Thought 2016 was a rough year?
Thankfully the Fraser Institute, Canada's intrepid right-wing think tank, was able to get to the bottom of many important questions that are top-of-mind for ordinary Canadians, like:
• Is university a form of child care?
• Should the government privatize Canada Day?
• Are dancing chimney sweeps transmitting secret communist messages through your family's DVD player?
You'd think that kind of research would get an "F" from most high school teachers, but last year many Canadian media outlets regurgitated the think tank's research without taking basic steps to fact-check their claims – the Toronto Sun was even caught copy-pasting entire lines word-for-word straight out of a Fraser Institute press release.
That's also problematic considering the Fraser Institute's own Vice President admits the think tank's research is "set-up" to promote a political "communications agenda."
Here is the best of the worst from the Fraser Institute over the past 12 months:
1. Mary Poppins promotes communism
In case you were wondering. https://t.co/ut58SjrOUL— Margaret E. Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) December 24, 2016
Last month, Fraser Institute Senior Fellow Jonathan Fortier connected some dots and reported that Mary Poppins, a timeless tale beloved by children around the world, is about a lot more than "merry-go-round horses" and "fantastical rooftop dancing" – Mary Poppins actually promotes communism:
"Some may remember the film for its magic, fantasy, song and dance. But I was struck by the film's latent socialist ideas and its implied attack on bankers and investment."
As evidence of Poppins' "implied" communist sympathies, the Fraser Institute expert pointed to children buying birdseed to feed "a clutch of dirty pigeons" as well as the film's "celebration of the dancing chimney sweeps."
Citing a Wikipedia article, Fortier also observed that "communism increasingly became favoured by artists, writers and filmmakers" and so "the dancing chimney sweeps in Mary Poppins should be seen against this ideological background."
2. Privatize Canada Day
Right before Canada Day, the Fraser Institute published a blog complaining Canada Day is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Namely, the Fraser Institute asked why should taxpayers "blow millions in fireworks and flags" every Canada Day, and asked "what sort of economic return would those privately spent tax dollars have generated" instead?
3. Hong Kong is the freest place on earth
And according to the Fraser Institute, the freest place in the world is a place with no free elections.
Fred McMahon, the Fraser Institute's Chair in "Economic Freedom," told a gala dinner for Hong Kong's wealthy business elites that their loose regulations and tax loopholes for the rich not only makes it the "most economically free" place in the world – in fact, he said "Hong Kong is number one in overall freedom too"!
The Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of the World index has repeatedly ranked Hong Kong number one, although the credibility of their methodology has also been repeatedly ripped apart by international experts (see here and here).
4. Minimum wage workers are actually wealthy teenagers
"Minimum wage earners in Canada" are "not who you think," the Fraser Institute warned in a report published earlier this year.
"There are many minimum-wage earners (such as teenagers) who come from affluent families," the report stated, "meaning middle- and upper-income people would receive some of the benefits" from "raising the minimum wage."
While an interesting theory, they fail to mention that their definition of "affluent" includes everyone who lives above the poverty line – according to the Fraser Institute's own numbers, the average household income they're talking about ranges between $19,774 to $29,968, which isn't exactly "affluent."
Also, only around one-third of minimum wage workers are actually teenagers:
And when you look at who would actually benefit from raising the minimum wage to $15/hr, less than one-in-ten are teenagers while well over half are over the age of 25:
5. University is a form of "child care"?
When most people hear "child care," they probably picture toddlers in daycare.
And although the cover of a report on child care the Fraser Institute published last spring featured a tiny infant playing with building blocks, the report itself distorted its numbers by counting grants for university students in its numbers on how much Canada spends on child care each year.
6. Dictatorships create more equality than capitalism
In a strange report that drew contrasts between Lululemon, maker of "yoga-inspired clothing," with "authoritarian leaders and dictators" like genocidal tyrant Slobodan Milosevic and Indonesian strongman Suharto, the Fraser Institute concluded that "not all inequality is equal."
According to the Fraser Institute, while capitalism tends to create a gap between the rich and the poor, this isn't the case in dictatorships where everyone is more or less equally poor.
While wealth in dictatorships is amassed by "special privileges and protection from governments," the Fraser Institute points out that the "inequality" produced by corporations "provide enormous benefits to society."
7. Giving voters fewer democratic choices is good for the economy
Speaking of democracy, the Fraser Institute waded into Canada's electoral reform debate by publishing a report this year that argues the economy is better served when "fewer parties" are involved in the democratic process."
The Fraser Institute explains that majoritarian systems are good for business because a single-party, majority government is in a stronger position to take a "tough fiscal stance, particularly when politically sensitive programs, government employment and social security are involved."
In other words, if you want to cut social programs, lay off workers and generally stick it to the poor, Canada's first-past-the-post system is the electoral system for you!
It's also worth noting that the Fraser Institute has previously released studies that claim autocracies are happier than countries with democratic freedoms.