented Francis with a gift. It was a cross in the shape of a hammer with a sickle mounted on it.  A "communist cross" is hardly the way to win a friend then ask him for help.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Greece, Toronto and Subsidiarity

Letter to the Toronto Star. Unpublished.

Richard Gwyn points out the flaw in bigness ("Taking on the bullies," July 7, 2015).  Much of the pain now endured by the people of Greece can be traced to the enormous bureaucracy of the European Union, Gwyn maintains. 

Elsewhere in the same issue of the Toronto Star we see the headline "Amalgamation a flop, Fraser study suggests."  The report questions the purported financial advantage of amalgamating Metropolitan Toronto into a mega-city. Purported cost savings were not realized. In fact, overall costs increased. This mistake was the work of the government of Mike Harris who believed bigger is better. 

In Toronto, there is talk of de-amalgamation. Europeans should also be thinking in terms of de-centralization, of invoking subsidiarity, that is the placing of control of various matters with the smallest government level best able to handle it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Equity Demands Equal Pain

In a recent decision, Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Peter Lauwers wrote, "The legislative scheme offers no way out for people who are impoverished, dealing with health issues, or other difficulties, and who bear the burdens of these enormous fines for many years... It is most unfortunate that there is no process in the system for commuting old and back-breaking fines for people who have little prospect of paying therm, and whose lives are being ruined."

 The Canadian Law Dictionary defines equity as "Justice according to natural reason and good conscience as distinct from that which is strictly according to law."

In the spirit of Justice Lauwers' enlightened approach to law enforcement and in a spirit of equity, I propose that motor vehicle fines be levied in such a way as to produce equal pain for all offenders, that they be levied according to the defendant's ability to pay.

A $50 parking fine is a serious burden for a low-wage earner but a mere nuisance to a rich person and unlikely to discourage further violations.  Therefore, fines for parking and traffic offences be rated according to the value of the car. Thus the $50 fine for the owner of a modest car would be $100 to $150 for the owner of an up-scale vehicle. The brand name of the car can be programmed into the hand-held devices of ticketing officers such that the ticket automatically indicates the amount of the fine.

Equity demands equal pain for equal violations of the law.