Politics and its Discontents

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Reflections, Observations, and Analyses Pertaining to the Canadian Political Scene
Updated: 28 min 58 sec ago

A Brief Pause

Sun, 03/26/2017 - 13:00


The metaphorical road beckons. See you in a bit.Recommend this Post

Fortress Amerika Begins To Pay A Heavy Price

Sun, 03/26/2017 - 06:34
Now that the parody of a president selected by the American people has infected the U.S. national psyche with more than its usual quotient of paranoia and xenophobia, those same people are beginning to get the message that there is a high price to be paid for their irresponsibility. And I, for one, can muster little pity for those sectors that are suffering as a result of their fellow-citizens' choice.

Many are choosing to avoid Amerika for at least the next four years, from individuals to educational institutions. And it is beginning to have a financial impact, as these statistics make clear:
-Tourists spend $108.1 million an hour in the USA.

-Tourists spend $2.1 trillion in the USA every year, half of which goes to secondary small businesses like bars, restaurants, theaters, and so on.

-All of this generates $147.9 billion in annual tax revenue at the city, state, and federal levels.

-Travel ranks as the seventh largest industry in the USA.

Granted these figures represent domestic travelers as well as international ones. If you just look at international travelers, they still supported 1.1 million jobs and $28.4 billion in wages in 2015 alone. And in a divided America, will we see less internal travel, too? Almost certainly.

And as the following report makes clear, the financial health of universities is also in jeopardy:



All of these developments must be humbling indeed for the country that has the hubris to call itself 'the greatest nation on earth."Recommend this Post

Star Letter-Writers Seldom Disappoint

Sat, 03/25/2017 - 09:04


Whenever I am feeling a bit down about the world around me and the passivity with which so many 'face' it, I know I can go to the letters section of The Toronto Star to buoy my spirits. Today is no exception, as readers render judgement on the disgraced Senator Don Meredith and roundly reject his groundless, cowardly claim of being a victim of racism.
Re: Racism at play in criticisms of Don Meredith, senator's lawyer says, March 19

I am fed up with the cry of “racism,” which is being broken out once again by Senator Don Meredith in the affair involving a minor child.

Our disgust has nothing to do with the fact that he is a man of colour. His confession of “moral failing” does not begin to excuse the use of his positions of power and prestige to engage in the grooming and exploitation of a child.

The sexual exploitation of children is one of society's greatest taboos. In our universal rejection, the colour of the perpetrator has nothing to do with our perception of the grievousness of his behaviour or our concern for the probable lasting effect on the victim.

Senator Meredith's actions are those of a man without any moral compass whatsoever. And we as a community must be clear that our rejection of his actions have nothing to do with his colour.

He has crossed a line for which there is no possible excuse. If he has any honour or courage left, he must resign the Senate immediately

Robert Kent, Mississauga

This saga of indecent behaviour by Sen. Meredith has become utterly disgusting. After the Senator's failed attempt to mitigate his situation by blaming the victim, and by claiming that racism is the reason that he is being scrutinized, his (now former) lawyer has brought the situation to greater heights of disbelief.

Selwyn Pieters equates Meredith's sexual involvement with a 17-year-old girl to Senators Wallin and Duffy being investigated for improper use of expense accounts. They were not forced to resign. So he suggests there is racism at play.

Meredith's behaviour was bad enough. His continued attempt to blame everyone and everything else, and his lawyer's ridiculous statements, have reached a pinnacle requiring the Senate to deal with him.

Mike Faye, Toronto

For Senator Meredith to claim racism is rich. He got caught doing something he knew very well he should not have been doing and now that his world is imploding, he is blaming everyone else.

For him to make this whole thing go away would be to resign, and the fact that the Senate cannot force him to do so is sad. He is an embarrassment to everything that he stands for as a father, husband, minister and senator.

The senate has had enough embarrassment in the past year or so with Brazeau, Wallin and Duffy. That we taxpayers do not have a way of getting rid of them is a problem that has to be fixed.

Allan Mantel, Victoria Harbour, Ont.

One thing for certain, If Meredith was a member of the “old white boys country club,” he wouldn't be able to “play the race card.” Anyone, regardless of race, committing such an egregious act, should not only be thrown out of the Senate, but should also should be criminally prosecuted.

Warren DaltonRecommend this Post

Setting The Record Straight

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 06:45


Now that Senator Don Meridith, about whom I have previously posted, has switched lawyers, it is gratifying to see that his cowardly cries of racism as a factor in the calls his dismissal are being put to rest.

Meredith's new lawyer had this to say yesterday:
Disgraced Sen. Don Meredith’s new lawyer says racism doesn’t play into the widespread condemnations of his client’s affair with a teenage girl, after the senator and his previous lawyer claimed he was being treated unfairly in the wake of the sex scandal.

“It’s not my approach, nor is it my opinion, that there is any racial bias or issue here in relation to the matter, or how the Senate has been dealing with it,” Bill Trudell, a Toronto defence lawyer, said in an interview Thursday.While the Senate ethics committee still faces an uphill battle on ejecting him from the Upper Chamber, at least we now have a small victory for truth and a blow to self-serving and morally reprehensible hyperbole.

Recommend this Post

Just A Couple Of Questions

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 07:04


Given that I have no background in economics, I will leave it to more finely-tuned minds to debate the merits of yesterday's federal budget. However, there are a couple of things that, from my perspective, need to be answered, and they both relate to the Infrastructure Bank the Liberal government is touting.

Introduced in last fall's economic update, the goal of the Bank, according to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, is
to attract private sector dollars at a ratio of $4 to $5 in private funding for every $1 of federal money.While that sounds fine on the surface, the question about the returns that will prompt private investors, including institutional ones, to invest in infrastructure projects the bank will help fund needs to be answered. And it is here that things becoming a tad murky.

In yesterday's budget, Morneau had no real details to provide about it, other than a motherhood statement:
Ottawa has said it wants to leverage every dollar it puts in its infrastructure bank into $4 of investment, the balance kicked in by private-sector investors. The government thus hopes to fund $140 billion in infrastructure projects with an upfront Ottawa investment of just $35 billion.Sound too good to be true? Perhaps it is:
The catch here is that only infrastructure projects with revenue streams will attract private investment. To be sure, that includes a lot of infrastructure, including toll roads and bridges; alternative-energy suppliers that reap revenues from power consumers; and water and transit systems that earn back their cost of capital through mill rates and Metropasses.One can't help but wonder, like the idea to sell off our airports, this is just another neoliberal ploy, thinly disguised, that will redirect revenue from the public to the private domain.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has released a study that suggests we will all be paying more for this largess gifting the private sector:
This study finds that private financing of the proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank could double the cost of infrastructure projects—adding $150 billion or more in additional financing costs on the $140 billion of anticipated investments. It would amount to about $4,000 per Canadian, and about $5 billion more per year (assuming an average 30-year asset life). The higher costs would ultimately mean that less public funding would be available for public services or for additional public infrastructure investments in future years.The full study, which you can obtain here, suggests there is a better way:
There’s no reason the federal government can’t make the Canada Infrastructure Bank a truly Public Infrastructure Bank, with a mandate to provide low-cost loans (or other “innovative financial tools”) for large public infrastructure projects. The federal government already has banks and lending institutions that provide low-cost loans, financing, credit, and loan guarantees for housing, for entrepreneurs and for exporters. So why not also provide low-cost loans and other financing for public infrastructure projects? This bank could be established as a crown corporation with initial capital contributions from the federal government (and perhaps other levels of government) and backed by a federal government guarantee. It could then leverage its assets and borrow directly on financial markets at low rates and then use this capital to invest in new infrastructure projects.

This approach would involve a slightly higher cost of financing than direct federal government borrowing, but it would be considerably below the cost of private finance.And finally, is it simply a coincidence that one of the government's tools for borrowing at ultra-low rates is ending?
The federal government is phasing out the Canada Savings Bond, a popular savings vehicle introduced after The Second World War.

The Liberals’ 2017 budget stated the bond program peaked in the late 1980s and has been in a prolonged decline since.

“The program is no longer a cost-effective source of funds for the government, compared to (other) funding options,” the budget document reads.Perhaps it is naive of me to suggest, but wouldn't paying a higher rate of return on savings bonds that average citizens can benefit from also be a source of much-needed cash for infrastructure?

Just wondering.Recommend this Post

Not Like His Father At All

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 06:11


A few days ago I posted a letter by Star reader Cathy Allen in which she discussed what it would take for her to regain her pride as a Canadian. It was outstanding, and if you haven't read it, click on the link before proceeding.

In yesterday's Star, Randy Gostling of Oshawa offered some of his own thoughts on the subject, contrasting Canada's past leadership with its current incarnation:
Re: What it will take to restore my pride, March 17

On behalf of what I would expect to be thousands of like-minded war babies, I want to sincerely thank Cathy Allen for so eloquently presenting the concerns of “we the forgotten” in the lead letter of March 17.

It’s equally nice to be reminded that much of what is right in this nation today began with Pierre Trudeau and “we the young” who believed in him. But as Ms. Allen suggests, our faith is gone.

I honestly believe Pierre Trudeau’s motivation was essentially a commitment he made to himself to do something special with his life. His son talks as if he has a similar commitment, but instead sings it like a tune while doing the beggar’s waltz for the “bigs” and next to nothing for or about indigenous grievances, refugees escaping the U.S., the environment, unemployed youth, election reform, Bill C-51 vs. constitutional rights, a corrupt Senate, child poverty, housing, child care for single moms or the CRA’s reluctance to enforce laws against or even expose or punish wealthy and corrupt citizens, corporations and banks.

Pierre created Petro-Canada to resist Big Oil, while Justin approves pipelines and further development and transportation (through pristine areas) for some of the dirtiest, most destructive oil on Earth, even as the world is running out of clean air and water. Pierre delivered on promises while Justin chose to simply make them long enough to get elected.

Cathy Allen speaks for many in saying we are disappointed. We miss who and what we were and what our nation used to be. It’s still held in esteem by the world — but it seems because the world has gotten worse, not because we got better.

Like Allen says, at least we’re not American. But that’s not nearly good enough for us or Pierre.Recommend this Post

A Circumstantial Noose

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 06:29
In his opening statement before James Comey's testimony yesterday in front of the House Intelligence Committee probing Trump ties to Russia, Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (CA) laid out of all of the circumstantial evidence that has built up so far connecting the Trump campaign to Russian state actors seeking the intervene in the election.

I think you will find his chronology fascinating, leaving little doubt that "something wicked this way came" on the road to Trump's capture of The White House:

Recommend this Post

An Ally Of Ignorance

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 06:48
What is a man
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.

- Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4.

Some of the greatest foes of ignorance are knowledge, awareness and critical thinking. Key tools in the cultivation of our humanity, without them we would exist in a perpetual present, lacking any kind of contextual ability with which to resist the the dark forces that constantly threaten. Each of us would be, as Hamlet says, A beast, no more.

A key ally and promoter of ignorance is Donald Trump, whose installment in the White House has provided the means by which the bestial aspect of our collective nature is ascendant, and the things that help define and cultivate our humanity are under grave attack, examples of which are painfully evident in the following:



Recommend this Post

More On The Rogue Senator And Moral Coward, Don Meredith

Sun, 03/19/2017 - 06:27
On Friday's Power and Politics, host Rosemary Barton was her usual relentless self, evident in her sharp questioning of Selwyn Pieters, the attorney representing disgraced Senator Don Meredith, about whom I posted on Friday. It seems to me that the only point she overlooked was when Pieters insisted that Meredith did not use his position of authority to influence the unnamed 16-year-old into a sexual relationship. In fact, the moral coward promised to get the young woman a Senate internship.


Meanwhile, Toronto Star letter-writers are unanimous in their opinion of the miscreant-senator: Disgraced senator must resign or be sacked.

I offer but one of several missives that tell us why he must go:
I am disappointed with the leniency your editorial treated the senator by asking him to resign. He should be sacked. His resignation should not be accepted.

How could a senator, an ordained pastor and a married father be allowed to get away with this serious offence by allowing him to resign? First, he denied, then he tried to derail the investigation, and when the report was ready he apparently requested two versions: a sanitized report for public consumption, the other for the Senate.

Is our red chamber so rotten?

Muri B. Abdurrahman, ThornhillRecommend this Post

An Outstanding Letter!

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 06:31


While I have always considered myself an able letter-to-the-editor writer, I have also developed ability over the years to recognize superior work when I see it. The following letter from Cathy Allen of Toronto is emblematic of such work. She inspires me, as a Canadian, by her vision of what our country could be:
When I was 18, I attended Expo 67 and voted for Justin Trudeau’s father. Now that I am a widowed senior and disabled and I can’t afford to pay my rent without my son’s help, I find that I am not as proud as I once was to be a Canadian.

When will I be proud to be a Canadian again?

When we build more geared-to-income housing and repair the ones we have so every Canadian can afford a roof over their heads that costs less than 50 per cent of their income.

When nursing homes are given more than $8 dollars and change for a daily food allowance and residents can have a bath when they want.

When no one in Canada is homeless and living on the street and we can afford to bring the minimum wage and pensions above the poverty line because we’ve closed the loopholes and made the corporations that do business in this country pay their fair share of taxes.

When we restore the environmental laws that protect our rivers and lakes and enforce them.

When we stop trampling on our indigenous peoples’ sacred sites and respect their culture and land rights and pay them the compensation due them so they can build decent housing and hospitals and recreation centres and libraries, or their children can move anywhere they want and no longer feel they are not part of our society.

When working-class women with children under the age of 3 are not forced to work but may, if they wish, because we have an affordable daycare system up and running.

And, finally, when we stop calling waging war “peacekeeping” and no longer ship tanks and guns and instead send aid.

That will be the day I will be proud to be a Canadian again. Right now, all I am is relieved that I am not an American.Recommend this Post

A Moral Coward

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 06:45


Every so often, I happen upon a news item that, for want of a better word, inflames me; it is usually something so patently outrageous that my capacity for calm desserts me, and I launch into a semi-tirade. This morning was one of those moments.

Now some may say that because I am not black, I have no right to pass judgement on Senator Don Meredith, the reprobate who used his positions of power (as pastor of his church and as a Harper-appointed senator) to 'groom' an underage member of his congregation for a totally inappropriate and morally reprehensible sexual relationship. Anyone who reads my blog knows that injustice, especially the abuse of power, is something that offends me to the core, and a person's race or colour can never exempt him or her from condemnation.

Yet Don Meredith begs to differ. First of all, the coward is thus far refusing to resign, despite pressure from his senate colleagues to do so, instead opting to take a leave of absence "on the advice of his doctor".

Perhaps he is hoping for the storm to blow over? Meredith seems perplexed as to the calls for his resignation. In his mind, he has owned up to his 'mistake.'
"This is a moral failing on my part," a grim-faced Meredith said in a wide-ranging interview, with his wife Michelle quietly at his side. "As a human being, I made a grave error in judgment, in my interactions. For that I am deeply sorry."

Meredith, 52, repeatedly apologized to his wife, children, his fellow senators and "all Canadians" for the relationship that took place with the woman known only as Ms. M.

His wife and children have forgiven him, he said, and he asked for the same forgiveness from his Senate colleagues and Ms. M herself.

"I believe in the power of forgiveness and reconciliation," he said as his Toronto lawyer looked on. "We're humans, and humans make mistakes."But neither his public mea culpa nor his refusal to resign are what set me off. It was this:
The senator said Wednesday he believes he has been the victim of racism since the allegations about his affair first surfaced in the summer of 2015. Where individuals of colour rise, he said, somehow they're taken down — whether it's "self-inflicted or orchestrated."

"Absolutely, racism has played a role in this," Meredith said. "This is nothing new to me. There is always a double standard that exists in this country."

Pieters said his client was being portrayed as a "sexual predator" because he is an imposing black man — but that clearly was not the case.For Meredith to 'play the race card' not only compounds his moral cowardice, but also indirectly impugns all those who have been actual victims of racism. His claim, in my view, demonstrates not only his unfitness to hold public office, but also his ongoing position as executive director of the GTA Faith Alliance.

And I am hardly alone in my umbrage:



There is no question in my mind that if we are to have even a modicum of respect for the failing Senate, Don Meredith must go.




Recommend this Post