Posts from our progressive community

Rob Ford and the Beast of The Great White North

Montreal Simon - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 01:29

Well his campaign isn't doing too good lately. It's a little wobbly like Rob Ford himself. 

Decent people don't want anything to do with him. Or let their children anywhere near him. So now he's holding ten thousand chocolate eggs.

And goodness knows what else. 

But at least he was able to add two new members to his sagging campaign. Ben Johnson, the disgraced runner.
And a Trailer Park Boy. 
Read more »

I'm back

Cathie from Canada - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 22:37
And I think I'm just in time to watch the so-called Fair Elections Act go down in flames.

First, we find out that moving elections investigations to the AG department actually WAS because the Harper Cons are blaming the messenger, Elections Canada for the elections scandals which have plagued their party since 2006 -- instead of blaming their own colleagues and their own staff, those guys who actually, you know, broke the law and lied about it:

Mr. Aspin is the first Conservative to publicly voice suspicions within the party that, somehow, the two reporters who broke the robocalls story, Ottawa Citizen Glen McGregor and Postmedia News Stephen Maher, were the recipients of leaked information from Elections Canada.... Asked if he believes the Conservative suspicion about leaks to journalists from the Elections Canada investigation was the reason behind the government’s distrust of the agency and its decision to transfer investigative powers through Bill C-23, Mr. Aspin replied: “I’m sure it had an impact, because, I mean, the investigations I don’t think were handled professionally, and that’s a non-partisan comment.”This accusation was echoed by a former Harper Communications Director, Geoff Norquay, who told CBC that the act is "vengeance" on the Chief Electoral Officer. As reported by Jason Koblovsky at Mind Bending Politics:

Norquay’s “vengeance” comments stunned all of the members of the Power Panel to which he was commenting on. Norquay later tried to retract.I'll bet he did.

And finally today, we have the unprecedented and appalling spectacle of a government minister, Pierre Pollievre, launching a vicious personal attack against a civil servant, Marc Mayrand.

...Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre accused Marc Mayrand of opposing the proposed overhaul of election laws because he wants more power for himself. Poilievre told the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee that Mayrand is making “astounding” and “amazing” allegations about the Fair Elections Act, or Bill-C23.
"He wants more power, a bigger budget and less accountability,” Poilievre said.Personal attacks like this are the last refuge of scoundrels, and the surest sign yet that the Harper Cons know their terrible elections bill is flaming out.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 19:51
Packaged cats.

More on the Canadian Sexual Two-Step

Dammit Janet - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 08:36
First, the step back:

DJ! fave (^NOT) Stephen Woodworth is at it again.

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth hits the stage at the National Press Theatre for "an important announcement" on his backbench bid to have the Commons "affirm that every Canadian law must be interpreted in a manner that recognizes in law the equal worth and dignity of everyone who is in fact a human being" -- which is, of course, a not terribly veiled attempt to restart the 'conversation' that he had hoped to trigger with his original, more obviously abortion-targeted motion in 2012.

As he has already used up his slot on the private members' priority list, Woodworth will almost certainly not get the opportunity to see his motion go to the House floor under his name, but he may have successfully persuaded a colleague to carry on the campaign.That was from National Treasure Kady O'Malley, who when asked which MPs might give up his or her spot for this quixotic ploy, responded with this link and the additional information that the first 15 names have priority.

Those names are: 122. Chong, Michael
123. Brosseau, Ruth Ellen
124. Ayala, Paulina
125. Mayes, Colin
126. Chisu, Corneliu
127. Péclet, Ève
128. Hoback, Randy
129. Leef, Ryan
130. Hayes, Bryan
131. Van Kesteren, Dave
132. Choquette, François
133. Valeriote, Frank
134. Patry, Claude
135. Stanton, Bruce
136. Morin, IsabelleFrom Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada's list of anti-choice MPs, there are three possibles: Mayes, Hoback, and Van Kesteren.

We live and see.

From the step-forward file: New Brunswick students call for an end to the shameful and illegal refusal of NB to fund abortions.

A group of students at St. Thomas University has launched an online petition asking the New Brunswick government to fund abortions at a private clinic.

The aspiring social workers say they know women who have had difficulty accessing abortions and they want the province to fund abortions at Fredericton’s private Morgentaler Clinic.Here's their petition, now with more than 3,000 signatures.

Support the students' efforts and women's rights in New Brunswick.

we movie to canada: wmtc annual movie awards, 2013-14 edition

we move to canada - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 08:00
It's time, once again, for the wmtc annual movie awards. To recap, my silly rating systems so far:
- Canadian musicians and comedians (2006-07 and 2007-08)
- my beverage of choice (2008-09)
- famous people who died during the past year (2009-10)
- where I'd like to be (2009-10)
- vegetables (2010-11) (I was out of ideas!)
- and last year, Big Life Events in a personally momentous year.

Now completely bereft of ideas but hopelessly locked into this system, I appealed for help on Facebook. Lucky for me, my friends are more creative than I am. Thank you to David H for this year's delicious theme: cheese!

Here are the movies and series we saw from the end of the World Series (why yes! the Red Sox did win yet another championship, thank you for noticing!) until the beginning of the current baseball season. I try to see only movies I think I will like, so the list is - or should be - be top-heavy.

Reblochon. So rich it's practically liquid, so pungent it can make your eyes tear, and so incredibly delicious, it is only savoured on the most special occasions. Movies of this calibre are rare.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
-- A community's resistance to the dominant culture, and the indomitable spirit of a small girl. Lyrical, powerful, gritty, and just a little bit magical, this film took me apart. Almost too beautiful to see again. My top movie of the season. Also the only non-documentary to reach the top category this year.

-- I thought I knew about the dangers of fracking. I was wrong. Impeccably written and produced, and deeply frightening.

-- Ken Burns does it again. Longer review here. Shorter review: see it.

The Square
-- See the revolution in Egypt through the eyes of the people who made it happen, and who are making it happen still, today. A must-see for everyone who dreams of remaking the world.

Hot Coffee
-- Yet another way the corporatocracy is stripping us of our rights, with a giant assist from the corporate media. An important movie, extremely well done.

Roquefort is bleu cheese on steroids. The good kind of steroids that make you creamier and more flavourful. You rarely see roquefort, and although it's not reblochon, it is of the (almost) highest quality. These movies were exceptional.

The Angels' Share
- A feel-good crime caper from Ken Loach and Paul Laverty. Funny, sweet, and just plain wonderful.

5 Broken Cameras
- Occupation and resistance by the people who are living it. Puts you right in the heart of the Palestinian struggle.

The Central Park Five
- An important documentary about justice, for victims of violence, and victims of the system. My thoughts here.

War of the Worlds
- Why did people go nuts over a radio broadcast? Is the whole thing an exaggerated urban legend, or were people just stupid in those days? This doc puts the incident in historical context. Fascinating.

Wuthering Heights
- This "Masterpiece" treatment from 2011 is, for me, the definitive adaptation. My full review is here.

The Fall, Season 1
- This five-episode mini-series about a series killer and the detective hunting him was riveting and incredibly scary. Somehow I'm not having nightmares about it. I can't understand how a second season is going to work, but the first was amazing.

The Wire, Season 2
- Looks like we're going to watch one season a year. Great writing, great acting, complex situations. Excellent.

In Canada, it's "goat's cheese". In New York, it's simply chevre. In France, chevre is the animal that le fromage comes from. Whatever you call it, it's rich and delicious, not rare, but still a real treat. These movies are yummy films that are well worth seeing.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll
- An imperfect but solid documentary about an important and overlooked musical pioneer.

Make Believe
- Amazing young magicians. You'll want to strangle some parents but you'll love these amazing teenagers.

The Hunger Games
- Nowhere near as great as the book (of course), but a good movie.

Shut Up Little Man! – An Audio Misadventure.
- Starts out as a documentary about an odd subculture phenomenon, but ends up as an extended commentary on privilege. Thought-provoking, and in my view, not a comedy.

The Gymnast
- Standards are pretty low in the lesbian-love-story category, putting this decent but unremarkable movie in the goat cheese spot.

Save the Date
- Nice independent film about friendship and love. My issues would involve spoilers, so I'll just say good, with some problems.

- Creepy girls' school power struggles. A suspenseful drama.

Life of Pi
- I didn't like this book, but it was a pretty good movie.

- Martin Scorcese laboured to bring the wonderful The Invention of Hugo Cabret to life, and thus the movie is too long and too slow. But it's also beautiful, rich, magical, and worth seeing. I wrote about the book here.

- A funny, smart comedy TV series about a TV series. Matt LeBlanc's character is the perfect combination of maddening and loveable (not unlike some Community characters).

Sound of My Voice
- Time travel, or a hoax, or both? A smart psychological thriller, marred by some plot holes, but worth seeing.

Page Eight
- This British political thriller, written by David Hare, is almost too subtle. But it boasts a great cast, terrific acting, and some nice twists.

- It's 1988 in Chile, and a historic plebiscite will decide whether the dictator Pinochet stays or goes. This is said to be the first instance of advertising playing a crucial role in political campaigns. I wanted more out of this film, but it was worth seeing.

Dirty Wars
- An important film, marred by nationalism. That's what I said here.

Robot & Frank
- In the future, we will all have robots to help us. Or to help us commit crimes. Or to take the place of family. A funny and unsentimental look at aging.

Searching for Sugar Man
- How could a musician be so popular and so unknown at the same time? And if you could be so popular elsewhere, why would you ever return to your mundane and struggling existence? This documentary didn't answer that latter question, but is very good nonetheless.

Brooklyn Castle
- Young chess masters from Brooklyn. This doc was too long and repetitious, but worth seeing.

There But For Fortune
- Biopic about the late, great musician Phil Ochs. The film had some problems (if a man is a raging alcoholic, perhaps let us know before it kills him?), but it's a solid doc and tribute to Ochs.

Johnny Carson: King of Late Night
- We're on a bit of a biopic craze, thanks to PBS's American Masters series. It's hard to fathom Carson's unique place in television history, but this doc does a good job.

Mel Brooks: Make a Noise
- Another American Masters about a very smart, very funny man.

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
- One of my few regrets is not seeing Ricky Jay perform in New York. This is Jay's story and the story of his unusual profession and career choice. Really good, almost a roquefort.

- I saw Firefly for the first time this year, so I didn't approach Serenity with the high expectations of a fan. It strikes all the right notes. A good time, but for me, not as good as the series.

The Hour, Seasons 1 and 2
- We're halfway through the second season of this BBC production. It's smart, exciting, well acted, and well written. Could almost be a roquefort, but the self-consciously stylish 1950s period setting gets a bit much for me.

Justified, Season 5
- With the current season, Justified has slipped into the middle category. It's still totally worth seeing, but without a great villain working opposite Raylan, it has lost a step.

This stuff is not very good. You might be able to do something with it, like grill a halfway decent sandwich, or melt it over nachos. Not a complete waste of time, but then again, why not just eat something better. A surprising number of these - and some from the dead-last category - were on several critics' best-of lists.

Upstream Color
- A pretentious bore, and a Swiss-cheese of plot holes. This did generate an interesting conversation about how it could have been an exciting, credible film, and that saved it from the scrap heap.

We Need To Talk About Kevin
- How could a human being appear so completely different around different people, and if those people are his parents, wouldn't they ever all be together at the same time? And just why is Kevin so evil? The answer: he just is. Kevin is a bad seed. Nope, that doesn't work for me.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
- Mildly amusing romantic comedy, predictable and transparently aiming for demographic appeal. The kind of movie you should see on a plane, when you're half paying attention.

Hungry for Change
- The basic premise of this movie is sound and undoubtedly true, but outlandish claims and product marketing blow it.

Mary and Max
- I'm a sucker for stop-motion animation and misfit stories, so I should have loved this. Yet I could barely watch. Might be worth a peek.

The Master
- A long, tedious journey to nowhere. Some good acting and a few random interesting insights. Totally skippable, but won't kill you to see it.

- It seems wrong to put Errol Morris in a Velveeta category, but this movie was a mess. There's an interesting story in here somewhere.

Looking For Lenny
- This biopic about Lenny Bruce was halfway to the goat cheese category, but not quite. If you've ever wondered what all the fuss is about Lenny Bruce, this will help answer it. Could have been much better, but was all right.

56 Up
- Maybe it's me. I've lost interest in these people's lives. I could have sworn that this series once had a political point-of-view. Now we just get a walk-through of what's new. You might be interested. I was not.

Downtown Abbey, Season 4
- It feels wrong to put such a well-produced show in with crappy Velveetas. But now that Downton has lost all social and historic context, it's just Coronation Street with better clothes. As the Rolling Stones sang, I used to love it, but it's all over now.

This crap is not cheese, and these movies are not worth seeing.

The Deep Blue Sea
- This 2011 remake of a 1952 film was boring, melodramatic, and unwatchable.

Frances Ha
- It's difficult to watch a movie about self-absorbed hipsters that you would hate in real life. The only good thing I can say about this movie: it's set in New York City.

- This film is like a refugee from the 1990s. What was once signature indie is now sad re-tread.

A Beginner's Guide to Endings
- A confused mess. Figure out what movie you're making, then try again.

Love Actually
- Wow this is bad, and sexist beyond belief. My thoughts here.

Pain & Gain
- Well, what did we expect from Michael Bay. I thought it would be funny and exciting. Instead, it was overblown dreck.

A Band Called Death
- This is supposed to be about an early proto-punk rock band made up of three black guys from Detroit. Instead, it's the life histories of some people who you don't care about.

* * * *

I've expanded this year's post to include all my TV watching. Since dumping cable and switching to streaming on Roku, I watch a lot more TV shows, so why not include them here?

TV falls into three distinct categories for me. One, high quality series that I've been including in my movie awards for the past few years. (Those are included above.) Two, binge-viewing that I watch almost exclusively alone, for downtime relaxation. And three, comedies before sleep. I'm difficult about comedy, so these can sometimes be tough to find.

I am always in the market for more of these titles, so if you have any to recommend... please do.

Binge Viewing That Worked:
The Bletchley Circle
Wallander (UK version)
Star Trek: TOS (Not first time, but first time through whole series end-to-end)
Star Trek: TNG (First time through, loved it)
Murdoch Mysteries
Inspector Lewis (love!)
Farscape (watching now)

Binge Viewing That Didn't Work (tried and gave up on):
Star Trek: Enterprise
Star Trek: Voyager
House of Cards (UK)

Past Binge Viewing (already saw and love):
Xena: The Warrior Princess (I'm a huge fan)
The Chris Isaak Show
Inspector Lewis (my favourite detective show)
Jackson Brodie mysteries

Future Potential Binges:
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (I'll watch it one day!)
The Good Wife

Comedy before sleep:
Current: Community
Recent Past: Parks & Recreation

Past and complete:
The Office (US only)
Malcolm in the Middle (greatest sitcom ever)
Futurama, until the comeback season
King of the Hill (early seasons only)
Family Guy (early seasons only)
The Simpsons (off and on and completely out of order)

Elsewhere in Canda: GSAs, Abstinence-Only Sex Ed, Parental Consent for Abortion

Dammit Janet - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 07:34
Gazillions of electrons will be spilled today poring over the entrails of the election in Quebec. Since I know little and understand less of QC politics, I'm turning my attention to some neglected stories from Alberta and Saskatchewan.

First up: Valiant but doomed effort to mandate Gay Straight Alliances in Alberta.
A motion from a Liberal MLA to mandate that schools support the establishment of student-led gay-straight alliances to help curb bullying and discrimination was defeated in the legislature Monday.

Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr said in the debate that clubs that bring together gay and straight students help create a tolerant environment and have been demonstrated to reduce bullying of all types.
. . .
The Liberals and NDP supported the motion with the support of some PC MLAs. However, a majority of Tories and the Wildrose Party opposed it, with the final tally 31 to 19.Sure, Conservatives will invoke "bullying" as their excuse when they really want to invade our online privacy, but actually doing something about it? Not if it offends the gord-fearing haters in their base.

Next up, also from Alberta, it seems those gord-fearing haters have invaded the sex ed programs of PUBLIC schools.

Back in 2012, a CTV investigation in BC got sex ed programs run by Christian "Crisis Pregnancy Centres" aka fake clinics booted from public schools.

Now they're spreading the hate and lies in Edmonton public schools.
While abstinence may be the only foolproof way to prevent pregnancy, local parents are worried it is the only form of birth control taught at certain Edmonton schools.

According to Edmonton parent and local activist Franki Harrogate the Pregnancy Care Centre — a local organization that offers counseling and guidance for unplanned pregnancy — has been teaching an abstinence-only model at some schools.

“They don’t provide comprehensive sexual education and it’s performed from a very sex negative (perspective),” Harrogate said.A grassroots group in Edmonton trying to stop them. Here's the petition by Kathy Dawson.
In violation of the curriculum requirements (the CALM Guide to Implementation and the Education Act), students at an Edmonton public high school were recently taught gender stereotypes, inaccurate, incomplete, and biased information about sexuality in a Career and Life Management (CALM) class.

Sexually active students were shamed, non-traditional families were disparaged and LGBTQ questions were not answered. Parents were not informed of the presenter's identity or the specific content.

In response to letters, the Ministry of Education appears unwilling to intervene and the Edmonton Public School Board is not acting to change its policies around parental notification or to ensure that only quality comprehensive sex education is taught in public schools as per curriculum requirements.

Edmonton Pregnancy Care Centre is a Christ-centred anti-choice ministry that is not a medical facility. They present the “Wait! Let’s Talk Sex!” (Abstinence only program) to 60 Edmonton Public Schools (that includes students in grades 7, 8, 9 and CALM 20). Edmonton Public Schools is fully aware of the content of these presentations and continues to allow teachers to select this “ministry” to indoctrinate vulnerable youth. Edmonton Public Schools is refusing to mandate that parents be informed about presenters and content as part of the parental consent procedure for sexual health education. Only 18 schools bring in comprehensive sex education presenters.

The presenter I saw in 2013 appeared to focus on abstinent, heterosexual teens while misrepresenting and omitting sexuality information. The following is a partial list of fundamentalist anti-choice, anti-feminist, anti-male, anti-birth control, anti-gay, medically inaccurate and biased doctrine I heard:

-refused to answer questions relating to LGBTQ
-scientifically inaccurate information about fetal development, abortion and emergency contraception
-misused research on oxytocin bonding
-misled youth about contact with babies surrendered for open adoption
-misled youth about birth control and condom effectiveness
-presented a divorce rate at 70%
-provided inflammatory and misleading information about Planned Parenthood
-misrepresented the effectiveness of over the counter pregnancy tests
-presented gender stereotypes that were sexist to all genders
-misrepresented boys as HPV (human papillomavirus) carriers-stated 60% have it under their finger nailsIn addition to this bosh, the Christian sex expert is clairvoyant.

More from the petition:
This presenter claimed that she could look students in the eye and know if they were having sex.
Abstinence only sex ed is not only medical and scientific bullshit, by all credible assessment measures, it simply does not work.

And now to Saskatchewan, where as we reported recently, fetus fetishists are gamely trying to introduce "parental consent" regulations for abortion to Canada for the first time.

So, how's their letter-writing campaign going? Not too well (scroll down to March 10).

Saskatchewan MLAs say they are getting few e-mails.

We see that petitions are getting downloaded and many petitions are getting signed. They should be hitting the floor of the Legislative Assembly soon.

HOWEVER, MLAs are saying they are getting very few e-mails.  We need to STEP it up.  We need to BOMBARD our MLAs with everything we have to get this very basic and "friendly" law passed in Saskatchewan.

Use the Easy-Mail program - it is quick, easy and takes less than a minute, unless you choose to personalize the content of the letter.  PLEASE, DO IT NOW!!!Hee. They thought this was going to be quick and easy. After all, who could argue with this "very basic and friendly law"?

Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, for one, wrote her own letter to Saskatchewan MLAs.
Dear Saskatchewan Members of the Legislative Assembly,

Two anti-abortion groups have recently launched a campaign to enact a law in Saskatchewan requiring parental consent before a minor can have an abortion (

The attached new Position Paper (also available here demonstrates with comprehensive evidence that if a parental consent law for abortion was passed by any Canadian province or territory, it would contravene and reverse current medical policies and ethics around the consent of minors to healthcare, violate their constitutional rights to bodily security and privacy, and increase risks to their health and safety.

In Saskatchewan, a parental consent law for abortion would be particularly harmful and counter-productive, as it would disproportionately impact the high numbers of marginalized youth in your province, as the following facts attest:
• Child poverty rates in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are the highest in Canada, according to Saskatoon Health. Saskatchewan also has a significant Aboriginal population (11.3%) that has historically experienced enormous economic and social hardships, much of which continues to this day. 
• Saskatchewan has the second highest rate of teenage births in Canada (29 per 1,000 women aged 14-19), second only to Nunavut. A parental consent law for abortion would increase these rates even more, thereby continuing the cycle of poverty and dysfunction that so many are trapped in.
• The Saskatchewan Child Welfare Review Panel Report: For the good of our children and youth ( documents that “Saskatchewan has high rates of alcohol dependency and abuse, the second largest concentration of youth gang members on a per capita basis, and high rates of child poverty, youth crime, incarceration, disability, family violence, and mental health problems.” In addition: “Caseloads of children in care keep growing, and the outcomes for children and families are not acceptable. … The majority of clients of the child welfare system are Aboriginal – First nations and Métis. The percentage has been growing over recent decades and seems likely to continue on that path.”

Given the environment of poverty and inequity that too many Saskatchewan youth live in, and the evidence submitted in the attached paper, we ask you to please reject any possibility of a parental consent law for abortion. Instead, we urge the Saskatchewan government to follow the recommendations of the above-noted report from the Saskatchewan Child Welfare Review Panel, which urged all levels of government to address the poverty-related conditions that drive child neglect and other social problems. These include making “significant improvements to the income support, affordable housing, and disability service systems used by Saskatchewan families.” We believe this would be the best way forward to protect Saskatchewan youth and improve their futures.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Joyce ArthurIn addition to the letter, ARCC produced a position paper (pdf) on parental consent laws and what a nightmare of privacy and human rights violations they would entail.

In Canada, as ever, the sexual two-step continues. One step forward, two steps back.

Upcoming blogposts on the forward (New Brunswick) and back (*sigh* Woodworth Rides Again).

Gone The Way Of History?

Northern Reflections - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 07:20

Chantal Hebert writes this morning that the Parti-Quebecois may turn out to be a one generation wonder:

One of the PQ’s worst fears has long been that it would turn out to be the party of a single generation. Over their short time in office, Marois and her team have done much to turn that fear into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Like the Harper Conservatives, the PQ is tone deaf:

To every message that Quebec voters were tuning out sovereignty, the PQ has essentially responded by shutting its ears to all but those who sang from its hymn book.Over the past month, that self-imposed tone-deafness has led to a campaign of false notes, from the second-coming atmosphere that attended the recruitment of media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau as a star candidate, to Marois’s end-of-campaign mea culpa that she spent too much time entertaining the twin notions of sovereignty and a winning referendum.
That does not mean that Quebec nationalism is dead. It raises its head with each succeeding generation. But the direction it takes is critical. With Maurice Duplessis it was inward looking and afraid of the future. With Jean Lesage's Quiet Revolution it looked out on the world and threw off the shackles of the Catholic Church.

Rene Levesque -- who began his political career in Lesage's cabinet -- pushed nationalism further to the left and insisted that his party's founding principles be social-democratic.

Trying to predict the next reincarnation is a fool's errand. For the moment, it appears that Levesque's dream  -- and Pauline Marois' premiership -- have gone the way of history.

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 07:16
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Livio Di Matteo discusses the wasted opportunity to improve Canada's health care system through concerted national investments. And Ryan Meili asks who will provide future direction now that the Cons have scrapped the Health Council of Canada:
Now we see the federal government making a bad situation worse by walking away from the process of rebuilding a national health system entirely instead of negotiating a more robust agreement with targets and timelines for innovation and cost-savings.

The elimination of the Health Council only further underlines this movement away from national planning for better outcomes. Were this a one-off elimination of a governmental body created for a short-term purpose, this decision would be merely disappointing. That the Council’s disappearance is part and parcel of a larger strategy of the elimination of the dissenting and unbiased voice — something that is so needed in a democracy — is downright disturbing.

By removing or limiting evidence-gathering bodies, be they in health, the environment, or general information such as the long-form census, we decrease the evidence available to us to inform our debate and decisions. By strictly controlling how scientists can share information, cutting public broadcasting and eliminating watchdog organizations like the Health Council, we groom an ill-informed electorate.

These backward steps are the recipe for bad decisions to be called good, the recipe for a poor-performing health care system, a weakened economy, and worse health outcomes and quality-of-life for Canadians.- On the bright side, the CP reports on the Mental Health Commission of Canada's findings that a "housing first" strategy more than pays for itself in addressing both homelessness and associated social issues.

- Kathy Tomlinson breaks the story that McDonalds' franchises in B.C. have been going out of their way to hire temporary foreign workers rather than local applicants. And CFIB spokesflack Dan Kelly comes right out and admits to a preference for employees who lack any rights or leverage - leading to Gil McGowan's proper response:
But Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, strongly rejects claims that Canadian workers are less productive than temporary foreign workers. He said the difference is that many foreign workers are compliant, out of fear of losing their job.

"Is it a bad thing that Canadians stand up for themselves and don't allow themselves to be pushed around by their employers in low-wage service sector jobs?"

"What he's saying is that the government should provide low-wage employers with a compliant, pliable group of workers who are afraid to stand up for themselves," McGowan said. "And that when workers stand up for themselves and refuse to be disrespected in the workplace, that that is somehow a bad thing? I think most Canadians would find that offensive." - Meanwhile, Adrian Lee writes that the labour movement has a long way to go in attracting young workers - but that there's plenty of opportunity to serve as a voice for a generation which has been told it can't expect anything more than precarious employment.

- David McLaughlin discusses how electoral non-participation is all too likely to become a habit. And Althia Raj reports that the Cons are trying to reinforce exactly that habit by squelching a pilot program to encourage students to vote.

- Finally, Karl Nerenberg examines the impact of last night's Quebec election on the federal political scene - particularly in eliminating demagoguery over sovereignty as a viable strategy for the foreseeable future.

More Evidence Of The Devil

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 06:14

If the devil is indeed to be found in the detail, then Star letter-writer Geoffrey Kemp of Mississauga has done an exorcist's job of ferreting out the wily one.

Enjoy his well-considered thoughts on an aspect of the 'Fair' Elections Act that has gotten relatively little attention owing to the grave and justifiable concern being widely expressed over its voter-suppression implications. (The bolded parts are mine):

Stephen Harper’s need to hastily do an end run around democracy is doubtless caused by the dubious actions of those he chooses to surround himself with, other examples of his poor judgment and the declining Conservative poll numbers.

If passed unchanged, Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act, will allow MPs to sit in the House while their election expenses are contested. It exposes and compounds a weakness in the Canada Elections Act, at times when a majority government may be elected with a very small plurality or the combined opposition have a small majority.

Currently, if an MP and the chief electoral officer disagree on an MP’s election expense return, the Canada Elections Act provides that the MP can no longer sit or vote in the House of Commons until the expense return is changed to the chief electoral officer ’s satisfaction, although the report is not due for several months after election day.

Bill C-23 allows the MP to continue sitting until a judge has ruled on the dispute and further states: “The removal of a democratically-elected MP reverses the decision of tens of thousands of voters. No one should have the power to reverse a democratic election without first convincing a judge.” If an MP’s election expenses are found to be non-compliant with the election act, by definition they were not democratically elected and have deprived tens of thousands of voters their representation of choice.

Peter Penashue, Dean Del Mastro, Shelly Glover and James Bezan are four of Harper’s MPs who faced exclusion from the House having failed to comply with or refused to supply information required under the Canada Elections Act.

In close minority government situations, the ability of “false MPs” to sit in the House while their validity is being questioned could be the factor deciding who forms the government and becomes PM. One seat can make the difference. Remember how important Chuck Cadman’s legitimate single vote was perceived by Harper.

Instead of slowing down the review of a candidate’s election expenses, someone who is truly interested in removing the possibility of election fraud would be making changes to speed up the validation of those expenses. Bill C-23 should be withdrawn.

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Liberal Majority in Quebec

LeDaro - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 06:03

Pundits were cautious about the Liberals, seeing a majority as a remote possibility, more likely a minority. The third party CAQ was seen as having a last minute "surge" in the campaign but that surge did not materialize to the extent some pundits expected. While CAQ did pick up a few more seats, the Liberals won a comfortable majority (with CBC projecting very early in the night). This exceeded even optimistic expectations of the Liberals. Liberals won 70 seats (early count)  and 63 are needed for the majority.  The leader of PQ, Pauline Marois, lost her own seat.

The vote, it seems, was against Pauline Marois and against the Parti Quebecois. Quebecers are tired of referendums and the province is a multicultural society, many were repulsed by the Parti Quebecois' Charter of Values which promoted intolerance towards minority groups. This election proved good news for national unity and for multiculturalism.

You may read more here.

Jason Kenney and the Great Foreign Workers Scam

Montreal Simon - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 03:41

OMG. Can you believe that shameless Jason Kenney? First him and his Cons brought in a flood of foreign workers.

Then he claimed there was a skill shortage and there wasn't.

Then it was revealed that he has been pimping for a McDonald's franchise.

And now he's trying to get some political mileage by cracking down on the scam he created. 
Read more »

Why Stephen Harper Also Lost the Quebec Election

Montreal Simon - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 00:55

I only wrote one post about the Quebec election, because I knew that Pauline Marois' hideous version of the Parti Québécois was going to lose, from the moment she embraced Pierre Karl Péladeau.

And he raised his fist in the air and with a crazed look on his face demanded a country. Even though polls showed that an overwhelming majority of Quebecers didn't want another referendum.

And would make absolutely sure that the PQ couldn't hold one. 

But who knew that the Concrete Lady would hit the ground so hard? 
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Is Anyone Capable of Critical Thinking? Does Anyone Even Care?

Sister Sages Musings - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 19:07

Well, it looks like a Quebec Liberal majority and the PQ are collapsing to 2007 numbers. Quebec Solidaire has shown some improvement in vote count but not in seats. It seems that the biggest hope for Ste-Marie-St-Jacques, Manon Masse of Quebec Solidaire will not win her seat, although it is still early and I . . . → Read More: Is Anyone Capable of Critical Thinking? Does Anyone Even Care?

Is Quebec sovereignty dead?

Trashy's World - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 18:01
Maybe not entirely dead, but quite possibly in its death throes. Good work, PLQ! Et, pour les Péquistes – il faut savoir quand vous devriez quitter la soireé.. (2) Trashy, Ottawa, Ontario

Another Harper Lie Exposed

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 11:45
Despite assurances last year that the TFW (Temporary Foreign Workers) program was being reformed because of a myriad of reported abuses, those assurances, like so many other pronouncements and assertions coming from the Harper regime, appear to be false.

Business continues to abuse the program, with what one can only assume is the tacit permission of Employment Minister Jason Kenney. The latest offenders, as reported by CBC, are three McDonald's outlets in Victoria, British Columbia, which are currently employing 25 temporary foreign workers.

"The pattern is that the temporary foreign workers are getting more shifts and that the Canadians are getting less,” said employee Kalen Christ, a McDonald’s "team leader" who has worked at the Victoria location for four years.

And unlike the usual excuse used by business that they cannot find Canadian workers willing to do the job, McDonald's has been caught red-handed, with numerous attestations of Canadian applicants being denied jobs:

Tim Turcot is a 21-year-old local resident who said he applied to work there during the same period. He wasn’t hired, despite his four years of restaurant experience.

“I don’t know why they didn’t hire me. I told them I am available 24/7 and just never got the job,” said Turcot.

As well, those Canadians 'lucky' enough to have a position with the house that Ronald built are seeing their hours slashed, hours taken up by the temporary foreign workers, according to team leader Christ, who himself has seen his job dropped from 40 a week to 36 then 32.

Another employee, who didn’t want to be named, also said hours have been cut and people fear losing health benefits next, because they need full-time hours to qualify.

“There’s a guy with a kid who works here who is getting his hours cut. In a minimum-wage job. That isn’t right.”

Now that the problem has been exposed, the office of Jason Kenney has predictably gone into damage control. You can read it here, should you have an especial interest in Harper regime propaganda.

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Rwanda genocide: Canadian soldiers deal with horrific memories

LeDaro - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 11:31
It was ghastly. Why we humans carry out such brutalities against each other?

Fires in California in winter and melting of glaciers on the Northern Pole

LeDaro - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 11:19
It is very troubling and unsettling. What next?

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 08:31
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Laura Ryckewaert looks in more detail at the continued lack of any privacy protection in the Unfair Elections Act. And Murray Dobbin is hopeful that the Cons' blatant attempt to suppress voting rights will instead lead to a backlash among those who are intended to be excluded:
(W)hatever the outcome, perhaps the best possible response of democracy activists would be to treat this loathsome piece of legislation as a useful crisis. This is exactly what leaders of the African-American and Latino communities have done in their fight against the blatant voter suppression efforts in the U.S. -- where individual states determine voting procedures for federal elections. "A Center for Social Inclusion report entitled "Citizens Denied: The Impact of Photo ID Laws on Senior Citizens of Color" warned that nearly half of black voters over age 65 and one in three Latino senior voters would have a more difficult time registering and voting on election day due to photo ID laws passed in some 33 states."

In at least some cases efforts at voter suppression in the U.S. have backfired because the attack on black and Latino communities has galvanized them to get out the vote. The government of Florida reduced the early voting period which prompted black churches "to conduct a two-day 'souls to the polls' marathon. And even as election day turned into a late election night, and with the race in Ohio, and thus for the 270 votes needed to win the presidency, called by 11 p.m., black voters remained in line in Miami-Dade and Broward, two heavily Democrat counties in Florida, where black voters broke turnout records even compared to 2008."

Efforts to suppress the vote in civic elections in North Carolina and Texas also backfired, resulting in record turn-outs of the people targeted by Republican party controlled board of elections.

With young people, the homeless and First Nations voters at the low end of the turn-out numbers, the Harper government's crude effort to suppress their votes even more can and should be used to galvanize the vote from those communities.

Student organizations, anti-poverty groups, the Idle No More movement and senior's groups are well placed to take up the challenge, with help from groups like Democracy Watch and perhaps the NDP.

While many in those communities have found little reason to go to the polls given the slim likelihood of any change in their lives, no one likes to be told what they can and can't do -- especially when it comes to rights. For the people targeted by Harper for disenfranchisement, the 2015 election could be purely about democracy itself.- Dave Seglins reports on even more rail safety incidents which were left unreported by the railways involved. And Wendy Gillis notes that Transport Canada and MMA are refusing to release the details of the safety plan whose failure caused the Lac-Mégantic disaster - effectively declaring that so far as they're concerned, the plans approved by the government as being sufficient to keep the public safe are none of the public's business.

- Don Lenihan looks at the military procurement process, and highlights the problem with governments allowing contractors to dictate public procurement goals.

- Donald Gutstein tests Andrew Coyne's fudged numbers used to argue against the need for public revenue. But Coyne's figures look downright healthy compared to those being spun by the CCCE - who are trying to claim income taxes and other taxes merely remitted by big business on behalf of others as part of their calculation of what the corporate sector contributes.

- Finally, Barrie McKenna comments on Thomas Piketty's observations about the link between growing inequality, and the corporatist goal of promoting capital returns over broad-based growth:
Prof. Piketty challenges one of the underpinnings of modern democracies – namely, that growth and productivity make each generation better off than the previous one. With hard work and education, conventional thinking goes, anyone can achieve upward mobility, and live the Canadian (or American) dream.

Prof. Piketty warns instead that global economic growth will limp along at just 1 per cent to 1.5 per cent for the rest of this century – roughly half the pace of the past century. The spoils will flow increasingly to the wealthy – entrepreneurs, owners of capital and those fortunate enough to inherit wealth, he argues. Workers will fall further behind.

Think of Prof. Piketty’s world as the antithesis of free-market champion Milton Friedman’s mantra that capitalism spreads the “fruits of economic progress among all people.”

Without radical intervention, the result will be growing inequality and social strife, Prof. Piketty argues.
Just as controversial as his dissection of the problem is his recommended solution – a global tax on wealth. Prof. Piketty would slap an annual graduated tax on stocks, bonds and property, which are typically not taxed until they are sold (capital gains). The tax would thwart the concentration of wealth and limit the flow of income to capital.

To be effective, it would have to be applied not just in one country, but virtually everywhere.

Fearmongerage, or how to manage the masses

Dawg's Blawg - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 08:17
The corporate mass media do not exist to inform, in some “objective” sense. Their effect is to maintain the status quo, the “natural order of things,” and we can observe the various techniques by which they, wittingly or unwittingly, accomplish... Dr.Dawg

The Rich Get Richer -- But Nobody Else Does

Northern Reflections - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 07:49

That's the conclusion of a report which was recently released by the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives. According to the Canadian Press:

The country's 86 richest individuals and families — or 0.002 per cent of the total population — are getting exponentially richer and now have accumulated as much wealth as the country's poorest 11.4 million.

That's more than in 1999, when the richest 86 had as much money as the poorest 10.1 million and enough to buy up everything in New Brunswick and still have about $40 billion left over, according to the report, to be released Thursday.
  It looks like wealth inequality will be an issue in 2015:

Statistics Canada also showed wealth gravitating to the top. While median net worth rose almost 80 per cent since 1999 to $243,800 per family unit, the top 40 per cent possessed 88.9 per cent of total net worth, leaving the bottom 60 per cent with a mere 11.1 per cent of the pie.

Eye-opening was the data that showed the poorest 20 per cent of family units had more debts than assets.
The Harper government will continue to talk about averages. But it's clear that wealth in Canada is increasingly skewed -- and that doesn't bother the Harperites in the least.

For them, the present state of affairs is simply the way of the world.


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