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Putting Us In Our Place

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 11/21/2014 - 06:23
Pit the arrogance of humanity against the power of nature, and nature prevails every time. A pity that those who are determining earth's fate refuse to acknowledge that simple truth.

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The Meaning Of Silence

Northern Reflections - Fri, 11/21/2014 - 05:33
                                             http://markcoakley.wordpress.com/

There has been nary a word from the Conservative Party since Michael Sona's sentencing. What are we to make of that? Michael den Tandt writes:

Keep in mind, key questions that emerged on the very first day the story broke in 2012, courtesy of Postmedia’s Stephen Maher and the Ottawa Citizen’s Glen McGregor, are still outstanding. Does it make any sense at all to think that a 22-year-old planned and executed this scheme, which required access to the party’s Constituent Information Management System (CIMS) database, on his own? And would he have participated had he thought such actions were antithetical to the values of his party and his bosses?
The Conservatives have made no attempt to answer those questions. Harperites don't like to answer questions. After Joe Oliver's budget speech the other day, there were no questions. That's why the speech was given outside the House of Commons, where questions are inevitable. Questions might lead to an attack of humility:

We’re long past the moment when anyone could reasonably expect humility or remorse from this prime minister. “Never apologize, never explain,” appears to be among Stephen Harper’s guiding principles. It’s always worked for him before.
But, really, a little humility is in order:

There’s Dean Del Mastro, the former Peterborough, Ont., MP and parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister convicted of over-spending and filing a false document to cover that up, who is now awaiting sentencing. And there’s the Ol’ Duff, arguably still the greatest single threat to the Conservative legacy, whose 41-day trial is set to begin in early April.

Beyond all that, there’s the miasma of tawdriness that hangs over so much of this Conservative party’s political tool kit; personal attacks on the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; tactics that, since the in-and-out affair in the 2006 election, have skirted the edge of legality and sometimes crossed over; and an advertising strategy that, though legal, routinely, deliberately quotes Conservative opponents out of context.
For this prime minister, humility is a sign of weakness. Eventually voters will reach a different conclusion.


When the Harper Cons Don't Listen to Canada's Doctors

Montreal Simon - Fri, 11/21/2014 - 03:13


In the aftermath of the SARS crisis of 2003, the government created the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the position of Chief Public Health Officer to strengthen this country's medical defences.

After they were shown to be almost catastrophically inadequate.

But now Stephen Harper and his Cons are slashing the Public Health Agency's budget, and neutering the country's top doctor.

And to make matters even worse, they're not even listening to them. They're all but burying their reports.
Read more »

Stephen Harper and the Great War on the Internet

Montreal Simon - Fri, 11/21/2014 - 00:09


He rules by fear. He tries to muzzle his opponents. He is terrorizing the civil service, and politicizing the police.

So when the Privacy Commissioner warns that Stephen Harper is trying to control the only thing he can't control, the internet. 

Canadians should be alarmed.
Read more »

Justin, Tommy - Please, Please Wake Up!

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 21:16
This Associated Press report from the Houston Chronicle, lays it out about as well as it could be said.

The world still isn't close to preventing what leaders call a dangerous level of man-made warming, a new United Nations report says. That's despite some nations' recent pledges to cut back on carbon dioxide emissions.

"The time window (for reaching that goal) is closing, closing," said United Nations undersecretary for environment Achim Steiner. And the cost of getting to that goal "is increasing, increasing."
To meet that goal, the world has to hit a peak of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases before 2030, said the report's chief scientific editor, Joseph Alcamo. But the study says carbon emissions will continue to soar until 2050 and by then it will be too late.
 If the U.S. and China follow through with their promises, they may shave a few billions of tons off the total, said former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth, vice chairman of the United Nations Foundation. Those pledges and an earlier one by Europe, while narrowing the gap, aren't large enough to close it, Alcamo said.
 In his forward to the report, Steiner wrote that the "analysis reveals a worrisome worsening trend. Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will lead to an even warmer climate and exacerbate the devastating effect of climate change."
 Outside scientists praised the numbers in the study, but Granger Morgan at Carnegie Mellon University raised a question that scientists have been debating more frequently: Is it time to abandon the two-degree goal as unrealistic?
 "Today a two-degree target is akin to a 60-year-old man who resolves to be 25 years old next year," Morgan said in an email. "It ain't gonna happen, but it's time to get really serious about achieving what we can."
 Steiner said because of the dangers of a warmer world, it is unthinkable to abandon the two-degree goal.
We either have to find a way to live on this Earth, right now, or we have to find a place to die on this Earth.  It's that simple.  It really is.

Alberta Fake Clinics Sponging Public Money, Part 2, Medicine Hat

Dammit Janet - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 13:02
To continue our investigation into Alberta fake clinics sucking off the public tit (Part 1 on Central Alberta Fake Clinic here), let's look at the Medicine Hat Pregnancy Support Society.

It doesn't seem to have its own website and does not belong to Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services, the organization that the Ontario Trillium Foundation had a problem with.

It does have a Facebook page, which consists mainly of announcements of holidays on which they'll be unavailable to help any crisis pregnancies. For fun, here's its very goddy newsletter.

Things get interesting however, when we look at its finances. A site named CHIMP gets its information from the same place we do, the CRA.

This pie chart is fascinating, though. WTF does that mean?


But Chimp reports the 2013 data correctly. In 2013, Medicine Hat Haters spent 90% of their dough on management and administration, with 3% going to the "charitable program."



Note that they report 0% "government funding."

Now have a look at their filing for 2012. Then, they spent 95% on the charitable program and 5% on management, again reporting no government funding.


In 2011, again 95% went to the charitable program with no government funding.

Now, go back to the Alberta Lottery Fund and nose around a bit, you'll find that Medicine Hat scored government/pubic money as follows:

2012/13: $4500
2011/12: $6300
2010/11: $9300
2009/10: 0
2008/09: $4500
(figures are rounded to nearest hundred)

Two questions here:
1. Why are they not reporting government funding?

2. How the hell did they go from spending 5% on admin to spending 90%?

Honest mistake?

No flags were raised?

We will continue to ask questions.




h/t to Niles in the comments for the FB, CHIMP, and newsletter links.

Grandmas on Weed

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 12:38
Hilarious.  In Washington State, 3 grandmothers hit the bong for the very first time.  They're so precious.  Now, pass the chocolate chips.

Police impunity: not just Ferguson

Dawg's Blawg - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 11:17
Road conditions: fine. Residential neighbourhood. Speeding 122K in a 50K zone. Kills a five-year old child. Breathalyzer test? We’ll never know. But no charges will be laid. The driver was a cop. He’s still out there, serving and protecting.... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

Well, That's a Plan!

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 10:27


We don't need to let the Ukraine plunge us back into cold war.  There is a way out.  A duel.

The head of east Ukraine’s separatist People’s Republic of Luhansk (LNR) has challenged Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to a duel to bring a decisive end to the conflict between government loyal forces and pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine’s east.“Let’s follow the example of the ancient Slav and Cossack chieftains and face each other in a duel,” said Igor Plotnitsky, head of the self-proclaimed LNR, told Russian state news agency TASS on Wednesday.“Whoever is declared winner dictates the rules the loser’s country has to follow,” Plotnitsky added, before putting himself forward to represent both his own separatists and those in neighbouring Donetsk in a duel with Poroshenko to “put an end to the war”.And, while we're on the subject, wouldn't this be a dandy way for Harper and Putin to sort out their differences?

Now This Is an Eye-Opener. Greenland Goes Black.

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 10:20
Glaciologist Jason Box of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland is trying to wake up the world to just what's actually happening to the Greenland ice sheet.  He's crowd-sourced a venture to bring these photos to the public. They reveal the extent of dust and soot contamination of the ice fields and how they're accelerating the melt, the water digging crevasses before racing to the sea.







The Royal Canadian Rent-a-Navy

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 09:06


Mr. Harper.  It's probably not a brilliant idea to get into Vlad Putin's face when you've left Canada with as navy so neglected that it can't defend one coast much less three.  Our essential supply ships beaten and battered, our air defence destroyers rotted out - it takes a Heart of Oak to sail on under the conditions you've created for Canada's navy.

Algonquin is gone, along with the Iroquois.  Our two supply ships, Protecteur and Provider, - same story.

Without those supply ships we can't send a fighting formation, a task force, to sea.  The best we can do at the moment is hope an ally's replenishment ship can help out.

The worst part is that, with the by now standard incompetence of the Harper government, the replacement ships are years away.

New joint support ships were initially proposed to the Chretien government in 1994, but it wasn't until Paul Martin became prime minister that the vessels were finally ordered.The Conservatives, however, cancelled and then restarted the program in 2008 when the initial cost estimates exceeded the government's budget envelope. The program has struggled to get back on track ever since.The parliamentary budget office put out a report last year that said, had the government stuck with the original plan, the navy would already have their ships and they would be cheaper and more capable than what is being proposed now.So Harper has left Canada essentially defenceless - again.  It's a hell of a jam to be in now that we've plunged into Cold War II.  We know the Russian navy has plenty of ships and plenty of reach.  They showed that by sailing into waters north of Australia during last week's G20 summit.  If there's one thing Putin has shown the world it's that, when you push him, he pushes back.Still, prime minister Thumb-up-his-Ass does have a few options.  The US Navy has a number of "like new" replenishment ships in mothballs.  They're just ten years old or, in other words, 30-years newer than HMCS Protecteur.  We could rent or, if necessary, even buy a couple of those.  Likewise we might be able to get the Americans to lend or sell us two or three of their substantial fleet of air defence destroyers - just to plug the holes in the RCN's bottom while we still can.

Must Be A Form Of Tough Love

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 08:32


For a government that frequently and loudly proclaims its veneration of our military, the Harper regime has a strange way of showing the love:
Veterans Affairs Canada has returned $1.13 billion to the federal treasury in unspent funds since the Conservatives came to power in 2006 — cash that critics say should have gone toward improved benefits and services.In what I'm sure is a mere 'coincidence,
Data tabled in the House in response to a written question shows roughly one-third of the so-called lapsed funds were handed back between the 2011 and 2013 budget years when the government was engaged in a massive deficit-cutting drive.Asked by NDP MP Peter Stoffer about the unspent funds, Veteran Affairs minister Julian Fantino, drawing upon a talent undoubtedly honed through his various career incarnations, responded with a non-answer, saying that the government has spent a total of $30 billion for vets since 2006:
“It means improved rehabilitation for Canadian veterans,” Fantino said. “It means more counselling for veterans’ families. It means more money for veterans’ higher education and retraining. It means we care deeply about our veterans.”If I know the law from watching television, one could characterize the minister as being non-responsive, which allowed Stoffer to offer his own interpretation of the withheld funds:
“The deputy ministers . . . have obviously been told by the higher-ups that, ‘This money has to come back to us in order for us to have our books balanced, and that way we can use that money for other purposes, like income-splitting.’”Not to be outdone, Liberal veterans critic Frank Valeriote offered a trenchant assessment, saying that
ex-soldiers who’ve been denied benefits will look at the unspent funds and feel “hoodwinked, completely abandoned” and wonder why they’ve made sacrifices for their country.

“It is reprehensible and unconscionable what they’re doing so that the government can create an image of fiscal responsibility”.Perhaps in light of what many would describe as a betrayal of veterans, the Kenora Legion might like to rethink the punitive measures it took against Rev. Sandra Tankard for speaking out on their behalf on Remembrance Day. They have clearly misidentified the true enemy here.
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You May Know a Man By the Company He Keeps

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 07:32

There's much to be learned by exploring the type of persons our prime minister seeks out; the gaggle of fixers, hustlers, punks, pocket liners, bullies and reprobates who surround him.


Here, in no particular order, are but a few.  The Sullied.

Fantino
Ford
Jacobsen
Abbott
Anders
Porter
Redford
Zaccardelli
Brazeau
Wright
Del Mastro
Duffy
Wallin
Flanagan
Oda
Netanyahu
Tkachuk
Sona
Carson
Jaffer



 And, by the company Stephen Harper keeps, it's pretty easy to take the measure of the man.

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 06:23
Here, on how the City of Regina has learned a painful lesson about the Saskatchewan Party's habit of accepting credit but not responsibility on P3 projects.

For further reading...
- Emma Graney reports on how the province forced the City to foot the bill for immediate site development costs here.
- For background on how decisions about education have been taken out of the hands of elected school boards, Joseph Garcea and Dustin Monroe examine the history of education funding in Saskatchewan (and other provinces) here (PDF).
- And finally, I'll point back to my earlier columns as to how public interests can diverge from those of both P3 proponents and higher levels of government seeking to avoid the bill for new developments.

Yesterday's Man -- Again

Northern Reflections - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 06:14
                                                 http://news.nationalpost.com/

There is a lot of florid rhetoric coming from supporters of the Keystone Pipeline these days --  both north and south of the border. But, Tom Walkom writes, Keystone isn't as important as its shills claim it is:

The truth is that even if Keystone fails, a pipeline from the tar sands to tidewater will be built. The Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats disagree on many things. But all agree that the so-called Energy East pipeline — from Alberta to New Brunswick — should go ahead.

Similarly, a world with no Keystone will not much affect carbon emissions. As long as there is some method of getting Alberta heavy crude to markets — by train, truck or pipeline — tarsands production will go on.
The United States has found energy reserves in North Dakota, so Alberta bitumen is no longer the prize  it once was. And, if Alberta oil finds its way to the Atlantic, it will make its way to world markets.

The truth is that Keystone is an idea whose time has passed. And its chief shill has proved -- once again -- that he is yesterday's man.


Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 06:14
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- George Monbiot comments on the far more important values we're endangering in the name of constant financial and material growth:
To try to stabilise this system, governments behave like soldiers billeted in an ancient manor, burning the furniture, the paintings and the stairs to keep themselves warm for a night. They are breaking up the postwar settlement, our public health services and social safety nets, above all the living world, to produce ephemeral spurts of growth. Magnificent habitats, the benign and fragile climate in which we have prospered, species that have lived on earth for millions of years – all are being stacked on to the fire, their protection characterised as an impediment to growth.

Cameron boasted on Monday that he will revive the economy by “scrapping red tape”. This “red tape” consists in many cases of the safeguards defending both people and places from predatory corporations. The small business, enterprise and employment bill is now passing through the House of Commons – spinelessly supported, as ever, by Labour. The bill seeks to pull down our protective rules to “reduce costs for business”, even if that means increasing costs for everyone else, while threatening our health and happiness. But why? As the government boasted last week, the UK already has “the least restrictive product market regulation and the most supportive regulatory and institutional environment for business across the G20.” And it still doesn’t work. So let’s burn what remains.
...
Why are we wrecking the natural world and public services to generate growth, when that growth is not delivering contentment, security or even, for most of us, greater prosperity? Why have we enthroned growth, regardless of its utility, above all other outcomes? Why, despite failures so great and so frequent, have we not changed the model? When the next crash comes, these questions will be inescapable.- Meanwhile, Michelle Butterfield writes about increased income inequality in Canada - particularly in resource-rich provinces where nominal growth is being efficiently funneled only into the pockets of those who already have the most. And Nick Hanauer points out that the loss of historical overtime pay has made a huge difference in the lives of American workers (who are now working the same extended hours without being compensated accordingly).

- Katrina vanden Heuvel discusses how citizens end up paying the price for corporate tax giveaways. But Andrew Prokop documents how ALEC is putting a well-funded thumb on the scale to make sure that public policy serves only select private interests. And Lindsay Abrams highlights one example of government power being used to undermine public interests, as Republicans have passed a bill to prohibit any scientists other than industry shills from informing environmental decision-making.

- Andy Blatchford reports that the Cons are just like their Republican cousins in abandoning any pretense of doing anything more than rubber-stamping the policy preferences of corporate lobby groups - this time pushing a tax credit based on nothing more than the CFIB's spin. And PressProgress notes that the Cons' definition of an "extremist" - which is of course their threshold for the wholesale elimination of any civil rights - includes people who advocate for renewable energy.

- Jeremy Warren reports on Saskatoon's homeless population and (unsurprisingly) finds that while Jerry Peequaquat may have received more public notice than most, his death was far from an isolated case.

- Joshua Shaw proposes that we recognize collective health as an enforceable right.

- And finally, Rick Mercer offers the definitive response to Stephen Harper's crisis management:

I See That Rob Anders' Replacement Is No Prize Either

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 05:07
I'm sure some hoped that when Rob Anders, the Conservative MP for Calgary Signal Hill and national embarrassment, lost his riding's nomination to run in the 2015 election, he might be replaced by someone with at least a modicum of balance and rationality. Alas, the new torchbearer for the riding, Ron Liepert, is proving such hopes were futile.

An appearance on the CBC's The Current the other day amply demonstrates that while he will fit in well with the ethos that dominates the Harper regime, his 'logic' and his contempt for opposing views will prove to be a deep affront to those who favour reasoned argument over ad hominems:
Debating the Keystone pipeline with Greenpeace Canada's Keith Stewart, Liepert repeatedly complained of "extreme environmentalists" with "extreme arguments" waging "extreme environmental attacks on Alberta's oil industry" for calling for a transition to renewable energy sources.

After labelling critics of unsustainable oil and gas development as "extremists" several times, Anna Maria Tremonti finally interrupted Liepert and asked him point-blank: "Why do you call them 'extreme environmentalists'?"

"Because individuals like your guest would like to see fossil fuels eliminated across the world. That is simply not going to happen. You know, he lives in this dream world where somehow airplanes are going to fly with solar power, how transit in his city is going to be powered by renewables from wind. This is just a dream world that these extremists live in and we have to face reality. If you were to shut down the oil and gas industry in Canada today -- I don't have the statistics in front of me -- but our unemployment rate would probably be pushing 20% in this country. And we'd be living in a dream world that simply cannot exist."
As you will hear in the following excerpt, Stewart responded to Liepert's ranting calmly and rationally, two qualties that I am sure were completely lost on the political aspirant.

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Julian Fantino and the Royal Conadian Choir

Montreal Simon - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 04:13


When I heard the news that Julian Fantino had met with a group of veterans in an apparent effort to rebuild all those bridges he has blown up in the last few years, I was suitably impressed.

Until I found out the meeting was at the Citadel in Quebec City, not Ottawa as is usually the case. So he could get as far away from the Parliamentary media as possible, short of heading for Tuktoyaktuk.

Or Stephen Harper's closet.

And that veterans who weren't prepared to join the choir and sing along with him, weren't invited. 
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Arthur Finkelstein: "We have to convince Canadians to drink pig piss"

Creekside - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 03:19
In his bestseller Party of One, Michael Harris cites a lecture the usually reclusive Republican Party backroom political strategist Arthur Finkelstein gave to a conservative free market private college in Prague in May 2011. I've uploaded it below. 

In introducing Finkelstein, aka "the merchant of venom", the college president lauds his work with Ayn Rand and his successful campaigns for Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu : 
"He pioneered the concept of independent expenditure campaigns which would operate as a third force in an election beyond the control of candidate or party officials." One of those "independent expenditure campaigns" in Canada was the occasion of the pig piss quote.  Finkelstein, Harris tells us, had been working in Canada with the the National Citizens Coalition since the 1980's, teaching them "the art of commando politics as practiced in the US" and the 15-second attack ad that will end a career. 
"In 1988, Finkelstein did a poll that alarmed the far right, suggesting that Canadians might be on the brink of electing NDP leader Ed Broadbent as prime minister. Broadbent stood at 40% in the polls. ... Since there were difficulties driving a scandal-ridden Brian Mulroney's numbers up, the NCC decided to bring Ed Broadbent's down. They spent half a million dollars doing it. .... [A]s [NCC's] Gerry Nicholls reported in his book Loyal to the Core, Finkelstein told his colleagues at the NCC, "We have to convince Canadians to drink pig's piss." They did."In the following lecture, Finkelstein explains this technique of "rejectionist voting." 



A few quotes from his lecture:
"The most overwhelming fact of politics is what people do not know rather than what they do know. And in fact in politics it's what you perceive to be true that's true, not truth. This is a very difficult concept for people who are rational, but for those of us who are engaged in politics, it has become the norm. ... if I tell you one thing is true, you will believe the second thing is true even though you haven't a clue whether I'm telling the truth or not. That is the way politicians behave and a good politician will tell you a few things that are true before he tells you a few things that are not true because you will then believe all the things he has said, true and untrue.I think we may have caught up with this one actually. When Calandra or Poilievre speak, no one pays any attention because it's all just deflection spin regardless of whether it's true or not. However when Steve or Airshow or Shamwow or Kenney speak, we wait patiently for the important untruth - the only reason they are speaking at all - to make its inevitable appearance.

Tribal or structural voting. 
"Most of an election is over before the first vote or even before the candidates are chosen because the electorate votes according to who they identify with and it doesn't move much. Structural voting takes up 60 to 90% of the vote so almost all of the votes are already decided before you get started which is why you shouldn't spend a lot of time trying to get votes. There is a difference however. There are campaigns where you try to get people not to vote for candidates. I call it rejectionist voting. .... In New York there are 2.7 million more Democrats than Republicans. You cannot win in New York as a Republican. But you can if you can create a negative vote against the Democratic candidate among Democrats and the Republicans are irrelevant." Finkelstein explains how he never once allowed his NY Republican candidate to go on tv : 
"He was completely irrelevant to the campaign. The campaigns were vicious and mean - we attacked the opponent over and over again and never showed our candidate. It was totally negative." 
Stephen Harper joined the NCC in 1997, resigning as President in 2002 to run for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance Party. 

Emily Dee wrote about Finkelstein's influence on Canadian politics three and a half years ago and Montreal Simon reminds us of four Finkelthink attack ads the Cons launched against Dion, Ignatieff, and Layton. 
.

On the Benevolence of Slippery Slopes: Women Taking the Lead

Song of the Watermelon - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 23:54

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/51/KimCampbell.jpgI had the pleasure last week of attending a public talk called “Women’s Voices: What Difference Do They Make?” featuring Canada’s first and only female prime minister, Kim Campbell.

Appearing at Vancouver’s Harbour Centre campus of Simon Fraser University, the former PM sat down with Shari Graydon of Informed Opinions to discuss women’s participation in government, business, and the media. She spoke with ease and humour about her time in politics, relating such anecdotes as the aura of stunned silence which prevailed when, having recently been promoted to cabinet, she disrupted the old boys’ atmosphere by launching into a graphic elucidation of some of her own personal struggles with birth control; or the way the press hammered her during the 1993 election over such irrelevancies as her choice of earrings, or whether it was wise for her to have made a proclamation she never actually made (i.e. “an election is no time to discuss serious issues”).

The moment I had been waiting for, however, came towards the end when, in response to a question from the audience, Campbell talked about a proposal for electoral reform she had outlined some weeks earlier at a women’s conference in Prince Edward Island. The proposal goes like this: every federal riding would elect two members of parliament — a man and a woman — instead of just one. Thus, the perennially out-of-reach goal of gender parity in the House of Commons would finally be achieved.

The plan is not without its difficulties. It would require either an increase in the number of MPs, a decrease in the number of ridings, or, most likely, some moderate combination of the two. I also worry that with the reintroduction of multi-member districts under what is still a plurality voting system, the problem of disproportionality would be exacerbated. In fact, Campbell herself admitted that gender parity might fit more easily with proportional representation, under which parties could simply be required to alternate female and male names on their party lists.

But it was not minor quibbles such as these which captured the attention of Canada’s newspaper commentariat. By way of critiquing Campbell’s scheme, the National Post’s Kelly McParland writes:

Once a law was passed requiring a woman MP in each riding, there would inevitably be pressure to expand the mandate. Gays have as much right to demand more gay MPs, as do transgendered Canadians, and all the colours of the Canadian sexual rainbow … And if we are to introduce gender quotas, should we not also be making provision for aboriginals, the handicapped or any of dozens of significant ethnic blocks?

Trying to be cheeky, the Toronto Sun’s Adrienne Batra takes it a step further:

Create a special case for female candidates and where does it end?

Special seats for the left-handed? Dog owners? Those suffering from male pattern baldness?

The common thread seems to be that any proposal for gender parity in parliament will open the floodgates to other traditionally oppressed groups demanding fair representation of their own.

And this is a bad thing how, exactly?

Why shouldn’t our elected institutions reflect the broad demographic spectrum of Canadian society? Why shouldn’t we expect our representatives to be, you know, representative? Marginalized communities tend to bring with them lived experiences which differ from those of the rich white males who still largely hold sway. To bring about the greatest possible diversity in public office would benefit not just this or that group, but everyone.

Later on during the question-and-answer session at Campbell’s event, somebody mentioned the recently unveiled Up for Debate campaign, put forward by a coalition of more than 100 organizations calling for a televised leaders’ debate on women’s issues leading up to the 2015 federal election. The proposal has a precedent in the form of a similar debate held 30 years ago, and already, both Elizabeth May and Thomas Mulcair have accepted the challenge to give it another try.

Media coverage has been minimal, but once attention starts to pick up, it is easy to imagine the objections. Why a debate on women, the opinion page contrarians will crow, and not First Nations, LGBT issues, poverty, immigration, or the environment? Won’t other groups expect equal attention? Taken to its logical conclusion, this well-meaning proposal will produce an unstoppable proliferation of televised debates the likes of which a Canadian election has never seen.

As before, I fail to see the downside.

Leaders’ debates are some of the most substantive policy discussions that take place during elections. This is not to say they are perfect — their choreographed, over-rehearsed nature makes them about as stimulating as a Stephen Harper piano recital — but compared to the usual fare of self-congratulatory press conferences and BBQ photo-ops that constitute modern-day electioneering, the debates are practically paragons of intellectual vigour.

We need not fear efforts to raise the political profile of women. To pursue gender parity in parliament, and to bring to the electorate’s attention issues like childcare and violence against women, are just causes in and of themselves. But if these priorities also help to embolden others in their struggles for justice, all that does is make a strong case even stronger.

More than 20 years have passed since Canada’s singular experiment with having a female prime minister. Perhaps the time has come for us to think about giving it another shot.

This post appears on rabble.ca.


Filed under: Canadian Politics, Democracy, Gender Tagged: electoral reform, Kim Campbell, Up for Debate, women

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