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.

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